Impeachment – A Tool Meant to Be Used

From a Google Image Search – Vox

These have been trying times with Trump in the presidency and a Senate that is staging some kind of Republican rebellion. The GOP is deep in the middle of a one-sided battle without rules to unseat the entire Democratic Party and impose a Conservative, Evangelical, Corporatist agenda in American politics for as long as we all shall live. 

Trump is certainly an unlikely person to lead such a campaign, Mr. Richie Rich Bone Spurs avoids things like duty, and he is crude, far too crude for normal conservative sensibilities (oops, sorry George Will). Trump’s tactics are a bit fascist and bear a too-close similarity to those used by the mafia figures encountered by Trump in his NYC career as a ruthless real estate developer sans talent. Several recent articles have also painted a detailed picture of the role the very corrupt Roy Cohn played in Trump’s upbringing. 

But with a group like The Family (did you watch the series on Netflix, very compelling and more than a bit frightening) laying hands on Trump and with their strategy of buddying up with the powerful, no matter how corrupt, and referencing Jesus, almost any lout can be declared off limits as they are in the process of being purified. 

As I have watched Trump’s election campaign and these three years of his presidency he seems to me to have given us reasons to impeach him many times over. I believe our approach to impeachment is to turn it into almost a sacrament. We expect our presidents to exhibit a high caliber of ethical and chauvinistic behavior. Our forefathers gave us a tool, one tool to evict a man of low character from the highest office in our nation, or to at least censure him and that tool is impeachment. What good is a tool if you can’t use it? 

A number of people have warned us that our democracy/republic is in danger because lip service to Constitutional guidelines is not the same as actual adherence to the Constitutional rules of governance that guide our republic. Yes impeachment is a tool that should be used cautiously and with great respect and introspection, but it should be used, any time it is really needed, and I think it is needed right now, right this very minute.

There is an article by David Brooks in this morning’s New York Times in which Mr. Brooks lays out all the reasons this impeachment is a very bad move for Democrats. He says it is too close to an election (when aren’t we close to an election), he says it looks elitist, as if the Democrats don’t trust the people to make the correct decision (well it didn’t look like that until he put this spin on it, I think Democrats will show solidarity on this front now that the decision has been made to move forward). He makes a number of other complaints that are too late and too beside the point now that proof of calumny is at hand. Here’s a bit of what Brooks has to say:

“Remember, impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. There is no obligation to prosecute. Congress is supposed to do what is in the best interest of the country. And this process could be very bad for America:

This will probably achieve nothing. To actually remove Trump from office, at least 20 Republican senators would have to vote to convict him. If you think that will happen because of this incident, you haven’t been paying attention to the Senate Republicans over the past two and a half years.

Usually when a leader takes a big risk, it’s because there’s a big upside. But Nancy Pelosi is taking a giant risk and there is little upside. At the end of this process Trump will probably be acquitted by the Senate. He will declare himself vindicated and victorious in his battle against The Swamp. An ugly backlash could ensue — in both parties.”

(The upside is that this decision is principled, it is politically correct, and it is brave especially given all the opposition Democrats face. No one, Democrats included, expects that the Republicans have any principles left or will take a stand against this very flawed individual who happens to be presenting a warped America to a stunned world.)

“People will conclude that Democrats are going ahead with impeachment in an election year because they don’t trust the democratic process to yield the right outcome. Democratic elites to voters: We don’t trust you. Too many of you are racists!”

(Democrats are not making this move because they do not trust the American people; they are making this move to impeachment because perhaps this time the deniability Trump has learned to wield as a cloak has been pierced by the very safeguards we have built into our system, and a whistleblower and good record-keeping has exposed Trump’s lawless tactics in the open where they can be challenged by law or at least Congressional process.)

“An election can save the country. An inside-the-Beltway political brawl will not.”

(Impeachment should never be considered an ‘inside-the-Beltway brawl’ when it is the right tool used at the necessary moment. We the people may be diametrically opposed on the issue of impeachment but we have all considered it in these particular political times, either for or against. If we don’t call out Trump’s behavior now, if we keep excusing him while we wait for an election then he continues to appear blameless, or at least untouchable. I don’t think Mr. Brooks gives ‘we the people’ enough credit for the intelligence we actually possess out here in not-DC America.)

The decision to pursue impeachment has been made. This is not the time to second guess that decision. This is when we must all watch the proceedings closely to make sure that the process is allowed to unfold appropriately and reaches a reasoned conclusion based on the evidence that our leader is possibly in the wrong office, that he does not meet the high standards of our nation or match the imperatives of our history. 

Mark Zuckerberg and Big Brother

From a Google Image Search – youtube.com

Mark Zuckerberg and Big Brother

Facebook allowed bots from Russia, and fake accounts that originated in Russia to post fake ads to Facebook to try to sway the 2016 election. Zuckerberg, et al were into a head space where free means free and anyone gets to speak on Facebook. And I suppose it is actually possible that he was unaware of just who was speaking and what they were speaking about. Is propaganda-speech from unidentified sources protected by America’s First Amendment? Is free speech absolute or is it really only possible to have relatively-free speech? 

Hard to say because now our Supreme Court has ruled that money can be speech and that corporations are people and can weigh in at elections with as much money and influence as they please. Perhaps our government shares some guilt in this Russian interference because they allowed money to flood elections while the sources of the money are protected and do not have to be revealed. 

But in this case, the government has Facebook in hot water because the bots and fake accounts did not originate in America but were posted from Russia by Russians to meddle in an American election. Social media, unless posters are carefully vetted, allows elections to be influenced globally, and not just in America, but in any nation. I’m not sure why Mark Zuckerberg is taking all the blame for foreign interference, but his business model, which charges no fees to users relies completely on selling data from users to companies who will pay for the data. I suppose we all knew he was doing this, but if we stopped to think about it, when it was called to our attention, it became clear that it is an invasion of our privacy and it was being done without asking for our stated permissions. Who has our data? We have no idea. Does Mr. Zuckerberg know? Does Russia have our data? China? Everyone?

Zuckerberg’s business model now relies on earning from selling space on Facebook, ads. But because the internet is still basically the Wild West he cannot actually be sure who is buying these ads. The US government is not happy. They threaten him with anti-trust laws.

So now Zuckerberg must find ways to vet Facebook users in order to eliminate anonymous foreign interference and vet US users to make sure they are real citizens. He has had to put himself under the thumb of the government (the Trump government). Given the way social media works he has been given a Herculean task. Almost anyone it seems can hack the internet and steal information (data), block the data of schools and governments for ransom, generate fake accounts. So now the government wants names and addresses. Do you see the Big Brother connection? 

I have a website, a blog, where I post opinion articles about politics. Facebook offered to push out an ad to connect readers to my articles. It was useful to help find readers, although finding trolls was far more likely, and  it is inexpensive. It did get my posts out to more readers, but the readers did not tend to stay or come back on their own. However, since it was helpful and cheap I continued to use Facebook’s ad services. 

I had to prove that I was a real person and not a bot by going through a process of four factor authentication. The last step involved sending a code to my house that I then had to enter on Facebook. But that 4 factor vetting is not enough, apparently. Now if you write about politics you have to register with the government. I do not trust our current government. I think of Trump’s government as constantly trying to create lists of American citizens who might become Trump ‘enemies’. I will simply stop buying ads on Facebook and write in the dark. Big Brother is watching!

This is the text of the note I got on Facebook from Mark Zuckerberg:

Hello

In August we announced several updates to ensure greater authenticity and transparency for social issue, electoral, and political ads in the United States. Advertisers can now begin the process of providing more information about their organization and give people insight into who is responsible for the ad before getting their “Paid for by” disclaimer approved. We encourage you to start this process as soon as possible. Beginning mid-October advertisers who have not provided the new required information will have their ads paused until they complete the new disclaimer process.

Advertisers targeting the US with ads about social issues, elections, or politics, now have five options for confirming their organization including three options that prove they are registered with the US government.

  1. Tax-registered organization
  2. Federal Election Commission ID number (FEC)
  3. Government based email and website with similar domains (ending in .gov or .mil)

If they complete one of these options they will receive a ‘Confirmed Organization’ icon that will appear on all their issues, electoral and political ads. We also want to ensure advertisers who do not have those credentials, such as smaller businesses or local politicians, are empowered to run issue, electoral or political ads. These advertisers will have two options and their ads will have an ‘About this ad’ icon in lieu of the ‘Confirmed Organization’ icon:

  • Submit a different organization name, along with a US street address, phone number, email and website that matches the email
  • Use the Page admin’s name as it appears on their valid government-issued ID. For this option, the advertiser will not be able to use an organization name in disclaimers.

These new indicators, which shows if an ad is run by a ‘Confirmed Organization’ or not, aims to bring transparency directly to people by helping them understand who is paying for the ad. With this layer of transparency, people will be able to see the information Facebook confirmed with one tap on the ‘Confirmed Organization’ or ‘About this Ad’ icons. The information Facebook confirmed will be publicly accessible in the Ad Library for seven years. 

Join the Facebook team for a live webinar on Sept. 24 or Oct. 7 at 10 am PT/1 pm ET to walk through the new disclaimer process with Q&A

End of note-

Let the hacking and government surveillance begin…

His Contempt, Our Shame: Beef Up the Constitution

From a Google image Search – Washington Monthly

Congress holds the purse strings. Can the president go outside of Congress to fund his projects? Can a president take money from items already budgeted to other government departments or agencies. What if Congress says no it will not give him money to build a wall even when he claims it is a national emergency, because Congress knows it is not an actual national emergency? Does a president have absolute power regardless of the issue to decide that Congress is wrong, that Congress will put the nation in jeopardy, that the president must step in and save America from what he perceives as a crisis, although others do not? Or is the real plan just to grab power and render Congress inert?

Can a president disrespect the Constitution by ignoring its stated directions? In the case of the emoluments clauses, both foreign and domestic can a president decide that s/he can ignore that part of the Constitution and just line his own pockets with money that the Constitution interdicts because of matters of outside influence. Can a president direct the military of our nation to lay over at a private hotel or property or country club/golf course he owns and accept tax dollars as payment for the rooms, food, drinks, etc.? Can he also accept profit from foreign leaders who stay at his properties? The Constitution clearly says no, but a lawless president does this openly and defies the people when they complain. 

Congress asks for documents to prove the president’s acceptance of emoluments, the president denies access to the documents, orders pertinent agencies to deny access to documents, and then turns to the media and says, “where is the proof?” Yes, other presidents have done this but have been eventually forced to back down by loud opposition. This president denies Congress access to anything that touches the executive and since he governs alone this means Congress is denied access to everything. Without the Senate to back up the House, opposition is very silent indeed.

Can a president declare every word he utters so private that the people he utters those words to are not allowed to testify to the appropriate investigative committees in Congress? Can he also protect the speech of people who were never hired to work in government? Apparently he can do that. 

Watch the Democrats in the House try to see the president’s tax documents, which every modern president has delivered to Congress. Watch the committees in the House of Representatives try to talk to any of the people who testified before the Mueller Investigation and you will see something like the travesty of the hearing with Corey Lewandowski who basically sneered at our representatives and hid behind a president who controls people with veiled threats. Bear witness to the two empty seats at the table representing Trump/government employees who refused to testify because Trump told them not to. 

Clearly you can do any old thing you want as president if you surround yourself with cult members and threaten mayhem. But is this democracy? Is this our republic as described in our Constitution? If you deny the power of the Constitution which makes our government a republic and you deny the Congress which makes our government a democracy, haven’t we already tipped over into authoritarianism?

I swear all these actions are unprecedented in quantity and in the flagrancy with which they are conducted. I once thought our Constitution could protect our freedoms, protect us from the authoritarian whims that might arise through power and executive privilege. But as revered as it is, a Constitution is just a piece of paper and without people in Congress to enforce it we might as well burn it. Without enforcement it is useless. And it should first be enforced by Congress, second by our Department of Justice, third by our courts, and fourth by we the people. We are failing on every level. 

We are letting an unqualified person run this great nation all by himself because everyone around him just enables him for what are probably a variety of reasons. We hate the way he is running our nation but every day we let him pretend that his is actually governing when he is really just flying by the seat of his pants, and grinning. When and if we get rid of this usurper, this authoritarian dictator wrapped in our flag, we must beef up our laws so that we can deal effectively with any others with delusions of grandeur, who take office by taking an oath on a document which they fully intend to ignore.

Our president is actually an “anti-president. Although he supposedly represents conservative Americans who believe in state’s rights he went to California to boss the state around. Perhaps you remember the smoggy air that used to hang over California cities and highways before there were emissions standards for cars. The president supposedly believes that auto manufacturers will stay in America if he strips away these emission standards. That is not the reason our manufacturing left our shores, or at least not the only reason. The president decided this simplistic approach sometime in the 80’s and has waited to impress us with his brilliance all this time. 

Our cars are designed and built using the tougher emissions standards and it has almost wiped out smog and the acid rain which used to fall over the Adirondacks with devastating effect. Manufacturers will have to retool and redesign to go back to older standards. They don’t care to do it. But Donald wants it, he demands it, he declares it and all must comply, even California. And while he’s there he might as well solve that homeless problem California has too. As if you can do that by mandate or mythic powers.

From a Google image Search – The New Republic

Here is a man who lets disaster hit Puerto Rico and the Bahamas and he is barely moved by the plight of these people who live so near America or who actually have a partnership with America, and who then contemplates going to the aid of Saudi Arabia when two of the nation’s oil wells are hits by drones and missiles. He gives the power to the Saudi’s to tell us what they would like us to do. Unprecedented. We begin to sense that our president’s relationship with the Saudi’s might be a bit too close. It may have started out being about Trump’s money, but it could end up being about American lives. Even Trump seems a bit taken aback by the prospect of war with Iran, although he considers them bad actors who must eventually be dealt with.

It almost seems like real America. But it’s not. The president’s assaults are so unending and constant, so shocking that we have become numb (shell shock?) and we just decide to listen to Nancy Pelosi and get rid of the president and all his henchmen at once the only way we can, in an election. I do believe that Pelosi is a consummate political strategist, but I still find myself wishing we were acting more like activists and less like this is all a normal ho hum election. This election may very well be the only thing that stands between the return of a robust democracy and a dreary, chaotic state that jerks from oddball policies to the same old diplomatic strategy of “psyching out” the totalitarian leadership of nations that feel so beleaguered that they choose aggression over politics.

When Winning Means Losing Blame Republicans

From a Google image Search – National Review

The Republican Party sold itself lock, stock, and barrel to the corporations and to the Americans who used the corporate system to become the small class of billionaires who now hoard the largest share of American wealth. Perhaps the GOP got nervous when they saw the factories leaving and sheltering profits elsewhere. It was certainly enough to make us all nervous. They decided to go all-in on deregulation and to reverse environmental rules, things they felt would tempt businesses to return. They focused on robbing unions of their power, and of making people who need government help to live a decent life fearful that the government would no longer be able to pay for a safety net. 

Conservatives and Evangelicals worked together, a bizarre wedding of convenience, once considered unthinkable until Evangelicals rewrote the Bible. The new Evangelical Bible pronounces that the wealthy are rich because they are chosen, because God loves them better than he loves the middle class or the poor. God wants them to live in mansions and own jets and yachts, all the better to convince people who worship other gods that ours is the most powerful. Based on what we all learned in Sunday school this is the exact opposite of what Jesus would do?

Once the people at the base of the party, hoi polloi for sure, but in a democracy numbers are important, formed the Tea Party to parrot the sentiments of the Republican talking points the battle became far more lop-sided. The Republicans, through the careful planning with their wealthy allies now had the tools in place to unseat the Democratic Party, or at least make them powerless. In order to do the biding of their corporate overlords and their newly zombie-ized base they had a list of priorities to take care of. They had to rig the vote so Republicans could hold on to a power they were in danger of losing. They had to deregulate. They had to deny climate change so they could reverse climate laws. They had to constantly remind their base that minorities were about to dominate America and that immigrants were cashing in at the expense of taxpayers. They had to pass that obscene tax cut which made America more top-heavy then ever. They had to demonize the other party. They had to isolate America from our allies and trash the media, make it impossible to tell who was right and who was wrong. They had to pillage the countryside (privatize public lands) and rape the women (get them under their thumbs). 

It has been a masterful plan and with the Democrats subpoenaing documents and witnesses every day and being flatly denied rights that our Constitution clearly assigns to them as the majority in the House of Representatives, with one fell swoop an opposing Party seems to be side-lined and even a little ridiculous, and the American Constitution is violated and rendered obsolete. Even today as Corey Lewandowski finally appears before the House committee, he is under orders from the president to not testify to anything substantive. But Corey Lewandowski never worked in the Trump administration, only the Trump campaign, so the only power Trump has over Lewandowski is that of a mafia godfather. Even with a thug running America the Republicans stick to their master plan and smile the annoying smile of men who consider themselves powerful.

But the Republican Party is living in a fantasy world of their own making. Those factories are perfectly happy where they are. They have no intention of repatriating their dollars unless someone finds a way to make America once again the center of prosperity. You cannot isolate a nation our size in a world full of ships and jets. When the Ebola virus looked like it would cause a pandemic we should have learned this lesson. You can end immigration, you can end tourism, you can end trade (no you can’t, these guys are capitalists) but you cannot guarantee that nothing bad (like 9/11) will ever again happen in America. Even something as tiny as a mosquito could undermine your plan. You can have your righteous snit and pledge that the world will not turn us into a poor nation because we will stop helping poorer nations around the world. If they don’t like us we will take our toys and go home. We will no longer invest dollars in foreign aid to people who apparently hate us. But isolationism and white supremacy and pretending to turn America into a Capitalist Fantasy Park will not work. 

What will work is to invest in America and the American people, to offer training and opportunity, to open the doors once again to immigrants whose striving could energize us all. If we subsidized the American people for a while, if we spend money to make money, we can be an engine of innovation and usher in a new age of prosperity. I think this new prosperity comes through both innovation to save the planet and innovation to leave the planet. If the Republicans succeed, if they “win”, America will lose.

Hardhearted Us (US)

From a Google Image Search – Dorian over Bahamas – MarketWatch

We watch. We witness. And what we see is an endless stream of behaviors which offend the senses, that certainly change America’s role in the world. We have hardly forgotten Trump’s treatment of Puerto Ricans when their nation was leveled by Hurricane Maria. He fought very publicly with the mayor of San Juan, he sneered at her and brought up Puerto Rico’s debts. His disdain for both women who refuse to be submissive and the people of Puerto Rico was on full display. He did not seem to know, or acknowledge once he did know, the close relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. He most likely has old evidence of Puerto Ricans he hired to work for him years ago stored in his moldy brain. So he threw paper towels to Puerto Ricans while he stroked his own ego. It was embarrassing, and if I had been one of the people who needed empathy and aide, disheartening.

President Donald Trump throws rolls of paper towels to a crowd affected by Hurricane Maria as he visits a disaster relief distribution center at Calgary Chapel in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. Trump is visiting Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Parts of Bermuda were recently leveled by Hurricane Dorian and I don’t recall any official statement of grief issuing forth from the US President at the terrible losses suffered there. Public conversation on American media instead revolved around a guy – our 45 – who hates to be wrong and so entered into a weeklong back-and-forth about his mistaken (oops, Trump is never mistaken) statement that Alabama was going to be in the path of the hurricane. Trump is shameless – he apparently added to the hurricane’s path with a “Sharpie”, extrapolating an extended path, and then excoriated a NOAA employee for disagreeing with the president’s bona fides as a meteorologist. NOAA admin then backed the president rather than their own employee because there is (frighteningly) only one expert in our government on every subject and that is the barely sane Donald Trump. I guess the weather was “fake” news.

From a Google Image Search – Trump defends visa rules – People.com

To add insult to injury, Trump’s new immigration stance, requiring that only folks with money and credentials (and white skin) need apply, made it difficult for those made homeless in Bahama, whose documents were destroyed by Dorian, to enter the US. Well Trump may not ever feel shame, but I did and I do. Do you recognize this incarnation of America? I don’t. Does the world recognize this as American behavior? They may cut America some slack for a while but probably not forever, because there are signs that protectionist, selfish behaviors are becoming the new normal, and many recognize that it never bodes well when the world goes there.