Exodus Right

It can’t be news to any adult Israeli that the strongest support for that nation, in terms of numbers and fervor and resistance to unwelcome facts, comes from a body of Americans who collectively are not friends of Jews.

They are Endtime evangelical Protestants who believe the return of the Hebrews to the Promised Land is necessary to the Second Coming of Christ, upon which event the Jews will convert to Christianity or spend Eternity in a lake of fire.

Much as modern thinkers, even believers in a Higher Power such as myself, may chuckle and shake their heads at the persistence of biblical literalism, the fairy tale approach to spirituality is a bloody real force on this side of Heaven and very well could, in this day of ungodly technological weaponry, bring about the Armageddon that Revelations promises. In the meantime, those who tell us it’s all about the Second Coming will build and bask in secular power.

The carnage in Gaza that has been Netanyahu-Trump’s remorseless answer to an oppressed and displaced people’s desperate uprising lays bare the ugly Americanism behind Middle East volatility as perhaps never before.

While troops went virtually unscathed gunning down protesters, journalists, aid workers and random people of all ages 40 miles away, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim mega-preachers and a racist rabbi christened a new U.S. embassy in the most provocative location on Earth while Trump’s anointed family members and a GOP king-making casino tycoon gushed self-congratulations, blamed the dead for the violence and declared peace imminent at last.

In fact, peace flapped away on its battered wings, if it remained around at all after decades of military occupation of the begrudged areas into which Arab residents were expelled after European colonists commandeered their land 70 years ago. Instead, the slow, bitter war that began even before the founding of Israel, dating to Great Britain’s imperial designs of the 1920s, can be expected to continue and probably escalate. Most of the world, industrialized and otherwise, is arrayed against the current rightwing regimes in Tel Aviv (not Jerusalem) and Washington (not Mar-a-Lago), but isolation and playing with fire only seem to entice these men whose own populations have become nearly as fearful as their many enemies.

Unlike Jews, here and in Israel, American “Christians” of a certain stripe pledge unqualified allegiance to the first U.S. president to stop pretending the Palestinian people matter. And when people don’t matter, neither do your rules for their proper conduct.

Erasure of one’s neighbors is not a truly Judaic position, and not a truly Christian one, either, in the opinion of myself and many other followers of the Jew from Nazareth. It is, in fact, anti-Semitic. With potentially existential consequences.

So much for “friends” of Israel who’ve also made friends with a president whose whole life is a mockery of religious faith. Throw in Mike Pence, a virtuoso in the political uses of piety, and you have a holy alliance that could take us to the End, or damned near. If that happens, don’t blame Jesus, Jehovah or Allah. Give credit to the guys who make a habit of taking it.




Locked and Loaded

When Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” in 1967, he might have included the National Rifle Association in his indictment – had the NRA not been the citizens’ conservation association it was back then rather than the greed-crazed corporate lobby into which it has morphed.

Of all the occasions to fear incipient fascism that the Trump ascendancy has provided us, none may be more glaring than the NRA’s double-down response to resurgent pleas for gun control by ordinary Americans – and to the glorification of guns by Republican politicians and candidates falling into step.

No friendlier crowd ever has greeted our President Enemy-of-Your-Enemies than the roaring throng at this weekend’s NRA convention, a take-no-prisoners lot that left town satisfied there’ll be no more mis-speaking from Donald Trump about regulating firearms and no hell to pay for routine carnage from Heaven’s messenger, Mike Pence.

The smoke has cleared from those unpleasant interludes at Parkland and Las Vegas and all the other yellow-taped venues, from shopping centers to street corners to unhappy bedrooms. “Pro-gun” is again in full battle cry for Republicans, and what Democrat outside of a few blue states dares sound a note in defiance?

Never mind that a preponderance of Americans tell pollsters they want some restrictions on the availability and power of the enormously profitable product that’s made America unique among “developed” nations in homegrown homicides, mass and day-to-day.

Never mind that nobody (certainly not Barack Obama) has proposed banning guns, that nobody is about to abolish the Second Amendment and that nobody running the NRA can honestly believe the canard (parroted by Trump and Pence at the convention) that guns in the hands of designated good guys save lives. Gun violence subsides where guns are hard to get. Statistics support that assertion; and if you want to throw Chicago at me, please note that its tough ordinance does not extend to its suburbs or to Indiana, where the stores and shows and car trunks are open and waiting.

So what’s the case for more and bigger guns, and what’s the civil justification for the National Rifle Association’s continued existence? Self-defense? We’ve got more guns than people already; the good guys can barely keep track of the hardware lying around for their kids to pick up. Resistance to tyrannical government? Well, not only does government wield overwhelmingly superior firepower to the pickup-truck patriots; the gun lobby pretty much IS government.

Let’s just be honest. The dialed-up homage being paid to this soulless purveyor of America’s most surplus commodity is a direct rebuke to the high school students and other earnest citizens who have mobilized to demand that government do something about a real problem instead of conjuring bogeymen to fire up the lumpen 30 percent. If this isn’t the formula for fascism – fear-mongering, scapegoating, message control, sanctification of violence, all in the service of concentrating power across public and private lines – then that feathered quacking critter I saw the other day in the canal ain’t a duck.

“My own government; I cannot be silent,” Dr. King’s famous indictment continued. He’d surely be pleased to see silence rejected by so many Americans a half century later; and grieved by the roar that answers their anguish.









Dershowitz redux, re: Indy

There’s been many a death knell sounded for Donald Trump’s political career (or so we’ve thought and hoped), dating back to his trashing of three-quarters of the electorate during the campaign.

But if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, there’s no clearer sign of circling vultures than the addition of one Alan Dershowitz to the legal team.

The egomaniacal flamethrower and appellant lawyer to the fallen stars may be from Harvard and may know his business; but when he arrives, it’s show business. Real court has gone the way of reality TV.

By that measure, the partnership between these two media creatures carries the scent of inevitability. It also reeks of some sordid history, as many Indianapolis folks well remember.

Trump and Dershowitz were among the many friends and fans of Mike Tyson who treated his 1992 trial and conviction for the rape of a young African-American beauty pageant in this city as a racist railroad job engineered by backwater good ol’ boys.

It was pure mob mentality, an omen of what we would see in 2016, ironically dressed in pro-black raiment but ripe pickings for demagogues all the same. Having covered that sensational case, I can attest to the scrupulous fairness of the proceedings, which essentially came down to the jury’s belief in Desiree Washington’s account over that of a notorious abuser of women.  How African-American Hoosiers, including elected officials and Indiana Black Expo officials, could form a chorus casting Mike Tyson as a modern-day Emmett Till bemuses and bothers me to this day. But then, sexism didn’t die with progress against racism.

The future white nationalist darling from Queens joined Tyson’s black Amen corner. A business buddy of the flamboyant Tyson manager Don King, Trump generously presented our benighted  Heartland hamlet with a deal: Write off this affair as an unfortunate mistake and he would stage a Mike Tyson bout with proceeds to sweeten the Marion County treasury.

Perhaps to his shock, the hicks said no and the trial went on. I caught some grief from East Coast friends when I characterized Trump’s insult as typical reverse provincialism, but that issue has since been eclipsed by a more troubling question: Having heard exactly how much regard Donald Trump had for their intelligence and integrity on that occasion, how could Indiana’s white folks have gone on to hand him their state in a landslide when he next came with a deal?

Now, Dershowitz.

Circling and plummeting, he arrived as the Tyson media circus was about to strike its tents and announced that he would conduct a winning appeal in a hopelessly biased Indiana judicial system. Not exactly how I’d like my lawyer to warm up the justices, but pure Dershowitz and purple headlines, padding the resume.

The appeals failed. Iron Mike went to jail. Dershowitz, who would go on to write an article in Penthouse magazine entitled “The Rape of Mike Tyson,” proclaimed after his defeat “Almost nobody seems to think that Tyson got a fair trial.”

Right, almost nobody. Isn’t it eerie, how much that resounding absurdity sounds like Trump’s instant data-free factoids for the consumption of his rally crowds? They’re crooks, we’re great, everybody’s saying so.

Well, bombast doesn’t work so well in court, where evidence still has its place. It has served Alan Dershowitz and his new client spectacularly well over the years; but thanks to a Red State citizenry that shouldered a hard decision and listened to a woman’s story, there is a missing year. May 1992 prove prophetic for these birds of a feather and ground at least one of them once and for all.






IU, Mexico and Wall-Whacking

“I actually had an occasion to confront the man. It was the nastiest experience of my life.”

The speaker was Roberto Salinas-Leon, president of the Mexico Business Forum, counterpart to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and front-line organization in North American trade and trade relations.

The subject: Donald Trump.

The issue: Pugnacious populist nationalism and the danger it poses to prosperity everywhere, not least to the nation from which it arises.

“Twenty-five years after NAFTA began, now this talk of closing off borders,” Salina-Leon told a distinguished audience at Indiana University last week. “What’s at stake is $1.2 TRILLION in inter-regional trade. Mexico is the second most important client of the U.S. We ship $300 billion a year in goods alone. This is criminals, rapists, bad hombres?”

A Ph.D. from Purdue University, a leader in Latin American business policy development for a quarter century, author of more than 2,000 editorial commentaries in publications including the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s, three times a testifier before the U.S. Congress, Salinas-Leon was in Bloomington to deliver the 7th Annual Patrick O’Meara International Lecture.

Hosted by no less than I.U. President Michael McRobbie, the event honors a university vice-president emeritus for international affairs who has spearheaded the school’s global outreach for nearly half a century. It invites the sort of scholar who would not find a receptive audience in politicians who raise walls of fear rather than opening gates of cross-pollination. And for all the drawbacks and caveats to globalization – which the arch-enthusiast Salinas-Leon did not dismiss – the afternoon and evening offered another indirect reminder of how small a role information and intellectual discourse play in the political world that universities seek to influence.

Salinas-Leon opened by citing Adam Smith’s dictum that there is no trade just in goods. Ideas must flow with the stuff and money, and no partner, no nation, no president, can claim the whole truth. Instead of that humbling call to collaboration, we have today “a nationalism and authoritarianism that says ‘If you disagree with me, it’s fake news.’”

Thus, he said, we see impulsive, onerous tariffs – “a tax, which all of you will pay.” And with tariffs, retaliations. A stock market plunge on the day after his speech punctuated that inevitability.

As for trade deficits? A shibboleth. A demagogue’s dismissal of the law of comparative advantage.

“My wife has a trade deficit with Saks Fifth Avenue. She made a conscious choice to enter into a deal. You have a trade deficit with Kroger. No one talks of a trade deficit between Connecticut and Alabama.”

In these reactionary times, the deficit, between nations and within them, is in those commodities known as ideas. If their people and leaders would look deep enough, they’d find a surplus. First, of course, they’d have to make a conscious choice to value ideas. Salinas-Leon and his tribe hope the younger generation will see who the real bad hombres are and heed the global thinkers who brought him across the border. Before that breakthrough, we’ll surely see some more nastiness.

History Lesson: When Great Was Good

A young friend who was born with Down syndrome is looking forward to his freshman year at a local public high school.

Being old enough to remember when students with special needs just couldn’t possibly be folded into the “normal” student population, I was moved to reflect on the 1972 Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and its contemporary landmark legislation, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

This was, my friends, big thinking. America can educate all its kids, can forbid and punish various forms of discrimination that have been historically accepted, and can refuse to say “tough luck” to those who happen to be born poor.

Has it worked? Not perfectly. Damn well, considering the political snares that keep being laid in education’s path. The point is, the remaking and reconceptualizing of American education toward the goal of bringing the have-nots in out of the cold won bipartisan buy-in and took flight.

Imagining the unimaginable was contagious back then, if you recall. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. The Clean Water and Clean Air acts. The Equal Pay Act. The War on Poverty. Medicare.

Yes, their implementation can be criticized. Always, their performance on the ground can be improved. Local culture and power risk being compromised whenever Uncle Sam comes to help. But notwithstanding all that, the previous century’s vision of a nation that can do great things beyond amassing wealth and bombing other countries cannot be disputed.

And the sad fact is, today’s “leaders” have no interest in improvement – quite the contrary – because they have no capacity to conceive of true greatness and no stomach for asking a frightened and fragmented electorate to pursue it.

The Affordable Care Act gave our generation an opportunity to dare. A half century after Medicare passed in defiance of warnings of totalitarianism, the hugely popular program that lifted the elderly out of poverty could have been extended to everyone. Instead, a bold president had to settle for a clumsy hybrid to satisfy the insurance industry; and even then, his remarkable achievement has been undermined from day one. Like all things Obamaphobic, repeal of this rare signature achievement is a staple of Republican election campaigns.

Dark, diminutive times. A government that built massive edifices to human aspiration in my lifetime now engages in the destruction of those living monuments to cover bribes from destroyers of the land and the people’s institutions. “Regulation” is the catch-all bogeyman and discrimination against black, disabled and transgender schoolkids has ceased to be federal business. All along the watchtower, Washington takes in the view of peasants fighting one another.

I hope my eager friend in the Class of ’22 does his homework on recent history, and acts upon it. If America – its government, that is – has any shot at being great again, he and his peers will have to be the architects and the bricklayers.


Disposable Neighborhoods ?


Once again a favorite nemesis of mine, Michael Hicks, is advocating that government abandon the less fortunate members of our communities by abandoning their neighborhoods. Hicks is the Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University.  In case you missed it, Ball State was in 2016 the recipient of a 3.25 million dollar grant from the Charles Koch Foundation and John Schnatter, the owner of Papa Johns and a Ball State alumnus.

Hicks is a frequent guest columnist in the Indianapolis Star whose columns typically appear on the editorial page of the Sunday edition. Interestingly, today’s column appears on the first page of the Business section. The heading, “Sustaining middle-class areas is key in the Rust Belt,” is as misleading as are his usual arguments. Although he mentions how small expenditures by local governments can avoid decay in middle-class neighborhoods, the thrust of his column is the necessity to avoid such expenditures in distressed neighborhoods. He argues that the recovery of distressed neighborhoods in a decade or two is unlikely. He writes of the inevitability of shrinking “urban footprints” in smaller cities, that he attributes to long term population decline which he forecasts will persist through much of the twenty first century.

What he scrupulously avoids is any discussion of the cause of this. This avoidance is most telling when he cites vacancy rates in Terre Haute, South Bend and Muncie but makes no mention of Muncie’s close neighbor, Anderson, which is far more distressed. The reason for that avoidance is most likely the undeniable cause of the decay in Anderson, the departure of General Motors to Mexico and China facilitated by the provisions of the WTO and NAFTA. Conservative commentators typically ignore globalization as a cause of unemployment and the resulting urban decay and the rust in the Rust Belt, consistently arguing that it is a consequence of technological development.

In a post on February 20, 2017 (still available on this blog archive), I addressed a column in the Indianapolis Star by Hicks in which he offered the mechanization of agriculture as evidence that our current economic angst was caused by technology , not globalization. I responded with historical fact that demonstrated the absurdity of his argument.

A part of the Hicks argument is correct. Technological gains have made the problem worse but did not start it. Those gains will continue and will make the problem worse .Walking away from it, as Hicks seems to advocate, ignores the impact on people. He also ignores the reality that those middle-class neighborhoods he values will slowly, or maybe not so slowly, become like the neighborhoods he proposes to abandon. Notice that when he speaks of neighborhoods he never mentions people.

He also fails to mention the bigger cities such as Indianapolis and Gary where the decaying and decayed neighborhoods are populated by racial and ethnic minorities. Maybe he did not notice or maybe the mention of that would offend Charles Koch.

What’s In A Tweet

At 12:14 p.m. on December 2, 2017, a tweet was published from Donald Trump’s Twitter account which stated, in part, that he had fired General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. The inclusion of the allegation that lying to the FBI was part of the reason for firing General Flynn was a new disclosure and it almost immediately provoked questions that if Trump knew this when he fired Flynn why was he just now disclosing it. In other words, it was incriminating. Shortly thereafter John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, stated publicly that he had drafted the tweet and had done so sloppily. In an interview with Axios this morning, Dowd said the tweet was his mistake and he was “out of the tweeting business.”


Later Dowd told NBC News that he drafted the tweet and then sent it to White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino to publish. When asked for the original email he sent to Scavino, Dowd said he dictated it orally. When asked how frequently he did that he said. “Just this once”.


When I saw the first Dowd disclosure on Facebook, I commented that Dowd had just waived the attorney-client privilege. At the time I made some assumptions that I still think may be correct, Mr. Dowd’s assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. However, even if my assumptions are correct, the situation is more complex than my original comment, and if Dowd’s statement is completely true, they may be even more complex.


In the interest of full disclosure I have some history with Mr. Dowd. In late 1983 I conducted an internal investigation for a client which resulted in the expulsion of a person who was a subject of a federal criminal investigation. Mr. Dowd represented that person. It was a brief but turbulent interaction. Nothing that Mr. Dowd does or says surprises me.


My assumption was that after Flynn’s guilty plea, Dowd rather impulsively drafted the tweet in question and advised Trump to publish it, which Trump did. Then the internet lit up with remarks that Trump had just incriminated himself. My next assumption is that Trump started raising hell with Dowd, who agreed to take responsibility by publicly stating that he had drafted the tweet, and Dowd promptly did so.


With Dowd’s claim that he drafted and published the tweet, the attorney-client privilege would not be implicated, if he did not get Trump’s consent to make the public assumption of responsibility, since it would not be a disclosure of an attorney-client communication. Dowd has not specifically denied that Trump knew of the drafting and publication of the tweet.

I suspect that Dowd will soon get a subpoena from Mueller. So will Scavino.  Dowd will also certainly be asked why he made the statement that lying to the FBI was one of the reasons for firing Flynn. If my assumption is correct that Dowd is trying to cover for advising Trump to publish a tweet that was true but incriminating, Dowd’s appearance before the Grand Jury may be his most difficult appearance in his long career. Honest answers to the questions may incriminate him on several theories or, depending on the answers, might incriminate his client.


In Defense Of Bernie or What’s In a Name

The Washington Post recently carried an article titled The Party Is Over which discussed the impact of social media on U.S. political party discipline. After detailing the obvious many fractures in the Republican party, including the election of a president who ran on the Republican ticket and recognizes no obligation to the party, the article claimed that the Democratic party was at least as fractured although it was not so public.

“The internal bloodletting is at least as fierce, though perhaps less public, among Democrats. They, too, nearly lost control of their presidential nomination last year. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) showed scant desire to be a Democrat through his long political career in Vermont, but he has decided late in life to pursue an ideological takeover. The septuagenarian revolutionary continues to galvanize the left wing against leading Democrats, and neither he nor his people are interested in making nice”. WASHINGTON Post, October 20, 2017

My Facebook post of the article stimulated a lengthy debate among three commenters, two of whom were female. At least one urged that Bernie Sanders was not a Democrat and implied, I thought,  that for that reason he did not deserve the support of Democratic voters. I know he does not claim to be a member of the Democratic party,  whatever that means, but the issues he espouses have a long history in the Democratic party. Also, I think it is nearly certain that the voters in Vermont who have elected him to various offices through the years are Democratic voters. Those same voters have elected Patrick Leahy to the U.S. Senate repeatedly since 1975. I also note that Sanders caucuses with the Democrats in in the Senate. Further, it is my recollection that he campaigned for Hillary in the general election, after dismissing claims by Republicans about her emails in a debate with her during the primaries.

Politics is the art of coalition. The failure of the Republican party to coalesce around an opponent of Trump secured him the nomination. It is not clear that a failure to coalesce caused Hillary’s loss in the general election , mostly because there are several other plausible causes. In the last three presidential elections the  Democratic party has had a healthy majority of the popular vote, but if coalescing means voting, it is not happening in the off year elections, at least in numbers sufficient to offset gerrymandering, which has resulted in Republican control of Congress with a minority of votes. And the nearly three million popular vote margin Hillary received was not enough to offset the Republican advantage in the Electoral College. We can blame the Founders for that who insisted on that to preserve slavery, and it was very effective until it elected Lincoln.

The key to constructing an electoral majority is compromise. I think the Democrats did that at the organizational level in the general election, as evidenced by the popular vote majority. But there is conjecture that Bernie’s primary voters in the formerly blue rust belt states either did not vote or voted for Trump. That poses two questions, the first of which is whether they would have voted for Bernie rather than Trump in the general election, and the second is whether Hillary’s voters would have voted for Bernie.

I think a more relevant question is whether the Democrats were waging an identity campaign rather than an issues campaign. Trump managed to do both, although we now know that his issues platform was mostly fraudulent.

The Democrats lost the election in those previously blue states in the rust belt, the economies of which have been ravaged by the loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and China. The losses to Mexico are directly attributed to NAFTA. Conservatives are quick to argue that automation is the culprit, but there is no evidence that any factories were ever moved to Mexico to automate them.

Perhaps those formerly blue state  Democratic voters recalled that NAFTA was ratified by a majority of Republicans after it was submitted for a vote on ratification by President William Clinton who urged its ratifications. Maybe those blue state voters did not want him anywhere near the White House.

The Limberlost and the Paris Accords

(Guest post by Jennifer Bowman, who regularly writes about nature, travel and life at The Trailhead.)

Loblolly Marsh Preserve in northeastern Indiana

Up until the late 19th century, there was a vast wetland in my home state of Indiana that stretched across five or six counties, called the Limberlost. The Limberlost featured now-unimaginable heights of biological diversity; it was home to huge numbers of plants, birds, moths, and other creatures. Full of life, the beautiful, terrible Limberlost was also notorious for its quicksands and its questionable characters. It must have been an extraordinary place.

A woman named Gene Stratton-Porter, born in the middle of the Civil War, made a life and a career in writing and photography on the edges of the Limberlost. She turned out more than twenty books inspired by nature as it was found there, including A Girl of the Limberlost, The Keeper of the Bees, and Moths of the Limberlost. Stratton-Porter mastered photography when it was still relatively new, after her child had gone to school and she’d done the daily work that was required, back then, for a woman to take immaculate care of her home and family. In her free hours, she plied the wetlands of the Limberlost with the dedication of a monk, dutifully recording, photographing, and observing its inhabitants and features.

As her life and career progressed, she was forced to watch as the Limberlost was, in her words, “cleared, drained, and ploughed up,” having “fallen prey to commercialism through the devastation of lumbermen, oilmen, and farmers.” The Swamp Act of 1850 encouraged the wholesale draining of swamplands throughout the country, and by the early part of the twentieth century, most Indiana wetlands  had been decimated, including the Limberlost. There is nothing left of the original Limberlost today, though a tiny portion of it has been carefully restored by a few heroic souls. The Loblolly Marsh Preserve, located in what was once the heart of the Limberlost, now spans about 440 acres. The original marsh was more than 13,000.

When I first began reading about Stratton-Porter’s life, I wondered what it had been like for her to watch the source of her life’s work drained to its inevitable death, stripped of its lumber and converted to farms, as the moths and other life Stratton-Porter wrote about and photographed died out slowly.

I wondered about that again this week, as the United States announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, a voluntary set of agreements designed to set the world on the path to ameliorating and slowing global climate change. I realized there is a good chance that will be the lot of my generation and those after me, all over again – to watch as the natural world I love is slowly baked into devastation or stripped and paved over. Already since my birth in 1970, a huge amount of wildlife – by some estimates, as much as half – has been decimated. As I write this, there is a massive crack forming in the Antarctic ice shelf – 11 miles of it in the last six days. Eight more miles, and an iceberg the size of Delaware will calve off, forever changing the Antarctic Peninsula. I wonder if the most fundamental lesson of our time will be that human beings were sufficiently sophisticated to create the technology sufficient for environmental destruction, but too tribal and cultish to find the will to avert it.

I hope that’s not the case. My usual tendency is to look for the hope in a given situation, but I’m not sure that’s justified or appropriate here. And anyway, hope isn’t entirely required or even relevant. We’ll do what we need to do, because it’s the right thing to do, and because there is no other choice. Governors and mayors will become more important in the absence of federal leadership on renewables. Business will continue to prepare for the inevitable policy changes that have been only delayed, not barred forever, because ignoring climate change has become bad for the bottom line. That’s why we saw the likes of Elon Musk, Tim Cook and other CEOs criticizing the Paris withdrawal. One reason for that is, simply, public opinion. That means the opinion of ordinary people, like me, who will continue to press for environmental responsibility, because I don’t want to watch the slow death of any more Limberlosts.

So progress will continue to be made. But we are in a bit of a race against time, and the certainty of the outcome can no longer be the most prominent factor in responsible environmentalism. We just have to do the right thing because it’s the right thing.

The Limberlost is gone. There will likely be a great deal of the natural world gone, too, by the end of my life. My state is just now beginning to ameliorate the environmental destruction that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as smaller restorations of prairies and wetlands, like the Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands and DNR’s Goose Pond, pop up all over the state. There has been destruction, and then recovery and restoration, albeit on a much smaller scale, and much later. This seems to be the human way – we are often unable to stop ourselves before we’ve trashed the place, and while we often have restorations, or truth and reconciliation commissions, or war crimes tribunals – essential to the human process of learning and accountability — there is no way to recover the lost life.
As the Limberlost shrank, Gene Stratton Porter had to pick up and move to the north end of the wetland which hadn’t yet been drained, enabled to do so by the financial rewards of her earlier writing. But eventually, she moved to California, where she died in 1924. Stratton-Porter was fortunate that the environmental destruction she lived through was localized, and she had places to move. Future generations won’t be so lucky.


I am not aware of any evidence pointing surely and unerringly to the guilt of Donald Trump or Mike Pence of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ but I am aware of a long list of circumstantial evidence pointing toward Trump and more recently some pointing toward Pence.

Many members of the media and many members of the public talk of impeachment of Trump and now also of Pence. Significantly, both Congressional Democrats and Republicans for the most part discourage such talk, although Democrats in Congress and elsewhere speak frequently and loudly of the need for investigations both criminal and Congressional, primarily focused on Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possible collusion of the Trump campaign with that effort by the Russians. It is certainly reasonable to avoid urging impeachment in the absence of strong evidence that it is warranted.

But there is something else at work the avoidance of which is not so easily justified. The lack of conclusive evidence in the face of so much suggestive evidence would seem to require some expedition in the investigations slowly underway in both the House and the Senate. Foot dragging describes it as well as anything and that is clearly the responsibility of Republicans who control both houses of Congress and therefore all the committees that could investigate the issues. It is fair to say that recently the Senate committee appears to be through with delay.

Whether or not to delay presents the Republicans with an agonizing political choice. From one perspective it would seem they have an easy choice. If they impeach and convict Trump they get Pence, the one they would clearly prefer. But that would cost them many Trump supporters, who constitute perhaps half of their base, and their voter support in the last election added up to a minority. So delay may be a rational option politically. The recent progress of the Senate committee may be explained in part by the fact that the Republican chairman has announced he will not seek re-election. Furthermore, delay is not without its political cost. The lingering uncertainty about the Russian issue, coupled with Trump’s obvious instability and continual favoritism towards Russia is like a Chinese water torture directed on the Republican party. The longer it goes on, the better the chances of the Democrats in 2018.

Now suppose, after months of delay, late in 2018 Mr. Mueller’s investigation results in one or more multiple count, multiple defendant indictments, one of which names Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator. Even if it came earlier in 2018, the political pressure on the Republicans in the House to bring a bill of impeachment would be enormous.

Timing would become critical. If the process could be started and completed before the new Congress, Pence could pick the new Vice President if he could get a majority in both houses to ratify his choice. Depending on the choice, that might be difficult.

If one of those indictments also named Pence as an unindicted co-conspirator, either in one that named Trump or in a separate one, a plethora of questions without precedent would arise. Would they be tried together? If Trump were tried first and convicted Pence would automatically become President. Would Congress consider any choice of Vice President he made under those circumstances. It might if he named Paul Ryan.

Another question without precedent is what the consequences would be if impeachment was pending but not yet tried by the Senate when the old Congress expired in January, 2019. The most likely answer is it would be whatever the new Senate decided. Such a decision is not reviewable by the Courts.

If both Trump and Pence were impeached and convicted and Pence had not been able to name a Vice President, Ryan would become president if that happened before the new Congress took office. If that happened in 2019 and the Democrats took control of the House in that election the new President might be Nancy Pelosi. Will that motivate the Republicans to hurry?