Archive for the 'Politics' Category

In the executive and judicial branches, Trump appointees will advance ever more severe conservative principles

July 20, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 20, 2018

When the history of Donald Trump’s presidential administration is written, a chapter will likely be devoted to Scott Pruitt’s feckless reign over the Environmental Protection Agency.

The former Oklahoma attorney general’s 17-month tenure at EPA was a microcosm of Trump’s chaotic rule. Disdain for science, contempt for the rule of law, indifference to sound policy-making, eagerness to appease business interests, hunger for personal gain — the Pruitt era featured all the hallmarks that have come to represent Trumpist governance.

Pruitt’s replacement will be Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who once served as an aide to Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is the Senate’s most ardent climate skeptic. Wheeler will be hard-pressed to match Pruitt’s record of corruption and incompetence, which led to his resignation and distracted from his attempts to dismantle environmental regulations. It’s yet to be seen if Wheeler will be more effective at unraveling anti-pollution measures, although some pundits fear that he will surpass his former boss in this regard.

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Cheeps and Chirps: Trumpian perfectly normal presidency special edition

June 7, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 7, 2018

Presenting some tweets about Donald Trump’s perfectly normal presidency!

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Election follow-up: May 2018 primary

May 13, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 13, 2018

It’s safe to say that Tuesday night’s results support the notion that my views are not widely held by Durham County’s Democratic electorate. Incumbent Sheriff Mike Andrews was defeated by challenger Clarence Birkhead, in a rematch of Durham’s 2014 sheriff election, while incumbent district attorney Roger Echols was upset by challenger Satana Deberry.

A key measure of a healthy, functional democracy — or a functional republic, if you prefer — is that the supporters of losing candidates accept the results as legitimate. And I do!

But, while I hold no animus toward either victor, I stand by the reservations I expressed in my previous post about both of the candidates (as well as about Andrews). I suppose only time will tell whether Birkhead is a good sheriff or Deberry a good D.A. It might be a while, if ever, before I produce an edition of my Patented Pundit Scorecard™ on this topic.

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Notes from the polls: Primary election, May 8, 2018, Durham, North Carolina

May 8, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 8, 2018

Author’s note: About 90 minutes after this post was first published, I added a disclaimer at the bottom in the interests of completely disclosing the relationship with and potential biases I may have had regarding Durham sheriff candidates. MEM

If you check my record as a North Carolina voter, you’ll find that prior to today, I’d participated in nine primary elections over the course of nearly 14 years. As an unaffiliated voter, the state lets me choose which primary ballot I use: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or nonpartisan.

This spring, the Green Party became the fourth political party certified to place candidates on North Carolina ballots, but this happened too late for the current primary voting cycle. The Libertarian Party has been officially recognized in the Old North State since 2008.

As a Durham County resident, however, Republican and Libertarian ballots rarely afford much in the way of choice. Durham is North Carolina’s fifth most-populous county, but it has the state’s fourth-highest number of registered Democrats. (The Bull City and its surrounding county surpass the slightly more populous Forsyth County, home of the city of Winston-Salem, in terms of the sheer number of Democrats registered here.)

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Thoughts on James Comey, the law-enforcement official who helped elected a corrupt president

April 21, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 21, 2018

When Donald Trump’s rampage through politics is fictionalized — assuming civilization survives the Trump administration — the figure of one James Comey will loom large. This will be especially true, I imagine, in any operas that might be written about final days of the 2016 campaign and the early months of Trump’s reign.

Once an assistant federal prosecutor who targeted New York crime families, Comey was elevated first to U.S. attorney and then to deputy attorney general by President George W. Bush. In the spring of 2004, Comey rushed to the hospital room of his boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to block White House officials from reauthorizing a sweeping domestic surveillance program that several Justice Department officials believed featured illegal components.

Comey is widely admired in civil liberties circles for taking this stand, but not all of his decisions are as popular. Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that Comey was criticized for his defense of the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla, an American citizen whom the government classified as an “enemy combatant.” Still, when President Barack Obama nominated Comey to lead the FBI in 2013, the Senate confirmed his appointment on a 93-1 vote.

Comey appears to be a devout Christian. He studied chemistry and religion at William & Mary, where, according to CNN, he “wrote a thesis comparing the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr to the televangelist Jerry Falwell.” Comey wed to his college girlfriend in 1987, two years after earning a law degree from the University of Chicago; they remain married and have had six children together.

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Crime and misdemeanors: A crowd tears down a Confederate monument in my home town

August 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 15, 2017

It’s not every day that Durham, N.C., gets national attention — and it’s even rarer when the City of Medicine generates widespread news coverage for something other than college basketball. Unfortunately, despite being in town yesterday, I was completely unaware of what might be a seminal moment in an important national news story until a few hours after the event had taken place.

On Monday evening, protesters pulled down a monument to Confederate soldiers that stood in front of the Durham County Administration Building, which served as the county courthouse from 1916 through 1978. The statue in question was erected in 1924; the front of its pedestal reads, “In memory of ‘The Boys who Wore the Gray.’”

I won’t miss the statue; it venerated soldiers who, while they may have fought bravely, did so in service to a disloyal would-be nation that was dedicated to keeping black men, women and children in bondage.

Durham, like many American cities, is full of symbols of disdain for African-Americans, some more explicit than others. One example — subtler than the statue of the rebel soldier, but more prominent in a way — is the Durham Freeway, a.k.a. N.C. 147, an expressway built in the late 1960s that devastated a once-thriving black community named Hayti. These badges of dishonor can never be wholly erased; nor should they, for to plaster over past injustices is to invite their repetition. But neither should such affronts be afforded undeserved esteem.

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My public comment in support of preserving America’s national monuments

July 12, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 12, 2017

On Monday, I happened across this essay by Brent Rose about more than two dozen national monuments that could lose their protected status. This spring, after President Donald Trump ordered Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, to conduct a review process that may lead to the revocation of some of their status as national monuments, Rose resolved to travel to the 22 monuments located in the continental United States.

I was so moved by Rose’s essay that I decided to leave a public comment on the process at regulations.gov. (The period for commenting closed at midnight on Monday.)

The following text is a slightly edited version of the comment that I made:

~~~

I’m writing to urge Secretary Zinke to uphold designations of National Monuments and Marine National Monuments unless there is overwhelming evidence that such designations were improperly made and/or that such designations directly harm the public interest.

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Donald Trump and Barack Obama: Examining off-the-cuff American history lessons from our two most recent presidents

May 3, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 3, 2017

I was tickled to my cynical core Monday morning when I learned that President Donald Trump had bloviated about Andrew Jackson, one of his antecedents in the Oval Office, and the Civil War. After all, who better than Trump — who in February became the first to discover, regarding health care policy, “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated” — to lecture the American public on history?

In an interview with SiriusXM’s Salena Zito that aired Monday, Trump said the following about the nation’s seventh president:

I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

There are plenty of analyses of (this edition of) Trump’s dunderheaded comments; see, for instance, this Jeet Heer joint at The New Republic. But it got me wondering: Did Trump’s predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama, ever speak extemporaneously about Andrew Jackson or the Civil War? And if so, had he ever made such dumbfounding remarks?

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On presidential propriety and Donald Trump

March 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 31, 2017

Last June, journalist Robert Kuttner examined the different ways in which a then-hypothetical President Trump might abuse his power.

We are now 70 days into the Trump administration, a span in which the administration has been mired amid scandal, incompetence and apparent if not actual corruption, not to mention historically low approval ratings. Yes, it’s early, but we can get a good sense of the ways in which Kuttner — who once reported on the methods by which President Nixon politicized the Internal Revenue Service — was right and wrong in his prognostications about the figure I’ve taken to calling President Short Attention Span.

Trump will insist on loyalty. Kuttner was spot-on about this. In his eagerness to blame the failure of his ill-advised health-care reform initiative on everyone not named Donald Trump, the president blamed Democrats and Republicans alike. The commander-in-chief seemed particularly eager to call out Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, notwithstanding Ryan’s relative obeisance to Trump, as well as members of the House Freedom Caucus who objected that the American Health Care Act wasn’t cruel enough.

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The news cycle gazes fondly upon Trump, but only for a brief moment in time

March 3, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 3, 2017

President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday was, by his low standards, not a bad speech. Trump largely stuck to his script, offering little in the way of needless provocation. While the address contained plenty of misleading information, it featured a notable dearth of novel or headline-making lies. This is, shall we say, a slender basis for praising the leader of the free world. Then again, that’s where we are in 2017.

Unfortunately, much of what the president said was undercut either by the facts or by his earlier statements — in some cases, ones that Trump had made that very morning.

Trump took a few seconds at the beginning of his remarks to condemn the wave of anti-semitic bomb threats and cemetery vandalism as well as “last week’s shooting in Kansas City,” an apparent reference to what appears to have been a racially motivated murder in Olathe, Kansas. Some commentators called this a grace note, but this was literally the least that the president could have done — Trump, who is quick to snipe at people who disagree with him on Twitter, had been silent on the subject for days. Moreover, that morning, he’d suggested to Fox News interviewers that the wave of anti-semitic incidents might be a false-flag operation designed to make him and his deplorable followers look bad.

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