Only Two Snarky Snippets Today …

Is there no end, you ask, to the snark of the Filosofa?  And the answer is … I don’t think so.  If there is, I haven’t found it yet.  The problem is that I have at least 30 topics backlogged that are snark-inducing and I don’t know where to start.  Okay … let’s start here …


Coward of the county …

Don McGahnI had hoped that former White House counsel Don McGahn had conjones.  I hoped he was a man of honour and integrity.  All indications were that he cared about the letter of the law, for he resigned his position rather than do Trump’s bidding which would have meant breaking the law.  A sign of an honourable man.  But I was wrong. McGahn is just as afraid of Trump as are the rest of his minions.

Legally, since McGahn is a private citizen and no longer employed by the U.S. government, there is nothing Trump or Barr can do to stop McGahn from testifying.  What hold, then, does Trump have?  Well, let me tell you … Trump has made it known in a rather offhand sort of way that if McGahn testified before the House committee, he (Trump) would instruct republicans to cease dealing with McGahn’s law firm, Jones Day.  McGahn’s lawyer said that McGahn would honour Trump’s wishes.  What about the wishes of the citizens of this nation?  What are we, chopped liver?  I was a fool to believe that Don McGahn might put the best interest of the nation, the common good, before his own personal concerns.  Silly me, for believing that anyone who was ever associated with Trump had a backbone or a conscience.

Committee chair Jerry Nadler responded …

“This move is just the latest act of obstruction from the White House that includes its blanket refusal to cooperate with this committee. It is also the latest example of this Administration’s disdain for law.”

Right, Mr. Nadler, so instead of scratching your head, let’s do something this time.  Hold McGahn in contempt, swear out a warrant for his arrest, fine the heck out of him.  DO SOMETHING!!!

Trump, of course, is gloating, saying …

“I think it’s a very important precedent. And the attorneys say that they’re not doing that for me, they’re doing that for the office of the president. So we’re talking about the future.”

Bullshit.  If this is to become the future, then let us simply disband both the executive and legislative branches right now … today … for neither of them is worth a damn at this moment.  We the People are being royally ripped off!


Kris Kobach thinks highly of himself …

kobachYou remember Kris Kobach, right?  Well, perhaps I’ll just briefly refresh your memory, for he has been out of the news for a while now.  Kris Kobach is the former Secretary of State of Kansas who was named the vice chairman of Trump’s short-lived, ignominious ‘Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ which was a rather draconian committee attempting to prove that there had been massive voter fraud in the 2016 elections.  The truth was that the only election irregularities were on the part of Trump and his ‘people’, including his Russian buddies.  Kobach demanded that the states turn over all information on all voters, including private information such as address and social security numbers.  Most states flat-out refused, there was no evidence of voter fraud, and the commission simply fell apart.

Kobach has a long history of bigotry and attempted voter suppression techniques, and at one point had called for a “Muslim registry”.  He was also an advisor to good ol’ Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s #1 racist.

Fast forward to today.  Trump is trying to create a new position in his administration that would be titled “Immigration Czar”.  Say WHAT???  We don’t have ‘czars’ in this country!!! Donnie has been hanging out with the Russians too long! The position would be ostensibly to “coordinate immigration policy across government agencies”.  There is no doubt that it would, in reality, be much more than that.  Trump is considering a couple of people for that position, and Kris Kobach is one.  Well, he thinks highly of himself, and he provided the White House with a list of his ‘requirements’ for the job:

  1. Office in the West Wing.
  2. Walk-in privileges with the president.
  3. Assistant to the President rank – at highest pay level for WH senior staff.
  4. Staff of 7 people (2 attorneys, 2 research analysts, 1 scheduler, 1 media person, 1 assistant).
  5. POTUS sits down individually with Czar and the secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Ag, Interior, and Commerce, and tells each of the Secretaries to follow the directives of the Czar without delay, subject to appeal to the President in cases of disagreement.
  6. 24/7 access to either a DHS or DOD jet. Czar must be on the border every week.
  7. Ability to spend weekends in KS with family on way from border back to DC, unless POTUS needs Czar elsewhere.
  8. Security detail if deemed necessary after security review.
  9. Serve as the face of Trump immigration policy – the principal spokesman on television and in the media.
  10. Promise that by November 1, 2019, the president will nominate Kris Kobach to be DHS Secretary, unless Kobach wishes to continue in Czar position.

My jaw had to be picked up from the floor … in fact, I laughed so hard that I had to be picked up from the floor!!!  Who does this yahoo think he is???


A closing note …

Please keep our good friend rawgod and his family in your hearts tonight.  They have had to evacuate their home due to wildfires in Alberta, Canada.  They and the kitties are safe, but don’t know yet whether they will lose their home to the fires. 😢

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.

Competitive Elections Are Bad For Us?

Most of us give very little thought to the U.S. Census Bureau and the census that is taken once every ten years.  Ho hum, right?  We get a form, fill it out, send it back and at the end, we read in the news how many people live in the country … just another statistic to store away somewhere in the backs of our minds, for there are more important things to think about.  But you may want to start thinking a bit harder about the census that will be taken in 2020.

census logoThe census is about more than simply counting how many people are in the country.  It is also the source for the demographics that are used by the government to make policy decisions. And, it determines such things as how many electoral votes each state gets, how may representatives each state will have in Congress, and where district lines will be drawn.  Therefore, it is pretty important to have accuracy in the census.  Though it is impossible to ever have complete accuracy, the Census Bureau strives for the highest possible degree of accuracy … we hope.

Currently, the head of the U.S. Census Bureau is a temporary career civil servant, and as the agency is beginning to gear up for the 2020 census, Trump is looking to appoint a permanent head for the bureau. Now think back to some of Trump’s other appointments. Trump has made a habit of appointing individuals to serve in his administration who are either supremely unqualified or seemingly opposed to the very objectives of the agencies they are tapped to lead:  Betsy DeVos, who is against public schools, for Secretary of the Department of Education; Jeff Sessions, a known racist, for U.S. Attorney General; Scott Pruitt, who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multiple times, for head of the EPA, the very agency he has threatened to abolish. So who, you might ask, is Trump reportedly planning to appoint to lead the Census Bureau?

brunell

Thomas Brunell

Thomas Brunell, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Dallas, and author of the book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America (Controversies in Electoral Democracy and Representation).  Think on this one for just a minute, friends.  The man who will be in charge of the department that will determine how representation is apportioned believes that competitive elections are a bad thing.  Mind-boggling, don’t you think?

The leadership positions in the U.S. Census Bureau have typically been held by non-partisan civil servants with a background in statistics. Trump is planning to nominate Brunell to the number two position at the bureau, deputy director, which does not require Senate confirmation, as the position of director would. Brunell would become the highest-ranking permanent official at the agency. Though the deputy director technically reports to the census director, that slot is temporarily being filled by a career civil servant. There is currently no nominee for a permanent director.

brunell-bookTrump has already paved the way for curtailment of voter’s rights with his false, unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 elections.  He is also said to be considering an executive order to add a question to the census form about immigration/citizenship status, which would reduce the number of responses from minorities, fearing what the government might do with the information.  At the same time, his budget calls for an inadequate 7% increase for the Census Bureau at a time when they bureau must hire tens of thousands of people and open dozens of field offices nationwide.  And we cannot forget his ‘Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ which has been the source of much controversy and is currently facing a number of lawsuits after attempting to collect the private information, including Social Security numbers and criminal conviction data of registered voters.

The appointment of Brunell is but another indication that Trump has little respect for our rights as voters, for the democratic process.  My hope is that Trump will be out of office by the end of 2018, but even so, many of the moves he is making today, such as the appointment of Brunell, may be difficult to undo, if his replacement is even willing to reverse his actions.  Coupled with the fact that there is no doubt in my mind Russia will continue to play a role in our elections, since there have been no repercussions to them, no sanctions, for their proven interference in the 2016 elections, I think it’s safe to say our right to have a voice in government is greatly diminished.

Terri Ann Lowenthal, former co-director of the Census Project, said, “It is imperative that the Census Bureau’s leadership be viewed by the public and by lawmakers as completely nonpartisan. If either the director or the deputy director bring partisan baggage to their position, public confidence in the integrity of the census could plummet. So could congressional confidence. And it is Congress that must accept the apportionment results. All this stuff worries me.”

A Few Bits ‘N Pieces of Humour …

There are a few compensations for having to live in the era of Donald Trump, and the most important one … perhaps the only one … is humour.  Today, I had a few good chuckles when I began my daily perusal of news and found this …

empire-state-drawingThe photo on the left, of course, is the iconic Empire State Building in New York City, and the crude sketch on the right was done in 1995 by none other than … {drumroll 🥁 } … Donald J. Trump.  The sketch is 12” by 9”, and he originally created it for a charity auction in Florida when he opened his Mar-a-Lago estate as a private club.  The sketch sold for less than $100.

But now, all of a sudden, its estimated value is between $8,000 and $12,000.  Must be inflation, for the piece still looks like some of the kindergarten art I used to have on my refrigerator.  The sketch is scheduled to be auctioned on October 19th in Los Angeles by Julien’s Auctions.  Here is the truly delightful irony … any proceeds will go to National Public Radio (NPR), from whom Trump’s budget plan removes all federal funding.  Personally, I wouldn’t part with a $5 bill for the sketch, but I am happy to know that if somebody has more cash than brains and is willing to actually pay thousands for this crude sketch, NPR will benefit.


Now, we know that Trump talks about voter fraud a lot, claiming that the reason Hillary Clinton actually won the 2016 election, in terms of the popular vote … the people’s vote … is because millions of people somehow voted illegally.  This has been disproven more than once, but he keeps on.  Well, turns out there may be some voter fraud within his own ranks, for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is improperly registered!  Yes, you see … either Jared Kushner is unable to read well or to understand the instructions on a simple voter registration form, or … Kushner has a problem with his own gender identity.  In 2009, Kushner filled out the voter registration form saying that his gender was ‘female’.

voter-formNow, when it was discovered that Kushner had failed to make note of many foreign contacts on his security clearance form, he immediately said it was an error of omission by his staff.  I wonder how he will spin this one, for I hardly think he can blame it on his staff.  Perhaps on the day he registered to vote, he was having one of those days where he was “in touch with his feminine side”?

My question is this:  Kushner is a very high level advisor within the Trump administration, having input on important, sometimes even life-and-death decisions.  If he cannot do something as simple as understanding the difference between ‘male’ and ‘female’ on a form, is he really qualified to advise anybody, let alone the prez?  And his security clearance???


And a bit of good news today … Representative Steve Scalise returned to Congress for the first time since being shot in mid-June and nearly dying.  Scalise suffered broken bones and damage to internal organs and his life was on the line for several weeks.  When he walked into the capitol today, he was greeted with a standing ovation by all.


And on that note, I shall leave you with a wish that you have a happy day and find something to smile about today.

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Worst Idea Ever …

The headline in The Washington Post:

In A New Poll, Half Of Republicans Say They Would Support Postponing The 2020 Election If Trump Proposed It

Noooooooo.jpgThus far, Trump has not proposed such a move, but if he gets wind that half of his party would support it, I would not be surprised to see him begin thinking along those lines.

It started over Trump’s claim that there was widespread voting fraud last year that ultimately cost him the popular vote.  That really seems to eat at him, even though he is the one sitting in the Oval Office … or, rather, on a golf course in New Jersey at the moment. The claim has been proven to be a lie, there was no widespread voter fraud, and Trump actually lost the election despite Putin’s best efforts.  But … perhaps more importantly, a substantial number of republicans believe Trump, even though his claim has been disproven multiple times.

With that in mind, The Washington Post performed a survey of 1,325 Americans from June 5th through June 20th. Granted, this is too small a sample to be considered representative, but nonetheless, it is chilling. The questions asked were whether Trump won the popular vote, whether millions of illegal immigrants voted, and how often voter fraud occurs. Then they were asked two additional questions:

  • If Donald Trump were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote, would you support or oppose postponing the election?
  • What if both Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress were to say that the 2020 presidential election should be postponed until the country can make sure that only eligible American citizens can vote? Would you support or oppose postponing the election?

And the results are that nearly half of Republicans surveyed (47%) believe that Trump won the popular vote. Larger fractions believe that millions of illegal immigrants voted (68%) and that voter fraud happens somewhat or very often (73%). 52% said that they would support postponing the 2020 election, and 56% said they would do so if both Trump and Republicans in Congress were behind this.

As the Post cautions, “Of course, our survey is only measuring reactions to a hypothetical situation. Were Trump to seriously propose postponing the election, there would be a torrent of opposition, which would most likely include prominent Republicans. Financial markets would presumably react negatively to the potential for political instability. And this is to say nothing of the various legal and constitutional complications that would immediately become clear.”

Do I think it likely to happen?  No, not under the current circumstances.  Then why do I even bring it up?  Because, while I do not think it likely, or even possible, under the current circumstances, I can see circumstances altering, if Trump remains in office until 2020, that may change that assessment dramatically.  As has been his trademark thus far, his incitement of violence and fear could convince a large portion of the nation that there is a credible threat, real or contrived, that must be dealt with in a manner that must ‘temporarily’ suspend a portion of our democratic freedoms.

I am merely speculating, but I do not think we can afford to dismiss the idea as the ravings of a nutty Filosofa.  In the words of David Frum writing for the Atlantic …

“No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.”

I think it behooves us to be “eternally vigilant”.

“We the Peoples” Right To Vote Is Under Serious Attack By Republicans

Yesterday, I wrote a post about our voting rights and rights to voting privacy being trampled by the current administration. My post, however, was more narrow in scope than this one by my friend Gronda. She has done her research and reports on three additional areas where our voting rights are being threatened. Though much is horribly wrong in our nation right now, I see three areas as being THE most important: the environment; freedom of press/speech; and voting rights/security/privacy. All other issues will depend on these three. This is too important to let slide into the shadows, and Gronda does an excellent job shining the spotlight on the issue of voting rights, so please take a few minutes to read her post … and be sure to let her know what you think! Thank you, Gronda, for all your hard work and this very informative post!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of jeh johnson“We the People” have the constitutional right to be able to vote without undue obstacles, put in our way, to block some of us from exercising this precious right. It appears that republican lawmakers and their allies have been specifically designing strategies to do just that.

When the republican President Donald Trump and his administration should be acting to protect out states’ voting systems from foreign manipulations, as the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson described in his June 2017 testimony before the US Congress when he described Russia’s attempts to attack 21 US states’ voting data for nefarious purposes, they are in the process of attempting to cut off funding from the very office which is designated to address this problem.

President Trump gestures to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, as he speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office

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Dark Cloud Over Turkey

The people of Turkey decided yesterday, 16 April, that they no longer wished to live in a democracy, and they voted to place more power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  Or did they? There is some dispute, since apparently the voting verification process of stamping ballots was skipped by officials on some 60% of ballots.  In some countries, this would be enough to make the voting null and void, and a new vote would be scheduled.  But Turkish officials have announced that they will accept the unstamped ballots as valid unless voter fraud can be proven.

The changes called for in the referendum would transform Turkey’s government from a democracy, though that term has been questionable for nearly a year now, to a near-autocracy.  To recap, as I wrote last month, the referendum would enable Erdoğan to make all government appointments, take back the leadership of the ruling party, and stay in power until 2029, pending presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms. The proposed amendments would entirely abolish the Office of the Prime Minister.  One that threw up red flags for me is Article 84: The powers of Parliament to scrutinize ministers and hold the government to account are abolished.  And Article 98: The obligation of ministers to answer questions orally in Parliament is abolished.

The accountability of Erdoğan and his top echelons of government is now gone.  Erdoğan wasted no time asserting his new authority, announcing plans to immediately take steps toward re-instating the death penalty.

Since the failed coup in July, which many believe was at least partly orchestrated by Erdoğan himself, freedom of the press has become largely non-existent in Turkey, with some 230 journalists and media staff currently in prison.  Additionally, 41,000 people have been arrested, more than 100,000 people dismissed or suspended from government jobs while hundreds of media outlets, associations, businesses have been shut down since Erdoğan declared a “state of emergency” almost immediately after the coup attempt.

Though the referendum abolishes the office of Prime Minister, Prime Minister Yıldırım delivered a victory speech, saying, “Our nation has made its decision and said yes to the presidential system. The ballot box result showed we will not bow to traitors and terrorists. Turkey has won; our nation has won.” This puzzles me. The man’s position was just abolished, yet he is praising the decision.

The vote was “won” by a narrow margin, 51.37%, at the end of a bitter and divisive campaign.  The official results will not be final for over a week, and the opposition party claims that many votes were not counted, and they plan to contest as many as one-third of the ones that were counted.

Turkey, once eager to become a part of the European Union (EU) has long been straying away from the democratic freedoms that would have given them eligibility, but if Erdoğan successfully re-instates the death penalty, it will end any chance of Turkey joining the EU.  Since July, it has not seemed to matter to Erdoğan, and I suspect he gave up the notion long ago, using it only as a bone of contention for the past year.

This referendum can only be seen as a loss of freedom for the Turkish people, but what is puzzling to me is that so many people willingly bought into it.  I think there is a good chance that the actual ‘yes’ votes were less than a majority of 51.4% and that there was, in fact, some vote tampering.  Even so, there were obviously many supporters of the referendum, as evidenced by the celebrations held last night, and comments from citizens. “This is our opportunity to take back control of our country,” said self-employed Bayram Seker, 42, after voting “Yes” in Istanbul.

It will remain to be seen if challenges to the vote are successful, but my guess is they will not be.

I have drawn parallels many times in the past year between the situation in Turkey and that in the U.S.  I do so again today.  On the surface, Erdoğan and Trump would seem to have nothing in common.  Erdoğan is well-educated, well-spoken and intellectual, whereas Trump is the antithesis of all those things.  However, both have a love of power and will do whatever it takes to acquire ever more of it.  Both are threatened by a free press and will use whatever means at their disposal to squelch it. Both have extremely short fuses when opposed.  Neither are willing to put the welfare of their citizenry before their own personal lust for power. Both have shown, in their blatant disregard for the people of their nations, that they believe ‘the end justifies the means’.  And both have severely divided their nations without regard for what that may mean for the future.

As I write this, my heart aches for the people of Turkey, some of whom have yet to understand what the consequences of their decisions will be.  And my heart aches, also, for the people of the U.S., for the same reason.