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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Invisible Hand in Korea

Trump "diplomacy" "appears" to be working in the Korean peninsula.  The two enemies have battled or threatened each other since the end of WWII.  It is unbelievable* that in a matter of one year the two bullies are talking peace.  And it was so easy.  Why didn't the Presidents from Truman to Obama think of bullying back?
* Unbelievable means: Don't believe it.

ALL OF THE MEDIA HAVE BEEN DISTRACTED FROM THE TRUTH

The press has agreed on both sides of the great political divide that the United States must employ the support of South Korea, Japan, and China to work with the North Koreans in order to make a peace accord possible. However, they have missed the Bear in the Room! 

The have forgotten the invisible hand in North Korea.  That is the Russian Hand that we ignore at our greatest peril. Vladimir Putin is a master chess player, and he is playing on six political world stages at once: Europe, Middle East, Far East, North and South America while Donald Trump's strategy is at the Tic-Tack-Toe level!

I am not ready to show him in Africa, yet!

The Chinese were never the top supporters of North Korea: Russiawas there at its beginning and has remained a supplier of modern military equipment, a trainer of its air force and, at times, supplied the pilots who shot down hundreds of American and Allies' planes.  The Chinese only acted for their own self-interests during the Korean War because hawks like General MacArthur wanted to invade China, as well as, North Korea.  

It was the Russians whose MIG fighters were shooting down American pilots in American planes early in the conflict because our military hadn't expected that the Koreans could match our technology.  The Russian pilots wore Korean uniforms and kept radio silence.  I'll share more of that period in later blogs.

It was the Russians, not the Chinese, who were the main trainers and suppliers of the North Korean military, and I will share how Putin has helped with updated weapons.  But the North Koreans tried to balance support for both of their huge neighbors.

The conclusion I am proposing is that all of the furor and bombastic noise did not originate in Washington, but in Moscow.  And it was timed for the 2018 elections, and created as a shield for Trump against the Mueller investigation.

I know that these ideas may be shocking and hard to digest, but I hope to get people thinking before we lose all influence and credibility in the Far East.  It's clear that our influence in Western Europe is sinking as Russia's military build-up worries Eastern Europeans who have looked to an American led NATO for assurance that they can survive the next attack by Putin. And which citizens in NATO will forget seeing their leaders forced to beg Trump to maintain the Iran deal, only to be rebuffed! 

 Finally, a million Russian Jews who fled to Israel appear to have lost their memories of the pogroms of Czarist Russia and the purges of Jews in the Communist Soviet Union.

Future Topics:
Too many Americans are willing to give Trump credit for the Obama economy even though Trump and his Republican toadies are building the slope to make it crash!

Remember every lie that he tweets and repeats is designed to make you to forget that it was a lie in the first place!

Al

P.S: Stop watching the Tic-Tack-Toe match.  The battle is on the chessboards!

P.P.S: Warn your Senators:  Gina Haskell’s service in the CIA included, not only permitting illegal torture of prisoners; but participating in the action, and finally destroying the taped evidence.  What evidence will she destroy at the CIA?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

the War Against Hillary

Like most dictators and “wannabe dictators” who can’t be satisfied to merely beat their adversaries, Trump’s right -wingers delight in beating Hillary Clinton over and over again with the hope that every memory of her will be smothered in lies and scandal! It’s ironic that their lies about Hillary and the Clinton family* are examples of the truth about Donald Trump!

>  Remember all of the negative signs that were directed at Hillary during her campaign stops?

“LIAR! LIAR” cried the signs. But they were pointed in the wrong direction! They should have been turned around to face the Trump crowd, itself! Nobody in politics has ever told as many lies as THEIR candidate!

>  Consider The Trump Foundation:  It was forced to shut down, because it helped Trump personally more than it supported any charities.
It was just as dishonest as The Trump University!  


For additional information on this subject: click on the link below to see the fact-check on the Clinton Foundation:

P.S. Now ask yourself: why does the DNC watch all of these attacks on Hillary Clinton and remain silent?

Al

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Swamp news

  The chump brought his swamp to Michigan.  Hopefully he will never again bespoil our beautiful State with his presence.  He was about 50 miles from Flint.   It goes without saying that he may as well have been a million miles away. It seems that the sole purpose of the visit was to jump start his reelection bid.  If the intended effect is to chill all of us  to the bone, he succeeded.   This is what I want to know:  How much of our tax dollars are used for this swamp show.  Judicial watch, a conservative organization has reported that a trip to the Bedminster golf course costs $45,000.  A rally in Arizona cost 1.5 million.  The military says the cost of  flying Air Force One is $206,000 an hour.  So Pruitt's security staff and telephone booth, Zinke's private air travel, Mnuchin's use of government planes for personal trips are all Chump change, you should excuse the expression.
       Rachel Maddow has a chart showing all of the Chump people who have left the administration already.  She is just about out of room on the chart.  One guy who didn't even make it into the administration was the acting head of ICE.  He withdrew his name before he got to the Senate for confirmation.  This guy had so much baggage, he almost certainly would not have been confirmed.
       Yesterday a top Pruitt aide resigned.  This guy was a banker in Oklahoma.  He arranged a very questionable loan allowing Pruitt to buy an expensive house  from a lobbyist in a very questionable transaction.  Of course Pruitt brought him to Washington.  It did not matter that under a consent agreement with the FDIC this guy agreed to a lifetime ban from the banking industry.  Pruitt's top security guy also resigned.    He had been in the federal government for most of his adult life.  While there is no public explanation for his departure, I am willing to bet that the reason is a real doozy.
        But that was yesterday.  Today it was revealed that a lobbyist arranged for Pruitt's trip to Morocco.  Remember that boondoggle?  He was trying to get Morocco to buy natural gas from a firm for which his buddy was lobbying.  They landed in Paris on Friday to get a Saturday connection to Morocco.  They missed the morning flight so the whole crew spent an extra day in Paris.  We will probably never know why they missed the flight. So today it was revealed that Pruitt's buddy who arranged the trip entered into a $40,000 a month lobbying contract for Morocco. Coincidence? By the way, Pruitt is a committed evangelical.  He helps Chump with that base.  I need to catch up on my bible reading to find out how to rationalize all of this criminal behavior.
        How is it that Chump has attracted so much creatures to come out of the swamp?  It is now acceptable for criminals to run for office as Republicans.  A former congressman from New York was convicted of cheating his employees, filing false income tax returns, and lying to federeal investigators.  He's a huge Chump supporter.  He is running for his old seat.  Don Blankenship, convicted in the deaths of 20 coal miners in West Virginia is running for Senate.  He loves Chump.  Joe Arpiao was convicted of criminal contempt.  Chump pardoned him.  He's running for Senate in Arizona.  And Michael Flynn, a convicted felon is the star attraction at Republican candidates' rallies.  Those rallies are all Chump all the time.
         Chump has found part of America that most of did not know existed.  How is it possible that close to forty percent of the American people can enthusiastically support this demented, immoral con man?  Hopefully his reign of evil is drawing to a close.  And hopefully the damage he has done to our country.is reversible.   Take care.

                                                                          Richard

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Koch and DACA

I wrote this opinion piece before the court ruling that Trump's assertion the Obama DACA plan was unconstitutional was not substantiated in spite of three attempts by the White House to prove Trump's position.  DACA is still alive and more eligible kids can apply for protection.  Our immigration policy is still up in the air,  but Democrats should be aware that the Republicans would love to own the popular DACA issue if they can figure a way for Trump to get credit for it.

My opinion below still stands:

It is my opinion that there is no single entity that has more power over the Republican Party than the Koch Brothers political organization. Their powerful network has changed the election process in the United States.  They created and established The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a conservative organization of state legislators and private sector representatives, who draft and share model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States that established the national Gerrymander of many states in 2011 12.

They created and funded the Tea Party (Freedom Caucus) that has a sizable presence in the Congress.  They funded a network of conservative "Think Tanks" at key points around the country to further their right-wing, libertarian ideas as serious academic research papers, and they funded economics departments in respected universities with strings attached that gave the Kochs control of the staffing and the curriculum. A threat from them would have moved those undecided Republicans. On top of the above structures, they were among the most dependable donors to Republican candidates. 

It’s obvious that they had the power to swing more than the necessary Republican votes in the House and Senate that, with the Democrats, pass an immigration bill that would become a model for the future of  immigrants like those who have led positive lives and raised such terrific young people.

So why are they running an expensive campaign now?  I believe they are using DACA to make it appear that it is only the Republicans who are serious about saving the DACA kids, but the Democrats let them down

Al

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Comey's book

  The problem with writing an occasional piece is that in the interim there have been enumerable  scandalous things to write about. So for the moment I will write about James Comey.
        There has been an endless amount of discussion about his book.  I have seen several of his interviews.  My take is that he is a very bright, very thoughtful, very honest, very introspective person.  I have heard his justification for making the infamous Hillary disclosure just before the election.  After hearing his justification, I think he made a  dead wrong decision.  But I accept that he made an honest error in judgement.  
       For me the most important question asked of Comey is, "What do you want to be the takeaway from the book?"  His answer, "We need to bring good values back to our government.  
        Who ever thought that Democrats would be making values  an important issue.  The "Moral Majority" tried to own that issue.  Now they are slopping around in the sty of the most valueless president in the history of the United States.  By the way, I always resented the implication of the self righteous moral majority that liberals did not have values.  But that's for another discussion.
       Comey makes two major points regarding Chump's lack of values. First, is Chump's complete inability to tell the truth.  He lies about everything big and small.  Second, he has surrounded himself with corrupt people and runs the government like a criminal enterprise.
       Regarding lying, Chump supporters always trot out President Obama saying that if you like your insurance policy you can keep it.  He  was wrong.  I call it an honest mistake rather than a lie.  The difference between Obama and Chump, however, is that Obama admitted his mistake. he didn't own it.  He explained that third rate insurance policies would not qualify for Obamacare.  So those people who felt aggrieved because they needed to get different insurance, were actually getting better insurance.  It is well documented that Chump's lies are on a scale never before seen.  He is a pathological liar, pure and simple.
        Regarding the corruption endemic to the Chump presidency, from the beginning I have wondered how Chump could attract so many crooks.  The answer is that he has been with crooks his entire adult life. He had shady business dealings with crime figures.  He barely escaped criminal charges himself. Flynn and Gates  have already pleaded guilty.  I am not worried that Manafort will sue me for libel for calling him a crook.  His buddy Broidy is a convicted felon. His son in law's father is a convicted felon.  His daughter and son in law barely escaped criminal charges through some very questionable dealings with the prosecutor. His EPA  administrator illegally used money allocated by the Clean Drinking Water Act to give huge raises to his appointees. He brought his chief of staff down to his level by lying and refusing to apologize when his bald faced lie was discovered. His long time lawyer does very questionable, probably illegal, stuff for Chump.  Chump deals with highly questionable Russian crooks.  He is no doubt complicit in their money laundering.  And this is far from an exhaustive list.
      Comey also is clearly disgusted with Chump's picadillos with a porn star and a playmate, not to mention his bragadoccio about assaulting women.  We all know about Bill Clinton's failings.  I would like to point out to the moral majority that Hillary Clinton is a prime example of  family values.  After suffering the worst public humiliation one could ever imagine, she fought to save her marriage.  Contrast her with Chump.
        I have heard the justifications by evangelicals and the moral majority for being on board with Chump.  Sorry, it is nothing but first class hypocricy.  In the end, I think Comey is exactly right.  Whether Republican or Democrat, all Americans should reject our immoral, amoral president.  Our children and grandchildren should not think that what Chump says or does is okay.
         One last thing, how did we get here from where we were from 2009 to 2017?  Please correct me if I'm wrong, but there was not a single scandal during the entire eight years of the Obama presidency.  His appointments were top rate both with regard to ability and integrity. He personified morality and family values.  Hopefully we will get back to that place sooner rather than later.  Take care all.

                                                      Richard

Al’s Blog - Pompeo 3

In the United States of America, government appointees swear an oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” 
The oath is to the Constitution, not to one’s immediate supervisor in the executive branch and certainly not to the president personally. The FBI’s own website contains a useful essay written by FBI Academy legal instructor Jonathan Rudd about the significance of the oath of office. 
“It is significant,” he writes, “that we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and not an individual leader, ruler, office, or entity ... a government based on individuals — who are inconsistent, fallible, and often prone to error — too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other.”
That is the foundation of the rule of law in this and other countries, and to expect officials to do anything else would be fundamentally toxic to the endurance of the American republic.
The concept of a Loyalty Oath is the loyalty to an organization, institution, or state for which one is a member or participant. Similarly, it is not a pledge or oath of allegiance but more of a legal document a person signs and is legally bound to.  Mike Pompeo has signed such an oath or he would not have been appointed to the Trump Cabinet.  If the interests of the United States of America diverge from the personal interests of the President, we must be confident of that the loyalty of the Secretary of State is with the Constitution!

Donald Trump has disrespected the Senate and the American People by making Mike Pompeo the de facto Secretary of State before the Senate had confirmed him.  This action is another example of the way Trump bullies his way around anything he sees, as an obstruction of his will.  

If the Senate panel could not agree to his appointment before Trump’s action, it is even more important that they not succumb to it now, or forever be remembered as the Trump Toadies Committee!  The crisis that put Pompeo in North Korea was one of Trump’s own making.  He fired his Secretary of State, and he permitted the meeting with the North Korean leader.  Everything about the affair has been of Trump’s making.  For once Senators, vote your conscience.  Don’t take the easy way out!  If you didn’t trust Pompeo last week, this week’s development should make you even more leery.

Hearings are scheduled to resume on Monday!

Al

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Supreme Court and Gerrymandering

  Today I heard some of the most interesting and important oral arguments I have ever heard.  The case involved a challenge to Maryland's Democratic gerrymandering scheme which resulted in Maryland going from a 6-2 Democratic advantage to 7-1.  Maryland is generally a 60/40 Democratic state.  But with gerrymandering its congressional delegation was 87.5% Democratic.
      Before getting into the argument let me give you the setting.  I got into the lawyers line about 6:00 A.M.  I became a member of the Supreme Court bar for the sole purpose of being able to get into the lawyers line (and to write e mails to you).  I was among the first lawyers.  The public line had formed the night before.  I chatted with several of the lawyers in line with me.  Three were with The Brennan Center For Justice.  There were also lawyers from the ACLU and other public interest organizations.  The lawyers from the Brennan Center had organized and filed briefs in opposition to Maryland's gerrymandering scheme.  They had also filed briefs in opposition to North Carolina and Wisconsin's Republican schemes.  They take the position that extreme gerrymandering whether Republican or Democratic is unconstitutional.  Once in the courtroom I had a second row seat, two arm lengths away from Nina Tottenberg and Pete Williams. 
     By way of background, the Supreme Court has already heard arguments involving Wisconsin's gerrymandering.  The Court has held in abeyance the challenge to North Carolina's scheme.  So at the moment there is a Democratic and a Republican scheme before the Court and a Republican scheme on hold.  If I could take a poll of Democratic  politicians across the country, I would bet that they would be happy if Maryland's scheme goes down along with Wisconsin's and North Carolina's. 
       There is a significant procedural difference between the Wisconsin case and the Maryland case.  In Wisconsin there has been a Court Of Appeals decision that their scheme is unconstitutional.  In Maryland, the plaintiffs are appealing a lower court's ruling that it would not  issue a temporary restraining order barring Maryland from implementing the gerrymandering plan.  In other words in the Maryland case, there has not been a ruling on the constitutionality of its gerrymandering.  This turned out to be a big issue in oral arguments.  The justices across the spectrum asked questions suggesting that it might be a good idea for them to do nothing until the lower court decides whether Maryland's scheme is unconstitutional.  Alito and Roberts really gave the attorney opposing gerrymandering a hard time on whether they should hear the case. This would mean, of course, that Maryland would not be impacted by the Supreme Court until at least the 2020 election.  Sotomayor and Ginsberg both suggested that it is too late for the Supreme Court to have any impact on Maryland's 2018 election.  While Democrats might like that result, it might be that the court would also not do anything in the Wisconsin and North Carolina cases where Republicans are unfairly favored.  In fact, Breyer made the suggestion that the court should have a rehearing in the Wisconsin case and then consolidate all three cases for a later hearing and decision.  The other jusices seemed receptive to that idea.  So don't be surprised if that is the result.  I really did not like where this whole line of questioning was going.
         Going to the merits, all of the justices who spoke seemed to feel that extreme gerrymandering is unconstitutional.  Thomas had laryngitis. The issue is then, what is the definition of "extreme."
          One of the interesting aspects of this  is that Maryland was represented by its Democratic attorney general.  The Republican governor of Maryland filed a brief in opposition to his attorney general.  In the lower court the deposition of Congressman Chris Van Hollen was taken.  He testified unabashedly that the purpose of the gerrymandering was to get one additional seat to go Democratic.  So they created a district that goes from the suburbs of Washington  across the panhandle of Maryland which is rural. Included in the district is the wealthy city of Potomac.  Roberts pointed out that there are farmers in Potomac as well as farmers in rural Maryland.  The difference is that the farmers in rural Maryland are real farmers while the farms in Potomac are hobbies.  In order to create this crazy district Maryland moved about 350,000 voters out of the district and moved about 350,000 into the new district.
       Kennedy as always asked an interesting question.  He asked if Maryland could pass a law mandating that there be a 7-1 congressional split.  The attorney general answered,"no, that would be unconstitutional."  Therefore, Kennedy asked why is this scheme  not unconstitutional since it came into effect pursuant to the Maryland redistricting law.  I thought the attorney general did not have a good answer.
       I happened to be sitting next to a Vanderbilt law professor who is African American.  At one point Roberts drew a distinction between gerrymandering based upon racial factors as opposed to gerrymandering along political lines.  Roberts said that perhaps political gerrymandering could be given leeway but under no circumstances will the Supreme Court allow racial gerrymandering.  The law professor and I gave each other elbow nudges.  By the way, there are plenty of conservatives who say that the courts should never get involved in gerrymandering questions.  Roberts made it clear that the Supreme Court in the past has and in the future will  get involved when racial gerrymandering is an issue.  Kagan said that in many ways the Maryland case is easier to decide than the racial cases.
        Breyer has a tremendous sense of humor.  He has displayed it at every hearing I have attended.  One of the attorneys suggested that it was important to consider the testimony of Van Holland in making a decision.  Breyer suggested that might be a bad idea.  Future redistricters are not stupid.  They would know better than to say out loud what their true intentions were.  Kennedy said that redistricters could get away with extreme gerrymandering as long as they don't publicly state their intentions.
        Near the end of oral arguments I thought Breyer got a terrific concession from the attorney general.    He got the attorney general to concede that in a case of extreme gerymandering it would be possible for the Supreme Court to do the redistricting.  This is in response to Roberts saying in the Wisconsin case that the court should not get involved in the gobbledigook of redistricting.
       I could make this e mail much longer, but I don't want to lose the half who are still with me.  Let me end by saying that it's much easier for me  in the audience to imagine what I would argue as opposed to  the one actually arguing.  Roberts said it would not be such a big deal if the Court's decision had no effect  until 2020.  The lawyer opposing gerrymandering gave a very technical answer.    I wish he would have thought of the old axiom, "Justice delayed is justice denied."  My guess is that this case is going back to the district court without a decision on constitutionality.  Stay tuned.  Thanks for reading.

                                                                                  Richard
                                                                         
P.S.  Michigan is horribly gerrymandered.  Hopefully that will go away after 2018. There will be an initiative on the November ballot to provide for a bipartisan commission to draw district lines both at the State and federal levels.  If passed it will go a long way toward fairness in elections.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Trump's Tariff War

Trump appears to have made a big blunder with his new tariff war on Steel and Aluminum. 

If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, it's all about the special election in Pennsylvania where Democrat Connor Lamb has just caught up with Republican Rick Saccone in a very red district.  The Republicans recognize the possibility of losing a “safe” seat in the House, and they won’t make it easy!

There are many steel workers with families and friends in that district, and some unions have been attracted to Trump’s protectionism since the 2016 campaign.  However, I believe that Trump's steel protection plan, like his health plan, his DACA plan, and his "middle class” tax reform plan is just another game of smoke and mirrors that reverberates with his base.  Once the unions recognize that more American jobs will be lost than saved in a trade war, they may modify their approval of it!

Watch for the tariffs to live in the media briefly, but disappear shortly after that election on March13th in Pennsylvania!

Al

Friday, March 2, 2018

Overestimating Chump

  I am more than willing to admit I underestimated Chump's appeal.  To this day it is unexplainable how anyone could not see that he is mentally deranged, and totally unqualified to be president.  So I will admit that I underestimated his appeal.  But in reality I have overestimated his mental capacity.
      Before he started his campaign I thought he must be bright even if  he was an amoral crook.  Now after witnessing this guy, I see that I  way overestimated his intelligence.
      First, it is painful to see him try to read from a teleprompter or any other text.  I am guessing he reads at a fifth or sixth grade level.  His vocabulary and syntax are at the same level.  
       The problem is that fifth or sixth graders are probably 10-12 years old.  Chump's constant name calling is more like at a second grade level.  I have never heard any grown up name call like this 70 year old.
       But this week he demonstrated the mentally of a preschooler.  Only a preschooler would fantasize that he or she would rush into a building unarmed and take down an assault weapon carrying gunman.  This is a really sick 70 year old.  So I now estimate his mental capacity as somewhere between a 4 year old and a 12 year old.
       Just as I underestimated his appeal, I way overestimated his intelligence.  Now the question will become whether we overestimate the intelligence of the American people.  Next time around, I don't think so.  Take care.

                                                           Richard

Guns vs Kids: Politicians Choose Guns

The kids from Parkland, Florida have embarked upon a campaign to change the laws that currently allow anyone over the age of eighteen to purchase an assault weapon like the one that terrorized them and which took the lives of seventeen fellow students and faculty at their high school. 

A few days later those youngsters asked their representatives in the Florida House to use their positions of power to stop the easy sale of assault weapons.  Of course, the students discovered that having both truth and justice on their side means nothing to politicians indebted to the gun lobby.

Some of the students met with the President in front of a national audience on television.

He nodded and appeared to be listening compassionately while knowing that his staff had carefully prepared his responses.  In the end, he attacked the FBI; and, after due consideration, offered a plan that would not upset the NRA: “Arm the Teachers!”

The right-wing echo chamber immediately launched the same verbal weapons that they used to demonize Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Election.  They accused these kids of being paid actors while they were fresh from escaping the most terrifying experience we can imagine: racing away from hundreds of bullets flying at them at speed of more than 1000 mph…. tearing flesh and crushing bones wherever they hit a human body.  Meanwhile, we saw pictures of armed deputies hiding behind their cars outside the building, knowing that their handguns were no match for an assault weapon. 

These young survivors had seen friends and teachers gunned down when they stopped to help others.  They heard the screams of terror and agony… knowing that they might be next.  Some hid and texted family often believing that they were about to die

With the entire nation aghast at the horror our American children had just experienced, the political leaders of our country tried to balance how to say the right things to the outraged young people seeking a change from the madness while these political hacks were really concentrating how to save their seats in the next election or how to save the big donation that they had received from the NRA.  

The political leaders’ decision? 1st: support the NRA, next: save their seats in Congress, last: consider the kids.

In what kind of country could this have happened? How can we allow them to keep control of our democratic institutions?  We can only recover the dignity of the American dream at the ballot box!  And we can only succeed at the ballot box by calling out the liars, the haters, and the propagandists!

The elections of 2018 and 2020 are likely to be the last chance to save our country!

Al

Friday, February 16, 2018

Guns

  I assume everyone receiving this e mail agrees with my views on guns.  I have heard endless analyses of the issue in the last 24 hours.  I would like to share my thoughts of the most interesting comments, good and bad.
       First, the lunatic in chief.  His first tweet put the blame on the teachers and students for not preventing the gunman from doing the killing.  This man is crazy, not to mention evil.  Today he gave a seven minute speech  with the same old platitudes about prayer and telling children how much we love them.  He said we will do everything we can to protect them.  That is, of course, a bald faced lie.  
        Rubio, Ryan,  Cruz and others say now is not the time to talk about gun control.  It never is.  Grassley said the one thing all of the mass killers have in common is that they had mental problems.  He is wrong.  There is a second thing they all had in common.  They all used assault weapons.  After every mass murder Ryan has said exactly the same ting, now is not the time to talk about gun control.
      Tim Kaine made  a great argument.  He said that the NRA has its headquarters in his state.  He gets an "F" grade from the NRA.  He nevertheless gets reelected.  He called the NRA a fraudulent  paper tiger.  They should not be feared.  Yet his colleagues fear that the NRA will go after them if they buck the NRA.  Kaine urges his colleagues to forget their fears.  The NRA is really toothless.  If only there were a stiff spine on Capitol Hill.
        Wolfe Blitzer interviewed  a psychiatrist  who is an expert in mass violence.  She put into words exactly what I had been thinking.  She said it is a pure fantasy to think that increased mental treatment will prevent these things from happening.  She said that mass killings occur as a result of a sudden explosion of a psychotic episode.  She said that one cannot predict which mentally impaired person will explode and which will not.  She said the only thing that  can be effective is controlling the availability of assault weapons.  She said that states with effective gun control laws have lowered their numbers of gun related crimes.  The psychiatrist said that she herself has held an assault weapon.  She said it gives a person a tremendous sense of power and entitlement.    Just putting such a weapon in  anyone's hands is highly dangerous.
         Chump's speech was interesting in a couple of ways.  First, he was reading from a teleprompter.  He can barely read.  I suspect  a fifth grade teacher would say that he is barely at grade level.  He spoke with almost no inflection.  He gave the usual platitudes.  Second, his speech never once said the word "gun".    The good news for Chump is that the massacre occurred near Mar A Lago.  I guarantee that when he goes to Florida to meet the families of the victims it will not stop him from getting in his rounds of golf.  Watch and see.    Thanks again for listening.
                                                       Richard

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Preparing witnesses

  Chump has preempted me once again.  For a few days I have been thinking about writing a piece about preparing a witness for testimony.  Before I could get to my computer there arose  the story of another Trumpian biting the dust, or should I say hitting  a spouse.  Separately there is the story of Nancy Pelosi a 77 year old woman, standing on four inch heels delivering a passionate 8 hour speech about dreamers and the moral obligation of Paul Ryan to do the right thing.  So I will start with preparing a witness.  More to follow about other subjects.  I assume Trump will preempt me again.
       Before reading beyond this sentence, please ask yourself what would be the first question you would ask Chump if you were Mueller?  I have my question.  Here it is. You told NBC News the following," I have the world's greatest memory.  It's one thing everyone agrees on."  Is that a true statement?  Will Chump admit that was a lie?  Or will he still claim he has the world's greatest memory? As a wise person once said, if you are going to lie, you better have a good memory.  We know that he can tell multiple lies within one sentence.  In fact, he told two lies in the above quote.
       I have prepared a huge number of witnesses for testimony under oath whether at depositions or trials.  I always told them certain basic rules.  First, never lie.  Never worry that an answer will hurt you.  What will hurt you is if you lie and you're caught.  Second, there is nothing wrong with saying, "I don't remember."  The witness is not being given a memory test. The problem for Chump is that he has publicly stated on multiple occasions that he has the world's greatest memory.  So if he answers the first question affirmatively, every time he says he does not remember, he is lying.  Chump has faced this dilemma  before. In a deposition involving Trump University, he said he did not remember 35 times.
       Years ago I represented a fairly wealthy woman in a personal injury case.  In written interrogatories she answered that she had never been arrested and convicted of a crime.  At her oral deposition she said the same thing.  Then the opposing counsel asked her about her conviction for shoplifting at Saks.  That was the end of the case.  Later she told me that she thought the other side would never find out about it.  If she had told me about the conviction before answering the interrogatory, the problem would have gone away.  The shoplifting had nothing to do with an auto accident case.  But she ruined her case by lying.
        I have no doubt that Mueller has a great deal of knowledge about Chump's nefarious dealings with Russians.  If he lies, Mueller will have him both on the dealings and on perjury.  
        I have had the experience, more than once, of dreading my client's upcoming testimony.  Some clients are uncontrollable. It is an awful experience.  I think that Chump is far more uncontrollable witness than any I have dealt with.  If I were Chump's lawyer I would play out the string as long as possible in the hope that somehow he will not be compelled to testify.  I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear the discussions between Chump and his lawyers.  Then I would love to buzz unto  the wall for Mueller's questioning of Chump.  I remain convinced that once Mueller completes his investigation, Chump's presidency will have less than a 50% chance of survival.  He's a liar and a thief. Thanks again  for listening.

                                                                 Richard

Congress pushing back on Trump's reckless Mideast policies

President Trump’s disastrous policies in the Middle East could help lead to a new outbreak of fighting at one of the region's most sensitive hotspots -- Israel’s border with Gaza.
In the latest escalation in US-Palestinian tensions following the president’s December decision to “take Jerusalem off the table,” the Trump administration decided to punish them by withholding funds that help support over 1.5 million Palestinian refugees.
Slashing aid to the Palestinian refugee relief agency UNRWA cruelly hurts some of the region’s most vulnerable and neglected people. It increases the prospects for despair, unrest -- and ultimately -- violence.
There are some legitimate concerns about the ways in which UNRWA operates, and good ideas about how it could change for the better. But improving the organization’s work and funding structure will require thoughtful and deliberate reforms -- not recklessly cutting off all of its funding before that process of reform has even begun.
Trump’s move has Israel’s top security officials deeply worried. Last week, they warned the Israeli government that weakening UNRWA could push the humanitarian crisis in Gaza past its breaking point and lead to a serious new round of protests and fighting with Israeli forces all along the border.
With many Gazans unemployed and living with severely limited access to food, water and electricity, the IDF’s chief of staff this week warned the Israeli cabinet of imminent total collapse there -- and urged leaders to take steps to prevent it.
The administration’s refusal to help maintain stability or pursue real peace is only fueling more conflict. When the US abdicates leadership, it’s Israelis and Palestinians who will pay the price.
Here’s the good news: A growing number of members of Congress understand the damage that Trump and company are doing, and they’re standing up to oppose this reckless policy. Over 100 members -- including Representative Brenda L. Lawrence -- have signed a new letter to President Trump urging him to continue funding to UNRWA and bilateral aid to the Palestinian Authority.
J Street was proud to support and advocate for this urgent letter, which was led by Representatives Peter Welch and David Price. We mobilized supporters across the country to help make clear that slashing funds to vulnerable refugees is dangerous and unconscionable.
The letter sends a strong message:
“Deliberately exacerbating the hardship of the Palestinian people and reducing the ability of their government to function would only contribute to the benefit of those who reject engagement. Extremist and anti-Israel groups would be all too eager to fill in the vacuum, deepening their hold in the region and expanding their destructive influence on the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
The situation in Gaza is desperate -- but further suffering and conflict is not inevitable. We know that solutions are possible. Last week at an emergency conference to discuss the situation, Israel presented a billion dollar humanitarian assistance plan that could help bring new water treatment facilities, power plants and economic opportunities to the Strip.
Implementing this kind of much-needed plan takes creativity, vision and political will. A responsible US government would act now to head off disaster. Instead of bullying refugees and international institutions, it would rally Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the international community to help Gaza and prevent violence.
Right now, we have dangerous leadership in the White House. But we can’t just stand by while this administration lashes out at Palestinians and makes Israelis less safe. We can’t let a toxic mix of confrontation and negligence lead to more suffering and crisis in Gaza, the West Bank and across the region.
The Welch-Price letter is just the latest proof that a different vision of the US role in the Middle East is possible. Many of our elected officials are committed to standing up for diplomacy, partnership and humanitarianism.
At J Street, we’re determined to stand behind these pro-Israel, pro-peace members of Congress and work to elect even more leaders to stand alongside them and challenge the Trump agenda in 2018 and beyond.
Thanks for all that you do,
Jeremy Ben-Ami
President, J Street
P.S. -- You can thank Rep. Lawrence for signing the Welch-Price letter by calling her office: (202) 225-5802. It's important that we show members they have strong support from their constituents for staking out pro-Israel, pro-peace positions.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why I'm a Liberal

This is going to be VERY long, so: TL;DR: I’m a liberal, I’ve always been a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does.
Some of you suspected. Some of you were shocked. Many of you have known me for years, even the majority of my life. We either steadfastly avoided political topics, or I carefully steered conversations away from the more incendiary subjects in the name of keeping the peace. “I’m a liberal” isn’t really something you broadcast in social circles where “the liberals” can’t be said without wrinkling one’s nose.
But then the 2016 election happened, and staying quiet wasn’t an option anymore. Since then, I’ve received no shortage of emails and comments from people who were shocked, horrified, disappointed, disgusted, or otherwise displeased to realize I am *wrinkles nose* a liberal. Yep. I’m one of those bleeding heart commies who hates anyone who’s white, straight, or conservative, and who wants the government to dictate everything you do while taking your money and giving it to people who don’t work.
Or am I?
Let’s break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines.
1. I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
2. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
3. I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt. 
4. I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
5. I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. I’m self-employed, so I already pay a shitload of taxes. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, that means increasing my already eye-watering tax bill. I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
6. I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
7. I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is - and should be - illegal) All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” – I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
8. I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe we should have the *same* rights as you.
9. I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally.). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc). 
10. I believe we should take in refugees, or at the very least not turn them away without due consideration. Turning thousands of people away because a terrorist might slip through is inhumane, especially when we consider what has happened historically to refugees who were turned away (see: MS St. Louis). If we’re so opposed to taking in refugees, maybe we should consider not causing them to become refugees in the first place. Because we’re fooling ourselves if we think that somewhere in the chain of events leading to these people becoming refugees, there isn’t a line describing something the US did. 
11. I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything – I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
12. I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I’m butthurt over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past. 
13. I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege – white, straight, male, economic, etc – need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized. 
14. I believe in so-called political correctness. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person? Your refusal to adjust your vocabulary in the name of not being an asshole kind of makes YOU the snowflake.
15. I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.
So, I’m a liberal.  Linda Samelson

Friday, January 26, 2018

Unpredictability and the dotard

We all knew that the dotard would be a disaster.  Who could have predicted, however,  the sheer volume of horrible things he could accomplish. So let's look forward to guess at what 2018 will bring.  
       At the beginning of 2017,  I was totally pessimistic about the future of our country.  The  pessimism started to erode with the women's march  I have never seen such energy in a political movement  I was at the massive DC march.  That night the media showed massive marches not only in the United States but around the world.  This was the beginning of hope for the future.  My hope was buoyed by this year's marches.  The energy is still there.  
      Many of the horrible things Trump did were predictable.  Those include. dismantling  the ACA, nominating Gorsuch, passing  tax cut for the wealthy, and dismantling regulations that protect the air, water and workers' safety. n the other hand, I can't come up  with  a list of big ticket disasters  he can go after in 2018.
       But lot's of good things can happen.  I believe Mueller is going to drop a sledge hammer on Trump and his band of bandits.  There is already plenty of information in the public domain to charge Trump, Don Jr. and Jared with obstruction of justice. It will have to be a slam dunk case, but it  can well happen.  Maybe Sessions as well.  What we don't know is how much evidence Mueller has accumulated on Trump and Company's work with the Russians to interfere with our elections.  I suspect there is a lot of evidence.   This begs the question of why has Trump been so ridiculously  close to the Russians.  In my view there can be only one reason.  He is being blackmailed because of his dirty money dealings with Russians.  There may be other bases of blackmail, but Mueller will certainly be following the money trail.  And there is plenty of criminal activity in the money pit.
       While just about every Republican in Washington has sold his or her  soul to the devil, maybe a detailed report on the most corrupt president in U.S. history will get them to abandon him.  Not that they will put country before party, but they will be worried about their own survival
       Which brings me to the second reason for optimism.  The energy displayed by the women's marches will be seen at the ballot boxes.  Republicans in solid Republican districts are being challenged like never before. And they are plenty worried. Close to home, Elissa  Slotkin is running an incredible campaign against Mike Bishop. If quality matters, Elissa wins. 
           David Trott saw the handwriting on the wall and announced he is not running.  I am supporting Haley Stevens for that seat.  Haley has an incredible resume'.  She is running in the primary against quality opponents.  On the Republican side there is Lena Epstein among others.  She proudly supported and continues to support Trump. Whether it's Haley or another Democrat, that seat can be won.  And this is happening around the country.
           I am supporting a candidate running against Paul Ryan.  But guess what, it looks like Ryan is not going to run for reelection.  For the first time, he is facing a real challenge to his seat.  Similarly the racist Steve King from Iowa is facing a very strong challenge.  In California, several Republican congressmen are in trouble.  Obviously not every challenger will win, but many will.  If the  house flips it will be huge.  If the Senate flips, it will be a tsunami.
         Make no mistake, the elections in Virginia  caused panic in the halls of Republicanism.  Democrats did far better than anyone could have expected.  The most interesting aspect of that election was that about 17 women displaced about 17 men.  The women were of  diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.
         So I am optimistic about the 2018 elections even  though Republican legislatures across the country have gerrymandered  electoral maps to greatly favor them.  This may change.  Yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the State's districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. That ruling is similar to rulings from several other States.  There is a real possibility that the U.S Supreme Court will greatly limit gerrymandering. Such a decision may be hard to implement in time for the 2018 elections.  But if it happens,  this will be huge.
          I have a third reason to be optimistic, although there is a downside.  We have seen a record number of people leaving the administration.  If I had to bet,  I would bet that neither Kelly nor Tillerson will be in the administration by the end of the year.  These two men supposedly keep the dotard in check.  Maybe it would be a good thing for them to stay.  On the other hand I think that chaos in the White House may further alienate some of his voters and will energize his opponents.
        As I have said before, every day without a nuclear war is a good day.  Hopefully the 2018 elections will start the long process of damage repair.  Take care all.

                                                                          Richard