Trump Irate After Navy Seeks to Discipline SEAL Eddie Gallagher, unfairly convicted of fake war crimes in Navy ‘kangaroo court’

SEAL Eddie Gallagher is Trump’s kind of platoon leader: 

Both defense attorneys and prosecutors agree that Gallagher’s relationship with his former platoon was growing increasingly acrimonious.

The SO1 sniper told NCIS that one of the SEAL SO1s who assisted Gallagher with the wounded detainee said the chief had begun threatening “to kill mother(expletives)” who accused him of wrongdoing.

Gallagher allegedly told two lieutenants and another chief that he had dirt “on all of them” and “would bring them all down” if they reported his war crimes, prosecutors wrote.

As more witnesses began reciting their allegations against the chief, prosecutors contend that Gallagher circulated their identities to others in the SEAL community “and encouraged them to disclose the names and blacklist them.”

That included Gallagher telling another platoon chief that “the rest of the platoon were afraid to go out on patrol during the deployment and they were all cowards,” according to the NCIS report about the SO1 sniper’s interview.

Three months ago, prosecutors argued that Gallagher “spread numerous rumors about his teammates to members of the SEAL community, describing them as cowards who were afraid to go out on missions during deployment and went so far as to tell the new chain of command for teammates who had transferred,” according to a filing provided to Navy Times.

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You can be sure POTUS didn’t need to hear even that much about the case to love the SEAL (or as Trump tweets “Seal”) the Navy was poised to remove from the elite unit after he was convicted of posing with the corpse of a teenager he was alleged to have stabbed to death moments before.  Gallagher was demoted by the Navy and lost some pay.

Gallagher is the kind of “take no prisoners” tough guy the draft evading, torture loving, Muslim banning president loves.  Trump would have been just like him, if only that podiatrist, a commercial tenant of his father’s, hadn’t kept diagnosing him with crippling bone spurs.  Trump championed Gallagher’s case, publicly praised him many times, restored his rank after the Navy demoted him, and also restored his lost pay.   Trump and close friend Sean Hannity made Gallagher a national hero on FOX News, and gave Gallagher the platform to plead his case that excessive zeal in war, alleged killing of a few girls, old men and so forth, is no vice, if done in the name of liberty and fighting TERROR .

So, while so many are openly and disloyally challenging the president’s exercise of his powers under Article II, the president rose up to assert his unappealable powers to insist the Navy leave this great, unfairly maligned, hero alone.   The Navy had other plans, citing Naval discipline, morale, protecting the reputation and honor of the elite Navy unit and allowing the SEAL command to have the final say on policing their own. 

The Commander-in-Chief heard enough from the whining bleeding hearts at the Navy and had his most recent Secretary of Defense, war veteran, top lobbyist for US weapons giant Raytheon, former beautician to the stars, and enthusiastic “Always Trumper!”, as one wag has it [1] fire the Secretary of the Navy, a man the Defense Secretary publicly denounced as both sneaky and disloyal.  

Some other unrelated, very troubling intel from that same Navy Times article:

This one involved what’s called a “switchblade drone” that was operated by the platoon on Aug. 1 that killed civilians in Tal Afar, according to legal filings.

Small enough to be transported in a backpack, the quiet, hovering UAVs can unleash tiny, but potent, missiles to blow up enemies, miles away from where operators are remotely piloting the drones.

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Picture the horrifying possibilities of that little baby, in the wrong hands.

 

 

[1] Nah, just kidding,Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has the finest credentials for his post, unusual in the current adminstration.

Unlike fellow top West Point graduate (same class) Mike Pompeo, Esper had a distinguished military career that included a good deal of combat for which he was decorated multiple times.  On leaving the military he took a very good job at the Koch Brothers’ Heritage Foundation and made his way into government service after a successful tenure as a top lobbyist for a top US weapons maker.

Before joining the Department of Defense, Esper was vice president of government relations at Raytheon, a major U.S. defense contractor.[3] During his time at Raytheon, Esper was recognized as a top corporate lobbyist by The Hill in 2015[4] and 2016.[5]

 

Periodic Digest # 1

I often have a hard time finding things I’ve written about on this website, even when searching by remembered key words.  I write virtually every day, on several different subjects, and pieces get mixed together and buried quickly.   I will try to post a digest from time to time to help readers, and myself, find some of the better things I’ve written lately.   Here are a few from the past week, click the title to read on:

PERSONAL

Take Your Inspiration Wherever You Find It

Here is a bit of inspiration for those who can take it. Admittedly, I’m not the typical hero of an inspirational story, I haven’t had that great heartwarming moment of underdog triumph we are used to seeing in movies, hearing about in author interviews on Fresh Air.  I have achieved little in the outside world, though my inner world, where I live most of the time, is a place I can recommend highly.  I offer this encouragement to follow your impulse to delve, imagine and create, and to go boldly where it leads.

 

A thought about my father’s talent for empathy

I was thinking about the mild, kind, nurturing side of my complicated father recently.   It was not his default setting, he was usually guarded and ready to attack if he felt in any way threatened, but it was a memorable side of him that needs to be brought out in describing him to you.  He was capable of great sensitivity and supportiveness, in the right emotionally threatening situation.   Anybody who ever found themselves in a tough spot, and was calmed by my father’s talent for using his great intelligence and warm humanism to relieve worry, will remember him gratefully.

 

Five Elements Soup

We discovered this delicious soup a few weeks back in a vegetarian Chinese joint called Zen Garden.  DEEE-licious broth, truly the most flavorful broth I’ve ever tasted.   It is also supposed to be very healthy.  This is how it’s described on the menu:

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Scientific drawing:

In the spirit of Leonardo Da Vinci 

 

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POLITICS

 

Cutting through Mueller’s legalese to draft articles of impeachment

The problem for the Trump impeachment is not a shortage of impeachable behavior, it’s an overwhelming ongoing pattern of high crimes and misdemeanors.  The challenge is putting the worst of it into a few easy to understand sentences, strong articles of impeachment subject to proof based on irrefutable evidence.

 

Bill Barr defends the Unitary Executive

In Bill Barr, president Trump has found his long sought Roy Cohn, the fiercest, most powerful attorney a president could have — Trump appointed him  head of the Department of Justice.  Barr has been tireless in protecting his boss.   He is currently traveling the world to assemble evidence that the Independent Counsel’s report, which according to Barr exonerated the president of all wrongdoing, was a partisan witch hunt– the six convicted close presidential aids charged pursuant to the investigation notwithstanding.

One more treasure from Bill Barr’s 11/15 speech to the Federalist Society

I can’t help it.   Just read the remainder of Barr’s recent remarks in detail  (looking for his apparent, and telling, ad lib about Secularists — not found in the original text) and this gem was too beautiful to ignore.  In arguing about how wrong it is for courts to second-guess the actions of a conservative president, he offers this:

 

 

Cutting through Mueller’s legalese to draft articles of impeachment

The problem for the Trump impeachment is not a shortage of impeachable behavior, it’s an overwhelming ongoing pattern of high crimes and misdemeanors.  The challenge is putting the worst of it into a few easy to understand sentences, articles of impeachment subject to proof based on irrefutable evidence. 

The Mueller report, contrary to Bill Barr’s deliberately misleading PR campaign and his authoritative-sounding legal pronouncements about “insufficient evidence” and exoneration, contains a large amount of sworn testimony about presidential abuses of power.   

The detailed pattern of corrupt acts, the terrible stories recited in the prosecutorially noncommittal, balletic legalese of the Mueller report, needs to be incorporated into the articles of impeachment.  The president’s reflexive pattern of corrupt behavior must be set out in all its dramatic detail, (he does exactly the same thing every time so it’s very easy to picture him doing all this). Two or three similar, dramatic instances of his ongoing abuse of his office should be offered to stand in for the rest.

There should be an article of impeachment about his ongoing obstruction, his blanket refusal to provide any information and his demand, using flagrant, inflammatory public social media and mass media intimidation, that  all subordinates continue to defy subpoenas and refuse to testify.   Floating pardons to those willing to persist in giving false, helpful testimony and attacking and threatening those “rats” who threaten to testify truthfully. 

These larger charges, along a host of others, recited for the consideration of the Senate jury:  the hiring of his children, getting them illegal security clearances, vindictively firing a subordinate to prevent, by a single day, the vesting of his fully earned civil service pension, his brutal policies toward migrant children, his violent twitter attacks particularly vicious when attacking women and black people, especially black women, his seamless mendacity about things large and small, his vengefulness and using his office to mete out  revenge,  his refusal to put his assets into a blind trust, his monetizing of the office, his misuse of the Justice Department, his overruling military leaders about the scope of their authority, his beterayal of his oath of office,  etc., need to be incorporated into the articles of impeachment, or featured prominently during the impeachment trial, if Nancy Pelosi is the political genius she’s being touted as at the moment.

The president’s admitted shakedown of new Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for dirt on Trump’s political rival is one easy to understand instance of the president’s abuse of presidential power for his own corrupt ends.   Bear in mind, we only know about the president’s July 25 call, records of which were immediately hidden in a secure, secret server, because the whistle blower hired a lawyer who succeeded in getting the report to Congress, over corrupt AG Bill Barr’s best attempt to illegally bury a whistle blower report improperly forwarded to him and already vetted by the Inspector General and deemed “credible” and “urgent”.  Had Trump and Barr succeeded in burying the whistleblower complaint they attempted to make disappear, nobody would have even known of this.  That was part of the cover-up.     The only reason Zelensky’s end of the deal (the quid pro quo) wasn’t consummated (Zelensky was scheduled to appear on CNN to make the announcement on September 13) was that the whistleblower report was made public before then and the bipartisan approved military aid was released on September 11.

There is debate over whether, standing alone, the withholding of military aid to embattled Ukraine until Zelensky made a public announcement that Biden’s alleged corruption was under investigation is an impeachable offense.  There is the “perfect” July 25th call itself, which followed a coordinated”back-channel” smear campaign that removed the US  ambassador: and then the attempted cover-up of this “inappropriate” call, its improper hiding  in a top secret server, the irregular forwarding of the Inspector General’s report on the whistleblower complaint to the DOJ and the DOJ’s improper attempt to bury the whistleblower complaint.  These actions are all part of the president’s impeachable conduct in relation to shaking down the Ukrainian president.  All typical actions by Mr. Trump, things we’ve all seen him do publicly many times.  Trump’s fact-twisting defense of these actions is only a further demonstration of his unfitness for office.  It’s worked for him so far, and it’s the only wayhe knows how to do things.

It’s debatable, perhaps, whether Trump’s unethical efforts in connection to Ukraine, standing alone, are an abuse of power that rises to the level of an impeachable offense.  Add in the hiding of the original call, the illegal attempt to squash the whistleblower’s credible and urgent request, the release of a doctored summary transcript of the perfect call, the obstruction of witness testimony and there is not much room for an intelligent debate against the proposition that these were corrupt acts and part of a long pattern of corrupt acts.  As a vivid, easy to understand example of more than a dozen, or maybe fifty, similar abuses of power, the Ukraine shakedown is only the clearest illustration of the pattern.   The president does this exact kind of thing, the fallout ensues and then he reacts with almost comic predictability (it might be funny if he wasn’t one of the most powerful men in the world), time after time.   

There is a very strong case that the constantly attacking president, a reflexively lawless, compulsively lying man, ready to use any means necessary to serve the pressing needs of his own roiling ego is unfit for office. Unfit for the supremely important office he holds —  leader of the world’s most powerful, most influential nation, at the moment when the world is heading toward a climate catastrophe of unimaginable destruction.

Use Plain English

In law school students are urged to write in plain English.  Make your story clear to the judge, to the jury, the non-lawyer, the high school kid.  Argue plainly and concisely, using strong, active words everybody understands.   I’m thinking about plain English after wrestling with a few of the deliberate, agile contortions in Mueller’s careful, precise legalese.  Mueller should have written his dramatic, troubling stories in plain English if he wanted Americans to really know about them.  More about that below.

I’ve been thinking of Brian Lehrer’s challenge to listeners to draft an article of impeachment.   I plan to draft one that indicts the president for a continuous course of corrupt conduct detrimental to citizens’ faith in the government and in the administration of justice.   

While mulling over how to write a crisp, irrefutable short article of impeachment for the most openly corrupt president in living memory, I’ve been listening to a great dissection of the Mueller report by a group called Lawfare, who introduced the project like this:

For the past several weeks, a group of us has been working on a project to tell the story of the Mueller Report in an accessible form. The Mueller Report tells a heck of a story, a bunch of incredible stories, actually. But it does so in a form that’s hard for a lot of people to take in. It’s very long. It’s legally dense in spots. It’s marred with redactions. It’s also, shall we say, not optimized for your reading pleasure.

They set out to make plain, in their colorful audio version, some of the many dramatic findings of the investigation, quoting the report extensively along with the media’s, lawyers and the president’s reactions to those revelations.  The podcast is excellent and highly recommended.   Hearing the vivid illustrations of a course nefarious conduct from Mueller’s own investigation made me wonder why Mueller didn’t lay out his findings nearly so forthrightly.   There are some fucking great stories in there.

You can check out the excellent podcast here.   The following paragraphs are  largely based on their second to last episode, The Fixer Flips  [1].  

There are countless examples of the president’s continuous course of corrupt conduct since beginning his campaign for the presidency.  Many are detailed in the hundreds of pages of the Mueller report.   Let’s look at the course of corrupt conduct that flows from Trump’s actions regarding a single close associate, Trump’s long time “fixer” Michael Cohen. [2]  

Michael Cohen, encouraged by Trump, agreed to a false story with Trump and their lawyers (they had a joint defense agreement at first) and lied, under oath, to Congress about the status of Trump’s long pursued billion dollar Trump Tower Moscow project.

The development signaled legal peril for Trump, whose presidency has been besieged by special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into whether his campaign team colluded with Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

Cohen made his disclosure as he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Moscow project. He said he made false statements to hinder the Trump-Russia investigation and to protect Trump, who was identified in court as “Individual 1”.

“I made these statements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty with Individual 1,” Cohen told the federal court in Manhattan on Thursday morning, after signing a plea agreement with Mueller. He did not say if Trump directed him to lie.

Mueller said Cohen had specified that he lied “to give the false impression that the Moscow project ended before the Iowa caucus” which took place on 1 February – the critical first vote in Trump’s presidential primary contest in 2016.

Outside the White House, Trump told reporters that Cohen was “a weak person and not a very smart person” and claimed without evidence that Cohen was lying to secure a reduced punishment for other crimes.

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Rudy Giuliani, the president’s longtime associate and personal lawyer, by the way, nonchalantly told a TV interviewer at the time that the Trump Tower discussions with Russia had continued until right before the 2016 election.  He strenuously retracted that statement the following day.  Which is highly suspicious, of course, but also increasingly typical of admissions by Trump associates.

After Cohen became a cooperating witness (“rat” in Trumpspeak) he recanted the lies he’d agreed to tell to Congress, to protect the president.  He corroborated evidence of  damaging facts he’d been actively hiding, out of personal loyalty to the his longtime boss, the president and to cover-up their work with Russians up to and through the 2016 election.

The pertinent facts reported in this section of the Mueller report, what Mueller might have written, in plain English: 

There is substantial evidence that Mr. Trump encouraged Cohen to give false sworn testimony to Congress and that they coordinated their false story.   When Cohen agreed to cooperate with the government Trump did everything possible to dissuade Cohen from cooperating.   During their joint defense agreement, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen were able to freely share information about the Mueller investigation and shape their legal narratives together.   After the joint defense agreement between Trump and Cohen ended, Trump continued to pay Cohen’s mounting legal defense bills and praise him publicly as a good and loyal man who would never “flip”. 

Attorney Robert Costello, a close associate of the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, contacted Cohen and informed him of a Giuliani back-channel to the president.  Costello stressed to Cohen the importance, in the absence of the joint defense agreement, of using Giuliani as a back -channel in all communications with Trump and his legal team. 

Costello sent Cohen an email reporting that he’d talked to Giuliani and that the conversation was “very, very positive.  You are loved.  They are in your corner. Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.”   

During this time Trump publicly praised Cohen and touted his loyalty, saying Cohen was a good man who would never “flip”, suggesting publicly and in private that he could use his pardon power to shield Cohen if his former fixer stayed on message.   Trump continued to pay Cohen’s legal defense bills amid media reports of pardon discussions between the parties.

After Cohen announced his intent to cooperate with the government, Mr. Trump stopped paying Cohen’s legal bills, repeatedly attacked Cohen as a “rat”, suggested that ‘flipping’ (cooperating with the government, in mobster shorthand) should be illegal and publicly threatened Cohen’s father-in-law with criminal prosecution. 

In a good example of why lawyers have long been reviled, Mueller writes of the question of Trump’s clear intent to prevent Cohen from testifying truthfully:

In analyzing the president’s intent in his actions toward Cohen as a potential witness there is evidence that could support the inference that the president intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen’s information would shed adverse light on the president’s campaign period conduct and statements.

“there is evidence that could support the inference that…”

Instead of writing this, about the president’s public witness tampering:

Our investigation uncovered substantial evidence that the president intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government.  Fearing Cohen’s truthful testimony would be damaging to him, the president repeatedly called Cohen a “rat”, repeatedly and publicly attacked his credibility, publicly stated that ‘flipping” (cooperating with the government) should be illegal and intimidated Cohen by publicly threatening his father-in-law  with a criminal investigation.

Mueller, as throughout the report, bending over backwards to appear scrupulously fair and even-handed,  drafts this opaque chunk of elegant,  accurate, nonjudgmental legalese, which says the same thing:

Before Cohen began to cooperate with the government the president publicly and privately urged Cohen to stay on message and not “flip”.  After it was reported that Cohen intended to cooperate with the government, however, the president accused Cohen of “making up stories to get himself out of an unrelated jam.”   He called Cohen a “rat” and on multiple occasions suggested members of Cohen’s family had committed crimes.    The evidence of this sequence of events could support an inference that the president used inducements in the form of positive messages in an effort to get Cohen not to cooperate and then turned to attacks and intimidation to deter the provision of information and to undermine Cohen’s credibility once Cohen began cooperating.

“The evidence of this sequence of events could support an inference that…”

There are literally dozens of similar detailed, dramatic illustrations of Trump’s many abuses of power in the report (and in Trump’s ongoing behavior), of the president’s singular focus on protecting himself above all else, manipulating subordinates using public praise, public attacks, his full presidential powers to coerce and intimidate witnesses from speaking truthfully, or at all.   His ongoing liberal use, and dangling, of the pardon power, (starting with his unpardonable pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for contempt of a federal order to stop operating his open air, self-proclaimed “concentration camps” for prisoners in the Arizona desert, and continuing through his recent overruling of the Navy’s intended expulsion of a Navy SEAL who it strongly appears committed vicious war crimes and was turned in by his fellow SEALS) is characteristic of his nonchalant, regular  abuse of his presidential power. 

The Ukraine shakedown, once more using unofficial back-channel private citizen and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to smear a well-respected career diplomat prior to her removal from Ukraine, suggests that there are many more guiltily hidden instances where Giuliani has performed such “deniable” work for the president’s reelection campaign.  The smear campaign and removal of Marie Yovanovitch were part of a long campaign to get dirt on Biden that preceded Trump’s July 25th call to Zelensky to directly make his offer of military assistance for a corruption investigation into Burisma, the company Biden’s son worked for.

The president’s recent real-time twitter attack on Marie Yovanovitch, the vilified ambassador he dismissed from her post in the Ukraine, as she was testifying in the impeachment inquiry, is consistent with his constant attacks and attempts to intimidate anyone he perceives as a threat to his presidency and/or business interests.

Trump is a man who continues to embrace the disgraced Roy Cohn as his ideal of a great lawyer.   Cohn, Trump’s unscrupulous mentor, felt the full measure of his protege’s famed loyalty as he was dying; Trump turned his back on Roy Cohn.   Rudy “Back-channel” Giuliani, the long-time Trump friend who would be Attorney General, and sometimes works, unofficially, in harness with the actual appointed A.G., appears poised for a similar send-off by the “most transparent president in history”.   A man who’d never be a rat, a man of the highest loyalty and moral standards.  A man who needs to be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, removed from office and criminally prosecuted for just a few of his more ordinary crimes.

 

 

[1]   All quotations from the Mueller report (including the email of Giuliani’s associate who offered the Fixer a back channel to the president when he was about to “flip”), are transcribed from that podcast.

From Lawfare:

This episode covers Trump’s attempts to influence another potential witness to his conduct: his former lawyer Michael Cohen. When Cohen is called to testify before Congress, with the help of Trump’s attorneys he drafts a false statement that repeats the Trump team “party line” about the Trump Tower Moscow project.

The president knows that Cohen, more than almost anyone else, has had a front-row seat to Trump’s conduct. Congress wants to hear from Cohen and the President’s lawyers take the lead in workshopping a statement to give to Congress that minimizes the Trump campaign’s missteps. Cohen goes before Congress and regurgitates the lies endorsed by Trump’s team. But Cohen is not out of trouble yet. The fixer finds himself in serious criminal trouble with federal law enforcement in New York and Trump is nervous. A host of Trump affiliates get in contact with Cohen and make allusions to a powerful weapon in Trump’s arsenal: a presidential pardon.

But Cohen then begins to cooperate with the government and the president sours on his beloved fixer. With Cohen no longer on the team, the president unleashes a storm of tweets assailing Cohen and threatening his family.

source

[2] We will leave aside, for the moment, Individual One’s secret October 2016 $130,000 payment to a porn actress to keep quiet about a sexual liaison Trump had while married to his third wife.   

The New York Times notes that the President denies he ever had a sexual affair with porn actress “Stormy Daniels”, after mentioning the $130,000 N.D.A. he had his “fixer” enter into with her.   The ‘fixer’ later testified under oath that he’d paid off the porn star right before the 2016 election, with funds not directly traceable to Trump,  at the direction of  “Individual One”.  Individual one, of course, denies everything.  Not his fault, none of it!  Never!  God forbid!

A thought about my father’s talent for empathy

I was thinking about the mild, kind, nurturing side of my complicated father recently.   It was not his default setting, he was usually guarded and ready to attack if he felt in any way threatened, but his talent for comforting was a memorable side of him that needs to be brought out in describing him to you.  He was capable of great sensitivity and supportiveness, in the right emotionally threatening situation.   Anybody who ever found themselves in a tough spot, and was calmed by the way my father’s used great intelligence, warm humanism and a hint of humor to relieve worry, will remember him gratefully.

It was his ability to be conciliatory, reassuring and merciful while, at any given moment, also capable of merciless verbal violence, that made being his child so tricky, so disorienting, made it so hard to get a handle on what was real and what was ridiculous.   Ultimately, I think it was this highly rational man’s irrational need to unconditionally vilify, coming from someone equally capable of great empathy, that proved so damaging to his offspring.

My sister, who identifies with our father as much as I do, noted that our father was always playful and tender with young children (as well as small animals, he took a particular delight in lifting small dogs by the armpits and rocking them, rigid legged, in front of his face).  She concluded this was because they posed no threat to him.   I think she was right.  He was a different person when he wasn’t worried about being attacked, as any of us are.  Little kids of a certain age are cute, playful and trusting as puppies.  They can be fun to play with — plus they pose no harm and are very happy for attention.  He was at his best goofing around with them, sounding them out about things, going with the flow, making them laugh.

My father was also at his best in times of crisis, when you were very upset in the midst of an emergency.  He would quietly lay out his understanding of your worries and then calmly walk you through all the reasons you shouldn’t be so upset.   He had a great ability to reassure. 

The mechanism of this, I realize now, was similar to his unguarded playfulness with children.   When my sister or I were most vulnerable, our father was least concerned with being attacked by us.  This freed him to express his better nature.   The memory of his consistent kindness in these tough situations also served to make my sister and me often blame ourselves when he was enraged at us.

It was an emotionally confusing situation to grow up in, being raised by someone so reflexively critical and angry who was also capable of such soothing compassion.   One of the hallmarks of my father’s fighting style was the insistence that you were wrong to feel what you were feeling.  “You’re wrong,” he’d say flatly, in the face of your upswelling emotion, and then reframe things to tell you what you should actually be feeling, if you weren’t so fucked up, and why you’d be much better off simply feeling the opposite of how you felt.   

I’ve since learned that this refusal to acknowledge another person’s hurt is perhaps the most provocative thing a person can do in response to someone else’s vulnerability — tell them they have absolutely no right to feel what they are feeling. 

There was rarely an attempt to de-escalate anything in our home, this was not in either of our parents’ emotional repertoires.   They had both suffered greatly at the hands of strong-willed, violent mothers.   They were ill equipped to deal with their frustrations, our own frustrations were maddening to them.    

There would be angry confrontations at the dinner table, virtually every night.  Accusations would fly, authoritative pronouncements by my father delivered in the style of a prosecutor’s closing remarks to the jury.  What you were doing now, in this moment of anger, was what you always do because you are an irredeemably angry person, a bad seed, a hater.   In my sister’s case, she was portrayed to the imaginary jury as not angry, so much, but reflexively dishonest, scheming, vain, empty-headed.   This reduction of each of us to the sum of some purported faults or weaknesses did a great deal of harm, as you can imagine.

When my sister and I discuss our childhood there’s a phrase we bat around that often gets a chuckle out of us “twisted and contorted with hate”.   My father must have directed the phrase to me more than once, since we both recall it so clearly.  He would snarl this at me whenever I’d sit across from him, my face twisted and contorted with hate.    Hate, mind you, is a very strong word.

My grandmother, whose six brothers and sisters were marched to a ravine and shot in the back of their heads by local townspeople who hated them, always reacted with disgust when I’d report that I hated my teacher.  She tried to teach me what a strong word hate is.   “You HATE her?  Be quiet! You don’t HATE her… you don’t know what hate means, hate means you’d kill her,” she’d say, correctly.   I’d stick to my guns, as my grandmother waved her large hands dismissively.

“Yeah, grandma, I’d kill her…” I’d insist, as righteous children often do. 

“Please…” she’d say turning away with incomparable dismissiveness.

 

                                                                                    ii

In thinking about my father now, and the deeper values he imbued in me, and what he tried to teach me to never tolerate,  I grasp something impressive.   At the same time that he often acted tyrannically, he also instilled in me a profound resistance to tyranny– not only by an instinct to refuse his overbearing assaultive behavior toward me but also by his philosophical example, the courageous people he admired.  

He truly hated tyranny, an irrational assertion of unchallengeable, often brutal, will, and I digested this hatred, which on some level he supported, even as he reflexively acted like a despot and fought me without restraint.  I could see that on some level he respected me for fighting back against his attempts to tyrannize me.  Tyranny, he taught me on a cellular level, is evil — straight up.   I would come to lose many jobs, even my chosen profession, animated by this high-minded belief in higher justice and by a visceral inability to yield to a bully — or to seeing others bullied.

My father told me, the last night of his life, that his life was basically over by the time he was two.  I’d learned the reason for this a few years earlier from my father’s closest cousin, Eli, a first generation American tough guy 16 years older than my father.  I spent many a Saturday up at Eli’s retirement bungalow during the last few years of the old man’s life, talking about everything.   My father would vehemently dismiss any insight I believed I’d taken from my talks with Eli.  Eli’s accounts were bullshit, he’d insist, portraying Eli as a hopelessly muddled and unreliable historical revisionist and pointing to his estrangement from his own children as the proof that Eli was full of shit.   

When, at 1 a.m., I entered the room my father would die in nineteen hours later, one of the first things he said was “those stories Eli told you… everything he said was true, though I’m sure he spared you the worst of it.”  The worst I’d heard from Eli was bad enough.   Eli’s mother died when he was a year-old.    He instantly bonded with his Aunt Chava, his father’s youngest sister, a red-haired beauty who arrived by boat when Eli was six.  Eli and his father were at the dock in lower Manhattan to greet her.

“It was love at first sight,” Eli told me happily and recounted all the ways his beloved Tante Chava doted on him throughout his life.  There was no mistaking the painful ambivalence in Eli as he prepared to tell me a horrible detail I needed to know about his beloved Tante Chavah, my father’s mother, in order to help me make sense of our tangled, violent family history.  To give me a painful insight into my father’s most painful secret.

Eli had seen it more than once.  I picture him standing in the doorway to the kitchen of Chava’s home as his one year-old cousin stood in front of his chair, eyes downcast in terror, as his mother, Eli’s beloved Aunt, reached angrily into the drawer behind her chair for the rough, heavy cord of her iron, and whipped him across the face with it.

Across the face?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Eli with infinite sorrow.

“How old was he?” I asked.   

“However old you are when you can stand on your own two feet, I don’t know, one, one and a few months, I guess… a baby…”

After a while, of course, all Chava had to do was rattle the drawer where she kept the rigid, burlap-wrapped cord and my infant father would stand rigidly, eyes fixed on the floor in front of him, shuddering in terror.  A terror and humiliation that never left him, vicious pain inflicted for no reason by the mother who called him “Sonny”.   From the time he could stand.

It is impossible to reckon the damage this betrayal by your own mother would do to a person.  My father was often very mean to my sister and me, and the damage of that is hard to reckon.   I can only imagine the soul destruction my father experienced was ten times worse, maybe a hundred times worse.

“My life was pretty much over by the time I was two,” said the dying man as I stood beside his deathbed, the tiny digital recorder propped on his chest.   Many mysteries remain, all these years later.   One is how he managed to limit his abuse of my sister and me to harsh words.  Another is how he retained the ability, when things were darkest and scariest for us during our childhood. to empathize and calm us.   There are deep lessons in my father’s life for me and I will continue to delve until I have some answers worth sharing.

 

One more treasure from Bill Barr’s 11/15 speech to the Federalist Society

 I can’t help it.   Just read the remainder of Barr’s recent remarks in detail  (looking for his apparent, and telling, ad lib about Secularists — not found in the original text) and this gem was too beautiful to ignore.  In arguing about how wrong it is for courts to second-guess the actions of a conservative president, he offers this:

To my mind, the most blatant and consequential usurpation of Executive power in our history was played out during the Administration of President George W. Bush, when the Supreme Court, in a series of cases, set itself up as the ultimate arbiter and superintendent of military decisions inherent in prosecuting a military conflict – decisions that lie at the very core of the President’s discretion as Commander in Chief.  [1]

This usurpation climaxed with the Court’s 2008 decision in Boumediene.  There, the Supreme Court overturned hundreds of years of American, and earlier British, law and practice, which had always considered decisions as to whether to detain foreign combatants to be purely military judgments which civilian judges had no power to review.  For the first time, the Court ruled that foreign persons who had no connection with the United States other than being confronted by our military on the battlefield had “due process” rights and thus have the right to habeas corpus to obtain judicial review of whether the military has a sufficient evidentiary basis to hold them.

 

This Nazi motherfucker needs to be removed and disqualified from any office in a democracy.  He is sullying the Department of Justice with his highly virtuous deistic partisanship, couched in beguiling intellectualism that can justify any position, in keeping with his piety. 

I rest my case.

 

[1]  Leaving aside, of course, a probably far more consequential recent Supreme Court over-reach, Bush v. Gore, a one-off 5-4 partisan decision that instructs history not to cite it was any kind of precedent.