How our democracy has survived

Prologue

We are approaching the 250th year of our existence as a sovereign nation. How have we managed this without losing what patriots died for and our Founding Fathers put in place; i.e. a republic based on democratic principles? What has kept us going? The answer resides in what here will be discussed here as the “two rails of our democracy”.

The rule of law

Our history has been marked by rebellions (1), insurrections and large-scale demonstrations, most of the latter have been of the peaceful type. But, we have always come back to our reverence for the rule of law; our decision to adhere to and embrace the Constitution, to allow tests of it to be settled by the courts, to accept those outcomes, and to hold to our belief in E pluribus unum (Out of many, one).

The critical importance of all of this has led to the understanding that the acceptance of all this in its many manifestations manifestations, is the hard rail of our democracy. 

The soft rail

Hand-in-hand with the hard rail, there is this:  civility in word and action, especially in our public behavior and political discourse. Even when the law doesn’t turn in our favor, when court decisions don’t go our way, we have, in the main, comported ourselves like grownups who understand that in a democracy, we will win some, lose some, but always have our fair chance to be heard and respected.

The two rails under Trump

It should go without saying that anything or anyone that weakens either or both of the two rails is courting trouble for our democracy. Yet, that is exactly what the 45th president has done.

Even as he campaigned, he roiled crowds with talk of dealing with opponents by means of a “punch in the face” or having then removed “on a stretcher”. He referred to people with demeaning nicknames like “lying Ted…(and) little Marco”.  He condemned the media as “fake news” but never offered a thoughtful, fact-based  rebuttal to what he considered their invalid reporting. These forms of uncivil behavior have now spilled over into his presidency with Tweetstorms and references to people in the news with sobriquets like ” little rocketman, sloppy Steve” and “Dicky”. This level of communication obviously plays well with a political base that enjoys having its collective spleen stroked. But, it is destructive as witnessed by the fact that opinion writers, bloggers (2) and members of the general public have begun to devolve towards that same style and content.

Coupled with the foregoing, we have Trump’s disdain for any court and/or judge that acts again him in the process of upholding the law and the Constitution. His relentless attacks on the news media show little respect for the role of a free press in a democratic society and First Amendment protections. He disparages the Justice Department, the nation’s chief law enforcement agency. Congress, even though controlled by his own party, gets its fair share of verbal abuse when it fails to deliver legislatively on campaign promises that he made. Political opponents are not challenged to policy debates, but subjected to vilification. For Trump, there is no “loyal opposition” to be respected for their principles even as one holds to a different set of them. They are the enemy and are described as such in so many words.

Epilogue

We and our democracy are on a dangerous path. Whether 45 has put us there or not isn’t a debate worth having. What is clear, is that he is pushing us along it and those who have joined him, even as his opponents, have put our democracy in peril by doing so. Trump shows no sign of exerting the kind of leadership needed to create a course correction, even as one is clearly needed. By and large, conservatives in and out of government, have shown themselves to either be supportive of 45’s behavior or have achieved the same end with their silence. Complicity can take many forms.

Our first chance at a reversal will come with this year’s election. That should be taken as a call to elect to Congress, individuals whether an R or D, who will actively set a new tone and especially evince an open support for the very democratic institutions that 45 has so disparaged.

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1. The Whiskey and Shay’s rebellions are just two examples from our early history.

2. A personal admission:  When I started this blog with the statement “My take”, I tried to set a standard of providing objective, dispassionate political commentary. Over time, I have not held firmly to that commitment. Even as I remained fact-based, sarcasm and emotionally charged language found their way into my output. There are conservatives who visit this site and doubtless found the immediate foregoing, offensive. To you, I apologize and will strive to do better.

 

 

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From HRC’s e-mails to Trump/Russia: A history and analysis

Prologue

This blog begins with, but then expanded upon, an analysis of just one relatively small but important aspect of conservatives’ ongoing attempt to tarnish the FBI, its former Director James Comey, and the Mueller investigation. The goal is to so discredit all three such that previous and future findings will not be viewed as credible by the public.

Background Information

During a significant part of early 2016, HRC was under investigation by the FBI due to her unauthorized use of a private server and the possibility that in using that device, she might have received and/or sent out highly classified information. This was a legitimate probe inasmuch as national security may have been compromised.

The investigation was headed by then-FBI Director Comey, with Peter Strzok acting as his deputy assistant. Included in their efforts was an interview with HRC who was not put under oath, a matter that begs the question “Who was responsible for not swearing her in?” Was it Comey, Strzok or even someone else? To date, there has been no clear answer to that query. Still, it is a valid question because not being under oath, HRC had the opportunity to lie free of any danger of being charged with perjury. Did the candidate lie? We can’t answer that question because her testimony was not transcribed.

By mid-2016, the investigation had been concluded and Comey began the task of authoring a report that would reflect either HRC’s innocence or guilt. Examining the evidence, the director came to believe that in spite of HRC’s questionable if not outright careless behavior, a case could not be made that she acted with criminal intent. This was reflected in a draft Comey prepared, ending with his decision not to charge HRC.

A critical phrase

Note here that Comey had already decided on HRC’s innocence. But, that conclusion was at odds with a key phrase in the aforementioned draft; i.e. that HRC had acted with “gross negligence”, a phrase that carries with it the possibility of criminal charges. This is where Strzok’s involvement comes into question:  He recommended altering that wording so that new verbiage would be consistent with his boss’s judgment of innocence.

Conservatives pounce !!

Once it was learned that Strzok was involved in the just cited editing, conservatives launched a narrative wherein, Strzok was depicted as a corrupt, HRC supporter who had changed a judgment of guilty by Comey to one of innocence. The problem here is that this conspiratorial thinking does not square with the fact that Comey had already come to his decision of HRC’s innocence before his deputy’s editing. Thus, it follows that what Strzok did was to bring the wording of the crucial phrase into line with his superior’s basic judgment. If there is any blame to be assessed here, it should fall on Comey for his poor phrase-choice. Whatever the case, it is significant that the amended draft was presented to the entire team of  FBI investigators and approved unanimously. If there is a conspiracy here it would then have to involve all those individuals, not just Strzok.

Expanding the conservative narrative

The foregoing analysis might have gotten Strzok off the hook had he not been caught in a lengthy exchange of anti-Trump e-mails with a FBI associate. Conservatives took the man who was their “heavy” in the HRC matter and expanded his alleged connivance into what they now put forward as his role in a corrupt investigation of Trump/Russia collusion. Learning of his deputy’s texting, SP Mueller promptly removed him from the probe, doing so before anyone even knew of the biased communiques that went back and forth between Strzok and his colleague. That happened early this past year.

End notes

Flowing from all this history laid out here, there is this question:  “Did Strzok’s admittedly biased view of Trump contaminate his work as an investigator on the SP’s team?” That is a reasonable question. But, what we get in conservative blogs and op-eds is the presumption that the answer is “yes!!”, the absence of evidence to that effect not worth mentioning.

Do not expect conservatives to abandon their now larger narrative. They are deeply committed to it and have done an exceptional job of selling it to folks who want to believe the worst, free of supportive evidence. It is a sad commentary on where we are as a supposedly well-educated, thoughtful nation.

 

 

It figures…

Prologue

Congressional Republicans and conservatives in general are over the moon; living a dream they never thought would become reality:  They have control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. Even better, the man-child sitting in the Oval Office seems wholly disinterested in the tedium of developing policy details and actually governing. So, that gritty work has been left up to legislatures who surely are overjoyed that they get to craft bills largely free of Trump’s uninformed input.

To protect and defend

Given this just-described salubrious state of affairs, conservatives in and out of government have gone to great lengths to keep it intact. What follows are synopses of their efforts.

Trump’s tax returns:  House Republicans (1) have passed over multiple opportunities to press 45 into releasing those documents. It is plausible to speculate that those same representatives have made the educated guess that the returns have something damning in them, otherwise, why has Trump gone to such great lengths and told such glaring lies to avoid making them public?

The attacks on former FBI Director James Comey

This is part of a larger effort to discredit the Bureau as an organization capable of conducting an impartial, credible investigation of any collusion between the Russians and Trump. How quickly the “worm” has turned. As recently as late October 2016, conservatives were singing Comey’s praises over his decision to re-open his probe into HRC’s e-mails, a cache of which was found among the electronic messages that passed between Huma Abedin and her then-husband, Anthony Weiner. Trump even noted that this took “guts”. But now, in the space of about 400 days, Comey has become a “bad cop”, filled with liberal bias that found expression in “get Trump” behavior.

The assault on SP Mueller and his team

As an extension of the preceding synopsis, there has been a frontal assault on the integrity of Mueller and his investigators. This was covered in a previous blog and can be reviewed as need be by those who are interested. It is worth noting that the blog in question did provoke some thoughtful criticism from a reader. His concerns were addressed in the “Comments” attached to the blog and thus are available for inspection.

The Steele “dossier”

The so-called “dossier” is actually a folderof about 30 pages of raw intelligence, some of which has been substantiated while other parts have neither been confirmed nor deconfirmed. Conservatives want no part of the former, preferring instead to trash the folder’s entire contents. Their favorite talking point is that it was commissioned by HRC and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a claim that has already been disproven. (2) But even if that were not the case, collecting research on an opponent has been standard operating procedures in our politics. Certainly, Trump’s campaign was only too happy to get all those e-mails on the DNC that became available through a Wikileaks document-dump.

It figures

Not one bit of the foregoing should be surprising. Intent on hanging onto their near-absolute power, it figures that Republicans will do whatever they can to protect and defend Trump, even if that means committing errors of omission, distortion, obfuscation and character assassination, all to compromise an ongoing federal investigation into Trump/Russia collusion.

How far will this go?

Let us suppose that between now and the coming midterm election, SP Mueller comes forward with a case, the evidence of which, calls for Trump’s impeachment. The bet here is that unless that case is overwhelming, House Republicans will vote it down, even though such a move might well cost them dearly when the election does roll around sometime soon thereafter.

Let’s take the contents of the last paragraph a step further.  Right now, there are legal experts who believe that a credible case for obstruction of justice can be put forward against 45. Why then has Mueller not done so? Here’s another bet that answers that question:   The SP has witnessed the lengths to which congressional Republicans have gone in protecting and defending Trump, and has calculated that a solitary charge of obstruction won’t be sufficient to get them to drop that tack. So, he is in the process of building a stronger case; one that will compel support from even the most diehard among Trump supporters.

What might such a “stronger case” include? Follow the money from Russia to Deutsche Bank, to Trump, then back to Deutsche Bank and on to Russia. If you aren’t familiar with what “money laundering” involves, start reading up.

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1. A notable and very recent example involved Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. In the crafting of the just passed tax bill, Brady was offered an amendment that, if passed, would have forced Trump to release his tax returns. Brady refused to even bring the amendment up for debate; it got “deep-sixed”.

2. The seed money for the Steele dossier came from an anti-Trump, Republican hedge fund manager named Singer.

 

 

What matters most

In the last few days, the mainstream media (MSM) have lit up with a story that the Russian/meddling investigation got kick-started in mid-2016 thanks to some loose talk by George Papadoplous (P), a member of Trump’s team. Turns out that P was deep in his cups at a London wine bar when he told Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat, that the Russians had collected “dirt” on HRC. Downer passed this raw intel onto authorities Down Under and in turn, they passed it on to the FBI . Note that this was in mid-2016 and well in advance of Trump having secured the GOP presidential nomination.

Once this story broke, the conservative media pushed back, first asserting that P was an insignificant member of Trump’s team; a “coffee boy” as it were”, and then following up with how the MSM got the story all wrong. The thrust here is not to settle who is right and who isn’t. That matters far less than the questions that are begged by P’s revelation. Consider…

Question:  Is it possible that a lowly “coffee boy” is the only member of Team Trump who knew of Russia’s possession of “dirt”?

Question:  How did P come by his knowledge?

Question:  From whom did he receive that information?

Question:  When did he receive it?

Question:  Why did team Trump not promptly report on the Russian dirt collection to the FBI?

The very existence of these pertinent questions may explain why, out of a clear blue sky, an unheard-of like P, pops up as someone who has struck a plea deal with Mueller. Where the Hell did this supposed “nobody” come from and why did he suddenly become important?

What follows is speculative but plausible. Start with the key fact that P has been charged with lying under oath to the FBI, not the SP. Recall that it was the FBI that started the investigation into Russian dirt-gathering. It is possible that P fibbed about knowing what the Russians were up to, in order to protect team Trump, but then got caught by Mueller and offered a plea deal in exchange for answers to the five bold-faced questions cited above.

If this line of reasoning has any validity, then don’t be surprised if what P tells or has told the SP becomes pivotal in building or undercutting what Mueller is investigating; i.e. collusion between Trump and Russia. If P’s information supports a case involving criminality, then we have moved out of collusion and into conspiracy territory; a plotting that began months before Trump was even the Republican nominee. For P to have known about the Russian dirt way back in May of 2016 is a startling discovery.

 

 

 

Blog extra: From conservatives’ “Oh, never mind” file

That “scandalous” HRC

Starting in 2009 and running forward all the way to 2013, Rosatom, a Russian nuclear energy company began buying up shares of Uranium One, a Canadian uranium producing company. Coincidentally, entities in Russia were making donations to the Clinton Foundation. On superficial examination, this could plausibly be seen as a kind of quid por quo arrangement, especially since HRC was our Secretary of State during the period in question. Conservatives argued that she “gave away the ranch” (uranium) in return for the aforementioned donations. How dare she!!! “Crooked HRC; lock her up” !!

The problem with this conservative meme is that the bit-by-bit sale of Uranium One to Rosatom was approved, not by HRC, but by eight separate US governmental agencies, not including the State Department. Furthermore, no direct evidence could be found of an operating quid por quo collusion.

What is also conveniently slipping conservatives’ minds is that by 2010, the GOP had taken control of the House. From that point forward right up to the present, its representatives had an abundance of opportunities to probe the same deal. They demurred, choosing instead to grill HRC over the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. This demonstrable indifference to the Uranium One sale persisted until recently, a topic we turn to next.

Mueller and Comey as HRC’s “protectors”

As Special Prosecutor (SP) Mueller’s investigation into Trump/Russia collusion has picked up steam, conservatives have turned their attention back to Uranium one. The interest here is not so much in digging up dirt on HRC as in tarnishing the reputation of the FBI and Justice Department who stand accused of botching not just the investigation of Uranium One, but that of HRC’s e-mail traffic that was sent and received via her private server.

The conservative narrative that has emerged is that Mueller and Comey were not only good friends, but both HRC supporters who conspired to shield her from anything that might damage her chances of winning the presidency in 2016. So, they allegedly saw to it that no charges were filed against HRC in either matter (1)

Here again, we have to dig into conservatives’ “Oh never mind” file to discover what they have omitted from their conspiracy theory:  If Comey is such a committed protector of HRC, why did he violate strict FBI guidelines and re-open the investigation into her e-mails/server just days before the election (2)? By no stretch of the imagination could this have improved the candidate’s electoral chances.

Comey’s action, now a verifiable part of recent history, blows a gaping hole in conservatives’ dark speculation which is further damaged by Trump himself who stated publicly that it “…took a lot of guts….” for Comey to do what he did.

Well, hell, if Trump said it….

Yesterday, as he left the White House for a speaking engagement, 45 loudly and repeatedly announced that the theory that there had been collusion between his administration and Russia has “…not been proven….” What qualifies this as an item for the “Oh never mind” conservative file is that Trump chose to ignore the fact that as this blog is being typed, there are three active investigations into what he claims is an over-and-done with matter (3). Conservatives could clean up 45’s memory lapse by adding the word “yet” to his categorical pronouncement, but that hasn’t happened yet and probably never will.

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  1. See “String him up” just posted at this site on 12-13-17.
  2. The decision to re-open was based on the discovery of a cache of e-mails that got embedded in more extensive correspondence between Anthony Weiner and Clinton associate, Huma Abedin.
  3. The three investigative groups are Mueller’s team and the respective Intelligence Committees in the House and Senate.

 

 

 

String him up !!!

Prologue

If you’ve watched at least a few of those good old Hollywood western movies, you’ll recall that when a lynch mob gathered, they were angry. Well, we’ve got a group with a “rope” in Washington, DC. But, they aren’t mad; they’re scared. That’s because they see Special Prosecutor (SP) Bob Mueller slowly closing in on Trump, his presidency, and conservatives’ dream of turning the USA into an oligarchy controlled by their handful of mega-rich donors like the Kochs, Princes, Mercers and Coors. In this context, damaging  the SP can be achieved either by:   (1) shutting down his investigation; or (2) discrediting it so that in the end, its results will be rejected by the public as untrustworthy.

Conservatives’ strategy

Basically, it comes down to going back through recent history and building a case that Mueller and his team are corrupt and too biased to render any sort of valid judgment on 45 and his presidency.

The history:  2016

You have to go back to 2016 and the FBI’s investigation of HRC’s use of her private server and the e-mails that came to and exited from that device. Republicans, especially those in Congress, were convinced that the then-Secretary of State had broken the law. An investigation did ensue, evidence was collected and analyzed for illegality. A report of  the results was drafted by then FBI Director James Comey with the tentative conclusion that while HRC had behaved badly, she had not behaved illegally. Comey submitted the document  to his team for comment, amendments and ultimately agreement or disagreement with his conclusion?

Enter a team member named Peter Strzok. As part of the aforementioned team vetting process, he pointed out to Comey that the conclusion that HRC was innocent was not consistent with a description of her behavior as involving “gross negligence” which does involve a violation of the law. Either that wording had to be removed or the Director had to change his “not guilty” decision to guilty. Comey, satisfied that HRC was innocent, dropped the critical language and replaced it with “careless” and other pejorative descriptors of Clinton’s behavior. The report, thus amended was then unanimously approved by Comey’s team.

The FBI Director delivered his report to the House Government Oversight Committee on September 28, 2016. His declaration of HRC’s innocence sent shock waves through Congressional Republicans and conservatives in general, so thoroughly had they convinced themselves that she was guilty. This was not something they were going to let go of, though they had no recourse but to accept Comey’s judgment.

History:  2017

As Mueller’s investigation began to pick up steam with two guilty pleas and two indictments, Trump’s defenders in and out of Congress started to piece together bits of history that would eventually be woven into a narrative aimed at achieving either of the two goals cited above.

Referring back to 2016, and still chafing over HRC’s exoneration by Comey, conservatives reasoned that since that decision was tainted, then Comey was corrupt. And since he and Mueller was both close friends and associates, then the latter must be corrupt as well. To help that leap in logic along, conservatives resurrected Peter Strzok who was introduced earlier and had been functioning as part of Mueller’s team.

Agent Strzok had to be corrupt and biased because, after all, he was the guy who pointed to the need for the word change in Comey’s report. Any doubt among 45’s defenders that Strzok was compromised left them when it was discovered that he and a female associate had been exchanging text messages in which they were highly critical of Trump. Their language was incendiary and reflected a clear bias. Learning of these totally inappropriate back-and-forths, Mueller promptly canned Strzok last summer. Not good enough for Trumpists who were now saying that Mueller’s investigation either had to be shut down, or subject to a probe by a new special prosecutor.

Where are we now?

Earlier today, The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), convened to interrogate Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as to where he stood on ending the Mueller investigation or, alternatively,  putting it under a microscope.

Chairman Goodlatte began by essentially confronting Rosenstein with the aforementioned narrative aimed at compromising Mueller one way or another. It came close to being a “guilty until proven” innocent opening statement (1). Rosenstein, unruffled and deliberate made it clear that the work of any SP cannot be terminated based on dark suspicions and conjecture. In the same vein, he asserted that SPs get appointed when there is sufficient evidence to make that justified. At that juncture, Representative Gerald Nadler (D-NY) asked the Deputy AG if anything like that presently existed. He received an unequivocal “no” in reply.

As matters now stand, here is what 45’s supporters must prove:  (1) That Mueller knew of Styrzok’s bias but put him on the team anyway; (2) Strzok brought his bias to bear in his work as a SP team member with the result that (3) the guilty pleas and indictments secured by Mueller were obtained by corrupted means with the result that four innocent people none the less found themselves in legal jeopardy.

What to expect

The odds are very much against conservatives being able to marshal the sort of evidence needed to meet any one of the three criteria cited immediately above. As they try, expect them to pound mercilessly on their narrative which is now reverberating throughout the conservative media echo chamber. If nothing else, this could eventually provide “cover” for House Republicans to vote down any forthcoming bills of impeachment, and/or Trump’s firing of Mueller.

The crisis we are already in is likely to get worse. In the event that it does, we will be witness to how Congressional Republicans behave:  Will it be party over country or the other way around?

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1. Pounding away on a treadmill this AM, your blogger got to witness this hearing.

 

Inside Mueller’s head

Ok, ok, we can’t get in there; not really. All we can do is take his behavioral record and draw inferences from that which is to say, speculate. So, how has this man behaved in the past in his role as a special prosecutor? He has been highly successful because he is strategic, a long-term planner, thorough, methodical and patient.

Strategic

Mueller’s MO is to work from the periphery in towards the middle. Or, if you prefer, from the bottom up towards the top. So, he went after Manafort and Gates, and secured indictments in both cases. Next, he cut a deal with Flynn who is now sharing what he knows about possible collusion between Trump and Russia that possibly involved a conspiracy which is against the law.

Long-term planner

Mueller knows that he has to build a solid case against whomever is guilty and that is going to take time. Every bit of information provided by Flynn is going to be paired up with other bits of information that Mueller and his team have already collected. Do they mesh, fit together, and add to an emerging picture of conspiracy and hence, illegality?

Thorough

The Special Prosecutor is known for not leaving a single stone unturned. If there is fraud, money laundering, or election-theft that has taken place, he will get to the bottom of all of it. That has been his “calling card” in every case he has prosecuted.

Methodical

In the past, Mueller has not been one to make inferential leaps from point “A” to point “D”, filling in the gap between the two with suppositions. No, he is an “A” to “B” to “C” kind of guy. When he lands on “D”, there will be every reason to trust that he is exactly where the evidence has led him, with no room for debate or second-guessing.

Patient

If almost goes without saying that you have to be patient in order to be strategic, a long-term planner, thorough and methodical. Mueller will not be rushed; not by political considerations like the 2018 election or anything else. He will be done when he is satisfied that there is nothing else left to be discovered that will add materially to what he will report to Congress and/or the American people.

End notes

There is reason to believe that both the progress that Mueller is making and the pace at which he is working are both grinding on Trump and quite possibly triggering his Twitter outbursts and lashing out. That’s not the behavior of a person who is convinced of his own innocence. Just as telling is the venom that conservatives are spewing at Mueller as they try to discredit his character and investigation. You can expect these attacks to increase in their frequency and vitriol as this probe gets closer and closer to 45’s innermost circle and imperils his presidency. The saga of Watergate played out in exactly the same way until Nixon was forced from office.

Will history repeat itself? It’s going to be at least many months before we find out.

 

 

Today’s “two-fer”

So much is happening that is comment-worthy that it’s hard to settle on just one topic. So, let’s hit on two and give each a “once-over-lightly”, making some key points in the process.

The GOP “Tax Reform” bill

As noted in a previous blog, there is no real “reform” in what congressional Repub’s are crafting and the “devil” of that is in the proverbial details. It is true that there are “goodies” that will allow middle class Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money. But, there are also about a dozen provisions that take away deductions that would allow them to keep even more. In effect, what the GOP giveth with one hand, it taketh away with the other.

And then there is this which came to yours truly from a fellow traveler on the left (1):  We are being told that cuts in corporate taxes will prompt those entities to both increase hiring and wages. Think about that premise for a minute. What that really amounts to is the federal government (the public sector) indirectly meddling in the workings of the private sector (business). There was a time when such an intervention, even if indirect, would have been a violation of conservative orthodoxy.; i.e. free markets are to be left alone to do their “thing”, whatever that might be. Not now.

Next, there is the practical matter of whether those tax cuts will have their intended impact on hiring and wages. When Trump economic advisor Garry Cohn asked an assembled group of CEOs if they would follow through in that regard, just three out of about 20 raised their hands.

Lastly, there is this:  What Repub’s are peddling as “tax reform” is really just another iteration of trickle-down economic policy that was tried under both presidents Reagan and GW Bush.  We were promised that the losses of revenue created by big tax cuts would pay for themselves by triggering robust economic growth. History shows that simply didn’t happen. Both men ran deficits throughout their two terms and left office having added to the national debt, something they had railed against when campaigning for (re-)election.

Trump’s state of mental health

The contentious back-and-forth between 45 and Kim Jon Un in North Korea has brought us closer to a nuclear showdown than we have ever been before and that includes our Cold War confrontations with Russia.  What was saving then was that we had sane heads of state who saw the danger in mutually assured destruction. We are in a very different place now!

Both Trump and Un are widely recognized as unstable, erratic men with poor impulse control. There are signs that 45 is getting worse! His combative, insulting tweets, other public statements and escapes from reality into fantasy are becoming more frequent and have become the “stuff” of daily news reports. There are notable people in the public sphere who are urging Trump cabinet members to use the 25th Amendment to remove him from office before he breaks and does something cataclysmic.

The impact of those calls on Trump emotional well-being has been accentuated by the increasing proximity of Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation to the president and some members of his inner circle, including his son (Don, Jr.) and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It is no wild speculation to posit that as 45’s administration becomes obviously scandal-ridden and actually threaten his presidency, he will really go off the rails and lash out in ways that could have devastating consequences.

End notes

The familiar sign-off “Stay tuned”, just doesn’t fit the circumstances we are in. Yesterday on MSBNC’s “Meet the Press” show, three knowledgeable panelists were asked “Are we as a nation in crisis mode; yes or no?” Without hesitation, all participants responded in the affirmative. That does give one pause! Impeachment, exercise of the 25th Amendment and/or the 2018 election can’t come too soon.

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  1. With thanks to “Shekinah”.

A sobering “read”: “The Nationalist’s Delusion”

The article cited above was just published in the November issue of The Atlantic Magazine. It contains a biting, thoughtful, insightful, historically accurate, empirical analysis of Trump’s campaign, his presidency, the people who vote for him and remain his most committed supporters, as well as a take-down of HRC. In all these respects, it is even-handed.

The article runs to 33 pages and every one of them contains valuable information that is crucial to arriving at an understanding of  the mindset of the people who voted for Trump and who remain unalterably in his camp. How have they come to embrace an overtly racist man whose entire 10 months in office have been devoted in one way or another to promoting a White America while taking us back to some of the darkest days in our country’s history when “liberty and justice for all” rang hollow?

The answer to the foregoing question is to be found in the delusion that allows one to step up for this racist president even as one adamantly denies that such a choice unavoidably makes you a racist yourself. Read and discover.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archives/2017/11/the-nationalist’s-delusion

If this link does not take you directly to the article itself, a Google search using the title of the article will get the job done.

 

Then and Now: Perspectives

The “Then” of tax reform

The last time tax reform was undertaken was back during the Reagan presidency in 1986. The bill that eventually passed had both Republican and Democrat co-sponsors and was crafted by a bipartisan group of members of both houses of Congress. Separate bills from each of the two chambers went to conference where their differences were reconciled. The result passed the House by a vote of 292-136, and the Senate by a vote of 74-23. The bill became law on October 22, 1986.

What that bill  involved is less important than how it came into being; i.e. with bipartisan involvement from the get-go, and with solid bipartisan votes. The entire enterprise took over a year of negotiations, compromises, and finally agreement.

The “Now” of tax reform

What we are now witnessing stands in stark contrast to the foregoing:  Both House and Senate Republicans have completely closed out any input from Democrats. The House version was jammed through by a thin margin of just seven spare votes, and in a matter of weeks at that. It has been structured in such a way that it could be passed with a bare minimum of 217 votes. The Senate’s version will require just 51. That strategy was adopted so that not a single vote by a Democrat could derail this blatantly partisan undertaking.

With the House version passed, we now await what Senate Republicans are able to develop and pass. Then, as before, the separate versions will go to conference where they have to be reconciled. Once that final version emerges, we will have a better idea of what 2017 Republican tax reform looks like; who it benefits and who (if anyone) it hurts.

The “Then” of impeachment

The Watergate scandal, which led to President Nixon’s resignation, actually began on June 17, 1972 with the arrest of a small group of individuals who got caught in a burglary attempt at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Over two years later, on August 9, 1974, Nixon stepped down. In actuality, moving Nixon to resign was a fairly easy and straightforward process, advanced by the testimony of White House Counsel, John Dean, and the infamous tapes of Nixon plotting to abuse the power of his high office obstruct justice.

The “Now” of impeachment

As relatively simple as it was to make the case against Nixon in over two years, we should expect that the brief against Trump, such as it is now and may eventually become, is going to take longer; perhaps much longer. That is because the case against 45 is alleged to involve conspiring with Russian agents to effect our 2016 election, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, money laundering, perjury, and violation of the Logan Act (1).

If Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is anything, it is thorough. He will get to the bottom of each one of those potential crimes and level charges when they are warranted. This is all going to take time and public impatience notwithstanding, this critically important matter must be handled in that painstaking way. Wait patiently for real events as they unfold and don’t get caught up in speculations about what may be about to happen.

The “Then” of sexual harassment

When did all this men taking advantage of women get started? Truth be told, you can find the roots of it in our Holy Bible; both Old and New Testaments. The fact is, the “Good Book” is rife with verses (2) promoting the dogma that women  (especially wives) must be subservient to men (their husbands).

The idea that women were the “weaker” of the two sexes was undoubtedly reinforced by men’s brawn and ability carry on under physically demanding conditions that existed at the time (e.g. felling trees with an axe, breaking a horse, rolling/lifting big logs and stones, etc.). This very mindset found expression in the US Constitution wherein women were relegated to second class citizen status and denied the right to vote for 133 years (3).

Given this longstanding cultural context, men found themselves in a position where they had the potential to take advantage of women. Men who held some degree of influence or power over women in their midst found it even easier.

The “Now” of sexual harassment

For men, the “rules” haven’t changed all that much; i.e. if you have influence and/or power over women you encounter, you have the opportunity to use one or both to impose yourself on the woman who is at hand. What has changed and will continue to change, are the “rules” that now direct women’s behavior when they are the subject of harassment. Bearing up in silence is no longer the women’s norm. It is in the process of being replaced by speaking up and speaking out, forcefully if need be. That has brought us to an inflection point in our national conversation about the need to get beyond the history cited above (the “Then”) and the creation of a new culture built on mutual respect, the limits of gender-based power, and what will not be tolerated, especially in individuals who hold or are seeking public office.

This latter point deserves further comment. Both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were elected in spite of their well-publicized histories of predatory sexual behavior. Down in Alabama, Roy Moore is running for a seat in the US Senate even as he deals with charges of his past unwanted sexual advances brought out by women who were under ages at the time.

This brief history begs the question:  “If we are to continue to tolerate this, are we then by default, establishing that as the new normal?”

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  1. Briefly, the Logan Act makes it illegal for an unauthorized US citizen to negotiate foreign policy with some external entity.
  2.  See Genesis 3:16; Colossians 3:18 and/or Ephesians 5:21-23.
  3.  A US Constitutional Amendment gave women the right to vote on August 18, 1920.