A Really Rotten Choice …

In early 2018, Trump nominated Richard Grenell as U.S. Ambassador to Germany.  I wrote then that Grenell was unfit for any number of reasons, not the least of which were that he was an aid to John Bolton, that he was a frequent contributor to Fox ‘News’, and that he was an outspoken critic of the Iran nuclear agreement.  As if that weren’t sufficient, Grenell had a history of criticizing women, especially those in high-ranking positions.  Grenell might never have been confirmed to the ambassadorial position if there had been equity in the Senate, rather than a republican majority Senate led by the unconscionable Mitch McConnell.

grenell

Richard Grenell

But, he was confirmed, and he went to Germany and almost got himself expelled within the first month, after he criticized Germany’s NATO spending, criticized Chancellor Merkel’s immigration policy, and took sides against Merkel, attempting to incite other EU nations to reject her policies.  All of which, of course, is unthinkable for an ambassador, but … it’s the era of Trump, and Grenell was hand-picked by Trump. Then, just last year, Grenell was back in the news when he had the unmitigated gall to actually criticize the budget proposals of Germany’s finance minister!

Fast forward to yesterday, when Trump named Grenell to be the acting director of national intelligence overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies.  Yep, you heard me right, folks.  Now, even with ol’ Moscow Mitch keeping a tight rein on the Senate, this is one that would never fly, so … Trump has simply done what he’s done with so many other cabinet positions, and has made him the ‘acting’, or temporary director.

Grenell has little experience in intelligence or in running a large bureaucracy, but he apparently possesses the one and only qualification that Trump values … personal fealty to Trump.

Since Dan Coats’ resignation from the position of Director of National Intelligence last summer, Joseph Maguire has been serving as acting director.  There is a 210-day limit for acting cabinet members who have not been approved by the Senate, so the end of Mr. Maguire’s time, March 12th, is quickly approaching.  Trump intends Grenell to continue as Ambassador to Germany, while at the same time serving as acting DNI.  Hmmm … does this mean that neither of those jobs require full-time attention, that both are only part-time jobs?  The two combined are paid in excess of $150,000 annually … seems we’ve been paying some pretty high salaries for ‘part-time’ help, doesn’t it?

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted …

“I am pleased to announce that our highly respected Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him. I would like to thank Joe Maguire for the wonderful job he has done, and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the Administration!”

There was some speculation that Trump intended to nominate Maguire to become the DNI for real, not just acting.  But wait … what’s this?

Sometime Wednesday, shortly before announcing Grenell’s temporary appointment, Trump found out that last week, a high-ranking intelligence officer, Shelby Pierson, reported to House lawmakers in a classified hearing that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests (really???  What a shocker, eh?), and to that end are already plotting to aid Trump in the upcoming elections.

Devin-Nunes-cries

Devin Nunes

According to those in the know, Trump went ballistic when he found this out, and angrily confronted Maguire.  Trump initially believed, erroneously, that Pierson had given the information only to Representative Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, and guess who provided Trump with that information?  None other than the little weasel, and Trump sycophant, Devin Nunes.

Trump angrily asked Maguire why he had to learn of what Pierson had said from Nunes and not from his own aides, and said that Maguire should not have let the Capitol Hill briefing happen — particularly before he received the briefing — and that he should not have learned about it from a congressman.  I ask you to think about that one, folks … Trump believes he should control the information that Congress is allowed to receive???  I find this more than a little disturbing.  If he would withhold such critical information such as election interference and tampering from Congress, what would he withhold from We the People?

Trump told Maguire and other aides in the Oval Office that he did not believe Russia was interfering to help him or planning to do so, and that the intelligence community was getting “played.” He said that the information would be used against him unfairly and that he could not believe that people were believing such a story again, reflecting his opinion that Russian interference in 2016 was a “hoax” made up by officials with a political agenda.  Now, Trump knows that the Russians helped him get elected in 2016 … it has been proven time and again.  However, it doesn’t fit in with his agenda, so … it simply cannot be presented as factual.

As acting DNI, Grenell would oversee the intelligence community’s efforts to combat election interference and disinformation, but that is problematic, because Grenell has publicly said that he is very skeptical of the claims that Russia interfered in 2016.  How effective, then, will his department be at working to ensure a fair and honest election?  Not at all is my best guess, and I think that was Trump’s entire purpose in putting him in this position.  At the outside, without Senate confirmation Grenell can only remain in the position of Director until September 17th, approximately a month-and-a-half before the election, but plenty of time to allow or even assist the Russians in their disinformation campaign to help Trump in November.

Trump has instructed aides to identify and remove officials across the government who aren’t defending his interests, and he wants them replaced with loyalists (aka boot-lickers).  This, my friends, is only the beginning.  Trump is working overtime to ensure that one way or another, We the People are kept in the dark, and he will remain in office by hook or by crook.

A View From An Evangelical

Our friend Jeff has a new post that simply must be shared. He has connected with a member of the Christian evangelical community, albeit one who, unlike the rest, sees quite clearly what Donald Trump is, but tries to explain how his fellow evangelicals see him. This is well worth reading and pondering, for if we understand the thought processes of those who would make Trump king, perhaps we can counter them. Thank you, Jeff, and Jerry!

On The Fence Voters

A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to have an article of mine published at The Culture Crush digital and print magazine. It was called Under The Influence. Alongside my piece, another article was published by Jerry Gramckow entitled Against Interpretation. While mine dealt with how snake oil salesman have been wreaking havoc in our society for generations, Jerry’s went deep into the mind of the modern day evangelical. He should know, because he’s been in that community for 47 years. Today, I’m proud to publish a provocative post from Jerry that dives into Trumpworld from his own unique perspective. 

Jerry graduated from Multnomah University, a conservative evangelical institution, and served as an editor at two prominent evangelical Christian ministries. 

Thank You Jerry!

When The Right Thing To Do Is Wrong

By Jerry Gramckow

“There’s nothin’ you can do to turn me away, Nothin’ anyone can say. You’re with…

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The “Great” Debate …

I actually managed to watch the full debate last night without once trying to punch my computer or throw it across the room.  In fact, there were several points at which I laughed aloud, causing the girls to look at me in awe, for it is a sound they don’t often hear coming from me these days.  Typically, I think the value of the debates is far over-rated by the pundits, but it is an opportunity to see the candidates speak for themselves, see how they handle pressure under fire.  But, if I want to know what their platform is, I will go to OnTheIssues.org  which is the best place I have found over the years to get all the candidates’ platforms in one place.

What follows is only my takeaway from last night’s debate.  I have no doubt that others will have different opinions, but since I gave up two hours of my life that I can never get back, I thought the least I could do is opine just a bit.

There are six democratic candidates left from the 20+ that entered the race:

  • Bernie Sanders
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Joe Biden
  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Michael Bloomberg

The main reason I watched this debate last night … the first one I watched all the way through … was that I wanted to see how Mike Bloomberg handled the pressure of the questions he was inevitably going to get regarding his racist profiling in the stop-and-frisk policy he implemented in New York City, and the reports of sexist behaviour toward women in his businesses.  So, let me start with my take on Bloomberg’s performance last night.

The first word that comes to mind here is: arrogant.  His body language and facial expressions said:  I’m above all of this, I’m far above all these others, why am I even here?  Not one time did he actually smile, not once did he engage in any form of camaraderie with the others, and he rolled his eyes several times when asked a question that he felt unfair, or when critiqued by another candidate.  I sometimes think that body language and facial expressions tell as much as the words that come out of a person’s mouth.

But going beyond that, Mr. Bloomberg’s responses were unsatisfying, at best.  He seemed to defend his stop-and-frisk policy, though he has apologized for it.  But an apology is just words, and as they say, actions speak louder than words.  His defense of the reasons he started the policy was a turn-off for me.  Then there was the little matter of the treatment of women in his company.  Much of what women have alleged, Bloomberg denies, and yet … and yet, those women have been made to sign non-disclosure agreements.  One must ask why.  Elizabeth Warren called on Bloomberg to release the women from the agreements so the public could hear their allegations, but Bloomberg flatly refused.  According to much of what I have read, Bloomberg’s attitudes toward women, his vulgar language and crass remarks, are no better than Donald Trump’s.  If he wants transparency, what better place to start?

There were two candidates whose fire and genuine passion stood out last night:  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  The media have declared Sanders the winner of the debate, but in my humble opinion, while they were both great, I’d give Warren the prize.  Perhaps this is a slight prejudice on my part, for I frankly think the time has come for us to steer away from the old, white, male image of the presidency.  Nonetheless, Warren showed us what she’s made of, and I liked it.

Joe Biden.  Sigh.  Poor Joe … by most standards, and judging by history, Joe Biden should be the #1 frontrunner.  He has the most applicable experience, he understands foreign policy in a way that not a single one of the others do, and he has good ideas.  What he lacks, though, is the persona.  He simply hasn’t got the passion, seems to have lost his way somewhere along the line.  Perhaps it is still the effects of his son’s death that have turned his world to grey, or perhaps it is the constant barrage of mindless accusations by Donald Trump that have taken the wind out of his sails.  Either way, he just wasn’t quite … there.

I like Pete Buttigieg, though perhaps not quite as much as I did in the beginning.  A few things stood out last night, but the biggest one was his almost continual attacks on Amy Klobuchar, some of which seemed unfair, to say the least.  The media, and Pete, have made much of the fact that when asked the name of the president of Mexico last week, she couldn’t remember.  It has been blown far out of proportion, and Buttigieg seized on it last night … unrelentingly.  Heck, there are days that I cannot remember my own name, let alone the president of Mexico’s!  Buttigieg does his homework, but it would have shown humanity to have let it drop.  He disappointed me in his attacks on Klobuchar. Buttigieg has a few things in his favour with me, though, and one is that while the other five have a net worth in the millions, or in Bloomberg’s case, billions, Pete Buttigieg’s net worth is approximately $100,000.  This impresses me far more than Bloomberg’s $63 billion.

I thought Amy handled the stress of Pete’s attacks fairly well, but a few times she did seem overly emotional, such as when she said, “Are you trying to say that I’m dumb?” Far too much has been made over a bit of momentary forgetfulness, I think.  Overall, I was impressed with Ms. Klobuchar’s heart.  I believe she cares very much about people and would be a strong advocate for human rights, but I have to wonder if she’s a bit too emotional and too thin-skinned for the job of president, for more than once it seemed as if she was near tears.

As for the debate itself … two main takeaways.  First, while climate change and the environment was briefly discussed, it was altogether too brief.  When the DNC refused to hold a debate focused solely on climate change, they made a huge mistake, in my book, for this is the single most crucial issue on the ballot.  While each candidate said one of their first moves as president would be to re-join the Paris Accords, that’s about all we learned.  I want to know details!  I want to know more than the 5 minutes or so that climate change was discussed last night provided.

Secondly, I was put off and rather disgusted by the structure of the debate.  Candidates had small bits of time to answer a question, then when time was up they kept on talking, while all the others on stage were rudely interrupting, and with six people plus the moderators all talking at once, the closed captioning was useless and it was impossible to discern what anybody was saying.  I don’t know what the answer to this is for future debates, but I do wish somebody would come up with one.  It would have been far more helpful if all the candidates had stuck with giving their opinions of the issues rather than their opinions of their opponents.

Overall, I was glad I watched for I got a bit of a feel for the personas of the candidates, but as I said in the beginning, if I want to know their platforms and ideologies, I’ll turn to another venue.   Unfortunately, the infighting is doing nobody any good, and it is almost certain that no single candidate will end up with a clear majority by the time of the nominating convention in mid-July, which opens a whole ‘nother can of worms.  Sigh.

Considering Michael Bloomberg And A Worry For Another Time

Greg is the other half of On the Fence Voters, though for a number of reasons, he has been unable to post for several months. But, yesterday he wrote a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post about Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy, and he brought up some points that I think we must all be willing to consider. Please take a few minutes to read this excellent post and let Greg know your thoughts! Thank you, Greg, and it’s great to hear from you!

On The Fence Voters

I’ve heard a lot of disapproving talk about Michael Bloomberg trying to ‘buy’ his way into the Presidency, and it’s certainly understandable.  It’s true that electing our president should only be about finding the best man or woman to lead our country.  It shouldn’t be about who can outspend all the others, but unfortunately that’s what it’s come to in America.  In this election year, however, our top priority must be in nominating whichever candidate seems most likely to defeat Donald Trump. We should be thinking of almost nothing else. Money in our politics is definitely a problem but I think this time around, it’s a worry for another time.

It doesn’t bother me so much that Bloomberg has unlimited funds to spend in his campaign because I think there are simply too many other pressing concerns.  I admit I’m looking for a savior.  Most people I talk to are…

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Filosofa is Snarky … Again

♫ I feel snarky, I feel snarky … ♫  Oh … hi!  In case you didn’t hear, I am feeling a bit snarky this afternoon!  But then, when don’t I feel snarky these days?


What the heck are they doing???

Today marks 173 years since rescuers first reached the Donner party who had been stranded by a snowstorm as they tried to make their way across the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.  The Donner story is a tragic one … of the 89 people that set out from Springfield, Illinois, in the summer of 1846, only 45 would survive.  But what the Donner story is most well-known for is that after they killed and ate their dogs and pack animals to keep from starving, they then began to eat their own, even killing two Native Americans who had joined their party, and roasting them.

Why, you ask, do I bring up the Donner story now?  They ate their own.  There is a parallel between the Donner party in 1846-47 and the Democratic Party in 2020, for the democrats seem to be hellbent and determined to lose the election in November by eating their own.

Bernie Sanders is polling at the head of the pack, a full 16 points ahead of #2 candidate Joe Biden.  So, wouldn’t you think democrats would get behind Bernie, help lift him?  After all, the democrats have stated more than once that the goal is to beat Trump, and much as I hate it, much as I would prefer to see a campaign based on the issues, I agree that the reign of Donald Trump must come to an end.

But, instead of patting Bernie on the back, helping make his candidacy even stronger, the pack is trying to eat Bernie!  Now, what sense does that make?  According to Politico, a democratic group called the Big Tent Project, has launched a million-dollar ad campaign in South Carolina and Nevada intended to bash Senator Sanders.  They are running two ads.  The first accuses Sanders of dumping waste in Latino communities — and profiting from it.

The second ad goes to the heart of some of the more moderate democrats’ concerns, that his plans are too aggressive, and too expensive.  The script …

“Socalist Bernie Sanders promises the world. But at what cost? Sixty trillion in new spending. Losing our private health care. Largest middle-class tax hike ever. The cost? Another four years of Donald Trump.”

Wow … why not just shoot him and be done with it?  The jackals who are stirring this pot are the very ones who will be handing Donald Trump the keys to the kingdom and he will stay in office until his death.  With our luck, he’ll live to be 100.

Come on, democrats … wake up!  Bernie Sanders is NOT the enemy, nor is Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden.  The enemy is sitting on his fat ass eating a Big Mac on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office!  STOP the damn infighting, stop supporting groups that put out these ads!  Believe me, the republicans will be running a full-throttle campaign of ads against Sanders and all the others … the democrats don’t need to join forces with them!  I can hear the republicans laughing now, saying, “Hell, boys, we don’t need to waste money on ads … they’re doin’ it for us!”

“United we stand, divided we fall” – John Dickinson

“Divide et impera” (Divide and conquer) – Julius Caesar


In other news …

According to The Guardian …

“Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told.

The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US.

Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, referred to evidence alleging that the former US Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher had been to see Assange, now 48, while he was still in the Ecuadorian embassy in August 2017.

A statement from Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson shows “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks”, Fitzgerald told Westminster magistrates court.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is hearing the case at Westminster, said the evidence is admissible.

Assange is wanted in America to face 18 charges, including conspiring to commit computer intrusion, over the publication of US cables a decade ago.

He could face up to 175 years in jail if found guilty. He is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified documents.”

Can we say … WITNESS TAMPERING?????  Yet another criminal and impeachable offense to add to the ever-growing list.  Yo … republican senators!!!  Wake UP!!!


Okay, my blood pressure is sufficiently high … I’m going to go wash dishes and fold laundry now.

Something To Think About

I have spent the last three years warning that Donald Trump was a wanna-be king, that he would turn the presidency into a dictatorship, given half a chance.  It seems that now, three years into his reign, others are seeing it, too.  Max Boot’s column in The Washington Post last Saturday sums it up well.

This is how democracy dies — in full view of a public that couldn’t care less

By Max Boot, Columnist

Feb. 15, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EST

Max-Boot

The French philosopher Montesquieu wrote in 1748: “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” We are seeing his warning vindicated. President Trump is increasingly acting as a tyrannical (and erratic) prince. And yet much of the public is so inured to his misconduct that his latest assaults on the rule of law are met with a collective shrug. Public passivity is Trump’s secret weapon as he pursues his authoritarian agenda. “I have the right to do whatever I want,” he says, and the lack of pushback seems to confirm it.

So much bad has happened since Trump was unjustly acquitted by the Senate of two articles of impeachment on Feb. 5 that it’s hard to keep it all straight.

Trump fired Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman for complying with a congressional subpoena and providing truthful testimony about Trump’s attempts to extort Ukraine into aiding him politically. Also ousted was Vindman’s brother, who did not testify. This sends a mob-like message: If you turn stool pigeon, your family gets it, too.

Trump’s ongoing quest for retribution has also claimed Jessie K. Liu, who was abruptly removed as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and replaced by a close aide to Attorney General William P. Barr after prosecuting Trump loyalists, including Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. Now Liu’s nomination to a senior Treasury Department position has been withdrawn. Next on the chopping block may be Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon official who tried to tell the Office of Management and Budget that Trump had no right to withhold aid to Ukraine. The New York Post reported that her nomination to be Pentagon comptroller will be withdrawn. (McCusker denies the report.)

While punishing those who dared to tell the truth, Trump is protecting those who assist his coverup. He inveighed against the request of federal prosecutors, following normal sentencing guidelines, to give Stone a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for witness tampering and lying to Congress. Trump also attacked the judge overseeing Stone’s case and the forewoman of the jury that convicted him. The Justice Department then asked for a reduced sentence. Four prosecutors resigned from the case in protest, and one quit the Justice Department.

Even Barr was driven to denounce Trump’s public interference in the legal system, saying that the president’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.” In response, Trump asserted that he has the “legal right” to determine who gets prosecuted — technically true but hardly in keeping with American tradition.

Barr’s protests ring hollow given how eager he has been to subvert his own department on Trump’s behalf — for example, by mischaracterizing the findings of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Barr has appointed one prosecutor to review Flynn’s conviction and another to investigate the FBI and CIA personnel who uncovered the Russian plot to elect Trump in 2016. The New York Times reports that the latter prosecutor, John H. Durham, has raised alarm in the intelligence community by appearing to pursue a theory, popular among right-wing conspiracy mongers, “that the C.I.A., under its former director John O. Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result.”

Anxiety about attempts to politicize justice will only grow because of a Post report that Trump was furious that the Justice Department did not file charges against former FBI director James B. Comey and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe — even though there is no evidence that either of these men broke any laws. After learning that his enemies were not being indicted, The Post reports, “Trump has become more insistent that Durham finish his work soon,” because he “wants to be able to use whatever Durham finds as a cudgel in his reelection campaign.”

As Justice Department veteran David Laufman writes, “We are now truly at a break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for the Justice Dept.” But does anyone give a damn? Democratic lawmakers are, to be sure, perturbed, but it’s easy (if unfair) to write off their outrage as mere partisanship. Republican members of Congress, as usual, either have nothing to say or offer ineffectual expressions of “concern.”

And the public? I don’t see massive marches in the streets. I don’t see people flooding their members of Congress with calls and emails. I don’t see the outrage that is warranted — and necessary. I see passivity, resignation and acquiescence from a distracted electorate that has come to accept Trump’s aberrant behavior as the norm.

A recent Gallup poll found that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans — the supposed law-and-order party — is at a record-high 94 percent. His support in the country as a whole is only 43.4 percent in the FiveThirtyEight average, but he is still well positioned to win reelection, because most people seem to care a lot more about the strength of the stock market than about the strength of our democracy. This is how democracies die — not in darkness but in full view of a public that couldn’t care less.

*Note to readers:  Since this article was published three days ago, Trumps approval rating according to the FiveThirtyEight average has risen from 43.4% to 43.9%.

Is it time for The Office of Public Prosecutions?

The nation … at least those of us who aren’t drinking Trump’s toxic concoction, is aghast at the breech of protocol in the Department of Justice regarding the Roger Stone case. Our friend Jeff has done some research into the way some other nations have gone about ensuring that the Department of Justice is not influenced by the government, but rather remains independent in order to maintain the rule of law. I hope you’ll take a minute to read Jeff’s piece, for this is something that will affect us all for years, perhaps decades to come. Thanks Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

In the age of Trumpism, it’s time to look how other countries ensure an independent Justice Department

During the Trump era, it’s rare that I agree with anything Alan Dershowitz says. The 81-year-old ‘TV’ lawyer has gone off the deep end it seems, especially when you consider his ridiculous performance during the recent impeachment trial.

But once in a while, he gets it right. A few nights ago on CNN, he was debating his former pupil, Jeffrey Toobin, concerning the recent intervention of Bill Barr into Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation from federal prosecutors. Dershowitz, of course, first sided with Trump on the issue, saying that he did have the ‘legal’ right to intervene in that particular case. There was nothing in the law that says he couldn’t do it.

But then he also explained that it wasn’t right for him to do so. Because of the long understood norms and…

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The Week’s Best Cartoons ⚡ 2/15

The past two weeks have certainly provided plenty of material for the political cartoonists, haven’t they? Our friend TokyoSand always seems to find the best of the bunch, and this week is no exception. These cartoons pretty well sum up the current situation … thank you, TokyoSand for this post, and for your kind permission to share!

Political⚡Charge

By Marc Murphy, Louisville Courier-Journal

Here are some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country (and a few from abroad) with their visual opinions about this week’s news:

Trump Seeks Revenge

By Morten Morland

By Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

By Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News

By Banx

Barr Interferes with Justice

By Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

By Pat Chappatte

By Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

By Ann Telnaes, Washington Post

Image

By Mike Peters, Mother Goose and Grimm

By Jeff Darcy, Cleveland.com

By Matt Davies, Newsday

By Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

And Other News

By Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

ByJim Morin, Miami Herald

By Christopher Weyant

By Matt Davies, Newsday

By Matt Davies, Newsday

By Kevin Necessary

By Rod EmmersonNZ Herald

Want to get these political cartoon roundups every…

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A Banana Republic?

Today on Twitter, Trump posted:

“Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” Peter Baker @nytimes The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”

I and a few thousand others reminded him that he is NOT a king, but some 60,000 people actually liked his post.  I wonder how much more we will tolerate …

More than a few times, I have made the claim that Trump is turning the U.S. into a ‘banana republic’, and it seems I’m not alone in this idea.  On Thursday, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote a column that I think sums the situation up quite well.


America, the Banana Republic

Feb. 13, 2020 at 5:55 p.m. EST

I covered South America for The Post from 1988 to 1992, a time when nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru were struggling to reestablish democratic norms after the long, dark night of military dictatorship. One of the biggest challenges was implanting something we take for granted in this country: public confidence that justice, for the most part, is blind and engages in an honest search for truth.

I never thought I’d be living in a country like that again. But thanks to President Trump and the inexcusable damage he is doing to our justice system, South America’s past has become America’s present.

There has been considerable hyperventilation, some perhaps by me, about the grave harm Trump is doing to our democratic institutions. I am not hyperventilating now. Public faith in justice is a delicate, precious thing. Once squandered, it is incredibly hard to regain.

That’s the kind of damage Trump is threatening with his outrageous and un-American attacks on the Justice Department and the federal judiciary for finding his cronies — including longtime political adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort — guilty of crimes and deserving of punishment. I know what the impact of this behavior is, because I’ve seen how it plays out before.

I lived in Argentina, where the president for much of my time there, Carlos Menem, was a populist norm-breaker who nepotistically involved his family in running the government and was widely viewed as corrupt. In 1991, Menem’s sister-in-law and appointments secretary, Amira Yoma, was indicted on money-laundering charges that involved suitcases full of cash allegedly being smuggled in and out of the country. Yoma’s ex-husband was head of the customs service at Ezeiza International Airport outside Buenos Aires, where he allegedly facilitated the cash-smuggling.

Menem was accused of secretly meeting with the prosecuting judge in charge of the Yoma case. The president initially denied having had such a meeting but ultimately admitted it, claiming it was about some unrelated matter. The judge’s secretary alleged that the judge had gone to the presidential residence, where she showed Menem secret prosecution documents about the Yoma case.

That judge was suddenly taken off the case, which was assigned to a different judge, and Yoma was eventually cleared of all charges. It is safe to say that few Argentines were surprised.

There simply was very little confidence in the ability of the justice system to discern truth from falsehood or to punish the powerful and well-connected. There was an understanding, moreover, that prosecutors and the court system could and sometimes would be used as political tools.

Years after leaving office, Menem was convicted on unrelated charges involving weapons smuggling and embezzlement. He maintained his innocence, claiming he was being persecuted by his political enemies.

In those fragile democracies I covered years ago, seeing justice be warped by politics had a corrosive effect on the larger society. A lack of confidence that court proceedings could — or even were intended to — arrive at truth encouraged the propagation and spread of conspiracy theories. Argentina still struggles to escape the widespread belief that unseen forces control events from deep in the shadows.

This is not the sort of path I ever thought the United States could take. Our justice system obviously has flaws, starting with the way it disproportionately punishes people of color. But it has not been naive, at least in my lifetime, to believe that federal prosecutors and judges tried their very best not to let politics influence their decisions — and that they generally succeeded because they took their responsibilities seriously.

When four assistant U.S. attorneys asked to be taken off the Stone case, they were sounding an alarm. We must all pay attention.

Their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison for his crimes was tough, but federal prosecutors tend to be tough. Stone was duly convicted in a court of law, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will decide his punishment. But when higher-ups in Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department overrule the prosecutors who handled the case on Stone’s recommended sentence; when Trump tries to delegitimize those prosecutors as “Angry Democrats” because they worked for former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and when Trump goes so far as to try to intimidate Jackson, a highly respected veteran federal judge — when such things happen, I have to wonder whether I’m back in Carlos Menem’s Argentina.

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension Part I Intro

Discord & Dissension Part II (a) How Did We Get Here?

Discord & Dissension Part II (b) How Did We Get Here?

Discord & Dissension — Part III — Where Do We Go From Here?

Discord & Dissension Part IV(a) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part IV (b) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part IV (c) Voting & Voters

Discord & Dissension Part V Corruption

Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation