We Need Rule Of Law To Remain A Democracy

If you are considering whether the US will be another “democracy” to fall to authoritarian rule/fascism here’s a question to ask: Is the Democratic Party committed to Rule of Law? Will it fight to protect us and our democracy? How about the Justice Department?

Brett Kavanaugh – Apparent Criminality At The Highest Levels

Here is a test of that: Are Dems willing to fight apparent criminality at the very highest levels? Will the House of Representatives or Justice Dept. investigate the allegations that Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh committed perjury during nomination hearings, and will the Justice Dept. indict, or House Dems impeach Kavanaugh if their investigation concludes he did?

Set Aside The Other Stuff

Keep it simple. There’s too much other stuff about Kavanaugh, muddying the issue. Set aside the other stuff.

Set aside out the questions about why Justice Kennedy resigned when he did (and how it might relate to Deutsche Bank and the Russia investigation), who paid off Kavanaugh’s debts, and the larger issue of the “dark money” machine that puts Federalist Society candidates into judgeships.

And never mind the sham FBI “investigation” of sexual misconduct allegations made against Kavanaugh. (The Trump-appointed FBI Director is one more Federalist Society member.)

Other “Other Stuff”

And, of course, that other “other stuff:

Nearly a year after Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to a lifetime appointment in the Supreme Court, the New York Times has reported a new allegation of sexual misconduct from Kavanaugh’s college years, as well as new corroborating information about Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at Yale.

In his confirmation hearings Kavanaugh made several statements about his drinking and sexual misconduct that were obviously not true. (Just one obvious one: His yearbook referred to “ralphing” and Kavanaugh testified that meant eating spicy foods.)

Kavanaugh Perjury

It looks very much like Brett Kavanaugh committed perjury on other issues during nomination hearings for his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as well as his Supreme Court nomination hearings.

Among many, many reports on Kavanaugh’s contradictions between his testimony that these hearings and evidence that has since been revealed, Pema Levy and Dan Friedman write at Mother Jones, in Five Times Brett Kavanaugh Appears to Have Lied to Congress While Under Oath,

During his 2004 hearing, Kavanaugh denied ever receiving any of the documents Miranda stole. Asked if he “ever come across memos from internal files of any Democratic members given to you or provided to you in any way?” he replied, “No.” In 2006, also under oath, he again denied ever receiving stolen documents.

But newly released documents show that Miranda had indeed sent Kavanaugh information from the stolen internal documents. The nominee continues to deny he knew the information was stolen. But he can no longer deny he received it.

And,

At a 2006 confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that he knew nothing of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, launched under President George W. Bush, until the New York Times revealed it publicly in 2005. Kavanaugh insisted he’d heard “nothing at all” about the program before that, even though he was a senior administration aide. But a September 17, 2001 email provided to the New York Times this week shows that Kavanaugh was involved in at least initial discussions about the widespread surveillance of phones that characterized the NSA program.

Similarly, Kavanaugh testified he had nothing to do with Bush’s torture policies while records now show he was involved in at least 3 discussions of detainee policies.

Kavanaugh also said in hearings he had not been involved in William Pryor’s nomination to the 11th Circuit, new documents and emails show he was “heavily’ involved.

And finally he said in hearings that he was not involved in the nomination of Charles Pickering when new emails show he was.

So Yeah… There’s A Lot Going On

So yeah, there’s a lot going on. And is this such a big deal?

Well yes. A guy is on the Supreme Court and everyone knows he’s a liar and possibly a lot of other things. But the people and institutions that are supposed to do something about that aren’t doing ANYTHING about that. And it’s right in front of our faces.

And on top of that, the guy is doing serious damage to our country!

So … once again WHERE ARE THE DEMOCRATS? Where is the Department of Justice? Where is the Rule of Law?

There is a short time left to hold the authoritarians and the fascists and the liars and the “dark money” accountable, and restore the Rule of Law (and decency). If that doesn’t happen then in the next election the 1776 experiment in self-government will end, and the Cruelty will again be THE POINT.

We all came out and voted for the people who said they would DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE THINGS. When is it going to start happening?

So Much For The System

What was left of our “system” has now passed the turning point.

We wanted accountability for crimes we could clearly see with our own eyes. But Republicans effectively killed investigations or oversight in the Congress. The people at the top of the FBI and Justice Dept were removed and the rest held under threat of ruin. The entire system of checks and balances was besieged.

We the People were left hopeless and helpless, no part of our government able to step up and tell us why the crimes we could see happening were continuing. So we put all of our eggs in the Mueller basket for any remaining hope to save us.

We all saw collusion and obstruction in plain sight, and believed the Mueller investigation knew even more. We KNOW there was money laundering, extortion, bribery, fraud, lies and lies and lies and you name it. Don Jr lied to Congress and we know it. Erik Prince did, and we know that. Flynn and Gates and Cohen and others were given light or no sentences so they could tell us what happened.

We know that at the least Trump had lied about his plans to build Trump Tower Moscow. The Russians knew at the time that he had lied so he was compromisable. And he acted compromised. (Meeting alone with Putin with no transcription? Ending sanctions?)

Our remaining hope for accountability lay in Mueller’s investigation and we were let down. The basket dropped and our remaining eggs are broken. Those who want accountability have lost. We failed to kill the king and now we face the consequences. The right’s media/propaganda/lie machine has an ability to set the discourse and reach the public that outweighs our ability to do anything about it. Trump is now exonerated for every crime or future crime and will be beyond reach.

The right-wing drumbeat to leave Trump alone will now become merciless. Dems will now be cast as sore-losers who engaged in a plot to to smear a good, Godley man and his family for political gain. Anyone questioning Trump’s divine right to rule will be marginalized, ostracized, called you name it. Democrats will be the radicals who want to force us into communist training camps

I asked in May, 2017, “Will our system withstand the attack? We don’t know. Kleptocracy is powerful.”

Now we know the answer. The promise of a “taste” of the kleptocracy will buy Republicans a lot of good will. (Stock buybacks alone have topped $1 trillion since the tax cuts.)

The Republican project is complete. Accountability is over. Corruption rules. The rich and powerful are fully in charge. “American carnage” reigns.

Short Video Showing Trump Inspiring Violence … And What Happened

“Right Wing Watch reports on the extreme rhetoric and activities of key right-wing figures and organizations by showing their views in their own words. In this series of clips, we see the connection between the fear-mongering perpetrated by President Trump and his right-wing allies and what is happening in our nation.”

Right Wing Watch

Russia and Democracy

Russian interference is associated with using anti-Islam propaganda and other divisive wedges to promote Trump.

The US and several countries are now ruled openly or behind the scenes by an elite of billionaire / corporate / princeling / oligarchical / kleptocrats sometimes in alliance and other times in conflict…

I’d love to see our country restore (or maybe you could say just get to in the first place) our ideal of representative constitutional democracy under rule of law, in which we all get to vote (on paper ballots), and where have reason to vote for candidates who have good, honest proposals that tell us how they would make our lives better, and who we can trust to do that and not make corrupt deals that involve enriching themselves in office or later.

I don’t know how we get there from here.

Holocaust Denial and Religious Persecution, Courtesy of the White House

Friday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. As you may have heard, the White house marked the occasion with this statement:

It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.

Can you see what’s missing?

Continue reading

Must Must Must Listen Podcast: Robert Reich On This Election

I listened to this on a walk, and it is a must, must, must listen podcast.

Robert Reich, speaking Tuesday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: “The Oddest Presidential Election in Living Memory

From the website:

Tue, Sep 27 2016 – 6:30pm
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary of Labor; Author, Saving Capitalism

Holly Kernan, Executive Editor for News, KQED—Moderator

In the midst of an unpredictable presidential election, get insight from a veteran political figure who knows Washington inside and out. Time magazine named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. Come hear his provocative thoughts on the presidential election and the future of America.

Paul Ryan Says Poor Are Victims, But Blames Them For Being Poor

House Speaker Paul Ryan in an NPR interview Monday acknowledged that the poor are victims of our economic system. The interview sounds reasonable, almost soothing, until you examine what Ryan is really saying.

After acknowledging that poverty is systemic, he turns around and blames the poor themselves as being personally – even morally – responsible for being poor. He implies the poor are just lazy. He cited addiction, lack of skills, and, of course, government handouts as the real causes of poverty. He said raising the minimum wage would not help. His soothing-sounding words are actually quite radical and extreme.

The Interview

Ryan was interviewed on Monday’s NPR’s Morning Edition by Steve Inskeep about his ideas on helping people get out of poverty.

When asked about people born into poverty who can’t get out of poverty, Ryan responds “That’s right … you go look at the country and the conditions, you’re just as likely to stay poor today as you were if you were born into poverty 50 years ago. … There are people out there fighting poverty … that do well, succeed but for government I think in many cases they could do more.”

Q: You’ve argued that welfare “is keeping people away from work, it disincentives work.”

Ryan: “Right. Yeah.”

Q: Do you want to cut welfare?

Ryan: “The smarter thing to do is to customize a benefit to a person’s particular needs. … Maybe this person needs addiction counseling, or maybe she needs a GED or transportation or something. You customize the benefits for her particular needs with the proper accountability.”

Asked about low minimum wages keeping people in poverty, Ryan rejects raising the minimum wage as a “one-size-fits-all solution.” Inskeep asks, “Why not do something that raises wages?”

Ryan: “Well, skills. I think when you raise the minimum wage … you’ll lose over a million jobs … So you don’t want to take away those entry-level jobs that give people hard and soft skills they need just to learn how to do work. Every person has a different problem, sometimes a person has an even deeper problem like addiction or something like that.”

What Ryan Is Saying

Ryan begins by acknowledging that the “country and the conditions” are what is keeping people poor. He says if you “look at the country and the conditions, you’re just as likely to stay poor today as you were if you were born into poverty 50 years ago.” But then he says there are people who are fighting poverty whose efforts would succeed “but for the government”

Ryan then contradicts what he said about “the country and the conditions,” and blames the poor themselves for being poor. They don’t have skills, they don’t have an education, they are addicted, and they are so lazy that a little bit of “welfare” keeps them from looking for work. He says they need to “learn how to do work.”

Several states have bought in to this “blame-the-poor” mentality to the point where they require drug testing before a person can get assistance. Earlier this year Think Progress surveyed these programs and found that despite the cost of this drug testing, several states did not find even one person testing positive. The national total was 321 positive tests, out of the millions in circumstances where they need help.

So why does Ryan bring up “addiction” when talking about poverty? For the same reason he talks about government and “welfare” causing people to not bother to look for work or even “learn how to do work.” These kinds of words point the finger at people for personal, moral failings, and contribute to a story that the poor are really just bad people who do not deserve our assistance.

Minimum Wage

Ryan also implies that people in poverty are lazy, saying “welfare” is “keeping people away from work.” But because of the decrease in the purchasing power of the minimum wage, many working people, even those working in full-time jobs, make so little that they qualify for “food stamps” and other government aid.

This chart, “Share of workers receiving public assistance for the poor, by industry” from The Washington Post Wonkblog report, “When work isn’t enough to keep you off welfare and food stamps,” tells the story:


“Share of workers in each field who rely on at least one program among Medicaid/CHIP, TANF, the EITC or food stamps. UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education”

According to the Wonkblog report, “The problem, according to this picture, isn’t that poor people won’t work — it’s that the work they do can’t sustain them.”

Ryan also says “when you raise the minimum wage … you’ll lose over a million jobs.” But a National Employment Law Project (NELP) report from May, titled “Raise Wages, Kill Jobs? Seven Decades of Historical Data Find No Correlation Between Minimum Wage Increases and Employment Levels,” found that,

The results were clear: these basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels, even in the industries that are most impacted by higher minimum wages. To the contrary, in the substantial majority of instances (68 percent) overall employment increased after a federal minimum-wage increase.

So raising the minimum wage, giving working people more money to spend in local stores, not only doesn’t kill jobs but increases demand in the economy enough that it might actually cause those stores to hire people. Who could have predicted?

Plus, never mind that increasing the minimum wage to a “living wage” level would end the need for public assistance for millions of people.

Note that “welfare” as Ryan and Republicans describe it – giving cash to people who don’t work – ended with the 1996 “welfare reform”. Today people – overwhelmingly single mothers with children – can get minimal temporary cash assistance, minimal food assistance and health care. Some can get housing subsidies and a few other forms of aid.

The results of the 1996 experiment of ending “welfare” have not been good. Studies show it has “failed,” had a “negative impact,” has “shortened lives,” led to “less education,” and “created a system rife with racial biases.”

Personal Responsibility

Ryan is repeating the old “personal responsibility” language conservatives have developed to shift people’s thinking about government and democracy away from the idea that We the People are in this together, toward a selfish idea that we should all be on our own. Of course, this leaves individuals defenseless against the powerful forces of aggregated wealth and power.

Paul Ryan, like many Republicans, is an admirer of Ayn Rand, who taught that society consists of a few “producers” and lots of “looters” and “parasites.” Rand taught that democracy is a “statist” “collectivism” of those parasitic looters, that it is wrong for people to help other people, altruism is evil and government is “monstrously evil,” “the political expression of altruism.”

Ryan’s words on “welfare” fit right into this radical, extreme framework, but in a more soothing-sounding way.


——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.