Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, April 14, 2018


A draft for this post composed yesterday prior to 6 pm PDT opened with an expression of fear that the president will bumble and bluster his way into war with Russia. The text of the draft has been superseded by events. The fear remains.

I am reluctant to criticize the strike against Syria's chemical weapons facilities, presuming always that there is, as is claimed, conclusive evidence that the Syrian government is responsible for the chemical weapons attack earlier this week. What to do about the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, and other atrocities for that matter, is a quandary. Conscience compels us to act. Failure to do so is morally repugnant. Yet the possible consequences of the strike extend a great deal beyond a message to Bashar al-Assad.

Maybe I am overreacting, but it seems to me that the world is closer to disaster than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis. Neither the US nor Russia has a steady hand at the helm. The situation calls for a degree of creative and subtle thinking that is quite beyond the "deciders" at the highest levels of the Trump regime. We can only hope that the president bumbles in the direction of a lesser mess rather than a greater one.

At present we must hope that Trump gets away with this while fearing that success will only embolden him to more reckless moves in the future.

Well, this is hopeful, sort of. A nice article by Michael Grunwald at Politico Magazine (The Myth of Scott Pruitt’s EPA Rollback) expresses the good news that Scott Pruitt has yet to accomplish much by way of rolling back EPA regulations despite generating a lot of ballyhoo about rollbacks. Rolling back federal regulations of any kind is a cumbersome, drawn-out process. It's not easy even for a neanderthal like Pruitt, who is bent on freeing the fossil-fuel industry to operate without constraint. I apologize to neanderthals for the slur. The bad news is that everything else coming out of the EPA is bad news.

Hopeful:

Pruitt has not yet killed or rolled back any significant regulations that were in place when President Donald Trump took office. While Pruitt is often hailed (or attacked) as Trump’s most effective (or destructive) deregulatory warrior, the recent spotlight on his ethics...has arguably overshadowed his lack of regulatory rollbacks during his first 15 months in Washington. The truth is that Scott Pruitt has done a lot less to dismantle the EPA than he—or his critics—would have you believe.

It’s not for lack of trying.

And this is not:

"The vexing thing is that when you’re deal [sic] with public health and the climate, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind, and Pruitt is adamantly refusing to move forward," says Joe Goffman, a top official in the Obama EPA who now runs Harvard Law School’s environmental law program. "He isn’t changing the status quo as much as people think, but the status quo is a problem."

Paul Ryan's resignation cannot pass without note. The common wisdom has it the Ryan's departure does not bode well for the Republicans and the Trump regime in November and beyond. Let us hope 'tis so.

Ryan has done a remarkable PR job of selling himself as a serious, principled person and a deep thinker. I give him that. Beyond that, not much.

Here are four articles from the past few days that put the soon to be former speaker and his legacy in perspective.

About Ryan: Incredibly, I’m seeing some news reports about his exit that portray him as a serious policy wonk and fiscal hawk who, sadly, found himself unable to fulfill his mission in the Trump era. Unbelievable. Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted.

[Ryan has] long displayed one admirable trait: A strain of honesty. He has acknowledged his desire to shrink popular programs like Medicare and Social Security.

...

I don’t mean to suggest that he was a truth-teller, and I don’t mean to excuse, in any way, his meek response to Donald Trump’s racism and lawlessness. But Ryan is just a bit more complicated than his critics sometimes suggest.

...to make the Ryan a 'victim' of Trump-ism misses a central point: the GOP speakership was broken long before Donald Trump became president. And, the party had moved more in Trump’s direction – on everything from immigration to its disdain for "elitism"–before Trump ever became president.

I’m not a big Paul Ryan fan, but one particular kick in the pants the speaker of the House is getting on his way out the door is unfair. It’s simply not the case that he sold out to Donald Trump or compromised his principles in any way. If anything, it’s just the opposite — Trump abandoned his stated views on a wide range of policy issues in order to bring himself into close conformity with Ryan’s ideology and policy agenda.

And Comey's book, developments in the Michael Cohen case, some great questioning of Pompeo at his confirmation hearings, especially from Corey Booker, and the pardon of the notorious Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Good grief, what a week.

After a week like this, I could use a reason to live. Peter Bradshaw's preview of the lineup for the 2018 Cannes Film Festival will do nicely (Peter Bradshaw on the Cannes 2018 lineup: Netflix out, plenty of newcomers in, The Guardian, April 12, 2018 ).

Some mixed signals with the traditional unveiling of the Cannes film festival’s official selection: a very lively and effervescent list, with eight newcomers in competition and plenty of big names sidelined. No Mike Leigh, and no Claire Denis, although their new films may not be ready – or they may in fact be added in the next few days. But there are some notable entries from the silverbacks of the auteur big league, including Jean-Luc Godard and Spike Lee. The new Star Wars episode will provide a little pop-culture confectionery – and perhaps there will be stormtroopers roaming the Croisette as there were the last time a Star Wars movie was presented at Cannes. Wim Wenders is in the Special Screenings sidebar with his documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, although His Holiness is not expected to make an appearance on the red carpet.

Thank you, Mr. Bradshaw. There is much to look forward to.

And the Phillies are off to a 7–5 start, giddy about being over .500 this far into the season (only 150 games to go).

Keep the faith.

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