Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Taking back Congress, Democracy, and the Country

Democrats need to start thinking- and acting- outside the box.

For the past several years, Democrats have been self limited to reacting- never acting- always in response to some outrageous Republican lie. Think: Democrats are for open borders to freely allow killers and other criminals to enter the country; Democrats want to take all of your guns; Democrats want to spread the gay agenda (making all your children gay); and most recently, Democrats are anti-Semites and want to kill babies. Those last two are so grossly outrageous that one wonders how anyone- let alone the President of the United States and a Republican Congresswoman head of the Republican Committee to elect their party members to Congress (Lynn Cheney of Wyoming, daughter of Dick)- could spread such obvious falsehoods. But there is no doubt that a significant number of Republican voters now believe that Democrats not only hate Jews (apparently millions of us are self hating) and are not only in favor of infanticide, but that the killing is already occurring.


The solution is not for Democrats to constantly be back on their heels, reduced to denying lies.. Democrats have to pick a very specific agenda, and move forward on it, methodically, without a lot of publicity or media attention, and take back Congress, then change it so that future members won’t be able to grandstand and block legislation as has happened over recent decades.

Democrats should first change fundamental procedures in House committee hearings: no more five minutes of grandstanding or speechifying for each member, rotating by party, as key witnesses are being grilled but know that they can run out the clock rather easily, as Matthew
Whitaker and William Barr recently did. Instead, every committee should designate an experienced trial lawyer to conduct all questioning. The members will have to sacrifice their opportunity to get their moment in the sun, but if we can ask Marines to risk their lives on missions, surely we can ask Democratic Congressmen and women to give up the opportunity to make five minute speeches at a helpless witness sitting at a table. Every experienced trial lawyer (and I am one, with over 42 years under my belt in civil and criminal trials) knows that you can’t conduct an effective cross examination of a witness with a five minute time limit, interspersed with examinations by a hostile lawyer, every five minutes, that break up any possible flow. A good cross examination of a hostile witness (i.e., a Bill Barr or a Donald Trump, Jr.) is focused, tight, has objective questions that can’t be ducked to which the examiner already knows the answer, and culminates in a question that no matter how the witness answers, the effect is to discredit him or her.

If committee members have questions to which they want answers (and not just an opportunity to vent at a witness), they can submit them in writing to the committee chair before the hearing, and the chair can decide if they will be given to the trial lawyer to ask. And if committee members are sulking because they aren’t getting their five minutes in the limelight, one solution would be to designate one or two to meet in the hallway after the hearing and make whatever speeches they desire to the assembled media, alternating the members who do so each day until all members are accommodated.

The same rules will apply to Republicans: they can either designate one of their own to ask questions or bring in a trial lawyer, as they did in the Senate Judiciary hearing on Brett Kavanaugh with a Maricopa County (Phoenix, Arizona) prosecutor. In any event, after the Republican questioner is finished, the Democratic trial lawyer will have the last word- the last series of questions, if any are needed to clarify or puncture any dubious assertions made during the Republican lawyer’s questions. Also, there will be no time limit. Just as in real trials, there is no chance to “run out the clock.” However, the Chair will have the power to tell a lawyer he is at the end of his rope if the opportunity is being abused as some sort of filibuster rather than good faith questioning (I don’t expect any Democrat to engage in that sort of tactic, however).

Democrats should also make clear that once they retake the Senate, the era of “Senatorial courtesy” that allows one Senator to block a nomination and the era of the filibuster is over. Done. Kaput. Henceforth, each house of Congress will operate on simple majority rules, but with protections written in to allow the minority to bring bills to the floor and to propose amendments to any bill. If Democrats can’t win those political battles on their merits, then tough luck for them. Hopefully, they will have learned some valuable lessons from decades of Republican obstructionism and outright cruelty (trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have led to thousands of deaths).

As for the daily spokesperson for the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi should cede this position to rotating Congressmen and women. There are currently 235 in the House. Assigning two per day to this chore, pairing the most recent members to the longest serving, would mean that in 118 days everyone would have a chance to shine. Of course, the Democrats will need a coherent strategy so that the spokespersons will be in tune with the whole Democratic caucus.

And what should that strategy be? The Democrats already have a good start, but they haven’t made their case in committee hearings. Their election reform bill is a good one, but it was dead on arrival in Mitch McConnell’s Senate (more on that below). I think they should start over with extensive fact finding committee hearings. They should make a public case for election reform- ending voter ID restrictions that disenfranchise the poor, ending gerrymandering that allows states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania to have Republican majorities in the House that belie the actual vote totals in each state, and end voter purges and vote suppression as occurred in Florida and Georgia in recent years.

The Democrats should hold hearings on the voter photo ID laws and bring in the legislative leaders from each State that enacted them a decade or more ago, put them under oath, and have them reveal to the country that the uniform laws passed in states with Republican controlled legislatures almost simultaneously were not the result of any actual hearings or any reports of any voters coming to the polls as imposters and casting ballots in the names of other registered voters. Get them under oath to admit that the sole purpose of the law was to suppress legitimate Democratic votes and to win close elections. Get them to admit that the uniform legislation was handed to them by national Republican operatives (I saw Karl Rove’s brain behind this strategy, just as he made sure that anti-gay marriage issues were on many States’ ballots in the 2004 election to bring out the evangelical voters).

Do the same with gerrymandering laws that created strangely shaped districts to ensure Republican control of the House. Have the legislators admit under oath that the sole purpose was to create and maintain those majorities even when they were a minority party in that State.

Then Democrats need to reform those laws. They should use the power vested in them by the Constitution- specifically the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the lifting of voting restrictions in the Fifteenth:

“... nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

And the Fifteenth:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

This legislation should be carefully crafted as if one were building a structure intended to last for a hundred years or more. The Congress should mandate that voting in both Federal and State elections will be subject to stringent standards intended to make those elections fair and equal to all. Paper ballot backups should be required even where voting machines exist to prevent hacking or electronic malfunctions. Additional precincts have to be added in any State that had areas with long waits at the polls or distant travel to vote. No State should be allowed to purge rolls of voters or enact any law that may restrict voting rights without being precleared by the Justice Department (the old Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court imprudently concluded in a 5-4 vote in the case of 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder was no longer necessary, followed immediately by some states- most notably Texas- acting to restrict voting by likely Democratic voters). No State’s legislature will be allowed to redraw districts for Federal or State elections until approved by the Justice Department. Every State should be required to have a bipartisan election commission that will draw up district boundaries.

Then Democrats need to attack the toxic role of large sums of money in the process. One idea is to allow every citizen eligible to vote in a Congressional district or a State race to have a sum of public money in the form of a voucher which each citizen can dispense to candidates as he or she sees fit. If Georgia has four million voters, for instance, and every voter has a $100 voucher, that’s $400 million dollars that can be spent. The voucher can be divided to support multiple candidates in multiple races. However, no person will be allowed to give actual dollars to any candidate, and no candidate for State or Federal office will be allowed to ask any person for money. Those actions will be considered bribery or soliciting a bribe. No out of State person will get a voucher or be allowed to contribute money.

As for a candidate spending his own money or a PAC trying to influence an election by spending millions on attack ads- that won’t be prohibited. But the pernicious effects of that “dark money” can easily be dealt with without in any way bruising their First Amendment rights of Free Speech. Simply, every attack ad against a candidate will have to first be previewed by the person attacked, who will have a right to film a response that will run immediately after every airing of the attack ad, the same length of time, free of charge. Passing that one act of legislation will do more to undo the terrible effects of the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC than anything else- without doing any damage to the First Amendment. Any PAC attempting to influence an election will realize that every real dollar they spend will only enable the attackee to have a free ad immediately following theirs which will undo any harm they intend. I’m sure they’ll eventually find a way to spend their money (probably by printing their slanders and libels and sending them via direct mail) but the candidate attacked will still have millions of dollars of public money from the voucher system to deal with that kind of low blows.

In addition, States should be required to allow early voting, automatic voter registration when persons get driver’s licenses or apply for any form of public assistance, allow mail in ballots and internet voting, all to increase the participation in elections.

Medicare for All has been a big issue with Democrats. They should get together and agree that the ultimate goal is to have every American insured at a reasonable cost. The first step towards Medicare for All is a public option that allows any person under 65 to purchase Medicare insurance at cost- in other words, it will cost the taxpayers nothing. A second step, to shore up the financial underpinnings of Medicare, is to take away the restriction on taxes to only earned income. Persons making billions from stock deals, real estate passive income, interest income, and capital gains, should be subject to the same low tax (about 2.9%) as any self employed person. By the same token, there should no longer be any cap on Social Security taxes (12.4 % of $128,400 is the current cap, or $15,921.60). If a wage earner makes $40,000 and pays a total of about 7.5% tax (Social Security and Medicare combined- the employer matches it), why shouldn’t someone making a billion dollars a year do likewise and pay 12.4% of his gross income? As time passes, Democrats can start to find ways to subsidize persons who can’t afford to pay the premiums. The increase in tax revenue by expanding the base of income is one way to accomplish this. Repealing some of the massive tax cuts to the rich would be another.

The one thing that Democrats fail to realize is the power that is theirs to wield, and that is the power of the purse. By Constitutional requirement, Article I, Section 7 (“All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives”) the House has the sole power to initiate appropriations bills. Literally nothing can function in the Federal government- not the Executive Branch, the Judicial, the Congress, the military, any agency- unless the House appropriates money for it. The Democrats should eschew massive omnibus spending bills, and come up with a plan to enact legislation that currently is being blocked in the Senate, including the bills to reform elections. Using a scalpel rather than a broadsword, the House should pass bills that micromanage the CIA, the NSA, reducing the vast black budgets to nothing and requiring them to account for every dollar spent.

Democrats should micro manage the military, cutting out wasteful programs that exist solely to put money in defense contractors’ pockets (i.e., nuclear attack submarines that currently have no known enemy, vast spending on exotic weapons programs that are useless in the age of low tech terrorist attacks and guerilla warfare in locations like Afghanistan).

More importantly, the Democrats who control the House should find programs in every State represented by a Senate Republican- Kentucky being a prime example- who lives only for the purpose of blocking any Democratic proposed legislation. Not one Federal dollar should flow into the State of Kentucky for any purpose, including farm subsidies, military bases (Fort Knox can be closed or moved), until Mitch McConnell moves forward and passes the reform bills needed to restore our democracy. It may seem like dirty pool or crass politics, but it doesn’t even come close to the level of a Mitch McConnell who would not even allow Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, to meet with senators, let alone have a committee hearing or a Senate vote. Sometimes those chickens come home to roost, and the Democrats in the House should make very clear that Mitch McConnell and any other obstructionist Republican- or flamethrowers like Lindsay Graham- will have to pay the consequences. The harm to the people of their States should be short term (much like Trump’s closure of the entire government for more than a month, or his insane tariffs, which may last much longer). But the Democrats only have to win this battle once, then they can forever keep that weapon in their arsenal, ready to use the moment a Republican dares to try to thwart the will of the voters in this country.

Once that battle is won, then all else is possible: a Medicare for All public option; raising the national minimum wage; sensible gun control- including universal instant background checks and a ban on assault weapons and large magazines; voting reforms; and campaign reforms that go far towards ensuring fair elections with maximum participation.

Finally, Democrats should, in this time of economic boom, give Republicans what they have always pretended to want: a balanced budget. By repealing the tax cuts for the super rich, cutting vast waste out of the Pentagon’s budget, expanding the tax bases for Social Security and Medicare, the Democrats should be able to get close to balancing the federal budget. And if they send a balanced budget to the Senate, it will be fascinating to watch Republicans back track on their Tea Party rhetoric.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Asking the difficult questions of presidential candidates....

Here are some questions to ask any presidential candidate- and President Trump. Because they aren't expecting this:

Do you know what murder is?

Can you define it? (the answer is the unlawful killing of a human being, including causing the death of a human being while committing a felony)

Do you know what it means to be a party to a crime? (it's when a person in conjunction with one or more people commits a crime).

Do you think that if a person commits murder, and that person is within the jurisdiction of the United States, that we should charge that person? Put that person on trial? Punish that person if he or she is convicted? (I expect the answer will be "yes" from everybody except Trump, who may not understand the word "jurisdiction.")

In determining whether or not to charge a person who commits murder, either directly or as party to a crime, do you think that it should matter how important the person is or what office the person holds who commits murder?

What if the person is president? Should he or she be held accountable if that person commits murder?

What is the statute of limitations under federal law for prosecutions for murder? (answer: none)

President Bush and Vice President Cheney were directly responsible for making decisions to kidnap, torture, and murder, numerous human beings. Here are just a few of the reports from the Pentagon of the deaths of persons in U.S. custody while they were in office, based on orders given by them for the forcible kidnapping, detention, and torture of persons suspected of participating in terror attacks or being members of the organization that caused them:

"Multiple blunt force injuries. Abrasion in upper right forehead. Abrasion on right lower forehead above eyebrow. Multiple contusions on right cheek and lower nose, left upper forehead, back of head. Abrasions on chest, lower costal margin. Contusions on arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, upper inner arm, groin, inner thigh, right back of knee and calf, left calf, left lower leg. Cause of death was pulmonary embolism due to blunt force injuries.

(From autopsy report of detainee killed by United States uniformed armed forces and/or CIA agents while in custody in Bagram, Afghanistan, December 3, 2002.)

Detainee was found unresponsive restrained in his cell. Death was due to blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease. Contusions and abrasions on forehead, nose, head, behind ear, neck, abdomen, buttock, elbow, thigh, knee, foot, toe, hemorrhage on rib area and leg. Detainee died of blunt force injuries to lower extremities, complicating underlying coronary artery disease. The blunt force injuries to the legs resulted in extensive muscle damage, muscle necrosis and rhabomyolysis. Electrolyte disturbances primarily hyperkalemia (elevated blood potassium level) and metabolic acidosis can occur within hours of muscle damage. Massive sodium and water shifts occur, resulting in hypovolemic shock and casodilatation and later, acute renal failure. The decedent's underlying coronary artery disease would compromise his ability to tolerate the electrolyte and fluid abnormalities, and his underlying malnutrition and likely dehydration would further exacerbate the effects of the muscle damage. The manner of death is homicide.

(Autopsy report of second detainee killed by United States uniformed armed forces and/or CIA agents while in custody in Bagram, Afghanistan, December 10, 2002.)

Died as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation as evidenced by the recently fractured hyoid bone in the neck and soft tissue hemorrhage extending downward to the level of the right thyroid cartilage. Autopsy revealed bone fracture, rib fractures, contusions in mid abdomen, back and buttocks extending to the left flank, abrasions, lateral buttocks. Contusions, back of legs and knees; abrasions on knees, left fingers and encircling to left wrist. Lacerations and superficial cuts, right 4th and 5th fingers. Also, blunt force injuries, predominatnly recent contusions (bruises) on the torso and lower extremities. Abrasions on left wrist are consistent with use of restraints. No evidence of defense injuries or natural disease. Manner of death is homicide. DOD 003329 refers to this case as "strangulation, found outside isolation unit."

(Report of homicide of Iraqi in United States custody at Whitehorse Detention Facility, Al Nasiriyah, Iraq, June 6, 2003.)


Two Iraqi male detainees in U.S custody were killed (one by a shotgun wound to the head, the other by shotgun wound to the chest). The shots were delivered by coalition force guards. DOD 003290 -3292.

(Report of two homicides of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, August 18, 2004.)"

Given your answers to the previous questions, given your statement that no one should be above the law, including the president, will you pledge to direct your Attorney General to institute the prosecution of each and every person responsible for each murder committed by former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney, including the President, the Vice President, and each person who swung a club, fired the lethal shot, or caused the death of the person in captivity?

President Barack Obama is also directly responsible for the deliberate, premeditated deaths of two American citizens, a father and his 16 year old son. Their father/grandfather filed a federal lawsuit in the District of Columbia to obtain an injunction against the killing of his son before it occurred, but had the lawsuit dismissed. Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, 727 F.Supp.2d 1 Civil Action No. 10-1469 (JDB) (D. D.C., 2010). Here is how the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia charactized the lawsuit and the Obama Justice Department's rationale for dismissing the lawsuit and allowing Anwar Al-Aulaqi to be murdered:

"Plaintiff seeks an injunction prohibiting defendants from intentionally killing Anwar Al-Aulaqi "unless he presents a concrete, specific, and imminent threat to life or physical safety, and there are no means other than lethal force that could reasonably be employed to neutralize the threat." .... Defendants have responded with a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on five threshold grounds: standing, the political question doctrine, the Court's exercise of its "equitable discretion," the absence of a cause of action under the Alien Tort Statute ("ATS"), and the state secrets privilege."

The District judge dismissed the lawsuit, holding that:

"Rather, the Court only concludes that it lacks the capacity to determine whether a specific individual in hiding overseas, whom the Director of National Intelligence has stated is an "operational" member of AQAP, see Clapper Decl. ¶ 15, presents such a threat to national security that the United States may authorize the use of lethal force against him. This Court readily acknowledges that it is a "drastic measure" for the United States to employ lethal force against one of its own citizens abroad, even if that citizen is currently playing an operational role in a "terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Saudi, Korean, Yemeni, and U.S. targets since January 2009," id. ¶ 13. But as the D.C. Circuit explained in Schneider, a determination as to whether "drastic measures should be taken in matters of foreign policy and national security is not the stuff of adjudication, but of policymaking." 412 F.3d at 197. Because decision-making in the realm of military and foreign affairs is textually committed to the political branches, and because courts are functionally ill-equipped to make the types of complex policy judgments that would be required to adjudicate the merits of plaintiff's claims, the Court finds that the political question doctrine bars judicial resolution of this case Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, 727 F.Supp.2d 1 (D. D.C., 2010)"

In essence, the District Court ruled that if a high official of the United States government deems an American citizen to be "an operational member" of a terrorist group, then that American citizen may be targeted for assassination and killed, regardless of the facts, without any charges being offered, without a trial,, without any chance to assert innocence. At the time the decision was made to murder Anwar al Aulaqi, there was not even a warrant for his arrest.

As a result, under the direct order of President Obama, not only was Anwar al Aulaqi killed, his 16 year old son was also killed. Neither was on a battlefield. Neither had a weapon in his hands. Neither was threatening to kill an American soldier or an American civilian- or any other human being- at the time he or she was killed. https://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/awlaki-family-protests-us-killing-anwar-awlakis-teen/story?id=14765076

Knowing all of that, would you support the prosecution of former President Obama and every other person responsible, including the person(s) who pushed the buttons to fire the missiles that killed them for the murders of Anwar al Aulaqui and of his 16 year old son?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Power of the Press- the Stockade Girls of 1963

While responding to a person positing a "false equivalency" between the MAGA hat wearing white bigots who taunted a Native American in D.C. with chants of "Build the Wall!" I mentioned the Leesburg, Georgia "Stockade Girls." That person had claimed that the chidlren of civil rights marchers had "looted" and "burned." Something that never happened. She also claimed that they were "Democrat parents" of those children, not knowing anything about Southern Democrats and the history of the civil rights era of the 1950's and 1960's.

I suggested she do a search for "Stockade Girls," and out of curiosity, although I knew the story (second hand- I didn't live here in those days), I was astonished at some sloppy reporting/editing on the part of WALB-TV's story from 2006.

Contrast the "violent march" to the "peaceful march" in these two stories about the same event. What the WALB story failed to mention was that the "violence" was directed towards the marchers by the white racists who opposed civil rights, and the authorities responded by locking up the victims of the violence- the peaceful marchers. Because that's the way it was in 1963...

http://www.walb.com/story/5190050/stolen-girls-remember-1963-in-leesburg/

"Stolen Girls remember 1963 in Leesburg

July 24, 2006 at 6:56 PM EST - Updated July 26 at 1:30 PM
July 24, 2006

Leesburg -- More than 30 Americus women are telling their story of injustice during the Civil Rights movement, 43 years after it happened.

IN 1963 THE GIRLS, SOME YOUNGER THAN THEIR TEENS, WERE LOCKED UP AFTER A VIOLENT MARCH IN THE STREETS OF AMERICUS. For 45 days the girls were kept in the Leesburg Stockade, not knowing where they were, or what would happen to them."

Contrast that with the full, accurate story (all caps are mine):

https://blackpast.org/aah/stolen-girls-july-august-1963

"In July 1963, APPROXIMATELY TWO HUNDRED AFRICAN AMERICAN YOUTH MET IN DOWNTOWN AMERICUS, GEORGIA, TO PEACEFULLY PROTEST LOCAL SEGREGATION. After sanctioning violent attacks by a white mob, police moved in to arrest the young protestors. While some protestors were shortly released, thirty-three young African American girls found themselves held in an abandoned Civil War-era prison for almost two months. Known as the “Stolen Girls,” this incident represented both traditions of youth social justice activism and the heavy hand of white authorities in shaping civil rights politics throughout the Deep South.

Black teens, part of a generation frustrated with the tokenism of change in the early 1960s, played a particularly critical role in challenging racism and inequality in Americus, the county seat of this agricultural region of Southwest Georgia. Their activism emerged as part of the Sumter County Movement of 1963–65, political organizing linking diverse but vibrant networks of local African Americans and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

In late July 1963, African American youth began to demonstrate daily against segregation at the Martin Theater and the Trailways bus station. Peaceful protests grew raucous as white counter protestors met young activists with taunts and violence. Ultimately, local police borrowed a strategy developed by Albany Police Chief Laurie Pritchett in response to the earlier Albany Movement of 1961–62. To limit press coverage and break down the ongoing protests, Americus officers arrested protestors and held them indefinitely in jails spread out across the region."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"Peaches" (Not the Stripper- we think)

Anybody else out there wonder why the Democrats have not yet figured out how to deal with Trump and the government shutdown? It's pretty simple, really: all the House Democrats have to do is vote on a bill and send it to the Senate, that will:

(1) Provide TWICE what Trump has demanded- , instead of the $5 billion he requested, appropriate $10 billion for a border wall. But the wall will be a steel slatted fence. And it's name will be "Peaches." (quick aside: it would be rude to name it "Stormy." But ya gotta wonder: when Trump came up with the idea of calling the wall "Peaches," was that the name of the last stripper he slept with?)

(2) The bill will provide that anybody who is in this country illegally or any DACA recipient will be eligible to work for any of the contractors who gets a contract to build the wall. The contractors will be required to hire at least 25% of their work force from persons here illegally. And while they are so employed, they- and their families- will be immune from deportation.

(3) Anybody here illegally who works on the wall for a year can then apply for American citizenship, which will then also be granted to their family members.

(4) Every contractor working on the wall will be required to pay a minimum of $15.00 per hour for all hourly employees, and....

(5) The wall will be paid for by repealing all tax cuts for corporations, treating all earnings (dividends, interest, capital gains) the same as earned income, and repealing the 2017 tax breaks for those earning more than a million dollars a year. Any money raised over and above the $10 billion needed for the wall will be applied to pay premiums for Medicare for All for those most in need.

Simple. Go for it, Democrats!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

TRUMP BODY SLAMS JEWS, CHOKES CNN, INCITES VIOLENCE...



There can be no debate about whether or not President Trump "caused" an anti-Semite to open fire and murder 11 Jews in a synagogue not far from where I grew up, in the only big city I knew as a child (we visited the Carnegie Museum, the Buhl Planetarium, saw the Pirates at Forbes Field, flew out of the airport on our long trips). Even if the bastard claimed he didn't like Trump and wasn't inspired by him, the links are easy to follow (see below).

There can be less doubt about whether he inspired the pipe bomber who targeted almost every one of Trump's enemies- in politics, in the media, and private persons. Because if you throw lit matches into a room with a number of cans in it, and a few of those cans contain gasoline, odds are good that one of them is going to ignite.

No, the debate has to be about how best to remove that president from his office, and how to do it in such a fashion as to chasten his would be successors who would otherwise engage in incendiary race baiting, xenophobic, bigoted demagoguery- either because that's who they are (Trump), or because they are intelligent but deeply flawed and cynical (i.e., Ted Cruz) and think it's a winning strategy.

I don't want straight impeachment as my first choice, unless it is preceded by indictment and a pending trial that can end in a conviction or a guilty plea or a deal that includes resignation. I want Trump to actually serve prison time for any crimes for which he can be lawfully convicted.

Because until we strongly uphold the principle that no one is above the law (and I blame Barack Obama for whiffing on that opportunity when it was handed to him January 20, 2009, when he declined to prosecute his predecessor and others in the Bush administration for kidnapping, torture, and murder), we won't have a Constitutional Democratic Republic.

Until we recognize that the media have a responsibility which goes beyond "he said, she said" or "both sides" or the absurd calls for "bipartisanship" (Them: "we want to take 20 million off health insurance, causing 10,000 deaths annually"- the bipartisan solution: we'll meet you half way: "how about only taking 10 million off, causing 5,000 deaths annually?" How's that for a "bipartisan compromise?"), until the media start reporting the obvious truth (John McCain did not "defeat President Trump" when he put thumbs down on a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act- he saved thousands of lives of people who would have been denied health insurance by the "skinny repeal" that never had a "replace"), we're going to be stuck in this quagmire.

So when someone like Trump says "put armed guards in the Temple" as a solution- just ask him how many mass shootings there were in Australia, which has had none since they legislated sensible gun control after their last one more than 20 years ago? Then report on the number of mass shooting deaths the last 20 years in every other civilized country that has gun control (none). Put that front and center when running his remarks. When he says "we need the death penalty" ask him how that deters the mass shooters killed at the scene or who immediately suicide? Then report the impact on the murder rate in states that have the death penalty (higher) than those that don't.

And when the president and his cult followers continuously attack George Soros, a Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust, immediately ask him (or them): "Other than being a Jew- what has George Soros actually DONE that offends you?" None of this delusional right wing bullshit that he "funded the Caravan" and other absurd accusations leveled at Mr. Soros in recent years: demand proof of everything. And when they can't produce it? Tell them that they are either anti-Semites or seeking the support of anti-Semites.

Then report how the right wing attacks by Trump and Fox et al. on Soros were a basis for a pipe bomb being mailed to him and a mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue and the rise in white wing anti-Semitism. And do point out, media, Trump's support for nationalist figures in other countries who are more openly anti-Semitic and whose nationalist (yes, it is a dirty word, Mr. Trump!) don't have to bother to use code words or to attack straw men like Mr. Soros.

What do we do, we ask? Vote for Democrats, because until they control both houses of Congress, you won't have any gun control legislation, sensible or not. Call out anybody who uses code words or who attacks prominent liberals but who can't actually explain what they are attacking (like the recent post about conservatives who complained that they "suffered" under 8 years of Barack Obama, while listing all of the significant economic and foreign policy successes (and he got Bin Ladin) of his tenure). Don't let anybody in the media get away from calling somebody a "conservative" without asking: "conserve what? For whom? White power? Wealth for the rich? The ability to poison the environment or deprive employees of the right to organize or have decent health insurance?"

Don't let them get away with calling a Democrat a "socialist" (every attack ad against Stacey Abrams contains the word as an epithet) without asking them to define that word, explain what policies the Democrat proposes that fit the definition (expanding Medicaid and Medicare appear to be about it), then how that would hurt the people of that State or the country? Hold their feet to the fire when they say their bullshit: in debates, on Meet the Press, at press conferences, the camera blowbys outside the House or Senate chambers. Everywhere.

And never, never, never, forget. And never let the fucking, lying, bastards get away with it. Stand up to the bullies, always. That's what I've done my whole life and my whole career. It's actually very rewarding.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

AFTER THE DELUGE: HOW TO GOVERN IN A POST REPUBLICAN WORLD

There are two places I do some of my best thinking. One is in the shower, and if I have an upcoming trial or hearing, sometimes my best ideas are created there. The other is on what used to be (and I hope will be again soon) my daily 3.4 mile walk to and around (twice!) Lake Loretta. Today, on my way to Lake Loretta, I pondered how best the Democrats should govern when (not if) they retake both houses of Congress and the Presidency. My first idea is that process matters more than substance, because without a fair process, nothing else is possible- or will last.

First idea is to reverse the effects of the Citizens United decision, super political action committees (PAC's), and "dark money," without doing any damage to the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. Because television is central to political campaigns and the millions of dollars poured into attack ads, my suggestion is that Congress should recognize that because the airwaves are owned by the public, and every station has to receive its license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Congress should pass a law requiring that any political ad which attacks a candidate for political office (State or Federal) must first be previewed by the person being attacked, who will then be allowed to record a rebuttal which will be twice as long, will air immediately following every broadcast of the attack ad, free of charge, but will include as a speaker only the candidate being attacked. This idea is akin to the central concept of judo- turning the attacker's strength and momentum against him. This law in no way infringes on the First Amendment rights of the entity or person which airs the attack ad, but will so defang the attack- in fact, providing a positive boost to the attackee- as to make those ads useless.

Second idea is complete ban on all money contributions to candidates and all solicitation of campaign contributions, designating all of them as what they actually are- bribes. Instead, all federal elections will be publicly financed, and all candidates' ads on television and radio will run free of charge- because the public owns the airwaves- limited to a specific number, specific length of each ad, and a deadline before the election (say 90 days) when they can start running.

Third idea is an anti-trust type break up of any mass ownership of local broadcast stations, as the Sinclair Company is attempting to do. Local stations should be locally owned, and not owned by a few huge corporations which can mandate mass reading of political editorials and slant on how news is covered. https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/tv/turmoil-inside-komo-news-as-conservative-owner-sinclair-mandates-talking-points/

This can actually be accomplished rather easily, as local stations must periodically have their FCC broadcast licenses renewed every eight years, and the solution is to only renew licenses of locally owned stations, which will effectively force divestiture by the large corporations which otherwise will have a useless asset.

And this morning, I discovered that some great minds think alike, as I found from this essay in Washington Monthly by David Atkins: " Bipartisanship is Dead. Time for Democrats to Embrace Their Inner McConnell."
https://washingtonmonthly.com/2018/10/06/bipartisanship-is-dead-time-for-democrats-to-embrace-their-inner-mcconnell/

"Among these fixes would include but not be limited to:

1) Making election day a federal holiday, and perhaps moving it from Tuesday to a weekend.

2) Pushing a majority of states to sign onto the National Popular Vote compact.

2) Securing statehood for Washington DC and Puerto Rico, thereby securing representation for those citizens while limiting the overrepresentation of rural white conservative states in the Senate.

3) Limiting gerrymandering and voter suppression by states in whatever ways are constitutionally possible, including by pressing for non-partisan districting commissions, automatic voter registration, full vote by mail systems, paper ballots with paper trails and more.

4) Securing responsible immigration reform and a rapid pathway to citizenship.

5) Adding more justices to both the appellate courts and Supreme Court."

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ask a "Conservative" just exactly what is it that they are trying to "conserve?"



I've lived in Georgia for a while now, and it always confounds me that every single Republican running for office in this State desperately seeks the mantle of being a "Conservative," while no one running against them ever seems to want to own the label of "Liberal." As anyone who owns a dictionary or has access to the internet knows, being a liberal should not just be a good thing- it should be a remarkable, commendable appellation. Here's just a few of the definitions:

"marked by generosity: openhanded a liberal giver"

"broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms"

"the freedom of the individual and governmental guarantees of individual rights and liberties."

"favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs."

"a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom,"

So what's wrong with any of that? Answer: nothing.

By contrast, self described Conservatives in the 21st century don't appear to want to "conserve" anything except political power and monetary wealth among self selected elites- typically white, Christian, already wealthy, descended from western European ancestors.

They don't want to conserve the environment- they want to open up public lands for mining, drilling, clear cutting, and use by the wealthy and large corporations. They want to allow air pollution and water pollution by fossil fuel energy companies.

They want to gut social programs that provide sustenance to the poor, the sick, the elderly. They want to gut public education and transfer taxpayer dollars to private schools attended by the wealthy. They want to increase abortions by killing Planned Parenthood while pretending to oppose abortion rights-- that's one battle they never want to win- they want the issue to rouse their supporters to the polls, because if they ever manage to ban abortion throughout the country, that will leave them exactly one single issue block of voters- the gun rights fanatics.

So in 2018 the word "conservative" no longer means resisting change. Instead, it typically means instituting radical changes to our government and our culture- and only changes that will hurt the maximum number of people who don't look like them, talk like them, and worship like them. It means subscribing to a leader whose style includes nothing but gross insults and personally disgusting behavior, coupled with a spectacular amount of ignorance of science, history, geography, spelling, and grammar.

I propose we rename "Conservatives" and call them what they are in actuality: "Radical Christian Jihadists bent on destroying American values and weakening this country." Or "RCJ's" for short. Or just "Trumpers."