Give Us Back Our Elections …

One of my pet peeves is the 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (FEC), in which the Court ruled that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political communications by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.  In a nutshell, it opened the door to unlimited donations by wealthy corporations, such lobbying groups as the NRA, and others to basically buy our politicians.  This is why we have a Congress that is unwilling to enact gun regulations, despite the fact that some 80% of the people in this country are in favour of such things as enhanced background checks and a ban on assault weapons.  This is why our very lives are placed at risk by the rolling back of environmental regulations that are so crucial to preserving life on earth.  And this is why there is an ever-widening income gap between the billionaires and the rest of us who live payday to payday.  And this is why ours is no longer a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’, but rather of, by, and for only the wealthy and powerful people.

I have featured Robert Reich on this blog a few times before.  He is an economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. He was Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997. He was a member of President Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board.  He, better than most, understand the inner workings of our government.  Sans partisanship, he explains why we simply must overturn Citizens United, must get the big money out of politics, and return our elections to We the People.  Please take three minutes to watch …

Robert Reich And The Founding Fathers Speak

Many people who support Trump, both in and out of government, claim that what Trump has done is not an impeachable offense.  Some even go so far as to claim his extortion of the Ukrainian president, holding up much-needed military support in exchange for President Zelenskyy announcing he would investigate Trump’s rival Joe Biden, is “business as usual”.  I can talk until I’m blue in the face, and those people will say I’m just a sore loser, still angry because Hillary Clinton didn’t win in 2016.  They’d be wrong … Hillary actually did win by nearly 3 million votes.  The unfair skewing of districts in many states, however, handed Trump enough undeserved electoral votes to carry him into the Oval Office.

But, about impeachment … though I studied Constitutional Law for two years, and have read the Constitution probably 30-40 times, I am not an expert on Constitutional Law.  But I know of someone who is.

Robert Reich-4

Robert Reich

Robert Reich is an American economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. He was Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997. He was a member of President Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board.

Reich has been the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley since January 2006. He was formerly a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and professor of social and economic policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management of Brandeis University.

Suffice it to say that this man knows how government works, and knows the Constitution far better than, say, a president who has never read the short, 8.000-word document.  So, let’s hear what Mr. Reich has to say about whether what Trump has done is impeachable.

Above The Law???

Trump says the Mueller report exonerates him, that it proves there was ‘no collusion, no obstruction’.  Those of us who can both read and think know better.  We know the Mueller report, in fact, proves that at the very least, Trump did attempt on multiple occasions to obstruct justice, to interfere with an ongoing investigation.

Today, Trump is still obstructing justice with his refusal to turn over his tax returns or financial records, his threatening and bullying those who have been subpoenaed by congressional committees, and more.  As usual, Robert Reich chimes in with words of wisdom …

In Fighting All Oversight, Trump Has Made His Most Dictatorial Move

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

The president is treating Congress with contempt. This cannot stand – and Congress must fight back

Sun 28 Apr 2019 01.00 EDT

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” says the person who is supposed to be chief executive of the United States government.

In other words, there is to be no congressional oversight of this administration: no questioning officials who played a role in putting a citizenship question on the 2020 census. No questioning a former White House counsel about the Mueller report.

No questioning a Trump adviser about immigration policy. No questioning a former White House security director about issuances of security clearances.

No presidential tax returns to the ways and means committee, even though a 1920s law specifically authorizes the committee to get them.

Such a blanket edict fits a dictator of a banana republic, not the president of a constitutional republic founded on separation of powers.

If Congress cannot question the people who are making policy, or obtain critical documents, Congress cannot function as a coequal branch of government.

If Congress cannot get information about the executive branch, there is no longer any separation of powers, as sanctified in the US constitution.

There is only one power – the power of the president to rule as he wishes.

Which is what Donald Trump has sought all along.

The only relevant question is how stop this dictatorial move. And let’s be clear: this is a dictatorial move.

The man whose aides cooperated, shall we say, with Russia – the man who still refuses to do anything at all about Russia’s continued interference in the American political system – refuses to cooperate with a branch of the United States government that the Constitution requires him to cooperate with in order that the government function.

Presidents before Trump occasionally have argued that complying with a particular subpoena for a particular person or document would infringe upon confidential deliberations within the executive branch. But no president before Trump has used “executive privilege” as a blanket refusal to cooperate.

How should Congress respond to this dictatorial move?

Trump is treating Congress with contempt – just as he has treated other democratic institutions that have sought to block him.

Congress should invoke its inherent power under the constitution to hold any official who refuses a congressional subpoena in contempt. This would include departmental officials who refuse to appear, as well as Trump aides. (Let’s hold off on the question of whether Congress can literally hold Trump in contempt, which could become a true constitutional crisis.)

“Contempt” of Congress is an old idea based on the inherent power of Congress to get the information it needs to carry out its constitutional duties. Congress cannot function without this power.

How to enforce it? Under its inherent power, the House can order its own sergeant-at-arms to arrest the offender, subject him to a trial before the full House, and, if judged to be in contempt, jail that person until he appears before the House and brings whatever documentation the House has subpoenaed.

When President Richard Nixon tried to stop key aides from testifying in the Senate Watergate hearings, in 1973, Senator Sam Ervin, chairman of the Watergate select committee, threatened to jail anyone who refused to appear.

Congress hasn’t actually carried through on the threat since 1935 – but it could.

Would America really be subject to the spectacle of the sergeant-at-arms of the House arresting a Trump official, and possibly placing him in jail?

Probably not. Before that ever occurred, the Trump administration would take the matter to the supreme court on an expedited basis.

Sadly, there seems no other way to get Trump to move. Putting the onus on the Trump administration to get the issue to the court as soon as possible is the only way to force Trump into action, and not simply seek to run out the clock before the next election.

What would the court decide? With two Trump appointees now filling nine of the seats, it’s hardly a certainty.

But in a case that grew out of the Teapot Dome scandal in 1927, the court held that the investigative power of Congress is at its peak when lawmakers look into fraud or maladministration in another government department.

Decades later, when Richard Nixon tried to block the release of incriminating recordings of his discussions with aides, the supreme court decided that a claim of executive privilege did not protect information pertinent to the investigation of potential crimes.

Trump’s contempt for the inherent power of Congress cannot stand. It is the most dictatorial move he has initiated since becoming president.

Congress has a constitutional duty to respond forcefully, using its own inherent power of contempt.

I leave you to ponder.

Be Angry … BE VERY DAMNED ANGRY

A day or two ago I received the following ‘breaking news’ update from Politico:breaking-news

I impatiently cleared it from my phone, saying, “Yeah, yeah, I already figured that”.  And then today, Robert Reich posted this on Facebook:

breaking-newsSure, it came as no surprise, for it has become obvious that the congressional investigations are not being taken seriously by Trump and his minions. But, if we keep doing as I did, treating it as just another day, another abomination, ho-hum … then we have lost, and he has won. And the result of his winning will be that the United States of America will become yet another dictatorship in the Western world, like Turkey, like Russia.  Perhaps we are already on the brink … it very much feels as if we are.

And then this, from Amy Siskind, also on Facebook …

“Okay folks, the FBI is heading to meet with Gov Scott about Russia having hacked at least on [sic] county in Florida during the 2016 election and this story isn’t even trending or getting attention. This is how our democracy gets extinguished in the chaos and broad daylight.”

She is right.  Spot on, in fact.  This is how democracy dies.  We tune it out, we turn it off, we close our eyes and our minds, for it is too much, just too much.  Surely the dam that was built in 1787 to protect us from evil fascist leaders will hold, right?  We can simply go on playing games, posting pictures of our regurgitatable lunches on Facebook, and let the politicians deal with it all, right?  Yeah, right … that was what the German people thought in 1933, too, and look how well that worked out.

Not only has Trump blocked the release of the six years’ worth of tax returns requested by Congress, but he has filed a lawsuit against the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, in order to delay or block the release of his company’s financial records.  He has ‘forbidden’ former White House security official Carl Kline from answering the subpoena serviced upon him.  He is currently threatening …

“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Which just proves what I have said for two fucking years now … the ‘man’ does not even have the foggiest concept of how our government operates!!!  Nothing in the Constitution or American legal history gives the Supreme Court a role in deciding whether Congress has misidentified what counts as a high crime or misdemeanor for the purpose of impeachment.  It matters not how many of his sycophants he has managed to insert into the Supreme Court, by law … BY LAW … they cannot quell a Congressional move to impeach!

But folks, the law only applies to the extent that We the People give it legitimacy.

Thus far, I have urged caution on the impeachment path, felt it was better to have our ducks in a row first.  But, my patience has run out, for Donald Trump is attempting to poison the ducks before we can bring them into the row, and it appears the only means for obtaining the information the Congressional committees are seeking is going to be via the impeachment process.  He is forcing our hand … he has made his own bed.

Robert Mueller himself, and former White House attorney Don McGahn are expected to testify within the coming month.  Trump has zero control over these two, for they no longer work for or owe allegiance to the administration.  Their testimonies will likely remove all doubt that Trump has obstructed justice, but even if they don’t, he is blatantly obstructing justice today … now … right this minute, by interfering with a legitimate investigation by Congress.  He claims “executive privilege”.  There is no such thing when it comes to treason, when it comes to turning a democratic republic into a dictatorship.  No, Donnie, you have no fucking executive privilege!

Per our friend Gronda, from the articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974:

Article 3: Contempt of Congress.

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of the President of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, had failed without lawful cause or excuse, to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things, Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgement as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.

(Approved 21-17 by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 30, 1974.)

Can we re-write this for our current situation?  I think so … what do you think?  Need I say more?

We must not, under any circumstances, become complacent to the atrocities being committed by not only Trump, but his hired thugs such as Stephen Miller, Steve Mnuchin, William Barr and others.  We must not turn the page of the breaking news update with naught but a sigh and a roll of our eyes.  We must demand an accounting in the press, we must stay on top of the day-to-day atrocities, and we MUST make our voices heard, else all is lost.

Capitalism Run Amok

I have said many times of late that ours is a system of capitalism run amok.  It’s a system driven by greed, by wealthy corporate giants intent on squeezing every last nickel out of the consumers without taking responsibility for their own product.  The republicans act as if ‘socialism’ is a bad word, but frankly democratic socialism makes a heck of a lot more sense that todays extreme capitalism.  It seems that a very astute mind agrees with me.  Take a look at what Robert Reich has to say on the subject.

Corporations are endangering Americans. Trump doesn’t care

From Boeing to Monsanto and beyond: this week has revealed the tip of the iceberg of regulatory neglect

By Robert Reich

Robert ReichWhy didn’t Boeing do it right? Why isn’t Facebook protecting user passwords? Why is Phillip Morris allowed to promote vaping? Why hasn’t Wells Fargo reformed itself? Why hasn’t Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) recalled its Roundup weedkiller?

Answer: corporate greed coupled with inept and corrupt regulators.

These are just a few of the examples in the news these days of corporate harms inflicted on innocent people.

To be sure, some began before the Trump administration. But Trump and his appointees have unambiguously signaled to corporations they can now do as they please.

Boeing wanted to get its 737 Max 8 out quickly because airlines want to pack in more passengers at lower fuel costs (hence the “max”). But neither Boeing nor the airlines shelled out money to adequately train pilots on the new software made necessary by the new design.

Nonetheless, Trump’s FAA certified the plane in March 2017. And after two subsequent deadly crashes, the US was slower to ground them than other countries.

Last week Facebook admitted to storing hundreds of millions of Facebook users’ passwords in plain text that could be searched by more than 20,000 Facebook employees. The admission came just a year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that Facebook shared the personal data of as many as 87 million users with a political data firm.

In reality, Facebook’s business model is based on giving personal data to advertisers so they can tailor their pitches precisely to potential customers. So despite repeated reassurances by Mark Zuckerberg, the firm will continue to do what it wants with personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the power to force Facebook to better guard users’ privacy. But so far Trump’s FTC has done nothing – not even to enforce a 2011 agreement in which Facebook promised to do just that.

Altria (Phillip Morris) was losing ground on its sales of cigarettes, but the firm has recently found a future in vaping. Because inhaling nicotine in any form poses a health hazard, the FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb wanted to curb advertising of vaping products to teenagers.

Gottlieb thought he had Altria’s agreement, but then the firm bought the vaping company Juul. Its stock has already gained 14% this year. What happened to Gottlieb? He’s out at the FDA, after barely a year on the job.

Wells Fargo has publicly apologized for having deceived customers with fake bank accounts, unwarranted fees and unwanted products. Its top executives say they have eliminated the aggressive sales targets that were responsible for the fraud.

But Wells Fargo employees told the New York Times recently that they’re still under heavy pressure to squeeze extra money out of customers. Some have witnessed colleagues bending or breaking internal rules to meet ambitious performance goals.

What has Trump’s Consumer Financial Protection Agency done about this? Nothing. It’s been defanged.

This week, a federal jury awarded $80m in damages to a California man who blamed Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) Roundup weedkiller for his cancer, after finding that Roundup was defectively designed, that Monsanto failed to warn of the herbicide’s cancer risk, and that the company acted negligently. It was the second jury in eight months to reach the same conclusion about Roundup.

Roundup contains glyphosate, a suspected carcinogen. Cases from more than 1,000 farmers and other agricultural workers stricken with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are already pending in federal and state courts.

What has Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency done about glyphosate? In December 2017 its office of pesticide programs concluded that glyphosate wasn’t likely to cause cancer – although eight of the 15 experts on whom the agency relied expressed significant concerns about that conclusion, and three more expressed concerns about the data.

These are just tips of a vast iceberg of regulatory neglect, frozen into place by Trump’s appointees, of which at least 187 were lobbyists before they joined the administration.

This is trickle-down economics of a different sort than Trump’s corporate tax cuts. The major beneficiaries of this are the same big corporations, including their top executives and major investors. But these burdens are trickling down as unsafe products, fraudulent services, loss of privacy, even loss of life.

Big money has had an inhibiting effect on regulators in several previous administrations. What’s unique under Trump is the blatancy of it all, and the shameless willingness of Trump appointees to turn a blind eye to corporate wrongdoing.

Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress yell “socialism!” at proposals for better balancing private greed with the common good. Yet unless a better balance is achieved, capitalism as we know it is in deep trouble.

Be Prepared …

I have long thought, and likely said it here once or twice, that Trump is a loose cannon, his behaviours seeming to become increasingly strange and uncontrolled when he senses he is threatened.  His tweets, never exactly intellectual, become erratic when a new indictment is handed down by Robert Mueller’s team, or when he is called out on one of his many daily lies, or when his boot-lickers don’t behave quite as he wants them to.  This is one of the reasons that, while I would love to see him thrown off his royal perch, evicted from the Oval Office, I cannot support a move toward impeachment at this time, for I suspect he would become even more deranged and call for his base to take to the streets with their AR-15s in hand.  Now, I am a nobody and have no basis for my opinion other than observation, but I’ve run across somebody who shares my opinion, somebody who is certainly qualified to make this statement.  That somebody is Robert Reich, whose words I have shared here before, and today I do so again.

From The Guardian, 16 March 2019 …

Trump is cornered, with violence on his mind. We must be on red alert

Robert Reich

What does a megalomaniacal president of the United States do when he’s cornered? We’ll soon find out.

House Democrats are beginning a series of investigations and hearings about Donald Trump. Senate Republicans have begun to desert him. Twelve defected on the wall. Seven refused to back Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Almost all have gone on record that they want Robert Mueller’s report made public. That report, not incidentally, appears imminent.

Trump cannot abide losing. His ego can’t contain humiliation. He is incapable of shame.

So what does a cornered Trump do? For starters, he raises the specter of violence against his political opponents.

In an interview with Breitbart News published on Wednesday, Trump noted: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

In case you missed it, “they” are Trump’s political opponents, including House Democrats and the mainstream media. And the “certain point” could be impeachment but is more likely to be reached if the House investigations reveal crimes Trump committed both before and after he became president.

“I actually think that the people on the right are tougher,” Trump warned in the same interview. “But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this investigations – that’s all they want to do is – you know, they do things that are nasty.”

Here we have it, in a nutshell. In Trump’s mind, congressional investigations that could cause him shame and humiliation, and quite possibly result in a prison sentence, will be countered by forces loyal to him: the police, the military, and vigilante groups like Bikers for Trump.

To put it another way, the work of a democratically elected Congress will be met by Trump loyalists who, he asserts, are “tougher” because they have brute force on their side.

It is impossible to know what bizarre scenario is playing out in Trump’s head. But another hint came on Friday, when, in the wake of the horrific shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, Trump told reporters he didn’t believe white nationalism was on the rise.

“I don’t really,” he said. “I think it’s a small group of people.”

As usual, the facts are otherwise. The number of hate groups in the US increased 7% last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hate crime reports increased 17%, according to the FBI.

Recall that 11 people were murdered at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on 27 October, at the hands of a white supremacist. A few days earlier, a white supremacist murdered two black people at a grocery store in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

It is hardly the first time Trump has played down white nationalism, or signaled his support for those who might use violence on his behalf.

At a Las Vegas rally during the 2016 campaign he said he’d like to punch a protester in the face; at another event encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of any protester making trouble.

“I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees,” he said.

But as Trump becomes ever more entrapped in the web of his own misdeeds, his threats are becoming more ominous.

At a rally for Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley in September, Trump said his opponents “were lucky that we’re peaceful”. He continued: “Law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump … They travel all over the country … They’ve been great.” But, he warned, “these are tough people … they’re peaceful people, and antifa and all, they’d better hope they stay that way.”

In February, the White House Correspondents’ Association called on Trump to make it “absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable”. To date, he has not.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, another of Trump’s bottom feeders, predicted that “2019 is going to be the most vitriolic year in American politics since the civil war”.

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has given cover to some of the most vile bigots in America. As he grows more desperate, he is giving them encouragement.

It is our job – and the job of all senators and representatives in Congress, regardless of party, and of military leaders – to condemn hatred and violence in all its forms, even when the president of the United States makes excuses for it.

And it is up to all of us to reaffirm our commitment to democracy, even when the president of the United States threatens to unleash the military and vigilantes against it.

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

Wise Words From A Wise Man

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

I have shared Mr. Reich’s work a few times before, and today I do so again.  His topic is one that I have given much thought to over the past two years and have serious concerns about.  Please take a few minutes to read it and think about this, for I believe Mr. Reich is correct, have long believed so.

Robert Reich: Be afraid of the president who refuses to lose

Photo of Robert Reich

The United States is now headed by someone pathologically incapable of admitting defeat. This doesn’t bode well for the 2020 presidential election.

Among the most chilling words uttered last month by Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, were “given my experience working for Mr. Trump I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power, and this is why I agreed to appear before you today.”

Cohen should know better than anyone, but we already had reason to worry. In 2016, when polls showed Hillary Clinton with a wide lead, Trump claimed the election was rigged against him.

He refused to commit to honoring the election results if he lost, warning that he’d “reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.” He added that he’d accept the results of the election “if I win.”

Throughout the summer of 2016, Trump’s claim of election rigging was echoed on Fox News. Newt Gingrich spoke of “a long tradition on the part of Democratic machines of trying to steal elections.” Rudolph Giuliani declared that “Hillary and [Tim] Kaine are right in the middle of the Washington insider rigged system.”

Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, said federal officials couldn’t be trusted to prevent voter fraud, warning that “if you’re relying on the Justice Department to ensure the security of the elections, we have to be worried.”

By early August 2016, according to a Bloomberg poll, 56 percent of Trump supporters believed the election would be rigged. (Among all voters, only 34 percent predicted a rigged election; 60 percent rejected the idea.)

Even after the election, Trump refused to accept that he had lost the popular vote. Still claiming election fraud, he established a presidential commission to find it. When the commission came back empty-handed, he abruptly dissolved it, saying (wrongly) that it had uncovered “substantial evidence of voter fraud.” No such evidence emerged.

For Trump, losing is the deepest form of humiliation, and humiliation is intolerable.

Every time he has lost a legislative or legal battle during his presidency he has blamed the other side, and has lashed back: shuttering the government, declaring a national emergency, whipping up his followers against recalcitrant judges, Democrats, the media or whomever he holds responsible.

Imagine it’s November 2020 and Trump has lost the election. He charges voter fraud, claiming that the “deep state” organized tens of millions of illegal immigrants to vote against him, and says he has an obligation not to step down.

Only this time he’s already president, with all the powers a president commands.

Traditionally, Americans have trusted our system of government enough that we abide by its outcomes even though we may disagree with them. Only once in our history, in 1861, did enough of us distrust the system so much we succumbed to civil war.

Typically, when an election is over, the peaceful transition of power reminds the public that our allegiance is not toward a particular person but to our system of government.

Five weeks after the bitterly contested election of 2000, and just one day after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of George W Bush, Al Gore graciously declared: “I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country.”

But what happens if an incumbent president claims our system is no longer trustworthy?

Trump’s emissaries have already seeded the battlefield. Last April, Sean Hannity of Fox News predicted that an attempt to impeach Trump (or presumably remove him from office any other way) would cause “fighting and dividing this country at a level we’ve never seen … those that stand for truth and those that literally buy into the corrupt deep state attacks against a duly elected president.”

Trump’s former consiglieri, Roger Stone, has warned of “an insurrection like you’ve never seen” and claimed that any politician who voted to oust Trump “would be endangering their own life.”

Just last month, Steve Bannon, another of Trump’s bottom feeders, predicted that “2019 is going to be the most vitriolic year in American politics since the Civil War, and I include Vietnam in that.” He didn’t make a prediction about 2020, but we can guess.

We should take seriously Michael Cohen’s admonition that if Trump is defeated in 2020, he will not leave office peacefully.

Republican leaders as well as Supreme Court justices and civic and religious leaders across the land must be prepared to assert the primacy of our system of government over the will of the man who refuses to lose.

It’s All About Me … Right?

Melania-jacketSo … the government has been shutdown for almost two weeks?  So what? I haven’t noticed any difference … and really, my friends, it is all about MOI, right?  We each see to our own happiness, so I’m sorry, but I see no disruption of my life, so in the words of our gracious {choke, cough, spit, sputter} First Lady {choke, cough, spit, sputter} Melania, “I really don’t care, do U?”

They say there is a build up of trash and debris in the National Parks, but … I haven’t been hiking for a year-and-a-half now, so what do I care, right?  I am, after all, still getting my mail.  They say people cannot sign up for food stamps, as the staff of the Food and Nutrition Service branch of the USDA (Department of Agriculture) is only minimally staffed, but what do I care, for I don’t receive food stamps anyway. overflowing-trash.jpgMy Social Security check was deposited to my account yesterday, so why should I worry?  What’s that you say?  The power station that serves my neighborhood isn’t being monitored?  So what?  I have electricity – I know this because every light in my house is burning brightly!

800,000 people aren’t getting paid?  Oh piffle, but really … I got my social security check, so why should I worry, right?  And after all … surely they have enough money in the bank to carry them over the hump? And anyway, I heard that they will get backpay when the government is open again, so what’s the big deal, Lucille?  And anyway, I’ve heard they’re only democrats, so … who cares, right?

Sorry, I cannot even keep up that charade any longer, for it is making me want to smack myself upside the head!  I just thought I’d try it on for size, but I don’t know how people like that live with their consciences at the end of the day, when all is quiet.

Note, my friends, that the above is not just a figment of my imagination but is the attitude of a large portion of the people in this country.  It is also not exclusively a republican attitude, but I have heard very similar statements from democrats.  It is not only an attitude shared by the un-and-under-educated or the ignorant, for just recently I heard a similar statement from somebody who I know to be well-educated and intelligent.  Indeed, this attitude crosses all divisions:  party, race, religion, etc. In some cases, it is a true disdain for others, or a stubborn ‘faith’ that whatever happens today does not matter and will be righted by some magical force at some point.  But, I believe that in the majority of cases it is simply a case of overload leading to apathy.

So much has happened in the last two years in this nation, almost all of it with negative impact, that what once would have been horrifying has now become the norm.  People tire of it, they learn to tune it out, for it wears on the psyche, steals their good humour, their Zen, if you will.  So, we hunker down and concern ourselves only with our immediate family, our present situation, and try to ignore the rest.  It is understandable, but dangerous, for we need people to not only be aware and informed, but we need them to care. We need them to care deeply enough to write those letters to their congressmen and women, to stand up and say, “Hey, this isn’t right!”

One of my biggest concerns is that over the next two years people will become so inured that when the 2020 election rolls around, they won’t even bother to vote, and that could very well lead us to a place I don’t even wish to contemplate.  Yesterday I read a piece in The Guardian by Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of numerous books.  His thoughts tie in with my own, and I share his words here.

Robert ReichAfter his first bizarre year, his apologists told us Donald Trump was growing into the job and that in his second year he’d be more restrained and respectful of democratic institutions. Wrong. He’s been worse.

Exhibit one: the “Wall.” After torpedoing Mitch McConnell’s temporary spending deal to avert a shutdown, he’s holding hostage over 800,000 government employees (“mostly Democrats,” he calls them, disparagingly) while subjecting the rest of America to untoward dangers.

On-site inspections at power plants have been halted. Hazardous waste cleanup efforts at Superfund sites are on hold. Reviews of toxic substances and pesticides have been stopped. Justice Department cases are in limbo.

Meanwhile, now working without pay are thousands of air traffic controllers and aviation and railroad safety inspectors, nearly 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents, 42,000 Coast Guard employees, 53,000 TSA agents, 17,000 correctional officers, 14,000 FBI agents, 4,000 Drug Enforcement Administration agents, and some 5,000 firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service.

Having run the Department of Labor during the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, I’m confident most of these public servants will continue to report for duty because they care about the missions they’re upholding. But going without pay will strain their family budgets to the point that some will not be able to.

Shame on Trump for jeopardizing America this way in order to fund his wall—which is nothing but a trumped-up solution to a trumped-up problem designed only to fuel his base.

In his second year he’s also done even more damage to the nation’s judicial-criminal system than he did before. At least twice in the past month he’s reportedly raged against his acting attorney general for allowing federal prosecutors to reference him in the crimes his former bagman Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to committing.

This is potentially the most direct obstruction of justice yet. He’s now pressuring an official whom he hand-picked and whose entire future depends on him, to take actions that would impair the independence of federal prosecutors.

Last month he blasted Judge Jon Tigar as an “Obama judge” after Tigar blocked the Administration’s limits on asylum eligibility to ports of entry, a decision summarily upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and sustained by the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Roberts issued a rare rebuke. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges,” he wrote, adding that an “independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

Which prompted his rejoinder: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’” followed by his baseless and incendiary claim that “they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country,” and their “rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”

In his second year Trump displayed even less commitment to keeping the military nonpartisan than he did initially. During last month’s teleconference with U.S. troops and coast guard members he continued his rampage against the judiciary, calling the ninth circuit “a big thorn in our side” and “a disgrace.”

Then he turned last week’s surprise visit to American troops in Iraq and Germany into a political rally—praising troops wearing red “Make America Great Again” caps, signing a “Trump 2020” patch, and accusing Representative Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats of being weak on border security.

Some Americans are becoming so accustomed to these antics that they no longer see them for what they are—escalating attacks on America’s core democratic institutions.

Where would we be if a president could simply shut down the government when he doesn’t get his way? If he could stop federal prosecutions he doesn’t like and order those he wants? If he could whip up public anger against court decisions he disapproves of? If he could mobilize the military to support him, against Congress and the judiciary?

We would no longer live in a democracy. Like his increasing attacks on critics in the press, these are all aspects of his growing authoritarianism. We normalize them at our peril.

Our institutions remain strong, but I’m not sure they can endure two more years of this. He must be removed from office through impeachment, or his own decision to resign in the face of impeachment, as did Richard Nixon.

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Advice to the Free Press …

I wrote a post last night that was intended to occupy this space this afternoon.  It was a blowing-off-steam rant, and while it might have felt good to write, and while you might have declared “Hear! Hear!!!” upon reading it, it was of little or no value other than as a vent for my own angst.  So, I scrapped it … well, actually I still have it and you may yet see it one of these days, but just not today.

Robert ReichInstead, I came across this video clip by former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, that I think has far more value than my rant.  Reich served under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, and has been the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley since January 2006.  He speaks with reason rather than rants, reminding me much of our friend Keith.

In September 2015, his book Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few was published. In it, he warned that widening inequality would generate a blue-collar backlash that could take the form of a demagogue who blames immigrants and minorities for the growing economic stresses felt by the working class.  Sound familiar?

Since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, Reich has produced a number of articles and short videos explaining the dangers he believes lie ahead under Trump and his team of wealthy cohorts. In this particular video, he offers 9 points of advice to the free press that I find to be both reasonable and imperative for the press to observe if they are to remain relevant in this “Era of Trump”.

The video is short, just 2 minutes 34 seconds, and I really hope you will all take the time to watch, for although you and I are not writing for The Washington Post or the New York Times, we are writing for a public audience, our voices, albeit small, are heard, and we have a responsibility also.  So, without further ado, I give you Mr. Robert Reich …