The Mueller Probe is a Distraction

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BIGGER THAN WATERGATE

The Russia-Trump probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the most important criminal inquiry in our country’s history. It’s even bigger than the Watergate investigation, which was prompted by bungling burglars breaking into an office in 1972. In contrast, Mueller is scrutinizing a hostile foreign power breaking into our democracy in 2016.

And yet, the probe is a distraction from something even more significant.

“NEVER BEFORE”

Here’s what’s more significant, as indicated by the title of this January 10 Washington Post op-ed by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin: “Never before has a president ignored such a clear national security threat” – that is, Donald Trump is ignoring Vladimir Putin’s current threat to democracy. The piece is based on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee minority (Democratic) staff report. Though the report focuses on Russia and Europe, it warns that our own democracy is in grave danger. Read more of this post

Our Year of Living Dangerously

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 film set in Indonesia in 1965, during the lead-up to a violent military coup. It stars Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver,

Welcome to 2018 and our democracy’s own, very different year of living dangerously. Congressional Republicans increasingly cave to Donald Trump, in ways political scientists identify with how democracies die. Our creeping institutional decay includes moves to potentially prosecute the president’s perceived enemies: the Clintons over a matter for which they were already exonerated and a respected former British intelligence officer who wrote a damaging dossier about Trump. Read more of this post

Learning from Japan: Guns, Kids and the Price of Freedom

Now, from the Wishful Thinking Department: In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, a great Washington Post piece on the four-month process for getting a gun in Japan. It details the many steps designed to weed out loons and irresponsible louts from wielding lethal weapons. One upshot? “In 2015, there were more than 13,000 non-suicide gun deaths in the United States; in Japan, there was only one.”

Of course, it would be ludicrous to propose that process in the United States, given our vast political, historical and cultural differences. To cite just one, so many kids grow up with guns in America – though, then again, so many never get to grow up as they kill themselves or other kids along the way. Read more of this post

We’re Sitting Ducks: Learning from Europe About Electoral Integrity

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WORSE THAN WE’D THOUGHT

As reported in today’s New York Times, Putin’s 2016 election interference may have been even more pernicious than previously reported. Even short of intentionally causing miscounts, electronic shenanigans could have made it tougher for voters to vote, forcing many to turn away on Election Day. The problems in parts of North Carolina and other states might simply have been software glitches. But as the article emphasizes, the news emerges against a backdrop of troubling inattention by local, state and federal officials to the issue – and in fact, their resistance to addressing it at all. Read more of this post

Pardon Me

THE PRESIDENT AT WAR

My first take on the president’s pardon for Joe Arpaio was that it was unnecessary, even by his cellar-dwelling standards. Sure, it reflects Trump’s portrait of an America besieged by job-stealing criminals from south of the border, with the former sheriff as a bulwark of our defense. But Trump supporters who admire Arpaio’s bigotry already saw the president as their leader in the war to keep America white. So the pardon seemed to be a hateful but gratuitous slap at Hispanics and Trump’s opponents. Read more of this post

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