Witch hunt! Notes and details

I have written harshly about  the president from time to time.   It is partly in reaction to his frequent, reckless spouting of “alternative facts” and partly the hard-line partisans he appoints and the damaging policies he promotes.   Still, like all Americans, he deserves a fair trial, so let me point out that nothing has ever been proved about this man or his character that disqualifies him as commander-in-chief.

You can say paying $25,000,000 to defrauded customers of his now-defunct Trump University is an admission that one of his self-named companies committed fraud on a large scale.   The jury’s out (of the picture), the settlement terms are not public, or if so, are very boring, outside of the amount he paid (“pennies on the dollar”) and that he admitted no wrongdoing in settling the class actions [1].

You can attack his now shuttered Trump Foundation the same way.   You are free to draw any conclusions you want, but they are not legal conclusions, nobody is going to jail.

This is even more true for the assumptions flowing from the criminal convictions of several of his confidants, including his longtime personal lawyer and his former campaign manager.  

His “fixer” Michael Cohen  was convicted of tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and lying to Congress.   How any of this has anything to do with his boss, Mr. Trump, has yet to be shown.  It is a huge leap, to say that the CEO of a closely held family business, even one famous for its CEO making every decision, was involved in any of the illegality his unprincipled personal lawyer is going to prison for.

The same goes for his one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort.  He’s been convicted of tax fraud and bank fraud and made his situation worse by lying to federal investigators, violating his deal with them by sharing details of the ongoing Mueller probe with the president and his lawyers.   Sure Manafort pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States” and witness tampering, but how does this make Mr. Trump guilty of anything?   Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager for only two months, for godsake!

It may look suspicious, sure, that Manafort had many dealings, continuing through the short time he was managing the Trump presidential campaign (for free), with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, the man known as Mr. Putin’s favorite oligarch.   Is it illegal now to be friends with a Russian billionaire?

It may be illegal to commit bank fraud, to commit tax fraud, to tamper with witnesses, to lie to federal investigators.  It might be stupid to violate the terms of a deal with the Special Counsel, but, again, what does any of this have to do, specifically, with Donald J. Trump?  Just because some of these illegal acts appear to have been done to benefit Mr. Trump, why is that his fault?

Also, it’s not as though Trump is such an outlier as president, every president does things some people think are bad.  

Ronald Reagan’s two terms were clouded by the illegal sale of arms to Iran that illegally funded the Contra death squads (“freedom fighters”) in Central America, though he was personally untouched by it (due, in part, to his affability and the increasing perception that he was senile).   Reagan retained his popularity and his successor were generous with presidential pardons that pretty much neutralized the scandalous conspiracy, undertaken in the name of freedom by a small group of patriots like the current head of the NRA, Oliver North.  

One of George HW Bush’s last acts as president was pardoning Iran-Contra principal, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, on the eve of a trial that would have likely implicated Bush in the illegality.  

Bill Clinton signed off on the end of Glass-Steagall, resulting in the financial disaster a few years later.  He signed bills that tightened already strict Welfare qualifications and vastly increased the incarcerated population of the United States.  He also, famously, lied under oath about a series of blow jobs he received while president.   Thanks to Ken Starr’s diligent, unredacted report, posted on-line, children in America also learned that their perjury-committing president also inserted an unlit cigar in the young woman’s vagina, and then lewdly put it in his mouth.

George W. Bush brought back torture and turned worldwide sympathy for the US after the 9/11 attack to worldwide fear of the US, after he unleashed the perpetual, borderless War on Terror, starting with the invasions and long-term occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.   He was the first American president to maintain an active kill list and execute suspects extrajudicially, by drone.   His administration engaged in widespread illegal surveillance of millions of Americans and covered this up.   He cut taxes to the rich, unsuccessfully lobbied to end Social Security and left office with a record low approval rating.

Barak Obama used the 1917 Espionage Act, more than all past presidents combined, to threaten and intimidate the press.   He also gave wonderful speeches about the importance of government transparency and accountability.  He expanded George W. Bush’s international secret drone war, killing suspects and civilians in many countries.   Obama was the first to cooly execute American citizens without trial, or even charges.  He gave speeches that warmed the hearts of millions while always serving his corporate and financial constituency.   He gave a good speech as he lied to the people of Flynt, Michigan about their toxic drinking water being perfectly safe to drink (and pretending to drink it, to the horror of his Flynt audience and later during his press conference).   Obama used executive orders more than most presidents (and, in fairness to him, he had rigid, amoral Mitch McConnell and a hard-line “tea party” Congress to impede him every step of the way), even once invoking emergency powers.

So, just because Trump has been closely associated with a large number of people indicted for felonies, and a few convicted for serious crimes, doesn’t automatically make him a bad person or a guilty one.  It’s easy for someone like me to hate the rich, and revile their unaccountable privilege.   The president deserves a fair trial, and hopefully a long prison sentence. 

The question of whether he can pardon himself, preemptively (as in HW Bush’s pre-trial pardon of Caspar Weinberger, who could implicated him in the criminal conspiracy), is an interesting one that Boof Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch (Trump’s replacements for the less doctrinaire Merrick Garland) will consider fairly, as will Attorney General William Barr, the impartial legal mind who helped George HW Bush with the pardons of Elliott Abrams, Caspar Weinberger and other defenders of freedom (whatever Congress may have said about the illegality of their specific acts)  back in the winter of 1992.

As always, we are a nation of laws, not lynch mobs, except as needed.

 

[1]  USA Today:   

Trump claimed as a candidate that he “never” settled lawsuits, and would not do so in the case of Trump University. “That’s why I won’t settle,” Trump told MSNBC in 2016. “Because it’s an easy case to win in court … How do you settle a case like that?”

But Trump entered settlement talks days after the 2016 election, agreeing to pay the millions under terms that let him admit no wrongdoing.

 

If now is not the time to get political, when is the time?

Germany, 1932, my fellow Americans.   Bury your head in distraction at your own peril, and your children’s.

The unthinkable becomes normalized by endless repetition through a giant, stinking megaphone.  If the lying mass media was actually publishing fake news about the president, the litigious, thin-skinned dotard-in-chief would have multiple front-page lawsuits against the many libeling liars who regularly, if measuredly, contradict his strikingly alternative facts, his often outright lies.  

How about the failing New York Times writing in detail about his unethical father’s many frauds to avoid paying tax, so he could pass $400,000,000 on tax-free to his little self-made second son?   Didn’t the president win a huge lawsuit and put those lying fucks out of business?  Yeah, he did, I remember that now.  That’s why the NY Times no longer publishes their failing scandal rag.

National emergency?   Seriously, your recent thirty-five day long Christmas and well into the new year temper tantrum wasn’t taken seriously enough, boss?  You want real emergencies?   How about 1,200 school children shot to death, at school, during the one year since the Valentine’s Day mass-murder at the high school in Parkland, Florida; a thousand times that number, the survivors, best friends of the victims, traumatized for life.     Dead veterans, dead by their own hand, in unthinkable numbers, year after year, heroes we thank for their service, dying out of despair, succumbing to hopelessness.   More Americans dead of opioid overdoses last year than died in car crashes and all alcohol related accidents, or even shot to death.  Climate catastrophe already delivering one deadly, devastating hundred or five hundred year storm after another, while one part of your administration denies the findings of another part (the scientists).  How about pick one of those actual emergencies, boss?

The sudden “National Emergency” of a below-average (forty year low) annual number of attempted illegal border crossings at our southern border — you are certainly shitting us, vindictive, pouting, brazen, scheming, floundering Mr. President, sir.   (Interested readers really should read the transcript linked here to see what a national disaster this “emergency” by presidential fiat could become.)  

Of course, if you can get away with this gambit, sir, declaring an emergency you admit is not urgent to circumvent the democratic will of the so-called People expressed through their so-called elected representatives in Congress, the future suddenly looks much brighter for you, Mr. President, sir.   An emergency order banning public protest, recruiting and funding so-called Death Squads in Venezuela (Elliott Abrams is the perfect experienced man for this job, as you know, sir), or anywhere, really, banning whatever you perceive as a threat to your power. Go for it, sir.

Many people see this guy as the villain of the worst Batman movie of all-time, a falsely inflated 39% on Rotten Tomatoes.   Raining revenge from a gold tower named after himself, recruiting iron-willed Turtleman and other powerful extremists to secure a record number of  loyal Federalist federal judges appointed for life to support his autocratic whims and subvert the will of the 71% who think his movie sucks and he is the worst comic book villain of recent memory. A villain who scrawls his comically large signature on executive orders he himself freely ignores.

Trump signed an executive order stating that people working in his administration must not have been lobbyists for any part of the two years prior to their appointment.  His new Secretary of the Interior is in violation of this order, Trump has absolutely no problem with that.  

As for the predecessor Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, he was forced to resign in disgrace amid numerous scandals and investigations  — but it didn’t take the former governor long to slither into a lucrative post at a top DC lobbying firm (that’s Washington, DC, not DC comics, sadly).    Not long at all, in fact.  Like a couple of months.  

Zinke is a lobbyist for the same high powered Washington firm as Trump’s former (and later angrily fired, by Don Jr.) campaign manager — the one who isn’t headed for prison, or an Elliott Abrams style presidential pardon (speaking of current AG William Barr, who worked on that and five other pardons including a pre-trial pardon for an accused Iran-Contra principal who likely would have implicated George HW Bush during his trial [1]), the former campaign manager not convicted of serious crimes, and subsequently lying to the Special Prosecutor after making a cooperation deal with him. 

Amy Goodman spoke to a man today who pays close attention to this sort of thing and heads an organization fighting this kind of rogue shit.  He said this (after analyzing and laying out the real dangers if the president is able to get away with this groundless, cynical Emergency Decree):

ROBERT WEISSMAN: Well, this is one of just the most amazing, but now normalized, features of the Trump administration. What we’ve seen, in agency after agency, is they have a scandal at the Cabinet level, the Cabinet official is forced out, and he—it’s always been a he—is replaced by a lobbyist. So, their response to ethics challenges in the Trump administration is to hire lobbyists who worked on the agency that they’re now going to be in charge of.

That happened at EPA, where there’s a coal lobbyist in charge, replacing Pruitt. It happened at HHS, the Health and Human Services Department, where Tom Price was replaced by a former executive of a drug company; and now at the Department of Interior, where an oil lobbyist comes in to take over for Ryan Zinke, who, as you just mentioned, by the way, leaves the department and goes and becomes a lobbyist himself. This guy, Bernhardt…  source

If you’re not paying attention to politics now, not getting involved in organizing to oppose this lying, authoritarian grifter, his slimey ilk and all they stand for — what on Jesus Christ’s good, green earth is it going to take?

 

[1]  

The Republican independent counsel [Lawrence Walsh] infuriated the GOP when he submitted a second indictment of Weinberger on the Friday before the 1992 elections. The indictment contained documents revealing that President Bush had been lying for years with his claim that he was “out of the loop” on the Iran/Contra decisions. The ensuing furor dominated the last several days of the campaign and sealed Bush’s defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton.

Walsh had discovered, too, that Bush had withheld his own notes about the Iran/Contra Affair, a discovery that elevated the President to a possible criminal subject of the investigation. But Bush had one more weapon in his arsenal. On Christmas Eve 1992, Bush destroyed the Iran/Contra probe once and for all by pardoning Weinberger and five other convicted or indicted defendants.

source

Boof Kavanaugh writes the dissent

The lying bully who, one must assume, told his ultra-right wing nominee, during the nominee’s day long visit to the White House immediately prior to the hearing where Christine Blasey-Ford testified, to fucking man up and face down the women accusing him of serious impropriety if he wanted to be on the Supreme Court, showed his great compassion during the State of the Union by attacking states who have enacted laws to protect a woman’s right to abortion.  He described the monsters in New York who recently cheered in delight (according to POTUS) a new law protecting the horrific practice of ripping beautiful babies from their mother’s wombs moments before birth, depriving these living, feeling, beautiful babies of ever getting to share their love and their dreams with the world.

This is a well-worn right wing pander to religious Christians who believe abortion is murder, no matter what– even to save the life of the mother–  and vote en masse for politicians who speak this clear “Pro Life” language.   I doubt that any woman ever decides to have an abortion casually.   It is likely a wrenching decision each time, more so in a late term abortion when the decision must be excruciating.   Of the 1% of abortions that are late term, virtually all involve extreme danger to the life of the mother or fetal anomalies that ensure the newborn will not survive.   Yet, for the pandering partisan, the question is always starkly black and white, reduced to an immutable religious belief, the direct command of Jesus Christ himself.   God has spoken about the eternal souls of the unborn, who will spend eternity in hell unless born and baptized.   As for those precious souls after they’re born, well, you bitches are kind of on your own.   As the icon Ronald Reagan famously said “the right to life ends at birth.”  

The president advocated for these feeling, beautiful babies, as we’d want anyone to, in the abstract like that.  “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life,” somebody wrote for the president and he delivered the line to thunderous applause.   When the applause died down he added another nicely written line: “and let us reaffirm a fundamental truth, all children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God.”  As always with this president, there is the jarring and obvious disconnect.  The lives, rights and feelings of “illegal” children forcibly separated from raping, terrorist, drug smuggling parents at our southern border, well… that’s totally different, nothing innocent, cherishable or holy about those alien invaders.  

Though he didn’t mention those traumatized children of asylum seekers, for obvious reasons, his position is well known: those fucking animals need to be kept in cages, while good Christian fetuses must be protected from blood thirsty “humanists” at all costs (though until recently branding himself as a conservative Trump supported a woman’s right to choose, oddly enough).   The young alien children locked up in warehouses are just getting what they deserve.  Same for those little fucks in Yemen dying of preventable diseases and malnutrition — Saudis pay a lot of money for American weapons, BILLIONS, it creates millions of American jobs!  Same for poor kids here, they should have had the sense to be born to rich families!

The lying nominee, one Boof (“flatulence”) Kavanaugh, who artlessly equivocated about Rowe v. Wade being settled law, predictably voted yesterday to uphold a Louisiana law, almost identical to a Texas law held to be unconstitutional in 2016,  that would have made abortion all but unavailable to poor women in Louisiana (rich ones can always fly to a neighboring state or country where the procedure is legal and safe).   When the new voice of reason on the Supreme Court, corporatist Chief Justice John Roberts, joined the four non-Federalist Society endorsed justices in finding the anti-abortion law does not yet meet constitutional standards, Boof wrote the dissent.   Should be an interesting read.

I have many reasons for hating fucking Boof.   For one thing, he’s a prevaricator.  That is, a person who speaks falsely, a liar. a person who speaks so as to avoid the precise truth, a quibbler, an equivocator.   He engaged in cant, misdirection, cavil, ad hominem attacks, glaring silences as the clock ticked, partisan rants, tears.  He invented new definitions for things he was embarrassed about on his prep school yearbook page, like “boof” (the practice of imbibing alcohol through a tube placed in the rectum — or, as he defined it, flatulence) and “devil’s triangle” (sex involving two men and a woman, or, in his words, a drinking game involving three tiny shots of beer, you know, senator, like Pope, Donkey, Whore, or Tits and Two Dicks?).  He explained that claiming to have banged Renata (a signatory of the letter from affluent women attesting to his impeccable character)  was actually a reference to how proud and honored he’d been to have chastely danced with her once and been allowed to give her a kiss (she hotly denied this).  

And, sure, he quietly passed out from beer, just beer, like anybody does.  He remembers everything, he said confidently, 100%.   He was never a black-out drunk or had any kind of drinking problem.  Were you a black-out drunk, senator bitch?   My fucking wife is a Christian, OK?!!!

As for the traumatized woman who, with nothing whatsoever to gain and everything to lose (and who, along with her family, has paid a steep personal price), testified about his traumatizing behavior, well… she was just part of a calculated, orchestrated, well-financed Clinton-backed cabal of extremists who hate him because he loves God and his family and doesn’t believe any of that godless crap they preach.   As for the official Catholic publication in America removing their endorsement of him, or the similar American Bar Association position that, in light of these serious allegations, Boof needed to remove his name from nomination– George fucking Soros!

Boof Kavanaugh is the personification of pugnacious, whining, unaccountable privilege.  Just like the man who provocatively nominated him ahead of many equally qualified ultra-conservative candidates who were not also complete assholes.  Then, when multiple credible accusations about his character and judicial fitness were raised, the man who nominated him did the only thing he knows how to do: double down.  Boof then did the best he could to angrily convince the country, in a strikingly petulant and nonjudicial manner, that he is not exactly what he strongly appears to be.  He only had to convince a couple of Republican senators, actually, and he did “at least a good enough job” (as he said about his testimony before Soros and co. hired this liar for hire to smear his good name)  to get a narrow, party line nod.

It is more likely than not that a collegiate Boof drunkenly thrust his dick in a woman’s face at a party in Yale — the FBI never enquired or talked to the many witnesses who came forward to talk about the incident.   It seems probable that Boof and his friend Mark, another committed beer drinker, while in their elite prep school, locked a younger teenager in a room and groped her while drunkenly trying to remove her clothes.   He fell off her at one point and she made her escape, amid the uproarious laughter of her gleefully inebriated attackers.  His face drunkenly hovering over her’s and this laughter are indelibly imprinted on this now adult woman’s hippocampus.  Nobody who heard her testify believed that she was lying.   The only out was a lie about her being paid to spin a false story by those who hate our freedom.    Boof wrote the speech about that himself, laying out the vast partisan conspiracy against him, vicious people intent on destroying his life.

Boof writes the dissent in support of  the first anti-abortion law to come before him on the Supreme Court.   A woman has no rights to abortion in Louisiana because, blah blah blah.  The constitution says so.  So does Jesus Christ himself.   So do I.

Once our corrupt, lying president is out of office, however that comes about, his angry turd will remain on the bench of the Supreme Court for the rest of that young turd’s life.   What do we do about that?

The Usefulness of the Passive Voice

“The passive voice should be avoided,” we are told by those who use the thing they warn against to warn us of things.   The passive voice states things in a neutral sounding way — as if they just happened, not as if somebody affirmatively did the thing being passively described.   First year law school students are taught that there is only one situation in which it is desirable to use the passive voice, making an argument to defend a guilty client.   

If your client has without question done wrong, use the passive voice to describe the wrongdoing.  He stabbed somebody, and this is a fact you can’t argue away; to maintain your credibility as his defender you must admit it.  So use the passive voice, in passing, to admit this damaging fact while defending him.   Law students are instructed, in a case like this, to bury the unavoidable admission in the middle of a paragraph otherwise favorable to your client, and phrase it in the passive voice.   “…the victim was stabbed with my client’s knife…” reads much better than “admittedly, my client repeatedly stabbed the victim”.

The passive voice is used reflexively in such situations by ordinary citizens, it is ubiquitous in non-apologies.  It phrases a reality in a way that puts no emphasis on who did what, places no blame or burden on anyone for their actions.   Refer to the hurtful incident as “that thing that happened”, a misunderstanding, not something anyone did to anyone.   Shit happens, asshole!

Jeremy Scahill, in today’s Intercepted podcast, illustrating longtime US callousness about killing civilians anywhere, played a clip of anti-fascist Trump resister former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (then US Ambassador to the UN) talking about the dire US supported sanctions against Iraq.   The sanctions, started under recently lionized president George H.W. Bush and continued for 13 years by Bill Clinton and Bush II, until after the second U.S. invasion of Iraq, had disastrous effects on the people of Iraq, though they had little effect on the rulers and the wealthiest Iraqis.

Wikipedia:  High rates of malnutrition, lack of medical supplies, and diseases from lack of clean water were reported during sanctions.[27] In 2001, the chairman of the Iraqi Medical Association’s scientific committee sent a plea to the BMJ to help it raise awareness of the disastrous effects the sanctions were having on the Iraqi healthcare system.[28]   

It appears undisputed that per capita income of Iraqis fell by more than 80% during the first few years of sanctions, and that most Iraqis were rationed 1,000 calories of food a day, good for weight loss, bad for overall health, particularly the health of growing children.  There was also a high incidence of diarrhea in children, never a good indicator of a child’s prospects. [1]

In answer to Lesley Stahl’s “loaded” question about the sanctions on a May 12, 1996 segment of CBS’s 60 Minutes (a question that used the passive voice) then Ambassador Albright gave a reply she quickly regretted giving on national TV. 

Stahl: We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, are… is the price worth it?

Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.

Of course, it turns out we were dealing with master propagandist Saddam Hussein who shamelessly, grossly inflated the child death totals.  It is likely that less than half that number of children died, probably less than a quarter of that inflated total, perhaps no more than a tenth of that horrific number.   Notice that the previous sentence nonchalantly uses the passive voice, the children simply “died”, nobody did anything to them.  

It is likely that as a result of the UN Security Council sanctions, backed by US military support, even less than fifty thousand Iraqi children were killed.   To put it more clearly: we probably killed far fewer than 50,000 Iraqi children, directly or indirectly.   Other estimates and three later UN studies put the number much, much lower, even suggesting that no additional children were killed by the crippling sanctions.  

Besides, everybody knows Saddam was a fucking liar!    Madeline Albright said she’d been ambushed by Lesley Stahl (who won an Emmy for that segment) and used to spread Saddam’s unconscionable propaganda.

Say the UN sanctions enforced by US military might had killed a mere thousand Iraqi babies.   That discounted price would be worth it, wouldn’t it?   Especially in light of the great benefits achieved by the sanctions.   Believe that and I’ll tell you who you voted for in 2016 (either candidate, actually).

I made the mistake of listening in on some of the president’s rambling, predictable State of the Union speech last night.   What shocked me was the continual roar of the crowd in Congress.   The roar was continuous, a wave as irresistible as the frenzied cheering at one of Trump’s exciting campaign rallies.   I was half-waiting for a chant of “Seig Heil!” to break out, because that’s how ecstatic the crowd sounded, rising to roar their approval of even the most dubious claims the practiced liar was making.  

Then the president modulated his voice into its most conciliatory sounding tones to announce the record number of women in the US workforce, including the record number of women who had been elected to Congress (most of them running hard against his policies and him personally).  The crowd of government officials went wild.  The newly elected women, most of them dressed in white and sitting in a bloc, rose to acknowledge the indisputable fact that women, who the president stated work in 58% of the new jobs created in America last year, now comprise nearly 23% of the federal legislature.

Then, as the women stood, it happened.  The chant began, as robustly as at the most passionate Trump rally in the shattered heart of Trump country.   Our elected officials began a full-throated chant of “USA! USA!” and I felt the vomit rising in my throat, had to shut that shit off.   As I walked I began to wonder how many Venezuelan children are going to have to die so that we can have freedom on the march again?

 

[1]     Wikipedia:     Shortly after the sanctions were imposed, the Iraqi government developed a system of free food rations consisting of 1000 calories per person/day or 40% of the daily requirements, on which an estimated 60% of the population relied for a vital part of their sustenance. With the introduction of the Oil-for-Food Programme in 1997, this situation gradually improved. In May 2000 a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) survey noted that almost half the children under 5 years suffered from diarrhoea, in a country where the population is marked by its youth, with 45% being under 14 years of age in 2000. Power shortages, lack of spare parts and insufficient technical know-how lead to the breakdown of many modern facilities.[29] The per capita income in Iraq dropped from $3510 in 1989 to $450 in 1996, heavily influenced by the rapid devaluation of the Iraqi dinar.[29]

Iraq had been one of the few countries in the Middle East that invested in women’s education. But this situation changed from the late eighties on with increasing militarisation and a declining economic situation. Consequently, the economic hardships and war casualties in the last decades have increased the number of women-headed households and working women.[29]

Mind skittering, crablike, over the littered ocean floor

Learned a neat Django lick from Robin Nolan on youtube, a riff that uses several of the classic chord embellishments Django probably invented.  After re-reading a few pages of one of Charles Johnson’s books, and being struck by the line in his paragraph bio that he was, among other things, a cartoonist, I looked him up online. Johnson is a brilliant writer I’ve long admired, he’s admired by everyone else too, it emerges. Read The Middle Passage or Dreamer and you’ll see what I mean.   Read his biography on Wikipedia and you’ll say “no wonder the man writes like a genius.”   Who knew he started as a prolific young cartoonist who has been practicing martial arts and studying Eastern religions for the last fifty years, taking a few years to get a PhD in philosophy?

Earlier today I’d heard about the overturning, on Tenth Amendment grounds (states retain all rights not enumerated for the federal government), of the 1916 Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, the federal government’s first attempt to regulate child labor by invoking its powers under the Commerce Clause.   Since the product of child labor goes into the stream of interstate commerce, the law signed by Woodrow Wilson stated, federal law overrules any state state law that allows employment of any child younger than fourteen, or working someone between fourteen and sixteen for more than eight hours a day, nor can employers start the child’s working day before six a.m. or end it after seven p.m. [1]  The law went into effect September 1, 1917 and was in effect for nine months (nice irony there in the law lasting the gestation period for producing a new child laborer) before the Supreme Court struck it down in Hammer v. Dagenhart.  

That case was brought by the Roland Dagenhart, father of two Dagenhart kids who worked with him in a North Carolina cotton mill, six days a week from sunrise til ten p.m.    Roland stood to lose a lot of income if his young children were not allowed to work with him.    The Supreme Court, in 1918, agreed, on multiple grounds, that the Child Labor Act was repugnant to the Constitution.  

Oliver Wendell Holmes dissented, and his view would carry the day more than twenty years later when Hammer v. Dagenhart was overruled (paving the way for federal intervention in civil rights cases using the Commerce Clause).    After all his legal arguments, Holmes added (according the Wikipedia):

“But if there is any matter upon which civilized countries have agreed – it is the evil of premature and excessive child labor.”

Civilized countries, oh boy, there we go again!   We can’t torture, we can’t make six year-olds work all day, and into the night, to help support their families, we can’t use poison gas in warfare any more, we can’t decide who will, and who won’t use our public bathrooms, can’t lynch uppity, guilty troublemakers who threaten the peace by offending our morals, we can’t even use the damned n-word anymore!   Hand me my MAGA hat, boy, there’s work to be done!

My mind skitters and I see the worried faces of several people, over dinner last night, furrowing their brows over what they see as the certainty of another four years of Trumpocracy after the 2020 election.   They saw their fear clearly as inevitable, Americans are credulous idiots, we elected him, nobody can beat him.  Look what he did to the rest of that busload of Republican nominees before the bully juggernaut steamrolled his way to the candidacy, then the presidency!   

Look at history, also.   We may learn little from it, but we sometimes take a good lesson here and there.   In 1918 the Supreme Court decided child labor was a matter for each state to rule on.   By 1941 there was a widely supported federal statute regulating child (and all) labor on the books for several years (my father, born in 1924, was 14 when the Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect) and a Supreme Court decision specifically overruling the 1918 ruling that employing seven year-olds for 16 hours a day was perfectly fine if an individual state said it was perfectly fine.  The new principle was that the federal government could intervene in state practices whenever interstate commerce was affected.  This nation still, every so often, uses law to fix a longstanding injustice or take down a major league asshole or a president who is a crook.

Things change, although the pendulum of history, which is supposed to swing regularly from reform to reaction and back, has been as stubborn as a French Bulldog straining toward reaction during most of my lifetime, but– looky here.   Slavery is today unthinkable in the USA (though it’s still practiced worldwide, apparently, and convict slave labor is a problem here too, for convicts), so is putting seven year olds to work sixty hours a week in factories (though it’s done in places seeking competitive advantage with the global psychopaths who pursue a morals-free bottom line).   Common things, things we take as given, change in the minds of people and nations.     The difficult part is persuading people of the right way, the civilized way, the enlightened way.   We have twelve years to figure it out, climate scientists tell us.  Hard work ahead.

I sit here every day, trying to talk sense to myself as I tap these keys.  It is sadder than a lot of things, I suppose, this writing out my thoughts for my own use, but also less sad than many things.   I don’t ponder how sad or happy it is, I think only of its value to me, its possible use to others.   The mind skitters, I pick up a calligraphy pen and write a few words, which delights my senses in another way.  I pick up the guitar, at the ready in a stand right by where I write.   Let me practice that Django riff again, get it under my hands, up to speed.  Play it in another position, another key, there you go.

How my life looks to others, I have little sense of that.   A mystery, no doubt.  Is a life really less mysterious if you go to work everyday, do a job, get money, buy things, spend $200 a seat to see a living miracle on Broadway, put another $100 on the card to have a nice dinner after that?  That too is a mystery, like much of this arrangement here.  

Is it any wonder, not doing those seemingly reasonable things, that I sit here today, mind skittering like a hopped up crab on the littered sea bed, vying with a million other hopped up crabs?

 

[1] The Keating-Owen Act of 1916 prohibited interstate commerce of any merchandise that had been made by children under the age of fourteen, or merchandise that had been made in factories where children between the ages of 14 and 16 worked for more than eight hours a day, worked overnight, or worked more than sixty hours a week

Limiting the scope of an investigation

Because people feel so harried all the time these days, pressures mounting, attention spans shrinking, the 24/7 news bombardment as constant as the ever more personalized commercial come-ons, because the demands on our time are so relentless, few inquiries are ever carried out as thoroughly as they need to be, for best results.   We deal with vexations by triage, finding ways to relieve the most immediate and pressing tensions and moving on to other things.   It works to keep things going as they are, though it seldom leads to anything better than that.

During an interview with the New York Times reporters who researched and wrote the massive story of the Trump family’s long history of tax avoidance schemes, including outright fraud, the reporters were asked what the single most important aspect of their investigation was.   “Time,” they both said at once.  

Time is needed to complete any thoughtful research project, to follow where the new information points, to verify, to do more research, find corroboration, interview new witnesses, review new evidence, follow the leads from the new evidence.  Time is needed to refine the final product, eliminate avoidable errors and slapdash conclusions.  In the case of a newspaper, it takes time to run everything you plan to report past the lawyers who then have to review everything prior to publication.

The time and care the Times took in researching and writing that massive article on Trump’s family fortune is what enabled them to print and cheerily brush right past Trump’s lawyer’s empty threat:

20181029_184055 (1).jpg

We learned the other day that the FBI seized a tremendous cache of hard drives, computers, phones, reams of digitally stored information in the raid on Trump political adviser Roger Stone’s home last week.  They also seized bank records.   The raid came shortly after interim Attorney General Matthew Whitaker addressed the nation and sweatily announced that the Mueller probe was reaching its conclusion and would be wrapped up soon.

Clearly, the timeline has now changed for any final report from Mueller, as this trove of potential evidence in the Roger Stone criminal case is reviewed.  I heard a knowledgable talking head say yesterday that while the Roger Stone chapter, which ties many themes together, is likely the last one in the Mueller report, the final chapter could be a long one, comprising maybe a third of the final book.

Once again my mind flashed on the farcical five day limited FBI investigation into credible and specific allegations against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.   The FBI, we were told, had already investigated Mr. Kavanaugh numerous times and found nothing, no hint of impropriety of any kind.  That these allegations by Christine Blasey-Ford were being made for the first time in the fall of 2018 did nothing to quiet the indignant Republican chorus about how many times this good family man, this fine Christian jurist, had already been investigated by the FBI and found spotless.   The 51-49 majority finally struck a deal, bravely negotiated by the supremely spineless Jeff Flake, where they allowed a limited week long FBI investigation, for the sake of fairness.  

While the limited investigation was going on, the president entertained supporters at his campaign rallies by mocking Kavanaugh’s accuser about not being able to remember anything about the incident.  Never mind the many specific details she did testify to — according to the Mocker-in-Chief she didn’t know where, when, what, how, who, ha ha!  

Nobody who volunteered to speak to the FBI about the college incident where a drunken Kavanaugh allegedly exposed himself to a fellow student at a party at Yale was interviewed.  Almost nobody was interviewed in connection with the incident Blasey-Ford testified about during that less than week long investigation, no leads were followed, the FBI’s report on its extremely limited inquiry was kept from the public, though it concluded that the few people they spoke to had not corroborated anything, THE END.  Fair is fair, now we vote!

I was thinking at the time how helpful it would have been to the investigation if the floor plan of the house where the alleged attack took place had been verified, the home located.  Skeech, or Stinky, or one of Brett’s other little hard drinking prep-school buddies, may have had a home with the floor plan Blasey-Ford described in some detail in her testimony.   The stairs leading up, the bedroom door right there, on the right, directly across from the bathroom on the left.   Once the house was located, all kinds of other inquiries could have been followed.   Blasey-Ford remembered her attacker because he was not a stranger at the time of the attack she described.  She had met him before, knew his name, his face.  But she was also not interviewed by the FBI.  Shit, they only had a few days and she’d already done enough damage to a great American in her public testimony.  

Not to mention that Kavanaugh’s full defense of himself after Blasey-Ford testified was that he was the victim of a calculated and well-financed left wing smear job,  He even cried a few times to show how unfair this orchestrated partisan attack had been to him, his good name, his fine family, his lifelong dream of a seat on the Supreme Court, his Lord and savior.

I don’t expect Republicans to suddenly develop spines, or Democrats either, for that matter.   The FBI has a checkered past, a lot of it shameful, so I don’t look for high moral standards there either.  It’s up to we the public to make enough noise, to demonstrate the determined public opinion that democracy, no matter what it may have been in the past, is not a few rich twats deciding how much freedom, information and liberty the rest of us get.   Organizing this will take tremendous concerted effort, strategic brilliance, grit and time.  Time, of course, is running out as the clock itself is constantly being run out on so many things in a stressed-out nation with no memory of things that happened two weeks ago, let alone a decade or more in the past.

 

A Nice Case for Impeaching the Motherfucker

The author of this recent piece in The Atlantic makes an excellent case for beginning the impeachment process against Donald J. Trump.   The article by Yoni Appelbaum is here.  Appelbaum points out that the impeachment mechanism was put in place by the founders to provide a constitutional way to rein in an obnoxious president, and, when 2/3 of the Senate agrees with the case made by the House, after proof of the facts alleged, in a public trial where sworn testimony is heard and documents are put into evidence, remove that unfit president from office.  

This is precisely what needs to be done now, particularly after this obnoxious, unfit president rashly shut down the government and unthinkingly burned $11,000,000,000 for working Americans, causing massive suffering to stage a 35 day public temper tantrum, before he agreed to a three week reprieve, threatening to do the same thing again if he does not get what he is demanding.   It is time to put his unrestrained presidency on the defensive and lay out, officially and publicly, the many reasons he’s unfit for office.  

Remove him from office [1] or not, the impeachment process is an important part of our troubled checks and balances system.   It is the constitutional tool intended for the purpose of, at  minimum, restraining an unrestrained president. Impeachment should begin now, my fellow Americans.

I always enjoy a bit of historical perspective, and learning something new that adds to that perspective.  Here, from Appelbaum, is a contemporary of Andrew Johnson’s, writing about that historically crude, vulgar, egotistical president, the first in history to have presidential vetoes overridden by Congress [2], the first of only three to face impeachment:

The case before the United States in 1868 bears striking similarities to the case before the country now—and no president in history more resembles the 45th than the 17th. “The president of the United States,” E. P. Whipple wrote in this magazine in 1866, “has so singular a combination of defects for the office of a constitutional magistrate, that he could have obtained the opportunity to misrule the nation only by a visitation of Providence. Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat.” Johnson, he continued, was “egotistic to the point of mental disease” and had become “the prey of intriguers and sycophants.”

Those eerie echoes of history.   Time to impeach this motherfucker, for real.  Read the case Appelbaum makes.   It is hard to refute.

 

[1] As for those worried in the event Trump is impeached, convicted by the Senate and removed from office, about interim president Mike Pence, put that worry aside. Pence is a pale nonentity, placed in office by the Koch brothers who orchestrated the few political successes the unappealing Christian zealot has achieved.  Pence is an unpopular, squirm-inducing politician without charisma or charm, beyond the narrow Koch donor base.   He is unlikely, as lame duck president, to be able to do even a small fraction of the damage POTUS is currently doing.

[2]   As Congress should have done when Trump refused to sign the unanimous bill for keeping the government open that he’d previously signaled to vicious partisan enabler Mitch McConnell he would sign.   When Trump vetoed (by refusing to sign, the ‘pocket veto’ I suppose)  that unanimous bipartisan bill funding the government on an interim basis, Congress had a duty to act against a rash, vain, arbitrary president and prevent a senseless government shut down.   Congress did not act.  So much for checks and balances, Mitch, you rabid zealot.