extortion

We Can Make This Worse – Or Better


In 1974 Gerald Ford, the guy whose only professional ambition had been to one day be Speaker of the House, found himself to be President of the United States. That followed the crystal clarity of the breathtaking criminality of Richard Nixon that drove Nixon from office just ahead of a Senate impeachment posse. With Nixon’s disgrace on view across the globe and the passions in this country still white hot over Watergate, what would Ford do?

According to his public statement, Ford gave Nixon,

“a full, free, and absolute pardon…for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon .  .  . has committed or may have committed or taken part in”

Ford excused his accountability-killing action by saying that prosecution of the perp would,

“cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.”

And so Nixon avoided being held accountable. That left us wondering if the pardon was part of a shady deal that had made Ford Vice-President following former Vice President Spiro Agnew’s sordid bag man criminality and forced resignation.

In his third interview with David Frost, Nixon declared that, “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” That stunning Nixon moment of Through The Looking Glass lunacy left many of us dumbfounded and enraged. This is the man who abused his power by ordering the Watergate break-in, obstructing justice, illegally bombing Cambodia and using the apparatus of government (FBI, IRS, etc.) to persecute everyone on his “enemies list.”

According to Nixon’s idiotic declaration, all of those crimes he committed weren’t crimes because he was President when he committed them. He was a self-serving, counter-factual, inherently evil man making a statement that matched his derangement. Yet Ford had pardoned him even before he was indicted, much less convicted.

The Nixon get-out-of-jail-free card wasn’t the last one issued. In fact it was modern history’s bedrock upon which an expanding avoidance of accountability has been built.

From 1985 – 1987 Ronald Reagan’s administration committed multiple crimes captured under the banner of the Iran-Contra affair. The basic framework was that a team headed by Vice-President George H.W. Bush sold arms to Iran, then funneled the proceeds to the Contras in Nicaragua to help them overthrow the far left government ruling their country.

The problem was that only Congress has the power of the purse, not the Chief Executive. As well, Congress had made specific law that prohibited the actions of the Reagan-Bush cabal. Once the illegal activity was exposed, we got an “Oh, golly” from Reagan, as he took responsibility in scripted Hollywood fashion, playing nothing more than a pretend role. The significant part came later.

Eleven administration officials were indicted, convicted and sent to prison for their Iran-Contra crimes. Both Reagan and Vice-President Bush were implicated in the scandal, but not a thing was done about that. When Bush became President he pardoned all of the convicts – on advice from his attorney general, William Barr. Yeah, that William Barr. And all the criminals were freed. So much for accountability.

Barr was and is a strong proponent of the “unitary executive,” the main point of which is the belief that the President, as head of his own branch of the government, is not subject to oversight or check on his actions by Congress or the courts. That theory would make a President a dictator, completely above the law and any accountability. Hello Viktor Orbán.

In 2004 George W. Bush told us that he was a strong proponent of that cockamamie notion, which is handy for him, because he had lied us into two intractable wars. And he refused to accept intelligence warnings before the 9/11 attack, leaving us completely unguarded and unprepared. And he led us into the Great Recession of 2008. When a CV includes such things, it’s good to have a Get Out of Jail Free card in order to avoid accountability.

Look at the progression:

Nixon sent out thieves and then obstructed justice and the Congress.

Reagan flagrantly violated the law and covered it up.

H.W. Bush pardoned all the criminals of the Iran-Contra affair.

W. Bush’s lies led to wars that killed hundreds of thousands and his dereliction of duty led to 9/11 and the Great Recession.

Lack of accountability does exactly what you would expect: it leads to greater and more harmful wrongdoing, because the message is that if you’re high enough in government you’ll never pay a price for your criminality or incompetence.

Which brings us to today.

The doomsday predictions of far right violence if Trump is indicted and convicted might actually come about. But what we know with certainty will happen is that if he isn’t indicted for his alleged string of crimes, like incitement to riot and sedition, obstruction of justice, election interference, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion, violations of the Presidential Records Act, lying to federal agents, violations of the Espionage Act and more, we’re setting the stage for – wait for it – worse things to happen.

Because as horrid as Trump’s alleged crimes are, if Trump gets away with them, the next President will do far worse, because s/he will know in advance that there won’t be a price to pay for breaking the law. We’ve seen the continuing descent into ever worsening lawlessness, so we know how this works.

And the next guy may be – probably will be – way smarter, more manipulative and far more clever than Donald Trump. That will be the moment when everything is lost.

But we don’t have to wait for that and then cry “woe is us.” All we have to do is to establish solidly that nobody – not anyone – is above the law. All we have to do is to hold Trump and his operatives fully accountable for every one of their might be, could be, likely are crimes.

Hey, Merrick Garland: got a minute to chat?

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Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:
.
Fire the bastards!
.
The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Unmasking in the Theater


Reading time – 3:33  .  .  .

The House will hold all-hands-on-deck hearings into the impeachment of President Donald Trump. This has been a long time coming, considering all the blatantly illegal and un-Constitutional and un-presidential things he’s done. Indeed, just his refusal to investigate and take action against Russia for interfering in our 2016 election should have been enough to show even Republicans his unsuitability for office and his suitability for being sent away. Alas, that didn’t happen.

It didn’t happen when Robert Mueller submitted his report, which specifically cited ten (TEN!) cases of obstruction of justice perpetrated by Donald Trump. Just get that obstruction of justice is illegal in federal law and in every state, county and municipality in the United States. Still, Trump hasn’t been held to account. Now, though, there’s a chance for that to happen.

There isn’t even a hint of doubt that Trump attempted to get a foreign government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the political opponent he fears most. That’s a crime. And there isn’t a doubt that he held up money headed to Ukraine, money that was supposed to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion. Trump used that money to extort the president of Ukraine, to get him to “play ball” solely for the political benefit of Donald Trump. Extortion, like soliciting election help from a foreign government, is a crime.

The reason there isn’t a question as to whether Trump did all that is because he bragged that he did it. It was a voluntary confession and a voluntary release of the edited transcript of his phone call with the Ukrainian president that shows him doing it. Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney bragged about Trump’s illegal actions, too. He said that quid-pro-quo extortion is ordinary stuff and that we should all just, “Get over it.”

But, of course, we haven’t gotten over it, because the president soliciting or accepting anything of value from a foreign government IS ILLEGAL! The reason it’s illegal is because doing so corrodes our democracy, undermines our values and invites even worse criminality in the future. And it makes the United States of America subject to pressure from and possible control by foreign governments. The Framers knew that well and it is why they included this prohibition in the Constitution itself.

That’s what makes it so fascinating to watch Republicans twist themselves into pretzels trying to defend this clearly criminal president and his clearly criminal actions.

We have heard infantile “It’s not fair” whining from many Republicans, notably and most recently from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). He whined about how unfair it is that:

    • Trump hasn’t been allowed to present his case. (That’s true. Because what was done by the House Intelligence Committee was neither a court proceeding nor a debate. It was an inquiry seeking information, just as is done by a grand jury.)
    • The House Intelligence Committee hearings were done in closed session. (That’s true, too. That’s how such things have always been done, including when Republicans were digging for dirt – any dirt – on Bill Clinton.)
    • The House has issued more subpoenas than enacted laws. (That’s only true if you take into consideration that the entire stack of bills passed by the House is in a pile in a corner of Mitch McConnell’s office because he won’t bring them to the Senate for a vote. Besides, such numbers have nothing to do with the impeachment inquiry, which makes this objection idiotic.)
    • The Democrats want to kill democracy. (Yes, he said that. It isn’t worthy of further comment.)
  • The Republicans spent the duration of the House Intelligence Committee hearings complaining about the undemocratic secrecy of it all. Hearings should be public, they said. So, a vote was taken last week to hold public hearings in the full House, the very thing Republicans said that we must do. The proposal would give Republicans exactly what they said they wanted, and every Republican voted against it.
  • Republicans know what Democrats, Independents, iron workers, Popsicle peddlers in the parks, CEOs, mill workers, investment bankers, 7-11 attendants and everybody else knows: Donald Trump is a criminal. It’s just that some people rationalize that for their own imagined benefit.
  • Like the Republican legislators who dread a primary challenge and who cower in fear of Trump’s playground brat name calling. They do the dance to protect their own asses and in that process they abandon democracy and the Constitution they swore to protect and defend. And they know that’s what they’re doing.
  • This impeachment business will be, more than anything, a test of integrity.
  • So, watch the proceedings. They will be the greatest political theater on the planet. And they will be the greatest public unmasking of legislator frailties you’re likely to see – ever.

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NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Un-Acountability


Reading time – 2:14; Viewing time – 3:24  .  .  .

From Greg Sargent of The Washington Post:

“Trump is not merely staking out an absolute refusal to cooperate with any and all lawful subpoenas, on the deeply absurd grounds that the House’s impeachment inquiry is illegitimate, as the White House counsel has argued.

“Rather, Trump is adopting that stance while simultaneously claiming the absolute right to bend large swaths of the government toward his goal of rigging the next election on his own behalf. Thus, Trump is declaring absolute authority to use extraordinarily corrupt means to avoid facing a fair election next year, while also declaring total immunity to any and all congressional efforts to prevent him from rigging that election, or even to hold him accountable for it.”

To be clear, Trump is making fantastical claims of protection for himself, saying:

    • He can’t be impeached because doing so would be un-Constitutional.
    • He can’t be indicted because he’s the president.
    • He can’t even be investigated because he’s the president.

And he’s not just spewing those hallucinatory power grabs at his hatefest rallies, described by (I think it was) John Pavlovitz as “trickle-down hatred”; he’s making those ludicrous claims in federal court. He’s being shot down every time and his lawyers are being excoriated by judges for their absurd, baseless arguments. But here’s the thing about all of this.

Trump’s 38% base believes him. It doesn’t matter what he says, especially if it’s a verbal middle finger in the air toward an adversary. So, they believe that he can get away with foreign involvement in our next election, even if he commits extortion to make it happen. They believe that rigging the election is okay, as long as it’s for Trump’s benefit. They believe that he cannot be impeached. They believe he can’t be indicted. And they believe that it’s illegal to even investigate him, so there’s no need for any accountability.

They believe there is a “deep state”, something that is a victimhood construct of Trump’s  pathological imagination that plays to the sense of betrayal his voters harbor. Nobody has ever heard a definition of what this deep state is, but you can be confident that his followers are certain that it’s some terrible, dark government conspiracy to harm them, to be crooked and take care of horrible criminals at voters’ expense.

And they now believe that the impeachment inquiry is a function of that deep state and that there is a looming coup being driven by the dishonest Democrats. They believe that because Trump has told them so, as have Trump’s sycophantic mouthpieces. And Trump is warning of violence to come if he is impeached by this coup. That’s a thinly veiled call for his 38% to rise up in self-righteous, violent opposition to this imaginary deep state coup.

All of which leave us with the question of how we will be a United States once this petty tyrant is removed. This is most dangerous stuff.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
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Thanks!

NOTES:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Kavanaugh Lessons – Good News, Bad News


Reading time – 1:21  .  .  .

Immediately following the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her claim of having been sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stopped to talk with reporters in the hallway outside the committee room. He went on a long, angry rant of accusations against Democratic members of the committee. He impugned Dr. Ford’s claims and falsely declared that there is no corroboration for her testimony. He demeaned the FBI by saying that they would never be able to find useful information on what happened three decades ago. He also proudly declared himself to be a victim. Later, during interrogation of Judge Kavanaugh following his own angry rant, Graham used his five minutes of questioning for a second temper tantrum.

Publishing date TOMORROW!

Graham spewed a lot of vitriol and it might seem that there’s no good news to be found there, but that isn’t so. The good news is that regardless of his occasionally seeming to be thoughtful, fair-minded and even senatorial, Lindsey Graham has once again shown us exactly who and what he is.

All the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee abused the nominating process, insulted justice, the Constitution and all Americans and voted in lock-step for Brett Kavanaugh. They continued to refuse to release any of the 100,000 documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s record that the Republicans hid from the Democrats. They, like Lindsey Graham, have shown us once again exactly who and what they are. You can let go of your doubt. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that we’re now facing accusations that President Trump shook down the president of Ukraine in order to get dirt on Joe Biden’s son. What are the chances that Congressional Republicans will aggressively pursue this forehead-slappingly obvious abuse of power and criminal action?

Cast your vote in the Comments section below.

For further elucidation of Republican inclination to discharge their duties, read this.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

NOTES:

    1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling or punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
    3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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