Archive for July, 2018

I, VLADIMIR

I, Vladimir Putin, meet privately with President Trump in Helsinki earlier in week. In private, we discuss many important things. Now, I tell Americans at higher ends of intelligence about what I say to my tovarichDonald.

We start with golf. I love it. Even in deepest, darkest winter, I play 36 holes bare-chested. (Also work at desk bare-chested.) My lowest 72-hole score 45. This is 27 strokes under par. For president of Russia, holes move closer. Donald appreciates.

Women we also love. Donald is my idol. Smart man divorces wife when she stops being hot. Donald does this twice so far. I divorced Lyudmilla after 30 years. She was bad for image. My girlfriend Alina only 30. Even hotter than Melania, though I don’t say this. (Donald Jr. wise to follow father’s example, dump his wife, too.)

We compare popularity. Crowds cheer me everywhere. We have ways to educate people whose hands fail to clap. I say, “Donald, you are rock star.” In speech in Montana early this month, he tells supporters he broke all Elton John’s records. He says Elton John needs organ to draw crowds, not Donald Trump. I nudge his arm. Donald Trump has organ. Not bigger than mine, but huge.

We discuss most serious issues. I tell Donald little green men in Ukraine not Russians, but droids produced by Disney. Crimea always part of Russia. I give Crimea’s Russian speakers chance to come home. Like Donald wishes to make Canada part of U.S., free Canadians from Justin Trudeau and government from foolish burdens like providing healthcare. For Donald’s 2020 campaign theme, I propose “Make America 62 States.” Why not? U.S. took over Mexican territory, lands of native peoples, Hawaii. All Russia asks for is control Near Abroad: Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Georgia. Maybe Syria to protect naval base at Tartus.

We laugh about income taxes. Only fools pay. Giving tax returns to fake media? This not for rich people with money laundered in Zurich, London, New York, Miami. And why should Russians connected to Kremlin reveal loans and equity positions arranged with orange-haired American developers? Private enterprise should be private.

Biggest item is supposed interference in 2016 election. I ask, “How could Russia do or not do this?” I answer, “We are too busy interfering in our own elections.” (I first was elected president in 2000—may Donald serve his people for 20 years!). Is my duty to keep voting process free from outside agitators like university professors, artists, writers, fake journalists, students, housewives, doctors, businessmen who not oligarchs or mafia, grocery store owners and ice-cream sellers. Besides, I say, we know how world works. Interference? Could have been Democrats or anyone.

I remind Donald in last election I receive 92 percent of vote. (We announce lower percentage to show world Russian elections fair.) I tell him this is five more points of popular vote than he says he really received—American vote totals rigged for Crooked Hillary.

Russia and America can be good friends. Man like Donald Trump understands what international relations all about: I grab mine. You grab yours.

I say, “Let us chat soon in Washington.” We will talk about many cultural favorites we share. Song: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” TV: “The Americans.” Cinema:Manchurian Candidate.

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SUPREME COMMON SENSE

Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. Republicans exulted. Democrats vowed a bitter fight against the nomination. Odds are, Judge Kavanaugh, who appears to embrace strict interpretation of the Constitution, will be seated. I hope he’ll bear in mind a 2010 Supreme Court decision and the common sense of two Torah portions.

Ten years ago, Citizens United, a non-profit corporation founded for the purpose of“restoring our government to citizens’ control” utilizing “a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization,” sought to advertise a documentary film it produced critical of Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton was running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka McCain-Feingold) restricted corporate-sponsored advocacy communications from naming a federal candidate 30 days before a primary election and 60 before a general election. Citizens United sued the Federal Election Commission, declaring a violation of its free-speech rights under the First Amendment. Citizens United insisted that it was merely presenting information about a candidate, not endorsing or opposing one.

The issue went to the Supreme Court where liberal justices would have upheld McCain-Feingold. During initial oral arguments, soon-to-retire Justice David Souter read aloud some of the film’s narrative: “She’ll lie about anything. She’s deceitful. She’s ruthless. Cunning. Dishonest.” He concluded, “That sounds to me like campaign advocacy.”

Chief Justice John Roberts asked for additional arguments addressing broader grounds. These were made three months following Souter’s retirement. The court voted 5-4 in favor of Citizens United. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion referenced a lower court’s decision upholding banning books published or distributed by corporations or labor unions if they promoted or opposed a specific candidate. Banning books was un-American. Under the rubric of free speech, enormous sums of money from super PACs—political action committees—began flowing into election campaigns, though not to political parties.

There’s a strong difference between speechand reach. I point to Justice Souter’s post-retirement comments in 2012: “If I exercise my liberty to the greatest possible extent, I can suppress the rights of a lot of people.” Corporations and the wealthy can spend millions of dollars promoting their views. They enjoy reach—distribution—average Americans cannot match.

The court’s decision seems based on Originalism—interpreting the Constitution exactly as written. That’s difficult. The Constitution’s writers knew of newspapers and soap boxes but not television, the internet and social media. Lack of context and adaptability can make a travesty of justice.

Here I cite Torah (Bamidbar—Numbers). In the portion Pinchas(Phineas), the five daughters of Zelophechad, who died without a son make their case to Moses that they should inherit their father’s portion of land in Canaan. God assures Moses this is just. The laws of inheritance are amended. In Mattot(Tribes), the tribes of Reuben and Gad ask Moses permission to settle in the cattle country east of the Jordan River rather than in Canaan. This alters God’s plan, but Moses says they may do so after participating in Canaan’s conquest.

During this November’s mid-term Congressional elections, voters will be bombarded by messages spread via huge sums of corporate and individual money. Such communications will give their sponsors—usually unidentified—unequaled power to sway elections. Common sense tells me that free speech will not be served.

Many thanks to Ron Laupheimer, a retired lawyer, for clarifying some issues. I am not a lawyer or legal scholar but am exercising my right to free speech—even if my reach is limited—based on, well, common sense.

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“THE ALIBI”—A FABLE

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Joe follows the bailiff into the courtroom for his arraignment. He sits next to a haggard public defender, who nods. Joe smiles. Sure, he committed the crime. But he knows he won’t be indicted.

Joe admits he came to the end of his rope. He’d worked a good job in a shop manufacturing auto parts. But the Great Recession and foreign competition drove sales down. They let him go. It took a while, but Joe found a new job. For lower wages, yes, but jobs were scarce. His new employer faced the same business challenges, only worse. The company folded.

Joe hated collecting unemployment, but he had a family. And he did look for work. Until he figured there wasn’t anything out there for him and stopped. His wife got a job in a bakery. Minimum wage, no bennies. But something. Joe became a househusband.

He drove the kids to school then his wife to work then picked up everyone after. They once had two vehicles, but his wife’s SUV got better mileage and cost less to insure, so he sold his truck. The money went fast. At home, he cleaned a little, did laundry then watched Fox News. Under Obama, America was in deep trouble.

Once a week, Joe shopped a specialty market with low prices on dented cans, torn packages and produce a little less than prime. He still left cooking dinner to his wife.

No slacker, he occasionally dug up odd jobs to help lower their debt. It kept rising. The economy picked up then got hot. But the way Joe figured, it still left him out in the cold. He voted for Trump.

America being made great again, he reentered the job market. Automation and the skills that went with it had passed him by. When a guy got beat down like he’d been beat down, he just couldn’t get up.

Then the lightbulb went off. One afternoon, he went to the mall. Crowds were smaller given how many people shopped online, but it still contained a nice jewelry store. He reached into his backpack, pulled out a small hammer and chisel, broke a glass case, scooped up expensive watches and diamond bracelets, and walked out. An alarm sounded. He ran. A security guard tackled him. Joe wasn’t worried.

“How do you plead?” asks the judge. Joe’s attorney is about to answer when Joe stands. “Not guilty, your honor. You can let me go.” The judge scowls. “You’ll have your day in court.” Joe smiles. “Don’t need it. If I say I’m innocent, that’s all the proof you need.” The judge tilts her head. “And that works how?”

“Trump’s getting ready to meet Putin in Finland, right? Some U.S. Senate committee just said the Russians interfered with the 2016 election. All of America’s intelligence agencies concluded that before. But Trump tweeted, ‘Putin says the Russian state had nothing to with it.’ He tweets that a lot.” “So?” asks the judge. “So, Russia gets away with it. I’m just saying, I had nothing to do with that robbery, so—”

The judge bangs her gavel. It booms like a rifle shot. Joe grins in response to the resignation on her face when she announces, “Case dismissed.”

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