Saturday, May 25, 2019

What the Mueller Report Says, the Impeachment Bottom Line, Altered Videos, Recapturing the Rust Belt, Abortion, Baltasar Gracian (again) and a Great Quote from a Great Floridian

With this posting, for the first time since the inception of this blog in 2009, I am being cautious of my language in an unprecedented manner.   The President has accused some who have spoken against him of being enemies of the people and even accused them of treason and has asked his Attorney General to investigate those who have investigated him.  These are the actions of a frightened man.  His actions mimic those who have aspired to be dictators throughout history.  

The Mueller Report, addressed in some detail below, is not a “hoax” as the President repeatedly characterizes it and his doing so makes, at least in my mind, this time one of the most dangerous in American history.  It appears that he is prepared to act on his words through the Department of Justice.

It is inconceivable to me that other Americans are not already beginning to share similar fears based on what is happening and start watching their words more carefully.  Were it not for the strong legal base our Constitution provides, individuals here might already be taking still more extraordinary steps to preserve democracy.  We think of that happening elsewhere, but not here!  Thoughts like this have been expressed throughout history in times like these.  During the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine in the first of his series of “American Crisis”  pamphlets, said that “These are the times that try men’s souls.” 

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The Mueller Report

I have before me my own personal copy of the Mueller Report.  No doubt you have heard of it.  Volume One, dealing specifically with the details of Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, consists of 356 pages.  Volume Two, dealing with Obstruction of Justice in that Investigation, consists of 330 pages.  Following that are four appendices consisting of 67 pages. 

Over the next few weeks, a little at a time, I will be going over both volumes.  But here, in the words of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III (or of those members of his staff who wrote the Report under his direction) are his conclusions based on the material provided in each of the two volumes.
From an ethical and a historical standpoint, in my opinion, this ‘source’ material is preferable to the significantly opinionated four-page summary Attorney General William Gates provided to the public prior to the actual Report’s release.  (Highlighting is mine.) 

From the Introduction to Volume One, pages 12 -13:
“As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations.  First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.   Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.  The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.  Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived that it would benefit from a Trump presidency, and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” 

From the Conclusion of the Executive Summary to Volume Two, page 25:
“Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct.  The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgement.  At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.  Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgement.  Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
In view of this material, particularly regarding obstruction of justice, any statements commenting on the Mueller Report which are at variance with the above actual quotes taken from the Report itself are not to be taken seriously. 
Quite specifically, the Mueller Report does not exonerate the President from committing the crime of obstruction of justice.  Mueller writes that if that were the case, “we would so state.”  Anyone who says or infers otherwise, and this includes the Attorney-General, Senator “Mitch” McConnell and the President himself, is lying, which is par for the course for most Republicans in this second decade of the Twenty-first century.  These quotes from the Report are the facts, not spurious Administration-originated “alternate” facts.

Jack Lippman


To Impeach or Not to Impeach, that is the Question

A “full blown” impeachment of Donald Trump isn’t in the works … because it would never work.  Sure, the Democratic House could easily pass Articles of Impeachment, but the additional twenty Republican votes needed to get them through the final court of Impeachment, the Senate, just won’t be there, leaving the President wagging his finger saying “Nah, Nah, You tried to impeach me and couldn’t do it, Nah, Nah!” 

Republican Senators, many of whom know what a charlatan Trump is but who love his support of traditional G.O.P. priorities, other fearful Republicans who might face primary challenges from the right for their jobs, and finally those who, down deep, sympathize with the bigots, gullibles and crazies who form Trump’s base would never supply those twenty votes.  So as for a “full blown” impeachment?  Fuggedaboudit!
Ah, but still in any thusly doomed House impeachment effort, the revelations which would come out under the broad rules governing such proceedings might so traumatize the American public, even the Trump base, that he would have no alternative but to resign … before the measure ever reached the Senate or was even voted on by the House!  That is the dream of many in favor of impeachment. This is the way the nation got rid of Richard Nixon. 

True, but even without such impeachment proceedings in the House, the same revelations might still come out in “normal” Committee hearings there!  But in that case, the governing procedural rules would be stricter and Committee Chairs like Cummings, Nadler and Schiff might have to put up with the President’s game plan of delaying tactics in Congress and court challenges, obstacles which impeachment proceedings would significantly short circuit.   

Hence, although the numbers for a “full blown” impeachment are just not there, impeachment proceedings in the House might be the best course to most expeditiously reveal enough information to possibly result in a Presidential resignation or certainly a defeat in the 2020 elections. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks to
Judiciary Committee Chair Nadler
At this moment, Nancy Pelosi still hopes that the work of the House committees might suffice to achieve the same result.  She might be correct, but only if the obstructive efforts of the Executive branch are speedily rushed before the Supreme Court, bypassing lower venues, and they rule against the Executive branch’s contentions.  That’s a big gamble.
On the other hand, impeachment efforts in the House to bring the truth about Trump to light would avoid that tricky route.  If, however, Articles of Impeachment ever reached the Senate, it might end up with a grinning President and the Republicans gloating, “Nah, Nah, we told ya so!”
My conclusion at this time is that the best tactic would be a modified “Fuggedaboudit” approach to impeachment which amounts to:

a.   Getting the President’s stonewalling activities before the Supreme Court on a priority basis, in perhaps no more than thirty days, and if they rule against him and his colleagues there,

b.   Letting the House of Representatives’ regular Committee hearings proceed to bring out the truth, and not be sidetracked into impeachment proceedings,

c.    But, if unsuccessful in the Supreme Court, or if the Executive branch defies the rulings of that Court against it, or if Republican delaying tactics still persist, by the end of July, the House Judiciary Committee should immediately and without further delay commence hearings to establish Articles of impeachment but in a manner, however, which would never reach the point of being voted upon in the Senate. 

In either eventuality, the importance of nationwide television coverage and the presence of Robert Mueller as a witness would be fatal to the President.  No matter which way it happens, what comes out is likely to result in either the President’s resignation (in order to prevent criminal charges once he out of office) or his certain defeat in 2020 if the remains of the Republican Party is foolish enough to re-nominate him.  
Finally, in expending energy and resources to follow the tactics regarding impeachment outlined above, the Democratic Party must not depart from its much grander strategy of presenting programs which make life better for all Americans and actually acting to do so in the House of Representatives. As desirable as getting rid of Trump may be, its progressive agenda should remain the major thrust of the Democratic Party’s candidates.

Jack Lippman

Winning the Rust Belt

And specifically, the Democrats will need a potent strategy to recapture the “rust belt” states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, etc.) which went for Trump in 2016. (see map below) The Democrats MUST stress what is important to voters there. 

Democrats must recapture the "rust belt" electoral votes of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.  (Indiana and Kentuciky would be nice too, but that ain't gonna happen.)

The ones who will make a difference on Election Day are the ones who voted for Trump because he told them he would bring back jobs, reopen the coal mines and do the things for them which the Democrats and even the Republicans whom he had humiliated in the course of getting the nomination had failed to do for them in recent years.  They recognized his lack of ethics, his womanizing and lack of government experience but that didn’t matter.  They believed his lies and voted for him, regardless of their Party.  He wasn’t the first snake oil salesman to make his pitch in the Midwest. 

Waiting for the plant to reopen
These voters don’t care about impeachment.  To them, all politicians are crooks and liars, including Trump.  To quote a Democratic politico from Ohio, all they care about are “paychecks and pensions.”  The result in the “rust belt” rests in getting the votes, again quoting that politician, of “those who shower after coming home from work, not before going to work.”  Think about that, you folks in New York and California.

The Democratic candidate for President will have to lay it on the line to these voters and point out that, despite his claims, Donald Trump has not produced for them.  His lies must be documented for them.   The elusive Carrier air conditioning plant and the promised Foxxcom project in Wisconsin are examples.  The coal mines are not going to reopen.  West Virginians, Pennsylvanians and Kentuckians see that every day and they still wait in vain. The manufacturing which moved elsewhere in the country or overseas is not coming back.  Technology, the great devourer of obsolete jobs, isn’t going away.  They must be told the truth.   

But the Democrats, if given the Presidency and control of both Houses of Congress, will embark upon a program of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and restoring the environment which will provide millions of new jobs with generous paychecks and solid retirement benefits … and this will happen not only in the “rust belt” but throughout the country.   And the icing on the cake will be the new jobs created in providing health care for all Americans, not just those who can afford to pay for it.  Democrats can and will make life better for all Americans!  They must deliver this message.
That’s how the “rust belt” can be won in 2020.  Is anyone listening?

A Word to the Women in our Audience

Alabama Governor Ivey, a traitor to her sex, signs that State's
obscene abortion  legislation under which, if she should
become pregnant after being raped,
she would be forbidden to have an
 abortion.  Good Luck, Kay! 
Anti-abortion, “pro-life,” legislation in various Republican-controlled State legislatures is aimed at reaching the Supreme Court in an effort to get it to disregard that Court’s history of “stare decisis” (basing opinions on precedent) and overturn the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision which legalized abortion.  

At this point it should be clear that any woman, regardless of her religious beliefs, who votes Republican at any level whatsoever has to be out of her mind.  Ladies, the State does not own your bodies.  You do.

More from Baltasar Gracian

Last week’s posting introduced some of you to the writings of Baltasar Gracian.  Here’s another of my occasional quotes from “The Art of Worldly Wisdom,” a compendium of maxims by this seventeenth century Spanish Jesuit scholar.  (The translation from the Spanish is by Chirstopher Maurer.)  Things don’t change over the years, do they?  Note how Gracian ties deceit to vulgarity.  Still true!  (This is number 146 of 300 paragraphs in the book.) 

146: Look deep inside.  Things are seldom what they seem, and ignorance, which sees no deeper than the bark, often turns to disillusion when it penetrates into things.  In all things, deceit arrives first, dragging fools behind it in endless vulgarity.  Truth is always late, always last to arrive, limping along with Time. Prudent people save one of their ears for truth, thanking their common mother, Nature, for giving them two.  Deceit is superficial, and superficial people are quick to run into her.  Discernment lives hidden away in retirement, so as to be more esteemed by the wise and the discreet.

A Quote Worth Thinking About

A recent letter published in the Palm Beach Post included the following quote from Mary McLeod Bethune, renowned Florida educator, and of whom a statue will soon be placed in the Capitol rotunda in Washington replacing that of the Confederate General which up to now has occupied Florida’s position among the statues there.

“Some truths are merely true; they inform our minds.  Other truths are nourishing; they feed our spirits.”

I tried to think of some examples of this.  The first kind of truth includes such information as the fact that the earth is spherical and is not flat, and that the second kind of truth is best exemplified by these words from the Declaration of Independence: ('truths that the Founding Fathers found to be self-evident') ... “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

(Traditionally, the above “unalienable rights” were ‘Life, Liberty and Property’ as defined by the English philosopher John Locke. The Founding Fathers, specifically Thomas Jefferson, substituted ‘the pursuit of Happiness’ instead of the very specific idea of ‘property’ in this trio, leaving open its future interpretation.  Basically, within the limits of the law, it means, ‘Whatever makes you happy, go for it!)


The Lower Depths

For years, politicians have published unfavorable photos of their opponents. Sometimes, they are in black and white, often poorly lit and “grainy.”  That’s the way the game is played, even justifying technically altering a photo to make it look even worse than it really is.  This is done because politicians know there are enough gullible people out there who will be swayed, even subconsciously, by such photos

Right now, supporters of the Administration are doing this kind of thing with videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and going so far as to slow the video down to simulate a slurred manner of speech, perhaps indicative of senility or drunkenness. There is no limit to the depths to which the President’s supporters will sink to in order to protect him from whatever results verifiable criticism of his actions will bring about.   

Critics of the President do not have to take such steps because undoctored pictures and videos of him suffice to honestly paint him for what he is.
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