🗯️ They Just Don’t Get It

userpic=trumpThey just don’t get it – The First: Quid Pro Quo. The issue isn’t “quid pro quo” (QPQ) per se. QPQ’s happen all the time in statesmanship. We’ll give you foreign aid if you … The real issue is using your office for personal political gain — doing a quid pro quo that explicitly involves investigating your political opponent (personal gain), and using for leverage money explicitly authorized by Congress (abuse of authority). It’s the personal gain that makes this an abuse of power.

They just don’t get it – The Second: Rules of Evidence and Testimony. For all the blathering of Trump about evidence and trials, he’s forgetting one thing: THIS ISN’T A TRIAL. If the House chooses to move forward articles of impeachment, there will be a trial. That will be in the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice, under the rules defined by the Senate. It won’t be a criminal trial … which means that the 6th amendment doesn’t come into play, and the right to confront your accuser. Remember: With impeachment, the most severe penalty is not jail, it is removal from office.

But we’re not at an impeachment trial yet. Right now, what the House is doing is analogous to the police and prosecutors doing the investigation to determine if there is a case to be prosecuted. Grand juries. Investigative legwork. There might be tips from informants, but the informant may never be needed again if the investigation of the tip finds enough evidence. This is all gathering evidence.

If the house investigative team finds sufficient evidence, then it will present their case to the full House. If the full House agrees there is a case, they will vote and pass articles of impeachment. An indictment, so to speak. This doesn’t mean guilt. It means the House feels there is enough evidence for a trial.

At that point — and only that point — the Senate conducts a trial to prove or disprove those articles. If proven, the person is removed from office. The Constitution defines no rules for this trial, other than the Chief Justice presides. So it is for Congress to determine the rules … not traditional jury rules, because this isn’t a criminal trial.

Lastly, remember that the Constitution does not require there to be a crime, in a criminal sense. It is also up to Congress to determine what it believes are sufficient “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Often, it has been abuse of power, in the form of obstruction of justice. Basically, the Congress doesn’t like it when the President tries to go around Congress, not let Congress do its investigatory job, or ignore the will of Congress, who supposedly represent the people.

There’s a great discussion of this latter issue in the TrumpConLaw podcast: https://trumpconlaw.com/35-confrontation-clause

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🗳 Some Thoughts after the Second Democratic Debate

Some post debate thoughts. The bottom and more important factor in all of this is that any of the Democratic candidates is a better choice than Trump. So given that, it boils down to the question of who can bring the fight to him, and who is closest to my positions. The former is much more important than the latter.

Favorites

Booker. I really liked how he presented himself, and how he built his arguments and his energy. In general, I liked his positions. I think he could be a great contrast to Trump, and could energize the minority voters and the youth.

Harris. She was a bit slower to get started, but she brought good energy and could really take apart Trump in a debate. Plus her very nature will infuriate him — which is a good thing, because he makes mistakes when infuriated. She has some troubling criminal justice positions which could hurt her in some sectors, but is it enough to make those people stay at home or vote Trump. She needs to make the case that whatever her flaws, she’s better than Trump.

Warren. If you like Bernie, go for Warren. She brings a strong case and energy to battle Trump, and knows her stuff. She also gets under her skin, and the ONLY thing he has against her is the whole Native American kerfluffle — which is really minor in the scheme of things, and he’s misrepresented himself much worse. My only concern with her is her age.

Others of Interest

Buttigieg … Mayor Pete. I like his ideas and his energy, but he may come across as too young. He could make a great VP candidate.

Klobuchar … Amy. I like her ideas and midwestern values, which could speak to a lot of voters. But she often too a moment to get started, and she’s getting a bit one note on the claim of having never lost anything.

O’Rourke. He came off better in the second debate, but I don’t think he would be able to out maneuver Trump, even with his ideas.

Castro. Has some good ideas, but he hasn’t struck me yet has having the fire to beat Trump.

Has Beens

Biden. Joe, joe, joe. Much as he has the momentum, I think he’s too old. He’s befuddled in his answers, and that’s bad. More important, he has a long long history that can and will be used against him, and he simply refuses to accept it. What he needs to do is admit his past errors, indicate that he’s learned more and wised up, and has changed his mind. But he simply does not have the ability to do this, and tries to dance around the issue — and that dancing will do him in. Trump would love to have Biden, because then he can run against Obama.

Bernie. Bernie worries me in so many ways. He comes across as very one-note. He does not make clear that he will back and strongly work for the eventual nominee. His people give the indication that it is Bernie or bust, and that will lose us the election. He also has problematic past position. Trump would love it to be Bernie because that will energize his base and his turnout. That’s a bad thing.

Also Rans

Jay Inslee. Make him Secretary of Energy.

Gabbard. Somethings up with her. I’m reading things about connections to the Saudis and the Russians, and I’m getting the gut feeling that her campaign is being used to sabotage campaigns of candidates that that Russians are really scared of. It makes me want to support Harris even more, if the Russians are scared of her.

Gillibrand. She kept coming across as a deer in the headlights, waiting for the speech to load from the external drive.

Delany. Every time I see him, I think of John Fiedler, the bald guy on the Bob Newhart show.

Yang. Very one note with his guaranteed income.

None of the rest strike me as having the necessary fire to beat Trump — they are much more of the same we have every year.

 

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🗯️ Blowing Things Up 💣

Oh, how I long for the days when the only thing we exploded on the 4th of July were fireworks in a celebration everyone could enjoy.

However, whenever I read the news today, I see this administration blowing up and destroying more than fireworks: they are destroying the norms, values, and protections that have made our country a leader in the world, and that “shining beacon on the hill”. They have allowed and encouraged foreign governments to interfere — directly or indirectly — in our elections. They have allowed administration officials to conduct partisan politics while on the Federal clock, violating the Hatch Act and not caring. They have eviscerated the power of science and facts in government policies. They have manipulated tax laws for their personal gain, and the gain of their cronies. They have ballooned the Federal deficit, again often for personal gain. They have placed industry lobbyists and executives in charge of the industries they are supposed to regulate. They have used bipartisan events for partisan purposes (such as rewarding GOP donors at the supposedly non-partisan 4th celebration). They have befriended dictators and despots, and taken their word over the word of the honest hardworking members of our intelligence communities. They have made consumer protection toothless, and are decimating organizations that protect Americans such as the USDA. They have ignored Congress and Congress’ constitutional role of oversight. They have made explicit efforts to pack the courts with partisan judges. They have attacked social security, medicare, and veterans benefits. They have repeatedly attempted to legislate religious policy as national policy. I could go on and on and on.

I ask myself often: why are they doing this? Yes, it plays to their base that hates government with such a seething anger that it blinds them to the good that government does for them. An angry base does keep people in power — often through violence, threats, and bullying — and these folks like their power.  It also benefits them financially in the short run. But I think, more importantly, it serves the interests of the puppet masters — those foreign powers that influence the election to elect these people. This is because the net, long term, result will be a diminished America. An America that is no longer the primary power on the world stage. An America that no longer has moral authority. An America that no longer has financial strength. An America that is in decline.

Yes, making America great was a smokescreen for something much more sinister.

Even more troubling are the people that are falling for this.  I’ve known many Conservatives over the years; and although we disagreed, I knew that at their hearts they were good people. But today, often their blind support for the administration, and the over-amped hatred of “The Liberal” from the administration and its anger-feeding minions have closed their mind and turned them away from what they once believed. These were people that believed in the rule of law, and that government must follow the laws and be ethical. These were people that believed that government must live within its means and not waste money. These were the people that believed in investigating government wrongdoing, and misbehavior by government officials down to the smallest indiscretion. These were the people that believed that foreign governments must not interfere in the operation of the American government.  These were the people in a party that held for liberty and justice FOR ALL.  But where are those beliefs now? Dead on the field, replaced by hatred and the desire to blow things up.

I find it hard to celebrate Independence Day this year, because I fear that thanks to these folks, the battle could be for nought. I fear that the damage that has been brought on in under three years will take us generations to reverse. I fear that these folks are moving the country in a very dangerous direction, a direction that keep feeding ultra-nationalism and hatred over actual care. I fear that folks who profess to be Christian have forgotten the key fundamentals of the Bible: Love and treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated, take care of the stranger in your land because you were once strangers yourself. Our compassion has been replaced by the quest for wealth and fear of the stranger, and that’s wrong.

I’ve taken a few minutes to write this up over lunch because it has been increasingly bothering me. It is why I have made contributions to those candidates I feel can best bring us out of this mess. It is why I’m encouraging everyone to learn what the candidates have to say, think about the America you truly want — an America that is that example for the world … and who can best bring us there. I’m encouraging everyone to get active and involved, even if you’ve sat out elections before, even if you’ve never voted. We have to combat the might and power of the foreign governments, the oligarchs (both foreign and domestic), and the top 1% who want to preserve their privilege. You need to be out there: whether it is speaking on social media, combating misinformation, getting out the vote, and donating even small amounts to the candidates you like. It all adds up, and we must bring back the days when the only fireworks we have to deal with are on the 4th.

And you better do it before they all take off for the Fourth of July weekend….

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🗳 June 2019 Los Angeles Special Election Ballot Analysis

Well, it’s that time again. I’ve received a sample ballot, but it’s an odd year, meaning an odd election:

There’s was another special election mid-May to fill a vacant LAUSD board seat. What that wasn’t combined with the parcel tax election, I have no idea.

So we have a situation where Council District 12 has two issues on the ballot (for which we’ve gotten voluminous mail — I’ve never gotten this much for a city council election before), and the rest of the city just has the parcel tax. Talk about a recipe for low turnout (and due to business travel, I’ll be voting absentee ballot).

Still, a sample ballot is a ballot, and calls for a ballot analysis. This may be LA County’s last election using ink-a-vote, unless we have something in November. In 2020, LA County is transitioning from polling places to vote centers, which will be open for 11 days, and voters will be able to vote at any center in LA County. How successful it will be is unknown, but hey, what can go wrong during the most critical Presidential election in this nation’s history.

On to the ballot analysis….

Read More …

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🗯️ Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

userpic=trumpIn the era of Nixon and Watergate, I was a kid. We watched the news as 12, 13, and 14 year olds, but didn’t think all that much about it. We did, of course, read Doonesbury, and hence, the title of this post (and the flashbacks). Today, as an adult, I’m beginning to understand how adults felt in that era, with a President that had clearly committed crimes, stonewalling the investigation, with partisan supporters clearly asserting his innocence, while Congress endeavored to do their oversight job. The only difference between now and then is the magnitude of the crimes (simply burglary and theft for political campaigns seems so naive now) and the fact that we had a President then who understood the politics of the job, cared somewhat about the nation, and had the good sense to resign for the good of the nation. Today, on the other hand…

Stonewalling didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. The truth will eventually come out, the supporters will be proven wrong, and the criminals at minimum will slink away into obscurity, with reputations damaged and destroyed. The only question is: How long will it take for the Nation to recover?

So, some simple questions:

  • If the President is innocent and the report completely exonerates him, why is he hiding under claims of Executive Privilege and telling his aides not to testify? Before you answer: Remember that the Republicans asked the same questions regarding the Clintons, and they did testify.
  • Congress has an oversight role, as the Republicans so doggedly emphasized whenever there was a Democrat in power. The role does not go away or get diminished because the Republicans are in power. As the Republicans said with Hillary: investigate, and if there is innocence, let the truth come out in the investigation.
  • Regarding the tax return information uncovered by the New York Times: the American people have a right to know if the returns were legitimate, or if there was tax fraud taking place. Remember: Al Capone was brought down by tax evasion. Were those losses legitimate, or faked to evade taxes? If legitimate, what does that say about Trump and his business and economic acumen over the long term — and whom does he owe for bailing him out? If faked, what does that say about his respect of the rule of law?
  • In general, if Trump is innocent as he claims, let the facts prove it — the tax returns, sworn testimony, law enforcement investigations. If, as the Right claims, the facts are false, they should be able to prove that as well and present counter-evidence. But that won’t be known until the facts come out in the first place.

As I wrote before, I’m rapidly swinging to the impeachment camp. Yes, I understand it will solidify his base — but they are solid and unthinking and wouldn’t change their minds anyway. Yes, I understand the Senate will not remove him. But having the investigations in the House once charges are brought will provide a strong means of compelling testimony, and having a trial in the Senate will assuredly bring out the facts and compel testimony. Starting the process may be the only way to get to the bottom of the story.

Without that, and with all this stonewalling, President Trump looks quite a lot like President Nixon: as Mark Slackmeyer said, “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.”

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🗯️ What I Want

userpic=trumpThere are those who say I should support Trump because of his economic results, or because of his attention to the border. I say “no” to that. Dictators and despots often get great economic results, at the expense of the “little guy” Dictators and despots often enforce the border at the expense of those truly in need, or at the expense of families. I want more than that in my President. I want a President that respects the rule of law, and that respects the roles inherent in our triparte government as defined in the Constitution (including Congress’ oversight role, which isn’t just oversight of Democrats). I want a President that respects the Constitution, and the rights defined therein — both for citizens and residents of this nation. I want a President that doesn’t try to push one religion’s moral values on those of other faiths in the nation. I want a President that doesn’t encourage the flames of hatred, that works to make this nation safe for ALL its residents — not just those that are white, straight, Christian, and male. I want a President that respects our agreements, actually understand economics, and actually thinks before he or she does anything. I want a President that cares. I want a President whose desire for economic improvement goes beyond the millionaires and corporations, but extends to the white and blue collar workers, the people toiling in offices, stores, and fields. I want a President whose concern goes beyond the economic to the general welfare: including the health of all the people in the nation. I want a President that defends all our borders: not just the Southern border against the ethnicity he hates, but our electronic borders — ensuring that our elections are OUR elections, that our infrastructure is safe from electronic attack, and that our Intelligence agencies are respected and can do their jobs to identify foreign and domestic threats. That includes also defending our people against the scourge of internal terror attacks.

I don’t see any of that in our current President. Any short term economic improvements are not enough to offset what I simply don’t see.

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🗯️ We Have Met the Enemy, and He is Us

userpic=divided-nationThe recent discussions of Ilhan Omar and antisemitism have reignited the debates of racism and divides in this country.  On the Democratic side there is the push to condemn antisemitism while not offending those who either disagree with the behavior of the Israeli government, or to include other racist attacks. On the Republican side, there is the push to condemn antisemitism while ignoring similar behavior within the Republican party. But the truth is, despicable behavior and intolerance — racial, political, and other — exists on both sides.

The Atlantic had an interesting article recently exploring this. The Atlantic asked PredictWise, a polling and analytics firm, to create a ranking of counties in the U.S. based on partisan prejudice (or what researchers call “affective polarization”). The result was surprising in several ways. First, while virtually all Americans have been exposed to hyper-partisan politicians, social-media echo chambers, and clickbait headlines, we found significant variations in Americans’ political ill will from place to place, regardless of party. The maps show that affective polarization occurs on both sides of the aisle: there is intense political hatred and bias occurring in both Red and Blue areas. A NY Times opinion piece refers to this as the culture of contempt:

Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Millions of people organize their social lives and their news exposure along ideological lines to avoid people with opposing viewpoints. What’s our problem?

I know I’ve fallen into this. I’ve begun to block memes from the side I disagree with: I find them annoying, but it is pointless to comment on them and point out the errors because the other side won’t listen anyway. Why won’t they listen? Another article I found explores this quite well, detailing 24 cognative biases that shape our thinking. These are flaws in human reasoning that political machines can exploit to make our biases stronger. You can combat them to some extent if you know what they are (just as you can filter out the bias from news sources if you know it), but you will never succeed completely.

These biases and prejudices and hatred and contempt are playing out in many discussions we see in the news today. But it isn’t just the news. Racism and hatred can be anywhere, including your local knitting store. Online bots can take racism and hatred, and amplify it. The best way to combat it? First, educate yourself to recognize it. Second, speak out and don’t let it go unchallenged. Third, engage as much as you can. There is a balance between those who cannot be redeemed, and those whom you can educate about their bias. Don’t expect to change minds immediately; but do work to plant the seeds.

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🗯️ ✡ Musings on Antisemitism, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and the Response Thereto

All the news today about the resolution in the House in response to Rep. Omar has gotten me thinking, and that can be dangerous:

  • First and foremost, it is “antisemitism” (one word), not “Anti-Semitism”. The latter is a construct that plays on the word Semite, which could be used to refer to anyone from the mideast. The former is a term specifically referring to the hatred of Jews.
  • Here is a good explanation of the controversy, from Vox. It makes clear that the incident in question made use of a well-known antisemitic trope — that Jews have specific loyalty to the State of Israel, and are not truly loyal Americans. Similar tropes were used against Catholics when Kennedy ran for President — that they had more loyalty to the Pope than America. That same trope is what led to our putting Japanese Americans in Concentration Camps (yes, that’s what they were), claiming they had more loyalty to Japan than to America. And, by the way, the same trope is what leads Trump to mistreat Muslims, believing them to be more loyal to ISIS than America. It is all the same, vile, trope.
  • I do not believe that Rep. Omar was being intentionally antisemitic (or at least I choose not to believe that, for now). I believe that, in the environment she was raised, these tropes were present and internalized. There are many others that make similar statements. That doesn’t make it right — it means we need to do a better job about teaching about antisemitism and racism — and how to identify it.
  • I have a big problem with those who claim it wasn’t an antisemitic statement. Why is it that people believe women when they call a behavior sexist, and why they believe minorities when they call a behavior racist .. but they do not believe Jews when we call out a particular trope as antisemitic? What does that say about those people who are denying the ability of Jews to recognize an attack on their religion?
  • What should be the response? It should be a blanket condemnation of the use of any racist tropes (as it appears the House is about to do), and (ideally) a session — just as we have sessions on recognizing sexual harassment —  to educate people what common tropes are so that they don’t use them. That should include any sexist, racist, and broad anti-religion (e.g., antisemitism, anti-catholicism, etc.) tropes. It should also include anti-Muslim attacks.
  • But what about … in the past? We can’t change the past, and the fact that miscreants who used such language in the past weren’t called out doesn’t make such behavior acceptable today. It is wrong no matter who is doing it, no matter what party is doing it. Yes, Mr. President, that includes you: you can’t call out a Rep. for retweeting an antisemitic tweet when you’ve done the same thing. Both are wrong.
  • Do I think Rep. Omar should be removed from Foreign Affairs? No, because even if I don’t agree with her, she has the right to express her view on the committee. She is one voice among many. I don’t agree with the views of many in our government. She does, however, have to answer to her district. If they disagree with what she is saying, it is their prerogative to recall her, or to not reelect her. How she behaves reflects on her district. By the way, the same is true for any Congresscritter, Senator, or even the President — the racist and hateful views they express reflect on the people they represent, and their constituents should take that into consideration come 2020.
  • You can criticize Israel and the behavior of her government without using antisemitic tropes. You can also criticize AIPAC, but be aware that there are many organizations that lobby more or have larger lobbying budgets.  Everyone should do their research and find out the facts, draw their own conclusions, and speak out where there is wrong doing — just as you should always speak out against governments that do wrong, and the lobbying groups that support them. Here’s a good guide on how to do so without falling into the tropes.
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