Category Archives: Politics

The Senate is broken. Can it be repaired?

Gridlock is endemic to the Senate, thanks in large part to the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end debate on any bill in order to proceed to a vote on the bill itself. The 60-vote threshold is virtually impossible to achieve in the current hyper-polarized Senate, ergo gridlock is assured.

It wasn’t always this way. Greasing the wheels of the Senate to facilitate legislation is theoretically easy.

The filibuster is a procedural rule, originally intended to protect the vulnerable minority from being steamrolled by the majority (even though today the minority protected by the Republicans consists of the wealthy and the privileged). As it was first written, any senator could call for an end to debate when it became an obstructionist or delaying tactic. Since then, the procedure has been modified many times; most significantly, when restrictions on the length of debate were removed, allowing the speaker to continue unhindered for as long as he wanted, unless 60 senators could agree to cloture, i.e., to close the debate and move on to the vote. But a simple majority of the senators can do away with the filibuster altogether.

Mitch McConnell really likes being Majority Leader in the Senate. He wants his old job back and knows how to get it. He’s done it before.

In 2009, Obama entered the Oval Office with a huge approval rating and robust majorities in both House and Senate. The common wisdom held that Republicans had to work with the Democrats in order to keep the GOP from fading into history. But McConnell’s wickedly brilliant insight was to do the opposite. He bet that by relentlessly opposing the Democrats he would cripple their ability to govern, thus eroding their popularity with the voters. His tactics were hugely successful. Though McConnell didn’t succeed in his stated goal of making Obama a one-term president, the Democrats suffered what Obama called a “shellacking” in the midterms. Republicans took back the House and Senate with large margins.

In 2020, Republicans cut into the House majority achieved by Democrats in the 2018 midterm. The Senate seats are evenly divided, though the Democrats have the edge by dint of Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote. McConnell, however, has his eyes firmly fixed on the prize. Right off the bat, he blackmailed Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, in their first negotiation as they formed the Senate. McConnell gave Schumer an ultimatum: agree not to touch the filibuster, which is essential for Republican control of the Senate agenda, or renounce any hope of Republican cooperation. Schumer had to capitulate because he lost two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who vowed to keep the filibuster, perhaps in the vain hope that it would promote bipartisanship.

McConnell also knows that bipartisanship in a polarized Senate is not merely fantasy; it is a hallucination. Bipartisanship helps the majority, not the minority. The majority leader doesn’t allow bills to reach the floor that will split his own caucus. If Republicans help Democrats to pass the Covid relief bill, its success will be attributed to Biden and the Democrats. If the bill fails, by the time the election rolls around, the public will be primed to remember the Democratic failure, not the Republican responsibility for it.

There is a workaround for the filibuster, but only for bills that address fiscal issues. They can be passed with reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority. Assuming no Democrats defect, the Covid relief bill could be passed with VP Harris’s tie-breaking vote. But other initiatives, like those related to climate change or immigration or civil rights, that might pass with a majority, will fall on the 60-vote threshold. The filibuster ensures that they can no longer pass, even with a majority in the House and Senate, the president’s signature and no danger from judicial challenge.

Initially, I was floored by McConnell’s diatribe against Trump delivered minutes after he voted to acquit Trump on a technicality. A little later I realized that McConnell, apart from playing to both sides, was actually taking another step toward his goal of restoring the Republican majority and his leadership of the Senate with it. Some commentators have observed that McConnell was trying to appease his corporate donors who closed their purses after the Jan. 6 insurrection and coax them back into the fold. Republicans need money for their campaigns; they win back their seats and McConnell consolidates his power.

The choice for Schumer and the Democrats is clear: eliminate (or modify) the filibuster or get very little done in the 19 months left before failure guarantees defeat in the midterms.

Note: It is well worth listening to Ezra Klein’s conversation with Adam Jentleson about these matters in his podcast, The Ezra Klein Show.

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Filed under 2020 Vote, Politics

The fix was in

The Capitol was under siege and nobody came because the fix was in.

Consider this timeline:

  • November 9th: Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper for refusing to allow active-duty military to be deployed domestically to put down peaceful protests.
  • November 9th: four senior officials at the Pentagon replaced by Trump ideologues.
  • December 4th: Esper’s replacement, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, dismissed nine Defense Business Board members and replaced them with 11 Trump loyalists, including former Trump 2016 campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.
  • January 6th: President Trump inflamed his restive followers and all but escorted them down Pennsylvania Avenue to attack and disrupt the counting of the ballots. Trump did not want Joe Biden’s victory finally ratified.
  • Meeting little opposition, the marauding Trumpist terrorists stormed and occupied the Capitol.

Responding to a plea for help from the hunkered-down Congressional leadership, Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland pressed the Pentagon to authorize sending the National Guard of Maryland across the state line. The Capitol Police were overwhelmed and needed assistance to quell the riot. Hogan was “ready, willing and able,” but his entreaties were “repeatedly denied,” he said. The Pentagon followed Trump’s orders to refuse assistance to terrified lawmakers or defend the iconic building.

An hour and a half later, VP Pence interceded and Gov. Hogan’s forces made their way to the Capitol.

Pondering this, the conclusion that the attack had been planned weeks in advance and law enforcement instructed not to disturb the pillagers is inescapable. It is mind-bogglingly nightmarish to know that the president of the United States fomented and encouraged the insurrection, denied succor to the victims, and stood by while the Capitol’s doors were rammed, glass was shattered and its sacrosanct chambers invaded.

Are we safe if Donald Trump remains in office, with the awesome power vested in him? Should he not be held accountable for the death and injury he caused and the havoc he wreaked? Call your members of Congress and your senators if you think we would be safer with Trump removed from office, stripped of his power, and deprived of any opportunity to hold office again.

Contact your senators. Go to https://contactsenators.com for phone numbers, email and postal addresses.

Contact your representatives. https://www.contactingcongress.org has every phone number, mailing address and social media account.

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Filed under American Society, Trump

“This is not who we are.” Really?

We would like to believe that the attempt to overturn the presidential election and the denial of the legitimacy of duly elected President-elect Biden are aberrations, the actions of an insignificant group of outliers. Over and over, we hear and read, “This is not who we are.”

But the ugly and irrefutable truth is that this is who we have become. It is not who we imagined ourselves to be, who much of the world believes we were, who we would like to be. No, America the no longer beautiful has been exposed as a racist, violent society. The President is both racist and violent. True, he has lost the popular vote twice, but in 2020 74 million voters chose him over Joe Biden. Almost 47 percent of the electorate chose Trump despite or because of his bigotry, corruption and desecration of American ideals and institutions.

If you don’t like what you’re reading, do something about it. Help change American society. Let’s start by removing Donald Trump from the office he has defiled. Let’s restore America and relight its beacon for freedom. Call your Congressional representative and your senators. Make it happen!

Contact your senators. Go to https://contactsenators.com for phone numbers, email and postal addresses.

Contact your representatives. https://www.contactingcongress.org has every phone number, mailing address, social media account, how to schedule a meeting. Get active.

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Filed under American Society, Politics

Impeach, Convict, Prosecute

Domestic terrorists egged on by Pres. Trump scale walls of Capitol

The House could initiate impeachment proceedings today. After yesterday’s attempted coup d’état and the sacking of the Capitol, there is no question that President Trump, who incited and applauded his followers’ insurrection, has committed treason and should be evicted from office ASAP. Proceedings should begin TODAY, because Trump presents a clear and present danger to the United States. Most Republicans, among them Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Trump’s staunchest enablers, are finally appalled and horrified by the President’s disgraceful actions. They could perhaps be counted on to support a Democratic initiative to impeach and convict Trump.

Trump could also be removed from office by his Cabinet if they follow the 25th Amendment. But only impeachment will guarantee that he will never hold elective office again.

We have to raise our voices, make ourselves heard. Call your senators and representatives. Encourage your friends to call. According to Indivisible, phone calls are much more effective than emails. Now is the time to act.

Contact your senators. Go to https://contactsenators.com for phone numbers, email and postal addresses.

Contact your representatives. https://www.contactingcongress.org has every phone number, mailing address, social media account, how to schedule a meeting. Get active.

Do it now!

Trump’s terrorists march toward Capitol

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Filed under Politics, Trump

It can’t happen here…

photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

It’s happening now.

Donald Trump is demonstrating that to hold on to his presidential power he will resort to illegal means appropriate to a dictator, not a president. For Trump, the Constitution and the law are merely hurdles to defy and evade.

Until now, our institutions have held the line. The courts and election officials have pushed back Trump’s attempts to nullify the election and overturn Biden’s victory. But five weeks after his loss is manifestly undeniable, he doggedly perseveres.

Eighty-eight percent of the Republicans in the House and Senate — 222 elected representatives of the people — have yet to acknowledge Biden’s win. They are silent, not daring to contradict the President, but rather enabling him. Trump is bullying election officials to rescind their confirmations of the vote tally in favor of Biden and pressuring state legislatures to toss out majority votes for Biden and send slates of pro-Trump electors to anoint him in the Electoral College.

Trump showed his willingness, even enthusiasm, to gas protestors and send armed military troops to (Democratic) American cities to tamp down their demonstrations. He fired his defense secretary for opposing the deployment of active-duty troops against American citizens. He purged the Pentagon leadership, replacing three top officials with Trump loyalists. It’s hard to see these acts as anything but preparation for a coup.

Almost one third of the judges on the federal bench are Trump appointees. Trump expects that at least some of them will switch their allegiance from the Constitution to the President. With Mitch McConnell leading the way, Trump had his third conservative justice on the Supreme Court confirmed days before the election. Trump had already announced that if the election did not return him to the White House, it had to be fraudulent and he would have the Supreme Court step in and rule in his favor. Yet again, he revealed his ignorance of how government works. Or, since he had ignored subpoenas and scoffed at the law with impunity, he assumed he could bend the Supreme Court to his will.

Think back to the time when Trump was a buffoon we didn’t take seriously. We ridiculed his braggadocio, scorned his garishness, denounced his school-yard tactic of name-calling. Until the Republican convention selected him as their standard-bearer, the idea of a President Trump was the fantasy of fools.

Remember the shock, despite his climb in the polls, when he achieved the impossible. Democrats were stunned and Republicans dizzy with joy. Gallons of ink were spilled by pundits trying to understand how the political neophyte, vulgar misogynist, racist bigot and unscrupulous wheeler-dealer could have captured the ultimate prize.

Yet here we are.

Republicans enabled him to defy the law and flout convention as he demonstrated that he had never read the Constitution he had sworn to preserve, protect and defend. Eventually, however, he discovered Article II, Section 2, and the awesome power entrusted to the chief executive. It “allows me to do anything I want,” he affirmed several times. Well, of course it doesn’t, but that didn’t stop Trump from using any means to achieve his ends.

Today Trump refuses to concede his loss to Joe Biden and is trying to overturn the election he insists was stolen from him. Despite his infantile behavior, a man as desperate as Trump to retain his hold on power can’t be easily dismissed. Though his incompetence may save the Republic this time, a future despot, far smarter than Trump, will have observed the tactics with which Trump undermined democratic institutions and circumvented the law. He will exploit weaknesses in the system revealed by Trump and may well succeed where Trump has failed.

Pay attention and take nothing for granted. The triumph of democracy depends on its citizens to protect it.

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2020 election — the day after

Joe Biden

By the third day after the election, Democrats should be realizing that even without the hoped-for landslide, Biden has done very well. So far, he’s flipped Michigan and Wisconsin and has a good chance of flipping three more states: Arizona, Pennsylvania and possibly Georgia. That’s the good news.

Control of the Senate is still theoretically possible, though unlikely. (We can dream, can’t we?) Republicans added to their 29-state majority of state legislatures. Since the legislative majorities of the states redraw their election districts every 10 years, based on the decennial census, the heavily gerrymandered map now has the potential of skewing even more to the right. The opportunity to shape the majority of electoral districts to their advantage will continue for at least the next decade. Democrats, despite being the majority of Americans, may have to cede control of the Senate to the Republican minority.

[Read an explanation of gerrymandering and how it results in minority rule.] 

The government we now have is an oligarchy— rule by a few. Since Democrats are concentrated in cities and Republicans tend to live in rural areas, sparsely populated states are mostly Republican, whereas densely populated cities are strongly Democratic. The result of this demographic distribution is that in the Senate, sixty senators from the least populous thirty states represent less than a quarter of the population. The courts, which should be impartial in a democracy, have become politicized, dominated by partisan conservatives.

If the American system worked as was originally intended, each state would have equal representation in the Senate and each citizen would be represented in the House of Representatives. But the system isn’t working. By dint of their gerrymandering, Republicans now have an advantage in the Electoral College, which gave the presidency to the loser of the popular vote in 12 of the last 20 years. Five of the justices on the Supreme Court were appointed by a president who lost the popular vote and confirmed by senators who represent less than half the electorate. Judicial reform and abolishment of or changes to the the Electoral College will be possible only when the minority no longer controls the Senate. 

Donald Trump

The election of 2020 will have far-reaching consequences, but until the results are known, the fate of American democracy hangs in the balance. In the face of a likely loss, Trump had a public tantrum Thursday evening. He claimed the election was fraudulent, that he was being cheated. He demanded the vote-counting be halted and threatened to take his case to the Supreme Court. Lacking any evidence to back up his claims, he was clearly flailing, desperate to hold onto power by any means. Trump never admits to losing, so a loss of this magnitude will surely spur him to lawless, despotic extremes. Will Republicans finally act to curb Trump’s worst instincts? If so, will they be able to restrain him? Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a very bumpy ride.

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Filed under 2020 Vote, Politics, Trump

What happened to the Blue Wave?

I turned the light out early this morning when it seemed pretty sure that Biden had won Arizona, knowing the outcomes of critical races would remain in doubt for hours and days. Kelly eased out McSally in the AZ senate race, the second Dem pickup after Hickenlooper unseated his opponent in Colorado. Nevertheless, with an expected loss in Alabama, the Dems netted only one seat.

A few hours later, I woke up to learn that the Senate was tied 47-47. The prospects for a Senate takeover looked pretty dim. The national map hadn’t changed much since the debacle of 2016. The Republicans for the most part were clinging to Trump. The much-anticipated Blue Wave was not to be. It had foundered on the pernicious rocks of Trumpism. 

Even as I asked myself how anyone who has witnessed Trump’s assault on democracy, the reversal of the hard-won triumphs in civil, women’s and gay rights, his disdain for the value of human life, his willful ignorance of the crisis of climate change, and his refusal to take arms against the coronavirus or in defense of the planet can still believe him, it became clear that most of the red states were still solidly in his thrall. 

It’s easy, I guess, to believe his lies when you receive no information that contradicts them. But don’t they know anyone sickened or killed by the virus? Have none of them lost their homes to floods or fires that occur, not once a century as before, but with increasing regularity? Some farmers must have noticed that Trump’s vaunted tariffs have resulted in crops they can no longer sell to China. Factory workers should have noticed their jobs migrating to foreign shores.

Yet here we are. What bothers me most is the refusal or inability of almost half the country to see how Trump is betraying them. As for the other half, we have to suffer the violations of the laws and customs we were taught to respect and value. Not that we are blameless, far from it. Both sides have transgressed, and the injustices rampant in American society cry out for correction. But in order to do that, we have first to agree on what the injustices are. Our deepest problems will remain, no matter who lives in the White House.

Having followed my stream of consciousness, setting down my rambling thoughts has had a calming effect. At times this morning, the tears were brimming, about to erupt. Now I’ll turn to music for its ability to distract and soothe.

As of this writing, Biden has flipped Wisconsin and Michigan. He seems to have a path to the winning total of 270 electoral votes. Democratic control of the Senate, though theoretically possible, is likely lost.

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Stop the world— I want to get off!

As events whiz around us with dizzying speed, the title of a 60s musical taunts me. The overload is too much; it’s mind-blowing.

The week began with the New York Times exposé of the details of Trump’s financial fiascos and shady deals. We knew about the bankruptcies, but the extent of his losses belie his cultivated image of the savvy entrepreneur. Were his multi-million dollar losses evidence of ill-conceived, hubristic investments? Or were they deliberately contrived to evade paying income tax by neutralizing the income derived from his television show? That the president is a fraud and a swindler is “shocking, but not surprising,” the all-too-familiar reaction to every new revelation of his chicanery.

Tuesday’s presidential debate was anything but presidential. The president disdained even the pretense of decorum. He continually interrupted and talked over Biden to rattle him and prevent the national audience from hearing the former vice president’s ideas and proposals. Trump appeared to be goading Biden, pressuring him to stutter or stumble.

In Bret Stephens’s words, Trump was “crass and cruel, rough and rude, small and stupid.” He refused or was unable to empathize with Biden’s evident pain as he mentioned the loss of his son, rebutting Trump’s denigration of the military fallen. On a less personal level, Trump refused to condemn white supremacists and their violent tactics.

Over seven million Americans have succumbed to COVID-19, and of those, almost 210 thousand have died. The president, who steadfastly scorned the urging of medical officials in his own administration to observe public safety measures like wearing a mask and social distancing, has now, inevitably, been infected himself. His willful carelessness in public and in the White House has spread the contagion among many in his entourage and who knows how many of the attendees at his rallies.

The world is watching.

Many are gleefully enjoying the karmic retribution, but the consequences of Trump’s illness could have nasty repercussions for the nation. At a minimum, the Coronavirus will impinge on Trump’s campaign events at a time when he is falling behind in the polls. If he becomes incapacitated, Pence may take the presidential reins from the president, as stipulated by the 25th Amendment. If Pence also falls ill, Nancy Pelosi, as the Speaker of the House, is next in the line of succession.

If the President dies or if he is incapacitated, he will be taken off the ballot. But when Election Day is less than a month away and millions have already voted early, printing new ballots is out of the question. The name of the incapacitated or deceased candidate will remain on the ballot. The Vice President will not automatically take his place. Who will choose a replacement? The political parties? Congress? The state electors— whom will they choose if they are not bound to a candidate? There are many permutations, all alarming.

Even worse, however, are the nightmare scenarios Barton Gellman explores that may ensue if Trump loses and refuses to concede as he has threatened to do. Or suppose Trump and the gerrymandered Republican “majorities” in the Electoral College finagle a victory?

What happens next is, at this point, unknown, because this is a situation with no precedent. I won’t be the only one looking for a way to jump off the whirling implosion.

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A funny thing happened…

On the way to the golf cart—

Out of breath, Donald Trump was slowly trudging back with his golfing buddies, all captains of industry. Suddenly, the wind howled, the sky opened, and the rain came pouring down. The shaggy, soggy, orange tuft left its perch on Trump’s head and blew drunkenly across the green. Glowering, Trump lurched into his cart and pulled a towel over his head, barking orders to the caddy to take him back to the clubhouse posthaste.

As far as we know, this didn’t happen, but having witnessed his vanity and his sensitivity to any degree of humiliation, we can easily imagine Trump’s reaction. He does not have a sense of humor, Trump’s erstwhile personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, writes in his tell-all memoir. Cohen, who saw Trump up close and personal for a decade before they fell out, notes that Trump doesn’t laugh and he can’t tell jokes.

Consequently, humor and ridicule may be Joe Biden’s best weapons against the taunts and lies Trump habitually hurls against anyone who dares to cross him.

Writing in the New York Times, columnist Nick Kristof and psychiatrist Richard Friedman both advise Biden to use humor in the presidential debates to put Trump on the defensive. Humor and ridicule, counsels Friedman, may be Biden’s most powerful weapons. Barack Obama skewered Trump so wickedly at White House Correspondents Dinners that Trump– alone among U.S. presidents– has skipped every one since he took office. He even forbade his staff to attend.

Donald Trump at 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner with his White House as imagined by President Barack Obama

Biden can rattle Trump, writes Friedman, by “mock[ing] the president as weak and unaccomplished.” His extreme narcissism makes him “exquisitely sensitive to criticism and especially to ridicule.”

Recounting the experiences of dictators, Kristof observes that “sly wit sometimes deflates them more effectively” that denouncing them. “Authoritarians are pompous creatures with monstrous egos and so tend to be particularly vulnerable to humor,” explains Kristof. He points out that skeptical voters who don’t trust liberals resent the negative press and criticism of the president. But they do enjoy jokes, so they are more likely to be won over by mockery of the president that is funny and mordant than by a familiar litany of Trump’s lies and his scorn of American traditions and institutions.

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Filed under 2020 Vote, Politics, Trump

It ain’t over yet

The President of the United States

After succumbing to panic, I’ve pulled back from the edge, trying to let my cooler self prevail. Trump repeatedly says and does outrageous things for two reasons: he wants to normalize his despotic conduct so that we forget how beyond the pale it actually is, and he attempts to instill fear in us, because fear is paralyzing.

But now is the time to be ANGRY, not fearful. Now is the time to do whatever it takes, whatever each one is able to do, in order to encourage people to come out and VOTE. This is no time to be passive.

The majority of voters, including quite a few covert Republicans as well as other very well known ones, do not like Trump.

Former Republican appointed and elected officials, generals in the military and political operatives have repudiated Trump. (For starters, former Director of the FBI, James Comey; former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois; former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell; senior campaign strategist for John McCain’s presidential run, Steve Schmidt.) By mid-summer the Republican super-PAC, the Lincoln Project, had raised $18.7 million to defeat Trump.

Knowing that Vote-by-Mail would greatly advantage Democrats, Trump attempted to cripple the US Postal Service. But the resultant hue and cry forced him to back down. Despise the awesome power invested in him, he blusters to disguise his fear of exposing his own failure.

So, until the fat lady sings, make calls, write letters, paint signs, take to the streets, raise your voice and above all, VOTE.

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Filed under 2020 Vote, Resistance, Trump

No democracy, no union. Where do we go from here?

Small American flag recovered amid World Trade Center debris at the Fresh Kills Landfill. 9-11 exhibit at the East Tennessee History Museum. 2003 Smithsonian photo by Hugh Talman.

The United States is no longer. It is not united and it no longer has a government that is of the people, by the people, or for the people.

The Republicans in the Senate majority represent 18 percent of the country’s population; 60 percent of the Senate now represents just 24 percent of the country. Let that sink in.

The United States is not a democracy. The principle of one man, one vote has become a travesty.

Now Mitt Romney (R-UT), the lone Republican senator who voted to impeach Donald Trump, has announced that he supports the move to allow Trump to nominate the next justice of the Supreme Court. Romney’s decision almost certainly guarantees that the replacement of liberal icon Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be a hard-right-leaning conservative.

We can anticipate the resulting 6-3 majority to muzzle the liberals. In addition to the Senate, Republicans control the judiciary and possibly the executive branches of the government.

We can expect the minority “majority” to overturn every Democratic initiative to safeguard the country and protect its people. Republicans will achieve their fondest goals. They will

  • revoke Roe v. Wade, erasing the woman’s right to choose that RBG was instrumental in establishing almost 50 years ago.
  • dismantle the social safety net devised by Democratic administrations
    • Social Security, envisioned by Franklin Roosevelt in the depths of the Great Depression
    • Medicare and Medicaid, initiated under Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society
    • Obamacare, Barack Obama’s first step toward universal health care
  • abolish regulations that combat climate change, protect the environment from commercial exploitation, reform the banking system
  • stifle any attempt to regulate guns

What can the gagged majority do? It’s clear that a country so divided cannot stand.

Civil war is one response. The blue states could secede. Geography is an impediment, because Democrats inhabit not only the East and West Coasts that are separated by a vast expanse, but also great cities in the Republican Midwest like Chicago. Republicans tote guns, Democrats by and large don’t. I suspect the food supply from the Farm Belt is largely in Republican hands.

At this moment I’m not coming up with alternatives to this nightmare scenario. I ask readers to argue with me and suggest ways to cope with the untenable situation that we face.

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Filed under American Society, Climate change, Politics, Resistance

Thank you, RBG. Rest In Peace

Looking down from the steps of the supreme court on mourners and demonstrators gathering following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 9/18/2020 Photo by Rosa Pineda

NOOOO!!!

The anguished cry rose across the country with the news that the legendary, beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had lost her final battle. She fought determinedly and won the first skirmishes, but cancer’s relentless invasion ultimately overcame her body.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

She must have suffered during the last few years with several surgeries complicated by three broken ribs, but she refused to let such inconveniences interrupt her work. Thanks to her crusade against the mistreatment of women and minorities, RBG changed the lives of all Americans. We can rejoice that Ginsburg was celebrated during her lifetime for her remarkable achievements. Many artists and great minds die in obscurity, deprived of the satisfaction of knowing their works would be widely acclaimed. 

Ruth was a barrier-breaker and a high-achiever. She was among the first women admitted to Harvard Law School. When Marty, her husband, got a job in New York, she moved with him and completed her law studies at Columbia. During her last year she made Law Review and finished at the top of her class, while simultaneously caring for her baby and Marty, stricken with cancer.

Her professors from both Harvard and Columbia recommended her for a clerkship on the Supreme Court. But Justice Frankfurter, a good friend of theirs, would not consider her because he refused to hire a woman. This was not the first nor the last of continual rebuffs. Each one increased her sensitivity to the abuse of marginalized groups, especially women.

How many women born 50 years ago or less understand how inequality made women’s lives and aspirations radically different from those of men? How many know that until the 1970s, when old laws were struck down and new laws began to change the culture, women were rarely if ever seen in corporate boardrooms, in the houses of Congress, state legislatures or the courts? They were prohibited from serving on juries (so they never could be judged by juries of their peers) and often were not hired or promoted in order to protect jobs for men.

Women suffered domestic inequality as well. It grew from a culture that didn’t question the unproved assumption that women have to be protected because they are weak— essentially inferior to men. Inequality was not confined to the home. The premise that women are dependent on men was also embedded in the entire American legal system. Not until the first two women in history— Sandra Day O’Connor first, followed by Ginsburg— were appointed to the Supreme Court and gained the power to challenge those laws, did the barriers that were holding women back begin to crumble.

Even before Ginsburg became an Associate Justice at the Supreme Court, however, she argued five landmark cases before it in less than a decade. Her victories in these cases during the 70s transformed women’s constitutional status.

Ginsburg’s primary goal was to equate discrimination against sex to offenses against race, applying the Fourteenth Amendment to both. In Frontiero v. Richardson she maintained that

Sex like race is a visible, immutable characteristic bearing no necessary relationship to ability. Sex like race has been made the basis for unjustified or at least unproved assumptions, concerning an individual’s potential to perform or to contribute to society.

Ginsburg’s work has made it possible for women to no longer be singled out because of their sex and treated differently from men under the law. Ginsburg taught, for example, that alimony and shorter work hours are actually harmful to women because they enable dependency. Shorter work hours also mean lesser jobs for women and less pay. 

Ginsburg understood that sex-role stereotyping can also adversely affect the dominant sex. Men are in a double bind: they do not benefit from all the talents of their wives, they have to work harder and they miss out on quality time with their children.

Justice Thurgood Marshall and his tactics served as a model for Justice Ginsburg in her crusade for women’s equality. Marshall led the battle for civil rights in the Supreme Court. His strategy of achieving small, incremental changes culminated in the sweeping change of the Civil Rights Act. The achievements in civil rights and women’s rights of Justices Marshall and Ginsburg brought about radical and profound change in American society. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg richly deserves the hagiographic reverence accorded to her. A diminutive woman, she presumably had tiny feet, but no one has feet large enough to fit into her shoes. She will be sorely missed, and those who follow her have an obligation to preserve her legacy and build on it.

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Filed under Politics, Women

Voting in 2020. Tricky.

MailBoxHeap

Mailboxes cast away and heaped up like so many corpses

Many of us are concerned about the problems with the U.S. Postal Service and the 2020 presidential election.

Trump’s escalating attacks on the USPS are both politically and personally motivated. 

Trump can’t abide anything, whether fact-based or not, that he perceives as criticism. His feud with the media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post, is unremitting, because they relentlessly search, find and publish details of Trump’s illegal and immoral activities. 

Jeff Bezos owns the Post and is also the CEO of Amazon, so Trump’s animus extends to the online retailer as well as the newspaper and the person who heads both. The mutually beneficial contract between Amazon and the USPS particularly sticks in Trump’s craw, because he wants to cripple Amazon, not let it benefit from a special, lower rate for its packages. Consequently, the ineffectiveness of his demands that the post office raise its rates infuriates him.

Trump’s upcoming bid for re-election provides the political rationale for his hostility to the USPS. He knows that the ease of voting by mail will greatly increase voter turnout, and that a larger turnout will favor the Democrats. This understanding drives his campaign against mail-in voting. In the throes of the pandemic, Trump would force voters to crowd in and outside the polls, exposing themselves unnecessarily and increasing the chance of a new spike in Covid-19. 

Crippling the post office would effectively handicap the Democrats. Dirty tricks, like eliminating most polling places in densely populated areas, make voting onerous and suppress the vote. Democrats are mostly clustered in cities, so they would bear the brunt of such tactics.

On Twitter, we are admonished to put the current problems in perspective:

Sheletta Brundidge @ShelettaIsFunny

·I ain’t gone say we ain’t worried about #45’s trying to keep us from voting, but Black folks have overcome much more and still found a way. Folks gotta cast their ballots by any means necessary. Ain’t a dog barking at you, no clubs beating you and no fire, so make it happen!

And:

Straight No Chaser @serioustalk01

Everytime I hear people lamenting that they shouldnt have to risk their lives to vote I think of John Lewis and so many others who did just that. No, you shouldn’t have to risk your life to vote, but we have to deal with what is, as Black people have done for centuries.

Trump won’t approve billions in emergency funding for the post office that would enable Democrats to expand mail-in voting. “Now, they need that money in order to have the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. Without that money, “they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.” The president made plain his intention to stymie the electoral process. It is up to the states to extend their deadlines or explain the importance of voting as early as possible.

USPSSortingLoss

As I write this, mailboxes are being taken away in parts of California, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana. Ten percent of the expensive mail-sorting machines at distribution centers have also been removed. We don’t know if they are being moved to other places, abandoned, stored or destroyed. 

The officials who are dismantling the Post Office should be cognizant of 18 USC §1701:

Whoever knowingly and willfully obstructs or retards the passage of the mail, or any carrier or conveyance carrying the mail, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

To be sure, the administration has relented somewhat in reaction to the outpouring of outrage, protests and petitions to Congress. USPS spokesman Rod Spurgeon told NBC News that they will halt the removal of post boxes until after the election.

What can you do, to safeguard the election and make sure your vote is counted?

  • Request an absentee or mail-in ballot
  • Do not mail it.
  • vote.org has all the information you need. Or google the Board of Elections in your state to find out where to drop off your mail-in ballot. It is usually not the polling place. 

By following these guidelines, you will not be relying on USPS to deliver your ballot on time. Instead, you can ensure that your ballot is delivered and counted. You won’t have to stand in long lines and risk infection. After dropping it off, find out how to track it online to make sure it is verified. California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado can track your ballot as if it were a package from Amazon.

Take whatever precautions you choose, but VOTE!

Update:

To countermand your ballot being sent as bulk mail, put a 55-cent stamp over whatever is printed on the part you mail back and it automatically must go First Class.

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This is our government

To aid her readers in their quest for the most egregiously malfeasant actors in Trump’s cabinet— “Vote for Trump’s Worst!”— Gail Collins inventories the cast of characters and their blatant abuse of the public trust. Her column is a handy reference tool, because the misdeeds and corruption vie for supremacy in venality. Choosing the worst is a real challenge, because, she warns, “the competition is intense.”

Vice President Pence: prim and unperturbed by the president’s lies and scandals; his confidence mirrored Trump’s delusion that the pandemic would be history by Memorial Day.

Attorney General William Barr “Can President Trump move Election Day?” Barr responded, “I’ve never looked into it.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as Tom Friedman recounts, persuaded Trump to fire the State Department’s inspector general “reportedly because he was investigating … Pompeo’s own efforts to evade a congressional ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and for improperly asking a State Department employee to run errands for him and his wife.” Among many more examples of deceit and corruption.

Chad Wolf, the acting head of Homeland Security, had previous experience as a travel industry lobbyist, which apparently prepared him to be Trump’s yes-man, confining immigrants at the Southern border and tear-gassing peaceful protesters in Democratic cities.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whose big donations to Republican causes initially qualified him for the job, now sees as his mission the destruction of the U.S. Post Office to accommodate Trump’s wish to abolish voting by mail.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. shut down the census count a month early, though it had been previously extended to October 31 because of the Coronavirus. Up to 40% of the population has not yet been counted, disproportionately people of color, the disabled, immigrants, and the elderly, all groups difficult to count and likely to vote against Trump. The dramatic undercount of Black, Latino and other minority communities will diminish their federal funding and political representation.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and gas industries, “took a lead in the administration’s massive financial relief package for oil and gas companies.” He was a central figure in the decision to use military police to gas protesters from Lafayette Square so that Trump and his bible could have their photo op.

Andrew Wheeler, former lobbyist for energy companies, Collins writes, is currently engaged in “a crusade” to extend “the life of giant pits of toxic coal sludge.”

Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation, the very wealthy wife of Mitch McConnell, has close ties to power players in China and benefits from her family’s shipping company. It garnered up to $1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Alex Azar, Health and Human Services, whose principal occupation seems to be supervising the dismembering of the Affordable Care Act.

Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary and sister of Erik Prince, favors charter schools and doesn’t like public schools. Her brother founded Blackwater, the military mercenary hit squad in Iraq. The family is very wealthy and has ties to right-wing billionaires.

And the winner is …

On August 12, Collins announced the winning readers who picked “Trump’s Cabinet from Hell.” First place was no contest. Attorney General William Barr won hands down, as he did last year. Second place went to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came in third.

The “smug arrogance” and “ignorant incompetence” of DeVos set her apart from the field. 

Reader Martin Benjamin wrote, “Rookie of the year has to be [Postmaster General] Louis DeJoy, for the sheer chutzpah of destroying one American institution (the mail) in the cause of destroying another American institution (democracy).”

For some reason, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin came in near the bottom. One reader noted that he walked away from Goldman Sachs with about $46 million in stock, yet he thinks $600/week is overpaid.”

One reader worried that Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao wasn’t “getting enough credit for the wholesale theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from Americans.” Airline passengers weren’t reimbursed for their tickets on flights cancelled because of the Covid-19 emergency.

But Attorney General William Barr earned the most opprobium: ”When the country’s top law officer ignores the rule of law to protect Trump from prosecution and advance the president’s political interests, it is downright scary, not to mention a threat to our democracy.” 

VOTE November 3 so that the work of draining the swamp in Washington can begin. The Republic cannot survive another four years of Trump.

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No celebrations

Fourth of July Solitary bonfire

On Independence Day we should be celebrating the American spirit that strove to cast off burdensome chains and gave birth to a new country unlike any that came before. But not this year.

This year there are no spectacular fireworks, no beach parties, no barbecues— nothing to mark what many fear may be the last gasp of American democracy. Will the American electorate succeed in loosening Trump’s chokehold on us and the traditions we hold most dear? Will the deadly Coronavirus wring the life out of hundreds of thousands more?

We can’t breathe!

The plague can’t last forever, but the devastation Trump has wrought will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. His Administration has snuffed out the beacon of hope that the world used to covet, sullied our ideals and accelerated the despoliation of the planet. We have become the home of the incarcerated, the tortured, the hungry and the sick.

We are teetering on the cusp of an inflection point— we can continue our decline into ignominy or aspire to revive and finally realize the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy. 

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Killing the virus, Trump style

Donald Trump is the object of ridicule, not only in the United States, but internationally. After the President mused about taking household disinfectants internally, Twitter exploded. Almost immediately, medical doctors and the makers of cleaning products and disinfectants hastened to refute Trump’s suggestions and warn people not to believe the President’s theories.

Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr), a writer and comedian, posted a video of herself mouthing Trump’s own words, in his voice, proposing to bring “the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. … Sounds interesting. I see disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning.” Transcript below

The Italian Newspaper Il Corriere della Sera is one of many news media worldwide that picked up the story. “Injections of disinfectants, UV lamps to ‘dry out’ the virus: these are two of the absurd proposals advanced yesterday by the president of the United States Donald Trump during his daily Coronavirus briefing from the White House,” wrote the Corriere. In the video, the paper also focused on the speechless horror of Dr. Deborah Birx as she watched her boss promote remedies for the Coronavirus that would sicken and potentially kill anyone who heeded his remarks.

Why would any sane person consider injecting or ingesting highly toxic products?

Donald Trump is desperate. He sees his prospects for reelection rapidly decaying. He can no longer tout a strong economy and low unemployment. The economy is in tatters now, and though the stock market is recovering from a precipitous fall, the Dow Jones is still almost 6,000 points lower than its record high two months ago. Twenty-two million people are out of work, more than during the Great Depression. Trump will seize on any remedy that might end the pandemic, let people go back to work and revive the economy.  Trump’s ignorance of science is manifest. Realizing that blue states have much higher rates of infection than red states, could he be dreaming that Democrats will drink the KoolAid, die off, reduce their number, and so improve his chances in November?

Transcript of President Trump’s remarks on remedies to vanquish the Novel Coronavirus

So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think [Dr. Deborah Birx] said, that hasn’t been checked but you’re gonna test it. 

And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you’re gonna test that too, sounds interesting. 

And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that. So you’re going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds interesting to me, so we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that’s pretty powerful.”

Politifact

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Combatting the Coronavirus

Credit: Scientific Animations

Knowledgable health officials are telling us that a Coronavirus epidemic will not spare the US. It’s a question of when it will arrive, not if. They warn that we must not lose any more time in preparing for the onslaught of the disease.

[Update: scroll to end for tips on how to protect yourself]

As of now, we are grievously unprepared. We don’t have enough hospital beds to accommodate both the predicted large numbers of victims and the patients hospitalized for the usual reasons. We don’t have nearly enough masks and other gear to protect health workers constantly exposed to the disease; we lack testing kits to identify and confirm infection. These are indispensable for preventing or at least limiting the spread of COVID-19, as the new Coronavirus is now called. 

There has been no concerted effort to remedy these and other deficiencies because two years ago Trump fired the global disease expert and eliminated the agency established by President Obama to deal with domestic epidemics and global pandemics. (Trump thought emergency preparation was a waste of money because without an epidemic, there would be nothing to do.) The President defunded the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), stripping away the infrastructure we now desperately need to deal with the crisis.

Instead, Trump assured Americans in a press conference on February 26 that he and his administration are doing a “great job” and have the situation completely under control. There are only 15 cases, he asserted, and there will soon be zero as those people recover. Actually, there were 59 cases in the US (now 60). Trump preferred not to count the 44 Americans  infected with or exposed to the Coronavirus who were airlifted home from Asia. Despite the insistence of the CDC that they be isolated, the Trump political appointees with no medical expertise had them travel in the same plane with their healthy comrades. Even worse, A whistleblower today revealed that the personnel sent to welcome the 14 persons in quarantine were not trained or equipped with protective gear. Moreover, after being exposed to the virus, they went their separate ways across the country, possibly exposing an unknown number of other people.

As of today, 49 countries have reported more than 82,000 cases and more than 2,800 deaths from the disease. But Trump denies we have an imminent crisis, controverting the scientists’ warning that we cannot avoid the certainty of an epidemic.

Trump believes that his reelection depends on the continuing record-breaking climb of the stock market. The market has been tanking for six consecutive days since February 20, significantly eroding the gains of the Trump years. The decline is a reaction to the virus and its adverse effect on the global economy, but Trump blamed it on the Democrats’ debate (which took place on February 25, after four days of market free fall) and the media, which he accuses of exaggerating the seriousness of the situation.

To combat the horrible truths that emerge each day, as we learn of more cases in more places, Trump has decreed that the CDC and other medical authorities cannot advise and update the public without first submitting their comments to the vice president for his approval. From now on, with the experts muzzled, we’ll have to depend on leaks and sharp reporting to find out what is really going on. Shades of Stalin, as democratic norms continue to be shattered and totalitarian constraints and restrictions inexorably replace them. 

People, products, food and disease-causing micro-organisms traverse the globe in unprecedented numbers and historic speed. When they were free to share their concerns, professional medics warned us to prepare by readying hospitals, testing and stocking medical supplies. But how can individuals prepare? What should we do? The recommendations for avoiding contagion are mostly common sense procedures, no different from what we already know. 

  • First of all, prepare, don’t panic. Healthy people experience what will feel like a cold or the flu. Children don’t seem to be affected. Seniors, however, are at risk, especially if they have chronic conditions like diabetes.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after touching handrails, doorknobs, elevator buttons, gym equipment— anything that others touch. Wash before eating and after using the bathroom. Use soap and hot water and scrub for at least 20 seconds: between the fingers, backs of the hands, under the nails. This video demonstrates the technique advocated by the World Health Organization as the best way to wash your hands. (It’s a little more complicated than what you’re used to.)
  • Don’t touch your face! Most of us do it all the time, but infection enters easily through mouth, eyes and nose.
  • For now, stop shaking hands.
  • Avoid touching handrails, doorknobs, etc. away from home.
  • Carry alcohol-based (at least 60 percent alcohol) hand sanitizer to use when soap and water aren’t feasible.
  • Keep your distance (six feet, if possible) from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Get a flu shot.
  • Avoid crowds. It follows that you should avoid public transportation whenever possible. Also sport events, theaters, conferences.
  • Keep a 90-day supply of your medications on hand.
  • Work from home if you can.
  • Stock your cupboard in case you have to stay home.
  • Avoid spreading your own germs:
  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow.
  • Stay home if you don’t feel well and see a doctor.

If you manage to follow these tips, you and your family will probably stay healthy. At least you won’t regret not taking the recommended precautions.

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L’État C’est Moi: I am the State

photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

If Donald Trump has learned anything in his three years in the White House, it is that the president has awesome power. 

Trump may not have read the Constitution, but he now knows that Article 2 defines the executive branch of government. According to Trump, “I have in Article 2 the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Of course he doesn’t, but if the Senate doesn’t remove him from office, what little restraint he may have experienced will evaporate and he will accelerate the erosion of the pillars of  American democracy. 

Trump would have recognized a soulmate in Richard Nixon. He also believed that “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” But 1974 seems eons ago, a time when Republicans and Democrats recognized the danger of an out-of-control president and joined forces to oust him.

Yesterday Trump’s lawyer affirmed that Donald Trump could do nothing illegal as president. The man who defended O.J. Simpson put forth a terrifying argument in Trump’s defense. Alan Dershowitz asserted, “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in an impeachment.” 

Dershowitz argues that a president can do whatever believes is for the public good. If the president believes, as Trump does, that he is the best president ever, then his election is necessary and justifies whatever it takes to achieve that end. Asking foreign governments to discredit his adversary, hacking the election, disseminating disinformation, rigging the voting machines, disenfranchising g/.roups known to vote Democratic— all of these and more are permissible. Trump has invited China, as well as Russia, to help re-elect him.

Dershowitz may have done irreparable harm, especially if Republican senators acquit the President. He has legitimized autocracy. 

Louis XIV

Trump reminds me of Louis XIV of France. He ruled as an absolute monarch, believing that what was good for him was good for France. “L’état c’est moi,” he said famously. Louis believed in the divine right of kings, much as Trump believes in Article II. Trump loves to live lavishly surrounded by gold furnishings, and Louis built the sumptuous palace of Versailles for his royal residence. Several decades after his death, his heirs and the rest of the French nobility succumbed to the guillotine and the French Revolution. France was never the same.

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Trump defensive strategy: delay, delay, delay

John R. Bolton

John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has indicated that he would testify in the impeachment hearing — BUT — he wants a judge to decide if he can continue to ignore the Judiciary Committee’s invitation to testify, as the president has ordered, or whether, as a former employee of the White House, he is not subject to the executive order.

Initially, I thought Bolton’s request for a judicial determination was a strictly CYA maneuver. But now his lawyer’s hint on Friday that Bolton knows about “many relevant meetings and conversations” that the House committee doesn’t suggests something more. The intimation that Bolton could supply new evidence is meant to be tantalizing. If the Democrats bite the bait by acceding to his request and taking him to court to force him to testify before the committee, the momentum of the hearings will be lost.

Delay only helps Trump.  The longer the impeachment inquiry drags on, the greater the chance that public interest in the eventual impeachment will subside. No one wants the impeachment to drag into a presidential year, and the first primary is only two and a half months away. The candidates for the nomination need to direct their attention to their campaigns. They can’t afford to be distracted by the impeachment.

Democrats already have all the evidence they need to impeach Trump, But Bolton’s position in the White House places him closer to the president than any of the other witnesses so far. His testimony would certainly be valuable to the Democrats and difficult for the Republicans to impugn.

Democrats must resist Republican attempts to bog down and obstruct the hearings by assailing the process, smearing the witnesses, and using the courts to delay unimpeachable testimony that will likely damn the president.

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Eyes on the Chief Justice

Will John Roberts defend the scofflaw Donald Trump, who boasts of being able to shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue with impunity? We shall soon find out. 

Dahlia Lithwick, who writes about courts and the law for Slate Magazine, discusses the multiple lawsuits headed for the Supreme Court that will directly impact Trump’s fate, if not determine it. Federal and district courts have stymied Trump’s attempts to shield his tax returns from public scrutiny, to direct his cronies and White House staff (past and present) from testifying in the current impeachment inquiry, and to keep evidence presented to the Mueller grand jury inaccessible to the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry. Trump has appealed all these cases, and now the only place left for them to go is the Supreme Court.

Lithwick explains how the actions of the Chief Justice will affect the course and outcome of the impeachment inquiry. Roberts may agree to put the cases affecting the president on the docket this term, but the decisions would likely not come down until late spring, too late for an impeachment proceeding to use the testimony of key witnesses and critical evidence gathered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A delay will be of great advantage to Trump. But if Roberts decides to let the rulings of the lower courts stand, he would in effect be ruling against Trump. If the Supreme Court takes up the cases, the delay will slow down the Democrats’ momentum, adversely affecting their ability to influence public opinion, a critical factor in impeachment.

Will Roberts, now the swing vote on the Court, support Trump’s defiance of court orders and subpoenas? Will he support Trump’s assertion assertion of complete presidential immunity, not only from being indicted, but even from being investigated? With unlimited executive power, the president is personally above the law and free to countermand or defy established federal law and historical custom. The judiciary and the legislature are subservient to the imperial presidency, not co-equal as defined by the Constitution. Trump’s impeachment is about much more than the fate of his presidency. It is about the authority of the Constitution and the survival of American democracy.

At least once the Chief Justice ruled against the Republicans, when he found a way to keep Obamacare from foundering. He apparently understood that the Affordable Healthcare Act  was benefitting millions, and that they would not look kindly on Republicans who would take it away just as they had begun to have the ability to obtain medical care previously denied them.

I believe John Roberts cares about his legacy and the integrity of the Court. We’ll soon know if I am right.

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Impeach him. Now.

No, I’m not talking about impeaching President Trump. That is a knotty decision with excellent philosophical and legal arguments on one side and valid political and practical ones on the other.

AG William Barr

No, I’m talking about the prime law enforcement officer of the United States, William Barr, the Attorney General. He lied to the American public and apparently committed perjury when testifying to Congress. These are crimes that call out for impeachment, unless Barr resigns immediately.

Special Counsel Robert S. MuellerPhoto credit: USAToday

On April 10, Barr was asked in a Senate hearing whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed with his summary of the results of Mueller’s investigation and his conclusions. Barr testified before the Senate that he didn’t know. That statement was not truthful. We now know that Mueller had written to Barr on March 27, three days after Barr had released his “summary,” that he did not agree with Barr’s conclusions. Mueller wrote to Barr that his memo “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of the probe and the Report.

Barr misrepresented both sections of the Mueller Report. In the second section, Mueller clearly documented 10 instances of Trump’s obstruction of justice. If anyone but the president had committed even one of these acts, (s)he would have been indicted. Mueller specifically said in the Report that he could not directly accuse the president of a crime because the Department of Justice has ruled that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

[W]e determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes…. Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought.

“Accordingly,” Mueller wrote, “while this report does not conclude the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” In his four-page memo, Barr directly contradicted Mueller on that point, saying that Mueller had not been influenced in any way by that DOJ ruling. Even more significantly, Barr wrote that there was evidence both for and against obstruction in the Report, but he had determined that there was no obstruction, thus giving Trump the pretext to proclaim, falsely, again and again, “No collusion, no obstruction.”

Mueller also condemned the delayed release of the Report, which allowed the misinformation that Barr had propagated to marinate and solidify in the minds of the public. In his letter to Barr, Mueller complained that

There’s now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department of Justice appointed the Special Counsel, which is to assure full public confidence in the outcomes of the investigations.”

And by extension, to undermine public confidence in the Department of Justice itself and the rule of law.

The Russian connections with the Trump campaign are covered in the first section of the Report. Though there were many of these, Mueller was not able to prove conspiracy between the campaign and Russia. Collusion is not a legal term. Barr elided the distinction between collusion and conspiracy. He ignored the ongoing investigation of Roger Stone, who was trafficking in stolen documents with Wikileaks and the Russians. It’s possible Stone can’t be successfully prosecuted under the current statute, because our laws outdated: they don’t account for digital documents.

With his letter Mueller included redacted introductions and executive summaries from the Report that he and his staff had written for Barr to release to the public. Barr did no such thing. He had said publicly that he “was not interested” in releasing summaries of the Report, that he didn’t want to release it piecemeal.

Can there be any doubt that the Attorney General has violated the sacred trust placed in him by covering up the President’s crimes and deceiving the American public? William Barr cannot be trusted to oversee the remaining prosecutions (redacted) in the Mueller Report nor those that will arise from the corruption of Trump and his family.

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May 1, 2019 · 2:09 AM

Bring on the Mueller Report

Please, Counselor Mueller, show us your report
Barr’s letter is duller and much, much too short.

  For months we’ve been waiting,
  we’re all speculating.
  Now Barr's arrogating
  the right to decide, even hide,
  the fruits of your labors
  —This we can't abide!



Barr’s stalling,
stonewalling,
appalling!
We need to see what you wrote.
Barr's conclusions are spurious,
they make us furious.
His excuses won’t float.

Now
Subpoenas are flying,
There'll be no denying.
Nadler is on it, Schiff and Cummings too--

Show us, show us, show us what is true!

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The unbearable mystery of Mueller

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller
Photo credit: USAToday

For almost two years Democrats waited with apprehension and Republicans with dread for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to conclude his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. When the day finally came, Attorney General William Barr received the report. Two days later, he summarized the conclusions in a four-page letter. Republicans were elated, Democrats were stunned, and the president was jubilant.

Barr wrote that Mueller found neither Trump nor members of his campaign had conspired with the Russians. 

But the other charge, obstruction of justice, remained unresolved. Mueller wrote

while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him [emphasis mine]. 

Whereupon Barr took it upon himself, in consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to go where the Mueller Report had not. He concluded that President Trump had not obstructed justice, despite Mueller’s refusal to exonerate him. 

Why did Special Counsel Mueller decide not to decide? Prosecutors normally prosecute.

A Special Prosecutor is appointed when an important investigation demands that it be led by someone deemed to be completely independent and resistant to countervailing political winds. By not resolving the question of Trump’s obstruction of justice, Mueller obviated the purpose of having an apolitical Special Counsel. The final decision now falls to a Trump appointee, the Attorney General, or Congress, which is nothing if not political. 

Barr is hardly unbiased. Before his nomination, he wrote an unsolicited memo that called Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation “fatally misconceived.” Barr wrote that, given the executive power inherent in the office, it is impossible for the president to obstruct justice. It was completely within Trump’s powers as head of the executive branch, Barr wrote, to ask FBI Director James Comey to go easy on then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and fire Comey for his suggestion that the President had acted inappropriately.  

Barr believes that there cannot be obstruction without an underlying crime. Once Mueller cleared Trump of collusion, the underlying crime was gone, so ipso facto  Trump could not be obstructing justice.

It was clear early on that members of the Trump campaign had meetings with Russian nationals and tried to hide and then deny those actions. The infamous June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower was one of these. It was attended by three senior members of the Trump campaign (Donald Trump Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort) and a Russian government lawyer. Trump Jr had written that he would love to receive opposition research on Hilary Clinton from the Russians. Trump and his aides concocted several stories to explain the meeting, but none of the lies was able to withstand the truth eventually uncovered by tireless journalists.

We also know that during the campaign the president was working on a lucrative business deal, the erection of a Trump Tower in Moscow. Was he compromised by his eagerness to do business with Putin? Was making lots of money the only motive for Trump’s deference to the Russians?

Did Mueller fail to draw a conclusion because it might have prejudiced ongoing investigations he had referred to other jurisdictions? Would a conclusion have contaminated the jury pool for a future grand jury?

The Democrats will have to choke on these questions and more until, if ever, the full report is released. House committees may carry on the multiple investigations they have begun. They may call Mueller to testify, despite Barr’s opposition.

But if the Dems are wise, they will concentrate on giving the voters what they want. Healthcare leads the list. Trump may have given Democrats a gift by proposing to completely repeal the ACA / Obamacare. Voters are much more interested in the bread-and-butter issues that affect them directly every day than they are in the political bickering in Washington. 

If American democracy can withstand the Trumpian onslaughts, an accurate history of the Trump era will one day be written.

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Trump’s elusive wall


Trump promoting his wall -USA Today

Donald Trump needs The Wall that he’s been hawking since he entered the presidential race, but the Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, won’t let him have it. Like a spoiled brat who can’t get his way, the President had a tantrum. He retaliated by shutting down the government.

Donald Trump hates to admit he made a mistake. He rarely apologizes. Now he’s boxed himself in by saying he won’t reopen the government that he himself shut down unless he gets his Wall, but the Democrats are standing firmly against a wall they say would be ineffective. Negotiations are at an impasse. Trump is holding 800,000 federal workers hostage to something that began as a mnemonic device, a way to remember what he was supposed to say.

Why is Trump so enthralled by his Wall?

Before he officially became a candidate, Trump’s political advisers realized that immigration would resonate with conservatives and unemployed workers left behind in a growing economy that did not need their skills. In order to keep the easily distracted candidate on message, his handlers hit upon The Wall — a simple concept, an easy-to-remember four-letter word. It appealed to Trump the Builder — Build the Wall! — and the crowd’s enthusiastic response to the slogan converted it to a meme that has practically become a symbol for Trump himself.

The Trump Tower escalator descended with the aspiring candidate to a waiting crowd so that a beaming Trump could announce his candidacy. He described the evils he said were afflicting the country and attributed them mostly to immigrants who he said were invaders that arrived in hordes at the southern border. To stymie them Trump envisioned a “beautiful” Wall he would erect to “Make America Great Again” by walling out undesirables. America for Americans! (Never mind that America was built by immigrants and most Americans are descended from them.)

The Wall has become a convenient way for Trump to distract the country when new revelations from the Mueller investigation grab the headlines or challenge his version of events.

Now Trump has seized on the expedient of declaring a national emergency so that he will be able to use expanded executive power. The White House is looking for options like using military manpower and funds designated for other projects. The Pentagon may not look favorably on losing funds needed perhaps to build new barracks.

Democrats will lose no time before they challenge Trump in court. The president cannot overrule Congress by appropriating funds for a project it has not approved without precipitating a constitutional crisis. We are again in uncharted waters.


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Mending Wall by Ben East

Author, teacher and diplomat Ben East reflects on two dissimilar walls: one a poem by Robert Frost, the other the obsession of Donald Trump. With admiration and his permission I am reblog it below.

Only 2,000 Miles to Go

Robert Frost’s great poem, outwardly a critique on a pre-existing wall, arguably has little to do with the hypothetical wall being proffered today.

But Frost’s wall stands for so much more, and the critique applies more universally than merely to stone piled on stone. The critique can be said to include any barrier that divides us. The critique includes blind adherence to tradition. The critique marvels at the depravity and ignorance displayed by our fellow man.

I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

Frost’s narrator, in his easy country voice, recognizes that nature itself opposes these barriers. Hunters or weather or the invisible hand of the outdoors, the ordinary stuff of time’s passage, work in concert against the wall.

The narrator resonates common sense in questioning why his neighbor would rebuild the wall between their properties. And this same good sense reveals the answer: the neighbor is an individual of dim intellect and long habits.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

I’ve always loved this poem. Today I love it more than ever. I hear in this lament the nation’s former poet laureate snickering at today’s gross display of race-baiting, fear-mongering, ignorance, and megalomania.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…

Mending Wall
-Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

_____________________________________________________

Ben East published his first novel, Two Pumps for the Body Man (New Pulp Press, 2016), as a Bush-Cheney era black comedy. Set in Saudi Arabia, Two Pumps does for American diplomacy and the War on Terror what Catch-22 did for military logic during the Second World War. 

His second novel, Patchworks (Moonshine Cove Publishing, Sept 2017), examines American gun culture in a similar light.

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Can Trump declare a state of emergency?

photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Upon reading Elizabeth Goitein’s “What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency” in The Atlantic, my dismay spurred me to write the previous post. In “Our democracy may not be as robust as we think,” I considered a few of the disasters Trump would be empowered to inflict on the American public by declaring a state of emergency.

After publishing the post, I began to read The New York Times, and almost immediately came upon Bruce Ackerman’s “No, Trump Cannot Declare an ‘Emergency’ to Build His Wall,” The title promised to contradict all I had written based on Goitein’s article.

But Ackerman’s article was nuanced.

He refers to laws that would seem to prevent the president from suspending civil liberties and imposing martial law or build his wall. The first is a provision in a statute of 1878 that expressly forbids the willful use of “any part of the Army or the Air Force to execute a law domestically” unless “authorized by the Constitution or an act of Congress.” Then he refers to another statute from 1807 that directs the secretary of defense to “ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel)” will “not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity … unless authorized by law.”

Would Trump respect these statutes? For that matter, is he even aware of them? Is anyone in his cabinet or on his staff sufficiently conversant with the law to attempt to curb his illegal impulses? We have seen Trump compose executive orders and issue commands without seeking legal advice, unaware that he may be violating the Constitution or the laws of the land. His M.O. is “Act first, think later (if ever).” Knowing the presidency confers great power, Trump seems to think there are no restraints. If he were to declare an emergency, there would be a delay before the courts or Congress could thwart him. 

Ackerman admits that the laws he refers to “do contain a series of carefully crafted exceptions to the general rule.” He concedes that Trump might take advantage of the exception which authorizes the military to detain suspected terrorists. That’s not a stretch, since the President has repeatedly characterized migrants who cross the border illegally as terrorists.

But Ackerman believes that “it is an unconscionable stretch to use this proviso to support using the military for operations against the desperate refugees from Central America seeking asylum in our country.” It is “unconscionable” for a moral and compassionate person, but Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he is neither. He has already gassed them.

The National Emergencies Act “formalize[s] the power of Congress to provide certain checks and balances on the emergency powers of the President,” writes Ackerman. It gives the House the right to rescind a state of emergency declared by the president and requires the Senate to ratify within 15 days. It seems foolishly optimistic to trust that the the legislators in the current divided Congress could come together in both houses long enough to pass a resolution.

Yet, in a neat twist of logic, Ackerman argues that Congress would intervene:

Since President Trump’s “emergency” declaration would be a direct response to his failure to convince Congress that national security requires his wall, it is hard to believe that a majority of the Senate, if forced to vote, would accept his show of contempt for their authority.

Hmm. That remains to be seen.

Finally, Ackerman concedes that, despite the legal obstacles that confront him, Trump could well declare a state of emergency. “He will likely take the most irresponsible path possible, issuing his ‘national emergency’ through a tweet or a question-begging written pronunciamento.”

We have reason to be very concerned.

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Our democracy may not be as robust as we think

Imagine an internet that restricts access to certain websites, including social media platforms; search engines programmed to return only positive results to queries for “Trump”; email that is monitored, censored, even blocked. Does that sound fanciful, an impossibility in our American democracy? Perhaps. Yet the threat is real. 

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The current issue of The Atlantic has an alarming report written by Elizabeth Goitein, the Co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at The Brennan Center for Justice. Goitein delineates the formidable emergency powers that are available to the president during a national emergency. The article, “What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency,” is an eye-opener. Everyone should read it.

By announcing the mere threat of war, for example, the president could assume control of all communications, most likely including the internet. He could do so by invoking a law that has been on the books since 1942, when fears of invasion during World War II justified extraordinary executive power. Though it didn’t exist when the law was written, the internet today is a vital component of communications.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law has tallied 123 statutory provisions that grant the president broad emergency powers the moment he declares an emergency. Moreover, the president himself may determine what constitutes an emergency, because the statutes do not define it. In addition, there is no judicial review, nor a requirement that Congress ratify the president’s appropriation of exceptional power. Though Congress could vote to end the state of emergency with a two-thirds, veto-proof majority in both houses, what are the chances of that happening today?

The Insurrection Act of 1807, modified over the years, allows the president to employ military troops to enforce the authority of the federal government in cases of lawlessness, insurrection and rebellion. Trump could deploy armed forces domestically wherever he saw fit, because the statute does not define the specific conditions that constitute an emergency. The law is vague enough that Trump could, for example, authorize tanks to patrol the streets, rounding up political protesters and undocumented migrants. President Eisenhower invoked this law in 1957 to enforce desegregation of the schools in Arkansas with federal troops.

Authoritarians routinely declare states of emergency to impose their will forcefully on their people. Trump admires tyrants like Turkey’s Erdoğan and Duterte of the Philippines — why wouldn’t he follow their examples? After all, Trump is not inhibited by respect for or even knowledge of the law or of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

Trump continues to attack the free press because it persists in calling him to account. The President riles up his followers and advocates the imprisonment of a political rival. He denies Muslims entry to the U.S. Clearly, Trump has no reverence for the basic freedoms of the press, speech and religion. Gotein cites Geoffrey R. Stone, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of Chicago, who observed that “It would not take much to upset the [Supreme Court’s] current understanding of the First Amendment.” 

“Indeed,” Goitein remarks wryly, “all it would take is five Supreme Court justices whose commitment to presidential power exceeds their commitment to individual liberties.”

Presidents in living memory have exercised emergency powers. Citing imminent threat to America, President Franklin Roosevelt defied the Constitution by interning U.S. citizens of Japanese descent. More recently, President George W. Bush authorized warrantless wiretapping and torture after 9/11.

In view of the latent perils to democracy that are now immediately available to President Trump, Gotein urges the American public to inform itself. We must insist that Congress repeal obsolete laws and limit the ones that contain the potential for abuse. The newly Democratic House must begin the review process in committees so that a future Democratic Senate can ratify the changes.

The time to act is now, before Trump or another president declares an emergency that gives him limitless power.

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A Blue Wave after all

img_4570.png

The immediate aftermath of the midterm elections left me uneasy, unable to fully celebrate the Democratic control of the U.S. House, despite my conviction before the election that without a Democratic victory in the House, democracy in America would surely be doomed.

The superstars, Stacy Abrams, Andrew Gillum and Beto O’Rourke were counted out as most returns were tallied on Wednesday. But high hopes dashed on Wednesday were revived by the weekend.

Andrew Gillum gave his concession speech on Thursday when it seemed he would not be Florida’s governor. But on Saturday, he took it back. Gillum and Stacy Abrams in Georgia are striving mightily against Republican opposition to have all votes counted and recounted in their races for the governor’s mansion. Both are close enough to trigger recounts. The same holds for the senate race in Florida.

As the vote counting continued, a Blue Tide began to wash over Republican-held seats, growing in size and strength. The House majority kept growing, and close races drew even closer. Democrats needed 23 seats to gain a majority in the House. As late vote counts rolled in, they garnered 32 seats, with 10 still not called.

The Blue Wave asserted itself: Democrats won 367 congressional seats— more than the Tea Party had in 2010. They flipped seven governorships, including in solid red Kansas (where they also captured a House seat). And when Florida and Georgia are finally finished counting and recounting, Democrats may gain one or two more governors.

Democrats scored trifectas — winning both houses of the state legislature and the governor — in six states: Colorado, Maine, Illinois, New York, New Mexico and Nevada. They will have full control in 13 states; the Republicans in 21.

Victories in state elections are important. State governments strongly influence health care, taxes, immigration and climate change in their states. They control redistricting, which is pivotal today, because gerrymandering currently causes Democrats to lose elections and seats, despite winning the popular vote.

Republican Martha McSally at first appeared to have won Jeff Flake’s senate seat in Arizona, but when all votes were counted a week after Election Day, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema became the first woman Arizona would send to the Senate and the first Democratic senator elected by the state in three decades.

The country moved left. Even in races the Republicans won, Democrats gained ground. As in 2016, Democrats won the popular vote. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke roused enthusiasm and came close to winning with a tremendous number of Democratic votes in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat since Ann Richards became governor in 1991.

More reasons to celebrate the 2018 midterms:

  • Americans were more engaged than ever in the elections. They voted in record numbers, more than in any midterm since 1914.
  • They elected more than 100 women.
  • The new class of representatives is more diverse than any of its predecessors, including two Native American and two Muslim women.
  • They are young, and have lowered the average age of representatives by a decade.

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Will 2018 election results reflect the will of the people?

BallotBoxThe highly anticipated midterm elections of 2018 are less than two weeks away. There is general agreement that the election is extremely important, because the United States is at a crossroads. President Trump has snubbed traditional allies and cosied up to the usual adversaries. He has withdrawn from treaties that were painstakingly drawn up over a period of years. He has levied tariffs where once there was free trade. Until October, the stock market was soaring. Less than two weeks before the election, all the gains of 2018 have been wiped out. His tax cuts have ballooned the deficit to record-setting heights.

Democrats are hoping to regain control of Congress, but it won’t be easy, even though there are significantly more Democrats than Republicans. Republicans, however, vote in greater numbers than Democrats. Another complicating factor is that Democrats are clustered in densely populated cities while many Republicans are in sparsely populated rural areas, making a Republican vote worth significantly more than a Democratic one. For example, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was re-elected with 111,000 votes; Democratic Chuck Schumer of New York was re-elected with 4.8 million votes. Yet they have equal power in the Senate.

Active voter suppression has wiped Democrats off the rolls in record numbers. State legislators with Republican majorities are writing new voter ID laws with the intent to disenfranchise people of color, because they tend to vote Democratic. The Republican governor of Georgia has purged hundreds of thousands of likely Democratic voters from the rolls. Of course, it also works the other way. Republicans are vulnerable too. In Alaska, new residency rules are designed to disenfranchise the Native Americans that were crucial to Sen. Murkowski’s victory in 2012.

This tactic is not new. It was employed until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made it illegal. But in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that the Act relied on antiquated data and struck down its most effective provisions. Within five years of that decision, close to a thousand polling places were gone, most of them in predominantly African-American counties.

Free elections are still threatened by Russian meddling. Given what we now know, it may have swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump. The U.S. intelligence services are certain that the Russians continue to interfere, trying to influence the outcome of the election.

There is another, more sinister factor to consider: election results may be skewed domestically. We have no way to guarantee the accuracy of ballot counting, because the counting is not observable. Vote counting, once done in public view, now takes place out of sight, inside of computer chips. Jonathan Simon argues forcefully that what has happened to American democracy under Donald Trump and the Republicans may have a simple explanation.

Simon believes that tampering with electronic vote counting  may account for America’s dramatic shift to the right, considering that a majority of the electorate is centrist and did not vote for Donald Trump. By computerizing the electoral process we have made it extremely easy to alter the results. It’s no longer necessary to stuff ballot boxes with paper ballots or change 10,000 votes by hand. A machine can do that efficiently in seconds. A programmer or hacker can steal the election by inserting a few lines of code into the hundreds of thousands of lines of code and achieve the desired result with minimal risk of detection.

“This amounts to a rolling coup that is transforming America while disenfranchising an unsuspecting public,” Simon writes in “Code Red: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy.” Simon’s declared reason for writing the book is to alert the public to what he sees as a danger to democracy and the Republic that is far greater than gerrymandering and voter suppression. He wants to spur people into action before we can no longer vote our way out.

Simon asks,

Why do we collectively and so blithely assume that hundreds of millions of votes counted in secret, on partisan-produced and -controlled equipment, will be counted honestly and that the public trust will be honored to the exclusion of any private agenda, however compelling?!

Think about it.

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Pipe bombs and the crackup of the Union

Americans awoke this morning to the news that pipe bombs had been mailed to prominent political people. Not just any politicians— no Republicans, only Democrats and Trump’s favorite targets.

In his tweets and at his rallies, Trump has threatened and vilified Hillary Clinton, leading chants to “Lock her up!” He denied Barack Obama’s legitimacy, for years insisting that he was not born in the U.S., and has been dismantling every achievement of his predecessor since his first day in office. George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and major Democratic donor, has been accused by Trump and the Right-Wing extremists of master-minding conspiracies against the U.S. and the world order. Trump has consistently disparaged the media, in particular, the publications that have criticized him, news organs like CNN and the New York Times. George Brennan, former Director of the C.I.A., has been outspokenly critical of Trump, and the President retaliated by stripping him of his security clearance.

Except for the NY Times, all of the above were recipients of bombs sent to their homes. Brennan’s was sent to CNN offices in New York.

We have a head of state who not only condones violence, but incites it. Since the days of his campaign, when he defended and encouraged his supporters that punched protesters, promising to pay their legal bills, the rabble-rouser-in-chief continues to stoke the fury of his followers, encouraging them to ravage the foundational principles of American democracy.

The country that prided itself on being a nation of laws is devolving into the misrule of chaos and hate. Trump campaigned on a pledge to destroy the existing order, and for perhaps for the only time, he is keeping his word. Rather than Making America Great Again, Trump is presiding over the disintegration of lawful society.

The political parties no longer work to reach compromises that further the greater good. Rather, they reflect the stark division of Trumpists determined to rend the fragile fabric of democracy and their opponents who want to conserve and build on the achievements of the bold experiment started over 200 years ago.

Update: Later in the day, more bombs were discovered. They were sent to Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

 

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