When Someone Tries to Shut You Up, Look into What They’re Hiding: When Monitoring Unlawful Behavior is Spying, and Exposing Treason is Called Treason

On May 13, Attorney General William Barr announced he was beginning an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. He appointed John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut to handle the investigation. Barr, in his testimony to Congress, used the word “spying” to describe a counterintelligence investigation into the contacts between Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to T, and Russians. Are actions to monitor Russian contacts with political operatives of the President now to be called “spying” by this administration? And attempts to stop such invasive actions and protect our electoral process and constitution to be called “treason”? In March, T did just that and accused the FBI and Democrats of treason.

 

This is Newspeak, where monitoring unlawful behavior is spying and exposing treason is treason.

 

Barr’s move was in response to continued pressure from the President, pressure that looks like more obstruction of justice. The counterintelligence operation into Carter Page’s behavior was actually begun during the 2016 election (October 21, 2016) after being approved by a FISA court consisting not of Democrats but of four Republican appointed judges. And the investigation was continued by the Trump appointed DOJ.

 

In 2017, this pressure by T led to GOP Congressman Devin Nunes releasing a redacted version of the highly classified FISA warrant, something rarely, if ever, done. Nunes’ had falsely claimed that the warrant was based on the Steele Dossier. However, the FBI’s interest in Page predated their knowledge of the Dossier. Page was being monitored because he was associated with two actual Russian spies who were trying to recruit him.

 

In other words, the President ordered the DOJ (and a GOP Congressman) to do his bidding and attack those he perceived as his enemies and the Attorney General (and Congressman) complied with his wishes.

 

This wasn’t the only time T tried to get the DOJ to act as his personal attack squad to shut down or shut up anything or anyone who gets in his way. Remember that he tried to pressure former Attorney General Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton, for example, and tried to pressure former FBI Director James Comey to shut down the FBI investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

 

Barr, as many have pointed out, has thus been acting as the attorney for the President, not the Attorney General of the United States. Barr told the American public the President was exonerated from any charge of obstructing justice when, in fact, the Mueller Report clearly stated T was not exonerated. Barr said the President did not conspire with Russia to attack the 2016 election despite the fact the Mueller Report detailed clear attempts by the President, or his campaign and advisers, to meet with Russians to release information to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign, establish back channel avenues of communication, and hide economic ties to Russia. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, gave the Russians essential polling data that might have helped them in their social media attacks.

 

T also asked the DOJ to investigate the investigators who worked for Mueller on the Russia probe. In the past, he also told Nancy Pelosi to “be careful.” I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future he tries to pressure Barr to start an investigation into her or other Democrats.

 

Trump has gone after Congresswoman Ilham Omar on Twitter several times. He posted a video on Twitter that visually linked the Congresswoman to the 9/11 arracks. Since that video, the threats on the Congresswoman have greatly increased.

 

Previously sealed documents included in the Mueller Report were released last week that paint a clear picture of how T acts towards those who thwart him. The documents show that after Trump’s National Security Adviser Mike Flynn decided to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller, T’s lawyers appear to have threatened Flynn and also dangle a pardon.

 

This action attempted to obstruct justice by interfering in the Russia probe. According to page 6 of the document, Flynn “informed the government of multiple instances, both before and after his guilty plea, where either he or his attorneys received communications from persons connected to the Administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation. The defendant even provided a voice recording of one such communication.”

 

As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the actions of T, as recorded in the documents, sound more like a leader of a criminal enterprise threatening people than a US President. Is this history of threatening people one of the reasons the GOP in Congress obey T so consistently?

 

In response to an article on T that someone posted on FB, I urged people not only to share articles and express their fear and anger but to call Congress and take other actions. A man wrote in reply that if he called, it would do nothing. I replied, “Of course not. One call can do nothing.” Two calls, maybe a little. Ten thousand calls? Several each week? How about calls from the 53% of the population of this country who have opposed T since before November 2016? He has never had the support of even half, never a majority of this country. What would a million calls, a hundred million calls do?

 

How about if people, besides making phone calls, also took other actions? Imagine people wearing signs saying, “No more” or “Bring down the would-be dictator.” How about people on street corners, in their cars, or outside the offices of GOP Senators carrying signs saying, “No more attacks on children.” “No more attacks on the press.” “No more gun violence.” “No more destroying our schools.” “No more destroying our environment.” “No more normalizing hate in the White House.” Let’s normalize love. Normalize compassion instead.

 

Whatever actions, big and small, we can do, let’s do them. The object isn’t that one phone call or one protest bring down a would-be dictator and hate machine. It is that our collective voice and actions speak for and model an entirely different language than what we hear spoken in the White House today. It is that we learn how to speak a language of freedom, compassion and democratic action by acting in ways that advance democracy. And then, maybe slowly but exponentially, that language will become the new language of this nation and the speakers of hate will be de-throned.

 

*Update: Things have been getting even worse. Last night, Thursday, the President gave the Attorney General enormous powers, including releasing classified information. He ordered the intelligence community to cooperate with Barr’s investigation into the counterintelligence operation which led to the Mueller Probe. The purpose, this seems, is to keep T safe from Congressional investigations into him.

 

**This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Saving Democracy by Living It: A Democratic Nation Needs A Democratic and Public Education System

How do we save our democracy? Or, how do we create a truly democratic nation? We are learning, now, that too many people in the U. S. either never understood or never cared about democracy. Or they had become complacent and hopefully now realize what they might lose. So, how do we change the state of our government?

 

A democracy is a government of, by, and for the people ⎼all the people. The power rests in the citizens, who exercise that power according to laws and principles set out in a constitution that all know and have access to. Each person must be valued, and each person’s viewpoint heard.

 

To do that, the government needs to foster a sense of community. Caring relationships and a sense of shared humanity must be at the core of the process by which decisions are made. How we live our lives schools us in how to participate, with everyone around us, in the work of running a government together.

 

We need to make political action a normal part of our daily lives.

 

Without this depth of understanding, it is too easy to give up on democracy when it becomes difficult. It is too easy to sacrifice participating in the rewarding but complex process of making decisions with others in exchange for letting someone else do it for us. It is too easy to get so focused on what we think is the only answer that we forget everyone else can also think their answer is the only one. Compromise becomes impossible. Those who differ from us become enemies.

 

It is also important to study history, to understand what happens to the rights and well-being of citizens under other forms of government, like Fascism or Dictatorship, and what happens when a democracy is destroyed.

 

For all these reasons, a democratic nation needs a democratic and public education system. Our schools need to model the quality of relationships we want in society in general. Democracy and forming caring relationships must be at the core of the school curriculum and of how a school functions.

 

A Democratic and Public Education

 

This understanding is at the heart of a book by Dr. Dave Lehman, A Principal’s Notebook: Lessons for Today from a Pioneering Public School. His book describes the educational structure of the Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS) in Ithaca, New York (a school that he founded ⎼ and where I taught for 27 years). It provides a pedagogy of democratic schooling and of relationships—students with peers, students with staff, staff with colleagues, and everyone with the material being taught and the world we live in.

 

Democracy can’t be taught just through research and reasoning, certainly not by testing the memorization of data. It requires experience and practice. It has to be lived.

 

In order to realistically learn how to relate in a caring, cooperative, and educational manner—and make decisions democratically—children need a structure that prioritizes and develops healthy, caring relationships. Especially in today’s world, marred by increasing hatred and divisiveness in our government and anxiety in our children, where young people often spend more time with digital media than they do with breathing beings, this fact has never been clearer.

 

As Dr. Dave describes in his book, at LACS “everyone has a voice, and a vote, from the newest sixth grader to the oldest high schooler, from the most recently hired teaching assistant to the most experienced teacher and the Principal.” Most decisions concerning everyone at the school are made democratically, either by a weekly all-school meeting, or weekly staff meeting. Staff makes most decisions consensually.

 

To help the school function, there are committees that meet twice a week. The committees maintain the school building and recycle. They plan and run meetings, mediate disputes, support LGBTQ and students of color, develop an overview of where the school is in terms of its goals and where it would like to go, to plant and care for trees and flowers, etc.

 

And everyone has their own family group at the school to support them, consisting of one or usually two staff and about 14 students. In this way, a real community is created. Students learn the need to take responsibility for their surroundings and to speak up for what they think is right, while respecting another people’s right to do the same.

 

Courses are sometimes formed at the recommendation of students, or they are structured to meet the interests, needs and questions raised by students. Students choose their courses instead of having all their classes mandated for them. They are assessed not primarily by standardized tests but through projects and demonstrations of skill that they have a part in designing.

 

The school is far from perfect. But it seriously tries to provide a supportive situation so each student, teacher, and administrator can do their best and find themselves in their work.

 

LACS is only one of several democratic public schools in our nation today. In fact, in New York a statewide group, the DemocracyReady NY Coalition, was launched just last February to “secure the right of all New York students to a quality P-12 education that prepares them for civic participation.”

 

A democratic government needs a citizenry that can not only research and think critically about issues and candidates but values caring relationships. It requires not only democracy in schools but of schools, so there is a quality public education open to everyone.

 

We pay an exorbitant price when the central importance of relationships and taking responsibility for one’s learning is lost. Not only the quality of education suffers, but also the community of our nation suffers. The Lehman Alternative Community School and other democratic schools throughout the nation (and world) provide not only a guide and model for developing good schools but for developing a healthy and democratic nation.

 

Of course, democratizing schools is a longer-term strategy. In the short term, we need to vote or impeach T out of office or we the people might lose the chance to democratize anything.

 

**This post has been syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Open Warfare Between T and the Constitution

For the last few weeks, if not the whole of his administration, T has been standing in front of the American people and tearing up the constitution. His lawlessness, public obstruction of justice and efforts to undermine this nation have reached new levels of affront. If we don’t respond with a tidal wave of pressure on Congress to begin an impeachment investigation, then I fear a would-be dictator would become a dictator in fact.

 

Democrats are calling for more investigations. Certainly, public testimony in congress about T’s corruption, obstruction, and back and front-door negotiating with Russians would be helpful to create this tidal wave. But I disagree with the argument that “we should focus only on legislation on bread and butter issues.” Such legislation would be wonderful. But any legislation that truly serves the interests of the majority of American people concerning health care, economic reform, education, environmental protections, voting, women’s, workers and children’s rights, or even protecting our election infrastructure will not pass the Senate and be signed by the President as long as Mr. T is President.

 

I likewise disagree with those who say we should “let the ballot box speak.” We have already seen Russia interfere in the last Presidential election. Can we wait for the next one? And as Watergate reporter Elizabeth Drew said to the New York Times and on MSNBC last Thursday, can we afford not to impeach him? The biggest danger, she said, might be in not impeaching him. What precedent would be created by not holding a president accountable for dangerous misdeeds? What if T thought his misdeeds were in fact condoned? Wouldn’t he feel emboldened to take even more dangerous actions?

 

Mueller neglected to call for charging the President with obstruction of justice, despite overwhelming evidence for the charge, partly because there is a DOJ policy not to indict a sitting PresidentMueller concluded that “as an operative of the Department of Justice (DOJ), he was bound to follow that guideline…” The problem is, as Martin London in an article in Time Magazine and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC show, this policy is certainly questionable. It is not in the constitution and clearly places the President in a position above the law, while he is President. The policy therefore makes Mr. T even more desperate to do anything he can to remain President. Remaining President might be the only way he stays out of jail.

 

T has been acting more vehement and lawless, if that is possible, since just before and certainly after the Mueller Report, or the Barr Report, was made public. The Barr summary, news conference, and decision to redact the report were clear attempts by Barr to obstruct justice and obstruct any further investigations by distorting or lying about what Mueller had to say.

 

Barr told the American public the President was exonerated from any charge of obstructing justice when, in fact, the report clearly stated T was not exonerated. Barr said the President did not conspire with Russia to attack the 2016 election despite the fact the Mueller Report detailed clear attempts by the President, or his campaign and advisers, to meet with Russians to release information to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign, establish back channel avenues of communication, and hide economic ties to Russia. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, gave the Russians essential polling data that might have helped them in their social media attacks. These are not the actions of an innocent man.

 

Since the release of the Mueller Report, T said he would fight “all the subpoenas” issued by the House. For example, he has refused to let a White House official respond to a subpoena regarding security clearances and said he would prevent his former lawyer, Don McGahn, from testifying before the House.

 

The Mueller Report, according to VOX, amounts to a “devastating indictment of Trump’s approach to politics.” Even if T was not, as many claim, an agent of Putin, he clearly has been doing all he can to weaken our nation.

 

For example, he did not act to secure our own electoral integrity after Russia hacked and shared Hillary’s emails and manipulated social media during the 2016 election. USAToday reported that Senate Republicans recently voted to block $250 million to beef up election securityThe New York Times recently reported that Kirstjen Nielsen, before resigning as head of the Department of Homeland Security, became increasingly concerned about Russian activity in the US. But she was told by White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney not to bring this up with Mr. T. As a consequence, she never met with the different cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect our elections, nor did she inform Americans of the latest version of Russian attacks on our nation.

 

Last Friday, FBI director Christopher Wray announced he has shifted resources to counter the Russian threat, largely without any White House support.

 

Instead of going after the Russians who attacked us, the Mueller Report reveals T tried to get the Department of Justice to prosecute political rivals in the U. S., most notably Hillary Clinton ⎼ to avenge or protect himself, not the nation.

 

Mr. T has driven wedges between the US and our NATO allies. He has provided sanctions relief to Russian oligarchs, lowered the standing of the US in international affairs, failed to adequately staff and support the state department and other non-military agencies meant to protect our national security, etc. He has also granted security clearances to people with compromised histories despite being warned of the danger these clearances could pose to national security.

 

T also has been acting to undermine the rule of law in ways not related to the Mueller investigation. For example, T told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that if he violated the law by blocking asylum seekers from entering the US and was arrested, he, T, would pardon him. T also threatened to release imprisoned immigrants into sanctuary cities in order to get back at Democrats.

 

We could go on and on, with assaults on the truth, on those who oppose him, on the free press, and on our very humanity.

 

Those of us who are lucky can turn off the news and get lost in our homes, jobs, family and in the beauty of the spring. And we all need moments of quiet and reflection. But we can’t deceive ourselves into thinking we can forget what T is doing and expect to keep any semblance of a democracy, or our homes, jobs, and the beauty of the earth.

 

No matter how sick we are of hearing his name or seeing his face, or how upsetting the news, actions must be taken to create a wave of pressure on Congress to investigate and impeach the President (and Vice President). Whether it be in new and creative ways, or making calls, protesting, writing emails or letters to the editor, working for Democratic candidates, or contributing money to organizations fighting T’s policies, it is time to act.

 

**And the time is right. T has never had the support of even half of the nation. His overall approval rating since being elected is lower than any President, certainly any since World War II. And since the release of the redacted Mueller Report, according to the Politico/Morning Consult survey, his support has dropped to 39% of the surveyed public.

 

**This post has been syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

Tomorrow: Getting Ready to Act

On Thursday morning, Attorney General William Barr will release a redacted version or the Barr version of the Mueller Report. We know Barr is a T crony, so none of his statements or justifications for redactions can be taken as truthful or as meant to serve the overall interests of this nation. He is the general attorney for T, not the Attorney General for the American people.

 

This is illustrated by Barr’s first summary of the Mueller Report and his efforts to punish those who have opposed the President or have given evidence to Mueller.* For example, Barr has labeled the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Carter Page’s contacts with Russians as “spying” and he is now investigating the Mueller investigation, particularly the FBI counterintelligence investigation that was at the genesis of the Russia probe.

 

In the meantime, T continues to act to undermine the rule of law. T even told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that if he violated the law by blocking asylum seekers from entering the US and was arrested, he, T, would pardon him. T recently repeated his old lies about Democrats being responsible for bad immigration laws and Obama being responsible for separating children from their parents at the border. He also threatened to release imprisoned immigrants into sanctuary cities in order to get back at Democrats.

 

He has also continued to act in the interest of Putin, and not the interest of our democracy, so much so that many think of him as a Russian agent. T has acted in Putin’s interests in so many ways, for example by not acting to secure our own electoral integrity after Russia hacked and shared Hillary’s emails and manipulated social media during the 2016 election. He has driven wedges between the US and our NATO allies. He has provided sanctions relief to Russian oligarchs, lowered the standing of the US in international affairs, failed to adequately staff and support the state department and other non-military agencies meant to protect our national security, etc.

 

So whether or not it can be proven in a courtroom that T has knowingly colluded or conspired with Putin to undermine our democracy, the effect is the same. Our democracy is being undermined, daily, by T. The interests of Putin, oligarchs, despots and the ultra-rich are being served, not the interests of the great majority of people. And whether or not T’s obstruction of justice could be proven in a court of law, he obstructs justice, publicly and repeatedly.

 

So what will we do? What will you do? The situation in this country is so frightening that many of us feel our level of anxiety continuing to rise. We feel afraid to hear the news but know we can’t let this new normal lead us to sit on the sidelines while our rights, freedoms and sense of shared humanity are destroyed.

 

Many of us feel we need a break, and we should take breaks, frequently, as this battle will continue until we elect a new President or this one is arrested and escorted out of office. We need to take walks in the woods, read books, exercise, meditate, and hang out with friends and family. But on Thursday, we must be ready to speak out and take action. Maybe the redacted report will provide some relevant information that we need to hear. Maybe. But even though Congress will not be in session, we can let our anger and disapproval of T’s actions be known.

 

*Update:

Just to confirm that Barr is acting in the role of Mr. T’s protector, or as T’s attorney, not the Attorney for the people of the US, it was announced just a few hours ago that:

*Barr will hold a news conference tomorrow at 9;30 am.

*According to The New York Times, the President or his attorneys have seen the report already and discussed it, repeatedly, with Barr, but Congress won’t see it until around 11:00 am or so, after the news conference. Mr. Barr can once again place himself between the report and the people, Congress, and the news media.

*This gives the President, as the person under investigation, the chance to rebut, minimize, distort, or bury the report before any of us can see it. This undermines the rule of law and destroys any confidence in the independence of the justice department.

*And this is happening right before Passover and the Easter weekend.

 

 

The Real-Life Drama We Are Living Through

Mark Twain (amongst others) said, “Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction.”

 

The political drama we are living through right now, especially this past week, or maybe ever since T was elected, exceeds any fictional portrayals we have seen in any novel, TV program or movie for dramatic action and psychological tension. Maybe the actors we are seeing in the White House or Congress do not equal the imaginative portrayal of the perfidy of villains or the courage of heroes we have seen in fiction, but that is arguable. What Trump and the GOP lack in imagination, for example, they exceed in the daring and reality of the evil they do and the pain they cause.

 

Unlike many fictional dramas, this one began at a point of high tension and expectation. It began last Sunday, when Attorney General Barr released his own summary of the Mueller Report announcing the end of the investigation. He did not turn the Mueller Report over to Congress or to the American people, as was the case when President Clinton was investigated. He instead chose to tell us his version, to give us the Barr Report instead.

 

There were two main conclusions in the Barr Report. One, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” (Although it did establish that Russia did work to interfere in the election.) Two, regarding obstruction of justice, or whether the President acted in a criminal manner to interfere in the Mueller investigation, the Barr Report announced that the Mueller Report supposedly did not draw a conclusion, but said that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Therefore, according to Barr, there was no obstruction of justice.

 

A tremendous hush rose over the land, especially amongst the majority of Americans. My heart dropped through the floor. We all knew Barr was a Trump loyalist. So why hadn’t the Democrats better prepared for this? I felt the political world was falling apart.

 

After two years of almost daily revelations of Russian contacts and of acting in Russia’s interest, of lies, threats of violence and assaults on the character of anyone who opposed him, on Mueller, FBI agents, reporters, Senators, Congresspeople, Judges, immigrants, women, children, people of color, even some members of his own cabinet and his own hatchet man, of financial crimes and of using the Presidency to advance his own financial interests ⎼ it felt like all the cries for justice were suddenly silenced. All the expectations that the Mueller Investigation would finally expel the evil that had infested our nation were shattered.

 

Even before the report was released, the GOP were priming the news media and much of the media bought in to the GOP messaging. CNN reported that one person at the White House said, before Barr released his summary, “’We won’ and the campaign has been absolved because there weren’t any charges related to conspiracy or obstruction.” A Trump campaign adviser told CNN: “It’s a great day for America…”

 

But once Sunday afternoon rolled around and Barr released his summary report, the GOP and their propaganda outlets went wild, shouting so loudly and repeatedly it was difficult, at first, to hear anything else but the silence in between the shouts. “There would be no further indictments to come,” said Barr. “Complete exoneration,” said the GOP. “A tremendous relief. ” GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, a Trump loyalist, claimed: “After 22 months of a special counsel and 2 years of congressional investigations, it’s over. The clock has finally struck midnight on the ‘Russian collusion’ fantasy. No collusion.”

 

This is how the week began. This is Act One. The exposition and conflicts were largely spelled out.

 

And then Act Two. First, the cries for vengeance. The GOP claimed the real criminals were the press and the Democrats. T said, “There are a lot of people out there who have done some very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country.” There would be new investigations, but this time, it would be into all those who dared to accuse the President of any crimes or misdeeds.

 

I felt my level of tension rising and was worried about who the GOP would try to indict.

 

Democrats, after at first trying to shift the focus from the reports and investigations to other issues, important economic issues, finally began to fight back. The level of conflict rose. As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the press and the Democrats began to realize that they really hadn’t heard from Mueller at all. Barr was clearly not a neutral party. They asked about what was being hidden by Barr. Why is the report being kept secret not only from the American people but from Congress?

 

Many examples of collusion with Russia were enacted right in our face, in public, a fact Democrats, including Congresspeople Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, made clear. The way this report was being handled or mishandled was not what was needed to restore any faith in the rule of law by the people of this nation. It wasn’t Barr’s place to summarize anything or hide the evidence but instead to turn it over to Congress and the people.

 

On Thursday, the nine Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee signed a letter calling for Adam Schiff to resign as chairman of the committee. At the congressional hearing on Russian interference in the election, Republican Congressman Mike Conaway stopped the hearing to read the GOP letter, which said: “Your actions both past and present are incompatible with your duty as chairman.” T also called for Schiff to resign.

 

But then Schiff had his chance to be a hero and he played his part with courage and insight. You can see it all on MSNBC.  In the hearing he responded to Conaway and the other Republicans by spelling out, clearly, passionately, even poetically a list of examples of collusion and possible criminal behavior by the President and his supporters over the last two plus years. His response to the GOP attack had all the power of the best dramatic fiction. He said,   “You [The GOP] think it’s ok” that members of T’s campaign were willing to accept dirt from the Russians. “I don’t think it’s OK. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic, and yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.”

 

What will be the climax? On Friday, Barr said he will give a redacted version of the Mueller Report to Congress and later the public. Democrats said they plan to subpoena the report and possibly Mueller and Barr. Will the subpoenas be successful? What will the report actually say? Or what might Mueller say? Is this the beginning of Act III?

 

Rep. Schiff spoke out again, saying the Attorney General was not, as he had claimed, compelled by the law to redact the report and hide it from Congress. Barr’s actions, and even his original appointment and confirmation, create the precedent for Presidents under investigation in the future to nominate and fire Attorney Generals to protect themselves, not the American people.

 

If Barr succeeds in placing himself between the Mueller Report and the American people, as the arbiter of truth and law, he could position the President above the law and turn the Presidency into an autocracy.

 

Will there be a catharsis, a cleansing of the nation by going through this drama? Will this struggle yield a stronger democracy or destroy what is left of democracy? And what will our place in the drama be? When and how will we, the people, act? The tension is still rising. The consequences couldn’t be much higher.

 

This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

The Day Is Coming

Or maybe I should say the day has come. Yesterday afternoon, the Mueller Report was turned over to Attorney General William Barr. With it goes the hopes and fears of practically all of us. With it goes the possibility of resurrecting democracy in this nation or ending it. With it goes, possibly, our future as a species.

 

Not that this one report will be or could be so decisive. It is not the report, no matter what it says, that will be decisive. It is how we the people of this nation, and world, respond that is most important.

 

Barr has said he will first read the report and decide what will be released. And the GOP and T are using this release to push the narrative that T has been vindicated. CNN reported that one person at the White House said “’We won’ and the campaign has been absolved because there weren’t any charges related to conspiracy or obstruction.” A Trump campaign adviser told CNN: “It’s a great day for America…” No further indictments have been called for (supposedly) and the RNC is putting a positive spin on the release.

 

Hearing “no further indictments” even from the GOP makes my heart drop through the floor. For over two years not only have we heard reports, but we have seen evidence right before our eyes of our supposed President selling out and harming or endangering our country.

 

We have also heard about Mueller, about how competent he is and how in-depth his investigation is going. Without intending to do so, many of us have created Mueller as almost a savior image. We began to expect he will save us from a would-be dictator. But can such weight be placed on any one person or group? And are our hopes well placed? As the decisions for the release of his report come near, we can’t help but feel anxious. Will our hopes and expectations prove true?

 

But no matter what the report reveals, or what we are told the report contains, we have to remember what we have heard and seen first-hand. I probably don’t need to remind most people of the President’s tweets and comments in support of Russia, in favor of cutting sanctions (for example, cutting sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Putin) and according to Admiral Rogers, the head of the U. S. Cyber Command, T failed to even ask NSA how to protect our election system from hackers.

 

For example, remember July 27th, 2016, T publicly asked for Russia to find for him Hillary’s missing emails. This followed the June 9, 2016, meeting with D. T. Jr, Manafort and Jared Kushner in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and lobbyist to collect dirt from Russia on Hillary Clinton. According to the Washington Post, five days later Russian hackers penetrated the DNC computers. On July 22nd, the stolen emails were published by WikiLeaks.

 

On May 10, 2017, after firing Comey, T told Russian officials that firing Comey relieved the great pressure on him from the Russian investigation. In Helsinki, while standing next to Vladimir Putin, T sided with Putin against our own intelligence agencies, claiming the Russian dictator spoke strongly in denial of the claim Russia interfered in the 2016 election.  The President even went so far as to take away or tear up the notes of his private discussions with Putin.

 

So what can we do? Or what must we do? We can take a deep breath and determine the best things we can do for furthering democracy, and caring for ourselves, our families and neighbors. We must definitely remember not only what T has said but what he has done to isolate the U. S. from our allies, further inequity, support bigotry, attack women, and children, and undermine the rule of law, public education, voting rights, justice, health care and environmental protections. To attack our compassion and sense of common humanity. We must do what we can to try to discern what is true from the lies and misdirection. If we can remember Presidents who at least usually spoke the truth, did not threaten violence if he lost the election or did not put his own economic interests before the nation’s interest, we must do so.

 

We must do whatever we can to help bring people together and create enough pressure to force our government to do their job and act to support democracy. To force the release of the report and to continue the investigations. We can, at least, call Congress, write or sign petitions, support lawsuits for the release of the report, and protest on the streets. And we can work for Democratic candidates and getting out voters in the next election. We can’t afford to sit idly on the sidelines.

 

Facing the Nightmare: The Threat that is Trump

On Wednesday, February 27, to conclude his testimony to Congress, Michael Cohen said: “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power…” Cohen’s revelations of Trump as possibly threatening the government, the constitution and rule of law with violence, affirms what many of us have suspected ever since he was elected, but it is frightening to see our fears stated so bluntly by someone who knows Trump so well.

 

Cohen is not the first to speak of this threat. Roger Stone warned America in 2017 of “insurrection” if Trump is impeached. Politico reported that Stone said, “Try to impeach him. Just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.” This is probably another example of Stone’s political theatre. But, in case anyone still holds the illusion that Trump and most of his supporters value democracy or our constitution, think again. They will do anything they can to intimidate and confuse us.

 

This is, of course, part of the nightmare that is Trump. In 2018, he warned of violence if the GOP lost the midterm elections. When he said this, there was no proof of any planned violence by anyone. So, was he just stressing the stakes for his supporters, saying his opponents will “overturn everything” if the GOP lose Congress? Or was this an attempt to intimidate or to warn Democrats of what he was capable of doing?

 

Was he, as an article by Jonathan Chait in the Intelligencer wrote in November 2018, “tantalizing his supporters with the prospect of bloodshed”? He has often threatened and tried to dehumanize or encourage violence against those who oppose him, labeling them, us, as the “resistance mob” or the “radical resistance.”  …

 

If we want any chance of a future with a substantive choice at the ballot box, or elections without threats of violence, our first priority must not be to support whomever will promise our most dreamed of policies. We must support the candidate who is most likely to defeat Trump and what he stands for.

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Being Patient Even With Impatience: Developing Patience and Personal Strength

I remember a conversation I had with a student when I was teaching high school. I think I said something like “you have to be more patient.” And the student responded, “Why should I be patient? I want what I want now.” I probably had the same thought when I was a teenager.

 

Why be patient? With political and social issues, what does patience even mean? This is an important question today, as there is so much that needs to be challenged and changed. Does patience mean you should let racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, greed, etc. continue as it is? If so, I think patience is misunderstood. How is patience helpful when you can’t get what you think you need or can’t understand a situation, another person, or yourself?

 

The root of patience is the Latin ‘pati’ meaning ‘suffering.’ Patience is the ability to endure adversity, discomfort, stress and even pain. In any life, if you want to do something challenging, you will face stress and adversity. If you can’t face this, how deep a life can you have?

 

Here is a practice of mindful inquiry into what patience means to you:

 

Take a moment to close your eyes partly or fully. And just hear whatever arises in your mind, or feel whatever feelings or sensations come to you. Then say the word ‘patience’ to yourself. Say it again. What feelings, thoughts, and memories come to you? Just notice them. You need do nothing else but notice.

 

What does the word mean to you? What purposes does patience serve? And how often do you feel it? When don’t you feel it?

 

Do you get impatient when something is happening that gets in the way of what you want to happen? Or gets in the way of your image of how things should be?

 

Simply sit for a moment with the feeling of patience, that you can face what you need to face.

 

Then take a deep breath and return your attention to where you are seated.

 

What goes on in you when you’re impatient? When you’re impatient, you might feel you can’t wait for something to happen or something to end. You feel a contradiction between what you are looking at and what you want or imagine should be true. You are uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the now. But the impatience is not just about the contradiction. It is about feeling that if it isn’t true now, it might never be true. …

 

To read the whole post, click on this link to The Good Men Project.

Celebrating the Differences

On this day celebrating Martin Luther King Jr., it is important to remember not only the need to fight those who teach hate but to support those who model love. Remembering that we have had powerful leaders in the past who worked successfully to make the world a better place for all of us gives me hope that there will be such leaders again in the near future, and in fact are here, now.

 

One of my favorite quotes of King’s was one that echoes the Buddha and Gandhi, among others: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

 

King was not a perfect person. But there are no “perfect” people. We might feel the pressure, both from ourselves and others, to think we should be perfect. Or that if we aren’t perfect, how could we demand ethical behavior, clarity of thinking, or compassion from politicians? But what King fought for and the fact that he fought is inspirational.

 

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

 

We might think that those who are already social and political leaders must be either absolute saints or absolute sinners. We often want myths, not reality. It can be difficult to admire someone without mythologizing them.

 

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”

 

For example, some people of faith think the rich and powerful are favored by God, and so truth is what erupts from their leader’s mouth. However, when we think of our leaders as greater than us, greater than life, it’s too easy to ignore who they are or what they aim to do. The more real, the more human a leader is, the more we can learn from them. Instead of making a leader greater than us, we need to make ourselves into leaders, or at least informed citizens. We need to learn to examine the implications of policy proposals to determine as best we can what kind of world any leader would create.

 

“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

 

Do we want to “make America great again?” What does ‘great’ mean to T or his followers? From a study of T’s actions, we can see that he is trying to undermine democracy. His aim is to bring our nation back to a time before the Bill of Rights, before the constitution, maybe before the revolution. He wants a nation without a free press, without voting or civil rights, without a balance of powers between different branches of government, and with one-man rule. Or maybe he’s trying for something even worse, a white nationalist kleptocracy in which the rich are not controlled by laws but assume total power over the laws ⎼ something that didn’t even exist here 300 years ago.

 

“Every man must decide if he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the utter darkness of destructive selfishness.”

 

In 1947, in the Morehouse College student newspaper, Martin Luther King wrote: “If we are not careful, our colleagues will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts.” And this is what the Presidency is now teaching. T, along with his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is trying to replace education with propaganda,  public schools with private, a commitment to improving equity and protecting student’s rights and safety with a focus on producing workers desperate for income, open inquiry with religious centered mind-control.

 

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

 

We must not say: “This is awful but does not affect me directly. This is an assault on democracy and this is unjust, but I can live with it.”

 

Instead, we must be aware that: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

 

This is what, and whom, we celebrate today.

 

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

 

 

 

*The photo of is of a wall painting of Martin Luther King Jr., in Lake Worth, Florida.

The President of Lies and Corruption Strikes Again

Did you listen to the President of lies and corruption last night? I couldn’t listen to him for even five minutes in a row. It just made me too angry. I heard the bulk of the speech this morning.

As Lawrence O’Donnell reported, this was a fundraiser for his re-election funded by the tv networks. Both before and after the speech, T sent out requests to his base for contributions to raise $500,000 in one day for a fund to secure the border. However, the checks were to be sent to T’s re-election campaign, to the Make America Great Again site. O’Donnell called it T’s first re-election speech. T says these funds will go to build a wall, when they have apparently been earmarked to pay for his re-election campaign.

As for other lies and deceptions: T called the border a humanitarian and security crisis. The humanitarian crisis is one created or worsened by T’s policies and those of other nations south of the border. As for security, he said “every week, 300 citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90% of it floods across the southern border.” As the New York Times fact-checked, most heroin comes through legal points of entry so a wall would do nothing to stop it.

As for the opioid crisis, this has little to do with Mexico, as most of the opioids come from China. And the crisis was not created by immigrants. It was created by policies internal to the US, by doctors over-prescription and such.

According to the Washington Post, apprehensions of people at the southern border peaked in the year 2000 at 1.6 million and have been in decline ever since. In 2017, Customs and Border Protection reported 303,916 apprehensions. There is no crisis except in who we have as president.

One of his biggest claims regarding security was that US officials have blocked nearly 4000 known or suspected terrorists from entering the country through the southern border. This, too, is false. T’s own government statistics show that almost all terrorists known to have entered the US recently did so through air flights. There can be no wall through the airwaves. There is no credible evidence of terrorists coming across this land border.

During the 2016 campaign, T said Mexico would pay for the wall. Now he says the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement will pay for it. This, too, is deceptive. The trade agreement has not been ratified by Congress. Although T said he has already started building the wall, in fact only bollard fencing has been built, and this is from a bill passed in 2009.

So, this speech of T’s is more of the same thing. More statements lacking evidence, more racism, more corruption, more lack of respect for the rule of law, more putting himself before the well-being of most Americans. Please make calls, write letters, read the NYT and Washington Post fact-checks or watch the MSNBC, BBC or other reliable reports. T is, as many have said, holding us hostage, shutting down part of the government, trying to waste our tax money in order to save face with his base. We must do what we can to stop him.