Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Line Has Been Crossed: Impeachment Is Not An Option; It's An Imperative

In a burst of clarity possibly disguised as sunstroke, I have untied the Gordian knot that has kept House Democrats from initiating impeachment proceedings although they should have done so once the full extent of Donald Trump's criminality in Robert Mueller's final report on the Russia scandal was apparent.   
The "problem" has been that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the party leadership, ever wary of the footsteps they keep hearing, namely their fear of handing Trump a second term, have been unable to separate political considerations from moral-legal considerations in pursuing his high crimes and misdemeanors.   
Once they do that -- and I believe a majority of the House Democratic caucus will support impeachment not as a political cudgel but a constitutional imperative when they return to Washington on September 9 at the end of the inexcusably long August recess -- then we can finally commence the payback phase of the national nightmare Trump has visited on America. 
Although Mueller's appearance before two House committees on July 24 produced plenty of smoke but little fire, it prompted several fence-sitting Democrats to join in the call to open impeachment proceedings.   
At least 114 Democrats now advocate impeachment, 21 of them since last week, or nearly half of the 235-member caucus.  Of the 121 Democrats who are not yet on board, about 20 represent "safe" districts where Trump lost by at least 38 points in 2016, and it's a safe bet that enough of them will come out for impeachment to give the party's pro-impeachment wing a majority and Pelosi a very big problem if she doesn't get out of the way. 
Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was one of those coming off the fence. 
Engel said that Mueller's testimony "provided ample evidence that the president committed obstruction of justice [and] abused the power of his office in an effort to stymie a legitimate investigation into his campaign's involvement with Russia." 
"The American people want, and deserve, the truth," Engel added.
Several of the Democrats cited the issue of election security as a reason for their decision. 
Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch "Moscow Mitch" McConnell, blocked election security bills the same week that Mueller warned that Russia was continuing to interfere in U.S. elections. 
Two days after the former special counsel's appearance, the House Judiciary Committee -- apparently with Pelosi's tacit approval -- gave the screw a big turn by petitioning a federal judge to unseal grand jury secrets related to Mueller's investigation. 
This was a necessary moral-legal (as opposed to political) move following months of dithering in the face of a president who believes that the Constitution permits him to do anything he wants, including resisting all efforts from Congress to fulfill its constitutional oversight obligations by resisting subpoenas, ignoring contempt citations and refusing to appear before its committees.  
The Judiciary petition effectively bypasses William Barr's Justice Department, which had of course stonewalled the committee over the grand jury transcripts.  When and if the transcripts are released to the committee under court order, there really is no option but to launch an impeachment inquiry to test the evidence presented to the grand jury.  That evidence likely details Trump's vile deeds, including his multiple efforts to obstruct justice while consorting with Russia and its president, beyond what was stated in Mueller's report, which stopped short of calling for Trump to be criminally charged because of a long-in-tooth Justice Department ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
It should be noted that the long slog toward impeachment -- let alone the proverbial line bring crossed -- is not the result of a public outcry.   
Democratic congressfolk home for the August recess will not hear widespread calls for impeachment.  While most polls show a substantial majority of voters say they will not vote for Trump in 2020 under any circumstances, the same polls show voters pretty much evenly split on whether he should be impeached.    
This makes impeachment no less of an imperative, and actually all the more so because of Trump's loudly declared race war, which more than qualifies as an article of impeachment (along with obstructing justice, collusion with Russia, profiting from the presidency, advocating violence, violating campaign finance laws and abusing power), as well as a potent campaign issue if minority voters don't stay home as too many did in 2016. 
I daresay, although with trepidation given the parlous state of politics overall, that the steady if slow crawl toward impeachment is a reflection of the diversity of the Democratic House caucus.  Translation: More and more Democrats who have consciences are listening to them.    
If all of this seems squishy, as in really tentative, then you're paying attention.  But the wheels of justice, while turning slow (just like the cliché says they do) are finally turning. 
Expect them to speed up shortly. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

How Do We Move Forward While Confronting Trump & The Rot In His America?

Then I have Article II [of the Constitution], where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president. ~ DONALD TRUMP  
"Mistakes were made," as our leaders have famously if rarely acknowledged over the 150 years since President Ulysseys S. Grant is believed to have been the first American politician to utter those immortal words.    In a here-and-now context, the biggest mistake of the many made by House Democrats in their crusade to wrestle the Russia scandal to the ground and Donald Trump out the door was putting too much stock in the labors of Robert Mueller.   
That, of course, is easy to deduce in retrospect, and I certainly wrote early and often that the special counsel was the only person among we mere mortals -- a prosecutorial superman, in my now discredited view -- capable of ending Trump's presidency.   
What I got wrong, much as I had failed to understand when I got blindsided by Agent Orange's 2016 "victory," was that Mueller and I, and probably you, too, live in a very different time.  A time of profound national polarization when the unwavering support of Trump's basket of deplorables, variously estimated at upwards of 40 percent of registered voters, is not based on the standards by which we judge a Jefferson, Grant or Kennedy, but an adoration hinged on how Trump keeps beating the system -- whether it is cheating on his taxes or stifling Mueller -- and how they wish they could be him. 
The here-and-now is so different, the rot in America so great and the stench in Washington so overpowering, that the logical alternative to the criminal investigation on which Democrats pretty much bet the post-Blue Wave ranch was a national investigative commission not unlike those empaneled after 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.  Gather facts and then bring criminal charges based on those facts. 
But a national investigative commission was a nonstarter because of another here-and-now fact of life: Republicans will put party ahead of patriotism every time, so the bipartisan support necessary for such a momentous undertaking was nonexistent. 
History will judge today's Republicans, chief among them Russian asset Mitch "I Don't Want No Stinkin' Election Security" McConnell, as harshly as it judges Republican-by-convenience Trump, whose (small) hands hold the party in a cult-like trance.   
That is small satisfaction because impeachment is hanging by a slender thread -- the eventual success of the House Judiciary Committee's bombshell request to a federal judge on Friday to unseal grand jury secrets related to Mueller's investigation, using the court filing to declare that Democrats have already in effect launched an impeachment investigation against a president who cavalierly, if falsely, says that the Constitution permits him to do anything he wants, including resisting all efforts from Congress to fulfill its constitutional oversight obligations by resisting subpoenas, ignoring contempt citations and refusing to appear before its committees. 
Should that initiative fail -- and remembering that previous Trumpian bombshells have almost always turned out to be duds -- it probably will come down to the Supreme Court. If the court rules for the president and against Congress, then defeating a criminal who has been deeply disloyal to his country in 2020 becomes the only alternative to ending our long national nightmare, and that is a very scary proposition. 
If you have an idea of how we should move forward, share it with your fellow readers. This, as they say in the blogosphere, is an open thread, so bring it on.  Please.    

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It's Over Bar The Shouting As Mueller Bombs, Dems Stumble & Repubs High Five

Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election with the eager help of Donald Trump's campaign and candidate himself may have been the crime of the young century. But as anticlimaxes go, the fallout from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 22-month investigation, which found numerous instances in which President Trump tried to obstruct justice and ample reason to impeach and force him from office, has been something between a whimper and a sigh. 
There was Trump lawn ornament Robert Barr's whitewash of Mueller's deeply incriminating final report, a ham-handed effort at concealment which quickly fell apart but most of the news media still swallowed whole.  There was the confused and ineffectual Democratic response to the attorney general's handiwork.  And then on Wednesday there was perhaps the mother of all anticlimaxes -- Mueller's halting testimony before two House committees. 
"It was a game of chicken among chickens," as Slate's Dahlia Litchwick had surmised, not that anyone should have been surprised.   
In his lone no-questions-allowed press briefing on May 29 on that 448-page final report, Mueller pointedly warned that if forced to testify before Congress, he would not say anything beyond what the report said.   
And when all was said and done after nearly seven hours of testimony before the Democratic-led House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, the now former special counsel did not elaborate with precious few and largely meaningless exceptions, hewing to a letter from Barr written at Mueller's request instructing him to not answer a wide variety of questions about his investigation, which the AG asserted is covered by executive privilege, an egregious frontal assault on the Constitution and congressional oversight. 
As he had at that briefing, Mueller reiterated that:
Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 election through hacking and a social media disinformation blitz. 
* The campaign welcomed the Russian interference but there was insufficient evidence that it conspired or coordinated with Moscow.    
* If he did not believe Trump committed a crime, he would have said so, but neither was Trump exonerated.   
* While a sitting president cannot be indicted, Congress has a follow-up role and Trump could be indicted after leaving office. 
* Many countries are developing capabilities to meddle in the 2020 election, and Russia is expected to do so.    
If there was a "highlight" to a day characterized by Mueller's clipped one-and two-word answers, it came when he said flatly, "It is not a witch hunt," after he was asked by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff  if Trump's repeated statements about his investigation were accurate.  
Mueller's most pointed criticism of Trump came when he said he found Trump's repeated statements during the campaign praising WikiLeaks for releasing Democratic emails hacked by a Russian intelligence service to be disturbing.  
"Problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays of giving some hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal behavior," Mueller said in a rare if muddled elaboration.   
Schiff and other Democrats on the two committees picked at Mueller and probed his clipped responses in a largely fruitless effort to get him to expand on his report, and on the rare occasions that he offered a fuller answer it usually was to parse words.  Or in one instance to undo what he had said. 
Representative Ted Lieu of the Judiciary Committee asked Mueller during the morning session whether the reason he "did not indict Donald Trump is because of the OLC [Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel] opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president." 
Mueller said that it was in what appeared to be the "gotcha" moment Democrats were waiting for, but then he backtracked. 
"That is not the correct way to say it," Mueller said of Lieu's description during the afternoon Intelligence Committee session.  "We did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime."   
Republicans -- more loyal to party than country -- were predictably indignant.  
Representative Devin Nunes, who dutifully carried Trump's water when Republicans controlled the Intelligence Committee before the Blue Wave midterm elections, called the hearings a "spectacle" and “public theater."  He claimed Democrats had used Mueller's appearance as another attempt to find "collusion" between Trump and Russia. 
"Like the Loch Ness monster they insist it's there even if no one can find it," Nunes said.  
Mueller himself should not be immune from criticism.  Far from it. 
While admirably impartial, he was cautious to a fault over his 22-month investigation, declining to subpoena Trump, which "seemed an obvious and perfectly justified move that held the promise of breaking the investigation wide open," as legal analyst Harry Litman put it.    "Mueller adhered to Marquis of Queensbury rules when the Trump camp -- including the president -- was applying a no-holds-barred cage fighters' approach, including vicious and false attacks." 
Those "rules" included not venturing into areas in his report redacted by the Justice Department in his testimony. 
These, among others, were:
* How extensively did longtime adviser Roger Stone coordinate WikiLeaks releases with the Trump campaign? 
* Why did adviser Michael Flynn's sanctions discussions with the Russian ambassador not constitute a criminal conspiracy? 
* Was the special counsel pressured to end his investigation by Barr while aspects of it were ongoing?
The cable news networks, as well as ABC, CBS and NBC, preempted regular programming to carry Mueller's testimony live.  This was a tacit admission that they and the media as a whole had blown initial coverage of his report, by default giving credibility to Trumps"s "no collusion, obstruction" bloviating and the  cavalcade of lies that flowed from that claim.  
The extensive coverage of Mueller's testimony was "an opportunity . . . to remove a false, cartoon version of Mueller's investigation and to substitute a well-rendered portrait of a subject that could hardly be more important to the country," opined media critic Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post, and the post-hearing coverage in the liberal media was a brave if futile attempt to put a positive spin on the day although Mueller broke no new ground and obviously is tired of the whole mess.  
"People aren't reading the book, but they will watch the movie," The New York Times wishfully declared in an editorial on the eve of the special counsel's swan song.   
Perhaps so, but not likely.  Trump and his allies remain masters at putting the best spin on the worst situations.  He remains smugly in power (the Constitution allows him "to do whatever I want as president," he cavalierly declared on Tuesday) while the Democrats are in disarray, their investigative slow boat caught in a fog bank and what faint hope there is for impeachment fading away -- far, far away -- by the day.  In fact, calls for impeachment are likely to diminish following Mueller's faltering performance. 
Trump and his cadre sought to portray the hearings as a "disaster" for the Democrats, and in some respects they were, especially Mueller's walkback from that "gotcha" moment.  That Vladimir Putin must also have had a good chuckle as his comrade in autocracy dodged another bullet. 
To be sure, Mueller bombed.  And seemed even more out of his time -- and a moment of great peril for America -- than usual.  But the damage already had been done and that was not going to be undone by his belated and oh-so-pained testimony.

Click HERE for a searchable version of the Mueller report. 

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal 
and related developments.    

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

Vanquishing A Demigod In 2020 Will Demand A Radically Different Approach

One year from now, the midpoint between the Democratic and Republican national conventions, the most consequential presidential campaign since 1860 will shift into high gear.  Not unlike that campaign, which pitted anti-slavery Abraham Lincoln against pro-slavery John C. Breckenridge on the eve of a war that would rip the nation apart, the highest-of-high-stakes 2020 election also must revolve around a single, overriding concern: Rejecting Donald Trump. 
Trump, as you may have noticed, has declared war on America's proud tradition of diversity with the blood lust of a committed racist and xenophobe while violating his oath of office through a one-man crime spree on the Constitution, Rule of Law, our public lands and common decency.  Denying this demigod four more years to continue destroying the values, resources and institutions that once made America the envy of the world is paramount. 
The process of electing a president had become the sausage factory of our democracy long before Trump slithered onto the scene and commandeering the Republican Party in what was less a putsch than a willing embrace. But the 2020 election cannot be yet another media-driven carnival of the absurd with so much at stake.  
If Trump is to be defeated -- and he must be defeated decisively to preclude the inevitable cries that he was robbed of victory -- the hardy soul who survives the Democratic primary gauntlet must declare from the outset of her campaign that Trump is a pariah and will be treated accordingly all the way through to Election Day. 
The nominee will not engage in the customary televised debates.  Because Trump is a profound liar and the playing field will never be level.   
The nominee will not engage in the typical give-and-take rhetoric.   Because Trump is incapable of playing by the rules unless they are his rules. 
The nominee will not talk about the America that Trump is methodically destroying but the better America that will be rebuilt in its place. 
The battle will be gargantuan.  Because as broken as the process of electing a president is, including the vestigial outrage of an Electoral College that landed Trump in the White House despite losing the popular vote, there is no incentive to fix it.   
Electing a president may be like making sausage, but it is a multi-billion dollar payday for the cable news networks, political consultants, ad agencies, pollsters and other special interests as the American electoral Sisyphus pushes that rock up the mountain yet again, to paraphrase Joan Didion, who wrote bitingly of the permanent political class that feeds greedily at that trough every four years. 
The likelihood of the Democratic nominee and the party leadership adopting a hyper-focused approach is slim.  Nominee and party will be slaves to the process and probably do not have the discipline and focus to do it any other way.   
This even though a hyper-focused campaign is not just the right thing to do, but the only thing to do, in the service of decisively defeating Trump, who continues to punk a feckless news media with the nonchalance of a practiced pro, most recently in framing the debate over his racial attacks, which left the Democrats dithering.    
Instead, nominee and party probably will blindly, if dutifully, continue to play by the rules even if Trump won't.  
The president's Republican primary opponents in the spring of 2016 learned the hard way, as would Hillary Clinton before that year was out, that Trump's inevitable self-destruction might be not so inevitable, and waiting for him to beat himself was, as he himself might put it, "for total losers."  As it is, Trump's fury over being labeled a pariah and being marginalized by the nominee will be incendiary.   
Tough shit.  
The consequence of the nominee's obeisance to a process that Trump has further broken and a reluctance to tell Sisyphus to get the hell out of the way could well be calamity overtaking the disaster we now experienced daily.      

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Whatever Happened To That Democratic Blue Wave? Blame Madam Speaker.

So much for that Blue Wave.   
In the seven months since Democrats swept to power in the House, two unmovable obstacles to taking decisive action to rein in, if not remove, a rogue president who daily brings us to the precipice, have emerged.  There is, of course, Donald Trump.  And then there is Nancy Pelosi.   
America nearly went over that precipice this week, and that's just the first four days.   
On Sunday, there was Trump's vilely racist tweetstorm against The Squad, four minority Democratic congresswomen who have spoken truth to power and gotten little but grief for their principled stands.   
On Tuesday, the House passed a non-binding resolution condemning Trump's racism with a meager four out of 191 Republicans joining the Democrats amidst the inevitable lie-strewn White House pushback, including the president's pious assertion that "I don't have a racist bone in my body."   
And then on Wednesday, there was a floor vote to impeach Trump for his racist attacks with Democrats joining Republicans to scuttle the measure.   The bill died aborning, tabled by a 332-95 margin as 137 Democrats joined all 195 Republicans shortly before the racist-in-chief led a raucous reelection rally in North Carolina punctuated by his bigoted calls of "Tell them to leave!" and "Send her back!" responses targeting Representative Ilhan Omar.   
Pelosi and her Democratic leadership loyalists continue to insist that the way forward is taking a slow boat with endless committee hearings on Trump's various crimes and misdemeanors -- a war of attrition they cannot win -- and then maybe impeachment will be considered.   
Pelosi is a master parliamentarian.  She can herd cats.  Her pushbacks against The Squad are not as egregious as some make them out to be, and no the Far Left is not taking over the Democratic Party.  And she means well, something of which the president certainly cannot be accused as his destruction of American values continues apace.  But she believes that "prematurely" impeaching Trump, whatever the frick that is, would be divisive and even spell defeat in the 2020 elections.  
The problem here is twofold: That destruction is not just continuing apace.  It is accelerating.   And it is occurring with Pelosi's Democrats in disarray.   
Those Blue Wave victories and sundry stump speech promises of the winners last November to get that bastard Trump are a fleeting memory, kind of like the Dodgers winning the World Series a week before the election.  Or was it the Red Sox? 
The Democrats -- and Pelosi must share most of the blame -- keep blowing it with unforced errors. 
Their message about the powerful conclusions in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on the Russia scandal were weak and confusing, which allowed Attorney General William Barr's whitewash of the report to stick.  And once it became obvious that the whitewash was working, Pelosi punted. 
There are so many Democratic-led committee hearings, subpoenas issued and rebuffed and contempt citations citationed that, as far as most observers would deduce, the slow boat is caught in a fog bank. 
Pelosi won't even consider a bill to censure the president.  "That's not on the table either," she has said reflexively.  "I think censure is just a way out.  In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach." 
Of course impeachment would be a fraught process.  But, Madam Speaker, the goods have been hiding in plain sight for two years.   
Andrew Sullivan captures the unreality of the moment perfectly in New York magazine:
It turns out . . . the Democratic House majority didn't matter much at all. Whenever a serious administration abuse of power seems to demand investigation, Speaker Pelosi springs almost instantly into inaction.  There is nothing she won’t not do. 
Keeping Trump from winning a second term was a matter of national interest.  Now it's a matter of national emergency.  It's long past time for Pelosi to jump off the slow boat, but she won't.        

Trump May Not Be Hitler, But He's Doing A Horrifyingly Good Imitation Of Him

Donald Trump is not Adolph Hitler.  Nor was Hitler a rapacious Manhattan real estate developer and reality TV star who stole a presidential election.    
But there are deeply uncomfortable similarities between Hitler's satanic quest to Make Germany Great Again and Trump's campaign to do the same for Amerika . . . er, America. And woe to those who still don't see the similarities and the menace a Trump presidency represents in this context two and a half years since the narcissistic boy-man took and promptly violated his oath of office with a smorgasbord of pronouncements, actions and racist diatribes -- which reached a new level of repugnance lat Sunday with his racist tweetstorm against four minority congresswomen -- that are strikingly similar to those of Der Führer.    
Okay, okay.  Trump merely told the women -- recently nicknamed The Squad -- to "go back" to their "crime infested" countries, whereas Hitler packed them in boxcars and sent them to his death camps.  But to both, Caucasians are the archtypally ideal citizens while people of color are inferior and interlopers.  And worse.  
Using Nazi analogies is typically a loser's game.   
Comparing someone or something to Hitler or the Third Reich stifles debate, almost always is in bad taste and triggers inevitable side debates about whether calling someone a Nazi is as bad as calling them a "kike" or "nigger."   
Then there is Godwin's Law, which states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches inevitability.  
In the interests of full disclosure, I have broken what for me has been a cardinal rule about not using Nazi analogies.  This is when I have written about the Bush administration's embrace of torture techniques right out of the Nazi playbook, as well as the deafening lack of response from most Americans to this and other outrages not unlike the Germans who failed to speak out against the excesses of the Third Reich.  
My first such reference was in 2007, and I feel even more strongly now that these analogies have been apt given the circumstances, and certainly are fitting in the here and now since Trump is now so firmly ensconced in the pantheon of history's greatest racist and zenophobic madmen.  
But Mr. Godwin can rest easy, because in a coincidence that is seriously serendipitous, an acclaimed biography of Hitler makes the case that there are deep similarities between Herr Donald and Der Führer without intending to do so.    
The book is Hitler: Ascent (1889-1939) by Volker Ullrich, and the similarities -- again, without intent -- laid out by the German historian-journalist are so unsettling that there are accusations that Michiko Kakutani's September 2016 New York Times review of the book was a thinly-veiled Trump comparison at the time when he was still a long shot for the presidency.  It is not hard to see why.  This is because just about everything that Kakutani says about Ullrich's book reflects warnings that Trump should not be dismissed as just another crackpot who was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth.    
Chillingly, Ullrich sets up his 1,008-page portrait by stripping away the mythology that Hitler created of himself in Mein Kampf as just another talented guy.  (The comparison's to The Art of the Deal, Trump's Mein Kampf, which means "My Struggle," are mindblowing.)  
Ullrich warns in an introduction that "In a sense, Hitler will be normalized -- although this will not make him seem more 'normal.' If anything, he will emerge as even more horrific."   Ditto for The Donald.  
Let's go to the comparisons -- yet again without intent -- in Ullrich's own words:  
Hitler was an egomaniac who "only loved himself," a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and a "characteristic fondness for superlatives" who had a "keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people."  
* Hitler had a "bottomless mendacity" that took advantage of the latest technology to spread his message and "was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth."  
* Hitler was an effective orator and adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences, concealing his anti-Semitism beneath a "mask of moderation" when trying to win the support of middle-class liberals.  
* Hitler specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements and adapted the contents of his speeches "to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners."  
* Hitler peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers and fomented chaos by playing to crowds' fears and resentments in "offering himself as a visionary leader who could restore law and order."  
* Hitler presented himself in messianic terms, promising "to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness," although he typically was vague about his actual plans while painting "the present day in hues that were all the darker."  
* Hitler virtually wrote the book on modern demagoguery by using repeated emotion-based "mantralike phrases" consisting largely "of accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future."  
* Hitler's ascension was abetted by the naïveté of adversaries who failed to understand his ruthlessness and tenacity, as well as partners who believed "he was not serious or that they could exert a moderating influence on him."  
There is another comparison to be made between Hitler and Trump: Cowardice.  
Like Hitler, Trump never does dirty work himself.   And Trump hides behind his enforcers, as did Hitler, while even his setbacks -- be it his Muslim ban, stanching the flow of jobs overseas or census citizenship question, to name but two examples -- merely embolden him to new and greater outrages.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Nature Marches On Relentlessly & Now It's Taking Back My Beloved Old House

It was, after all, only a house, but I loved it with all my heart.   
brought my newborn children home to its welcoming embrace, cherished it in summer heat and winter cold, and worked tirelessly to keep it from the fate that befalls far too many historic structures, in this case a house that rose from from the verdant creek lands of southeastern Chester County, Pennsylvania over 300 years ago.   
But the love was not reciprocated and the house was killed twice over.    
It was first killed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which was gifted what is . . . or was formally known as the John Evans House and the lands around it by an act of Congress.  Its response was to willfully neglect an historic structure that predates the commonwealth itself by nearly 75 years and then list it for demolition.  And then it was killed again in September 2017 by what in all likelihood was an arsonist. 
But nature marches on relentlessly.  Now my beloved old house is slowly but inextricably being taken back, witness the vines cascading down the walls and the fern growing from the rubble of the cellar floor beneath what was once the living room (top photo) and the vines insinuating themselves into what was once the dining room (bottom photo).   
Rick Darke took these haunting (to me anyway) photos on a recent morning.  Besides being a friend, Rick is a landscape ethicist "whose work blends art, ecology, horticulture, and cultural geography in the creation, conservation and management of broadly functional living landscapes," as a blurb on one of his several outstanding books explains. 
Rick, who certainly would know, had this to say about about that nature-taking-back thing:
The plant growing from the basement floor level in line with the fireplaces is not a fern, but staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), a locally indigenous species.  
Sad as the state of the house is, there's something sunny in the resiliency of local vegetation.  Unfortunately this year's abundant rains have accelerated the establishment of opportunists including the sumac, various grasses and multiple vines including oriental bittersweet and mile-a-minute vine.  The vines are especially damaging to the mortar.   
The building still seems sturdy enough to be a candidate for stabilization and preservation as such.  Not that there seem to be any funds.  
As I wrote here, despite the deterioration of the roof, attic and floors, the walls of the house remain structurally sound and survived the fire pretty much intact, a monument to the built-to-last craftsmanship of the 18th and 19th centuries.  And despite much hankie-wringing in recent years among wannabe preservationists that the house was about to fall down, no such thing was going to happen. 
But Rick is right.  There are no funds. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Trump Is A Racist Pig & Republicans Are Complicit. What Are We Going To Do?

The most shocking thing about Donald Trump's explicitly racist tweets targeting four minority Democratic congresswomen and the near universal silence with which groveling Republican Party leaders greeted them is that they were not shocking.   
It is beyond time to stop belaboring the obvious. 
If you are a Republican, even a sweet, apple pie-baking church lady who never has a discouraging word to say about anybody, you are a racist by association and should be deeply ashamed.   
If you are a Democrat, even a sweet, apple pie-baking church lady who never has a discouraging word to say about anybody, you should be deeply ashamed if you don't speak out loudly. 
By telling the four women -- three of whom were U.S. born and the fourth a childhood migrant --  to "go back" to where they came from in a Sunday tweetstorm, Trump eviscerated the last shred of decency we expect in our presidents by implying that anyone who is not white and native born has no place in his -- which is to say Republican -- America. 
What exactly did Trump tweet in targeting Blue Wave victors Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts? 
How about:
So interesting to see "Progressive" Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly . . . 
. . . and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.  Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.  Then come back and show us how. . . . 
. . . it is done.  These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
Ocasio-Cortez's parents are of Puerto Rican descent, Omar emigrated from Somalia, Tlaib’s parents are Palestinian immigrants and Pressley is black.  
The four congresswomen said that they were not surprised by the attacks and vowed not to be silenced by them.  "This is the agenda of white nationalists. . . . This is his plan to pit us against one another," Omar said. 
Beyond the in-your-face vileness of Trump's libels and the struck deaf-and-dump non-response of Republicans who will abide anything the president says and does so long as he hews to their conservative political agenda, what is so utterly mind blowing is that identity-politics bigotry is the law of the land for the president and the onetime Party of Lincoln a half century after the civil rights movement of the 1960s.   That the consciousness raising and signal accomplishments of that era were pretty much for naught.   
And thanks, Nancy Pelosi, your altruistic intentions notwithstanding, for your knack of playing into Trump's hands.   
Please, dear House majority leader, try to remember that the Blue Wave is not a dandruff treatment shampoo the next time Trump baits your caucus and the Democratic Party, because so far he's succeeding in directing the anger of the AOC bloc and other progressives against you and not where it belongs -- against him.  Internecine squabbling is exactly what Trump wants. And isn't he clever in diverting attention from his sexploits with former fuck buddy Jeffrey Epstein?   
So how, beyond recalling which "shithole" country your ancestors might have been from, do you fight back? 
Although I have advocated ignoring Trump's blasts in the past, we must move beyond our weariness, and what must be done is actually very simple:
Demand that congressional Democrats begin drawing up articles of impeachment against Trump and that one of the articles charges him with violating his oath of office because of his overt racism. 
Work to deny Trump the moderate votes he must have if he is to be reelected, and he will be denied a second term if his toxic brew of hatred is kept front and center in the 15-month run-up to the election. 
Okay, so maybe these things are easier said than done. 
But let's be perfectly clear that while Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan found ways to appeal to white resentment, Trump isn't even trying to finesse his racism.  Remember his attacks on Barack Obama, the Kenyan-born Islamofascist predecessor, that began long before he even ran for president? 
Trump's racism is all the more vile because it's an in-your-face tactic to hold his "base," that all-too-real one-third of the electorate.  No dog-whistling here. 
The president's agenda rests on the idea that the boundaries of rights and citizenship are conterminous with race, notes Jamelle Bouie in a New York Times op-ed: "Those within Trump's boundaries enjoy the fruits of American freedom, while those outside them face the full force of American repression. White European immigrants like the first lady, Melania Trump, are welcomed; dark-skinned migrants from Latin America are put into cages and camps."   
What is especially pathetic about the Republicans who should be pushing back against Trump and the racists in their midst is that, contrary to appearances, they haven't gone mute.  Witness the indignant cries from party leaders whenever Trump goes off on John McCain, the late war hero and GOP lion. 
When Republican pols crawled out of their hidey-holes and finally began finding their voices on Monday afternoon, they were so hard up for explanations that most simply said Trump really hadn't said what he really had said. 
There were exceptions. 
In welcome -- if predictable -- remarks, Justin Amash of Michigan called Trump's directive to the freshman Democrats "racist and disgusting."  The son of Palestinian and Syrian immigrants, Amash was the only Republican to publicly support impeachment before he announced earlier this month that he was leaving the party. 
Even Chip Roy of Texas, a freshman congressman from Texas, fouled his message in being one of the very few Republicans to criticize Trump.  Roy said the president was "wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any 'home' besides the U.S.," yet he agreed with Trump that lawmakers "who refuse to defend America should be sent home." 
But leave it to Lindsey Graham, fresh off a golf outting with Trump, to hit the perfect note. Not only did the president's favorite lawn ornament refuse to condemn the racist tweets, he called the four congresswomen a "bunch of Communists.  They're calling the guards along our border, the border patrol agents, 'concentration camp guards.'  They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins.  They're anti-Semitic.  They're anti-America."  
All of which Trump, of course, immediately retweeted. 
And kudos to that ever vigilant mainscream media, which just can't bring itself to call Trump a racist head-on, instead tippy-toeing around the rhetoric of a boy-man who has lied over 10,000 times since becoming president and predictably declared that it was the four congresswomen who were the real racists. 
Peter Baker, The Times' chief White House correspondent, was a rare exception, writing of the president's latest strut on the dark side, "When it comes to race, Mr. Trump plays with fire like no other president in a century. No other modern president, he wrote, has "fanned the flames as overtly, relentlessly and even eagerly as Mr. Trump."   
Early in the first part of PBS's magnificent new "Chasing the Moon" docuseries, an awestruck television commentator watching the historic launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969 declares in reverential tones that "This is just perhaps a new chapter in the evolution of the species."  In the context of racism, along with a bunch of other stuff, how utterly wrong he was.
If we don't fight back, how else do we not trash the memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Addie Mae Collins and the more than 40 other martyrs who were killed during the 1960s in the struggle for equal rights?  How can we even look at ourselves in the mirror? 
Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley are not just the future of the Democratic Party. They are the future of a better America, and defending them while fighting the abhorrent Trump and Republican complicity is an act of patriotism.