George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport



While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

What Do We Tell the Children?


After the election my old friend Lobo Loup sent an email blast containing A Special Message for the Children of America, giving a sarcastic earful of advice from Trump on how to become president. I reproduce it below.

Thinking along the same lines, my friend Vasari shared this Post-Election College Paper Grading Rubric by Daveena Tauber. It’s a hoot, and a must read.

With no children of their own, Aardvark and Dr. Aardvark are, naturally, great experts on child rearing. So here is my opinion. When all else fails, tell the truth, even to children.

And here is the truth, or at least I think it is the truth. Lying, bullying, and other despicable behavior can sometimes lead to great success, at least for a time. But people like that will inevitably wear out their welcome. And the problem with habitual lying is that in time no one will believe you, even when you are telling the truth.

Not only is truth telling the right thing to do, but it is also, as Lincoln liked to say, the best policy.

* * *

Dear Children of America,

Gather round and heed my words, for now we have seen they are true. 

As you go through life:


  • lie
  • cheat
  • exploit your fellow man, including people you might hire
  • spew racist venom and carry out/promote/enforce racist policies, as an employee or employer
  • engage in illegal sexual predatory behavior
  • consort with and welcome the support of anti-Semites, anti-Muslims, anti-ANYBODY ‘OTHER’
  • encourage your supporters, if you ever run for an election — even in school! — when they cry out, “kill [the opponent], string [him/her] up” because that will whip them up into a fury and drive up your vote
  • declaim your views in sound bites with absolutely no substance, verification or regard for the truth, because winning at all costs is ‘all’
  • hold yourself above the law in all other respects, and aspire to one day loudly declaim that you ‘could stand on Fifth Avenue and kill somebody and get away with it’, because people will admire that as a sign of strength
  • blithely ignore the disastrous warming of the planet and promote policies to make it worse
  • surround yourself with ‘yes-men’ (and maybe a few women)
  • con, con, con everyone around you, because it’s all about you
  • suck up to the rich while paying lip-service to the needs and cares of the rest of society


  • study hard and learn your subjects
  • read deeply and grapple with complexity 
  • pay taxes or
  • really give a damn about anything or anybody except yourself, as long as you can FAKE IT and pretend that you do 


And if all this advice seems to contradict everything your parents ever taught you, just tell them — “Hey!  I’m just following the example of Donald Trump, President of the United States!”

– Donald Trump, Making America Great Again.


What Democrats Owe the Country


That’s the topic E.J. Dionne addresses this morning. He has many interesting things to say, but I find his overall message a little muddy—and understandably so.

Dionne argues that Democrats need relentlessly to oppose racists, racism, and Trump’s other nastiness. That is clear, and among people of good will there is no controversy about it.

But what if Trump proposes programs that might actually improve the economic lives of working class Americans—programs that would almost surely sew discord between the Trumpistas and the establishment Republicans?

Should Democrats work with Trump? Or should they adopt the same strategy that Mitch McConnell employed, and oppose him on all things, including the things they would endorse if the president were a Democrat?

Dionne doesn’t quite say it, but implies that if something Trump proposes actually does improve the economic position of the working class, he will grab all the credit for it and use his credit grab to further entrench his racist nonsense.

All understood. Democrats are indeed damned if they do cooperate and damned if they don’t. But I think they are damned to a lower portion of Hell If they don’t cooperate than if they do, because failure to cooperate will be presented, and understood by many, as cynicism trumping a desire to promote the public good.

Of course, the whole discussion is premised on the assumption that Trump might present proposals on infrastructure and health care that would actually help his base of supporters. Maybe he won’t. In which case E.J. Dionne and Chuck Schumer can breathe a sigh of relief, as they climb down from the horns of a dilemma.

A Basket of Deplorable Appointees


The night The Donald won, he said he wanted to be President of all the people. Only the highly gullible would have been certain that he was speaking his mind. But, at that moment, to entertain the thought that he actually did aspire to national reconciliation was a metaphysical possibility. That’s because we did not yet know for sure whether he was an actual crazy person, or a fairly sane person putting on a crazy act.

As the days go by, the evidence for actual craziness becomes more apparent. Many have made the case. As always, Jonathan Chait lays it out most persuasively: Donald Trump Building Team of Racists.

Bannon, Flynn, Sessions. They are not a credit to their race.

Democrats in the Senate must oppose Sessions to the last bullet. Because they no longer have the filibuster for presidential appointees, they will probably lose. So be it. Republicans will have broken the justice system, and having broken it, they will own the consequences of their actions.

A 12-Step Program

Nicholas Kristof offers us A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump.  Social justice work consists of direct service, advocacy, education, outreach, and personal witness. Kristof has a number of interesting ideas on all of these modes of reacting to Trump. Some of his suggestions are interesting initiatives that you probably would not have thought of on your own.

As one act of personal witness, I have donned an American flag pin. As the occasion arises, I explain why I’m wearing it.

This morning it occurred to me that I need to get back on Facebook and reconnect with some of my very mixed bag of family members, former classmates, and other connections. Initially, I plan to do a lot of listening. For those who supported Trump, I want to find out more about what itch they thought they were scratching.

If someone wanted to restore white supremacy, then I am afraid we don’t have much to talk about. If someone wanted a skilled businessman to restore the American economy, then we have the basis for a discussion.

Will Trump Turn into an Establishment Republican—or will we get Kaiser Donald?


I don’t have a reasoned expectation one way or the other, but I hope the establishment coopts him.

First, if the Republican establishment coopts Trump, and more or less fences him in,  then he will not blow up the international order.

Second, if they coopt him, then those desperately frustrated voters who are said to have formed a crucial part of his voters will not get what they thought they were voting for. (For a very chartable take on what the Trumpistas thought they wanted, see For Trump voters, there is no left or right.) Instead, they will get what they richly deserve, for exercising such poor judgment. That will be bupkus, zilch, nada in the way of anything that will solve their economic problems, coupled with a lot of stuff that will help Richy Rich and hurt them.

Then, at last, maybe they will wake up and smell the coffee.

But, as I said, I have no expectation one way or the other, only a hope. As of this writing, the known facts give reason to predict an erratic and unpredictable ride.

On that topic, I am in debt to my old friend Hans Jungfreud for sending along some insights on the similarity between Donald and Kaiser Wilhelm II. (Several decades ago, when Vasari and I were in high school at the Dixieland White Kids School, Hans was our German exchange student. We are happy to have reconnected, although we wish the reconnection could have been made in better circumstances.)

As I was saying, the Kaiser. The Kaiser did not start the Great War all by himself. He had a lot of help. But he certainly did his part. My friend Hans calls our attention to this article on the Kaiser’s temperament:

The kaiser wasn’t just indiscreet. He was also impulsive and unbalanced. He was prone to adopting a self-righteous and contemptuous tone. He showed an unhealthy interest in the sexual behaviour of his royal colleagues. He was self-absorbed and often had fits of anger.

He was not stupid, however. Contemporaries testify that he was quick to grasp complex subject matter or to pick up the thread of a conversation. The problem was not his intellect as such, but his lack of judgement. He would overshoot the mark, admixing facts with fantasies born of anger or paranoid speculations about the future.

So frequent were the kaiser’s verbal gaffes that historians have wondered whether he was in his right mind. The Freudian psycho­historian Thomas A Kohut argued that emotional deficiencies in the young Wilhelm’s relationship with his parents might have induced a narcissistic personality disorder. The kaiser’s most authoritative biographer, John Röhl, proposed that the roots of the problem were neurological and grew from an insufficiency of oxygen during birth. The resulting minor cerebral damage, Röhl argued, though asymptomatic when Wilhelm was born, laid the foundations for a “secondary neuroticisation” in his childhood and adolescence.

Neither of these hypotheses can be verified and both may be false, but they offer explanations for some of the most striking traits of the adult Wilhelm II: a tendency to respond to even measured criticism with vengeful rage, a compulsion to associate things and persons with himself and to view the world in excessively personal terms, irascibility and incoherence under stress, extreme vanity, an alarming lack of empathy and the inability to discern the boundary between fact and speculation.

World war, anyone?

What Congressional Democrats Should Do—And How to Get them to Do It

What Democratic Congresspeople Should Do

The debate about how far Democrats should go in imitating McConnell’s mindless obstruction strategy continues: Why Democrats need to fight Donald Trump from the moment he takes office. The article gets into the weeds about the merits and demerits of Trump’s inchoate infrastructure plan, and about the public perceptions that arise from cooperation versus fighting.

For what it’s worth, and that’s maybe not much, Aardvark’s simplistic view is that progressives should (1) see whether Trump’s proposal on infrastructure, or on anything else, actually has merit, or can be negotiated to a point that it is worth passing, and then (2) do the right thing, whatever that turns out to be.

The basis for this simplistic approach? (1) Doing the right thing for the people is better than doing the wrong thing. And (2) in a situation where cynicism about the political process is already ingrained in the populace, it is unwise to add to that cynicism by doing the wrong thing now in the name of a better right thing tomorrow.

How Progressives Should Get Democratic Congresspeople to do it

How to Make Your Congressman Listen to You

Thanks once again to Vasari, who advises that he follows Emily Ellsworth on Twitter. (As to Aardvark, he twerks not, neither does he tweet. He presses words on WordPress.)