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 Now Liu’s nomination to a senior Treasury Department position has been withdrawn.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 The New York Post reported that her nomination to be Pentagon comptroller will be withdrawn.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%.

Revenge

Alexander Vindman is a decorated war hero.  In addition to overseas deployments to South Korea and Germany, Vindman is a combat veteran of the Iraq War, and he served in Iraq from September 2004 to September 2005. In October 2004, he sustained an injury from a roadside bomb in Iraq, for which he received a Purple Heart. He was promoted to the rank of major in 2008, and to lieutenant colonel in September 2015.

Donald Trump is, in essence, a draft dodger who, while men were dying in Vietnam, had his father pay a doctor to say he couldn’t serve because he had blisters on his feet (too much time in golf shoes?)  Donald Trump does not like war heroes … perhaps they make him uncomfortable because they did their duty while he languished in the lap of luxury.  Remember his remarks about John McCain, who received daily beatings at the hands of the North Vietnamese for nearly six years, refusing early release unless every man taken before him was also released?  Trump said he didn’t like people who were captured.  McCain’s plane was shot down … not much he could have done to prevent that.  While Trump was schmoozing with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, playing with whatever woman he chose on any given night, John McCain was suffering unimaginable pain and horror, yet Trump didn’t like him.  Just as he doesn’t like Alexander Vindman.

Vindman, as you recall, testified under oath before the House impeachment hearings in October.  Vindman told the truth, and for his courage, his honesty, he was punished with the loss of his job.  His twin brother, also a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and ethics lawyer for the National Security Council, was also fired … presumably only because his last name is Vindman.  Bad enough … but it doesn’t end there.  Now, Trump is calling for Alexander Vindman’s head, as well.

Trump has expressed his desire for the military to investigate and invoke “disciplinary action” against Alexander Vindman.  Disciplinary action???  So, is it a crime now to tell the truth in the dis-United States of America?

In a press conference, Trump said of Vindman …

“The military can handle him any way they want.”

When asked what he meant by that, he replied …

“That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see, but if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that.”

Would somebody please teach this man to construct a sentence that makes sense?

With not one shred of evidence, Trump claims that what Vindman reported about Trump’s criminal phone call, the one that Trump says was a “perfect” call, is different than what he actually said.  Of course he says that … he’s the liar in chief, the ‘man’ who wouldn’t know the truth if it smacked him in the ass!

We expect such from Donald Trump, the fat man with a very slim mind, but what’s worse is that others are supporting and defending his actions.  The ignoble Senator Lindsey Graham said, in an interview on Fox News’ American Newsroom …

“I think FBI agents had a political agenda during the investigation of President Trump and they acted on it. I think CIA operatives have been out to try to get the president since he was elected. I think there are people in uniform that can’t accept this result. Because you wear the uniform doesn’t mean you’re exempt from being asked questions. When a military officer engages in a political bias in uniform, they need to be held accountable.”

Political bias???  Lieutenant Colonel Vindman reported, under oath, what he had seen and heard.  Period.  Where’s the ‘political bias’?  Graham, like so many other republicans in Congress, has stopped doing his job and instead is following the Trump agenda.

The Vindmans and Gordon Sondland weren’t the only ones Trump has gone after since the Senate gave him carte blanche last Wednesday.

Jesse K. Liu was, until recently, a U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.  As such, she inherited certain cases from the Robert Mueller investigation, including those of Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, and … Roger Stone.  Last December, Ms. Liu stepped down from her position, as Trump nominated her for a high-ranking position in the U.S. Treasury Department.  Yesterday, after Trump learned that prosecutors were recommending a sentence of 7-9 years for the facinorous Roger Stone, threw a fit, and caused the “Justice” Department to lower their recommendation, Trump withdrew Ms. Liu’s nomination.

The Vindmans, Sondland, Liu … all cases of pure petty revenge on the part of the person who holds the highest office of the land.  These are only the beginning.  Last Wednesday, 53 U.S. Senators handed Mr. Trump the keys to the kingdom.  They told him that whatever he does, they “have his back”.  This is only the beginning of what will likely become the darkest period in the history of this nation.revenge-4

The Purge Begins …

President Richard Nixon kept an “enemies list”, the purpose of which was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service, and by manipulating “grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.”  According to then-White House counsel John Dean …

“This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

At one point, there were as many as 576 names on Nixon’s list.  Some have jokingly referred to Trump’s own ‘enemies list’.  It is no longer a joking matter.  While Nixon sought to punish his ‘enemies’ through such things as tax audits, Trump uses no subterfuge, no circuities.

In a 1992 interview with Charlie Rose, Donald Trump said …

“I love getting even when I get screwed by someone … Always get even. When you are in business you need to get even with people who screw you. You need to screw them back 15 times harder. You do it not only to get the person who messed with you but also to show the others who are watching what will happen to them if they mess with you. If someone attacks you, do not hesitate. Go for the jugular.”

 When he did a television program called The Apprentice, apparently his buzz line was “You’re fired!”  He used that three times yesterday, and unless I miss my guess, he intends to use it a few more times.

First, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was fired from his role as the top Ukraine policy officer on the National Security Council and was escorted from the White House.  At the same time, his brother Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman was also fired from his NSC job.

A few hours later, Trump ordered U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordan Sondland, recalled from his post and fired.

Alexander Vindman and Gordon Sondland’s only ‘crime’ was that they told the truth.  Both testified in the impeachment hearings held by the House last fall … an act Trump claims was ‘disloyal’ to him.  Funny that … I always believed that any government official’s loyalty was to the nation and to We the People, not to the person occupying the Oval Office.  Yevgeny’s only crime, apparently, was being Alexander’s brother.

The day after the Senate voted to acquit Trump of his crimes, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, who never holds press briefings, said …

“… how horribly he was treated, and maybe people should pay for that.”

It seems the Trump purge has begun.  Of the twelve people who testified against Trump in the impeachment hearings, only three remain in their positions:  David Holmes, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine; Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon; and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state.  Will their heads roll next?

Others on his ‘enemies list’ no doubt include various members of Congress, starting with Mitt Romney, the only senator with the courage to vote to convict Trump on one of the articles of impeachment, Jerry Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff, Joe Manchin and others.  Since Trump cannot fire a member of Congress, one wonders how he plans to extract his ‘revenge’.  Think about this one for a few minutes, folks.  The aforementioned Stephanie Grisham stated earlier this week …

“Adam Schiff lied to Congress and the American people with a totally made up statement about the president’s phone call. Will there be no retribution?”

It should be noted that a threat was made on Adam Schiff’s life earlier this year.  And then there was this statement by Jeff Buckles, a police department assistant chief in the Alabama town of Geraldine …

“Pelosi just ripped up his speach [sic]. Road Side bomb on her way home and any other Dumbocrats.”

Hyperbole?  Probably, but troubling, nonetheless.  Remember Cesar Sayoc, who sent pipe bombs through the mail to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other democrats?  Remember Jarrod Ramos who shot and killed five employees at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis Maryland in 2018?  In the divisive atmosphere in this nation today, and with so many avid Trumpeters determined to keep their hero in office, and with more guns in the hands of civilians than there are people in the entire nation … what could possibly go wrong?  Trump has convinced his base, some 40% of adults in the nation, that he is their savior, that he is great and has made their lives somehow better.  He riles the masses at his rallies and in his speeches.  This is a toxic situation.

One report I read claims a “person in the know” said former national security advisor John Bolton is at or near the top of the list.  No doubt there are others, perhaps some in the press, perhaps some who testified but have already left the administration, such as Fiona Hill, the Europe policy chief at the National Security Council, and Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine.

I don’t care if you identify as a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, or none of the above … you must be incensed by this purge!  This is not normal and we simply cannot turn a blind eye and allow it to become normal!  Never in my life did I imagine that this country would stoop so low, would become, in essence, a tin pot dictatorship, yet for all intents and purposes, that is what we have become.  It is a dark day for the United States.  Keep your eye on the ball, folks, for this is only the beginning.darkness

Today’s Toons To …

I seem to have that mind bounce thing again, and am unable to focus on any one thing for more than 93 seconds, just over a minute-and-a-half, or even finish a thought.  So … what better time for some ‘toons, eh?  Perhaps a chuckle or two will clear out the cobwebs in my head!


Earlier this week, a law scholar mentioned Melania’s son’s name: Barron.  He did not do any harm, did not criticize or say anything about the child.  His statement was simply that Trump can name his son Barron, but he cannot make him a Baron.  In other words, there is no royalty in the U.S., and Trump is not a monarch.  But, Melania took umbrage.Barron


The economy … it’s the only thing, really, that Trump has going for him, and frankly he had little or nothing to do with it, and in fact his widespread tariffs are taking a toll already.  But, the fact that he touts a low unemployment rate … well, there’s another side to it all.economy-1


But of course, the main topic of the day is the impeachment process that is taking place in Congress, and the republicans’ attempt to denigrate the process and turn it into a carnival atmosphere.  Frankly, I’m surprised they don’t have a popcorn vendor outside the door.

toon-1toon-2toon-4toon-5toon-6toon-7toon-8toon-9toon-10toon-11toon-12toon-13toon-14toon-15toon-16toon-17toon-18toon-19


Have a great weekend!  Hopefully my bouncing mind will settle soon!

Impeachment Inquiry-Day Five

There is so much to write about that I simply cannot keep up … I need more than 24 hours in a day! Thankfully, our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written about yesterday’s testimony in the impeachment hearings by Gordon Sondland. I would only add that somebody needs to take Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan back to pre-school and let the adults get on with the business at hand! Thank you, Jeff, for this great summary of yesterday’s events!

On The Fence Voters

Another tough day for the POTUS

We’re now on day five of the impeachment inquiry, and once again, the current President of the United States is having another tough day. His million-dollar donor, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, not only through him under the bus, but also just about anyone else who’s involved in this fiasco.

I guess when a few years in prison might await, the generous donation to the President for an Ambassadorship doesn’t seem all that important. In the end, instead of pleading the fifth as many in the media had speculated he might do, Sondland decided to come clean–kind of.

After his first deposition Sondland came to the realization that based on testimony from others such as Ambassador William Taylor, his recollection was a bit hazy, which led him to amend some of his original statements. Then today, the Ambassador decided that the President, Secretary of State Mike…

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STOP The World … I Wanna Get Off!

(Note to Readers:  I had already finished this post when I realized what day it is … gasp … Wednesday … good people day!  I am too exhausted tonight to spend 4 hours or so working up another post, so ‘good people’ will be pushed back one day and will appear right here on Thursday morning.  My apologies.)


Just when you think it can’t get any crazier, any more chaotic … it does.  You know it’s gotten bad when you read that the human species will become extinct soon and you breathe a sigh of relief and hope it’s tomorrow.

I no longer know if I’m being snarky or just outright ranting, so I didn’t call this post Snarky Snippets, but it is some cross, some combination of snarky & rant.  Hmmm … maybe I should come up with a new category … Snark & Rant.


The shape of things to come …

From the Moorhead, Minnesota police department …

Schumacher

Joseph Schumacher

On Monday, October 7, 2019, at approximately 12:08 pm, officers were dispatched to the area of 24 Ave and 8 St S. for a disturbance call. The female caller stated she was driving southbound in the 1000 block of 8 St S when the suspect pulled up next to her and rolled his window down. The male began yelling at the female expressing his dislike for the political bumper sticker the female had displayed on her car. He then pointed to his bumper sticker and further expressed his difference in national political views. The male eventually continued past the victim’s vehicle, and once in front of her, he held up a handgun inside his vehicle.

Officers were able to locate the suspect in a nearby business. After seeing a box for a handgun in plain view inside the suspect’s vehicle, officers found a loaded handgun in the center console during a further search. A passenger in the suspect vehicle also confirmed the actions of the suspect driver.

Joseph Schumacher, age 27, of West Fargo, was booked in the Clay County Jail on two counts of Felony Terroristic Threats and Misdemeanor charges for having a loaded handgun inside a vehicle without a permit.

He is a Trump supporter, she was sporting an Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker.  I fear that given the increased venom and vitriol in Trump and his supporters’ rhetoric these days, we are going to see a lot more of these incidents until that inevitable day when …


Death of the innocent

My friend Carolyn lives in a very rural area just outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains.  Like me, she is a lover of nature and a lover of all critters, large and small.  Two days ago she posted this on Facebook …

“It’s days like this (very rare) that make me hate Appalachia. Some #$%& drove by and shot a young tame doe and her baby in my front yard and left them lying there together dead. The little doe had raised the fawn close to my house. I saw them every morning and evening.

If anyone knows who did this, tell me and I will report it so they will get in serious trouble. Thanks for any help.”

Speaks for itself, doesn’t it?  😢


Two thumbs up for da judge

On Monday, Judge Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled against Trump, dismissing a lawsuit that had been filed by Trump seeking to block a subpoena for eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns.  A win for the good guys, but the best part was how the judge stated his decision.  The judge said Mr. Trump’s lawyers were, in essence, arguing that the president, along with his family, associates and companies, were above the law.

“This court finds aspects of such a doctrine repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values …”

Hooray … finally somebody understands that Trump cannot, must not be allowed to be above the law.  Of course, Trump’s attorneys, knowing full well what the verdict would be, already had their appeals ready, so for now … no tax returns.  I reiterate what I have said time and time again:  if there is nothing to hide, then what’s the big deal?  Obviously, there is something very serious being hidden, for them to go to so much trouble.


Where are the courageous?

Gordon Sondland, the United States’ ambassador to the European Union, had been expected to testify yesterday morning as part of the expanding impeachment probe by three House committees related to Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.  Notice I said, “had been expected”.  Trump forbade Sondland to testify, and Sondland, apparently unable to find his cojones, caved.  He did not have to … he could have defied Trump & Co, gone right on up to the Capitol and given some honest answers.  Instead, he cowed in the face of Trump’s bombast.

Wouldn’t it be nice if he, or any republican in Congress, stood up to Trump and said, “There comes a point in every person’s life where they have to make a choice between doing what’s right or wrong, and that time has come for me.  I will do what I believe is right, even though there may be consequences.  I will put my country before my own self-interest.”?

I have to ask … is there one single republican in Congress with the guts, the courage to do what’s right and put this nation ahead of their slavish devotion to Trump, damn the consequences?  I think we have the biggest bunch of wusses and wimps on the right-hand side of the aisle on Capitol Hill that I have ever seen.  Gordon Sondland should be at home sucking his thumb and cuddling his dolly if this is the best he can do … we need some people with integrity and strength in our government, not a bunch of cowards.

In light of Sondland’s cowardice, Democrats have subpoenaed Sondland for his testimony and documents that they say are being withheld by the State Department. The subpoena demands those documents be turned over by October 14th, and that Sondland sit for a deposition on October 16th before three congressional panels.

Then later yesterday, White House lawyers called the impeachment investigation “illegitimate” and “constitutionally invalid” and said they will block any and all cooperation with the ongoing inquiries and investigations.

THEY CAN’T DO THIS!!!

Except … they can if nobody will stop them.  Who will stop them?  Will the republicans in Congress finally wake to the fact that Trump is rapidly escalating his position to that of a dictator?  Will they finally hold Sondland and others accountable by giving them a nice cozy jail cell where they can have plenty of time to think about their actions?  Will they finally provide the oversight that is mandated by the Constitution of the United States?  Will the Courts keep up the pressure, and as Judge Marrero did, say “No, the president is NOT above the law”?  Will the trumpeters out there in La-La-Land finally wake up and see what they have wrought?

If none of the above happen, people … if Trump is allowed to virtually render the impeachment investigations dead in the water, then we have lost any semblance of a free nation, we will have become a dictatorship.


Every day seems to get crazier and crazier.  I miss having a government I can trust, miss going to bed at night feeling that at least my corner of the world is in capable hands.  I want this crazy world to stop, just let me off, let me find a quiet corner, find some peace, sleep without night terrors.