What do politics have to do with me?

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It’s a serious question. Comedian Nato Green answers it with humor. Have a look.

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Rev. Dr. Martin Niemoeller (1952)

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

— German pastor Martin Niemoller looking back on the rise of fascism.

What does politics have to do with you? VOTE next Tuesday!

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 31, 2018.

 

 

 

Faith, Patriotism, and the Administered Consciousness

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After a week of contentious struggle in the U.S. Senate that left the nation not just red and blue, but black-and-blue, I harkened back to “the administered consciousness” (Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man) that mutes Cain’s question after he had slain his brother Abel: “Am I, or am I not, my neighbor’s keeper?” And “who is my neighbor?”

Government by Minority Rule

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115th Congress Senate party membership by state. Vermont and Maine have one independent senator each, Bernie Sanders and Angus King respectively. [Wikipedia]

INTRODUCTION: Views from the Edge publishes “Government by Minority Rule” with the kind permission of its author, Constitutional law scholar David Rudenstine.

“A minority of the national population now controls all three branches of the nation’s government. Or, in other words, in a democracy where the majority presumably rules, current American politics has turned this basic rule upside down and permits the minority to control the majority.

“The president lost the popular vote. The senate is in the hands of senators representing a minority of the overall population. While one-person-one vote requires that the election districts in the house be equal in population, gerrymandering permits the minority party — the Republicans — to control the house. And now the Supreme Court is in the hands of justices four of whom were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote and who were confirmed by an undemocratic institution — the senate.

“The US constitution was designed to be anti-democratic in nature. Every state regardless of its population has two votes in the senate; the electoral college selects the president without constraints imposed by the majority vote; a majority of the Supreme Court justices invalidates legislation adopted by politically accountable legislators. The intention was to build safe-guards into the governing system to counter the effects of populism and the mobilized public mob.

“But it is unlikely that anyone who designed the system in the 18th century had the current radically distorted allocation of political power in mind, and I cannot recall the last time the current condition existed — perhaps in the 1920s and1930s. Certainly not since Hoover lost to FDR in 1932.

“And now Kavanaugh will be on the high court joining Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, to make a conservative majority that will more than likely be pro-business, anti-environmental laws, against abortion, hostile to climate change laws and rules, opposed to rights of the LBGT community, rejecting of affirmative action, favoring of the entanglement of religion and government, favoring presidential power, rejecting of the rights of immigrants, and more.

“But after his screed on the left wing Democratic Party political conspiracy Kavanaugh claimed was out to destroy him, his career, and his family, how can Kavanaugh possibly participate in these and other cases which are laced with divisions that mirror Kavanaugh’s own conspiratorial views?

“That was the point that former Justice Stevens made a few days ago. The Supreme Court is possibly hog-tied if one of the nine frequently must recuse himself because of the appearance of a conflict of interest, and it would seem that is what Kavanaugh must do if finally confirmed — not participate in any case that his political screed encompased.

“Unfortunately, the answer may be that Kavanaugh may just tough it out. Scalia did that in a case involving Cheney after Scalia and Cheney went duck hunting together. Rehnquist participated in the design of an Army surveillance program aimed at domestic civilian political dissidents and refused to recuse himself in a 5 to 4 vote almost a half century ago.

“Impeachable? Not likely. Activities that are impeachable are four — treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors. Of course, Jerry Ford famously stated that those words mean whatever congress says they mean. But then we don’t want Democrats paying games with the impeachment power.

“Now it is true that Kavanaugh’s situation is different from Scalia and Rehnquist’s. In his screed, he has taken on the Democratic Party establishment, and, properly understood, that should cause him to recuse himself in many cases that will be routinely on the Supreme Court’s docket. That in turn will greatly injure the Supreme Court.

“But I doubt if Kavanaugh will recuse himself, and his failure to do so will do great damage to the Court’s legitimacy, as did its 5 to 4 decision in Bush v. Gore.

“Is there a remedy if Kavanaugh does not recuse himself? Perhaps, but I cannot now point to one with any confidence except to secure preferred political outcomes in 2018 and 2020, and then assess matters when Democrats may hold political remedial power.”

— David Rudenstine, Sheldon H. Solow Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, author of The Age of Deference: The Supreme Court, National Security, and the Constitutional Order (2016, Oxford University Press).

 

What’s at Stake in the Kavanaugh Decision?

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The Senate’s vote on the confirmation of the President’s appointment to the Supreme Court is more than a partisan matter. At stake is the trust of the American public in its most basic institutions.

Reasons to consider irrespective of partisan interests and loyalties:

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First Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay (1785-1789) — Gilbert Stuart portrait

1. Public confidence in the foundational institutions of the American republic has plummeted. The success of a democratic republic depends on its citizens’ faith in the integrity of the Senate, the Presidency, and, most of all, the U.S. Supreme Court.

2. Any appointment to the Supreme Court should increase rather than erode public confidence in the Court as the final arbiter and interpreter of the law.

512px-Panorama_of_United_States_Supreme_Court_Building_at_Dusk3. The myth of the Supreme Court as standing on the lofty heights of objectivity is a myth, but it is a myth and aspiration worth preserving. Without public trust in the Justices’ commitment and disposition to rule without prejudice, the Rule of Law is viewed as the partisan Rule of Power and Prejudice.

4. Judge Kavanaugh’s behavior during last week’s hearing violated the standards of judicial ethics re: nonpartisanship and calm judicial temperament. Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment will further erode trust in the Supreme Court as an objective arbiter and interpreter of the law.

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Dr. Christine Ford

5. While the President declared publicly to the press that the FBI was free to go wherever it needed — with no restrictions placed on its background check — the White House already had limited the FBI to a handful of people. The President’s statements were duplicitous and deceptive.

6. Names of corroborating witnesses provided during the FBI interviews with the nine people the White House had authorized were ignored. They include high school and college classmates who publicly refute Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony regarding excessive drinking and allegations of sexual misconduct.

7. The majority party’s and the president’s shifts from belief in Dr. Ford’s credibility to public mockings of Dr. Ford and angry allegations of a partisan plot to destroy Judge Kavanaugh raise red flags about a predominantly male Senate’s ability to take women seriously.

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Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens official portrait

8. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (Ret.) yesterday urged disapproval of confirmation based on the nominee’s partisan and aggressive testimony before the Judiciary Committee. Retired Justices don’t do that. Stevens did, for the sake of the Court’s reputation and integrity.

9. Senate confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee who has declared his position that the law prevents a sitting president from being indicted, and who, in his testimony, refused to say he would recuse himself on such a case, gives the appearance of prejudicing the Court in favor of any case that might come before it.

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Yale yearbook photo of Brett Kavanaugh

 

10. Judge  Kavanaugh’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal is welcome. The admission of inappropriate conduct before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week neither erases the behavior nor qualifies him for appointment to the Supreme Court.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 5, 2018.

The identity of the NYT op-ed author

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“Treason Toddy” cartoon (1865) of Benedict Arnold and Jefferson Davis with Satan.

For the moment, the Trump cabinet member alleged to have written the NYT editorial remains anonymous. His or her identity is unknown to the public and to the president. But can one really suppose the author’s cry was not part of a larger strategy to remove the president from office?

25th_imageThe president’s immediate response was expected, a silly reprise of Muhammed Ali: “I am the greatest!” Ali was having fun. The president is not, and this morning he is serious, though increasingly isolated and without friends in the search to identify his betrayer. The cabinet members may all turn out to be accomplices of the anonymous author, the  first cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Presidents don’t gain personal loyalty by calling members of their cabinets names. Woodward’s book is filled with quotes in which the president belittles his own closest colleagues, the men and women he himself has appointed to serve the country with him as the Trump Administration.

Whether the NYT author is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff John Kelley, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, White House Counsel Don McGahn, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of National Security Dan Coats, or — sound the alarms — Director of National Security Bolton, or someone else makes little difference.

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Nathan Hale (patriot spy) postage stamp

Was the NYT op-ed anonymous because the author is a cowardly traitor like Benedict Arnold? Or is s/he an American patriot like Nathan Hale (“I regret that I have only one life to lose for my country”) but choosing temporary anonymity for the purpose of preparing the American public for the Trump cabinet decision to invoke the 25th Amendment?

Bob Woodward’s new book, FEAR, cites former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus calling the presidential bedroom, where Trump’s early morning and late night tweets originate, “the devil’s workshop,” and dubbing early mornings and Sunday nights in the White House bedroom “the witching hour.”

The next few days may tell the story. If the cabinet votes for allegiance to the country over allegiance to a deranged president, it will happen very quickly. If it succeeds, we will see “A Proper Family Re-Union” welcoming a fourth member of the club. If not…America and the world can expect something far worse than a twitter storm, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Perish the thought!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 6, 2018

Trump Cabinet invokes 25th Amendment

25th_imageViews from the Edge published this tongue-in-cheek “news release” in January. It was a spoof. We were a little early, but can anyone suppose that the Trump administration author of the NYT op-ed doesn’t know the difference between a tactics and strategy? Published on the heels of Bob Woodward’s FEAR is a tactic that prepares the American public for what’s coming: the Trump cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. Here’s the spoof we published in January at the time of the president’s medical exam.

NEWS RELEASE

The Dissociative Press
January 7, 2018

Today White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced the decision of the Trump Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove President Donald J. Trump from office.

The decision to begin the process of removal from office follows the Cabinet members’ review of the report of the president’s medical examination by an Army physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, a report and decision that move the country closer to  a constitutional crisis.

While the Cabinet was acting on the Army physician’s conclusive medical findings of a personality disorder, rapidly progressing early dementia and other evidence of cognitive impairment, President Trump sent out a series of tweets calling the Walter Reed report a conspiracy by the military, the FBI, and the CIA, the equivalent of a military coup, and declaring he will not leave office under any circumstances.

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Mr. Trump immediately fired Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the retired Generals at the center of what Mr. Trump called the military establishment, declaring that the Generals had ordered the Army physician to issue the faux report. Moments later Mr. Trump fired his lawyer and his entire Cabinet with the exception of Attorney General Jeff Session, who had abstained during the 25th Amendment vote, citing potential conflict of interest. Vice President Pence was out of the country for the week.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly called a 10:00 A.M. news conference but was escorted off the White House grounds at 9:31 A.M. by members of the Secret Service. Loyal to the President, Ms. Sanders met White House correspondents on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue beyond the gates to the White House property while the President continued to tweet from the White House living quarters to which he and the First Lady had retreated.

Ms. Sanders confirmed Mr. Trump’s assertion that the medical report is a hoax, arguing that the president had reluctantly yielded to General Kelly’s insistence that the medical examination be done at Walter Reed rather than by Mr. Trump’s long-time personal physician to avoid any public perception of a fraudulent report. Ms. Sanders drew the White House correspondents’ attention to Mr. Trump’s 9:47 A.M. re-tweet from his personal physician in New York declaring full confidence in Mr. Trump’s mental competence. “Donald Trump is the sanest man I’ve ever met,” he said. “He’s a genius, and a very stable one, at that.”

A further incoming tweet at 10:07 A.M. quoting First Lady Melania Trump interrupted Ms. Sander’s remarks, which Ms. Sanders read aloud to the press corps:

“I am a political prisoner. Politics is nothing but a cops and robbers game. I know dirty things. I saw dirty things. I am not going to stand for all those dirty tricks that go on. I am sick and tired of the whole operation.They threw me down on the bed, five men, and stuck a needle in my behind. A doctor stitched my fingers after the battle with five guards.”

martha_mitchellHearing Ms. Sanders read aloud the words alleged to have come from the First Lady, a member of the press whose White House coverage dates back to the Nixon Administration opined that the First Lady’s words sounded vaguely familiar before realizing the tweet was a verbatim quotation from Martha Mitchell, wife of the Nixon Administration Attorney General John Mitchell, claiming she had been kidnapped.

“It’s a hoax,” said the White House Correspondent. “Those aren’t the words of the Mrs. Trump. They are the words of Martha Mitchell during the Nixon Administration. The tweet is plagiarism!”

Ms. Sanders replied that she had no idea who Martha Mitchell was, that she wasn’t even born until eight years after Nixon resigned, and that the reporter was making stuff up to cover up the faux medical exam and the coup taking place inside the White House. She ended the conference by calling on President Trump’s supporters to take to the streets in defense of the Constitution and the greatest president ever to serve the country.

220px-Charlottesville_Unite_the_Right_Rally_(35780274914)Within minutes the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was crowded with arm-to-arm Trump supporters carrying guns and signs with photos of the President’s personal physician, Dr. Strangeglove, and the confederate flag, calling for the resumption of the revolution to Make America Great Again that had been delayled in Charlottesville.

  • Gordon Stewart reporting for Dissociative Press, Jan. 7, 2018.

A Profile in Cowardice

News of Senator John McCain’s death highlights the contrast between John McCain and Donald Trump, who belittled McCain’s service, never mentioned his name at the recent announcement of the defense bill that bears McCain’s name, and sent a terse condolence to the McCain family on the occasion of his death:

My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!

The ‘respect’ was for the family, not for the Senator, one more back-handed slap at the now deceased senator. What kind of person expresses ‘respect’ for a grieving family?

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President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

President Trump’s disrespectful tweet calls to mind President Kennedy’s autobiography, Profiles in Courage. Whatever one thought of JFK’s claim of war heroism, and whether or not one supported John McCain’s politics and candidacies for president, the chasm between the two men of courage and Donald J. Trump is unfathomable. But fathom it we must.

Can you imagine John McCain announcing his decision to fire a staff member with a tweet without a face-to-face meeting? Announcing a firing in a tweet, as Trump has done repeatedly, violates the most basic moral norms of common decency. Firing someone in cyberspace without meeting eyeball-to-eyeball in real space and time is not only insensitive. It is everything John McCain was not; it is cowardly.

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President Donald Trump

Senator John McCain was no fan of Donald Trump and Donald Trump was no fan of John McCain. The late Senator criticized Mr. Trump openly on matters of public policy; the president impugned McCain’s character as a loser. Big difference.

Before his death, Senator McCain requested that President Trump not attend his funeral and asked that Mr. Trump’s predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush deliver the eulogies. Click this link for more information.

President Obama’s condolences to the McCain family include the following tribute to Senator McCain:

[W]e shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.

Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.

The American people salute John McCain’s honest character, and his courageous service to his country before and after he endured five years as a POW. The late senator leaves office as a winner.

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Photo of newly elected members of Congress.

Meanwhile, the president who disrespected him remains in the White House until Congress fires him face-to-face, and Presidential historian Michael Beschloss publishes the biography of Donald J. Trump, Profile in Cowardice: High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 26, 2018.

 

The Pied Piper 2018

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Children of my generation learned the story of the Pied Piper. It’s one of those Grimm fairy tales lodged in our brains.

The Pied Piper is a kind of public savior who, during the Bubonic Plague of the Middle Ages, was freeing the city of Hamlin of the source of the plague that was killing them: rats. Thousands of them followed the music of his flute. But when the city reneged on its agreement to pay him, the Pied Piper led the children out of the city, instead of the rats. Only the irresponsible adults … and the rats were left in the town.

The recent dream of brain surgery shared here on Views from the Edge in which the surgeon was removing a rat from my brain led me to ponder why such a dream would wait until 2018, so many years after I had been freed from the rat-infested house on Church Lane.

Then it occurred to me. Six decades later, I am living again in a rat-infested house. The President charged with protecting the people and its Constitution is a rat, and the rat’s not just out THERE; the rat has gotten inside our heads. Every day. Every night. America is living through a nightmare.

Where is the legitimate Pied Piper who will lead the rats out? More importantly, will the adults care more about their children and the constitutional republic than the rat they confuse with the Pied Piper?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 6, 2018.

Helsinki Transcript Released

The following verbatim transcript of President Trump’s and President Putin’s closed meeting in Helsinki was provided to MickeyLeaks by the English-Russian translator at the meeting. 

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Obama: “Get your planes off our border!.” Putin: “Try and stop us, Black Boy!”

Mr. Trump: It’s good to have this time together. Things are tightening up at home. It’s not been a good week.

Mr. Putin: Da! Mueller’s on it, Donald, and that’s not good for either of us. The twelve GRU indictments. Mike Flynn turning on you. I remember very fondly the dinner with Mike. He knew which side buttered his bread. He’s a lot like you, Mr. President.

Mr. Trump: I thought Mike would stay loyal even though I had to fire him.

Mr. Putin: Da! How many times do I have to tell you? Never trust anyone! If you want to be a leader, you have to trust yourself. No one else!

Mr. Trump: My father told me that same thing. Everyone is a potential enemy. We’re not enemies, right, Vladimir?

Mr Putin: Da! We’re very much alike. You speak English; I speak Russian. But we both speak the same language: “Deny, deny. deny; attack, attack, attack; deflect, deflect, deflect”.

Mr. Trump: Language is a funny thing, isn’t it? The media think life’s about reason and logic. That people are convinced by facts and rational arguments. They don’t understand human nature. People are simple. They want short sentences. They want strength. They want certainty, not doubt. That’s what we give them.

Mr. Putin: Da! In Russia it’s easier. We have a legislature but it’s a joke. It’s one thing on paper. It’s another thing in practice, but you’re making progress in the U. S., Donald. Congress has become your rubber stamp.

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Mr. Trump: I’m getting closer. Or I was. But did you see the television clip of Pompeo and Kelly in Brussels? They rolled their eyes and looked away when I yelled at the guy from NATO. Members of my own cabinet sometimes act like Democrats. They don’t speak up, but they don’t look loyal. I can’t fire everybody.

Mr. Putin: Da! Not a problem in Russia. And you have Mueller. In Russia, there wouldn’t be a problem. There’d just be an accident.

Mr. Trump: The CIA used to do that. Just like the KGB. You were KGB, and you have the GRU to do your dirty work. I only have the CIA and the FBI. And now I have Cohen and Roger Stone to worry about. If Michael and Roger flip, I’m toast, Vladimir.

Mr. Putin: Da! But not so much to worry, Donald. Julian’s already talked to Roger. He won’t flip. He knows Mother Russia will always welcome its friends. If you’re impeached, or if you resign because they’re getting too close to the truth, do not be anxious. Look what I did for Eric Snowden. If I did it for him, I can do it for you. I’ll grant you asylum…and then citizenship. There’ll be no extradition. The Russian people love you, Donald. You can build Trump Tower in Moscow. In the meantime, before Mueller releases his report, transfer all your personal wealth and business assets from the United States to Russian.

Mr. Trump: What about the press conference? We’re going out there in ten minutes. We have to get our stories straight. The press is waiting. They’re hungry for fake news. How do we handle the press conference?

Mr. Putin: Not to worry. You’re a showman. We’re friends. We show them we’re friends. You speak English. I’ll speak Russian. They think we need a translator. But you and I won’t need a translator. Only we will know we’re speaking the same language: “Deny, deny. deny; attack, attack, attack; deflect, deflect, deflect”. Remember, people love the strong man. People love friendship! People love FaceBook! Most people couldn’t care less about elections. They want us to be friends.

  • MickeyLeaks, Helsinki, Finland, July 18, 2018

 

To Preserve, Protect, and Defend

The day a former Director of the CIA publicly declares that a U. S. president’s behavior constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” and calls it “treasonous” is not just another day in American politics. John Brennan’s tweet ended with the question for those who continue to support the president: “Where are you?” 

It is a question for every U. S. Senator and Congressional Representative who assumed their positions after taking the Congressional oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The president’s oath is a bit different. I do solemnly swear…. to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Although it seems unlikely that Thomas Jefferson or James Madison imagined a future president of the new constitutional republic acting as the nation’s domestic enemy, the framers of the U. S. Constitution were cautious about human nature. They were neither optimistic nor pessimistic. They were realists. They included provisions for Congress to remove a president from office. 

Which is why John Brennan asks members of Congress, “Where are you?” It’s one thing to wait for the report of the Special Counsel on Russian interference in a U. S. election; it’s another to ignore the president’s joint press conference with the leader of the country accused of interfering in the 2016 election. 

Following a private two hour one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin, Donald J. Trump preferred Mr. Putin’s denial of Russian interference to his own Department of Justice latest indictments of twelve Russian intelligence officers for covert operations to influence the 2016 election. The president who took the oath of office to defend and protect the U. S. Constitution from enemies, foreign and domestic, had chosen to take his stand against his own government.

For a former CIA director to take the spotlight runs counter to the low-profile culture of the CIA.  John Brennan is not a partisan. His question “Where are you?” will be answered in the weeks to come, as will the other questions: “What will you call it?” and “What — or whom — will you faithfully support and defend?”

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Betsy Ross are listening.

  • Gordon C. Stewart on the wetland, July 17, 2018.