A Day Made For … Snarky Snippets!

Wow, folks … just when you think it can’t get any more chaotic … it does!  My phone has been abuzz today with breaking news updates from several media outlets, every time I pull up either The Washington Post, Politico or the New York Times, there is something else that demands to be read, and my email box has been overflowing every time I’ve checked it.  I almost wish for a nationwide power failure so I could catch my breath!  I said ‘almost’, for we are expecting ❄️ snow ❄️ today, so I really don’t want to be without heat.

Karma is a …

Back in November 2017, two years ago, I did a post called More Bits ‘N Pieces From Filosofa’s Mind … rather a precursor to my Snarky Snippets feature.  In that post, one of the ‘bits ‘n pieces’ was about a woman named Juli Briskman who bravely dared to flip the finger at Donald Trump’s motorcade as it passed by her while she was riding her bicycle.  This picture went viral …girl on bikeMs. Briskman lost her job over that picture, but yesterday, she got a new job!  She won a seat on the Loudoun County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors — ousting a Republican in the process!  Says Ms. Briskman …

“It’s feeling fantastic, it’s feeling surreal. The last two years have been quite a ride. Now we’re helping to flip Loudoun blue.”

And, to put the icing on the cake, the district to which she was elected happens to include a golf course owned by none other than a certain Donald Trump!  You know what they say about karma …

Score one for justice … for now, anyway

Two thumbs up to U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan.  Yesterday he struck down Trump’s so-called ‘conscience rule’, that would have given health care providers the right to refuse birth control, sterilization, abortions, and other treatments to patients if said health care providers claimed that those treatments were ‘against their personal/religious beliefs’.  It would have also allowed health care providers to refuse treatment to members of the LGBT community if they believed homosexuality to be fundamentally wrong.  In other words, there was really no line … doctors, nurses and others could have refused treatment on nearly any grounds or no grounds, simply by claiming that to offer treatment would go against their religion.

The rule would have required clinics and research institutions that receive federal funding from programs including Medicare and Medicaid to “submit written assurances and certifications of compliance” with federal religious-freedom and conscience-protection laws to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in order to receive federal funding.

This, in Trump’s view, is expanding the rights of religious freedom.  Judge Engelmayer saw it a bit differently, however …

“The Court has found that HHS’s stated justification for undertaking rulemaking in the first place—a purported ‘significant increase’ in civilian complaints relating to the conscience provisions—was factually untrue.”

He went on to say that the rule was “shot through with glaring legal defects.”  It is the opinion of this writer that if a person’s religious convictions are such that there are certain procedures they are unwilling to perform, or certain groups of people they are unwilling to treat, then that person does not belong in the health care field.  Period.  It is rather like … if you don’t like children, don’t become a teacher.  This rule was religious freedom run amok … it was set to cost lives, to take away the rights of others.

The Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Justice Department, say they are ‘reviewing’ the judge’s 147-page decision.  My best guess is that they will file an appeal.  Sigh.  You all do realize who’s footing the bill for all these lawsuits and appeals, right?

Only in Alabama …

Who could forget Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, commonly known simply as Jeff Sessions, racist extraordinaire, right?  He was a U.S. Senator from Alabama for twenty years, starting in 1997, and ending in 2017 when he stepped down to accept the position of U.S. District Attorney.  In his early years in Alabama … 1986, to be exact … then-President Ronald Reagan considered appointing Mr. Sessions to a federal court judgeship, but Sessions’ nomination was not confirmed in light of prior, documented racist remarks.

Sessions didn’t last too long as Attorney General … about a year, until 2018 when he resigned at Trump’s request.  Trump had wanted to fire him ever since Sessions, in a rare moment of integrity, recused himself from the Mueller investigation.  Trump had hoped that he could coerce Sessions into firing Robert Mueller and ending the investigation.  Anyway …

It is expected that any day now, Sessions will officially announce that he is running for his old Senate seat against incumbent Doug Jones, who beat out another racist jackass, Roy Moore, in 2017.  And, to add to the drama, Roy Moore is also planning to run for that seat again next year!  If Alabamans vote for either Sessions or Moore, then I think we should get our chain saws out and cut the whole state of Alabama out of the U.S. … let it drift over to the other side of the big pond!  Oh, my head.  🤯

Jaw-dropping news!

Is it possible, just possible, that Attorney General William Barr found his cojones?  Barr has slavishly done Trump’s bidding since the day he took his seat in the Department of Justice, not seeming to mind that he looked like a fool, a wuss, a pansy.  Perhaps he has finally gotten tired of it all?

Turns out that in late September, Trump requested that Barr hold a news conference declaring that Trump had broken no laws during that now famous July phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.  Nothing surprising there, but now for the jaw-dropping part … Barr refused!

According to The Washington Post

“In recent weeks, the Justice Department has sought some distance from the White House, particularly on matters relating to the burgeoning controversy over Trump’s dealings on Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry they sparked.”

Perhaps Mr. Barr is beginning to envision his entire career going up in flames if he continues to pander to the madman in the Oval Office?  Time will tell.

As always, I could go on … I had a few more snippets … but, the clock is telling me that it’s time to wrap this up and move on, so until next time …Trump-king

Burning The Constitution

The United States is a secular nation, meaning that the government is officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.  It means that the government does not favour one religion over another, that people do not have more or less rights based on their religion, that all citizens are treated equally, regardless of their religion or non-religion.

The United States Constitution is the foundation for the nation’s government.  It is the source of law and order.  It is the guidebook, so to speak, for how this nation’s governing bodies will deport themselves, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of each branch of the government.  While the Constitution does not use the phrase “separation of church and state”, what it does say in the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment is this …

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Now that I’ve made that perfectly clear, I hope, let us take a look at what Attorney General William Barr, the man who leads the Department of Justice, had to say on Friday, when asked to speak at Notre Dame University:

“We must be vigilant to resist efforts by forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon our exercise of our faith. This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion & traditional values.”

The head of the department tasked with overseeing the law and upholding the Constitution doesn’t even understand the Constitution?

Christians in this nation comprise some 70.6% of the population, down from 75% just two years ago.  Of that, evangelicals comprise 25.4% of the population.  Now, by Barr’s presumption, does this mean that our government only represents 70.6% of the people in this nation, and the other 29.4% of us are sh*t out of luck?  Now, if that be the case, doesn’t it follow that those of us in the 29.4% should not be required to pay taxes, since the government we are paying those taxes to does not represent us?

William Barr was far out of line in his speech and seems to have interpreted the Constitution according to his own values, or perhaps, like his ‘boss’, he has never read nor understood the document that he took an oath to uphold.

Barr, however, is not alone in cherry-picking the parts of the document he wishes to support, while ignoring the rest.  Take a look at Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, he of rather questionable morals whose nomination to the bench was shoved through at mach speed, despite credible allegations of sexual assault.

“But maybe Nixon was wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so. Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official. That was a huge step with implications to this day that most people do not appreciate sufficiently…Maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision.” – Brett Kavanaugh, 1999

Say What???  It took away the power …???  Let’s be perfectly clear here … the president is not granted by the U.S. Constitution unlimited power to keep secrets and act on his own to make deals and agreements that are not in the best interest of this nation and its people!  The president is granted broad authority in certain areas, but … the legislative and judicial branches are not only granted the authority, but tasked with the responsibility, to provide oversight to the executive branch.  The purpose being to hold the president accountable for his actions.

“The House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”Article I, Section 2, Clause 5

“The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7

constitution-dummiesI think that for a person with a law degree, as both Barr and Kavanaugh as well as all of Trump’s lawyers, many members of Congress and others in the administration have — including, believe it or not, Kellyanne Conway — this should be clear enough.  If you and I can understand it … why can’t the lawyers?

We have layer upon layer upon layer of corruption and dishonesty in our federal government in quantities never before seen.  Trump claimed he would drain the swamp, but instead he has further infested it with lethal, poisonous creatures … swamp monsters, as it were.  Being a republican or a democrat is largely irrelevant, but being dishonest, hiding things from the people they work for (us), and being self-serving are crimes.  It is time … past time … for us to hold these people accountable.

Bursting The 25th Amendment Bubble …

I have been asked numerous times of late about the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.  Folks, believe me when I tell you that I want the madman gone just as much as you do, but I’m not going to give you false hope.  The odds of the 25th being used to remove Trump are almost as good as the odds that I will sprout wings and fly.  I addressed this topic just over a year ago, but I think it’s time I revisit it, perhaps with a bit more detail.

The 25th Amendment, Section IV reads …

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

The Amendment was not intended in the first place to remove a president for cause, but to transfer power to the Vice President in the event that the president were truly incapacitated.  The mechanism for removing a president ‘for cause’, is impeachment.

Now, even if you wanted to stretch it a bit and try to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, and there is some justification there, for he proves every day that he is mentally unstable, and it could be argued that this often renders him “unable to discharge the powers and duties …” you still have to read that first sentence very closely.  “Whenever the vice president and a majority of … principal officers …”  By principal officers, it means the Cabinet.  I cannot see Mike Pence being willing to invoke the 25th, but even if he were, let us look at Trump’s cabinet for just a minute.

  1. Vice President – Mike Pence
  2. Secretary of State – Mike Pompeo
  3. Secretary of Treasury – Steven Mnuchin
  4. Secretary of Defense – Mike Esper
  5. Attorney General – William Barr
  6. Secretary of Interior – David Bernhardt
  7. Secretary of Agriculture – Sonny Perdue
  8. Secretary of Commerce – Wilbur Ross
  9. Secretary of Labour – Eugene Scalia
  10. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) – Alex Azar
  11. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – Ben Carson
  12. Secretary of Transportation – Elaine Chao (married to Mitch McConnell)
  13. Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry
  14. Secretary of Education – Betsy DeVos
  15. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs – Robert Wilkie
  16. Secretary of Homeland Security (acting) – Kevin McAleenan
  17. White House Chief of Staff – Mick Mulvaney
  18. Director of the Office of Management and Budget – Mick Mulvaney
  19. United States Trade Representative – Robert Lighthizer
  20. Director of National Intelligence (acting) – Joseph Maguire
  21. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – Gina Haspel
  22. Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Andrew Wheeler
  23. Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) – Chris Pilkerton
  24. Ambassador to the United Nations – Kelly Craft

Now, you all know at least something about most of these individuals.  I’ve written at least a time or two about most of them.  Four – Bernhardt, Perry, Wheeler, and Craft – have close ties to the fossil fuel industry.  Pompeo and Barr have both proven to us that they sold their souls downriver and are willing to break the law in favour of Trump.  And others, such as DeVos, got their position as a reward for donating large amounts to Trump’s 2016 campaign.  These are not nice, honest people of integrity … they are self-serving people hanging onto Trump’s coattails because there is something in it for them.

I look at the list, and I see five, maybe six of the 24 who either I don’t know much about, or who I believe may have enough of a conscience to be willing to put themselves in the line of fire in order to do the right thing.  Five or six out of 24 does not constitute a majority, folks.

I’m sorry to burst that bubble … I know how badly you need hope right now, for I need it too.  But, what we don’t need is false hope.  Amendment 25 simply ain’t gonna happen in the foreseeable future.  Now, that could change down the road, but for today, for this week, next week … no, it’s not even worth wasting time thinking about.  Our best hope at this point is impeachment.  Focus on that … focus on contacting your senators and representatives and letting them know that you support impeachment and that you want/expect them to uphold the rule of law.  That is where our best hope lies for today.

Questions … And More Questions

As most of you know, one of my favourite journalists is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.  Kristof has received two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur.  He is often out and about covering humanitarian crises around the globe.  But, his political views back here at home are typically spot-on … his is the voice of calm, of reason amidst all the chaos.  His OpEd yesterday is no exception, as he weighs in on … what else?  Impeachment and Trump’s abuse of power.  His words are sound and well worth the read.

Mr. President, a Few Questions

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist
SEPT. 27, 2019

“Shall any man be above justice?” George Mason asked in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention. “Above all, shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive injustice?”

That was a central question for the framers of the Constitution — to what extent should impeachment be a check on a president? — and it’s the central question for our political system today.

President Trump’s bullying of Ukraine to target Joe Biden is parallel to the kinds of abuse that the framers discussed when they adopted the impeachment clause. What they fretted about was a leader who abused power — by colluding with a foreign country, James Madison suggested — and threatened the integrity of our system.

So, guided by those concerns of abuse of power, let’s see what the impeachment inquiry turns up. Among the areas that merit further investigation:

What was Russia’s role? Did Trump discuss Ukraine with Vladimir Putin in their June meeting in Osaka, in their Paris or Helsinki meetings last year, or in their July 31 phone call? Did Putin plant misinformation that Trump acted on?

In his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump raised the bizarre conspiracy theory that it had been Ukraine rather than Russia that had hacked Democratic emails. Doesn’t that sound as if it was translated from the original Russian?

Likewise, Trump’s distrust of his ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and his faith that a trove of dirt about Biden corruption was sitting in Ukraine waiting to be dug up — why, all this resembles what a skilled K.G.B. officer might say to manipulate a naïve American acolyte.

Certainly Putin benefited from Trump’s hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, from the American coolness toward Zelensky and from the sidelining of Ukraine experts such as Ambassador Yovanovitch.

There are whispers of this in the intelligence community, but let’s be clear that these are questions rather than allegations. Unfortunately, the Kremlin came out on Friday against releasing phone transcripts, and Trump has generally concealed details of his conversations with Putin — even taking away notes from an interpreter after one meeting.

Was there a substantial cover-up? The whistle-blower alleges a cover-up, in a complaint that the administration then tried to cover up. Hmm.

The rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky was placed in an unusually secure system. Why?

Ukraine is a longtime Trump fixation, with the president tweeting as early as July 2017 about “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign.” Rudy Giuliani rode roughshod over policymakers in an attempt to hijack foreign policy formation, and the White House has never convincingly explained its hold on military assistance.

Did administration officials try to hide all of this? Did they impede Congress from providing oversight? Was there a cover-up of not just a call, but of a long-term pattern of abuse?

What were the roles of Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? Pence dropped out of the delegation that attended Zelensky’s inauguration, seemingly as a way to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. Did Pence agree to this?

As for Barr, why did Trump repeatedly suggest him as a contact for Zelensky? And why did the Justice Department try to quash the whistle-blower complaint? Why does Barr regularly act as Trump’s cleanup man rather than as the nation’s lawyer?

Was Pompeo complicit in Trump’s efforts to shunt aside the State Department so that Giuliani could oversee relations with Ukraine? What role did Pompeo play in the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch?

There’s much debate about whether Trump should or shouldn’t be impeached, but for now that seems to me to be premature. Before any impeachment vote, we need a substantial inquiry to determine facts.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor, has a smart book, “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide,” in which he advises people to think about whether they would favor or oppose impeachment if they felt the opposite about this president. In that spirit, I approach it this way: How would I feel about impeachment if these Ukraine revelations were about Barack Obama?

There’s a danger that Democrats rush this process in ways that antagonize swing voters, particularly when polls show that a majority of the public both disapproves of Trump’s conduct and does not favor impeachment.

In the end, Mitch McConnell may not even permit a Senate trial after an impeachment. Or if McConnell convenes a trial, he could immediately have the Republican majority vote to dismiss the case.

That makes it all the more important that the House impeachment inquiry meticulously gather information by a process that — to the extent possible in our polarized age — is perceived by the public as fair, deliberate and legitimate. The backdrop must be the question that George Mason properly posed more than two centuries ago: “Shall any man be above justice?”

The End … DOES NOT … Justify The Means

Trump-MachiavelliIt doesn’t matter that he never actually said it, but the quote has so long been attributed to Niccolò Machiavelli that he might as well have said it.

The end justifies the means.

Step all over truth, honour, and justice to achieve your goals, for it is only reaching the goal that counts, not how you got there.  Trump and his minions obviously believe that, for he is willing to burn the U.S. Constitution, trash the values of the office of president, and trample the people of this nation to achieve his goal:  the establishment of an absolute, lifetime autocracy.  He has proven that he will lie, cheat, steal, and then lie some more in order to achieve his goal.

The law does not apply to the president, so we are told by Attorney General William Barr.  Oh … but only this president, for the law definitely applied to the last president … and the one before him … and the one before … well, you get the picture.  The others tried to do the right thing, tried to abide by the law, but along comes Trump under whom we have seen unprecedented corruption, and all of a sudden, the law does not apply to him.

Lawless-govt-quoteHe can attempt to blackmail another world leader in order to rig next year’s election in his favour, an act that for any other president would constitute treason, and the Department of Justice and the Republican Party see no problem.

In a speech given to the United States Mission to the United Nations yesterday, he called the whistleblower who uncovered his attempted blackmail, a spy and intimates that he (or she) should be punished as spies used to be punished … by execution.

“I want to know who’s the person that gave the whistle-blower the information, because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right? We used to handle them a little differently than we do now.”

guillotineMy knee-jerk reaction to that one is to ask French President Macron if they have an old guillotine lying around somewhere that we could borrow to punish our treasonous president in the way they used to.

And, of course, his woes are always the fault of the press.

“These animals in the press. They’re animals actually. Some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet. Fake news, fake news. They’re scum, many of them are scum. You have some good reporters but not many, I’ll be honest with you. And that’s one of the things we battle. You’ll find out, but they’ll probably like you better than they like me, but I had to get us here right? But they’re total — just terrible dishonest people.”

Never … never in my life have I heard a president, or any politician in the U.S. for that matter, speak in such a manner.  He has virtually painted a target on every member of the press, and why?  Because if his base believe that the media is ‘scum’, ‘animals’, and ‘dishonest’, then they will not believe anything that is said about Trump in the press.  And folks … it’s working.  I saw a clip on BBC last night where they interviewed a number of people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A few of the comments …

  • I don’t believe it, that he did anything … uh … wrong
  • He’s a businessman … he knows what the heck he’s doing. He’ll figure something out … he’s got something up his sleeve (said with a grin)
  • You mean the president? He has permission to do a number of different things that … you know … you or I wouldn’t be able to get away with, but then again, heading into the election next year, there shouldn’t be that much dirt being dug up and everything.

Welcome, my friends, to the United States of Ignorance – a nation where the head of government and many of his trusted lieutenants believe that ‘the end justifies the means’, and almost half the people just don’t care.  If the goal is to win an election, then they will lie, cheat, steal, blackmail, and perhaps even murder to win that election.  If the goal is to build a damn wall, they will rob funds intended to help people recover from a hurricane, or intended to help educate the children of military personnel overseas, in order to build a wall.  If the goal is to turn a diverse, secular nation into an all-white nation of religious zealots, then perhaps it’s okay to deport, imprison, and yes, even murder those who don’t fit the image. If the goal is to exchange a democratic republic for a dictatorship, then they will bring down an entire nation of 330 million people to do so, and never look back, never have any regrets, never say, “I’m sorry”.

As for me, I do not believe that the end justifies the means.  That was the belief in 1945 when the U.S. bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, many children, on a mass scale was supposed to justify ending a war.  Was it justified?  I don’t think so, but some do.  The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was named “Little Boy”, and the larger one dropped on Nagasaki three days later was named “Fat Boy”.  Donald Trump is Little Boy and Fat Boy all rolled into one, only his destruction is to his own nation, the country he took an oath to protect.  Think about it … think long and hard between now and November 2020.

end of error

Snarky Impeachment Snippets!

Y’know … I really wanted to write about almost anything except impeachment, Ukraine, Trump, Biden … the whole wacky mess.  Yes, it is probably the single most important thing happening in the U.S. today, and yes, I will continue writing about it, but I had hoped for a break tonight.  I was working on something else, but … it wasn’t going well, and the news of the moment kept distracting me and breaking into my beam of focus.  So, here I am with a couple of “Impeachment Snippets”!

Score one for the media …

I am not a fan of MSNBC, they are not among my lengthy list of ‘go-to’ resources, and I’ve never actually watched the network except for an occasional clip relevant to my topic at hand.  But, I must give them a thumbs-up for what they did yesterday afternoon.

Trump conducted his version of what passes for a press conference, scheduled at 4:00 p.m. yesterday.  The usual television media crowd was dancing attendance, and the major networks broke into their regularly scheduled programming to carry the event.

In the first seven minutes of his speech, without evidence, he alleged that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son had profited from dealings in Ukraine (it should be noted that this has been investigated and debunked ad nauseam). He insulted journalists and accused The Washington Post of publishing a “fake article.” He asserted without evidence that Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut had “threatened” Ukrainian officials and claimed that Democrats had timed their impeachment inquiry to disrupt his trip to the United Nations.  Not a single fact to be found amongst all the lies.

It was at this point that MSNBC made the decision to tune out and turn off.

“We hate to do this, really, but the president isn’t telling the truth.”

Those were the words of anchor Nicole Wallace as MSNBC cut the video as Trump was mid-sentence.  Now, you might argue that the public has a right to know what Trump is saying, that this was censorship in some form.  Another time, I might agree with you.  But, Trump thrives on the attention of the very media he calls the “enemy of the people”, and frankly, if he cannot tell the truth, then I don’t wish to hear what he says anyway.  And, there is no doubt that his words will be repeated ad nauseam on every other network and in the print media.  The public has a right to know … truth and facts.  When all we hear is lies … of what value is it?  None, it is merely a waste of our time.

Other networks handled the lies in different ways.  Wolf Blitzer of CNN told viewers at the end that “The president leveled several distortions, falsehoods in the course of that 45 minutes.”  His colleague, Jeffrey Toobin, was more direct, saying it was a “torrent of lies”.  ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos appeared onscreen halfway through the event, informing viewers that there was “no evidence” to support Mr. Trump’s claims about the Bidens. Andrea Mitchell, on NBC, said the accusations against Mr. Murphy were “contrary to any information we have.”

The networks are, each in its own way, trying to inform viewers of the facts, and I applaud them for that.  I still think MSNBC has the right idea, if for no other reason than … can you imagine Trump if he suddenly realized that the cameras had all stopped rolling?  He needs to be held to account for his words, and if the media gives him a free pass, they are pandering to him and doing We the People a great disservice.  So, in my book, MSNBC gets a thumbs-up for this one.  👍

A man of honour?  Maybe — the jury is still out.

Today, acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Joseph Maguire, will testify in both open and closed hearings before Congress about the report filed with his office by the unnamed whistleblower who provided the information about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, among other things to which we are not yet privy.  Now, Maguire was somewhat unexpectedly thrust into this position last month when former DNI Dan Coats resigned.  You may remember that it was rumoured in White House circles that Coats was about to be fired because he was taking the matter of election security a little too seriously to suit Trump.

Knowing that in the past, those who testified before Congress were given strict guidance by the White House, i.e. Trump & Co., regarding what they could and could not discuss.  Maguire, it was reported by The Washington Post, threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies.  Since that report yesterday, Maguire has denied that he threatened to resign, but after consideration, the Post stands by its story, which indicates a high probability of veracity.

It is said that Maguire pushed the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it would assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint.  My opinion?  If he cannot speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then why waste time and money?  Thus far, every single person with the possible exception of Michael Cohen, who has testified before Congress as regards investigations into Trump’s likely crimes, has been stifled by Trump’s lawyers.  Is there any reason to believe that this time will be different?  I doubt it.

And about William Barr …

The Attorney General of the United States has proven time and time again that there are no boundaries to his corruption, no lengths to which he will not go to protect Trump from … well, Trump!  But this latest might well become his undoing, and frankly I hope it does, for he has proven he has no conscience, no dedication to right vs wrong, and no respect for the law of the land.

Among the recent eyebrow-raising issues …

  • Per the transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukraine president, he indicated that Barr was involved, or would be, with the attempt to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, saying “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. I will ask [Rudolph Giuliani] to call you along with the Attorney General.”
  • The Justice Department, i.e. AG William Barr, gave the DNI a written legal opinion demanding his refusal to turn over the whistleblower’s complaint, as the DNI was required by law, to do.

At this point we should remind ourselves that the entire reason Barr is Attorney General is that he made clear that, unlike his predecessor Jeff Sessions, he would make protecting Trump his highest priority.  Think about that one for a bit, my friends.

Well, I have exceeded my self-imposed word limit, and I need to get busy on my music post, so I will now return you to your regularly scheduled activities … that is, if I haven’t already put you to sleep.

Are You Tired Of Snarky Snippets Yet?

I have a few in-depth pieces I’m trying to work on, but lately all these little things keep cropping up that aren’t quite enough to fill an entire post, but that are important.  If Donnie could just be locked away for a day or two, perhaps in a subterranean storeroom under the White House, then the news cycle might slow down enough for me to catch  my breath!

Donnie didn’t get his way this time …

As we’ve heard ad nauseam for the past week or so, Donald Trump has told Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that he wants him to cut the interest rates … “to zero or below”.  To do so would be extremely foolish, but then … look who’s asking.

Yesterday, Mr. Powell announced a 0.25% cut in the interest rate, bringing it to between 1.75% and 2%.  A good portion of the members of the central bank’s rate-setting committee felt the move was unnecessary.  I am not an economist, nor do I pretend to be, but based on my understanding, I agree that it was unnecessary and likely would not have been made were it not for Trump’s bullying.  But, is Trump satisfied?

Of course not!

“Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!”

Ahhhh … such professionalism, eh?  Now, if another person in the Trump administration displeased him so, that person would likely be packing up their desk today, but fortunately in the case of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, ol’ Trumpie cannot just yell, “You’re Fired!”  Of course, he may not yet realize that, for back in June, when he was annoyed with Powell for the same reason, he said …

“I have the right to demote him. I have the right to fire him.”

Not quite true.  The Chairman can be fired only ‘for cause’, according to the Federal Reserve Act.  Historically the courts have not interpreted that to include policy differences.  Now, Trump could demote Powell if he so chose, but again, it would likely end up in a court battle that would almost certainly have an impact on the stability of the economy.  I applaud Mr. Powell for having the courage to stand up to the bully in the Oval Office and for doing what he believes to be the proper thing.

A ‘credible and urgent threat’ – but WHAT???

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that last month Trump had some interaction by phone with some foreign leader and promised that foreign leader something. Vague enough for you?  Whatever it was he promised to whomever he promised it set off alarms for at least one official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community on August 12th.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson reviewed the complaint and determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that ordinarily requires notification of congressional oversight committees.  But … acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers.

Last week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff subpoenaed Maguire for the complaint, accusing him of violating whistleblower law by failing to have notified the committee.  In his letter to Maguire, Schiff wrote …

“The committee — and the American people — must know why, in violation of law, a whistleblower complaint is being concealed, whether the underlying conduct involves the president or those around him, and whether the White House is involved in trying to cover up this authorized disclosure.”

To add insult to injury, Maguire consulted with the Department of Justice, ie., Trump’s main boot-licker William Barr, which is, at the very least, unorthodox, and leads to questions as to whether there is an attempt to cover for some wrongdoing by Trump.

Atkinson is scheduled to appear at a closed hearing of the Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning and Maguire has agreed to testify before the panel in open session a week later.  This whole thing is troubling, folks.  Obviously, Donald Trump has promised some foreign leader … Putin?  MbS?  Kim? … something that is very troublesome, and people are going to great lengths to keep it from being properly investigated or made public.  This is NOT how our government is supposed to operate.  Trump has declared himself to be above the law, and this is yet further proof that there are those in our government who are willing to sacrifice their integrity to allow it.  Stay tuned …

Is it Sean, or a giant chicken???

And, because I think you guys need a bit of humour, I share with you this short clip of none other than former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in his debut on Dancing with the Stars.  I’m not sure, but I think that’s a fluffy chicken costume he’s wearing!

We The People …

“… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The above words were spoken by President Abraham Lincoln on Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The speech was to become one of the best-known speeches in the history of this nation.  Read the words again, please. lincolnToday, I truthfully and without rhetoric or bombast, state that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people has, in fact, perished from at least the United States.  The word ‘democracy’ is a fantasy that is bandied about by some, but the majority of us can plainly see what is before our very eyes … we have been had.

Earlier this year, four of the world’s largest auto makers — Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW – struck a deal with the State of California to ignore Trump’s rollback of emissions standards and continue their efforts to reduce CO2 emissions in an effort to stem the tide of climate change.  Our health depends on it.  The air we breathe and the water we drink depends on it.  The lives of 7+ billion people, including you and me, depend on it.  I applaud this cooperative effort between one of the most polluting industries and the State of California.

The federal government does not applaud this effort, and in fact is challenging it.  Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will open an investigation as to whether the four automakers violated federal antitrust laws by reaching a side deal to follow California’s stricter rules.  Additionally, Trump is considering a plan to revoke California’s legal authority to enforce stricter greenhouse gas emissions rules within its state borders.

To put this into the simplest possible terms … California is saying that they want to try to rescue our environment, save lives, and Trump is saying, “No … you must make the air as unhealthy as possible!”.

And, if you aren’t concerned enough about the environment, think of your own wallets!  Trump is actively promoting cars that use more fuel, which means you will be buying more fuel just to get to work and back home each day.

According to the New York Times

Top lawyers from the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department on Friday sent a letter to Mary Nichols, California’s top clean air official, saying, “The purpose of this letter is to put California on notice” that its deal with automakers “appears to be inconsistent with federal law.”

Government for the people?  I think not.  More like … government for the rich fossil fuel barons.  Government by the people?  With a billionaire in the White House and 358 of the 535 members of Congress being millionaires, I don’t think we can say it is a government by the people.  Government of the people?  Our elections are increasingly unfair and dishonest:  think voter disenfranchisement, lack of voter security against outside influences, gerrymandering.  Additionally, once elected, our senators and representatives seem to forget the best interest of those of us who put them in office.  So no, I don’t think our government is of the people, either.  Mr. Lincoln was fortunate not to have lived to see this day.lincoln



State-Sanctioned Murder!

Clayton-LockettDoes anybody remember Clayton D. Lockett?  No, of course not.  Allow me to refresh your memory.  Mr. Lockett was brutally murdered by our own federal government on April 29,2014 in a botched execution.  Lockett was administered an untested mixture of drugs that had not previously been used for executions in the United States. Although the execution was stopped, Lockett died 43 minutes after being sedated. He writhed, groaned, convulsed, and spoke during the process and attempted to rise from the execution table fourteen minutes into the procedure, despite having been declared unconscious.

Does anybody remember Clemente Javier Aguirre?  Probably not.  In 2006, he was sentenced to death for the stabbing deaths of two neighbors, despite the fact that he maintained his innocence throughout. Last year, after spending 14 years on Florida’s death row, he was exonerated by DNA evidence that had been withheld at his trial, and a confession by the real killer.  What if Mr. Aguirre had been executed as initially planned?

It is not possible to undo death!

death-penaltyToday, the United States took a step backward toward the Dark Ages.  Today, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government, such as it is, will re-instate the death penalty and that five executions have already been scheduled to take place, with more to be announced soon.

Let me just give you a few facts:

  • Since 1972, 165 people have been exonerated that were on death row.
  • African American defendants are three times more likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants.
  • 88% of criminologists believe the death penalty is not a deterrent.

Troy-DavisTroy Anthony Davis was convicted of the shooting-death of off-duty police officer Mark McPhail.  He was executed in 2011. His conviction was based on the testimony of nine witnesses, seven of whom later recanted their testimony or admitted it was false.

Carlos-DeLunaCarlos DeLuna was executed in Texas in 1989 for the stabbing death of Wanda Lopez.  DeLuna maintained his innocence throughout his imprisonment and insisted another individual by the name of Carlos Hernandez was really the killer.

Gary-GrahamGary Graham was sentenced to death at the age of 18 in 1981 in Texas for the robbery and murder of Bobby Lambert.  He was executed in 2000. His conviction was based largely on the testimony of one witness who said she saw him through a windshield from over 30 feet away.

WillinghamCameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 for the death of his three young daughters in a house fire.  Willingham’s conviction was based on faulty forensic science which erroneously concluded that the fire was arson.

I am, in case you couldn’t tell, incensed by this decision at this time.  I would likely be incensed by such a decision at any time, but under the present administration, and with the current divisive political climate in this nation, this is no time to be re-instituting state-sanctioned murder!  Does anybody trust our government not to start executing immigrants?  I don’t.  With Trump having appointed some 131 federal judges thus far, with Trump spouting racism on a daily basis, with the spate of killings of unarmed blacks in the past decade … does anybody believe there is equal justice for all in this nation?  I don’t.

The contingent, primarily white, evangelicals, who seek to take away a women’s right to make her own health decisions, who are so strongly opposed to abortion that they are willing to sentence a woman to death rather than allow her to have an abortion, call themselves “pro-life”.  Well, guess what, people?  If you claim to be pro-life, then you damn well better be enraged by this decision to re-start government-sponsored murder, for these people on death row are humans, are people, they have lives that you should care about.  I’m waiting …

executionThis nation has taken many steps backward since 20 January 2017.  This is just one more in a long series of inhumane decisions by Donald Trump and his minions.  This is no longer a nation I recognize nor that I take any pride in.  We are on a path that most of us did not choose.  Ask yourself, if you have the courage:  What next?

Above The Law … Once Again!

Donald Trump claims to be above the law.  That is a matter of opinion, however since he has selectively placed his lackeys such as William Barr in key positions, for the moment, it seems to be the case that he cannot be held accountable.  The exception, of course, would be if Congress would use their Constitutional oversight authority, but with the likes of Mitchell McConnell in the position of Senate Majority Leader, that seems highly unlikely.  So, okay, Donald Trump is effectively, though not legally, above the law.

But Trump is not alone.  Attorney General William Barr has placed himself effectively, though not legally, above the law by refusing to answer a subpoena issued by the House of Representatives.  Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross claims immunity from the law, as he too refused to respond to a subpoena by the House.  How many others?  I’ve lost count.  But this latest one … this is too much.

Trump’s personal mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, has been found by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to be in violation of the Hatch Act.  The Office of Special Counsel is led by a Trump appointee, Henry J. Kerner, and it was he who testified before the House Oversight Panel last month that Kellyanne had violated the Hatch Act not just once, but repeatedly, and he called on Trump to terminate Ms. Conway’s employment.  Trump immediately refused to do so.

The Hatch Act, for those who may not be familiar with it, is a United States federal law whose main provision prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the president, vice-president, and certain designated high-level officials, from engaging in some forms of political activity.

The counsel states that Conway participated in media interviews and used her social media accounts, with her title, to engage in activity affecting the midterm elections. She has also made a number of remarks aimed at 2020 democratic presidential candidates including Senator Cory Booker, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, and former Vice President Joe Biden. She has also openly endorsed Trump’s re-election. According to the letter by Mr. Kerner …

“Ms. Conway’s advocacy against the Democratic candidates and open endorsement of the President’s reelection effort during both official media appearances and on her Twitter account constitute prohibited political activity under the Hatch Act.”

Not once, not twice, but multiple times.  Remember when she almost got in trouble for urging people, on television, to buy from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line?  Kellyanne doesn’t seem to learn.  But then, she has Trump to bail her out, so why does she need to try to ‘do the right thing’?

Kellyanne was cordially invited to testify, to present her side if she had one, before the House Oversight Committee, but “the White House” declined the invitation on her behalf.  So, committee chairman Elijah Cummings issued a subpoena.  And guess what?  She defied the subpoena.  Therefore, we can only conclude that Kellyanne also considers herself to be above the law.

Now, here’s the thing, folks.  Trump said during his 2016 campaign that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York and shoot somebody, and he would get by with it.  When he said it, we all rolled our eyes and said, “Yeah, right, Bozo.”  But today, it is no laughing matter, for he has declared himself above the law and his lackeys, including the United States Department of Justice, will support him.  And now, that privilege extends to his entire staff, all the way down to his paid mouthpiece.

But let me tell you something.  If I stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York, or my street in Podunk USA and shoot someone, I will be immediately put to death by police who shoot first and ask questions later.  If I am issued a subpoena by a federal agency and I defy that subpoena, I will be shot dead by police who will claim I was resisting arrest (because I would be resisting, but that’s a minor detail).

If the likes of Trump and Conway are not held accountable to the very laws that they have sworn to uphold, then is there any law & justice in the United States?  Trump has stated that Article II of the United States Constitution gives him the authority to do “whatever I want”.  It doesn’t, but somebody has to draw the line.  Typically, that would fall to the Attorney General and Congress, but we cannot count on either.  So, if Kellyanne is immune, and William Barr is immune, then it must follow that any and all of Trump’s cabinet members are immune from being held accountable … for anything.

If that isn’t enough, coupled with Trump’s atrocious racist running commentary against four members of the House of Representatives for the past 48 hours on Twitter, and coupled with Robert Mueller’s citation of no less than ten incidences of obstruction of justice by Trump … if all that isn’t enough for the House of Representatives to open an impeachment inquiry, then I don’t know why we even have a Congress!  To the members of the House, I say:  Off your asses, folks … it’s showtime!  It’s now or never!  Use it or lose it!!!

And, to add a bit of humour to the topic, if that’s possible, I have invited Mr. Seth Meyers to contribute his take on the topic.