Such a Friday Reads: Losing the Rule of Law

PATRIOTIC SERIES: FULL LIBERTY WITH FLAG BY PETER MAX

FULL LIBERTY WITH FLAG, Peter Max

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Watching a country either recover from the grips of despotism or fall into it has always been a bit of a mental history assignment for me.  It probably developed in the 1960s some time from watching way too much news with my parents during dinner. However,  I even admit to enjoying that old movie The Year of Living Dangerously which overly romanticized the overthrow of President Sukarno in Indonesia.  Well, it had an exotic setting and Sigourney Weaver.  What can I say.  It seems like almost all of that kinda thing had an exotic setting and a woman say, like Evita Peron.

I never could figure out what the appeal could possibly be of a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Mussolini.  I  understood revolutions and military coups–like those plaguing South America and parts of Asia–because they were such obvious power grabs.  I also sat through The Killing Fields.  It’s always been easier to write off a foreign banana republic that never really established rule of law than to think such a thing would ever be seen again after all the lessons of 20th century fascism. 

Our country appears more infected by a disease than something like an obvious coup. But, whatever it is, Mitch McConnell and his republican cronies have taken down our rule of law rather slowly and deliberately.

Here we are. We have messianic theocratic aspirants like Iran did in the 1970s.  Only these are in charge of the State Department and the Department of Education.  They’re not mullahs. They’re Rev. Franklin Grahams. They’re even masking as Catholics and Methodists under names like Alito, DeVose, and Pompeo. We have the greed of oligarchy in the form of barely legal corporate kleptocracy. It’s no wonder they’ve teamed up to overthrow the judiciary by stacking it with hapless 30 something judges that couldn’t even find a job arguing before a court before they get a life time appointment to determine what is the rule of law. We have a representative democracy with a Constitution.–providing checks and balances on paper–but it seems in theory only today.  

We now have that typical gross, disgusting tin pot fattie who’ll sell anything to anybody as long as he gets his way, gets attention, and can pocket gobs of  tax payer dollars while he’s blowing up vital institutions. Trump’s got a worse case of the uglies than Idi Amin or Kim Jong Un or Vladimir Putin or Benito Mussolini or any of them. And btw, why are the worst autocrats basically the most unattractive men you’ve ever put eyes on?

So, now, here’s our justice department being ruled over by another unattractive blob of a man who thinks an Iron Age book of Roman mythology gives him the right to do whatever.  That, and I swear there’s some paperwork somewhere on Jeffrey Epstein that has his family name on it that he’s still searching for.  I just can’t figure out if it’s his father’s or his because, well, that’s what all those ugly little toadie men professing way too much religion do.  They abuse women and children and say nasty things about gay men and pass laws to make it all acceptable.

LIBERTY HEAD (TODAY) BY PETER MAX

LIBERTY HEAD, Peter Max

And, I’m tired of it.

The Republican Party has become a grab bag of men with the worst tendencies held in low regard by history.  Mitch McConnell may be the worst of them because he’s got the job that’s supposed to stop all this from happening because it’s in his oath of office to uphold the US Constitution.  He just keeps letting Trumpist corruption roll on and on and over everything that was every sacred in this country.

I’m trying not to turn this into a lecture but as an economist, I can only tell you that the single most important thing to an economy’s well being is rule of law.  It’s that thing that stops corruption and thugs from taking stuff that doesn’t belong to them which was has been an understanding of good governance since the Magna Carta.

It is the necessary insurance for risk-taking in a real market economy.  In history and in recent empirical studies, we see all the time that the rule of law countries have economic growth, stability, and the protection to property owners that makes small businesses thrive.  Once lost, it’s like a bad reputation, you don’t get it back quickly or completely, ever.  What we’ve lost the last three year we will never earn back in earnest because trust remembers.

So, with that, I continue what BB started yesterday and that’s the sad mess state of affairs at the Department of Justice and the ongoing shitshow being exposed by folks willing to leave their jobs to expose it.   If you read anything, go back to her post and read the top item. It’s Michael Gerhardt at The Atlantic: Madison’s Nightmare Has Come to America.

And let me start off with what Rachel said last night in her A block because this and the historian she interviewed are so incredibly spot on that crying for the death of one’s country is in order.

 

Image result for andy warhol statue of liberty

So, you have to actually see or read the ABC interview with Anything but Justice AG William “Shifty” Barr trying to explaining why so many US attorneys just walked out on him. Could it be that Trump keeps tweety tweet tweeting his many moves to disrupt justice and cover up crimes? ‘Barr blasts Trump’s tweets on Stone case: ‘Impossible for me to do my job’: ABC News Exclusive. The AG spoke with ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.’.

Such a way to ensure justice for the People and to uphold the Constitution and RULE OF LAW!

Barr ignited a firestorm this week after top Justice Department officials intervened in the sentencing of Roger Stone, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser to the president who was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

In a stunning reversal, the Justice Department overruled a recommendation by its own prosecution team that Stone spend seven to nine years in jail and told a judge that such a punishment – which was in line with sentencing guidelines – “would not be appropriate.”

The about-face raised serious questions about whether Barr had intervened on behalf of the president’s friend. It also raised questions about whether Trump personally pressured the Justice Department, either directly or indirectly.

In the interview with ABC News, Barr fiercely defended his actions and said it had nothing to do with the president. He said he was supportive of Stone’s convictions but thought the sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years was excessive. When news outlets reported the seven to nine year sentencing recommendation last Monday, Barr said he thought it was spin.

Image result for andy warhol statue of liberty

“Statue of Liberty” 1963, Andy Warhol

So, this is Barr’s really, really dim excuse.  The Orange Snot Blob ate his homework!

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

When asked if he was prepared for the consequences of criticizing the president – his boss – Barr said “of course” because his job is to run the Justice Department and make decisions on “what I think is the right thing to do.”

Yes, Shifty Bar says it was in the works the entire time and ignore the man twittering away from the shitter in the Oval Office.

Can we get some congressional oversight again please?  At least in the House?

Image result for andy warhol statue of liberty

Can we get a witness?

Numerous House Democrats are now advocating for the House to solicit testimony from the four prosecutors involved in the initial recommendation for Stone, aides tell me. Four have withdrawn from the case, and one quit his job.

Two senior Democratic aides told me many House members want to see these hearings well in advance of Barr’s planned testimony to the Judiciary Committee on March 31.

“Time is of the essence, since this scandal gets worse by the hour,” one senior aide to a member of Judiciary told me, adding that hearing from the four prosecutors could help create “a record of what happened before Barr gets to set the narrative.”

Another senior House aide told me there’s a “pretty widespread sentiment” among members that the four prosecutors must be heard from, “to get the full story of what’s happening under Barr’s tenure.”

Yeah, and what happened here?

Image result for painting lady liberty Peter Max

So, I watched TV yesterday afternoon while getting my lecture notes in order and over and over again I saw this parade of lawyers discussing how unprecedented this massive walk out was. All I could think was Nixon but yet, again, the catalyst is more brazen than Nixon’s messing with the special investigator resulting in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973.

The former U.S. attorney whose office oversaw the Roger Stone prosecution resigned from the Trump administration Wednesday, two days after President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew her nomination for a top job at the Treasury Department.

Jessie Liu had headed the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., which oversaw several cases that originated with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including prosecutions of longtime Trump associate Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Liu was moved from the U.S. attorney’s office after Trump nominated her to serve as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, a top position overseeing economic sanctions.

A source told NBC News earlier this week that after Liu was nominated, she told the lawyers in her office that she would stay put until she was confirmed. However, Attorney General William Barr asked her to leave around Feb. 1 to ensure continuity in the office, and she agreed.

Such a Republic!  If we can keep it!

But nImage result for political cartoons this weekow  Jessie Liu has resigned from the administration after Trump withdrew her nomination for a top Treasury position.  Reporters are still looking into this. 

Should we just keep impeaching him over and over and over?  Julia Ioffe asked Representative and Impeachment Manager Hakeem Jeffries just that question..

Now, the president clearly feels vindicated, he is more popular than ever, and Rudy Giuliani is out there saying he’s going to keep investigating Joe Biden. If Giuliani continues using the powers of the executive branch to do that, what options do you have?

Rudy Giuliani is totally out of control. He is a failed mayor, a failed lawyer, and a failed presidential candidate. Someone needs to undertake a clinical intervention as it relates to Rudolph Giuliani running around the world, trying to do the president’s political bidding—

Clinical intervention? Are you saying he should be institutionalized?

—in a manner that resulted, in part, in Donald Trump’s impeachment. But ultimately, Donald Trump is the one who is responsible for executing a corrupt scheme and a geopolitical shakedown to solicit foreign interference in the American election. House managers made clear that we don’t believe that Donald Trump will learn a lesson from his political near-death experience. It is clear that Donald Trump is further emboldened to cheat in the election—and that’s on the United States Senate.

Does the House have any recourse? Is a second impeachment in the cards?

In my view, no. It’s in the hands of the American people at this point to decide the fate of Donald Trump.

What if he’s re-elected, would you undertake a second impeachment?

It’s my expectation that he will not be re-elected. In fact, I disagree with the premise that some have articulated, which is that President Trump has emerged from the impeachment more popular than ever before. A Quinnipiac poll that came out this week showed President Trump decisively losing to every single Democratic candidate.

To be fair, polls had him losing to Hillary Clinton, but we know how that worked out. He says he feels totally vindicated, and he fired two of the witnesses who testified in the impeachment trial. Should we just stay off Fifth Avenue if he’s in the area?

Well, Donald Trump clearly feels that he can shoot holes in the Constitution on Pennsylvania Avenue and get away with it. But ultimately I believe the American people will have the final decision and that his out-of-control, erratic, corrupt behavior will not be tolerated and he will be decisively defeated in November.

Image result for political cartoons this week

This is from a Susan Glasser piece in the New Yorker discussing our unhinged president and the entire situation.  Again, the parallels to countries with no apparent rule of law are highlighted. This time it’s Putin’s Russia.  The difference is that Putin is not the same kind of insane that Donald Trump daily displays.

I found myself thinking a lot this week about my experience of covering the former Soviet Union and watching aspiring authoritarians in action. Before Vladimir Putin refused to give up power, despite the Russian Constitution’s two-term limit, two senior Bush Administration officials told me that he would not do so, simply because Putin had personally assured them that he wouldn’t. These same officials believed that Putin would never arrest Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, until he did. They also believed that Putin would never renationalize Khodorkovsky’s oil company. But he did that, too.

In Azerbaijan, in 2003, I watched thousands of protesters in the streets on the night of a rigged election, in which Ilham Aliyev, the widely derided playboy son of the country’s gravely ailing dictator, received an implausible seventy-seven per cent of the votes. Western observers condemned the balloting as neither free nor fair, but the real insight for me came the next day, while I was flying back to Moscow. On the plane with the Russian election-observation team, which had seen nothing to object to, I wondered why Aliyev and his ruling party had seemed to go for such overkill, such an obviously fake result, rather than stealing the election with a more credible fifty-five per cent. One of the Russians laughed at me, saying, in effect, that the overkill was the point. That’s how power works around here. Strength lies in forcing people to accept the unacceptable. Aliyev, incidentally, remains in charge to this day.

Neither Putin’s bald decision to rewrite the rules so that he could stay in office nor Aliyev’s election fraud were in the least bit surprising to their subjects. But they were important moments, nonetheless. Blowing through previously established rules and norms matters. Having suffered no consequences for such acts, leaders move on to bigger and more audacious targets. The appetite grows while eating, as the Russian saying goes.

Still, this isn’t Russia, and, for Trump-watchers, there was a notable familiarity to the week of mayhem that followed the President’s acquittal. Although it is often difficult to look back when so much is happening each day, Trump has been nutty and angry before, ranting and vindictive, blasting norms and lying with abandon. Trump has been insulting his enemies and wreaking vengeance and claiming the “absolute right” to do things that he does not have the absolute right to do—for years. The Washington Post counted more than sixteen thousand lies, misstatements, and untruths from the President—before a single senator voted to acquit him. Months before he hijacked U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine, in service of his personal political interests, he ordered the U.S. military to the Southern border to combat a nonexistent “invasion,” only days in advance of the 2018 midterm elections. Is this time really different?

The answer, I’m afraid, is yes. In his post-impeachment rage, Trump wanted vengeance, and he wanted us to know it. There was no one inside his Administration to stop him. A month ago, Congress had at least the theoretical power to do something about his overreaching. Today, thanks to the Senate’s very clear vote, it does not. So, although the President himself is unchanged, the context around him is very much altered. In the history of the Trump Presidency, there will be a before impeachment and an after. It’s too late for lessons learned, and it’s most definitely too late for Bill Barr to complain about the President’s tweets. The constraints are gone. The leverage is lost. One ABC News interview with a single Cabinet official is not going to restore it. Trump, unhinged and unleashed, may actually turn out to be everything we feared.

Image result for painting lady liberty Peter Max

United We Stand, Four Statues of Blue Liberty. Peter Max, 2001

So, if you want to get philosophical about the whole thing I would suggest a podcast from The Guardian. ( Written about 380BC, Plato’s Republic is still our blueprint for thinking about the relationship between justice and the state. But who exactly is the “philosopher king” that Plato envisages? Did he really advocate infanticide? And who will “guard the guardians”? In the latest episode of The Big Ideas, Benjamen Walker talks Plato with philosophers Mark KingwellMark VernonJulian Baggini and Guardian writer Charlotte Higgins. )I read Republic way back  in High School.  It was in 1973 about the same time as  the Saturday Night massacre.  I offer it humbly up to you along with this quote.

Laws are partly formed for the sake of good men, in order to instruct them how they may live on friendly terms with one another, and partly for the sake of those who refuse to be instructed, whose spirit cannot be subdued, or softened, or hindered from plunging into evil.

So, we are on this path together and the only thing I know for certain is that this year will be quite long. I’m disheartened by the many good people losing jobs that were basically in service to us yet made optimistic by the fact that they while they lost their jobs and we lost their divine service, we still have heroes among us. They quit on principle. It is just sad that they are the ones that may not get the big bucks for speaking or writing books. But perhaps it is better they don’t because that circumstance has shut the mouths and conscience of a lot of higher ups thrown over by the Trumpist Regime who enabled him when they had their chance at doing something principled.

And I give you Joni Mitchell asking the rhetorical question is Justice “Just Ice”?  I add my own question to you now.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Mostly Monday Reads: Come Hell and High Water

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I think I might see a bit of sunlight today after days of drizzle from what’s left of Hurricane Barry which is basically a low moving through the middle of the country. Fortunately, the storm hit a big patch of dry air and didn’t fire up as much as possible.  It also was slow moving so surge and the river cresting wasn’t quite as widespread as was feared.  Climate change is a huge problem down here around the Gulf.

Fox News reported the rescue of 12 folks by the US Coast Guard on a small barrier island that is mostly underwater now days.

A dozen people stranded on a remote Louisiana island by Tropical Storm Barry are being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The rescue was carried out on Isle de Jean Charles, a Terrebonne Parish community that was cut off by rising water from the storm. Isle de Jean Charles is about two hours south of New Orleans.

Petty Officer Lexie Preston told the Associated Press that some people were on rooftops and that four people and a cat had already been taken from the island on a helicopter. She said a boat is also heading to the area to help get the rest of the people off the island.

The Coast Guard reported that none of the rescued strandees, including four who were elderly, were injured, WWL-TV reported.

Isle de Jean Charles is a sacred indigenous place and nearly all of its residents have become part of the Climate Change Diaspora.

Isle de Jean Charles is a narrow island in the bayous of South Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. A place of immense physical beauty and great biodiversity, it is most importantly home to the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe.

For our Island people, it is more than simply a place to live. It is the epicenter of our Tribe and traditions. It is where our ancestors survived after being displaced by Indian Removal Act-era policies and where we cultivated what has become a unique part of Louisiana culture. Today, the land that has sustained us for generations is vanishing before our eyes.  Our tribal lands are plagued by a host of environmental problems — coastal erosion and salt-water intrusion, caused by canals dredged through our surrounding marshland by oil and gas companies, land sinking due to a lack of soil renewal or “crevasse,” because of the construction of levees that separated us from the river, and rising seas. These environmental changes have led to increasing flood risk and changes in our life ways. For example, our Island needed a levee, but the small levee that protects our Island during high tide has also led our bayou to become stagnant, killing the ecosystem we once had. The need for reliable access to jobs and services up the bayou have forced many of our people to nearby areas, including Pointe-aux-Chenes, Bourg, Montegut, Chauvin, along Bayou Grand Caillou, and Houma. For over fifteen years we have been planning a Tribal Resettlement in order to bring our people back together, rejuvenate our ways of life, and secure a future for our Tribe.

You can read more about their plight here: “On the Louisiana Coast, A Native Community Sinks Slowly into the Sea” from Yale Environment 360.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians of southern Louisiana have been called America’s first climate refugees. But two years after receiving federal funding to move to higher ground, the tribe is stuck in limbo, waiting for new homes as the water inches closer to their doors.

Of the 35 residential structures left on the island, many stand empty, slowly rotting back into the landscape. Due to unprecedented soil subsidence, sea level rise, and the thousands of oil and gas canals that have allowed saltwater intrusion and erosion, the once-wooded landscape is slowly disappearing beneath the sea.

Since 1930, Louisiana’s coastal plain has lost more than 2,000 square miles of land – about the size of Delaware, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Isle de Jean Charles, the historical homeland of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, is the most desperate example of the state’s vanishing coast.

Climate Change also is playing a role in the migration north from South America. Food Shortages–simultaneously due to lack of normal rain along with incredible record breaking heat and storms–will cause an environmental diaspora to grow.  We have started seen the farmers of Honduras come to our borders.

Some people here know about climate change, about the vast, complex forces of cambio climatico roiling the weather. Global warming has heated the air and driven away seasonal rains. It may have boosted the spread of bark-munching beetles, which ravaged pine forests surrounding El Rosario that had already been depleted by logging. The loss of the forests, in turn, diminished freshwater streams and sent temperatures in the village soaring still higher, residents say.

Migration to the United States from Honduras and its neighboring “northern triangle” countries — El Salvador and Guatemala — has climbed in recent years. The reasons are complex, including poverty, unemployment and violence. But the increase in migration also coincides with the drought, which began in 2014, and those living in Central America’s so-called dry corridor, which is adjacent to El Rosario, say lack of food is the primary reason people leave, according to a United Nations report.

Last summer, the Honduran government declared an emergency because of food shortages, joining governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, which issued similar alerts. Almost 100,000 families in Honduras and 2 million people across the region lacked adequate food. Making matters worse, a pathogen that scientists believe is worsened by climate change has ravaged the country’s coffee plantations, which means that migrant farm laborers who count on the coffee harvest for income can’t find work.

Researchers and international aid workers say that for Honduran family farmers, like those in El Rosario, to survive, they need support to adjust to the climate’s rapid changes, including instruction in planting drought-resistant crops and help conserving water.

What is our Racist in Chief doing to address this issue?

The U.S. sends hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Central America every year, but most of it gets directed to security, drug control or violence prevention programs, rather than agricultural or environmental support. Under the Obama administration, Congress doubled the fundingto the region from $338 million in 2014 to $754 million in 2016 and began directing more funding to climate and agriculture programs. The Trump administration has tried to cut funding dramatically  — proposals Congress has rejected. Under the current budget, almost $530 million is directed toward Central America.

In March, President Donald Trump said his administration would cut aid to Central American countries to punish them for failing to stop migration flows. The administration made the cuts official in June, saying it would withhold some of the funds allocated by Congress for 2017 and would suspend all funds Congress approved for 2018. Critics have said this will only stoke more migration.

Well, today he upped the death and destruction that finds root in his racist, white nationalist demons. This is via the A/P and is breaking news: “Trump moves to end asylum protections for Central Americans”.  This move comes after a weekend of some of the most vitriolic racist tweets this evil, evil man has ever tweeted. Yet the Republicans stand for this and with this.

The Trump administration on Monday moved to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants in a major escalation of the president’s battle to tamp down the number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to a new rule published in the Federal Register , asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S. southern border. The rule, expected to go into effect Tuesday, also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.

The rule applies to anyone arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Sometimes asylum seekers from Africa and other continents arrive there, but most migrants arriving there are Central Americans.

There are some exceptions: If someone has been trafficked, if the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed (though most Western countries have signed them) or if an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied, then a migrant could still apply for U.S. asylum.

But the move by President Donald Trump’s administration was meant to essentially end asylum protections as they now are on the southern border, reversing decades of U.S. policy on how refugees are treated and coming as the government continues to clamp down on migrants and as the treatment of those who made it to the country is heavily criticized as inhumane.

Attorney General William Barr said that the United States is “a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed” by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of migrants at the southern border.

“This rule will decrease forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States,” Barr said in a statement.

The policy is almost certain to face a legal challenge. U.S. law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive at the U.S. regardless of how they did so, but there is an exception for those who have come through a country considered to be “safe.” But the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs asylum law, is vague on how a country is determined “safe”; it says “pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement.”

Right now, the U.S. has such an agreement, known as a “safe third country,” only with Canada. Under a recent agreement with Mexico, Central American countries were considering a regional compact on the issue, but nothing has been decided. Guatemalan officials were expected in Washington on Monday, but apparently a meeting between Trump and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was canceled amid a court challenge in Guatemala over whether the country could agree to a safe third with the U.S.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt, who has litigated some of the major challenges to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, said the rule was unlawful.

This rule basically says if any one passed through another country on the way to the US and didn’t ask for asylum there cannot ask for asylum in the US. This man has two immigrant wives. His mother was an immigrant.  All but one of his children could actually be categorized as anchor babies via his rhetoric that’s applied to brown and black people in his demented mind.  Melania Trump got documented on false pretenses.  There is no explanation for what he does other than racism.

His tweet uproar started with attack on American Women serving in Congress this weekend.  It was beyond appalling.  Republicans are off somewhere in their cones of silence.

“Republicans Silent On Trump’s Racist Remarks To Congresswomen”,  The president had urged the Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they came from

Presidents Donald Trump’s urging of Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they came from on Sunday has drawn widespread condemnation, with congressional Democrats declaring his rhetoric racist, xenophobic and bigoted.

There was just one thing immediately missing (beyond an apology): a rebuke from their Republican counterparts.

The deafening silence came after Trump went on a Twitter rant against “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” who, in his words, came from “countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.”

Though he didn’t identify his targets by name, they appeared to be Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The four have been in the news lately amid increased tension between them and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

All four women of color have been outspoken critics of Trump’s handling of the immigration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, only Omar was born outside of the U.S., having immigrated as a child from Africa.

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” Pelosi responded to Trump on Twitter shortly after. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party to be an independent, also called Trump’s comments “racist and disgusting.”

Image result for powerful civil rights imagesHere are some other reactions:

Los Angeles Times:  Trump is truly America’s Bigot-in-Chief

Goldie Taylor / The Daily Beast:  Trump Is a Racist.  If You Still Support Him, So Are You.

Charles M. Blow / New York Times: Trump’s Tweets Prove That He Is a Raging Racist

Peter Baker / New York Times: Trump Fans the Flames of a Racial Fire

Greg Sargent / Washington Post: Trump just denied his attacks are racist. He only confirmed the worst.

Ever since President Trump launched his candidacy by declaring Mexicans to be “rapists,” Trump’s public racism has often included two additional important elements: an adamant refusal to apologize for it in the face of outrage, and an equally adamant denial that the offending language was racist in any way.

Central to Trump’s racism — and more broadly to Trumpism writ large — is not just the content of the racism itself. It’s also that he’s asserting the right to engage in public displays of racism without it being called out for what it is. A crucial ingredient here is Trump’s declaration of the ability to flaunt his racism with impunity.

Trump’s racist attack on nonwhite progressive lawmakers is following this pattern, and indeed, it’s worth looking at what has come next, which is also revealing and important.

As you’ve heard, Trump tweeted on Sunday that four outspoken Democratic congresswomen “originally came from countries” that are “corrupt” and a “catastrophe,” and that they should “go back” to them. Three of his targets (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley) were born in the United States, and the fourth (Ilhan Omar) is a Somali refugee.

The remarks drew widespread condemnation, largely with the exception of Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Trump for wanting to make “America white again,” and, while some news organizations danced around what Trump had done, others explicitly labeled the comments “racist.”

Frankly, any one who is silent or supports Trump has no excuse to claim they’re not a racist.

Image result for powerful civil rights imagesThe criticism is even coming from our allies abroad. Bloomberg reports that: U.K. Leader Says Trump’s Tweets on Democrats Are ‘Completely Unacceptable’

U.S. President Donald Trump used “completely unacceptable” language to describe four female Democratic lawmakers, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters on London in Monday, potentially exacerbating the recent tensions with Washington.

Trump posted a series of tweets on Sunday suggesting that four U.S. lawmakers, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, should return to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

May thinks “the language used to refer to these women was completely unacceptable,” her spokesman, James Slack, told reporters on Monday.

Related imageResponses are coming from other members of Congress as well as the four women.

From Adrian Walker writing for the Boston Globe :  “Ayanna Pressley brushes off Trump’s tweets — but not his treatment of refugees”.

Donald J. Trump — a man who clearly has too much time on his hands in the morning — began Sunday with a characteristically xenophobic Twitter rant against a group of progressive female members of Congress.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly . . . and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he wrote. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how . . . it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”

Which is how I came to ask congresswoman Ayanna Pressley what she thought of being a target of the president of the United States.

“I never use the word you used — president — to describe him,” she said. “I refer to him as ‘the occupant.’ He simply occupies the space. He embodies zero of the qualities and the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity, the compassion, of someone who would truly embody that office. It’s just another day in the world under this administration.”

Earlier, Pressley had tweeted a screenshot of Trump’s comments, along with her response: “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday.”

Related imageMaybe he’s in a grumpy mood because he didn’t get a bloodbath during his ICE raids?  Who knows?  From Bobby Allyn and NPR: ” Trump’s Nationwide Immigration Raids Fail To Materialize”.

President Trump’s threatened roundup of undocumented immigrant families this weekend that set migrants in many communities on edge showed few signs of materializing on Sunday, the second time rumors of a large-scale immigration enforcement operation failed to come to fruition.

Instead, in the cities where rumors of mass raids swirled, many immigrants stayed inside their homes, as jitters turned typically vibrant migrant markets and commercial corridors eerily quiet.

Immigrant advocates across the country, meanwhile, took to the streets to protest the promised roundup.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not confirm any arrests, nor would immigrant rights activists.

“The ACLU has not heard reports of any raids today,” Ruthie Epstein, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for immigration policy, told NPR.

Before Sunday, there were weekend reports of attempted arrests by ICE in New YorkNew Jersey and Chicago, where The New York Times reportedthat a mother and her daughters were apprehended, though the family was immediately released. But those actions appeared to be part of routine enforcement, not connected to a massive raid.

Still, fears of ICE catching migrants by surprise sent many into hiding on Sunday.

It’s time for all people that come from basic goodness, compassion, and desire for justice to speak out on all of this.  It is time to deal with the pernicious institutional racism in this country and the blatant hateful racism promoted by the would be dickator of Trumpfuckistan, the elected Republicans that either fully support or enable it, and the icky deplorables that include those overly self-righteous but not righteous at all evangelicals.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Thursday Reads: Cover-Up General Barr Commits Crimes for Mob Boss Trump

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, I hardly know where to begin. Yesterday Cover-Up General Barr made a complete ass of himself during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here’s a good summary of what happened from NBC News:

Just to put all of the news of Barr’s Senate testimony yesterday into one place, here are our seven highlights:

1. He said a president could replace an independent counsel if he thought in the investigation was unfair: “If the president is being falsely accused, which the evidence now suggests that the accusations against him were false, and he knew they were false, and he felt that this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents, and was hampering his ability to govern, that is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel,” Barr said.

2. He admitted he didn’t review the underlying evidence in the Mueller report on whether Trump committed obstruction of justice: “We accepted the statements in the report as the factual record,” Barr said in an exchange with Kamala Harris. “We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurately accepted as accurate.

3. He indicated he didn’t read the full Mueller report or even its executive summaries: “Polling data was shared, sir,” said Cory Booker. “It’s in the report; I can cite you the page.” Barr responded, “With who?” (Answer: Paul Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik – revealed on page 7 of Mueller’s executive summary of Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.)

4. He dodged Kamala Harris’ question on whether the president or anyone at the White House asked him or suggested to him to open an investigation into anyone: “I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest.’ I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that… they have not asked me to open an investigation,” he said.

5. He said the Mueller report was his “baby” after Mueller submitted it: “At that point, it was my baby… It was my decision how and when to make it public.”

6. He said Mueller’s concern to him about his March 24 summary was inaccurate media reporting: “And I called Bob and said, you know, what’s the issue here? Are you — and I asked him if he was suggesting that the March 24th letter was inaccurate, and he said no, but that the press reporting had been inaccurate.” (But here’s Mueller’s letter complaining about Barr’s summary: It “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.”

7. And/but he called Mueller’s letter “snitty”: “The letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was written by one of his staff people.”

Afterward, he announced that he would refuse to attend a scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today.

Kamala Harris was the star of the show. Here’s her full examination of Barr in which she got him to stammer and stumble and finally admit he never looked at the evidence of Trump’s obstruction of the Russia investigation.

As noted in the NBC list, Cory Booker got Barr to admit that he didn’t know that Paul Manafort had shared internal polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik–who is connected to Russian intelligence services–indicating that Barr didn’t even read Mueller’s report or even the executive summaries! In fact, in his exchange with Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, it appeared that Barr did not even know who Oleg Deripaska is!

Here’s Twitter thread from David Rothkopf on the long-term implications of Cover-Up Barr’s claims about presidential power.

I don’t think we fully realize the profundity of Barr’s assertions yesterday. The ideas that a president can determine whether or not he ought to be investigated or that a president is incapable of committing obstruction are not just outrageous assaults on Constitutional values.

Taken in the context of this administration’s systematic rejection of the oversight role of Congress and of the law–whether it is the emoluments clause of Constitution or the obligation of the IRS to hand over tax returns to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee–what we are seeing is nothing less than a coup, to use a word the president has grown fond of. Trump and Barr are seeking to eliminate the checks and balances that are a hallmark of our system and to effectively render the Congress subservient to the presidency.

Combine this with the efforts of the Senate to load the courts with judicial candidates loyal to the president and the implication of McConnell, Graham & Co. that they will not fulfill their own Constitutional obligations, and you see a devastating picture.

Please click on the link and read the rest.

Some reactions to yesterday’s horror show

Neal Kaytal: Why Barr Can’t Whitewash the Mueller Report.

Many who watched Attorney General William Barr’s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which followed the revelation that the special counsel Robert Mueller had expressed misgivings about Mr. Barr’s characterization of his report, are despairing about the rule of law. I am not among them. I think the system is working, and inching, however slowly, toward justice.

When it comes to investigating a president, the special counsel regulations I had the privilege of drafting in 1998-99 say that such inquiries have one ultimate destination: Congress. That is where this process is going, and has to go. We are in the fifth inning, and we should celebrate a system in which our own government can uncover so much evidence against a sitting president….

The underappreciated story right now is that we’ve not only learned that it was Mr. Barr — and pointedly not Mr. Mueller — who decided to clear President Trump of the obstruction charges, but also discovered the reasoning behind Mr. Barr’s decision. The American public and Congress now have the facts and evidence before them. The sunlight the regulations sought is shining.

Mr. Barr tried to spin these facts. He hid Mr. Mueller’s complaints, which were delivered to him in writing more than a month ago, even when Congress asked in a previous hearing about complaints by members of the special counsel’s team. And the four-page letter that Mr. Barr issued in March and supposedly described the Mueller report omitted the two key factors driving the special counsel’s decision (which were hard to miss, as they were on the first two pages of the report’s volume about obstruction): First, that he could not indict a sitting president, so it would be unfair to accuse Mr. Trump of crimes even if he were guilty as sin; and second, Mr. Mueller could and would clear a sitting president, but he did not believe the facts cleared the president.

These two items came out because the special counsel regulations allowed for public release of this information (and not, as Mr. Barr testified on Wednesday, because he “overrode” the regulations to give the information to the public). The attorney general was misleading through and through, not just about the investigation, but about the special counsel regulations themselves.

Read the rest at The New York Times. I hope Kaytal is right; I’m having a little trouble being optimistic right now.

Greg Sargent: William Barr is helping to cover up Trump’s biggest crime of all.

As the political world struggles to digest the enormity of Attorney General William P. Barr’s profound corruption of his role on President Trump’s behalf, it’s worth stepping back and surveying a distilled version of what we know, now that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s redacted report has been released:

  • Russia launched a massive attack on our political system, undermining the integrity of our elections, to elect Donald Trump president.
  • U.S. law enforcement launched an investigation primarily aimed at getting to the bottom of that attack so that we could fully reckon with what happened and ensure the integrity of future elections.
  • Trump tried in multiple ways to derail that accounting of this massive attack on our political system — and then tried to bury the truth about that derailment effort — in a manner that was at best corrupt, and at worst criminal.

The simplest way to understand much of what Barr has done — and what Trumpworld will be doing to impede inquiries going forward — is that it’s mainly aimed at obscuring the broad contours of that larger story.

The point here is not that everything they’re doing is deliberately aimed at this end. It’s that this bigger story is at the center of everything — and by “biggest crime of all,” I mean Trump’s most monstrous wrong — and thus efforts to keep smaller truths from coming out will inevitably be about obscuring that larger story.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

Politico: Pelosi: Barr committed a crime by lying to Congress.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of committing a crime by lying to Congress, blasting him in a closed-door meeting and later at a news conference.

“We saw [Barr] commit a crime when he answered your question,” Pelosi told Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) during a private caucus meeting Thursday morning, according to two sources present for the gathering.

“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress,” Pelosi said soon after at a news conference. “And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law. Not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.“

Pelosi’s comments were an apparent reference to Barr’s response to Crist last month during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, during which the attorney generals aid he was not aware of any concerns that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team might have expressed about his four-page summary of Mueller’s findings.

More reactions, links only

The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton: ‘China, if you’re listening, why don’t you get Trump’s tax returns?’

Jamie Bouie at The New York Times: Bill Barr’s Perverse Theory of Justice.

Aaron Blake at The Washingotn Post: William Barr’s ‘snitty’ slip-up gives away his game.

EJ Dionne at the Washington Post: William Barr has shamelessly corrupted the debate over the Mueller report.

Amanda Marcotte at Salon: Bill Barr runs from House Judiciary hearing — will Democrats let him hide?

Benjamin Wittes at The Atlantic: The Catastrophic Performance of Bill Barr.

Jennifer Rubin: Barr’s testimony was a low point in Justice Department history.

ABC News: Hillary Clinton: Barr is acting as Trump’s ‘defense lawyer.’

I expect there will be more news breaking today. What stories have you been following?

 


Have We Died and Gone to Heaven?

Just read a heads-up from OpEd News that Tammy Baldwin [WI] has proposed H.Con Res. 85 for consideration to prevent any Wall Street settlement[s] and/or immunity against criminal or civil charges, where fraud [aka criminal activity] is indicated, requiring investigation and subsequent prosecution by Federal and state authorities.

Halleluiah!

This is in addition to the investigations that Attorney Generals Eric Schneiderman [NY], Beau Biden [DE], Martha Coakley [MA], Catherine Cortez Masto [NV] and Karmala D. Harris [CA] are pursuing in the mortgage foreclosure crisis, namely robosigning, origination and securities fraud, as well as NY District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, who notably [and bravely] refused to sign off on a ‘deal’ between the SEC and Citigroup in another case involving securities fraud.

Forty-eight representatives have signed to co-sponsor the proposed bill. I think it’s safe to say that the Occupy Wall St. Movement has had an impact, voicing the concerns and anger of the 99%, the ordinary citizen, all of us, who would be thrown into the clink for breaking the law.  Particularly for brazen theft.  Yet bank CEOs and managers, mortgage servicers, realtors, accountants, lawyers and variety of regulators and auditors have been routinely given a pass [get out of jail card[.

Dare I say our lawmakers are finally listening?  Let’s hope so because unless the Rule of Law is re-established unequivocally there can be no faith in the system. The Law applies to all or it is invalidated, applying to none.

Thumbs up to Congresswoman Baldwin [who is running for the Wisconsin Senate seat in 2012] and her colleagues listed below.  If one of these gentlemen or gentlewomen represent your district, an appreciative email might be in order.  If your representative’s name does not appear you may want to send a questioning email or pick up the phone–just to say ‘hello’ and btw why aren’t you supporting The Rule of Law?

Those of us not in the streets, still have our voices.

Let them be heard.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer [OR]

Rep. Michael Capuano  [MA]

Rep. Andre Carson [IN]

Rep. David Cicilline [RI]

Rep. Steve Cohen [TN]

Rep. John Conyers [MI]

Rep. Elijah Cummings [MD]

Rep. Danny Davis [IL]

Rep. Peter DeFazio [OR]

Rep. Keith Ellison[MN]

Rep. Bob Filner[CA]

Rep. Marcia Fudge [OH]

Rep. Raul Grijalva [AZ]

Rep. Luis Gutierrez [AZ]

Rep. Janice Hahn [CA]

Rep. Alcee Hastings [FL]

Rep. Brian Higgins [NY]

Rep. Rep. Maurice Hinchey [NY]

Rep. Rush Holt [NJ]

Rep. Michael Honda [CA]

Rep. Jay Inslee [WA]

Rep. Jesse Jackson [IL]

Rep. Henry Johnson [GA]

Rep. Marcy Kaptur [OH]

Rep. Dennis Kucinich [OH]

Rep. James Langevin [RI]

Rep. John Larson [CT]

Rep. Barbara Lee [CA]

Rep. Edward Markey [MA]

Rep. Doris Matsui [CA]

Rep. James McDermott [WA]

Rep. James McGovern [MA]

Rep. Gwen Moore [WI]

Rep. Grace Napolitano [CA]

Del.   Eleanor Norton [DC]

Rep. John Olver [MA]

Rep. Mike Quigley [IL]

Rep. Bobby Rush [IL]

Rep. Loretta Sanchez [CA]

Rep. Janice Schakowsky [IL]

Rep. Louise Slaughter [NY]

Rep. Fortney Stark [CA]

Rep. Michael Thompson [CA]

Rep. John Tierney [MA]

Rep. Edolphus Towns [NY]

Rep. Niki Tsongas [MA]

Rep. Maxine Waters [CA]

Rep. Lynn Woolsy [CA]

UPDATE: Just received an email indicating that cosponsors now number 50 [don’t have the additional names].