What I Wish We Were Hearing


As I listen to the droning of the impeachment trial, I have one deep, heartfelt wish.

I wish, oh, how desperately I wish, that the US Senate contained one truly inspiring orator.

Not a person who can repeat the same details over and over, in something close to a monotone. Not a person who can make one of the most mind-blowing events in our nation’s history seem as interesting as having your grampa read the phone book.

No.

I wish for a real, live, Frank Capra inspired, Jimmy Stewart style oration.

This is what I want to be hearing from the Democrats today:

Dear colleagues, friends, fellow members of this august body,

I stand before you today not to repeat to you the same words that you have read and heard for months now. I stand before you, not to spin the facts or to impress the voters.

No. I am here now, on this most serious of days, to remind you of who you used to be.

I ask you, my friends, to look back into your own lives. I ask you to remember that moment when you heard for the very first time about the courageous events that took place in Lexington and Concord. When you first imagined the raw courage of the men, and the boys, who stood firm in the face of tyranny, knowing that they might give their lives in the name of democracy.

I ask you to cast your thoughts back to the moment when you first decided to run for public office. On that day, in that moment, did you not whisper to yourself that you would do your very best to serve your country with courage and honesty?

My fellow Senators, I ask you today to recall the moment when you raised your right hand and swore your allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. I ask you to think back and to remember your thoughts as you took your oath of office.

Didn’t you hope, somewhere in your deepest heart, that you would have the courage to emulate those famous men of the past? Did you not look out at your children, your spouse, your parents, and hope that you would somehow manage to make your mark on the history of this great nation?

Today we are faced with a situation unlike any we have seen before. Our country has found itself nearly torn in two, unable to agree on what is true, what is real, what is fact.

We find ourselves aligning behind the letter that follows our names. Am I a “D” or am I an “R”? We find ourselves under terrible pressure to shape the events of the day in a way that will best support our parties.

Dear colleagues. I have worked with many of you for years. I know you to be honest, sincere and dedicated to the ongoing prosperity of our country. A country that we all love and that we all share.

I ask you, today, as we look at the evidence that has been laid out before us, to think about your hopes and your dreams when you were sworn in. Did you not tell yourselves that in a moment of crisis you would plant yourself firmly on the side of truth?

Did you not hope that one day, perhaps a hundred years from now, your name would be recorded in the history books as one of those brave souls who stood up against the corrupt power of a tyrant?

Think about those dreams, my friends. Look to the future.

What is it that you want your grandchildren to read about you in their history books? Do you want them to read that you were one of the many who averted their eyes as the honor and integrity of the United States were sold to the highest bidder?

Or do you want to go down in the annals of history as one of the brave few who was willing to make a sacrifice to ensure that the heart and soul of the American nation would survive?

I trust you, my friends, to do what you know in your hearts is right.

Yeah. I know. This isn’t giving evidence. It wouldn’t be allowed.

But don’t you wish we could have heard it today? If not from Jimmy Stewart, then maybe from Adam Schiff?

Trump Was Right


And it’s all because of the two party system.

Image by Michael Vadon

Do you remember when Donald Trump claimed that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and walk away unharmed?

At the time we thought it was just his hugely inflated ego speaking, but now it looks like he was right.

Watching the latest evidence of corruption, lawbreaking, lying and stonewalling from the White House it has become evident that there is nothing Trump could do to provoke a reaction strong enough to get him out of there.

It’s obvious that no one in the GOP has any intention of turning against “their guy.” And it is not because they have such respect for the man.

Lindsay Graham, one of the best known and most respected Republicans in the Senate, called Trump a “kook” before he was nominated in 2016. After abruptly leaving the House of Representatives, former Speaker Paul Ryan said this about Trump:

I told myself, I got to have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right. Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government.

One after another, nearly all of the conservatives chosen to work in the Trump administration have either been fired or have walked away from the chaos in the White House.

But other than one or two minor actors in the GOP (Just Amash, Jeff Flake), no Republicans have stepped up to admit that Donald Trump is unfit for the highest office in the land.

Instead, they are choosing to circle the proverbial wagons and stick together to protect their party’s interests.

As infuriating as that behavior is, however, I find it more upsetting that it is taking the Democrats so long to take action against this President.

It seems glaringly obvious that a strong case could be made for the 25th Amendment. There is the strong evidence of a neurological disorder on display every time the President speaks. There are the hundreds of mental health professionals who are convinced that Trump shows a serious personality disorder that makes him a danger to the world.

And then there are the daily lies, the refusal to allow anyone in his circle to testify before Congress, the complete contempt for the rule of law.

From where most of us sit, there is plenty to work with if the Dems decide to proceed with impeachment.

So what is it that makes Speaker Pelosi so reluctant to take any action against Trump? What is it that has the Democratic leadership insisting that “we must have all the facts” before proceeding with an inquiry intended to elicit those very facts?

It sure isn’t a love of the Constitution, that much I know for sure.

In Article II, Section 4 of that famous founding document, the case for removing a President from office reads like this:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”.

There is nothing in these words to indicate that the decision to impeach should be based on the likelihood of getting a conviction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it suggest that the House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings only if they are positive they’ll succeed in ousting the target of the process.

Nevertheless, that seems to be the thinking among the Democratic leadership.

“We can’t go ahead with impeachment,” the thinking goes, “because the Senate won’t vote to convict and remove the President. That would mean a failure for our party, and we might lose seats in the next election.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter how many high crimes and misdemeanors the President commits, we won’t hold him accountable because that would cause our party to lose votes.

Our party.

The GOP is only interested in protecting the reputation of the party. They want to hold onto the Senate more than they want to save the republic from a crook (or a “kook”.)

The Dems are only interested in protecting their votes in the next election. They want to hold onto the House and flip some Senate seat more than they want to save the republic from a mentally ill, unstable, possibly demented narcissist.

To put it another way, it no longer matters how crazy, how criminal, how dangerous the actions of any future President may be.

As long as that President is a member of the same party that controls the Senate, they will be free to do anything they’d like to do without any worry.

Including, presumably, shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.

The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves.

I Know What’s Wrong With Trump


Let me introduce myself, if you haven’t read my work before now..

I am a retired speech/language pathologist. For more than two decades, I spent every workday diagnosing and treating language disorders. I have helped people with a wide variety of communication deficits. I was very good at my job.

That’s why, in spite of the fact that I’ve been out of the field for several years, I am completely confident when I write that Donald Trump is exhibiting a serious language disorder.

Let me explain.

A deficit in expressing and/or understanding language is called aphasia.The term is most often used in diagnosing people who were not born with the disorder, but who acquire it later in life. Aphasia can be caused by a head injury, a stroke or as a part of a more significant cognitive decline in older adults.

The American Speech/Language and Hearing Association describes aphasia as a deficit in a patient’s ability to communicate effectively in everyday life. It can be variable in its severity, but it always involves a diminished ability to communicate.

One aspect of aphasia impacts a person’s expressive language. This is the kind of language disorder that is more obvious to those who interact with the affected patient. The person struggles to say what they mean. They may have difficulties in expressing ideas logically and specifically They might be seen to be searching for the right word as they speak. Many aphasic people develop an overreliance on empty words and phrases. I have known patients who included a favorite phrase or two into nearly every sentence spoken, as the rote language makes it easier to get out a full thought.

Some aphasic people make up words when they can’t find the one they need. The new word might or might not sound similar to the one that is missing.

People with expressive aphasia sometimes substitute one word or phrase for a similar one (ie, saying “chicken” when they mean “duck” or saying, “off the book” instead of “off the hook.”) Their conversations may seem rambling, with rapid jumps from one topic to another without any explanation. A story can go off on any number of tangents, leaving the listener confused.

Many people with what we call “fluent aphasia” can string together a long series of words that seem to make sense until you realize that there isn’t much content there. There are lots of pronouns and adjectives, but not enough nouns to make the meaning clear.

Aphasia can impact receptive language, or comprehension, as well. Aphasic people may struggle to follow complex conversations. They often misunderstand directions or fail to grasp the meaning of a question they’ve been asked. They find it confusing when more than one person is speaking at a time, or when the topic shifts in mid-conversation.

Some people with aphasia have problems with reading and writing. They may struggle to read anything other than the simplest of texts. Their writing can contain mistakes in syntax, word order or spelling that weren’t seen in the past.

Does this sound familiar to you? It certainly should.

The President of the United States is showing every one of these symptoms.

I’ll give you some examples.

Expressive Aphasia.

The following exchange was part of Mr. Trump’s remarks to the press on August 21.

“Mr. President, are you demanding that the fed chairman lower interest rates?”

“No, I don’t demand it but if he used his head he’d lower ’em. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate. And when they borrow money, when you look at what happens, look at what’s going on over there. They borrow money, they actually get paid to borrow money. And we have to compete with that. So, ah, if you look at what’s happening around the world, Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve have totally missed the call, I was right and just about everybody admits that. I was right. He did quantitative tightening, he shouldn’t have done that. He raised interest rates too fast, too furious. And we have a normalized rate, I, we call it that. And now we have to go the other direction. We’ll see if he does that. If he does it, you’ll see a rocket ship, you’ll see….. And if he doesn’t, we have a very strong economy.”

“But we could have. We could be, we could be in a place that this nation was seldom at if we had interest rates cut by the federal reserve. The Federal Reserve has let us down. They missed the call. They raised it too fast and they raised it too high and they did quantitative tightening and they shouldn’t have done the tightening and they shouldn’t have raised them to the extent that they did. We could have had some raising but nothing like what they did.”

“Mr. President, what happened to your strong appetite for background checks?”

“Oh, I have an appetite for background checks, we’re gonnna be doing background checks. We’re working with Democrats, we’re working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks but we’re gonna be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them at the border, and speaking about at the border, it would be really nice if the Democrats would indeed fix the loopholes because it would be really nice. But despite that, I want to thank Mexico. They have 26,000 soldiers at our border and they’re really stopping people from coming in.”

“But what does that have to do with background checks and guns?”

“So what happens is….with background checks….we’re dealing with Republicans, we’re dealing with Democrats, we’re dealing with the NRA, we’re dealing with gun owners, we’re dealing with everybody. And I think we’re gonna have something hopefully that’s meaningful.”

Note the repetition of phrases in this small sample. “We’re dealing with” and “we’re working with” were used over and over, with no description or clarification. Does he mean that he is meeting with those groups, or that he is making deals with them or something else? My impression is the President relies heavily on memorized phrases, which are easy to pull out and use.

Watch any of Trump’s unscripted remarks and try to count how many times he says, “We’ll see what happens.”

Note the word “raising” in the phrase “We could have had some raising.” The meaning is clear, but the word choice is troubling to this language specialist. We would expect the President of the US to say, “We could have had an increase.”

I’m sure you also noticed the rapid and inexplicable jump from the topic of background checks to that of the Mexican army at the border. It’s as if the word “loopholes” triggered a thought of the border crisis for some reason and that thought let made Trump jump completely off the track of the question.

Look at the discussion of Germany. Trump says,

“In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany.”

What’s much stronger than Germany? We can make a guess that he’s referring to our economy, but the language of the sentence is clearly abnormal. In English, we don’t use a comparative like “much stronger” without including the referent.

Then there is the repeated phrase “missed the call”. We have a few idioms that are close to this one (“missed the boat” or “missed the mark” come to mind.) But we don’t say “missed the call” unless we mean a phone call. Or we’re referring to a sports referee.

Receptive Aphasia

Do you recall when the President recently met with religious refugees in the Oval Office? The following exchange happened between Trump and a young Yazidi woman.

“All this happened to me. They killed my Mum, my six brothers, they left behind them… “

“Where are they now?”

“They killed them.”

She told him that her family had been killed. He asked “Where are they now?”

He did not have the slightest understanding of what she’d said.

We saw the same lack of comprehension this week when Trump was asked about having second thoughts on his trade war with China.

“Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about escalating the trade war with China?”

“Yeah. Sure. Why not? Might as well, might as well.”

Once again, he completely failed to understand the question. A question which was then repeated by a different journalist, to which he replied,

“I have second thoughts about everything.”

Did he even understand the meaning of “second thoughts”? I am not at all sure.

Reading and Writing

Donald Trump is well known for his aversion to the written word.

When Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State, spoke about his time at the White House, he said that Trump didn’t like to read. Tillerson was told that the President would not be reading the usual briefing notebook each morning, but instead would only accept bullet points or charts.

Mr. Trump himself has stated that he doesn’t like to read. In an interview with Axios shortly after his inauguration, Trump said that he doesn’t like to read, preferring bullet points to full essays.

“I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”

Although he is the author of several books, we know that each had a ghostwriter. Trump claims to have attended the best of schools, but has never let his school records be made public.

So.

I say all of this because it brings up the diagnostic question of whether or not the man has always struggled with reading and writing, or whether this is a new phenomenon.

Whether or not that disorder is progressive is difficult to say but when I analyze his conversations from years ago, I believe that it is. His past interviews were far more coherent and much more linguistically sophisticated than what we hear now.

Whether or not the language disorder is developing as part of some type of dementia is up to a neurologist to diagnose.

I am not qualified to say whether or not Donald Trump has a personality disorder or a mental illness. But I am qualified to say that when I listen to him speak, I am increasingly convinced that he has significant aphasia.

What I know is this. Something is most assuredly amiss in the brain of the President of the United States. And he is the one with the nuclear codes.

Feeling Thoughtful


We live in difficult times. We live in sorrowful times.

We live in times that make it hard for us to keep our humanity close at hand. Times when we need to remind ourselves that those “others” are really “us”.

So I’m thinking. I’m not talented enough to come up with the powerful words that these times require. Luckily, a lot of very talented people have already covered this ground.

“What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the observer.” by Elie Wiesel

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

– Abraham Lincoln

A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.”

– Robert E. Lee

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-Emma Lazarus, poem on the Statue of Liberty

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”

Founding Father Samuel Adams

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

Author Mark Twain


#weekendcoffeeshare. Mueller, of course


Siberian Squill

If you were here, having coffee in my living room, you’d notice that the air is warm and moist. Almost tropic feeling this morning. Outside my door, daffodils and crocus have opened, and my little squill bulbs have pushed up their tiny blue blossoms.

You would think I’d be happy, wouldn’t you? There are two cuddly dogs asleep at our feet and the coffee that I’ve brewed for us is hot and rich. We have slices of banana bread balanced on our knees, too, and the cinnamon smell is wonderful.

I want to be filled with joyful spring feelings, but I’m struggling today.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to understand how my government has become so totally corrupt.

I used to be a fifth grade teacher. I loved teaching the kids about the formation of the government. I taught them about the “great experiment” in the US, in which a people’s government would be saved from corruption through it’s system of checks and balances.

How sad.

We don’t seem to have either checks of balances. Mueller’s report shows us that our President got help in the campaign from the Russians. Might not have been his idea (is anything?) but he surely benefitted and welcomed that help. Then he tried to get in the way of the investigation into that help.

He did everything he could to thwart it. He lied in public. He fired the head of the FBI. He hinted at pardons for the multitude of friends, hirelings and administration officials who’ve been indicted. He threatened those who thought of testifying.

So where’s the check on this?

Nowhere.

The House of Representatives, according to it’s overly pragmatic leader, won’t impeach the President. Oh, sure, he’s committed all kinds of inappropriate and possibly illegal actions. But the Senate is in the hands of the Republics, so impeachment would fail to bring a conviction. So we won’t bother.

REALLY?!

What do teachers tell kids now?

“There is a system of checks and balances but it’s really only about the two big parties. A corrupt President will be just fine as long as he’s protected by a corrupt Congress.”

Gah.

I need more coffee.

I found this little weekend coffee klatch through Eclectic Alli. Check it out. Most people were more upbeat than me this week.

“Laugh, Clown, Laugh.”


I’m trying.

I’m trying to find something funny in the situation. I swear I am.

See, here’s the thing. I’m a lefty. A progressive. A bleeding heart liberal. A pinko. The leftiest of Democrats stands to my right.

I hate, loathe, detest, deplore Donald J. Trump and everything that he represents.

I hate the lies, the greed, the bloated sense of self-worth and self-promotion. I am sickened by his vile hatred and ignorance.

It makes me physically ill to even hear his voice. The way he whines, distorts reality, sniffs between words, abuses and debases the English language itself.

GAG.

Even the way he breathes makes me nauseous.

So what do I do with the Mueller non-finding? What do I do with the feeling of betrayal that I’m left with after the desperately awaited report has come out?

Well.

I’ve been eating chocolate. Drinking. Binge watching “Mrs. Maisel” and baking bread.

I’ve also cried, tweeted, Facebook posted, written letters to the editor and now blogged.

It still hurts.

How strange and discomfiting it is to realize that I have so lost my sense of balance that I’m actually upset to find that the country will not be put through a torturous impeachment battle.

Like my liberal friends, and even many of my conservative friends and family, I really honestly expected Mr. Mueller to find a direct link between Trump and Vladimir Putin. I thought there’d be a letter or something. You know, “Dear Volodya. I enjoyed the emails that you and your pals dug up on Crooked Hillary. I’m working hard to help you get all your money freed up from that stupid Magnitsky thing. Thanks, by the way, for the Deutsche Bank loan! Once the millions are all scoured and shiny clean, I’ll be sending along your share. Love, Donnie.”

I thought there’d be a photo. I fingerprint. Something. Anything.

I fully and totally expected Trump to be found guilty of obstruction of justice at the very least. I sort of assumed that Mueller would have believed Trump himself when he said publicly that he was firing Comey because of the Russian “witch hunt”.

So what do I do with my emotions today?

I’m trying to channel my inner Italian. I’m thinking of Pagliacci and his famous clown.

I remember my grandpa singing the song to me in Italian.

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!

Laugh, clown, laugh.

I’m trying. I’m really trying to laugh.

I’m also waiting impatiently for the Southern District of New York to conclude its investigation.

Until then…….

Want some chocolate?