Trumputinstan Sunday


True Bromance!

Over the last year there has been a recurrent refrain about the seeming bromance between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. More seriously, but relatedly, many believe Trump is an admirer and would-be emulator of Putin’s increasingly autocratic and illiberal rule. But there’s quite a bit more to the story. At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.

Let me start by saying I’m no Russia hawk. I have long been skeptical of US efforts to extend security guarantees to countries within what the Russians consider their ‘near abroad’ or extend such guarantees and police Russian interactions with new states which for centuries were part of either the Russian Empire or the USSR. This isn’t a matter of indifference to these countries. It is based on my belief in seriously thinking through the potential costs of such policies. In the case of the Baltics, those countries are now part of NATO. Security commitments have been made which absolutely must be kept. But there are many other areas where such commitments have not been made. My point in raising this is that I do not come to this question or these policies as someone looking for confrontation or cold relations with Russia.

Let’s start with the basic facts. There is a lot of Russian money flowing into Trump’s coffers and he is conspicuously solicitous of Russian foreign policy priorities.


Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Slimeball Saturday


Quite Ghoulish Grinch

Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for president will probably go down as one of the most frightening pieces of political rhetoric in U.S. history.

Even for people who believe the danger of genuine authoritarianism on the U.S. right is often exaggerated, it’s impossible not to hear in Trump’s speech echoes of the words and strategies of the world’s worst leaders.

Trump had just one message for Americans: Be afraid. You are under terrible threats from forces inside and outside your country, and he’s the only person who can save us.

The scariest part is how Trump subtly but clearly has begun melding together violence against U.S. police and terrorism: “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities,” he said, “threaten our very way of life.”

This is the favorite and most dangerous message of demagogues across all space and time. After all, if we know our external enemies are deeply evil, and our internal enemies are somehow their allies, we can feel justified in doing anything at all to our internal enemies. That’s just logic.

@ TI

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments



Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Tank it Thursday

Democratic Senate Candidate Tim Kaine Holds Election Night Event In Virginia

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, considered a leading contender for the Democratic vice presidential nomination, has spent this week signaling to the financial industry that he’ll go to bat for them.

On Monday, Kaine signed onto two letters, one to federal banking regulators and the other to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urging them to loosen regulations on certain financial players. The timing of the letters, sent while Kaine is being vetted for the top of the ticket, could show potential financial industry donors that he is willing to serve as an ally on their regulatory issues.

In the letters, Kaine is offering to support community banks, credit unions, and even large regional banks. While separate from the Wall Street mega-banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, these financial institutions often partner with the larger industry to fight regulations and can be hostile to government efforts to safeguard the public, especially if it crimps their profits.

They also represent a key source of donor funds, one that has trended away from Democrats. The Independent Community Bankers of America have given 74 percent of their $873,949 in donations this cycle to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Regional banks like PNC Financial Services, SunTrust Bank, and First Republic Bank, have given even higher percentages to the Republicans.

@ TI

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Plagiarism Wednesday


The Trump campaign says that the stakes were too high for something like this to happen, that no one would deliver a plagiarized speech “in front of 35 million people.” But my students often say to me, “this paper’s worth 50% of my grade – I would never have plagiarized.” That makes the plagiarism even more mind-boggling, but it doesn’t make it not plagiarism.

And the kicker: it’s Clinton’s fault. Apparently, this is what happens “when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton”. I’m wary of scapegoating – I see it all the time when I call out plagiarism. “You’re doing this because you don’t like me,” students sometimes say. But I’m not the one who plagiarized. I’m the one whose job it is to assess students’ work, to hold them accountable not just for substance and style, but for ethical behavior.

In this case, we – all of us who care about the future of the United States and who care about truth – are the assessors. It doesn’t matter that Melania Trump or the campaign speechwriter isn’t enrolled in class, trying to get a good grade. Plagiarism is an even more serious offense outside of the classroom, when people are trying to sell themselves and their values – especially their honesty and integrity – to those who would take their lead.

@ TG

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Totalitarian Tuesday


WARSAW, Poland—Dreary, Soviet-style concrete apartments rise up where 68 Nowolipki St. was during World War II. It was at this spot, although there is no marker to record the event, that some of the milk cans and metal boxes crammed full of essays, reports, official communiqués, wall posters, pictures, drawings and diaries that recorded life in the Warsaw ghetto were unearthed from the rubble shortly after the war.

The cache of material, known as the Oyneg Shabes Archive, was buried by writers, led by the historian Emanuel Ringelblum, as German occupation forces were liquidating the ghetto. They meticulously documented all aspects of life in the ghetto and the annihilation of the Jews by the Nazis.

Writing was an act of resistance and faith. It affirmed the belief that one day, a day the writers knew they would probably never see, these words would evoke pity, understanding and outrage and provide wisdom. They struggled to make sense of the stark contrasts of good, evil and indifference. They explored what it meant to live a life of meaning in the face of death. They did not know if their writing would survive. Some of the archive was never found. They did not know who, if anyone, would read their work. But they wrote with a messianic fury. Their words were the last link to the living.

Dawid Graber hastily buried some of the archives in August 1942 as deportations in the ghetto were being accelerated—between July 22 and Sept. 12 some 300,000 Jews were driven out of the ghetto to the gas chambers at Treblinka. He wrote: “What we were unable to cry and shriek out to the world we buried in the ground. I would love to see the moment in which the great treasure will be dug up and scream the truth at the world. So the world may know all.” He ends with the words: “We may now die in peace. We fulfilled our mission. May history attest for us.”


Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Monday Mourning Munchies


Breakfast of Champions

Less than two weeks ago, I suddenly lost a friend. On his 39th birthday, Andy drowned during a beach vacation with his family. The loss of someone so young and vital and full of life has sent shockwaves through our sleepy southern town.

Following the accident, the community has rallied around his widow and year-old son, donating money for funeral expenses and struggling together to come to terms with the tragedy. And while there are truly no words a person can say to ease the pain of losing a loved one, there are specific things we can do.

One of them is cooking. I don’t know if it’s a southern thing, a farm community thing, or maybe it’s just old-fashioned, but where I come from, when someone dies, the casserole dishes start coming out almost before anyone’s called the coroner.

@ TG

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments