White Power: Driving Force for Republicans

From a Google Image Search – NBC News

White Power – Driving Force for Republicans

Could it be that the Great American Divide is about white power? There is a lot of evidence that this may be exactly the case. I am reading the Frederick Douglass biography, Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. Douglass began his life in America as a slave but he taught himself to read, write, and speak at great hazard as reading and writing were forbidden to slaves. Once he escaped north he became a tireless member and leader in the abolitionist movement. David Blight describes Frederick Douglass’s impatience  with Lincoln in 1862. Douglass was waiting for Lincoln to emancipate the slaves and to allow them to fight on the Union side in the Civil War. Lincoln had dissenters to appeal to and perhaps that explains why he dithered. Perhaps it explains why the government in Washington pushed colonization along with freedom. Slaves who wished to be sent to found a colony, perhaps in Central America, would be freed. Frederick Douglass felt that American slaves belonged in America. It was now the nation they called home. They should not be uprooted again because white people did not accept black folks as equals. 

Douglass says “If men may not live peaceably together in the same land, they cannot so live on the same continent, and ultimately on the same world -If heterogeneity could not work in America where could it. If the black man cannot find peace from the aggressions of the white race on this continent,” he reasoned, “he will not be likely to find it permanently on any part of the habitable globe.” (pg.375)

Here is General Montgomery Blair on the subject (responding to a letter Douglass had written to Senator Pomeroy), “Blair sought to assure Douglass that there ‘was not question of superiority or inferiority involved in the proposed removal.’ Blair invoked the reputation of Thomas Jefferson to underscore the necessity of racial separation. The minority race, argued Blair, must go elsewhere to initiate the civilization established by the majority race: the propriety of colonization stemmed from the differences between them…and it seems as obvious to me as it was to…the mind of Jefferson that the opinion against which you protest, is the necessary result of indelible differences made by the Almighty.” (pg. 375-76) 

So brother fought brother in a deadly Civil War and when it ended the union of states remained together, but the racial animosity also remained. There are white Americans who still feel superior to anyone with darker skin, anyone who cannot trace their history to Europe. 

I am also reading a book called Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson who is offering evidence that there are long tentacles of connection between American Fundamentalists and the Koch Network, which also includes the DeVos family, and that white supremacy and the supremacy of the Christian religion are the doctrines around which these folks coalesce. Nelson looks at the founding of a group called the Council for National Policy, and at its past presidents who include people from just about every radical conservative group in America. 

“A century earlier the US population was close to 90 percent non-Hispanic white but by 2016 the figure dropped to 60% and was falling steadily.” (pg. 2)

In 1972 Protestants made up 2/3 of the US population, but by 2012 they had dropped to less than half.” (pg. 2)`

“[The men we are speaking of] represented an American past dominated by white Protestant male property owners. They dreamed of restoring a nineteenth century patriarchy that limited the civil rights of women, minorities, immigrants and workers, with no income tax to vex the rich or social safety net to aid the poor.” (Prologue, pg. xiv)

“If the country abided by a clear-cut democratic process, these constituencies, leaning Democratic, would consolidate their power based on majority rule.” (pg. xiv)

“Once Democratic-leaning youth and minorities reached a decisive majority – which could be as early as 2031 – there might be no turning back.” 

Perhaps this explains the conservative meme on the demise of the American nuclear family and the passionate campaign to end birth control and abortion and the constant comments that inform white folks that they are not having enough offspring, which some conservatives are wont to let slip in unguarded moments. (As in, we need more white babies.)

Nelson says that “[t]he key players learned how to achieve minority rule through long-term strategies, which they would soon apply to the country as a whole, manipulating the electoral process and reshaping the judiciary.” (pg. 2)

Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, outraged when the Supreme Court ended public school prayer, met in March of 1967, Nelson learned, to discuss these matters and to come up with an organized response which would eventually become the Council for National Policy. Southern Baptists figured prominently in these events. Jerry Falwell was also in the loop. Paul Weyrich would become one of the architects of the CNP. “According to journalist David Grann’s account in the New Republic, Weyrich’s idea for a conservative network arose in Washington one day in 1969. In 1970 Weyrich cofounded The Heritage Foundation, the Republican Study Committee, and ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council which become the building blocks of the Council for National Policy.

Since this movement involved the church there was already a network of Christian radio stations all across America. “Over time the media empire has expanded its reach into Fox News operations and grown to include fundamentalist television broadcasting, digital platforms, book publishing, and feature film production.” (pg. xv)

“ The ‘wallpaper effect’ of wraparound media can have a powerful effect,” says Nelson. (pg. xvi)

“The CNP set its sights on the Republican Party” (pg. xvii)

Nelson goes on to say, “the movement has also appropriated a vocabulary that it redeploys with Orwellian flair. ‘Family’ is a code word for homophobic, and ‘defense of marriage’ means prohibition of same sex unions…” (pg. xvii) hardly surprising to most of us.

Once we are versed in the history of the CNP and related organizations such as the Leadership Institute, the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, Tea Party Patriots and many more on the right, Anne Nelson begins to delineate the connections of this fundamentalist network with the Koch brothers and their network of organizations mostly connected to the oil and gas industry, very important in the states the CNP grew up in. The most famous Koch organizations include Americans for Prosperity and Donors Trust. 

I began to be aware that what was going on in the federal government and in the states was not business-as-usual sometime around 2013 when the scope of Republican obstructionism in Congress became too obvious to ignore. Saying that you plan to make Obama a one term president was a bit abstract, but the use of the filibuster and the Hastert rule to bring legislation to a virtual standstill was pretty concrete. Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham may have amused some Americans, but I found it snarky and disrespectful. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling, shutting down the government – all these actions began to look planned, strategic, ways to prevent the majority party from governing. And of course, I was not the only one who noticed. 

I’m not sure the connection to white supremacy was as clear in those years as it is today but actions like defusing the Voting Rights Act to end preclearance for Jim Crow states began to offer us a strong suspicion that white supremacy was not dead and gone in these United States. Voter ID’s, getting rid of convenient polling places and polling times and other anti-voting moves that would be likely to most affect minorities, or would echo techniques previously used to suppress minority votes, brought issues of racism back to the forefront, as did the events that precipitated the Black Lives Matter movement.

Journalists started to connect the dots among the various conservative and fundamentalist organizations that had sprung up like pernicious weeds in a garden that was unattended. In 2013 a group called Muckety traced the web of the Koch brothers influence (along with other wealthy conservative political families). Anne Nelson, finally in 2019, does her more exhaustive analysis of these groups whose goals are to steer American politics inevitably in such a way that white power will stay in charge in America regardless of what changes we see in our population.

Small wonder how we end up with someone like Steven Miller, the merchant of white supremacy (renamed white nationalism) by the side of a president who the Republicans will not touch, because he is busy preserving the white America they have been manipulating Americans to want for an astonishing 50 years. 

Tell Americans that Muslims are terrorists and that people from south of the border are gang members. After several terrorist bombings in America, (after 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings and more), after exaggerating MS-13 presence in America, it is pretty easy to understand why people believe the white supremacist activities of this administration are protecting them. The Muslim ban and the Wall calm Americans’ terror of these new immigrants that people have been incited to fear, who are so different from European immigrants of previous migrations. 

There is some truth to the fear. If we accept Muslim immigrants some of them could be terrorists. If we give sanctuary to people from South America or Central America some of them could be gang members. But stoking fear of these groups is wrong, it is un-American, it over-generalizes, and, because it relies on Europe to deal with the upheaval driving Muslims into Europe all on its own, it will eventually create massive anti-American sentiment in Europe if these policies outlast Trump. Europe seems to be cutting us some slack for Trump. Can we save ourselves from economic chaos in South America by building a wall? Probably not for long. 

As it turns out this is not really about immigration at all and we instinctively knew this; it is about white supremacy; it is about preserving white power. It is about wealth and who gets to keep it. It is about old energy and holding the line. It is the antithesis of globalization which would attempt to see that we all try to understand each other and get along as best we can to offer a life that meets the needs of people everywhere on the planet. 

It is about change, an end to white hegemony, and it is so frightening to some that they are willing to destroy our democracy to keep the status quo in America. The Republicans are part of this strategic program to keep America white and Christian and that has everything to do with why they back a guy like Trump who is not afraid to cozy up to white supremacists to get it done (and who insists at the same time that he is doing nothing of the kind). This is not about the base, although heaven knows they need their base. This is about white male Christian power; it is about a minority finding ways to continue to exercise power over a new majority.

Can the left come up with an equally strategic plan to counteract this right wing cabal, to peacefully wend a way to inclusion, to lifting up those who will be affected by climate shifts, and to invent a new more equitable economy? Will our democracy, born in a crucible of racism, be able to survive into a brave new tolerant future? It is not looking good.

I Have a Plan for That

From a Google Image Search – NYT

I Have A Plan for That

Why does the Republican base stay so stable? This seems to be the same as the old Tea Party base but reenergized by Trump, Fox News, and the Trump rallies. I once saw a journalist, one of the younger ones, sent out to interview people attending a Trump rally. I don’t remember where the rally was held or even exactly when it was held. The guy being interviewed was probably in his early forties. He said that his life had felt empty, it had no direction, no purpose, but now he felt that he belonged to something (and he looked happy/high). That spirit seems like it might be a difficult thing for the Democratic Party to replicate, since we have no fake news, no network like Fox, and no rallies where our members or our leaders say truly outrageous things about their opponents and get everyone fired up with their snarky chants and their sophomoric insults.

That feeling of belonging is very powerful. I have felt it a few times in my life. It happens with certain groups of people where you just all seem to click, you feel like you have all created a new family from people who are actually unrelated to you. Sometimes this lasts for years, sometimes not so much, but while it lasts the whole universe seems to make sense and life seems to have a center. Of course your actual family can click in this same way. But Trump’s people, with their happy sense of connection, possibly had not experienced that feeling of belonging in some time. It almost endows a certain power which may explain the superiority that many Trumpers seem to express when speaking to those of us on the outside, as if they alone know the truth and the rest of us are so misinformed.

Well I have been noticing those Peloton commercials with the music and the “soul” cycling and I think the answer lies there. Those cyclers have that same goofy glow on their faces after a successful ride as those Trump followers do after a rally. The Democrats could simply gift each and every Trump follower with a Peloton and a membership in the soul cycle group and then they would have a new “family” to pledge their loyalty to. Added perk – they would be getting so healthy!

Photo Credit: Canadian Living

Elise Stefanik, John Katko and a Snowflake in Snow Country

John Katko, Elise Stefanik from Auburnpub.com – Google Image Search

Elise Stefanik, John Katko and a Snowflake in Snow Country

Elise Stefanik showed her allegiance to the Freedom Caucus and Trump at the Impeachment Hearings last week. She showed that she could talk trash to Adam Schiff, who is heading the hearings, but who is a Democrat. She was as disrespectful as those in her party like to be and they have been in Congress for far longer than she has. She proved she could be “one of the boys.” Perhaps she handled the moment when Adam Schiff held her to the process rules in such an unprofessional manner, even though they had been agreed upon in advance, because she is new to her role as a disrupter and she just reacted as the young person she is. But everyone certainly noticed her and she had her 15 minutes of fame, and may it be the only 15 minutes she gets. It is far too simple, if you are Republican, to join the Trump cult and to find yourself unable to disapprove of anything our creative and criminally-minded leader thinks up even if he breaks every rule America tries to live by and every rule Ms. Stefanik has sworn to uphold. 

Elise Stefanik represents the NY 21 district which stretches from the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario (Watertown) over to the Vermont border (Plattsburg), from Albany to the Canadian border. Much of the region is mountainous and rural, sprinkled with a few resorts and tourist spots, a few wealthy suburban enclaves, some farmers, some Amish residents, some colleges, the Adirondack Preserve, and the seat of NY State government. Summers are spent near water and winters are snowy, long, and very cold. Her parents own a successful business and Stefanik has a degree in government from Harvard. She has stuck to her goal to work in government ever since beginning with the Bush 43 administration.

Some of northern NY is very similar to the Rust Belt, with factories that once offered lifelong employment folding or moving elsewhere. It was not obvious before Stefanik was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 that many in the north country would be backing Trump in the 2016 election. Although Stefanik said she was a moderate Republican she helped Paul Ryan, a Tea Party favorite, prepare for the 2012 election. She has also worked for two groups, Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Foreign Policy Institute – two organizations that claim to be nonpartisan, a claim that is considered questionable. Since Stefanik’s district abuts mine to the north I knew that she became a Trump backer in the 2016 election. Many people in the north country who do not support Trump have no current local representation in the House since Trump supporters almost never vote with the Democrats.

So here I am, a libtard, a snowflake in snow country, surrounded by Republicans who toe the party line. I have Stefanik in NY 21 and then I have John Katko in NY24. John Katko came to Congress through law enforcement. He worked for the DOJ as a senior trial attorney at the US-Mexican Border (he has a degree in law from SU) and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and as an assistant US attorney in Syracuse, NY where he helped prosecute gang members. He is a good man, except for the fact that his ideology is old and his law and order approach is currently being questioned. 

Syracuse, NY has popped up in recent research as one of the places in America with the most stubborn pockets of poverty and segregation. Policies pursued in the get-tough-on-crime years have done nothing to change this situation in Syracuse (and many other cities). John Katko has proven to be a hard worker, but inflexible in his belief that tougher is better. He also sees no reasons to work across the aisle although he occasionally votes with Democrats when it suits him. He does not want to listen to other points of view. If you write him he answers, however he says he understands what you are saying but he cannot agree with it and he must vote his conscience (not exactly the way one would expect a representative to think). It is incomprehensible how he can stomach someone like Trump as he is a very straight-arrow Catholic. But his inability to be flexible, both in terms of policy and sociological remedies, is the biggest argument against him. John Katko and Elise Stefanik are both members of a conservative group in the House called Tuesday Group.

So I am living in the midst of one district full of Trump supporters (and Katko has many in the district who agree with him), and I am bordered on the north by another Trump district. I have to hope that Dana Balter will win in NY24 (by magic) and that Tedra Cobb will win in NY21 (she has a bit more financial backing) and it appears that both of these House seats are very unlikely to be overturned in 2020. Slick ads for John Katko have already begun to appear, but I have seen no ads, slick or otherwise, for Democrats. And while I understand the rigor and purity of grassroots funding, I find it almost impossible to accept that it can win a national race in the age of Citizens United.

Liberal World Order in a Transitional Age

From a Google Image Search – Council on Foreign Relations

Liberal World Order in a Transitional Age

Conservative writers in the media spend a considerable amount of time bemoaning the demise of the “Liberal World Order”. Given the pushback we get these days if we even mention the word “liberal,” you have to accept that these conservatives are using the term differently in this particular sense. For decades following World War II America held back communism and the rule of “strong men” by using the powerful position they held after that war to exert considerable control over Europe. We established military bases in every key location that would allow it. We formed economic partnerships to try to rebuild devastated nations all over Europe. We pushed back when the USSR tried to increase its power base. We held our hegemony through an image in the world as the most successful nation, the nation with the best economy, a manufacturing giant. We held it through our hustle and our bustle and our schools and the serious thinkers we sent out into the world. Rather than punish Germany we befriended them (occupied them) and helped them rebuild. A nation that was allowed to continue to exist and thrive became a powerful ally. 

But we are now seeing authoritarian tendencies among an increasing number of nations redefining the balance of power in the world. We are even seeing this in once-stalwart democracies like our own America and in the UK. How did this reversal happen? How have we slipped so far on the world stage? Well we all know some of the reasons. All you had to do was listen to Tulsi Gabbard in last night’s debate. We did get a bit high-handed. We did try things like regime change to hold the line on democracy. It’s a flaw we have, thinking that the ends justify the means and that using authoritarian tactics will not taint the end results. We did that; we did that many times. I am not endorsing Tulsi Gabbard in any way. In fact I would never vote for her. But she recounts a sin that we have already sort of owned up to; that we betrayed our values because winning became too important. 

Regime change failure probably did not do us in all by itself. We began to lose wars. We were attacked on 9/11 and we staggered, although we did not fall. The world power balance changed. Authoritarian nations did not buy our form of government, but they did buy the argument that capitalism brought the greatest prosperity. They did not buy free markets but they were happy to be “invaded” and educated by our corporate leaders. As our economy dipped, the economies of these authoritarian nations rose. We began to lose our clout on the world stage. Money is at the root of this decline. Our economy, while still strong was not the only strong economy on the planet. Our schools were no longer number one due to our refusal to deal with our diversity for so long, especially because our racist roots let portions of our population lag far behind the opportunity curve (if there is such a thing). 

And we lost our arrogance. We looked inward and confessed our sins. We took an honest look at some of the less-than-stellar tools in the toolbox of our postwar tinkering. We began to see that we had been using some fairly dictatorial practices to win hearts and minds for democracy. We began to see how obsessed we are with money and with business. We began to see what our obsession with industry, an industry based in fossil fuels was doing to our planet, although we know that many do not accept that we “wee” humans could ruin a whole planet. 

Of course not everyone sees the same thing when we look back and forward. Do our sins mean we have to change our ways? What will become of us? Many don’t want to change. They liked the old us and our position in the world. They think we are the cause of our own slippage. They think we have a choice in the matter. But it seems that the old Liberal World Order is dead. It was not without value. It brought us 75 years of peace in Europe. It brought prosperity to Europe and that prosperity is spreading. 

It may have brought tempting whiffs of freedom too, which may eventually spread and push those strong men out, ushering in a new age of enlightenment that it is difficult for us to imagine from where we are right now, on a path to the depths of decline and upheaval (change) with no foreign policy beyond the simply transactional. We could just as easily lose all that we have gained and retreat into a primitivism we believed we had left behind.  But I don’t think that is what will happen. We will figure out what we need to do next, how we will replace the Liberal World Order with something more appropriate to addressing the new challenges the world faces how we will replace the Liberal World Order with something more appropriate to addressing the new challenges the world faces as soon as we “rid” ourselves of this “meddlesome” crook in our White House. There are already people working on this, some older, some younger. Perhaps our new world order will involve just being sort of laissez-faire for a while, just more hand’s-off while we get a better grasp on the forces at play on this amazing and frightening little planet of ours, hurtling through space.

David Brooks had some things to say on this topic in the NYT’s for 11.21.19:

“The working classes who have been supporting populists need a way to thrive in the modern economy and a sense they are respected contributors to their national project. The educated elites want their democratic freedoms protected and to live in ethnically diverse pluralistic societies.Whoever can write that social bargain wins the future.”

Dear Trumpers

From a Google Image Search – Washington Post – Trump rally in Cincinnati

Dear Trumpers,

I wish I could get through to you. I wish I could understand why you don’t see the “wrongness” of Donald Trump, why you can’t see that the way he behaves is selfish and un-American and that he should be removed from his place of honor as the 45 th President of the United States of America. I wish you didn’t fall for the hype that he is some sort of messiah, appointed by God to get rid of the notion of religious freedom that is a legacy of our founders, and to turn America into a Christian nation, a nation that will make sure that no other religion can survive in America. The biggest problem with this is that these particular Christians could dictate how we live and how we school our children; they could, given their belief in their own righteousness, begin an inquisition if they felt it was necessary. They have an authoritarian bent.

Whenever someone interviews a Trump follower out there in America somewhere they always say they like what Trump is doing. They always praise the healthy state of the economy. But is it really all that healthy? People have jobs but the jobs don’t pay well. These are not the old jobs that Trump promised to bring back to you. These are not the old salaries that Trump promised you, the old job securities.

Many people still have to work more than one job. If you are well paid you are most likely quite happy with Trump’s economy but there are signs that this may not be a solid, lasting economy. The deficit is sky high. Republicans, before Trump took office, complained mercilessly about the deficit. You folks agreed with them that we all needed to tighten our belts. Well everyone was asked to tighten their belts except the wealthy who got a whopping tax cut. If you are one of those people who benefited from the tax cut, I understand why you might feel elated. But I bet you did not get that enormous tax cut; you probably got the same measly one the rest of us got.

Trump is supposedly draining the swamp by closing agencies, reversing regulations, not replacing people who leave or who retire thus depopulating government agencies. But now our meat has pieces of metal in it and must be recalled. Or our frozen food has pieces of plastic and must be recalled, or glass. This may have happened occasionally in the past, but it is happening with greater frequency. Why? Could it be that rules no longer require inspections at food-producing factories? Could it be a lack of inspectors? Is our food produced in other nations and shipped here? Why are so many small planes falling out of the sky onto houses, and highways, and rivers? Is it because aviation regulations are no longer in place? I don’t know the answers, but each time I hear about these things on the news I wonder. Well at least you get to own as many guns and trucks as you could ever want.

Trumpers, I see you at rallies and you do not look like you are all wealthy, although you do look like your lives are in the comfortable range. Did you find that your wages rose appreciably after the tax cuts? Is your town full of factories that came back from their “world tour”? Do all your children have great jobs? Do they live nearby or far away? Are their lives better than yours were? Did some of your grown children have to move home? We do feel like we have climbed out of the Great Recession. But are we on a path that will offer your children a good life that is steady, that they can count on for life and in their old age. Will your children’s children be better off than they are? How will that happen?

Will we have enough to eat now that our farmers are being used as pawns in a trade war with China? Is China being hurt by the trade war? Did you know that in Brazil they are burning up the jungle so they can produce soy beans for China to replace the ones they no longer get from us? Did you know that without that canopy of carbon-dioxide-eating trees, trees that turn carbon dioxide back into oxygen, the climate change that is not happening is likely to get far worse, the oceans which are not dying are likely to heat up until nothing we would recognize as food can live there? What if our farmers can no longer afford to be farmers What will happen to our food supply? 

Trump tells you this is all lies and you believe him, but what if he really is the one lying? Are you absolutely certain that everything people besides Trump say is “fake news”? You certainly sound convinced but do you ever wonder? I, on the other hand, am not at all convinced by Trump’s anti-intellectual rantings. I think if it comes to food wars or trade wars that China can outlast us. They are an authoritarian nation. They do not value human lives the same way we used to. They can afford to lose millions of people, and grief will just not be allowed.

You resent immigrants, apparently legal or undocumented. You felt they were using up our benefits (which you were told were about to run out and which would barely cover “real” Americans). You believed they were taking your jobs, (jobs that were also running out). You did not blame the economy, the recession caused by bad business practices in the stock market and in mortgages, you blamed your neighbors who you perhaps did not even know were undocumented. You gave Trump permission to be as racist and inhumane as he liked and he proved well up to the task (separating children from their parents at the border – and no, Obama did not do that). Well perhaps you are enjoying the fact that fear is making things real quiet on the undocumented immigrant front, but you are also changing America beyond recognition. Institutionalizing meanness will not serve us well down the road. Do we really want our neighboring nations in South America to hate us? Could that not come back some day to bite us in our butts (what if we need help some day)?

Do you like the behavior of your paragon? You said that you like his irreverence, his bullish manners which make him sound like he is not afraid to bad-mouth anyone (except dictators). Well he certainly hates Democrats and he is not afraid to call them names and make everything they believe in sound either ridiculous or illegal. Can you even see that all the while it is Donald Trump who is trashing the Constitution? Don’t you hear the evidence that he wanted to cheat in the 2020 election so he bribed the leader of a foreign nation, a nation called Ukraine, a nation that is trying to become a democracy. I hear politicians say that they think you cannot understand what Trump did. I think you understand it very well but you refuse to care about it. 

I wish you could accept that your hero is tarnished by his inability to understand the Constitution, or his refusal to abide by it. Why does he want absolute power? What will he do with it? How will that make American great for your children? Please listen and think before you let America become a nation none of us will recognize. There may not be much time. 

Why do I feel like I just entered a paint ball tournament? This is a view from the cheap seats.

Keep Impeaching

From a Google Image Search – Sunday Post

Unbelievable! The President of the United States of America, our resident con man is trying to micromanage his own impeachment. He wants to call the shots even as he raises a dust storm of distractions and resorts to all his usual tricks. 

The whole thing is a scam he has the Republicans contend, so therefore no one has to comply with this process. It is being run by the corrupt Democrats, so not only is it partisan, but it’s a deliberate “witch hunt” meant to reverse the results of the 2016 election. You would think that Trump could at least think of an original term this time instead of just reusing the old witch hunt label he used to discredit the Mueller report. He could have saved himself a lot of verbal energy if he just hired William Barr earlier than he did. Rumor has it that Barr is preparing a report that will blow up the entire impeachment process like dynamite.

Trump gives nicknames as he has always done. Shifty Schiff is the nickname Trump has given to Adam Schiff who is heading the impeachment process. These nicknames are always corny and they generally exaggerate a minor character flaw or attack someone’s body image, with the purpose of robbing the opponent of their personal power by turning them into an object of ridicule. Adam Schiff is probably the least shifty person in the entire House of Representatives but that doesn’t stop Trump’s smears from being effective. And why are they effective? We see right through them and they still seem to work. It boggles our minds.

He has his toady toads out working the room, Devin Nunes (really?), Lindsey Graham, Mike Meadows, Steve Scalise, Mr. Gaetz, and the “star”, Mr. Jim Johnson, the man whose wit works best when he is in destruction mode. There are more of these Republicans who will sit stewing as they age wondering what happened to them to turn them into history’s villains. They will finally understand that this charlatan in our White House mesmerized them and they traded their gravitas for embarrassing antics. C’est la vie.

Well, let’s just keep the impeachments coming then, one after the other. Why stop at one. There are plenty of violations of our Constitution and our system of governance to go around. While he is out there showing his fear and his disdain by bringing out all the bizarre facets of his repertoire of vituperations we could just slap him with another impeachment investigation. We could investigate why people who were never elected, like Rudy Giuliani, are doing State Department business in foreign nations, because our president knows that real State Department employees will not comply with his corrupt wishes. 

We could investigate all the times Trump has violated the emoluments clause. We could investigate the stuffing of the courts with unqualified judges. We could heat up the search for Trump’s taxes. We could investigate why all his best guys are in prison or have served time and yet he has remained free. We could discuss whether or not we want to turn the Presidency into a get-out-of-jail-free card. We could impeach him for turning the executive office into exactly the thing it was never intended to be, an imperial office that wields absolute power. We could do this in order to save our Constitutional government. Impeaching this President is not a scam. It is richly deserved, and an existential necessity. Stay within the lines drawn by the founders but be brave and bold.

We could be as litigious as Trump and embroil our president in one impeachment charge after another. We could give up worrying about whether or not the charges meet the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, acknowledging the possibility that Trump, for one thing, has never minded trumping up charges, and, for another, these charges are just the tip of the iceberg. Then when he acts all wounded and victimized we have to harden our hearts because it is just a strategy and if we get soft we become the losers he wishes us to be. Mr. President, you do not get to dictate the terms of your own impeachment. Impeachment is the province of the people’s House and then of the Senate.

Do Numbers Count? Russia/Ukraine/Trump

From a Google image Search – New York Post

Do Numbers Count?

We did not have, until now, any way to connect our president, Donald J Trump to any actual criminal conduct in either Russia or Ukraine. We had no concrete proof of high crimes and misdemeanors. The House of Representatives would not have voted to hold a formal impeachment inquiry without considerable evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. Many Americans have seen the president’s disregard for our constitution, our traditions, and our system of checks and balances as worrisome. Books have been written on the subject, like How Democracy Dies by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. No matter how many times the Republicans say this is all about overturning the 2016 election, there are plenty of Americans who know this is not the case.

But I have to ask, do numbers count? Even without proof that Trump had actually done anything unconstitutional or unlawful the number of connections between Trump’s campaign staff and Russia and Ukraine during the 2016 campaign and immediately after the inauguration, the number of Trump references to Russia, and his interactions with both Russia and Ukraine are extraordinary. America does not usually have a lot of business in this part of the world, the part that was in a Cold War with us, that isolated itself behind an Iron Curtain. It could all be about business, but talk of getting rid of the sanctions on Russia is definitely about politics. 

In fact Russia is in the process of invading eastern Ukraine in an attempt to annex (steal) several Ukrainian oblasts (provinces). Still Ukraine has many connections to Moscow and all this activity by Trump’s guys may have been, in part, an attempt to open a back door into Putin’s Russia. Although many attempts were made by many “friends” of Trump to open such a back door, there is no proof that any of these attempts actually succeeded. Perhaps this explains Trump’s continued hyper-interest in Ukraine.  An article in today’s Washington Post suggests that Trump has actual animosity towards Ukraine. Or perhaps Trump has no faith that he can win an election without cheating.

As we approach the 2020 election we again begin to hear more and more references to Russia and those sanctions and to Ukraine right up to the moment of the now famous phone call. (As I write this Jonathan Capehart is reading aloud the transcript of this Ukraine/Trump phone call in front of a crackling TV fire a lá Franklin Roosevelt thus beating Trump to it). You would think with all the hair-on-fire reactions to Trump’s coziness with Putin and Russia and his campaign staff’s many illegal financial ops in Ukraine that Trump would have stayed far away from Ukraine in the run up to this elections. 

But it seems that once he gets a bee in his bonnet he cannot let it go and the current bee in his bonnet is a whole hive. Biden and his son Hunter are bees buzzing around in Trump’s brain because he likes to have plenty of dirt on potential political opponents so he can effectively demonize them. Then he is still after Hillary and still trying to help out his whatever, Putin, by pursuing a discredited theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in our 2016 election thus getting Putin off the hook and closer to seeing those sanctions go away. Why an American president is so obsessed with Putin, and other dictators and why Americans are traipsing all over Kiev in Ukraine are questions we want to know the answers to.

Here are names connected with Trump and with Ukraine: then and now:

Then: Mueller investigation

Leshchenko, a Ukrainian legislator fighting corruption. He exposed the illegal payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s party to Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chair

Michael T Flynn – resigned as national security advisor – 1 week earlier a sealed proposal was delivered to his office, outlining a way for Trump to lift sanctions on Russia.

Felix Sater – a business associate who helped Trump seal deals in Russia

Michael Cohen – president’s personal lawyer who delivered the sealed proposal to Michael Flynn. Michael Cohen is married to a Ukrainian woman and tried to help relatives start an ethanol business there so he, at least, had legitimate business in Ukraine. He delivered the sealed proposal which suggested a way to bring peace between Russia and Ukraine, (this was written by a Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko trying to rise in the political opposition movement in Ukraine with the help of Paul Manafort). This proposal was not sanctioned by the government of Ukraine.

It was thought that Trump possibly wanted to end Russian sanctions and wanted to create a back channel to Moscow through Ukraine.

[As I make this list Rachel  Maddow is talking about a new article by David Ignatius which says president Poroshenko of Ukraine was trying to get a meeting in the oval with the newly installed president Trump. He wasn’t getting anywhere until Giuliani went to Ukraine. Magically, after this visit in 2017, Ukraine stopped an investigation into Paul Manafort and then Poroshenko got his meeting with Trump and his javelin missiles.

Rachel asks, was this a rehearsal for what Trump did recently? Was this a quid pro quo he got away with which emboldened Trump to try again. There have been references to the Black ledger case. This ledger included the name of Paul Manafort and the huge sum he had been paid, but after the “bargain” with Poroshenko the Black Ledger disappeared – poof.]

Back to my list:

Rick Gates – a Trump campaign aide was Manafort’s longtime junior business partner.

Alex Vander Zwaan – London lawyer, had contacts with Rick Gates and another unnamed person based in Ukraine.

Konstantin Kilimnik , Russian/Ukrainian– a longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates.

Sam Patten – Republican operative and lobbyist – pleaded guilty because he was not registered as a foreign agent for his work with “Ukrainian bigwigs”

During the Mueller investigation we learned the following from reporters who investigated the people called in to testify:

“Donald J. Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition, according to a New York Times analysis.”

and, in case you are not a New York Times fan,

“There are now more than 101 known points of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian-government linked people or entities, including 23 meetings or calls.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-campaign-russia-government-contact-timeline-2018-7

Now: Impeachment inquiry

Rudy Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (these two have been indicted for campaign finance violations.) Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine on behalf of the president were happening long before the fateful phone call.

“The three amigos” all were busy in Ukraine pushing Trump’s agenda:

Rick Perry was the Head of Energy Department–  after being called to testify before the impeachment inquiry he quit his cabinet position

Kurt Volker – US Special Representative to Ukraine

Gordon Sondland – US ambassador to EU

Bill Taylor – US chargé d’affairs in Ukraine who questioned holding up military aid in exchange for “oppo” information for the 2020 election

Ukrainian oligarch – Dmytro Firtash has been mentioned in connection with these events. There is a current attempt to bring him to America to testify.

Three Ukrainian Presidents involved because each had involvement with Americans connected to Trump:

Petro Poroshenko

Viktor Yanukovych (former president – said to be “stooge of Putin”)

Zelensky – current president of Ukraine

Viktor Shokin – Prosecutor General in Ukraine – forced out for blocking prosecution of corrupt officials and oligarchs

Lutsenko – new prosecutor general – also at war with anti-corruption group backed by 

Serhiy Leshchenko – a liberal legislator and journalist who fights corruption

Marie Yovanovitch – US Ambassador to Ukraine recently relieved of her duties for no apparent reason. – She said the new prosecutor was still blocking corruption probes.

Conspiracy theory – Lutsenko said that George Soros was involved with Biden and Hunter Biden. He said that Yovanovitch gave him a list of people not to prosecute, which she says did not happen.

When did we ever spend this much time and energy and have this many Americans who were not spies interacting with Russians and Ukrainians and bugging Ukrainian presidents? (Right now on my TV Louie Gomert – (Rep.) is threatening Civil War if Democrats impeach Trump, which makes me nervous because Democrats are not the ones who have been stockpiling guns. Don’t they sound a bit desperate?) (Michael Steele (who has distanced himself from the Republican Party, asks, would we really have a Civil War over this man, over Trump, really?) This Russia-Ukraine-Impeachment is obviously incendiary. 

Ukraine is known to be a very corrupt country, which means that the government protects oligarchs who basically steal from the Ukrainian people and the treasury like a bunch of crooks. Trump seems to many of us to be our most corrupt president ever, perhaps because he is  so crude and so blatant about it. Is this simply a case of crooks of a feather flock together? Except this is like a flock of crows that wants to pick our government clean and leave it as road kill. This amount of interaction with a nation which governs by fear and intimidation, a nation with a system of government we have fought against (Vietnam, Korea) losing the lives of our young men and women, should be problematic to all Americans. Why isn’t it? 

And Ukraine is fighting for survival right now, both survival from corrupt and selfish men, and in an actual military operation to repel Russia from its threatening position within its borders. Despite Ukraine’s internal struggles we find Trump’s “troops” all over Ukraine selfishly “phishing” for Trump’s dirt on an opponent to “fix” the 2020 election (and possibly end those sanctions on Russia by blaming election interference in 2016 on Ukraine, not Russia). Since when have we been so cavalier about a nation so at risk. Given all of this it is not really out of line to hope that Trump gets stung by one or more of those bees he can’t seem to get out of this bonnet.

After I posted this article two more interesting reads came up in online news media:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrii-telizhenko-source-for-ukraine-collusion-allegations-met-rep-devin-nunes

Michelle Goldberg’s article explaining more Ukraine complexities.