Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Something to Know - 27 September

You have read the phrase "...the underbelly of Capitalism..." emerge from my keyboard.   The news that Amazon is a huge factor in the veracity of that phrase is now echoed by the Judiciary.  Capitalism is an economic wonder, but like all wondrous ideologies and systems, when greed and power  by human beings take over, the shameful shambles emerge.  The case of Amazon shows us how it occurs and how it affects what could otherwise be known as the efficiencies of an economic system.   HCR explains what I am trying to say.   At the same time, we can now officially declare that Trump and his family are verified Fraudsters and Liars, which will only add the luster needed to his official resumé.   By the way, I am between two cataract surgeries.   My right eye was done two weeks ago, and my left one was done yesterday morning.  I really don't see well at all, and only by the use of keyboard technology on my iMac am I able to attempt sending out any emails.   Those of you who have been through this before know what I am feeling right now.  I am advised to be patient and let nature take its course in the improvement in vision.   I cannot drive, nor can I read any printed documents at the moment.   Hitting the right keys to produce this takes a lot of redos.   The continuation of keeping you up on stuff is what I do, and I won't let any moments of temporary blindness get in the way.

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Today, on the anniversary of the creation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 1914, the FTC and 17 state attorneys general sued Amazon for using "a set of interlocking anticompetitive and unfair strategies to maintain its monopoly power." The FTC and the suing states say "Amazon's actions allow it to stop rivals and sellers from lowering prices, degrade quality for shoppers, overcharge sellers, stifle innovation, and prevent rivals from fairly competing against Amazon." 

The states suing are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

While estimates of Amazon's control of the online commerce market vary, they center around about 40%, and Amazon charges third-party merchants for using the company's services to store and ship items. Last quarter, Amazon reported more than $32 billion in revenues from these services. The suit claims that Amazon illegally overcharges third-party sellers and inflates prices.

This lawsuit is about more than Amazon: it marks a return to traditional forms of government antitrust action that were abandoned in the 1980s. Traditionally, officials interpreted antitrust laws to mean the government should prevent large entities from swallowing up markets and consolidating their power in order to raise prices and undercut workers' rights. They wanted to protect economic competition, believing that such competition would promote innovation, protect workers, and keep consumer prices down. 

In the 1980s, government officials replaced that understanding with an idea advanced by former solicitor general of the United States Robert Bork—the man whom the Senate later rejected for a seat on the Supreme Court because of his extremism—who claimed that traditional antimonopoly enforcement was economically inefficient because it restricted the ways businesses could operate. Instead, he said, consolidation of industries was fine so long as it promoted economic efficiencies that, at least in the short term, cut costs for consumers. While antitrust legislation remained on the books, the understanding of what it meant changed dramatically.

Reagan and his people advanced Bork's position, abandoning the idea that capitalism fundamentally depends on competition. Industries consolidated, and by the time Biden took office, his people estimated the lack of competition was costing a median U.S. household as much as $5,000 a year. 

On July 9, 2021, Biden called the turn toward Bork's ideas "the wrong path" and vowed to restore competition in an increasingly consolidated marketplace. In an executive order, he established a White House Competition Council to direct a whole-of-government approach to promoting competition in the economy. 

"[C]ompetition keeps the economy moving and keeps it growing," Biden said. "Fair competition is why capitalism has been the world's greatest force for prosperity and growth…. But what we've seen over the past few decades is less competition and more concentration that holds our economy back."

In that speech, Biden deliberately positioned himself in our country's long history of opposing economic consolidation. Calling out both Roosevelt presidents—Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who oversaw part of the Progressive Era, and Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who oversaw the New Deal—Biden celebrated their attempt to rein in the power of big business, first by focusing on the abuses of those businesses, and then by championing competition. 

While still a student at Yale Law School, FTC chair Lina Khan published an essay examining the anticompetitive nature of modern businesses like Amazon, arguing that focusing on consumer prices alone does not address the problems of consolidation and monopoly. With today's action, the FTC is restoring the traditional vision of antitrust action.

President Biden demonstrated his support for ordinary Americans in another historic way today when he became the first sitting president to join a picket line of striking workers. In Wayne County, Michigan, he joined a UAW strike, telling the striking autoworkers, "Wall Street didn't build the country, the middle class built the country. Unions built the middle class. That's a fact. Let's keep going, you deserve what you've earned. And you've earned a hell of a lot more than you're getting paid now."

Even as Biden was standing on the picket line, House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a new budget plan that moves even farther to the right. Yesterday, former president Trump backed the far-right extremists threatening to shut down the government, insisting that holding the government hostage is the best way to get everything they want, including, he wrote, an end to the criminal cases against him. 

"The Republicans lost big on Debt Ceiling, got NOTHING, and now are worried that they will be BLAMED for the Budget Shutdown. Wrong!!! Whoever is President will be blamed," Trump wrote on social media. "UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN! Close the Border, stop the Weaponization of 'Justice,' and End Election Interference."

McCarthy is reneging on the agreement he made with Biden in the spring as conditions for raising the debt ceiling, and instead is calling for dramatic cuts to the nation's social safety net, as well as restarting construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, as starting points for funding the government. Cuts of more than $150 billion in his new proposal would mean cutting housing subsidies for the poor by 33%, fuel subsidies for low-income families by more than 70%, and funding for low-income schools by nearly 80% and would force more than 1 million women and children off of nutritional assistance. 

The "bottom line is we're singularly focused right now on achieving our conservative objectives," Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) told Jeff Stein, Marianna Sotomayor, and Moriah Balingit of the Washington Post. The Republicans plan to preserve the tax cuts of the Trump years, which primarily benefited the wealthy and corporations. 

At any point, McCarthy could return to the deal he cut with Biden, pass the appropriations bills with Democratic support, and fund the government. But if he does that, he is almost certain to face a challenge to his speakership from the extremists who currently are holding the country hostage. 

This evening, the Senate reached a bipartisan deal to fund the government through November 17 and to provide additional funding for Ukraine (although less than the White House wants), passing it by a vote of 77–19. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged the House Republicans to agree to the measure, warning them that shutdowns "don't work as bargaining chips." Nevertheless, McCarthy would not say he would take up the bill, and appears to feel the need to give in to the extremists' demands. Moreover, he has suddenly said he thinks a meeting with Biden could avert the crisis, suggesting he is desperate for someone else to find a solution. 

Former president Trump has his own problems this evening stemming from the civil case against him, his older sons, and other officers and parts of the Trump Organization in New York, where Attorney General Letitia James has charged him with committing fraud by inflating the value of his assets. Today New York judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump and his company deceived banks and insurers by massively overvaluing his real estate holdings in order to obtain loans and better terms for deals. The Palm Beach County assessor valued Mar-a-Lago, for example, at $18 million, while Trump valued it at between $426 million and $612 million, an overvaluation of 2,300% (not a typo). 

Engoron canceled the organization's New York business licenses, arranged for an independent receiver to dissolve those businesses, and placed a retired judge into the position of independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization. 

This decision will crush the heart of Trump's businesses, and he issued a long statement attacking it, using all the usual words: "witch hunt," "Communist," "Political Lawfare" (ok, I don't get that one),  and "If they can do this to me, they can do this to YOU!" Law professor Jen Taub commented, "It reads better in the original ketchup." Trump's lawyers say they are considering an appeal. The rest of the case is due to go to trial early next month.

Finally, today, the Supreme Court rejected Alabama's request to let it ignore the court's order that it redraw its congressional district maps to create a second majority-Black district. Alabama will have to comply with the court's order. 



Q. What is the difference between a law-abiding gun owner and a criminal?

A.  The .2 of a second that it takes to pull a trigger.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Something to Know - 26 September

We make assumptions on how Democracy is supposed to work.  In today's world, HCR explains  how our assumptions have been corrupted by a system called Gerrymandering.   How is it done, why it is done, and who is doing it?  She does a good job of explaining it:

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Pundits struggle to decide whether Trump's rise represents something new in the United States or whether it is a continuation of the growing anti-democratic politics of the Republican Party. As a card-carrying Libra, I'm going to suggest it was both.

If yesterday's letter was about how Trump's turn to authoritarianism is unprecedented among major party political leaders, tonight's is about how the Republican Party prepared the way for this moment in part by rigging the system through gerrymandering so that their politicians no longer need to appeal to voters. Those extreme gerrymanders threaten to skew the 2024 election and are contributing to the Republican Party's inability to perform the most basic functions of government.

Gerrymandering is the process of drawing legislative districts to favor a political party. The practice was named for Elbridge Gerry, an early governor of Massachusetts who signed off on such a scheme (even though he didn't like it). Political parties can gain an advantage in elections by either "packing" or "cracking" their opponents' voters. Packing means stuffing the opposition party's voters into districts so their votes are not distributed more widely; cracking means dividing opponents' voters among multiple districts so there are too few of them in any district to have a chance of winning. 

The Constitution requires the government to take a census every ten years to see where people have moved, enabling the government to draw districts that should allow us to elect politicians that represent us. Political operatives have always carved up maps to serve themselves when they could, but today's computers allow them to draw maps with surgical precision. 

That created a big change in 2010. Before that midterm election, hoping to hamstring President Barack Obama's ability to accomplish anything by making sure he had a hostile Congress, Republican operatives raised money from corporate donors to swamp state elections with ads and campaign literature to elect Republicans to state legislatures. This Operation REDMAP, which stood for Redistricting Majority Project, was a plan to take control of state houses across the country so that Republicans would control the redistricting maps put in place after the 2010 census. 

It worked. After the 2010 election, Republicans controlled the legislatures in the key states of Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan, as well as other, smaller states, and they redrew congressional maps using precise computer models. In the 2012 election, Democrats won the White House decisively, the Senate easily, and a majority of 1.4 million votes for House candidates. And yet Republicans came away with a thirty-three-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

The results of that effort are playing out today.

In Wisconsin the electoral districts are so gerrymandered that although the state's population is nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Republicans control nearly two thirds of the seats in the legislature and it is virtually impossible for Democrats ever to win control of the state legislature. In April, voters elected Janet Protasiewicz to the state supreme court by an astonishing margin of 11 points, in part thanks to her promise to reject the extreme gerrymandered maps. 

Protasiewicz's election shifted the court majority away from the Republicans. Even before she was elected, one Republican senator suggested impeaching her, and now, because she has called the district maps "rigged" and said, "I don't think you could sell to any reasonable person that the maps are fair," Republicans are calling for her impeachment before she has even heard a case. (After saying the maps were rigged, she added: "I can't ever tell you what I'm going to do on a particular case, but I can tell you my values, and common sense tells you that it's wrong.")

Voters are also evenly split in North Carolina—illustrated by the fact that a statewide race elected Democrat Roy Cooper as governor—but there, too, gerrymandering has rigged the maps for the Republicans. After a Democrat switched sides to give the Republicans a veto-proof majority in both houses of the legislature, the House of Representatives last week passed laws taking away the governor's power to make appointments to state and local election boards and removing the tiebreaker seat the governor appointed to the state board. 

Instead, the legislature has taken over the right to make those appointments itself, meaning that election rules could become entirely partisan. At the same time, the legislature exempted its legislators from complying with the state open-records law that requires redistricting documents be public.

In Ohio, almost 75% of voters agreed to amend the state constitution in 2018 to prohibit political gerrymanders. Nonetheless, when the Republican-dominated legislature drew district maps in 2021, they gave a strong advantage to Republicans. The state supreme court struck the maps down as unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court permitted them to stay in place for the 2022 election. The court will now revisit the question, but it has moved further to the right since 2022.

In Alabama, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that the maps in place in 2022 were likely unconstitutional and must be redrawn to include a second majority-Black district. But when the state legislature drew a new map the next month, it defied the court. The court was shocked at the refusal to comply, and appointed a special master, who today offered three options. Any of them would offer the Democrats a chance to pick up another seat, and the state is challenging the new maps.

Tennessee shows what gerrymandering does at the state level. There, Republicans tend to get about 60% of the votes but control 76% of the seats in the House and 82% of the seats in the Senate. This supermajority means that the Republicans can legislate as they wish. 

Gerrymandered seats mean that politicians do not have to answer to constituents; their purpose is to raise money and fire up true believers. Although more than 70% of Tennessee residents want gun safety legislation, for example, Republican legislators, who are certain to win in their gerrymandered districts, can safely ignore them. 

Tennessee shows the effects of gerrymandering at the national level as well. Although Republican congressional candidates in Tennessee get about 65% of the vote, they control 89% of Tennessee's congressional delegation. In the elections of 2022, Florida, Alabama, and Ohio all used maps that courts have thrown out for having rigged the system to favor Republicans. The use of those unfair maps highlights that the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives by only the slimmest of margins and explains why Republicans are determined to keep their gerrymanders.

Because their seats are safe, Republicans do not have to send particularly skilled politicians to Congress; they can send those whose roles are to raise money and push Republican ideology. That likely explains at least a part of why House Republicans are no closer to agreeing on a deal to fund the government than they have been for the past several months, even as the deadline is racing toward us, and why they are instead going to hold an impeachment hearing concerning President Joe Biden on Thursday. 

Michigan was one of the Operation REDMAP states, redistricted after the 2010 election into an extreme gerrymander designed by Republicans who bragged about stuffing "Dem garbage" into four districts so that Republicans would, as one said, stay in power for years. In 2016 a Michigan woman, Katie Fahey, started a movement to get rid of the partisan maps. In 2018, despite a Republican lawsuit to stop them, they successfully placed an initiative to create an independent redistricting commission on the ballot. It passed overwhelmingly. 

After the 2020 census the commission's new maps still slightly favored Republicans because of the state's demographic distribution—Democrats are concentrated in cities—but the parties were competitive. In 2022, Democrats took control of the state government, winning the House for the first time since 2008.


On Operation REDMAP, see David Daley, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy (New York: Liveright, 2016).


Q. What is the difference between a law-abiding gun owner and a criminal?

A.  The .2 of a second that it takes to pull a trigger.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Why We Become Activists

A spokesman for advocacy comes in a very small package (about 4 feet 11 inches tall), but he is a very large force in getting us to realize that the America that we learned about as young adults is not the way things are in real life today.  Robert Reich stands out higher than anyone I know:

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Mr. President, joining the picket line is a good start

But you must unambiguously be on the side of working Americans against the CEOs, Wall Street moguls, and activist investors who have been profiting at the expense of the rest of America

SEP 25

Dear Mr. President:

Kudos for joining the UAW picket line tomorrow. You're the first president to ever join a picket line.

But please don't stop there.

Go on to criticize the CEOs of America's big corporations who are now raking in more than 350 times what the average American worker is earning (in the 1950s, they took in 20 times).

Blast corporations that are monopolizing their industries.

Condemn firms that are using their profits to buy back shares of stock, polluting the planet with carbon emissions and polluting our democracy with big money.

You won't be the first Democratic president to do this.

On the eve of the 1936 election, President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned America that business and financial monopolies and war profiteers considered the U.S. government

"as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. … Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

America is again in a populist age, when a vast army of Americans have been shafted by big corporations, Wall Street, and the monied interests.

The biggest change over the last three decades — the change lurking behind the insecurities and resentments of the working middle class — has nothing to do with identity politics, "woke"ism, immigration, critical race theory, transgender kids, or any other current Republican bogeymen.

It has directly to do with a huge upward shift in the distribution of income and wealth.

Although total wealth is much greater now than it was four decades ago, the distribution of that wealth is far more unequal. The bottom 50 percent hasn't budged. Wealth at the top has exploded.

Meanwhile, a declining share of the nation's wealth has been going to workers, and an exponentially rising share to CEOs and big investors.

This change didn't happen because of so-called "neutral market forces." It happened because of policy decisions made over the last four decades. For example:

To open the American economy wide to imports from China. To deregulate Wall Street and allow it to make bets with other people's money.

To dramatically cut taxes on big corporations and the rich. To let corporations bash unions and fire workers who try to organize.

To encourage activist investors and private equity companies to take over "underperforming" companies and then promptly fire workers and sell off assets. To allow big corporations to become far larger, monopolizing entire industries.

To allow pharmaceutical companies to extend their patents and jack up the prices of critical drugs. To allow oil companies access to federal lands and to special tax write-offs.

To bail out the biggest banks but not homeowners who get caught in the downdrafts. To privatize higher education and force students to take out massive loans. To encourage corporations to buy back their shares of stock rather than reinvest profits.

These policy decisions didn't just happen, either. They were pushed by wealthy elites on Wall Street and in C-suites who made mammoth donations to politicians on both sides of the aisle — mostly but not exclusively Republican — to ensure that their wishes would be honored.

To your credit, you and most Democratic lawmakers in Congress have pushed for policies that will make the nation more equitable, such as child care and elder care subsidies, student loan forgiveness, and negotiated drug prices. Kudos.

But you're reluctant to blame CEOs, Wall Street moguls, and the super-rich for what's happened.

Yet they are to blame, as are their lackeys in Washington. 

They have turned their growing wealth into increasing political power to change the rules of the game in ways that further enlarge their wealth and power, while shafting the bottom half.

Condemn them, as did FDR. Name the CEOs, leaders of finance, heads of pharmaceutical companies, defense contractors, internet moguls, and "activist" investors who have profited at the expense of the rest of America.

Be unambiguously on the side of workers in their struggle for better pay and working conditions.

Attack corporate welfare — the special tax loopholes, bank bailouts, unconditional subsidies, loan guarantees, and no-bid contracts that have lined the pockets of the wealthy, paid for by the rest of us.

Let Republicans criticize corporate "wokeness." You should campaign against corporate greed.

Let Republicans obsess about critical race theory, immigration, and sex. You should campaign against how obscenely unfair and unequal America has become.

It's good you're joining the UAW picket line. But if you and other Democrats don't tell the economic truth about what's happened and place the blame squarely where it's deserved, the lies of Republicans will fill the void.


Q. What is the difference between a law-abiding gun owner and a criminal?

A.  The .2 of a second that it takes to pull a trigger.

Something to Know - 25 September

The House is governed by the majority party, the Republicans.   In their usual dancing for the stars mode, they gather to threaten to shut down the government each budget session when the opposition party controls the White house and the senate.   This year is no exception.  The problem this year is that the GOP is in a war of internal ideologies and cannot settle on what they have been sent to DC to do.   Because of their sterling intrangences, we are close again in their game of chicken and actually harming our economy and the structures that hold our republic together.  This time, we have an extremist element of MAGA that even in its minority state does not care about the welfare of Democracy or anything but fascism or authoritarians.    So, we stumble on.  HCR paints us a picture of the poisoner in chief today:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the nation's highest-ranking military officer and the principal military advisor to the president, secretary of defense, and national security council. The current chairman, Army General Mark Milley, has served in the military for 44 years, deploying in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Panama, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Somalia, and the Republic of Korea. He holds a degree in political science from Princeton University, a master's degree in international relations from Columbia University, and a master's degree from the U.S. Naval War College in national security and strategic studies. 

Former president Trump chose Milley for that position, but on Friday night, Trump posted an attack on Milley, calling him "a Woke train wreck" and accusing him of betraying the nation when, days before the 2020 election, he reassured his Chinese counterpart that the U.S. was not going to attack China in the last days of the Trump administration, as Chinese leaders feared.  

Trump was reacting to a September 21 piece by Jeffrey Goldberg about Milley in The Atlantic, which portrays Milley as an important check on an erratic, uninformed, and dangerous president while also warning that "[i]n the American system, it is the voters, the courts, and Congress that are meant to serve as checks on a president's behavior, not the generals." 

Trump posted that Milley "was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States. This was an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act. To be continued!!!"

In fact, the calls were hardly rogue incidents. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, another Trump appointee, endorsed Milley's October call, and Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who replaced Esper when Trump fired him just after the election, gave permission for a similar call Milley made in January 2021. At least ten officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department were on the calls. 

Trump is suggesting that in acting within his role and through proper channels, our highest ranking military officer has committed treason and that such treason in the past would have warranted death, with the inherent suggestion that we should return to such a standard. It seems much of the country has become accustomed to Trump's outbursts, but this threat should not pass without notice, not least because Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) echoed it today in his taxpayer-funded newsletter.

In the letter, Gosar refers to Milley as "the homosexual-promoting-BLM-activist Chairman of the military joint chiefs," a "deviant" who "was coordinating with Nancy Pelosi to hurt President Trump, and treasonously working behind Trump's back. In a better society," he wrote, "quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting General Milley would be hung. He had one boss: President Trump, and instead he was secretly meeting with Pelosi and coordinating with her to hurt Trump."

Trump chose Milley to chair the Joint Chiefs but turned on him when Milley insisted the military was loyal to the Constitution rather than to any man. Milley had been dragged into participating in Trump's march across Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, to threaten Black Lives Matter protesters, although Milley peeled off when he recognized what was happening and later said he thought they were going to review National Guard troops. 

The day after the debacle, Milley wrote a message to the joint force reminding every member that they swore an oath to the Constitution. "This document is founded on the essential principle that all men and women are born free and equal, and should be treated with respect and dignity. It also gives Americans the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly…. As members of the Joint Force—comprised of all races, colors, and creeds—you embody the ideals of our Constitution."

"We all committed our lives to the idea that is America," he wrote by hand on the memo. "We will stay true to that oath and the American people." 

Milley's appearance with Trump as they crossed Lafayette Square drew widespread condemnation from former military leaders, and in the days afterward, Milley spoke to them personally, as well as to congressional leaders, to apologize. Milley also apologized publicly. "I should not have been there," he said to graduates at National Defense University's commencement. "My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics." Milley went on to defend the Black Lives Matter protesters Trump was targeting, and to say that the military must address the systematic racism that has kept people of color from the top ranks. 

Milley's defense of the U.S. military, 43% of whom are people of color, drew not just Trump's fury, but also that of the right wing. Then–Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson made a special effort to undermine the man he said was "not just a pig, he's stupid!" "The Pentagon is now the Yale faculty lounge, but with cruise missiles. That should concern you," he told his audience. As Carlson berated the military for being "woke," his followers began to turn against the military they had previously championed. 

Trump has made it clear he intends to weaponize the government against those he perceives to be his enemies, removing those who refuse to do his bidding and replacing them with loyalists. Ominously, according to Goldberg, another area over which Trump and Milley clashed was the military's tradition of refusing to participate in acts that are clearly immoral or illegal. Trump overrode MIlley's advice not to intervene in the cases of three men charged with war crimes, later telling his supporters, "I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state." 

Goldberg points out that in a second Trump administration packed with loyalists, there will be few guardrails, and he notes that Milley has told friends that if Trump is reelected, "[h]e'll start throwing people in jail, and I'd be on the top of the list."

But Milley told Goldberg he does not expect Trump to be reelected. "I have confidence in the American people," he said. "The United States of America is an extraordinarily resilient country, agile and flexible, and the inherent goodness of the American people is there." Last week, he told ABC's Martha Raddatz that he is "confident that the United States and the democracy in this country will prevail and the rule of law will prevail…. These institutions are built to be strong, resilient and to adapt to the times, and I'm 100% confident we'll be fine."

Milley's statement reflects the increasingly powerful reassertion of democratic values over the past several years. In general, the country seems to be moving beyond former president Trump, who remains locked in his ancient grievances and simmering with fear about his legal troubles—Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone recently reported he has been asking confidants about what sort of prison might be in his future—and what he has to say seems so formulaic at this point that it usually doesn't seem worth repeating. Indeed, much of his frantic posting seems calculated to attract headlines with shock value.

But, for all that, Trump is the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He has suggested that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's senior military advisor, has committed treason and that such a crime is associated with execution, and one of his loyalists in government has echoed him. 

And yet, in the face of this attack on one of our key national security institutions, an attack that other nations will certainly notice, Republican leaders remain silent. 



Q. What is the difference between a law-abiding gun owner and a criminal?

A.  The .2 of a second that it takes to pull a trigger.