Slavery or Sacrifice? Risk Your Life at a Job Infected with the Virus or Lose your Income

This is the choice many workers are being forced to make: Risk getting sick or lose your income.

 

This is especially stark at meat processing plants, where the workers usual salary is just enough to get by week-to-week and many of the workers are relatively recent immigrants. Now DT is saying he will sign an executive order under the Defense Production Act to stop closures of meat processing plants by declaring them “critical infrastructure.” He will force the employees at these plants to go to work despite dangerous conditions. Is this action initiating a form of slavery? Is he sacrificing American workers to fit his own political purposes?

 

Workers at many of these plants have, for over a month, been scared to go to work, but they did so because they had little choice. And now, under DT’s executive order, if they choose not to work, they will neither get a paycheck nor be allowed to collect unemployment.

 

This is not just true of workers in meat processing plants. It is true in Iowa where the Governor wants to gradually open up all businesses, despite continued spread of the virus. If people refuse to go to work, due to fears of getting sick, they will lose their unemployment insurance. To make this even more blatant, Mitch McConnell said he has drawn a “red line” regarding the next coronavirus bill: no more relief from Congress for infected people, medical supplies, or businesses unless the businesses he forces to open are protected from liability claims. He knows he is putting lives at risk but he either doesn’t care or is willing to sacrifice them.

 

Rachel Maddow interviewed former OSHA policy advisor Debbie Berkowitz about the situation at the meat processing plants. Berkowitz said the administration is claiming we have only one choice: safety for workers or a break down in the US food supply. This, she says, is a false choice. The claim that we must either “feed America or keep Americans safe” is a false choice that exposes “government malfeasance.”

 

DT wants to force these plants to resume business in order to resurrect a crumbling economy, protect his power, and preserve profits for his supporters. Likewise, Rachel Maddow revealed that the situation was made worse than it had to be by the DT administration. When the CDC inspected the plants and found violations, instead of doing what it usually does, and issue required changes in the way the plants operated, they issued suggestions. Is this because DT’s Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia decided he would not make the health guidelines for meatpacking plants mandatory and would not enforce the changes in the plants the CDC laid out back in March, and again just recently? The result? 1700 people have died in different meat processing plants, and the virus is spreading through the local communities.

 

In Black Hawk County, Iowa, the Sheriff spoke of his fears ⎼ not only that the coronavirus will continue to spread through the Tyson meat processing plant, but spread throughout the population of his city. He said the “hole is blown in the front line of defense” against the virus.

 

In order to open the plants, significantly more testing will be required. Vice President Pence said that, after large outbreaks in plants in Greeley, Colorado, he would “flow” testing to those plants. It has not happened. Could there be even more positive cases at that plant? Nobody knows. The testing never happened and is not happening now, despite the plant being given a public health order telling them to test every employee.

 

Since the crisis began, it is not clear why DT has not pushed for more testing. Is it incompetence, malevolence, corruption, or maybe a fear of what the numbers might reveal? Is it racism, since a disproportionate number of the deaths are of people of color?  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said that the “lack of testing,” not just for meat packing plants but for the general population, is “probably the number one problem in America and has been from the beginning of this crisis.” He added that the White House’s happy talk “is just absolutely false.”

 

Some might imagine they are not affected by these actions. They might think this is just happening in red states or in Iowa, Colorado, or South Dakota, or just those with meat processing plants. These plants exist in many states, largely along the east coast and Midwest.

 

How about the air we breathe? That affects everyone. Since the DT EPA reduced air quality standards, air pollutants in places like Houston’s heavily industrialized areas have surged as much as 62%. Residents have said “we don’t even know what we’re breathing.” “They are basically killing us.” But this danger is affecting people of color disproportionately, who live closest to affected areas.

 

And this list of how DT threatens the great majority of Americans could go on almost indefinitely. DT has rolled back protections on our drinking water, undermined our ability to face this crisis, undermining our right to vote, our jobs, etc. We must not allow this to go on.

 

This post was partly inspired by a conversation on FB and partly by a Rachel Maddow program.  Maddow reported on the CDC not closing or enforcing its guidelines at any meatpacking plant but the one in Sioux City owned by Smithfield. This plant was closed because one female worker sued the plant, not to get money, but to compel the owners of the plant to adequately protect its workers. We can take action. When we do research, share information, and show compassion, we can energize ourselves and inspire others to act.

 

On Tuesday, 4/21, a bill to require OSHA safety standards be enforced was introduced in the U. S. House of Representatives and 34 Senators sent a letter to DT objecting to the lack of protections at the meat processing plants. We need to pressure Congress to get this passed. This is one action we can take this week. We need to do what we can to protect each other from this president.

 

Whether it be joining other people, with signs on cars, to protest on Friday, May Day, or on any other day, calling Congress, or writing letters. We must do what we can to stop DT from ending the stay-at-home orders too soon and sacrificing people to serve his power and profit.

Lies Are Killing People: Lies and Caring Only for One’s Own Power

On Thursday, 4/2, Ari Melber, on his MSNBC program, interviewed Kirsten Gillibrand and later talked with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and others. I greatly appreciated Senator Gillibrand saying “we need truthtellers now.” And Dr. Emanuel continuing with this theme, saying we have to pay attention to facts. Lies are killing people.

 

The Coronavirus is making it abundantly clear what half of the population of the US already knew—not only that DT lies, constantly. Not only does he do so to serve his own self-interest or express his ignorance. But these lies are dangerous. They can and are, right now, killing people. We have to combat the lies, distortions, fake news in order to save not only ourselves but the lives of all those we care about.

 

Likewise, earlier in the week Senator Chris Coons (D, Delaware), and on Friday, Rachel Maddow, talked about the fact that DT, just like George Bush with Katrina, and most of the “reduce government” GOP, feel it is not their job to save lives in a crisis, not their job to organize the manufacture and supply of medical equipment or relief aid.

 

In fact, according to CNN and recordings of the “news conference,” on Thursday, 4/2, DT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is now in charge of the coronavirus relief effort, chastised governors for asking the Federal Government to send the medical supplies in its stockpiles to the cities and states that desperately need them. At one point, Kushner even said that the federal stockpile of emergency medical supplies is not meant for the states. “It’s supposed to be our stockpile.” The CNN article questioned who did Kushner mean by “our?” I wonder. Did he mean the Trump family? Or the Federal government? If he meant the latter, the Federal Government, clearly that would mean the people of this nation who need them, right? If he meant the former, he shouldn’t be in charge of anything in the government.

 

But maybe the Trump family is exactly what he meant. Kushner’s father-in-law told Vice President Pence to ignore the calls for aid by Governors who did not show appreciation for him. Some states, like Florida, led by devotees of DT, got all the aid they asked for, and quickly. Others still haven’t seen all or any equipment. Meanwhile, DT outbid Governors for needed supplies.

 

Since he became President, DT ignored warnings of a possible pandemic and ignored warnings about this pandemic. He cut funds for the CDC, NSC, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services to fight global diseases and dismantled the White House team in charge of global health security.

 

According to the New York Times, he has invoked the Defense Production Act hundreds of thousands of times to help the military.  But now, when so many lives are at stake, he won’t actually use it. There is no rational reason for this behavior except that he doesn’t think it is in the best interests of corporations to use this power, or he thinks it is not in his best interest to end the crisis quickly, and not his job to serve the best interests of most of the people of this nation. This is one aspect of what “smaller government” means to him and to many in the GOP.

 

It is not just that DT is totally unsuited for the Presidency but that he will use anything, even a pandemic, as a means to serve his own ends, even if those means end up sacrificing the nation.

 

We need to get or stay healthy, and when we can, make calls, write letters, put up signs, do everything we can not only to vote but to get others out to vote in November, and secure mail-in ballots for all. As we can now see, our lives might depend on it.

 

*This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Cutting the Jugular Vein of Democracy

Do you feel the news cycle is speeding up or things are getting even worse since the impeachment trial? I thought the world was in trouble ever since DT was elected. But since the Senate abdicated its role in holding the President accountable for his actions, DT’s tweets and actions have spiraled out of control. Or maybe his aim is clearer. He has gone directly toward the jugular vein of democracy and has cut it.

 

Even Bill Barr, his legal fixer, spoke out saying enough is enough. Whether it was real or more likely political theatre, he said that DT’s tweets attacking the justice department, attacking actual judicial proceedings, was making his job impossible and undermine the legal system.

 

The context for Barr’s comments was DT’s direct and obvious intervention in the sentencing of Roger Stone, his “friend” and supporter who knows where so much dirt is buried. DT even attacked the judge and a juror in the case, illustrating what his lawyers, as well as GOP Senators (other than Mitt Romney), proclaimed: DT thinks he can do whatever he wants, thus destroying the concept of a fair trial. As the New York Times, Adam Schiff and others pointed out, if he is the law then there is no rule of law, and the constitutional separation of powers is dead.

 

After Barr warned him to stop his tweets, DT went on to say that he had the power to interfere in the Stone Case, or any case. And Barr’s move to make sure any investigation of the President must go through him, just cements DT’s control over the DOJ and judiciary and destroys the constitutional balance of powers.

 

As Rachel Maddow pointed out, DT is interfering in cases and pardoning criminals in order to make clear: if you violate the law on my behalf, you get a free pass. If you oppose me, as his firing of Ambassador Sondland, and Colonel Vindman and his attacks on Adam Schiff illustrate, you will pay a severe price.

 

And it is not just DT and those close to him who are speeding up their attacks on democracy, but Russia and some corporate media outlets. Last week, as reported by the New York Times, former acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire had officials from his agency brief the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was interfering right now in the 2020 election to aid DT’s re-election campaign. This led to DT angrily berating Maguire and replacing him with Richard Grenell, someone with no experience in intelligence but who is a DT loyalist….

 

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

It Is Time to Call, Write, and Demonstrate: A Summary and Call to Action for Those Who Understandably Can’t Stand the News

The Justice Department does not belong to any one party or individual. But Sunday, Mr. Trump tweeted: ‘‘I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!’’ This was only one of his Sunday tweets.

 

The President can suggest actions to the Justice Department, but cannot demand. And he cannot, or at least should not, demand actions that directly interfere in the Mueller investigation. However, he is trying to get Rod Rosenstein and Christopher Wray to do just that and investigate the investigation.

 

At the heart of the latest battle is the charge there was a “spy” planted in the Trump campaign. In fact, the person is, as far as I can tell, not a spy but an informant. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies use informants all the time. By trying to claim malfeasance on the part of the FBI, Trump is distorting the facts once again, and once again attempting to undermine the FBI and Mueller investigation, and is putting the safety of the informant at risk. This is tantamount to claiming that anyone who reveals negative information on him is violating the law.

 

Trump also tweeted: “At what point does this soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP! They have found no Collusion with Russia, No Obstruction, but they aren’t looking at the corruption…”

 

In this tweet, he is trying to say that the real corruption is being committed by Mueller and Democrats, but this is misdirection and worse. His very insinuations are examples of his interfering in the actions of the Justice Department and Mueller’s investigation.

 

According to a CBS fact check of his statements, the tweet is “short on facts.” CNN said “Trump said 11 false things in just 5 tweets.” Chris Cillizza of CNN said, “There’s zero factual basis—at least that I can find—for Trump putting a $20 million price tag on the Mueller probe.” In December, the cost was $6.7 million.

 

Mueller is a Republican, and like others on his team, he owes his position to a Republican President. He was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the FBI in 2001. And he served in that role for six years under Obama. In terms of the charge of collusion, that is an unresolved issue. Mueller was tasked with investigating that charge and the investigation is clearly not over. Yet, the President often tweets “no collusion,” as if by repeating it often enough people will believe it.

 

Trump’s lies are increasing in frequency as is the threat to what’s left of democracy in America. The Washington Post found that in the first 100 days, he lied or played loose with facts 4.9 times a day. Recently, it has almost doubled to 9 times a day. (See also the New York Times and Politifact.)

 

The threat is increasing as the President and his enablers in Congress, like Devin Nunes (Republican Congressman from California), are demolishing, to an unprecedented degree, the boundaries created by the separation of powers doctrine. Nunes has been leading the effort in Congress to get all the information on the confidential informant and portray his role as somehow malfeasant, instead of the normal operation of an investigation. And for months, he and other Republicans have been pressuring Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to turn over information that the Mueller investigation has on the President and others. If Rosenstein doesn’t, he can be impeached for contempt of Congress. If he turns over the documents, he is violating his position overseeing the investigation. The GOP has already drawn up eight articles of impeachment against him.

 

After meeting with the President Monday, along with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, Rosenstein agreed to have the Department of Justice Inspector General investigate the Mueller investigation, especially the use of information from the confidential source.

 

However, this is not enough for the President and conservative Republican members of Congress. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and 17 other GOP Congressmen (mostly members of the Freedom Caucus) signed a resolution today (5/22) demanding the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the DOJ and FBI. Senior officials from the DOJ, FBI and National Intelligence are set to meet with 2 Republican members of Congress on Thursday to “review” highly classified information the lawmakers have been seeking related to the Mueller investigation. In a beautiful example of irony, Democrats have been excluded from this meeting supposedly called to examine political bias in the FBI and DOJ. The New York Times points out the strategy here: limit the investigation and attack the investigators.

 

Monday evening, Rachel Maddow spoke about the meeting at the White House. By summoning Rosenstein and Wray, Trump was not just complaining. He was taking action in the vein of his firing, last year, the then FBI Director, James Comey. She questioned: have we now gone too far down a slippery slope?

 

The Justice Department has done several things in the past that Maddow finds disturbing. The DOJ has “shed or demoted” all the justice officials who Comey provided with corroborating information about his meetings with the President. Congress has asked the DOJ for FISA warrant applications, which they handed over, something never done before. The DOJ is now being asked to turn over information which can help Trump in his case against Mueller. This violates every principle of an investigation. On Sunday, when the President demanded the DOJ open a counter-investigation, he crossed another dangerous line. He took another step toward the destruction of the rule of law. Why is Rosenstein going along with this?

 

And, if we the citizens don’t act, why? Why are we going along with this? I understand feeling depressed by all that’s happening, and feeling powerless. But to give in to that feeling is to let Trump win.

 

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: “The president’s behavior is the kind of grossly autocratic behavior we’d expect in a banana republic, not a mature democracy,” Do we have or have we had a “mature democracy” for a while now?

 

In 1776, Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer who influenced the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, said: “These are the times that try men’s souls. …Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” Our souls, our consciences, our lives are being tried to an ever-increasing degree by this administration. It is time to act. It is time to call any member of Congress you can, or go to the office of politicians, especially Republicans, and speak out and demonstrate, to stop this interference into the Mueller investigation. To stop the gradual destruction of the rule of law. We must prepare for November, but not wait until then.

Don’t Let the Party of Grinches Steal Your Holidays

As linguist, cognitive scientist and author George Lakoff has clearly pointed out in his book The All New Don’t Think of An Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, Republicans have too often dictated the terms and imagery of political discourse in our country. It is time for this to stop. Read this book.

 

It was the GOP word machine that branded Conservatives as Populists out to save America from “big government” and “effete, wasteful liberals.” But after this week, and this year, this imagery is no longer going to capture anyone, except for those who have walled themselves off in forts built from right-wing news distortions. After this week’s debacle with the tax-health-care-environment rip off/”scam” bill, we see very clearly that the GOP attack on “big government” is just a way for the wealthy and their paid representatives to steal money from social programs. Americans are discovering new political metaphors that touch more and more people and undermine support for the GOP agenda. The struggle against oppression that we are waging is not just against politicians, but against metaphors and ways of thinking. Here are some metaphors I have heard this week. (If you noticed or created other liberating metaphors, please share them.)

 

Last night, I was listening to MSNBC. Chris Hayes and others were using imagery, with a sweet touch of humor. Humor is always helpful in dealing with a threatening reality, although I don’t feel very amused right now. Mr. T is the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The GOP is the party of Grinches. (This goes back, possibly, to Joe Scarbough’s album of Christmas music.) They are stealing not only Christmas but Hanukah, Kwanzaa, all holidays and vacations for years to come, if their tax bill gets enacted.

 

For those of us not in the dictator class, the cost of living, and health care premiums, will “rise” even more “precipitously” under this new bill than before the ACA. The tax bill will “de-stabilize” health insurance markets. (Some GOP supporters say the premiums for Obamacare are already too high. They should examine the rates before the ACA and look at how the GOP have been trying to increase premiums in order to undermine the Democrat’s program ever since the ACA was passed.) By 2026, when the temporary tax cuts for the middle class and lower class that are in this bill end, it has been predicted that health insurance premiums will be doubled. 83% of the tax cuts in this bill will be for the rich, the would-be dictator class. The GOP is not just trying to steal Christmas; they are stealing the future. They are “looting America.” One of my favorite images is from Bernie Sanders, who talked about the GOP tax plan back in October as “the Robin Hood principle in reverse.” Of course, I always loved the story of Robin Hood.

 

The future the GOP envisions has children suffering without care. About 50% of those on Medicaid are children. Yet, as the debt goes up next year, or the year after that, the party of Grinches is salivating over the chance to cut Medicaid. They have been trying to end this insurance for children, the disabled, the elderly for years. They do not believe it is right for people to help others. They also, somehow, forgot to renew CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program). They will fight for a foetus in the womb, but not a child who’s been born. They also want to cut Medicare and Social Security, to deny most of us the chance to collect our investment and retire with dignity.

 

Many Republicans are trying to reverse the American Revolution, and re-establish one-man rule. One aim of the constitution was to prevent any one person from getting the power of an autocrat. But create an autocracy is exactly what it seems Mr. T and his followers are trying to do. This is what traitors to democracy try to do. They are trying to take away our freedom, take away voting rights and freedom of the press. Going along with this, is the “figurative” assessment by former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that Putin is treating T as an “asset” or “pawn” of the Kremlin.

 

They claim Dems are stealing their freedom by stopping them from polluting or limiting choices in health care. Well, how free are you if you can’t afford the premiums for health insurance? How free do you feel if you have to choose between paying a medical bill or your rent or food?

 

If you doubt the GOP are trying to reverse the American Revolution, just listen to the sycophantic ceremony of obeisance by Republican congresspeople yesterday. They were fawning over Mr. T for his leadership. Tennessee congresswoman Diane Black said: “Thank you, President Trump, for allowing us to have you as our president.” They sounded like politicians in North Korea giving obeisance to Kim Jong-un. Are Republicans equally afraid of what their ruler might do? Or are they being paid so much they don’t care?

 

They are certainly trying to undermine progressive taxation, which means a tax system that attempts to have those who get more from the economic system pay a higher rate of taxes. It is a way to preserve some power for the great majority of Americans to influence the political process.

 

Last night, Rachel Maddow talked about a report by Politico that there is a secret working group of the GOP in Congress, using material, even classified material, to try to deceive people into thinking the FBI is biased against the president and engaged in a criminal activity. They claim members of the Mueller investigation are so dastardly that a few even gave money to the campaigns of democratic legislators (as if it is only legal and acceptable to give money to the GOP). Ignore the fact that Mueller, McCabe, etc. are Republicans. The GOP claim that the FBI is involved in criminal behavior investigating the President. They talk about “the fix is in.”

 

When Mr. T and other Republicans do something illegal, they deflect. They claim those who oppose them are doing something illegal. They shout “lock her up” when they feel they might, deservedly, be locked up. This is not just Newspeak of 1984. It is the undermining of free speech that happens with dictators. It is Dictator-speech. It is undermining the rule of law speech. It is time to wake up and protest speech.

 

Senator Mark Warner said Republican congresspeople are engaged in “irresponsible” attacks, coordinated with right wing media, and aimed to undermine Mueller and undermine the rule of law. They are dangerous. He warned us to be vigilant. “No one is above the law… It is critical that all of us… speak up against these threats, now, before it’s too late.” Only if we can rise to the occasion will we save ourselves.

 

While I am sharing my outrage with you, another metaphor I’ve heard from more responsible media is that Democrats lack a vision. They are divided. The GOP who have been so divided they couldn’t pass a major piece of legislation until this week, try to influence the news media to say it is the Dems who are divided. They have taken the Dems imagery of the GOP as “The Party of No,” when Barack Obama was president, and turned it on Dems today. “The only thing Dems can unite on,” they claim, is an opposition to T.

 

Well, the Democratic party has, at times, certainly been confused and dastardly. But one thing this week and this year have made abundantly clear is that although both the GOP and DNC operate in the same money-driven system, there is a great difference between them. The DNC is made up of different people with different viewpoints, and underwriters, and many often fail to do what I think is just or reasonable. But I think Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others have vision. I think most people who identify as Democrats share a vision of freedom, of the right to vote and of a free press. They share a vision where people can disagree without disagreement being criminalized. They support the role of government in caring for fellow humans. Do not forget that it was Democrats (Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton) who largely brought us CHIP (along with Republicans who were not afraid to work “across the aisle”), and it was liberal Democrats who brought us Social SecurityMedicare and Medicaid. Dems actually think science is valuable. Hopefully, we can get the DNC to catch up to Democrats.

 

We need to support politicians who recognize we are all part of the community of humans and we share the neighborhood with other species. Those who oppose the dictatorship of Mr. T and his right-wing followers need to unite, now, in any way possible to preserve the environment of the neighborhood and preserve the right to wander, speak and live freely, justly, in it.

 

So, for the holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, please enjoy, but be vigilant. And remember what has been done this week. Remember and work to support the rights, freedoms, dreams of justice, education, equity, and metaphors that most of us share yet some would squash.

 

 

 

Last Night, A Battle of Good Against Evil?

I thought I’d have a little fun. For the last two nights, my wife and I watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written by J. K. Rowling, between portions of Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and checking in on the Senate’s fight over the Republican denial of health care bill.

 

It was a very surreal experience, like living in a fantasy world. McConnell became, in my mind, the powerful Auror, enforcer, Director of Magical Security for the magical world, a character named Graves (played by Colin Farrell). Graves was trying to appear like he was acting for the welfare of others. In reality, he was always pushing his own agenda, built from megalomania and a delusion of superiority, to undermine others, and make all of us Nomajs or Muggles subservient to him and his cohorts. We learn at the end that Graves was only a mask worn by the evil Grindelwald, a Dark Wizard, second only to Lord Voldemort, who hid away after nasty crimes in Europe. (Did he ever go to Russia?)

 

And then there was the Obscurus, a dark force that ran rampant destroying buildings and killing. The Obscurus was built from the energy created by the abuse, and oppression of the magical ability of Credence, an adopted son of Samantha Morton, the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society. These “Second Salemers” were like the first, religious bigots calling for a war against all those with magic and who are “different.” Graves-Grindelwald tried to use the power of the Obscurus, of oppression, for his own ends, but it turned against him. I took the Obscurus as a warning. When a government tries to assault the magic, well-being, and humanity of so many of us, it will only lead to destruction.

 

And on Wednesday, when Mr. T. had Secretary Zinke threaten Senator Lisa Murkowski for her opposition to the Republican bill, this fit in so well with the movie and the plot, of a battle by evil against the good. It was almost too much, too blatant, but the inappropriate behavior of this President is blatant.

 

I won’t try to make too close a comparison between the movie and the real life drama in the Senate. Rowlings work has often been seen as a metaphor for different battles between “good and evil.” But I think there were heroes Wednesday and Thursday. There was Senator Lisa Murkowski, certainly, and Susan Collins. And Senator McCain, who created a great and multi-dimensional drama of his own. And the Democrats, who stayed together as a unified force. Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat from Hawaii, interrupted her cancer treatments to fly to D. C.. And all of us, who have been making calls, demonstrating on the streets or in the halls of Congress, or writing letters. I’m afraid that there will be many more battles, and we need to learn all we can from this one. In the end, it seems to me that we Nomajs are the ones with the real magic.