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


Happy Bastille Day! Maybe the time has come to reconsider the guillotine. Find out what kind of salubrious effect might be had from letting the heads of a certain head of state and a few oligarchs roll. Just kidding. Really, just kidding. Whatever you do, don't go quoting me on your Twitter feed.

My old pal Chuck Oliveros recently turned me on to German physicist Sabine Hossenfelder's blog BackRe(Action). While Hossenfelder gets into subjects that lose me early on, she also takes up topics that are of interest and accessible to a general reader such as myself. What's the purpose of working in the foundations of physics? is one of those. It's brief and will give you an idea of her style and interests.

Here's how Hossenfelder describes her work:

I am a physicist. More exactly, I am a theoretical physicist. People often wonder what a theoretical physicist does. You might not believe it, but most of the time I think. Sometimes, I scribble funny looking things with a pencil on a notebook. Processes like this usually involve lots of coffee and walking up and down the corridor.

Sounds a lot like a writer at work. She also knocks out cool videos:

The American president rampaged through Europe this week seemingly bent on undermining historic allies and alliances and insulting everyone with the notable exception of his possible future friend—"we'll see"—Vlad Putin. Foreign leaders, diplomats, military brass, other high muckety-mucks, pundits, and even members of the Trump party were left scratching their heads in befuddlement, pondering whether there is method to the president's madness or maybe it is just madness. (see David M. Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi, ‘Very stable’ Trump? European leaders beg to differ, Politico, July 12, 2018).

Per standard operating procedure, the president's remarks at every stop were distinguished by the rash of outright false statements (Eugene Kiely, Angelo Gore, Robert Farley, Trump’s False Claims at NATO, FactCheck.org, July 12, 2018). Whether this is his idea of diplomacy or merely a cynical political play to his base is subject for speculation among the diplomats with whom he is supposedly dealing and the punditocracy. Much the same goes as to whether these are lies or willful ignorance.

In England American manners were on display when the president dissed Theresa May by arriving late at a party thrown in his honor, keeping the British prime minister and her husband standing alone at the entrance for a full six minutes before he rolled up to make his royal entrance. Then there was that spew of venom with The Sun, a Rupert Murdoch rag, where he went out of his way to insult and undermine May, disparaged London mayor Sadiq Khan, let fly with barbs at the EU, and said he would maintain ties with Russia, no matter those Salisbury Novichok poisonings, in an interview he later disavowed as "fake news" (Tom Newton Dunn, TRUMP'S BREXIT BLAST Donald Trump told Theresa May how to do Brexit ‘but she wrecked it’ – and says the US trade deal is off, July 13, 2018).

The president was miffed by the London mayor's decision to allow anti-Trump protests, highlighted by the baby Trump blimp. Tens of thousands took to the streets in London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast to protest the president's visit. I got a kick out of the report of a political artist who sported an interactive Trump badge she made herself. "When you stab him in the goolies his eyes light up." (Trump protests: tens of thousands take to streets across UK, The Guardian, July 13, 2018).

There was speculation that in Scotland the president might be greeted with a "Glasgow kiss" (Amna Saleem, Trump can dodge London’s protests – but Scotland is ready for him, The Guardian, July 13, 2018), which as best I can figure from a hasty search is a headbutt.

I'm pretty much onboard with Jill Abramson's take on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination (Brett Kavanaugh's nomination is a victory for 'originalists,' The Guardian, July 11, 2018):

Kavanaugh’s nomination, no surprise, is a huge victory for the originalists, conservative legal thinkers who believe in a strict, textual interpretation of the constitution. They believe in adhering to the intent of framers of the constitution, white men whose outlook reflected 18th-century realities and whose thinking the originalists believe they have a unique ability to divine. … From the get-go, I figured Kavanaugh would be Trump’s pick. His perfect macho looks, his perfect academic pedigrees, his full backing from the Federalist Society all lined up. Best of all, he once mouthed the word bitch as he looked at Hillary Clinton on TV, according to David Brock.

Never-Trump Republican Rick Wilson offers his usual entertaining, over-the-top commentary on FBI agent Peter Strozk's show trial of a hearing before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees (Republicans Thought Peter Strzok Would Be a Punching Bag. He Just Knocked Them Out, The Daily Beast, July 12, 2018). Wilson felt that Strozk channeled Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the Army during the McCarthy hearings in 1954, whose famous rejoinder to McCarthy ended the notorious redbaiter's career:

If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentleman, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me… You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Strozk's retort to sanctimonious congressman Trey Gowdy, who previously distinguished himself, in a manner of speaking, with his oversight of the Benghazi hearings, may not be as pithy as Welch's, but it more than holds its own against the wild ranting and trumped-up outrage of Trump party minions whose aim is to discredit the Mueller investigation:

I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time, in any of these texts, did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn’t just me sitting here telling you you don’t have to take my word for it. At every step, at every investigative decision, there are multiple layers of people above me, the assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director, and director of the FBI, and multiple layers of people below me, section chiefs, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents and analysts, all of whom were involved in all of these decisions. They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than I would tolerate it in them.

That is who we are as the FBI. And the suggestion that I in some dark chamber somewhere in the FBI would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn’t happen. And the proposition that that is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the FBI, deeply corrodes what the FBI is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive.

Wittingly or not, the show hearings orchestrated by Goodlatte and Gowdy serve the interests not of the nation, our democracy, rule of law, &c., but of the American and Russian presidents. Strozk got that right too:

I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity. I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.

I would like to think that Strozk's straight talk might prick some a few consciences here and there. But really, among congressional Republicans where might a conscience be found to prick? As for the president's base, it appears they will be in the bunker with him to the bitter end.

Keep the faith.


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David Matthews

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