Monday, May 16, 2022

Political High Impact Actions From Sessions, Barr, and McConnell


Senator Jeff Sessions was a loyal supporter of Trump’s candidacy for president. Sessions served in the campaign and upon Trump’s election became Trump’s Attorney General (AG) over the Justice Department. Sessions was both an attorney and an experienced politician, giving some justification for Trump’s choice and Sessions’ confirmation as AG.
But two problems arose.
First, Sessions had spoken with a Russian diplomat after U.S. Intelligence had concluded Russians had been involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. 
Second, an FBI investigation was announced into the Russian interference with the 2016 campaign. For any Attorney General these were very serious issues.
Since it was the Justice Department which would investigate Russian interference and the campaign, it was clearly a conflict of interest for Sessions to be a part of that. So in March 2017 he recused himself from having anything to do with the FBI Russian investigation. Sessions remained as Attorney General in other matters.
Judges, and lawyers remove themselves from a legal case (recuse, recusal, recused) or investigation when there is a conflict of interest which could be a source of bias, unfairness, or misjudgment. When Sessions recused himself, this made Trump quite angry for the reason that Trump wanted Sessions to protect him from negative effects of the Russian investigation. Were Sessions to function as Trump's personal attorney then Sessions' natural loyalty to Trump would bias Sessions' against the very Criminal Justice Department (of which Mueller was a part).
Robert Mueller, Special Prosecutor, then conducted a very thorough Russian campaign interference investigation. Trump publicly and regularly bad-mouthed the investigation; and this amounted to interference by Trump with a criminal investigation of Trump himself. Mueller, on the other hand, focused exclusively on getting the work of the investigation done properly according to standard criminal justice procedures. Mueller’s public comments were few and appropriate.
My opinion is that Sessions did an honorable thing by recusing himself. But Trump did a lot of public bad-mouthing about Sessions for his recusal. From Sessions’ comments which I’ve read, he continued being loyal to Trump but was not going to violate ethical standards for Trump
In contrast, it appears Trump is blind to issues of conflict of interest and brazenly acts like the principles of ethics don’t apply to him.
Sessions continued to serve in the Trump administration until November 2018 when he resigned and about the same time Trump rudely tweeted out Sessions’ dismissal (he didn't give Sessions a warning he'd be soon fired). Matthew Whitaker then served as Attorney General for a short period but then resigned or was let go.

Bill Barr, a former U.S. Justice Department Attorney General, wrote a letter expressing his support of Trump and stating that ”Mueller’s theory of obstruction was ‘fatally misconceived’ and should be rejected” (Honig, 2021). Subsequently, when the Mueller report was complete and Barr talked about it, I believe Barr violated the standards of the Justice Department by his misleading statements about the meaning of that report. Here, Barr was, loyal to Trump, downplayed the seriousness of Mueller's findings.

Elie Honig’s book, Hatchet Man, explains the importance of Bill Barr as defender of Donald Trump. It provides some of clearest and most readable insights into the constitutional crisis of Trump’s presidency. Honig is very well qualified for his analysis. He has been a state and federal prosecutor for fourteen years and successfully prosecuted hundreds of the most complex sorts of serious crimes. This is an essential book for understanding the danger of Trump’s autocratic, demagogue-like world view.

I intently watched Barr to hear what he’d say after the Mueller report came out. It was very hard not to become enraged at how he minimized the disturbing findings about Trump. It was even harder to hear his misleading interpretation that there was “no collusion.” He taught Trump to say those words repeatedly: “There was no collusion” and following up by saying he did nothing wrong. Of course, the issue wasn’t collusion—it was obstruction of justice.

So, I read every bit of the digital version of the Mueller Report, of which the full name is, Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. I read it for the following critically important reasons concerning pre-election Trump:
  • During the televised Republican Debates I found Trump to be insincere, arrogant, and not seriously debating. He was merely spouting off rudely, and he was effectively commanding the stage by interpersonal crudity. A spectacle.
  • He had an unusually powerful persona in the sense of performance--as opposed to a campaigning politician.
  • He was a well-dressed man, very unusual behavior, an extreme outlier in many regards. A candidate not expected to win! But he did win—in an election which by itself was not unusual (Klein, 2020).
  • Much of what he had to say was merely a reaction the other candidates, all of whom had understandable policies an insights. Trump had no substantive issues, but he was a spectacle spectacle.
  • I thought he would not get elected, but were he elected he would be some sort of political disaster. His lack of judgment was never more apparent than when in a campaign appearance he “invited Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.”

I was impressed by the quality of the Mueller investigation. But what I found most significant was that many of Trump’s staff tried to rein him in to prevent him doing more damage to himself and his administration. But Trump didn’t care what anyone else thought and continued saying and doing whatever came into his mind. A lot of what this self-described “very stable genius” said was impulsive, disorganized, and insulting to those he had to work with.

On or about December 21, 2020, he minced no words when he told Trump, “You lost.” Barr on his final day as Attorney General publicly said there was no evidence of any significant election fraud and said Trump lost the election.
From the perspective of 2021-2022, Barr’s comment was and is incredibly brave and important to the welfare of American government. After all, 95% of Republican Party Congressmen and women performed loyally for Trump and supported him publicly. The best evidence of this is their not convicting him of his impeachment charges, not supporting the January 6th Insurrection Investigation, publicly campaigning against the work of that Investigation, resisting subpoenas, and condemning the work of their fellow Republican Liz Cheney, one of the co-chairs of the Investigation. 
I really don’t believe 95% of the Republican Party is delusional. I don’t believe they are in the throes of a conspiracy theory as such. No, as someone closely following the path of the GOP in the last several yeas, I believe their 95% all-in with the public Big-Lie position is a strategy for manipulating the minds of American citizens to believe what is grossly untrue in order to win elections. 
Is the Republican Party serving the people? I don't think so.

Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has been one of the most powerful members of Congress for many years. Upon Biden’s winning the election, McConnell congratulated Biden. Moreover, McConnell did not assert that there was any significant election fraud. And furthermore, I witnessed several times McConnell’s open-minded manner about the January 6th Investigation. I heard him say, in his usual low-key manner that, “Something interesting may come of it.”
I disagree with a lot of McConnell’s ultraconservative politics, but I greatly value the integrity he had in publicly endorsing the reality of Trump’s loss and at least being open-minded as to what the January 6th Investigation might turn up.
        For references see the relevant page on the website. 
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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Roe v. Wade Ended Because . . .




Note: This is an updated version of the previous 5-5-2022 blog titled, "Useful Analysis of Abortion Issues From Ruth Bader Ginsburg."


In May of 2022, Justice Alito's "[D]raft draft opinion in a key case striking down Roe v. Wade (1973) has sparked a heated debate, perhaps drawing new attention to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's opinion on the key abortion precedent." 

This is from Fox News: "Leak confirms Ruth Bader Ginsburg's prescient warnings about Roe v. Wade." Read former Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg's piece in Fox News:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was famous for her:

  • Very insightful and careful opinions on constitutional law 
  • and her liberal viewpoints more favored by average citizens than by the conservative Republicans.
She supported freedom of choice abortions rights but she also knew that the Supreme Court of the United States' (SCOTUS) Roe v. Wade finding had various technical problems--troublesome ones she had previously predicted would emerge. Back in 1973 Justice William Rehnquist in his dissent acknowledged such problems.
Justice Ginsberg predicted that Roe v. Wade would need fixing. She was not in favor of a sudden, dramatic complete overturning of Roe v. Wade which would be a shock to American citizens--a sudden end to medical rights without alternatives. That's what we got in 2022.

In this blog, I'm not giving my personal opinions on abortion. My goal is to broadcast the work of several writers who show us their high quality thinking processes. Clear thinking on abortion law requires temporarily setting aside strong emotions; then, as a result, a person can better take into consideration essential concepts ( see how Justice Blackmun lists many of these essential concepts in his quotation below).

James Mumford, PhD is a philosopher and writer. I noticed his book, Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes (Mumford, 2020). I bought it because he discusses the problems voters have as a result of the Democrat and Republican Parties each "packaging" issues together in a so-called "platform." And that makes it quite difficult for voters to make a sensible voting choice. They can't vote yes or no on separate issues; they can only vote for one or the other Party's package. For example, one can't get from Republicans both abortion rights and gun control.

Mumford points out that the Republican Party advertises their not putting restrictions on guns and that they strongly support the sanctity of life (anti- abortion). Mumford carefully interprets the Republican belief as saying: "The loss of life owing to guns may be tragic, but worse would be the loss of the liberty to have guns. Gun violence is the inevitable cost of freedom." Then Mumford concludes that, "Such a sentiment, I have argued, flies in the face of a commitment to the sanctity of life."

Then Mumford examines the hypocrisy of President Richard Nixon who in his first election pursued a pro-choice agenda and followed through on it during his first term. But in his campaign for a second term, Mumford wrote, "All that changed when he came to see his chances of re-election hinged on bringing the Catholics into the fold. He shamelessly reversed his position" (Mumford, 2020).

Nixon's personal hypocrisy and strategy for political gain is not unusual behavior for ambitious politicians; they carefully choose and promote in the campaign those issues that will get them elected. Mumford in his book helpfully examines half a dozen important political issues; he shows how they are used as weapons in the form of deceitful, tribal (as in emotion-provoking slogans) hooks by which to gain votes.
The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision came in 1973.
Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion making abortion legal. He remarked that, "One's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one's thinking and conclusions about abortion" ( from Harrison and Gilbert, Eds., 2003).

Justice William Rehnquist, in his dissent, wrote: "The Court's opinion will accomplish the seemingly impossible feat of leaving this area of the law more confused than it found it" ( from Harrison and Gilbert, Eds., 2003).
Now, in the Fall of 2023, the some States are busy prohibiting abortion. Other states have laws allowing abortion. Several States have laws by which any citizen can sue those who go out of State to get a legal abortion; and there are lawsuits in the process of blocking such laws. The abortion law and its interpretation is pretty messy still. 
         For references, see the page BIBLIOGRAPHY / WORKS CITED
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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Part 2 of 2: Citizens MUST Supervise Their Government


Any government needs its citizens to care enough to supervise their politicians--to keep them from screwing things up.
Our government is good and will continue to survive. Instead of being set back by worry, we have to remember in a positive way that the Presidency and government is led by mere persons laden with truly overwhelming demands. 
Presidents Johnson and Nixon were both experienced and successful politicians—one Democrat and one Republican. In their last election, both won by a landslide with 61% of the vote and way more than enough electoral votes. But, concerning the Vietnam war, they failed to follow the wisdom of their best advisors. They failed to respect that after about 1968 public opinion was (1) against the Vietnam war and (2) and our involvement in the first place a serious mistake. Instead of getting out of Vietnam, Presidents Johnson and Nixon misinformed Congress and the American people and escalated the war they had been losing for multiple years.
Just because we know and care doesn’t mean that future presidents, governors and congressmen will avoid the documented mistakes of past governments. 
The most penetrating analysis of the causes of this debacle, so far as I know, is by Daniel Ellsberg in his excellent book Secrets: a memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (Ellsberg, 2002).
Website is done. Blogging is getting somewhat easier. I’m humble and realistic about what I can accomplish. I'm very pleased with the number of visitors.
Now I’m spending more of my time performing nitty gritty political engagement actions.
  • I try not to annoy friends and family by talking too much about politics. 
  • I’ve sought out several friends who have a lifetime of political involvement and asked for their advice about where to go from here. They’ve helped by providing leads and suggestions.
  • I’ve made a few modest contributions to political influencers. I’ve received back some personal thank-you notes. Also, when I contributed to a candidate in another state whose goals exactly aligned with mine, I received a very nice received a very meaningful email! 
  • I’ve been attending two different monthly political party meetings. These are online. There’s always something to be learned, but I really want the greater emotional engagement from face to face meetings. 
  • A politically savvy friend and I researched the soon to be elected local county commissioners and city council candidates. We’ve done our homework. Some candidates for municipal judge were attorneys, which would make sense. But one candidate did not list any judicial experience. When we vote, we will not be making guesses.
  • The self-interest of the Parties and candidates is important. But just yesterday I learned there are thousands of important self-interest, group interest, and lobbying groups of citizens. I think there’s a big story here which I'm going to investigate. Maybe we'll be discussing this in a future blog. Check out this interesting link:

1. All citizens can get productively involved in politics in some way. I’ve worked professionally with all sorts of disabled persons and those whose rights have been legally limited; these folks also can get more power to their votes. Everyone can decide to do more and have reason to feel good about it. America needs every citizen. We are not at the top of our game, but let’s make progress!
2. Two generally important key ideas are as follows:
  • Dr. Hersh’s Politics Is For Power book emphasizes that we get more voting power by getting more involved socially and being helpful to people. Hersh said, “They earned the votes by showing their neighbors they care about them” (Hersh, 2020). Hersh’s political science research also found that a wide range of unremarkable people became successful influencing others and getting out the vote. I highly recommend reading this book. Very readable and inspiring.
  • Because America is a huge country, it is difficult for citizens to get involved personally with their state and federal legislators. The solution to this difficulty is through what are called “linkages.” For most Americans their linkage to government is through the Republican or Democratic Parties. While they are important, their squabbles and excessive partisanship are a big problem. For myself, I’m going to focus on local issues and local political engagement. Concerning the major political parties, I’m going to consider my one or two most important issues and vote for whichever Party appears compatible with my issues. Remember, the Parties are not obligated in any way to fulfill their election promises!
3. And finally:
  • Keep in front of your mind and heart what you care about, what pains you about government or any politician.
  • Write down one or two specific political issues. For example, income inequality or gun violence or abortion. What grabs your feelings about what should change in government? And for each issue, write down and pin on the wall, exactly the specific actions you want to see occur.
So! You have pain that you care about. You care to supervise your government because you know how fragile is their common sense. Keep a tight grip on you goal, for without it you will lose sight of your own concerns and the paths to solutions.
        For references, see the relevant page on the website.
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  1350 Words   INTRODUCTION Here’s what happened in America   on January 6 th , 2021: “After refusing to concede the 2020 U.S. preside...