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Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great mean are almost always bad men…. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”

2019-05-28

The full quote is thanks to Wikiquotes, which gives us the context of the whole paragraph within which it is embedded.  Of course, we’re quoting this to throw shade on a certain president.  It’s transparently political to bring this up at this time, but there’s no better time to point out that our Dear Leader is trying to assume authoritarian powers like those of the men he admires: Kim Jon Un and Vladimir Putin.

The president is trying to sweep aside the authority of the lower House of Congress to conduct oversight hearings and daring it to impeach him.  He thinks that he has done nothing wrong and rationalizes all the contacts with Russia (except for the secret ones which are still  concealed– see the relevant section of the Mueller report about contacts between Russians and the campaign in which what has transpired is unknown because relevant figures have tried to conceal them or taken the Fifth.  See also our president’s private conversations with Putin of which no transcripts exist.)

We think we know that the Senate will refuse to convict the president if he is impeached… but what if new and damning evidence arises?  The chances of that are fairly slim, in part because any “smoking gun” would have to be of huge caliber to get through the media smokescreen.  There is an alternative, which is to start impeachment proceedings but slow-walk them enough to have a resolution in favor of impeachment delivered to the Senate on the day before Election Day 2020, or even later.  All these things take time, and there is an art to moving things through the political process just in time to be on voter’s minds when they go into the booth.

Nancy Pelosi may be stalling in order to be sure that impeachment hearings are timed to get the maximum exposure during the critical period before the election.  Who knows exactly when would be the right time to do the right thing?

Every day that impeachment is delayed means another assault on government efforts to do the right thing.  (The apparent fact that he cannot be driven out of office by impeachment before the 2020 election is one of the most depressing things I have ever contemplated.)

The latest move in his assault on climate change is his attempts to gain control of the government agencies that produce the 4-year climate assessment.  He’s using the “authority” of a 79-year old physicist who is a climate change “skeptic” to order the climate agency to cut off its predictions at 2040 instead of extrapolating all the out to 2100.   That’s convenient, since the consensus prediction is that the worst of the effects of global warming won’t kick in until 2050 or so.  In addition, the text of the next assessment will be scrubbed of references to “climate change” altogether.  That will make it difficult to discuss their results.

 

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

 

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“I do pity other countries trying to negotiate with this administration”: Daniel Drezner, professor of international law at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

2019-05-24

Professor Drezner was commenting on a speech given by Kiron Skinner (the US State Department’s policy planning director) in a supposedly private seminar given by the New America think tank (probably a right-wing group.)  Ms. Skinner seems to think that there is a clash of civilizations between China and the US– consistent with the current administration’s thinking about clashes between the US and such alien civilizations as those in countries like Mexico and the United Kingdom.  In other words, it is a white nationalist point of view.  What makes it particularly surreal, however, is the fact that Skinner is “African-American”.

What she said that was most disturbing was how she defined her job: to turn the president’s “hunches and instincts into hypotheses”.

I have this recurring feeling that I’m in one of those dreams where I can’t move or speak, no matter how much I try.  Meanwhile, disasters are unfolding before my eyes and I am powerless to stop them.  But it’s not a dream.  This is really happening and the Republican Party is treating it like it’s a weenie roast.

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com)

Justin Amash (Republican/Libertarian member of Congress from Michigan): “Our Constitution is brilliant and awesome; it deserves a government to match it.”

2019-05-20

(photo lifted from the Intelligencer, credited to Andrew Farrer on Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Mr. Amash is better known for his statement that He who must not be named is eligible for impeachment, partly because he is the first Republican in Congress to say this.  His political tendencies in every other respect are abominable to me, but in this one instance I agree with him.  The House should declare that they are entertaining impeachment and commence a specific impeachment enquiry.  There is no need to hurry in this enquiry; if it still has not voted out an impeachment resolution by the time the next election comes up, that is a better outcome than if the resolution has been passed by the House and shot down by the Senate.

The most important thing is to speed the consideration of the House’s subpoenas in court.  We need the Supreme Court to receive this case as soon as possible.  Everything rides on this one case being decided and every consideration should be given towards strengthening the argument that Democratic lawyers can use before the court.  For that reason, declaring the opening of impeachment hearings is a good idea.  The argument that the House needs to see the subpoenaed materials to consider whether it should vote out impeachment of the president is the strongest possible one.  It refutes the argument by Republicans that the subpoena serves no legitimate legislative purpose– that is, that the House is not considering any legislation related to its subpoenas.  Executive privilege claims are negated by the assertion that there is criminal activity being covered up.

The longer a specific impeachment enquiry goes on, the more Republicans will sign on to this mission.  As evidence is dragged out, piece by piece, its sheer weight will eventually tip them over to favor impeachment.  The latest disclosure is that Deutsche Bank considered reporting both the president’s son-in-law and the president to the Treasury Department for suspicious financial transactions in 2016 and 2017.  A number of transactions between those two and foreign parties were flagged for suspicion of money-laundering or other crimes.  Only the intervention of a high-level staffer prevented these transactions from being reported to Treasury as suspicious.

Now the White House and Congress are struggling over access to Deutsche Bank’s records on the crime family.  A clear declaration that an impeachment enquiry is underway may help speed along the court process of forcing revelations.  The ultimate crisis will come when the Supreme Court considers the case of whether the House has the right to access IRS records and bank records as well as the working papers behind the Mueller Report.

If the Supreme Court decides that the House cannot force institutions to reveal the financial records that will show His corruption, then democracy in the United States will be over.  There will be no way to recover adherence to the Constitution after that.

Yelena Mizulina: “…what is the rule of law? That’s the biggest unfreedom! The more rights you have, the less free you are, because rights, unlike prohibitions, are when you are supposed to act strictly in the way that accords with the law.”

2019-05-15

This is quoted from a New Yorker article about the perversion of meaning to meaninglessness especially in authoritarian/ignorant governments when they try to justify their policies.  It is written by Masha Gessen, who is an expert in this sort of thing.  Masha spent formative years under the old Russian government, the grandfather of these policy-words ( like “sovereign democracy” and “national interest”) that have been turned into meaningless “emanations” or even hints at more adverse decisions.

Commands are delivered in a unique language that is understood by speaker and auditor, but not outsiders.  This is a conversation between the supporter of the government and skeptical outsiders.  Words and phrases are contorted so that they become incomprehensible to the listeners yet seemingly freighted with meaning.  Concepts that are objectively described as national fascism are disguised as “grassroots democracy” or “sovereign democracy”– anything to take away the real meaning of local democracy and substitute fascism with xenophobic characteristics.

The language of our national leader appears to conform to this standard, of incomprehensible verbiage mixed with appeals to patriotism, outright lies that can be easily debunked that supposedly contribute to his status as “the greatest president ever”, exaggerated praise of first responders, and poorly disguised dog whistles to white supremacists.

 

NY Times: Unemployment, Housing Instability, and economic hardship cause increases in crime, but illegal immigrants do not

2019-05-13
THE UPSHOT|Is There a Connection Between Undocumented Immigrants and Crime?– a New York Times article that summarizes the research — real research — being done on the connections, if any, between illegal immigrants and crime rates in large populations throughout the United States.  This research was only possible because, in the last Census in 2010 and for fifty years before that, there was no question that said, “are you a citizen or an illegal immigrant?”  Now the * administration has gone to the Supreme Court and it appears that they will win a case that allows them to add that question to the next Census in 2020.  Inclusion of this question has been alleged to dramatically reduce cooperation with the Census by anyone with questionable citizenship.  You can see the relationship.

Comment of the Day III: “What is the President trying to hide?”

2019-05-08

MsAbbi
Rockport, MA
Times Pick

This is when the Democrats need to be relentless in their repetition of the simple question, “What is the President trying to hide?” each and every time they have access to a microphone. Yes, I get all the legal possibilities, predictions, suppositions. But for friends and family who don’t (and don’t want to), the doubt has to take hold in the simplest possible way. Leave all the excruciating details to congressional committees. Simple, direct mantras for public consumption. Repeated. And repeated. And repeated. Bumper sticker talk. Print up T-shirts and mugs. Again: What is the President trying to hide? “Simple and repeated” works so beautifully for Republicans and Bernie. Enormously frustrating that spotlight Dems cannot seem to take the KISS lesson from Marketing 101.

Comment of the Day II: executive privilege doesn’t cover criminal activities. If he gets away with this lame excuse, it will make a mockery of our constitutional form of government.

2019-05-08
Michael Tyndall
San Francisco
Times Pick

This is just ridiculous. Executive privilege only makes sense if it’s necessary for the operation of a criminal enterprise run by the Trump crime family. Executive privilege doesn’t cover criminal activities, and that question is exactly the point of further congressional investigation. That constitutionally mandated oversight doesn’t disappear because Trump wants to shut it down. It just doesn’t. The Mueller report is the result of the special counsel‘s investigation of Russian interference, possible conspiracy by the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice by Trump himself. It supposedly exonerates him from ‘collusion’ with the Russian government, itself a meaningless legal concept, as well as any acts of obstruction. Except that the report details multiple Russian government efforts to interfere with our election on Trump’s behalf, multiple knowing contacts by senior Trump campaign members with Russian proxies and cutouts, multiple knowing lies about those contacts, and the report explicitly doesn’t exonerate Trump of multiple possible counts of obstruction of justice. This is desperation time for Trump, Inc. If he gets away with this lame excuse, it will make a mockery of our constitutional form of government.

Nick

@kojak The report didn’t clear the president of obstruction of justice, and specifically stated so. It did lay out significant evidence across multiple events, many of which do amount to criminal obstruction of justice. The report explained clearly that, per OLC policy, a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller intentionally left the next steps in the hands of Congress to decide on impeachment. If impeached and convicted, only then could the president be charged criminally and indicted. Congress should be using the report as a roadmap to inform their decision. Unfortunately, they do not have the full report. The very person that is the subject of the report is witholding it and obstructing its resolution. The bipartisan House Committee on Oversight and Reform has the security clearance, and should be given the full report and its underlying evidence. Despite the attempts to spin the report as exoneration, it is in fact very damning for the president. It may not show specific coordination and conspiracy with Russia, but it does have a lot of evidence of corruption and obstruction of justice. Furthermore, it outlines attempts by the Trump campaign and associates to gain help from Russia; just nothing amounted to criminal conspiracy (cue Giuliani “Collusion is not a crime” http://www.thehill.com/homenews/administration/399461-giuliani-collusion-is-not-a-crime). Why obstruct so much if you’re innocent?