The Case For “Justice For All”

Last night, as I read Charles Blow’s latest column, I found myself in complete agreement with every word.  In particular, I nodded loudly when I read, “The justice system must be untethered from political implications and consequences, even the possibility of disruptive consequences.”  Indeed so!  Justice cannot be held hostage by those who threaten violence!!!  Read on for his extremely intelligent assessment of why Donald Trump MUST be prosecuted …

Donald Trump Must Be Prosecuted

By Charles M. Blow

15 March 2023

Donald Trump may finally be indicted. Finally!

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has signaled that charges, related to Trump’s reported hush-money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels, are likely.

But there’s also hand-wringing: about whether this is the best case to be the first among those in which Trump is likely to be criminally charged, the strength of this case compared to others and the historic implications of indicting a former president for anything.

And with regard to those implications, the central considerations always seem to be the importance of any precedent set by prosecuting a former president and the broader political significance — what damage it might do to the country. Often left out of that calculus, it seems to me, is the damage Trump has already done and is poised to continue to do.

Prosecution is not the problem; Trump himself is. And any pretense that the allegations of his marauding criminality are a sideshow to the political stakes and were, therefore, remedied in 2020 at the ballot box rather than in a jury box, is itself a miscarriage of justice and does incalculable damage.

Last year, around the time the House Jan. 6 committee was holding hearings, Elaine Kamarck, the founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution, wrote: “Prosecuting Trump is not a simple matter of determining whether the evidence is there. It is a question embedded in the larger issue of how to restore and defend American democracy.”

I don’t see it that way. Any case against Trump must hang on the evidence and the principle that justice is blind. The political considerations, including gaming out what might be the ideal sequence of cases, across jurisdictions and by their gravity, only serve to distort the judicial process.

The justice system must be untethered from political implications and consequences, even the possibility of disruptive consequences.

For instance, could an indictment and prosecution of Trump cause consternation and possibly even unrest? Absolutely. Trump has been preparing his followers for his martyrdom for years and evangelizing to them the idea that any sanctioning of him is an attack on them. This transference of feelings of persecution and pain from manufactured victimhood is a classic psychological device of a cult leader.

Trump uses the passions he has inflamed as a political threat against those pursuing him: In 2019, when he was facing impeachment, he took to Twitter, citing a quote from Pastor Robert Jeffress, who’d appeared on Fox News and recklessly posited that if Trump were removed from office “it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal.”

Last year, on a conservative talk radio show, Trump said that if he were indicted in connection with his alleged mishandling of classified documents, “I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.”

Over and over, Trump has goaded his supporters in this direction: whether during the 2016 presidential race, urging rallygoers to “knock the crap out of” people who might disrupt the proceedings, or telling the Proud Boys, during a 2020 debate, to “stand back and stand by.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, he waited and watched the attack on the Capitol for hours, resisting pleas from his own advisers to try to stop it. When Trump finally made a statement, he downplayed the insurrection and reluctantly told the rioters to go home, but not without adding: “We love you. You’re very special.”

Trump is the impresario of incitement. He’ll use any attempt to hold him accountable to agitate and activate his loyalists.

That’s not a reason to avoid vigorously and swiftly pursuing him legally, but rather a reason to do it. If we establish a precedent that amassing a significant threat to society is a ward against enforcement of the law, it makes a mockery of the law.

It would reinforce what was already a persistent problem in the criminal justice system: unequal treatment of the rich and powerful, compared to that of the poor and powerless.

A series of studies from more than a decade ago in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that upper-income people were more likely to lie, cheat and literally take candy meant to be given to children. The researchers postulated that several factors could have contributed to this, including a lowered perception of risk, plenty of money to deal with the “downstream costs” of their behavior, feelings of entitlement, less concern about what other people think and a general sense that greed is good.

At the same time, as Jeffrey Reiman and Paul Leighton write in their book, “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison,” “The criminal justice system is biased from start to finish in a way that guarantees that, for the same crimes, members of the lower classes are much more likely than members of the middle and upper classes to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned.”

The authors go further, theorizing that the goal of the criminal justice system isn’t even to prevent crime or provide justice, but rather to “project to the American public a credible image of the threat of crime as a threat from the poor.” When you think of it that way, it’s not hard to see how Trump and many of his admirers choose to see him as above the law. Indeed, if he weren’t rich and powerful, charges would almost surely have been filed long ago.

Prosecuting Trump wouldn’t break the country. On the contrary, it would be a step toward mending it, a step toward undergirding the flimsy promise of “equal justice under law.”

The eyes of the country are on these cases — the eyes of all those who’ve been badgered for minor violations, who’ve had the book thrown at them for crimes that others either got away with or served no time for. Not only are they watching, but so are their loved ones and their communities.

They, too, are America, and further damaging their faith in the country should matter as much as damaging the faith of any other part of our body politic.

To rehabilitate American justice, Trump must be prosecuted.

Who Values Diversity?

I found these survey results, reported in an article by Brookings Institute, to be interesting … and depressing.  Not necessarily surprising, for they support what I have believed to be the case for some time now.  Take a look for yourself …

According to a Gallup survey released on July 18, the American people now regard immigration as the single most important problem facing the country, and the share of the population expressing this view stands at the highest level ever recorded. This surge of concern crosses partisan lines: the share of Republicans and Independents who name immigration as the top issue has more than tripled during the past year, and it has more than doubled among Democrats.

Although immigration is an issue trifecta, raising economic, security, and cultural concerns, recent surveys have underscored the centrality of culture, in the United States and throughout the West. Since the 1965 enactment of the momentous Hart-Cellar immigration reform bill, the share of first-generation immigrants in the U.S. population has tripled from less than five percent to about 14 percent. By 2050 at the latest, non-Hispanic whites will be a minority.

Unlike most demographic projections, this one has received wide publicity and has evoked diverse reactions. A Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey released earlier this week found that while 64 percent of Americans regard increasing demographic diversity as mostly positive, there are deep partisan divisions: Democrats believe that it’s mostly positive by an overwhelming margin of 85 to 13 percent, as do Independents by 59 to 34 percent, but 50 percent of Republicans regard it as mostly negative, compared to only 43 percent who favor it.

A closer look at the data reveals the sources of this cleavage. There are no gender differences, and age differences are much smaller than expected, with 57 percent of Americans 65 and older taking a positive view of rising diversity. Racial and ethnic differences are significant but not dispositive: 78 percent of both African-Americans as Hispanics see diversity as a plus, but so do 56 percent of white Americans. Much the same holds for regional differences: although 72 percent of respondents from the West and Northeast approve of increasing diversity, so do 60 percent of Midwesterners and 57 percent of Southerners.

The key drivers of partisan division are educational and religious differences among white Americans. Sixty-nine percent of whites with a BA or more have a mostly positive view of demographic diversity, compared to just 50 percent of whites without college degrees. As for religion, 52 percent of white Catholics and 56 percent of white mainline Protestants think rising diversity is mostly positive. By contrast, just 42 percent of white evangelical Protestants favor these changes, while 52 percent think they’re mostly negative. Two-thirds of whites without college degrees supported Republicans in the 2016 elections, as did eight in 10 white evangelicals.

The bottom line: the core of the Republican base is deeply uncomfortable with the central demographic trend of our time, which public policy is powerless to resist. Even if the U.S. slammed shut the doors of immigration, differences in birth rates between native-born citizens and newer arrivals would ensure the steady erosion of the population’s white majority, albeit at a slower pace.

Across the Atlantic, the rising tide of immigration has triggered similar fears, expressed in the language of national identity. A Pew Research Center analysis released on July 19 under the heading “It’s not just the economy” shows that supporters of the populist surge throughout Europe are far more likely than others to believe that only those who are born in their respective European countries and have family ties in these countries are truly “one of us.” In Italy, Germany, and France, about three-quarters of the League, the AfD, and the National Front party members espouse these views, as do 55 percent of Dutch populists and 40 percent of Swedish populists. Similarly large shares of European populists believe that their culture is superior to others and that Islam is incompatible with their values.

In both the United States and Europe, these changes feed a shared sense of national decline. In every European country Pew surveyed, supporters of populist parties are far more likely to say that life in their country is worse than it was 50 years ago for people like them. Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” brilliantly targeted these feeling of decline among Americans who feel displaced in the land of their birth. Suitably adjusted, this slogan would be equally effective in Europe—even in Germany, where many populists believe that their country has apologized more than enough for its past misdeeds.

I do not understand why it matters what colour skin a person has.  I don’t at all understand why it matters what group is a ‘minority’ or a ‘majority’.  And I damn sure don’t understand why anybody thinks a person with pale skin has more value than one with darker skin.  Why does there have to be “us” and “them”? The people in this nation have more important concerns, more important things to waste their time worrying about.  The environment, health care, poverty, global trade, our damaged foreign relations.  But apparently there are some groups that believe they are better than the rest of us, always have been and always will be, and that, folks, does not bode well for the future of the one race we all belong to — the human race.

There IS News Outside the U.S. Elections!!!

Most of us have been so caught up in the conflagration that is the battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that we may be only vaguely aware of the battle that began last  week in Mosul, Iraq.  Oddly, there is actually a connection between the U.S. election and Mosul, but I will come back to that in a moment.

mosul-mapA brief bit of background.  On June 10, 2014, Daesh (aka Islamic State, ISIL, or ISIS) took control of Mosul.  Since then, several phone lines have been cut by Daesh and many cell phone towers and Internet access points were destroyed, rendering the area virtually cut off from the world outside of Mosul.  Once home to at least 70,000 Assyrian Christians, there are few left today in Mosul, and any that do remain are forced to pay a tax for remaining Christian, while living under the constant threat of violence. Christian churches and monasteries have been vandalized and burned down, their ancient Assyrian heritage sites dating back to the Iron Age destroyed, their homes and possessions stolen by Daesh and ultimatums to either convert to Islam, leave their ancient homelands, or be murdered. The residents of the city have been essentially prisoners, forbidden to leave the city unless they post with Daesh a significant collateral of family members, personal wealth and property. They may then leave the city upon paying a significant “departure tax” on a three-day pass (for a higher fee they can surrender their home, pay the fee and leave for good) and if those with a three-day pass fail to return in that time their assets will be seized and family will be killed. Many females from Mosul are imprisoned and occasionally many are slaughtered because of their resistance to being sold as sex slaves. Daesh occupiers have murdered or driven out most minority groups and converted some Christians to Islam. Women are required to cover their bodies from head to foot in a strict variant of Sharia rule and men are required to fully grow their beards and hair as do the members of Daesh. Life in Mosul is one of violent oppression where people suspected of activism against the occupiers, resistance activities, homosexuality, promiscuity or adultery are brutally and summarily tortured and murdered.

mosul-2Mosul is currently the last major city in Iraq under the control of Daesh.  On October 16th, Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes launched coordinated military operations in a joint effort to reclaim the city of Mosul from Daesh.  While the operation is considered key in the military intervention against Daesh, the fear is that Daesh will use civilians as human shields, and indeed this has been happening.  It is estimated that as many as 1.5 million people are still living in the city.

The latest news as of today is that resistance from Daesh is getting stronger and hundreds of suicide bombers have been sent from Syria to assist in the defense of the city.  It is reported that Daesh has been carrying out “retribution killings” of civilians as revenge for others welcoming Iraqi and Peshmerga troops in liberated villages. Forces evacuated more than 1,000 civilians from the front lines surrounding Mosul. Humanitarian agencies are concerned about civilians trying to flee Mosul with winter approaching, and Daesh has threatened to execute those caught attempting to escape.

The battle for Mosul is not likely to end quickly and is likely to take a toll on human lives.  The history and political rivalries of the region involving Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are far too complex for a blog post, but if you are interested, this article from Brookings Institute may give you some insight.  So why, you ask, have I told you all this?  A couple of reasons, actually.

  1. I needed a break from writing about the U.S. presidential election
  2. I think it is important for all of us to remember that, despite our differences, despite the political arguments, we are so much more fortunate than much of the rest of the world. I also think it is important for us to realize that there is a ‘rest of the world’.  We have largely insulated ourselves and wrapped ourselves in the slightly worn blanket of our own political agenda, but on occasion we need to come out of our insulation and realize that there is actually a whole world out there, some of which is struggling to survive.
  3. The U.S. military is involved in the fight to re-take Mosul, and it does, therefore, concern us.
  4. There has been some highly mis-informed rhetoric by the Republican candidate in the presidential race that is potentially dangerous to those who may not have even a basic understanding of the situation in Mosul.

I would like to comment briefly on #4.  Donald Trump, who likely never heard of Mosul until ten days ago, made the following statement during the 3rd and final debate last week:

“The problem with Mosul and what they wanted to do is they wanted to get the leaders of ISIS who they felt were in Mosul. About three months ago, I started reading they want to get the leaders and they’re going to attack Mosul. Whatever happened to the element of surprise, okay? We announce we’re going after Mosul. I’ve been reading about going after Mosul now for about how long is it, Hillary, three months? These people have all left. They’ve all left. The element of surprise. Douglas MacArthur, George Patton spinning in their graves at the stupidity of our country.

So we’re now fighting for Mosul. That we had. All she had to do was stay there, now we’re going in to get it. But you know who the big winner in Mosul is going to be after we eventually get it — and the only reason they did it is because she’s running for office of president and they want to look tough. They want to look good. He violated the red line in the sand, and he made so many mistakes. He made all mistakes. That’s why we have the great Migration, but she wanted to look good for the election. So they’re going in.”

Then on Sunday Trump tweeted that the ongoing offensive against the ISIS stronghold of Mosul is turning out to be a “total disaster.” Former dean of the Army War College, Jeff McCausland, said Trump’s comments show he doesn’t have a firm grasp of military strategy. Other military historians and senior officers claimed that Trump’s ‘armchair generalship’ revealed a fundamental lack of understanding of Iraqi politics, military warfare — and even some of the most famous campaigns commanded by MacArthur and Patton. Trump, in a later interview with George Stephanopoulos, said, “You can tell your military expert that I’ll sit down and I’ll teach him a couple of things.” When I heard that, my mouth dropped open and I nearly choked!  Who the heck … what the heck … ???  And on that note, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.