The State Department and Hillary Clinton

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I want to make another argument on behalf of Hillary Clinton – surprise, surprise – because I just don’t feel that we are using the correct perspective to examine this issue of the “emails”. I also know that what I am suggesting is not an understanding that is written anywhere, or one that perhaps has ever been mentioned before. However, given the unusual nature of the position of Secretary of State, and given that due weight has not been given to how the State Department operates in the digital age, I feel that there are some extenuating circumstances that affect whoever holds this position and that there needs to be some discussion about the role of the Secretary of State.

I am suggesting that the position of Secretary of State is unique because the Secretary of State is rarely in the State Department in Washington, D C but is traveling constantly to near and distant locations. I am arguing that, for this reason, wherever the Secretary of State is, the State Department goes with her or him. So if the Secretary is on a plane, the bubble of the State Department goes along. If the Secretary of State is in a hotel room, the State Department is there. If the Secretary of State is with a foreign leader or a group of foreign nationals, the State Department is there. When the Secretary of State is in his/her home office, the State Department is there. I would argue that Hillary did not ever remove documents from the State Department because wherever she went the State Department was there. As long as Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, the State Department and Hillary Clinton were inseparable.

If her arrangements threatened national security the threat does not seem to be greater than that to any other system, including government systems. We do not have a way to make our digital networks completely secure at this time. However, given that the Secretary of State takes the State Department with her/him at all times, government security should reach to all digital equipment in the Secretary’s home and equipment carried abroad.

It seems to me that we need to update government agencies to operate in this digital age much more than we need to prosecute employees who take it into their own hands to set up systems that work without undue complexity. I also do not believe that Hillary lied to Congress about receiving or sending classified emails, especially now that we are aware of the inconsistencies in the classification system. I believe it was shown that she only sent emails to people who were classified, although some nasty soul pointed out that her assistants handled emails and they did not have clearance and her lawyers read her email and they did not have clearance. (I’m sure that has never happened before.) Hillary will have to explain why she said that the State Department knew about her private server, but if she is always the head of the State Department then it seems that her home office is simply an extension of the State Department and the same attention to national security is observed at her home office either in Chappaqua or in Washington, DC as would be observed at the State Department in Washington, D C.

I still believe that this issue is being blown out of all proportion because of the 2016 election and the Republicans who are having a hissy-fit because it looks like all their careful plan to capture the Presidency and possess the power in all three branches of Congress seems to be thwarted at every turn, reminiscent of the Road Runner and Wiley E Coyote.

The FBI is being used by the GOP, but the FBI has limitations. However much we may trust them to be nonpartisan, they can only conduct investigations that are narrow in scope and defined by the limits of the task they are given. The FBI cannot look at the big picture and analyze all aspects of this particular situation. The GOP can keep giving them new directives forever and if there is even a whiff of wrongdoing then the FBI will have to investigate. But the optics are that the GOP has the FBI playing fetch. (Good dog.)

 

Shooting Black Folks Must Stop

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How will we solve this problem that our nation is having with our police shooting black folks who are either guilty of nothing or of committing a petty criminal act? The list grows and grows. Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling and many, many more. It looks like the police are on a secret campaign to rid themselves of black people. It looks intentional. There is a certain consistent order of events. Someone defies authority in some small way and this defiance is used as an excuse to escalate, to get the man or woman who dares to fight back verbally or act defensively to look guilty of something. Then someone off camera shouts “he’s got a gun” (not usual when women are being apprehended). Then the shots ring out and there is no need for a trial or imprisonment or any official routine because the person is dead. Surprisingly the body cameras which these officers wear are often off or aimed in the wrong direction when events reach their terrible denouement.

I understand that law enforcement becomes more and more complicated as the inequalities in our culture are exposed to the light of day. I know that there are those in our communities who have committed criminal acts to get ahead when traditional pathways were closed to them. I get it that there are some mean folks out there who would as soon kill a policeman as any other human being who they felt was threatening them. I suppose that mistakes will be made. However, when the “mistakes” seem to occur frequently and when they seem to follow a certain pattern it would appear that some action plan is called for to make it stop.

If black people are not being targeted we must at least face the bad, bad optics of these now-all-too-familiar shootings with their attendant grief and loss. There are echoes that go back to slavery with people hunting down their runaway slaves. We must stop doing this. We must find some new ways to help our policemen and women fight crime in our communities without executing people who seem to hardly qualify as the most dangerous people on our streets. I believe that if we can’t find a way out of this brutal and unjust law enforcement behavior that peaceful demonstrations will eventually turn into angry outcries. We know that the police involved will be investigated and we know how the investigation will end. If we find our police guilty in these cases we undermine their authority.

This relatively new pattern of picking off people one-by-one is exacerbated by our guns everywhere policies enforced by the gun industry and the NRA and a Conservative interpretation of the Second Amendment. The complications and divisions present in our culture at this moment will make it difficult to resolve this issue. Anger is the emotion that seems to be driving current events. It doesn’t matter because these shootings and the fact that they seem to fall all too often on Americans of color is a stain on our nation that could eventually destroy the freedom that is the pillar of our Democracy.

The work must be done in our communities and what we must provide young Americans of African Descent and poor Americans are pathways to a better future so that they will not be forced into antisocial behaviors by circumstances that make their lives difficult and seemingly without value. We don’t need to talk any longer about doing this. We do need to talk to plan what we will do. Then we need to put our money where our mouths are and carry out our plans. Our plans will not be perfect. It is the very nature of humans that we are cannot be perfect. We can’t allow ourselves to be so nervous about possible negative effects that will appear down the line. We must earnestly try to solve the inequalities in our America or America will fail.

 

 

The Benghazi Report – June 28, 2016

 

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Obviously I am writing this and I have not read the 800 pages in the Benghazi Report. I will wait for the summary assigned to some poor intern who will have to read the whole thing, or perhaps it will be split up and shared out among interns. But I have a few things to say and luckily because of free speech I can say them. Besides the fact that Trey Gowdy always looks about twelve, I have to say, for the record, that despite his seemingly boyish appearance, I do not trust him. He is the king of innuendo. Innuendo is a technique to make someone look guilty when there is not enough evidence to prove that they actually are. I believe that he made his conclusions before the committee was ever convened and that he engineered what went on in the committee to give credence to his interpretation of events. I watched him interview witnesses and he did not let them speak. It was not conducted as an investigation but as a tribunal.

Trey Gowdy says that this report is not about one person, and he is probably telling the truth. This is about elections – the one in 2012 and the one in 2016. Republicans are rabid to win the Presidency and they have proven it by their strategies in the states and in the Congress. The GOP believes that if the Obama administration had stressed that this was a terrorist attack happening on 9/11 then the GOP would have won the 2012 election. If they can prove that the Democrats in office deliberately dithered about their response to the Benghazi attacks because their actions would hurt them in the imminent election, and that our American guys died for reasons of political expediency, it will so disgust Americans that they will have to turn against the Democratic Party and vote for the Republican candidate even if it is Donald Trump. He uses the buck stops with her argument to convict Hillary.

Historically, diplomats have been killed during several different administrations. I have looked it up before. It is in the record. It is still unclear, after listening to the discussion on the news this morning, if a rescue force could have reached Benghazi. The chatter still says that is was impossible. Trey Gowdy asks why we didn’t have troops in the area, as if Libya were the only trouble spot in these chaotic times.

These terrorist attacks apparently happened fast, they were very effective, and they were secret. This certainly has implications for our lack of intelligence, which we have discussed often enough and which still seems to require plenty of attention, our progress more like two steps forward; one step back. It is sad if all that dithering really happened with our troops changing in and out of uniforms four times as reported. If the plane could still have not reached Benghazi on time anyway then at least the dithering did not affect the outcome and is included in the report as a rebuke on guess who.

Gowdy says they do not blame Hillary in the report and although they may not do so in so many words it is baked into the cake so to speak, otherwise why the talk about private emails they were able to get access to. Two committee members issued a report that does blame Hillary and says that Hillary’s leadership was “morally reprehensible”. They did not discuss all of the reasons for their conclusion about Hillary’s character but there is an implication that she was more worried about Libya than she was about our embassy people or that she dithered because this would have changed the outcome of the election (how guilty is Obama you are meant to ask). Either way this ancillary report suggests that these brave men died for reasons of political expediency and that the blame rests with the Democrats who have shown a depraved lack of true patriotic values.

One could propose a counter theory (of the conspiracy variety of course) that this attack seems to have happened at a key moment and that perhaps the GOP, so desperate to hold all the power in Washington, may have ordered this stealth attack so they would win the election – and it would have had just as much basis in fact. Impugning someone’s character in this case cost the American people $7 million dollars for a skewed committee to try to find out what was going on in the black box of Democratic minds during Benghazi. But our brains are not like the black boxes on airplanes. We don’t yet know how to access the contents.

It is still sad and always will be sad to think of these American citizens in a foreign land facing such unequal odds. It is horrific to remember over and over again that they died in the awareness that they would die and that they were not soldiers in a war but were in that country to promote peace and fairness and freedom. America will always mourn these dedicated men.

Elect Women in 2016

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Let us make this the year of the women in politics.  We should elect women in 2016, as many women as possible. The men have not been doing such a good job of it lately. We are divided and we are in a war of wills. It is men, for the most part, who have divided us. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin – all men. Congress is made up of a male majority and has been since our nation’s birth. Women are said to be more communal and more willing to listen and try, as much as possible, to satisfy all parties on any given issue. In fact I am just reading a current nonfiction book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant and the author cites studies that show that women have difficulty succeeding if they are not able to choose an approach that looks communal, as opposed to being perceived as making a bid for personal promotion. Men are not judged in this way.

Our majority male Congress has been unable to set aside personal politics in order to look objectively at our country, in order to make some practical decisions that will unlock this stalemate between the policies of austerity and tough love and the policies of stimulus and compassion, which would allow them to address 21st century problems. They seem stuck in offering only 19th century solutions that look to reproducing a time of past prosperity which cannot be recaptured, when they could be listening and learning about what might work to take us into our real future (They want to reboot a past that only seems rosy in retrospect). There is little reason to look back. Personally the wealthy are doing very well right now. They lament that America just doesn’t feel like the same old America as they stick with old legislation which is clearly producing an unbalanced economy. They will not suddenly be poor even if they change the laws to restore more balance to America’s economy.

Men in Congress right now, and Congress is dominated by Conservative men these days, think that old policies like trickle-down economics, free trade, deregulation, cuts to social programs, privatizing pensions, and busting unions will bring back prosperity but since they have already basically had their way for the past 6 years we can already see that these ideas don’t work. They have our government in a stranglehold however and will not give any other ideas a test drive.

Electing more women to Congress, reasonable, educated women (not women like Sarah Palin) may be just what we need to break the deadlock and let some fresh air float around those fusty old men (actually many of the young ones also seem fusty – just listen to Paul Ryan). Perhaps the women would be less invested in maintaining lockstep adherence to talking points. Perhaps some wiggle room could be found for reform and for legislating for “we the people”, as opposed to worshiping those with way too much money and thinking that they will do what is good for America, when all they really care about doing is shoveling bucks into their own offshore bank accounts.

So I do think we should elect Hillary Clinton, and that she should pick Elizabeth Warren as her VP if she thinks they can work together. And I think we should elect every down-ballot woman who is running – at least the Democrats (and maybe the Republican women also). Rutgers University produces this list of women running in down-ballot elections and they keep it updated so it is a great resource if you want to keep track of how women are doing. I’m a girl. This, I believe, is the year for girl power. Send the ladies to Congress and save America.

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2016 Election: Should One Party Control All Three Branches of Government?

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If we elect a Republican President, we will, for the first time ever give Republicans control of all three branches of government. I might start an argument with this statement, but I can offer justification for it. In the past the Supreme Court has not been counted when determining the balance of power in Washington because the Supreme Court has been held to be nonpartisan. However, if you have been paying attention to politics recently, Republicans and Democrats each give being able to fill the current and any near-term empty seats on the Court with nominees generated by their particular party as a deciding factor in who we should elect.

The Republicans tell their people that appointments to the Supreme Court are the most important reason to elect a Republican President, even if it is Donald Trump. We already have Donald’s list of eleven people that Republicans might like to appoint to the Court during their tenure. Does this sound nonpartisan to you? And of course the Democrats would also like to make the next court appointments. In fact there is a vacancy right now and we do have a Democrat for a President. Obama has played nice and picked a moderate appointee but Republicans will not even give this respected figure consideration.

I do not believe that we can count the Supreme Court or even the Federal Courts as being nonpartisan any longer and this puts justice up for grabs. Whose brand of justice shall we have? The courts are not big prizes for “we the people” in elections because we don’t elect most judges. They are appointed by the President and approved by Congress. They are usually appointed for life which makes the courts a prize that keeps on giving even after your party has left office. Right now the Federal Courts are overwhelmingly in the hands of Conservative appointees and there are many vacancies which should have been filled by President Obama and might have been filled given a more moderate Republican Party. This incarnation of the Republican Party, extreme and very right wing, in take-no-prisoner’s mode, has left many benches empty rather than allow Obama’s appointments to be seated. In this way the GOP turns the courts into a bipartisan branch of our government and they are holding the courts hostage until we elect a Republican President or until they lose their majority.

It is fairly common for one party to control the Executive and Legislative branches of our government but it is difficult to get any information about control of the Supreme Court because the myth remains that it is a nonpartisan body even when everyday evidence suggests that it is not so. Yesterday was a perfect example because the number of justices, usually 9, is down to 8 Supremes so the Court is giving us a string of 4-4 tied decisions on a number of what could have been landmark cases. The fact that there can be a tie proves that the court is bipartisan and, while John Roberts was crossing party lines according to his reading of the law and his conscience, he is less likely to put himself in such a position right now, although he might do so if the case were so important that not deciding it would destroy America. Let’s hope we don’t have to test that out.

I am just trying to make sure that we are all very clear about the ramifications of electing any Republican as our President in 2016, whether it is Mr. Trump or not. If you do this thing (because I will not), unless at least one House of Congress changes its majority party, you will give Republicans carte blanche to enact their entire program which will include things like closing the Department of Education, closing the Department of Commerce, and perhaps a few others in order to drastically downsize government.

The GOP may not immediately make Social Security a voucher program but they will pare our social safety net to the bone and whether you are poor or not, it will affect your life. They will bust our labor unions and they will deregulate Wall Street, banking, and investing and you will let them because they will tell you that it will bring jobs back (which I very much doubt). They will cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans. They will change our health care system by repealing the Affordable Care Act and I am betting we will lose coverage for pre-existing conditions. And if Donald gets his way they will build a wall, leave NATO, and round up illegal immigrants for expulsion. The list is long and you can hear them extol it every day. And they will pack those courts with so many Conservatives that no woman in America will ever be able to choose whether or not she wants to start a family or have another child for decades and we will be finding a lot more religion mixed into our governance.

So I am asking Americans to exercise some restraint and common sense and to not let all three branches of our government fall under the control of one party. There will be no checks; there will be no balances. The GOP will just have their way with us and it will be the end of our grand experiment in Democracy.

(Today, 6/24/2016, the UK decided to Brexit the EU, a decision whose impetus came from emotions very similar to those felt by the American Trump faction. We will have until November to see how such nationalism works for Great Britain. Will humanistic isolation serve them well? Should everyone retire to their separate corners? Does the world need a time out? November is probably too close to give us a true picture of the effects of this stunning move by the people of Great Britain, but we might get some clues. And if we decide to go with the GOP in the 2016 election it comes with lots of other baggage besides nationalism, which takes us back to the question of whether or not we want one party in control of all three branches of our government.)

Implications of Orlando and Beyond

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For a while I loved reading anthropological fiction based on information gleaned from artefacts, but peopled with made-up characters – an entire fleshed-out primitive culture based only on tools, pottery shards, bones, cave drawings and other evidence uncovered at sites where ancient people once lived. Jean Auel was one of my favorite authors in this genre. She wrote Clan of the Cave Bear and all the sequels that followed. Kathleen O’Neal Gear was another favorite writing about early “tribes” of people on the American continent.

The caves where early man lived, and the long houses, offered little privacy, although there was also comfort in proximity. Family groups, separated by their fires had no walls between one family and the next. One author suggested that there was a kind of unwritten rule to “mind your own campfire.” I am sure that this rule was sometimes ignored and that even the earliest people liked to “gossip”, but there were social repercussions for serious disregard of familial privacy. We will come back to this.

On another thread, our government is designed the way it is because our forefathers came from England and Western Europe where government leaders and church leaders engaged in a constant series of struggles to determine which group should have the most power. For many years the church was firmly in charge. But strong monarchs who felt they held their thrones by “divine right” did not worry so much about challenging the Pope. The impact of the see-saw squabbles between powerful forces hit the subjects/citizens hard.

In England alone, one day people were safe as Catholics, but the next monarch was a Protestant and hunted down Catholics. Eventually both of these religions were discarded and the Anglican Church was formed, leaving both devout Catholics and Protestants in jeopardy. Today England has made a successful marriage of church and state, but when the colonists came to America that was not the case either in England or on the continent and so our forefathers legislated the separation of church and state and also freedom of religion.

Except in Spain the Muslim religion was not an issue as America was being born but I still don’t believe that our forefathers would ever have said that only Christians should be free to worship as they please. It does seem clear to most of us that our forebears would not require the Federal government of the United States of America to follow the dictates of any particular religion.

Republicans, who hate that women are free to make their own choices about whether to end a pregnancy or carry a fetus to term, want to make us believe that our forefathers did not actually separate church and state, that they were all Christians, and that the freedom they wrote into our founding documents referred only to Christians. They want to deny the separation of church and state because their case against Roe v. Wade is argued on grounds of Christian morality which is at odds with such a separation. In other words, they want to impose a Fundamentalist interpretation of religion on all of us.

The Republicans also want to exclude all Muslims from immigrating to America because they see possible clashes between Christians and Muslims in America. Lately if seems as if the Crusades were simply put on hold and are now in danger of being resurrected. But the freedom of religion our forefathers laid down in our founding documents is not a qualified freedom; it applies to all. In addition to the rights of women we now have Americans who are unhappy that human rights have been extended to same-sex couples. Many Christians believe God would not like this – it is against the Bible – it is an abomination – it is Sodom and Gomorrah. These folks carry hate and anger in their hearts and fear of their God.

Apparently the Muslim religion finds same-sex relationships unnatural also and they are equally anathema; a sign of a decadent culture that is off the rails and therefore a target-rich situation for a militant “hero” who plans to be rewarded in “the next life”. I suppose some American Christians might be horrified if they could really see the connection they have on this issue with radical Muslims. Although the GOP inveighs against Sharia law, the moral judgments of the two groups are very similar.

So here we have this social group – gay people, LGBT+ or any other identifier – that is a focus of hatred for at least two groups of Fundamentalists that are committing vigilante acts in a country that believes that there is a firm separation between the secular and the religious. They are operating outside the laws of the nation but they believe they are operating within a higher law, the law of their God. (Christians Pro Life groups have murdered abortion providers and have vilified same-sex relationships and radical Muslims might kill almost any Christian but also use same-sex relationships to focus their religious rage.)

I guess we are at a moment when it will be decided whether our societies will be ruled by God or by man. Either way we are still dealing with man’s interpretations of religious laws written tens of centuries ago and documents written several centuries ago. Except that today we have a global population of trillions and complex cultures that have resulted from organizing so many humans, so trying to literally follow laws made for sparsely populated somewhat nomadic desert cultures presents many anomalies, not least of which is who gets to decide what is the appropriate literal interpretation of those ancient laws.

How will we resolve this dilemma – this war of ideals between citizens who believe in the separation of church and state and the human rights of all, and citizens who feel that government is treading on the turf of religion? Granting human rights to folks whose sexual orientation is often genetically coded into their DNA seems appropriate. In fact, in a culture that celebrates freedom, insuring the human rights of all who are not criminals should be desirable. However, for some, granting human rights to some folks turns those who have a religious objection not only into losers but into sinners.

So this whole train of thought brings us back to our very earliest forbears and their unwritten rule to “mind their own campfire.” It is certainly overly simplistic but if people only made it their mantra we might take scary hot- button trends that are escalating and calm them down, defuse them, so that our new refrain could be more “live and let live” and less of a personal/sacred affront that must be avenged to insure an afterlife in whatever heaven one subscribes to. These days we say “mind your own business” and it would be great if people practiced this whenever possible, meaning whenever life or safety are not an issue.

Because our Congress refuses to act, this the best idea I have after the terrible events in Orlando this weekend and it isn’t much against bullets, hate, and fear. But the larger implications of Orlando and beyond tell us that until it is decided just how much religion we want in our government and how many guns it will take to satisfy the Second Amendment it may be best to stay as simple as possible.

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