Monday, December 30, 2019

The THROES of Political Transition

The primary focus of the Arizona Eagletarian, from its inception ten years ago this month, has been politics.
“Politics ain’t beanbag,” said a Chicago humorist in 1895;1 it’s not a game for children. Ever since then the saying has been used to justify the rough-and-tumble nastiness of American politics. Rationalists might dream of a utopian state where policy is made by panels of unbiased experts, but in the real world there seems to be no alternative to a political process in which parties compete to win votes and money. That competition always involves trickery and demagoguery, as politicians play fast and loose with the truth, using their inner press secretaries to portray themselves in the best possible light and their opponents as fools who would lead the country to ruin.
And yet, does it have to be this nasty? A lot of Americans have noticed things getting worse. The country now seems polarized and embattled to the point of dysfunction. They are right.
Haidt, Jonathan. Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?: from The Righteous Mind (Kindle Single) (A Vintage Short) Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In the early stages of the 2011 redistricting cycle, I chronicled the high level of conflict surrounding the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

As I write this post, here in Arizona there are less than 25 hours remaining in 2019.

Will there be more political convulsing in 2020 and 2021? Will we again be in the THROES of transition? Will change before us be good or bad?


In 2019, I surmised that Donald Trump's death grip on American democracy (our Democratic Republic) would not long survive. 

In reply to the many people who expressed worry over whether, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we will still have a Republic if we can keep it, I have unwaveringly stated, emphatically and repeatedly that "Trump is going down."

Most (perhaps all but one other person besides me) said they HOPE I'm right. I don't see it as being about who's right or wrong? Social sciences and history strongly suggest it's the most likely outcome at the end of the tunnel.

How did I arrive at that conclusion (hunch)?

Obviously, Trump fancies himself to be THE alpha male of the world. But in the international community isn't he really viewed exclusively as an empty suit and a bully?

European history from the last 90 years provide two of the most stark examples of bullies going down (that many of us are aware of).

The names of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler both signify genuine horror and ignominy. Doesn't Trump rather want to go down in history as a savior? That's VERY unlikely to happen.


To paraphrase and follow up on Ben Franklin's declaration upon completion of deliberations by the Constitutional Convention in 1787, here's what we NEED TO DO to keep a Republic, Teri Kanefield's blog post says, in part,
First things first: Make sure you’re registered to vote! Lots of people are being purged from lists.
  • You can check to make sure you are registered here.
  • Deadlines for registering are here.
  • Registration rules by state are here.
Want to really make a difference in politics and government? Don’t just march, run for something.
Do it! Run for Something recruits and supports young progressives running for local office with the long-term goal of building a bench for decades to come. You can run for office. Or you can volunteer to help them, including screening candidates. [...]
Make your views known, but try not to increase the polarization.
Put a sign on your lawn.
If enough people get involved, democracy can be saved. We need enough people involved and voting to offset the inevitable cheating.

You (WE) Must Fight for Democracy...

The image featuring Linda Bock's quote is from a promo for the PBS broadcast of the documentary film, The Democracy Rebellion, airing on various dates in January 2020 throughout the country.

This is ALSO a reminder to call your GOP members of the US Senate.

In Arizona, that's Martha McSally. Call these numbers (every day):

Washington DC (202) 224-2235

Phoenix (602) 952-2410                       Tucson (520) 670-6334

I called Martha's office today and a left message. Please join me.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

CALL MARTHA McSALLY TODAY (and tomorrow, and the next day...)

Not only Lisa Murkowski, but EVERY GOP Member of the US Senate.

In Arizona, that's Martha McSally. Call these numbers:

Washington DC (202) 224-2235

Phoenix (602) 952-2410 Tucson (520) 670-6334

Monday, December 16, 2019

Why "The Informant" Matters

On January 6, 2020, Nick Martin will launch a new publication, The Informant, to confront the forces of hate and extremism in the United States. Today, he published the following essay.
I recently made a major life decision. I quit full-time freelancing to start my own publication, one that's focused on bringing you original reporting and timely briefings on hate and extremism in America today. It’s called The Informant. I’d like to explain why I did this.
I believe we’re at a critical point in the U.S., one that requires dogged, original journalism to confront the forces of hate and extremism that are trying to destroy us.
This isn’t hyperbole. Just a few months ago, a gunman walked into a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and killed 22 people because of some fucked up belief that white people are being replaced by Latino immigrants. Before that, it was a synagogue in Poway, California. Before that, it was a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Before that, it was a man behind the wheel of a car in Charlottesville, Virginia. And so on.
The perpetrators of these acts aren’t lone wolves, no matter how they’ve been portrayed. Their violence is encouraged and cheered by others online and in real life.
I’ve been covering these movements my entire career. The first time I met a neo-Nazi was when I was in college and working nights at a local newspaper in Arizona. The neo-Nazi’s name was JT Ready.

When I first met Ready, he wasn’t out yet as a neo-Nazi. He was the president of the Young Republicans club at Mesa Community College. So I was a bit surprised when I saw him protesting a visit to the college by President George W. Bush. Why would this young Republican be denouncing a Republican president, I wondered? It turned out Ready believed Bush was soft on immigration. And he was mad as hell about it.
In the years that followed, Ready came out more and more about his racist beliefs. He was eventually seen marching in the streets with the National Socialist Movement, which at the time was the nation’s largest neo-Nazi group. He handed out flyers bearing the initials N.S.M. and calling for landmines to be placed along the border. He would go out to perform armed vigilante “patrols” in the Arizona desert, where he and his pals would detain undocumented immigrants at gunpoint and turn them over to Border Patrol.
A number of years later, I was working in New York at Talking Points Memo when the news broke that Ready had walked into his girlfriend’s house and murdered her and three other people, including an infant, before killing himself.
Those murders still haunt me. So much so that lately I’ve been requesting public records from every agency I can think of to try to find something about Ready that I might have missed at the time.
In the intervening years, I’ve talked to countless hate leaders as well as people who are fighting the good fight to stop hate and extremism. I’ve read the literature. I’ve tracked the movements. I’ve gotten to know and understand what’s happening in the dark underbelly of America. It’s ugly, but it’s an ugliness we must understand if we want to confront.
But for all I’ve done in this field, I’ve always felt there should be an outlet where this work gets the attention it deserves. The journalism that I and others produce on these topics is often overlooked or, these days, drowned out by the latest Trump tweet. I’ve often thought of creating a publication that’s dedicated solely to coverage of hate and extremism. A publication for independent journalism, free from the constraints of advertisers or big donors.
With The Informant, I think I’ve figured out how to do all that. It’s not going to be easy. And it’s going to take the support of a lot of individuals, just like you, to make it happen. But if you believe, like I do, that we must unite to confront hate and extremism, then I hope you’ll join me by supporting this project.
The single biggest thing you can do today to back The Informant is to subscribe to the newsletter. It’s free and easy to do. If you’ve already signed up, please share this with your friends. And thank you. I’m looking forward to launching this very soon, and I‘m grateful for your support.
Subscribing to The Informant is free. Please join me as a subscriber.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Adam Schiff interviewed by Stephen Colbert

Brilliant interview. Definitely worth your time. Three segments. Total time roughly 20 minutes. Beside the clear headed explanation of key elements of the impeachment situation, Schiff and Colbert explore aspects of the political dynamics at work in Congress.

It's important to recognize or realize that 1) most of the time, people do not change their minds about politics or their own values based on logic; and 2) whether listening to too much news or too many commercials or reading their Facebook news feed (which is determined largely by clandestine algorithms), nowadays many people are sounding despondent about the situation and the future of our country.

That despondency and despair (I assure you, it will only be temporary anyway) is a state of mind. There ARE things you can do to change your outlook, if you find yourself in such a situation. See the fourth video below.

Notice that whether it's an adult male lion or a pack of hyenas, they don't mess with the honey badger. Because they know the honey badger will win.

Here's a little different perspective on this ferocious creature. Rather than a defensive posture, this honey badger goes offensive.

I'm certainly not suggesting you be aggressively rude to people, but in terms of outlook for the future of our country, refuse to accept the defeatist perspective Trump and his acolytes use to defend themselves.

History strongly suggests that Trump is going down. Rejoice with me for that future. We can help to accomplish it by working to strengthen our institutions.

Be like the honey badger.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Congressman Greg Stanton's statement in House Judiciary

Thankful now that in September I was able to speak one-on-one, face-to-face with Greg Stanton, we discussed the crescendo-ing call to impeach Trump. At that time, he sounded optimistic that Speaker Pelosi was increasingly concerned about Trump's abuse of authority. Of course, it was only days thereafter that Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.

Yesterday, Stanton, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, put his thoughts on the record for all to see and here from henceforth. I'm proud that Greg is in Congress and sitting on that committee.

Though technically Greg doesn't represent the district I live in, he does a far better job representing MY INTERESTS as a citizen than does David Schweikert.

This morning, this House Committee approved two Articles of Impeachment on a party line vote. The Articles will be debated and an expected vote held next week.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019



Continuing on the theme from the post (last night) on the Times that try our Souls, we know that Trump's brand as president is authoritarianism. But the majority of Americans prefer democracy. 

So, how do we defeat Trump's brand? I may have previously mentioned insights I've gotten from blogger Teri Kanefield. By the way, I've gotten plenty of them from her. First and most important, we fight by working to strengthen the institutions that have made and kept America great (NOT Trump's MAGA myth, but the "republic, if we can keep it," that Franklin mentioned when asked after the 1787 Constitutional Convention) through thick and thin.

Anyone who'd like ideas on what to do may find inspiration here.

In an op-ed written by Zara Anishanslin, an associate professor of history and art history at the University of Delaware (linked above), in the Washington Post (October 29, 2019),
As we consider how and why America continues to elide [omit] the history of founding women from its collective origin story, we should take note that in 2019 we actually give less credit to this politically savvy woman than men did during the founding era. Recognizing women’s leadership in the past, as well as the present, might make it easier to keep a republic.
Last summer, Teri wrote about what it will take to roll back Trump's brand, citing the activism of Susan B Anthony.
Yes, Trump is moving us backwards. Yes, he’s damaging democracy.
He’d like to take us back 150 years, but he can’t. He’s facing too much resistance. The checks and balances and bureaucracy naturally created by liberal democracy means that change happens slowly.
Roughly paraphrasing Timothy Snyder:
If you find yourself paralyzed by shock and outrage, it’s because you bought into a myth that goes like this: history is a river and you don’t have to paddle. The stream will simply carry you forward to a better, more democratic world.
Put another way: We inherited the democracy created by the hard work of people like SBA. People who inherit something often think they are entitled to it.
If someone tries to take it away all we can do is moan.
People with anti-democratic tendencies will always be with us.
We push forward, and they push back.
Each generation will have to fight the same battle, but it’s a little easier today because we have advantages and tools the activists of previous generations didn’t have.
Democracy is hard work. It requires compromise and give and take.
Rule of Law creates bureaucracy and never works perfectly, so it’s easy for people to get discouraged.
Checks and balances mean that change happens slowly.
It can be frustrating.
So we need lots of Susan B. Anthonys.
If everyone who is outraged and angry turns turn their rage into constructive action, we’ll get through this.
The leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been crucial to getting us to this place, where Trump is now under the specter of impeachment. Not to blame Pelosi, Trump brought it on himself. And that we've had Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar (still in the race) seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Beside the history of Reconstruction mentioned in my previous post, let's note now that when Susan B. Anthony was born, among other things:

  • Slavery was legal.
  • A woman not enslaved had no identity separate from her husband.
  • Wife-beating was legal.
  • The law of the land was called coverture. 
  • Divorce wasn’t an option.
  • A woman couldn’t own property or enter contracts.
  • A woman was considered incompetent to testify in court.
  • A few low paid professions—like factory or domestic work—were open to her.
  • Only the daughters of the wealthy were taught to read.
  • A man, on just his word, could have his wife committed to an asylum. Women who were “difficult “and refused to be subservient often found themselves locked in asylums. 
We do NOT want to succumb to the reactionaries (who aim to move us back to the way America was way back when).

What do we do now to strengthen our institutions?

"One thing that works surprisingly well is non-violent resistance. In fact, studies show that between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of non-violent civil resistance were twice as successful as violent campaigns and defeating authoritarian leaders around the world."

The MOST effective thing you can do is participate in resistance campaigns that are peaceful and non-violent. Such campaigns start and resolve using NVC (non violent communication). NVC is not wimpiness. It's strength communicated in assertive rather than aggressive ways.

We CAN do this. Together.

Times that try the souls of Americans

Do you primarily see the Fire Hose of Falsehoods from Trump and his enablers in Congress and Fox News?

Or are you able to pierce through the fog and recognize that America has been here before... and survived?

Has there EVER been a time since 1776 without major domestic turmoil? History suggests there has not.

All the gated communities in the world (and all of the deficient k-12 social studies classes) can only keep us from realizing the reality for so long. Consider the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
Convinced by the summer of 1866 that congressional Republicans were out to get him [Andrew] Johnson toured the North and West and in a set of speeches remarkable for their vituperation, he shouted out to the crowd that he hadn't been responsible for recent riots, such as had occurred in Memphis or New Orleans. Blame Charles Sumner; blame Thad Stevens; blame Congress or anyone dubious about the Southern governments he had put into place, crackpot fanatics who wanted to give all people the vote, even in some cases women, regardless of color. Don't blame him.
The years right after the [Civil] war were years of blood and iron: bloody streets, iron men, oaths of allegiance, as they were called, in which former rebels swore their loyalty to the Union. But to what kind of Union government were they promising to be loyal? For these were years in which the executive and the legislature struggled to define, or redefine, the responsibilities of a representative government--and the question of who would be fairly represented. These were years of sound and fury, of fanaticism and terror, of political idealism and mixed motives, of double-dealing and high principle--and of racism, confusion, and fear. It was a time of opportunism, paranoia, pluck, and tragedy: tragedy for the nation, to be sure, and for individuals, often nameless, who lost their lives in the very, very troubled attempts to remake the country and to make it whole.
The nation was at a crossroads, and at the very center of that crossroads was impeachment. -- The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, by Brenda Wineapple, 2019 (Random House), pg xxviii (the end of the Prologue)
On social media over the last three years, I've read lamentations from numerous friends reflecting various stages of concern over the destruction of American institutions brought on by Trump.

Look with me beyond the fatalism because America has on numerous occasions seen times that try men's (and women's) souls. Thanks in no small part to the wisdom and vision of the Founders, and determination of citizens [start here] at every juncture, our country has survived every time. Thomas Paine, who wrote The American Crisis may or may not have foreseen that the moment in which he penned the beginning of that pamphlet would only be the first of many crises.
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.


When Congress formally adopts Articles of Impeachment indicting Donald J Trump, I expect news enterprises will publish those Articles side by side with the 1998 Clinton Articles. If they don't, I will.

Beside the optimistic lessons of history, a couple of more recent incidents give hope that we will reach that light at the end of the tunnel before long.

In 2014, six years ago next month, Steve Yarbrough introduced SB1062, a bill to expand the definition of "person" in Arizona's Civil Rights statute (ARS § 41-1493.01) on the Free Exercise of Religion. Had SB1062 been enacted, here's who would be a person,
Not just PEOPLE, but businesses. This was a sneaky way to incorporate Dominionist (think "Sharia" with a "Christian" label on it) language into Arizona law. Primarily, the change was intended to limit the civil rights of LGBTQ people in Arizona.

Arizona citizens spoke out loudly. The NFL heard them. Jan Brewer heard the citizens AND the NFL. She vetoed SB1062.


What does that have to do with impeaching Trump?

Despite what you will hear from Trump and his acolytes, there is deep and wide-spread disgust among Americans toward his administration. Here's the latest aggregate of polls showing his disapproval to be 53.6 percent, approval at 41.7 percent (does not add up to 100 percent, some people don't have an opinion).

What happened when Trump attended a World Series game in October this year?

You don't think the home team announcers prompted the fans to do that, do you?

Hypothetically, what do you think is going to happen when Trump's Articles of Impeachment are published side by side with the 1998 Clinton Articles?

Will political non-profits like Common Cause and others ORGANIZE campaigns to call, write and visit the offices of EVERY U.S. Senator?

Don't write off the Senate as refusing to convict Trump. There's ample evidence.

Non-violent protest DOES work.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

He EATS YOUR SOUL in small bites

Last May in the NYTimes, former FBI director James Comey wrote,
How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr
Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.
How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?
How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?
How could Mr. Barr go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and downplay President Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller before he completed his work?
And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?
What happened to these people?
I don’t know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.
Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.
But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.
Today, December 4, 2019, marked the passing of the torch in Congress, so to speak, from the House Intelligence/Impeachment committee to the House Judiciary committee. Judiciary is where Articles of Impeachment get drafted and approved for submission to the entire House of Representatives.

I watched a couple of hours of testimony today. There were no "fact witnesses." But four Constitutional Law professors testified on history and law related to impeachment of presidents. Called by the GOP members of the committee, George Washington University Prof. Jonathan Turley sounded very much like a cult member/zombie who had had his soul eaten. I couldn't tell whether it had been in small bites or large. Likewise, GOP committee members like Doug Collins, Jim Jordan, and Debbie Lesko (and every other GOP member on the committee) all sounded detached from rationality (consciousness, figuratively speaking).

On the other hand, committee chair Jerry Nadler invited three professors. Most notably, Pamela Karlan, from Stanford Law School. She (and they) didn't mince words about laws which demonstrate that Trump committed impeachable offenses, but (she) did mince GOP committee members.

Karlan also triggered a faux outrage and claims that she attacked Trump's youngest son.


Speaking of Stanford University and Trump eating people's souls, I've been thinking about ZOMBIES lately. Last month when I drove along University Drive in Tempe one late afternoon, I saw what looked like hoards of zombies going to and fro, perhaps to class at Arizona State. You may have witnessed similar scenes. Otherwise seemingly healthy adults walking about staring at a handheld device (instead of looking where they were going).
Zombies in philosophy are imaginary creatures designed to illuminate problems about consciousness and its relation to the physical world. Unlike the ones in films or witchcraft, they are exactly like us in all physical respects but without conscious experiences: by definition there is ‘nothing it is like’ to be a zombie. Yet zombies behave just like us, and some even spend a lot of time discussing consciousness.
Of course, thousands (or perhaps millions) of people walk around these days staring at their phones, not just college students. But that strikes me as zombie-like.

Cult behavior also impresses me (not favorably) as zombie-like. What former FBI director Comey described in his NYTimes op-ed (excerpted above) evokes images of zombies. How does Trump do it? Let's go back to Comey's op-ed and see if what he describes might look familiar with the GOP members of Congress.
It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking. As a result, Mr. Trump pulls all of those present into a silent circle of assent.
Speaking rapid-fire [Firehose of Falsehoods] with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it — this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.
I must have agreed that he had the largest inauguration crowd in history because I didn’t challenge that. Everyone must agree that he has been treated very unfairly. The web building never stops.
From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like cabinet meetings. While the entire world is watching, you do what everyone else around the table does — you talk about how amazing the leader is and what an honor it is to be associated with him.
Sure, you notice that Mr. Mattis never actually praises the president, always speaking instead of the honor of representing the men and women of our military. But he’s a special case, right? Former Marine general and all. No way the rest of us could get away with that. So you praise, while the world watches, and the web gets tighter.

Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear — things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. Yet you are silent. Because, after all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.

You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.

You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.
Many of my friends think former US Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake is a coward for not taking a stand against Trump when senate votes were on the line. But I'm not so sure many of those friends have walked much in Flake's shoes. We DO know that the late John McCain took such stands against Trump. McCain didn't seem to be bothered much by the peer pressure and Trump harassment. Trump didn't stop the harassment even after McCain died.

In the context of Comey's observations, I have to say Flake's insight (in a Sept 30, 2019 Washington Post op-ed) hit the mark,
I was convinced that his repeated disparagement of the judiciary, antagonism toward Congress and casual disregard for the truth were damaging our democratic institutions, and his persistent crudeness to his political opponents and cruelty toward vanquished foes were degrading our political culture. I knew that to have a chance of winning reelection, I would need to support policies I could not support and condone behavior I could not condone.
Trust me when I say you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

I'm thankful

First and foremost, I'm thankful for family as well as their health and mine.

Beyond that, here's a couple more things for which I'm very grateful:

The U.S. Constitution. Notably,

And I am thankful that there are still some Republicans (though maybe not in Congress) that still believe in the rule of law.

Ultimately, that means there is still hope to save our Republic.
The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Monday, November 25, 2019

Behind The Long Shadow

Recently, at a TEDxTucson event, documentarian Frances Causey gave a talk on her family's story. That story informed her film, The Long Shadow. Causey is a daughter of the South. Her ancestors owned slaves. She wants to do her part to make it right.

As of this moment, this talk, in my opinion, is the most important message that has emerged from the non-profit TED.

To acquire additional insight on the culture of racism, which has not been eliminated from our country, I recommend reading Brenda Wineapple's book, The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation.

Wineapple vividly describes the history of Reconstruction after the Civil War, and Andrew Johnson's divisive role therein. In addition, becoming familiar with--what Causey describes as that the South was defeated militarily but not politically--sheds important light on how the (usually not very united) United States can survive the current Constitutional crises we face. We can emerge closer to a more perfect union than we've been before.

But not without a renaissance of citizens owning and exercising their citizenship to rebuild the institutions that have kept us together over the last 230+ years.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Did Trump commit High Crimes and Misdemeanors enough to warrant expulsion from office?

Adam Schiff sums up today's testimony and makes the case for impeachment and removing Trump from office.

Poignant, salient and undeniable.

One thing I've heard from numerous people over the years of Trump's administration is that they are afraid for the fate of the United States of America.

A survey of the history of our country suggests that there probably has not been a time without major internal conflict.

However, the bland history taught in most if not all K-12 public schools (private schools probably even more so) glosses over the endemic nature of such conflict. Except for times when it's impossible to get around without taking note. Like the Civil War, the American Revolution, and the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s.

But the end of the Civil War did not usher in a more perfect union that ensures domestic tranquility. To the contrary, a full CENTURY followed before enactment of the substantive Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

If you'd like to raise your awareness of what caused Congress to pass such legislation, watch the Mississippi Burning or Selma. If you aren't conversant in post-Civil War travails, I recommend Brenda Wineapple's The Impeachers: the Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation.

But I digress.

Did Trump commit high crimes and misdemeanors enough to justify removal?

Despite the obfuscation from the reactionary members of the House Intelligence Committee, the overwhelming answer is YES.

Far from pessimistic about the fate of the USA, I believe WE will endure. We must endure. Of course, it IS possible that the forces of darkness will triumph, but history suggests otherwise. To do so will require the determination of citizens rebuilding the institutions that Trump set out, from the start of his term, to degrade and destroy.

Whether the Republican Party survives, I can't/won't predict. Its future is more tenuous than that of our nation.

I believe the American people will oust Trump and the Republican Party if the Republican Party wimps out on the Constitution.

The "Big Lie" or the "Fire Hose of Falsehoods?"

From November 20, 2019

What is most salient from these two days of public hearings includes Rep. Adam Schiff's closing statements from each day. In these remarks, Schiff summarizes the day's testimony from witnesses and properly classifies the subterfuge and/or desperate, disingenuous, and indignant rants/remarks from the Minority Party committee members. The chairman's remarks are also appropriately characterized as rebuttal.

On November 21, prior to the closing remarks, Schiff felt it necessary to call attention to the fact that those GOP members don't always preface their remarks by correctly stating that what they claim is not necessarily factual.

Rep. Devin Nunes and some of his henchmen, for example, make absurd claims that amount to repeated attempts to normalize "the Big Lie." Writes Cold War historian Zachary Jonathan Jacobson, in a Washington Post op-ed in 2018,
From the pages of the New York Times to USA Today, the New Statesman to the New Yorker, a fear exists that the United States is about to fall under the spell of the Big Lie — a lie so big that it could disrupt the entire social order. Writers including Benjamin Wittes, Max Boot and Dinesh D’Souza have warned about the terror its return may portend. Charles Blow writes that President Trump has been “doing to political ends what Hitler did to more brutal ends: using mass deception as masterful propaganda.” ...
Yet such dread-filled treatises wrench the Big Lie from its historical context and misapply it to our own. What we should fear today is not the Big Lie but the profusion of little ones: an untallied daily cocktail of lies [not necessarily so small, but properly characterized as the Firehose of Falsehoods] prescribed not to convince of some higher singularity but to confuse, to distract, to muddy, to flood. Today’s falsehood strategy does not give us one idea to organize our thoughts, but thousands of conflicting lies to confuse them.
However, Conservative columnist and editor of The Bulwark Charles Sykes wrote this morning,

Yes, there was a quid pro quo. The president demanded it. Everybody knew about it. There was no secret.
But we knew all that didn’t we?
Kim Wehle has the highlights from yesterday’s extraordinary testimony by Gordon Sondland, who dimed out pretty much everybody in the administration from Mike Pompeo to Donald Trump.“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland said. “The answer is yes.”
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”
I'd say so.
But let’s step back a bit here. One by one the various defenses and excuses of Trump World have been dismantled. There was no quid pro quo, the evidence is hearsay, the Ukrainians never knew about the delay in military aid … look there’s a squirrel over there.
But we knew those defenses would fall apart … and so did the GOP, because we’ve known what the story is all along. There is no mystery here. Trump’s efforts to bully Ukraine have been as subtle as a hacksaw in a surgery ward. [...]
And then, of course, Giuliani went on CNN to admit that he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
We’ve seen the “transcript.”
Mick Mulvaney held a press conference defiantly admitting the quid pro quo.
The military aid was, in fact held up.
Key players have testified what they saw and heard.
And know we know that everyone involved in the cleanup of this mess knew what was going on. Republicans tried to make an issue of the fact that Sondland made some presumptions about the linkage between the aid and the investigations, but, frankly, you don’t have to be a Rubik’s Cube champion to figure all this out.
As George Orwell—who would be enjoying all of this enormously—once observed: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”
Most Republicans know this. Perhaps even Devin Nunes knows what happened. Surely Elise Stefanik, who is no fool, even though she occasionally plays one on television, knows it. So where does that leave us?
The impeachment hearings have already had more than their share of revelations and even “bombshells.” More may be on the way. The public is getting a clearer picture of the president’s willingness to subordinate national security for his political advantage. But, by now it should be clear that this process is not really about facts or evidence. It is about the GOP determination to protect Trump and maintain his hold on power.
No. Matter. What.
That is why they are so unmoved by the new revelations. They didn’t learn anything yesterday. They already knew what happened, don’t care, and see the whole process as an exercise in protecting the throne. Trump defenders will continue to shift the goalposts, because, for them, that is really the point. They will offer nonsensical, bad-faith defenses, watch them continue to be demolished, and keep moving on without blinking.
No smoking gun will change any of this, because the GOP knows the gun was fired; they know who fired it; and they know where the bodies can be found.
They just don’t care.

In 2016, I participated in Maricopa County Elections Department hand count audits after (I think) three elections (Presidential Preference in March, AZ primary in August, and the general election in November). That process entails working with either one or two Republican voters to count a sampling of ballots by hand.

I asked several of the Republican voters at that time about what they expected from Trump. Most of them were optimistic that he would rise to the position and "act presidential" despite how he had conducted himself during the campaign.

One might wonder how they honestly feel about him now.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Intriguing Immigration Insight

The tweet below includes a very brief video with Massachusetts Institute of Technology Esther Duflo describing the lack of economic impact of migration of low-skilled workers,

Other video clips featuring Prof. Duflo can be found on YouTube. For example, this Forbes interview from June 2011,

About Nobel Prize winning economist Esther Duflo, from her MIT bio,
Esther Duflo is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). In her research, she seeks to understand the economic lives of the poor, with the aim to help design and evaluate social policies. She has worked on health, education, financial inclusion, environment and governance.
Professor Esther Duflo’s first degrees were in history and economics from Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris. She subsequently received a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT in 1999.
Duflo has received numerous academic honors and prizes including 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (with co-Laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer).... With Abhijit Banerjee, she wrote Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, which won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award in 2011 and has been translated into more than 17 languages.
Duflo is the Editor of the American Economic Review, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.
She and her MIT colleague Abhijit J Banerjee, in 2012 published Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. This appears to compliment advocacy exposing the roots and tragedy of inequality throughout the world. 


The second day of public impeachment hearings in Congress just concluded. Later today, I will post about that with a link to video recording of it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Trump Impeachment Public Hearings -- Day 1

After opening statements by Chairman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes, then by witnesses George Kent and Ambassador William Taylor, questioning of Kent and Taylor began. When it was committee members' turn to question, Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal Constitution's depiction today fairly characterized the time that followed.

Schiff and other Democrats clarified questions, answers, and issues. Republicans obfuscated in several ways.

If you've got a few hours, feel free to enjoy (or otherwise endure) this replay of today's event. Schiff called the hearing to order 34 minutes into the clip. I've set it to begin at that time.

There is plenty of commentary on numerous websites to highlight and summarize the testimony. For example, the The Last Word with Laurence O'Donnell, discussing a phone call between Ambassador Sondeland and Trump. Also, 7 Key Takeaways from the First Public Hearing.

Monday, November 11, 2019

2019 Election Season finished in Maricopa County; Tumultuous 2020 season BEGINS

Maricopa County Arizona citizens, in numerous jurisdictions (municipalities and school districts) voted last week to invest tax dollars in improvements to public education and local infrastructure. In a small minority of the school districts, they declined to do so.

One city's voters chose, overwhelmingly, to refuse to give members of its city council a pay raise.

To explain each decision would take reams of (virtual) paper. So I won't.

Looking ahead, over the course of the next year, Arizona, Maricopa County, and the optimistically named United States will surely see a tumultuous political time.

On Wednesday, November 13public hearings in Congress will commence into the question of whether the country's 45th president is to be impeached.

Republicans in Congress are acting as if their hair is on fire. They believe that Trump WILL be impeached. Whether he's convicted and evicted from the White House is an open question. If he is not evicted, his political life will still be morally wounded. I believe he will not serve a second term in the White House.

When I was out on Sunday collecting petition signatures for Outlaw Dirty Money, a friend from my time working at the Arizona Department of Economic Security in the 1990s came along. While we conversed for a few minutes, he shot me a very concerned look and told me he's a bit scared for the future of the Republic (not the newspaper).

Given the rhetoric that echos from the Trump administration on social and on corporate media (trying desperately to hold onto power), I can't blame him.

However, this weekend I began reading Brenda Wineapple's rendering of the reconstruction years following the American Civil War. If there ever have been tumultuous times in America, it was then.

The Impeachers breathes life into the cursory declaration that the first president to be impeached was Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson. Those of us of a certain age have lived through the Nixon, Clinton and now Trump administrations. We've all known that Andrew Johnson was the first president impeached. We've also known that he was not convicted.

But how many of us had any understanding of what he did or didn't do -- or what challenges the United States endured in the years following Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses Grant?

Not only will you be able to imagine the political, economic and civil environment from that time, but you'll be able to put in context the unresolved strife that caused a full one hundred years to pass before southern states were dragged kicking and screaming into the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, white supremacist culture in the Deep South still vehemently resists giving full rights of citizenship to anyone other than white Americans.

The Impeachers will illuminate your imagination regarding the tribulations our country has already endured. When you can picture the light at the end of the dark tunnel of political unrest in the 19th Century, you may be more optimistic about the ability of the Republic to endure now.

Nevertheless, the struggle will never end.


In other news, this morning, the planet Mercury's path crossed between the Sun and Earth, an event that NASA scientists report takes place only 13 times each hundred years.

Video of the Mercury transit can be seen on

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Bernie performed well last night, but that's totally beside the point

Following up on the previous post on the Arizona Eagletarian, Bernie Sanders demonstrated that he's doing well... for now.

He was feisty, and energetic. By the way, he did NOT attack Liz Warren. Mostly everyone else did, however.

But Bernie's biggest challenge last night was to address the so-called elephant in the room. Namely, his age and his cardiovascular health.

In the ONE question he faced (and yes, I watched THREE hours of debate last night, OMG, how did I endure that?) he threw out two shiny objects and did NOT at all address concerns about his long-term health.

When asked about it by CNN anchor Erin Burnett, the first thing Bernie did was to launch into a response to a previous question. He said he'd get to Burnett's question after answering the other question.

But when he did get around to the health question, phrased as -- how will you reassure Democratic primary voters -- about the ongoing heart attack ramifications, his answer, awkwardly, had nothing to do with his health. Instead, he said he would have a rally in Queens with a special guest. That's it. No follow up. No clarification.

After the show ended, it came out that the special guest will be Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. A short time later, reports came that The Squad (AOC, along with fellow freshman Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar) would be endorsing Bernie for president.

Okay then. That will surely assuage fears and concerns in millions of voters' minds, right? A man who (hypothetically) will turn 80 before his first year as president, who had a heart attack while campaigning 14 months before the November 2020 general election.

Bernie has multitudes of devoted supporters. If they could keep him healthy, of course they would. But can they?

Bernie's not the first one to crusade for the Political Revolution. Twenty-eight years ago, Minnesota voters elected Paul Wellstone to the US Senate. Wellstone served well and courageously advocated for Progressive policies. Until his tragic death in 2002.

The Minnesota Senator's campaign may even have been the template that AOC followed to win her election to Congress.

I will not now tell you what Bernie will decide to do. I only will say that it's apparent that voters are thinking about it. The New York Times last week published this report, excerpted below.
Mr. Sanders is certainly not the first candidate whose presidential campaign was disrupted by a medical emergency. In 1999, former Senator Bill Bradley made an unexpected visit to a hospital in the San Francisco Bay Area for atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm abnormality, which he did not disclose until after the incident. After canceling a few events, Mr. Bradley, now 76, resumed his campaign, but he eventually dropped out of the race after losing the New Hampshire primary. A poll of New Hampshire voters revealed concern about how he had handled the disclosure of his health issue.
Still, Mr. Sanders’s case is unusual in many respects: He is a leading candidate recovering from a heart attack at age 78 who must compete in an intensely competitive primary while also holding down a demanding job as senator. Indeed, Mr. Sanders’s disruption comes amid increased pressure to bolster voter support with strong challenges from Mr. Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren, and it is unclear at what pace Mr. Sanders will carry on his campaign.
“Bernie will be scrutinized very carefully in the next month or two for his ability to come back and campaign as vigorously as he has done in the 2016 and current presidential campaigns,” said Ed Rollins, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan. “He’ll be looked at a little differently” for things like being tired at the end of the day or stumbling in his delivery onstage, Mr. Rollins added.
But he apparently will not be looked at differently by his diehard supporters.

Which leads into my next concern. Patricia Murphy, who has covered national politics for the Daily Beast, yesterday published on Rollcall about the recent Senate Intelligence Report on the Russian attack against the sovereignty of American voters in the 2016 presidential election.
Using techniques the KGB tried on Soviet citizens during the Cold War, the committee described the hallmarks of the Russian disinformation campaign in 2016, including messages to erode Americans’ trust in investigative and political journalists; an emphasis on speed to win the first impression of readers, which is always the most resilient; topics designed to exploit racial divisions; and a volume so enormous that overwhelmed audiences can no longer discern what’s real from what’s not. Finally, almost all of the information was deceptive, or as one committee witness called it, a “firehose of falsehood.”
I'm concerned that the strident tone of Sanders' supporters means they are already primed to repeat the cycle we saw in 2016. Ms. Murphy called the Senate Intel Report the most important document you will ever read.

I hope Bernie reads it and considers the ramifications among his strident supporters.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

As much of a hero as Bernie is, he will not be elected president in 2020

A day or so ago, Bernie Sanders experimented with rhetoric widely interpreted to mean that he intends to distinguish himself as NOT equivalent to Elizabeth Warren.

An article I read noted this quote by Bernie,
"Elizabeth considers herself -- if I got the quote correctly -- to be a capitalist to her bones," he said. "I don't. And the reason I am not is because I will not tolerate for one second the kind of greed and corruption and income and wealth inequality and so much suffering that is going on in this country today, which is unnecessary."
Long time readers of the Arizona Eagletarian will know that I advocated vociferously in the 2016 election for Senator Sanders (that may be a bit of an understatement).

Let me now make this clear. I believe the phrase "if I got the quote correctly" is a stark (or maybe subtle) declaration that Sanders is hedging on this particular tactic.

Why might he do that? Well, I can only speculate. 1) His advisers may have insisted he try to put some daylight between him and Warren; or 2) He may not be convinced it's the right thing for him to do.

Further, as much as he may still have a deep driving desire to become president, he just is not now and not ever going to be elected to that office. He's 78-years old. Now. By November 2020, he will be working on completing his 80th year of life (age 79).

Bernie Sanders recently had a heart attack.

While YOU might still want to vote for him, so many people will no longer do so that he's going to have to come to grips with the reality of his situation sooner or later. Preferably sooner, and BEFORE he might sabotage Warren's chances.

Now, about Warren being a capitalist.

In 2003, she, together with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, published first edition of the book, The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers are Going Broke. Here's the dedication from the first edition (which I borrowed from my local public library):
This book is dedicated to all parents who
wake up with hearts thudding over the possibility
that buying school shoes and Girl Scout uniforms
will mean that there won't be enough left over to
pay the mortgage. These people are our neighbors,
our brothers and sisters, our friends and coworkers.
They travel anonymously among us, but we know them.
They went to college, had kids, bought a home, played
by the rules--and lost. It is time to rewrite the rules
so that these families are winners again.
Bernie Sanders' effort to disparage Elizabeth Warren in the minds of die hard Berners... well, the kindest way I can characterize it is that he tried to make a distinction but there really isn't a difference.

This effort 1) does not rehabilitate Bernie's cardiovascular system; 2) going back to Bernie's quote at the top of this post, what on Earth in her consistent message during the campaign -- or any time prior -- could possibly be reasonably interpreted to mean that Warren will at all "tolerate for one second the kind of greed and corruption and income and wealth inequality and so much suffering that is going on in this country today, which is unnecessary;" and 3) does not do him or the Political Revolution the slightest bit of good.

If anything, Bernie's ham-handed statement suggests the time for him to suspend his campaign is coming sooner rather than later.

From April 2017.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

How will Mitch McConnell respond to House approved Articles of Impeachment?

Former Obama Administration Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal interviewed by Ari Melber:

From YouTube:
A new House subpoena for Rudy Giuliani could be ‘the scariest news’ for Trump in a potential impeachment trial, because he may have to tell all and not be protected by attorney-client privilege, explains former DOJ official Neal Katyal. “There isn't going to be an effective privilege,” Katyal says, analyzing why not only Giuliani, but other lawyers allegedly involved in Trump’s plan against Biden, may all have to testify. MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber and Katyal discuss why lawyers are less protected from testifying when they are asked about things they didn’t do in their capacity as lawyers, discussing the hypothetical of a lawyer doing a side job for Uber or task rabbit. Aired on 09/30/19.
Katyal surmised in this clip that McConnell may be distancing himself from Trump, based on the Senate Majority Leader's statements (included in the clip).

Monday, September 30, 2019

Impeaching 45 at this Moment May Actually Prevent a Second Civil War

It is vitally important to our country that the House impeach Donald Trump.

I've said that for more than a year. Here's something a law professor who has studied the history of the US Constitution recently wrote about the question of impeachment.

In the article dated September 26, 2019 Clark D Cunningham, professor and law & ethics chair at Georgia State University wrote,
As Congress moves toward a possible formal impeachment of President Donald Trump, they should consider words spoken at the Constitutional Convention, when the Founders explained that impeachment was intended to have many important purposes, not just removing a president from office.
A critical debate took place on July 20, 1787, which resulted in adding the impeachment clause to the U.S. Constitution. Benjamin Franklin, the oldest and probably wisest delegate at the Convention, said that when the president falls under suspicion, a “regular and peaceable inquiry” is needed.
In my work as a law professor studying original texts about the U.S. Constitution, I’ve found statements made at the Constitutional Convention explaining that the Founders viewed impeachment as a regular practice with three purposes:
  • To remind both the country and the president that he is not above the law
  • To deter abuses of power
  • To provide a fair and reliable method to resolve suspicions about misconduct.
The Convention delegates repeatedly agreed with the assertion by George Mason of Virginia, that “no point is of more importance … than the right of impeachment” because no one is “above justice.”
Cunningham expanded on those point as he continued the column. But to the point of whether Trump and his supporters' obvious incitement of violence (i.e. a second civil war), the professor cites Benjamin Franklin:

Good for the president and the country
Benjamin Franklin told his fellow delegates the story of a recent dispute that had greatly troubled the Dutch Republic.
One of the Dutch leaders, William V, the Prince of Orange, was suspected to have secretly sabotaged a critical alliance with France. The Dutch had no impeachment process and thus no way to conduct “a regular examination” of these allegations. These suspicions mounted, giving rise to “to the most violent animosities & contentions.”
The moral to Franklin’s story? If Prince William had “been impeachable, a regular & peaceable inquiry would have taken place.” The prince would, “if guilty, have been duly punished — if innocent, restored to the confidence of the public.”
Franklin concluded that impeachment was a process that could be “favorable” to the president, saying it is the best way to provide for “the regular punishment of the Executive when his misconduct should deserve it and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.”

All of this makes me wonder. Actually having Hillary Clinton inaugurated in January 2017 would have made the subsequent events turn out much differently than they have. But the political polarization would almost certainly have continued to rise nevertheless.

Not wanting to suffer ongoing failures of imagination, I now call your attention to one of the master storytellers of our age, Stephen King. He has called his alternative history novel, 11.22.63 his magnum opus. If you're not familiar with the novel or the Hulu mini-series based on the novel, click the link for 11.22.63 to get a synopsis of it.

My ultimate point? While Trump may want and may try to incite civil war type violence, perhaps in the grand scheme of things his having become president, and having failed so spectacularly, will save us from all out civil war.

And he HAS failed spectacularly, evaluating the net results, in doing anything good for the United States. His only success has been to subvert the Founders' intent as articulated in the Preamble to the Constitution.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to [ALL of] ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


On April 24 this, I posted that I believed then (and I still do) that Trump will be impeached.

This morning, I re-read the post and re-viewed the video clip of Lawrence O'Donnell pointing out much of what many are now saying (including a handful of GOP elected officials, or former elected officials) that whether or not the House impeaches and the Senate convicts has become a point of principle.

Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled the trigger on the starting gun (starting guns don't fire actual bullets) for an official impeachment investigation. Ending speculation on whether the Senate will pull another Merrick Garland, today, Mitch McConnell stated that in the event the House does approve Articles of Impeachment, he will have no choice but to convene the requisite trial.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Failure of Imagination

Don't worry, it obviously wasn't just your imagination but everybody else's too.

On Hulu, I have watched all but the last two episodes of the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Joan Watson murder mystery Elementary. I've always tried to figure out whodunit. Rarely have I succeeded (maybe only once). Not only is each story very well written, with numerous possible culprits, but the red herrings presented are exquisite and difficult to see through until close to the end.

Recently, I was watching late at night and fell asleep before the end of an episode. The next day, I went to finish that one. Starting where I turned it off the night before, I realized that I had no idea what was going on at the time. So, I went back to where I started to doze. It all made sense and I could see how it was obvious -- without considering the red herring distractions -- who committed the murder. I believe the failure of imagination leading up to Congress (and mainstream American media) becoming aware of the Whistleblower Complaint fits that same pattern.


The following report was published by non-profit news outlet ProPublica this morning (without the YouTube video).

Trump’s Ukraine Plotting Has Been Happening in Plain Sight. So Why Didn’t We See It?

It’s not just that there’s a lot to pay attention to.

by Eric Umansky Sept. 27, 11:09 a.m. EDT

Try for a moment to imagine the world as it was a week ago. Before we knew that President Donald Trump put the squeeze on another country to investigate his political opponent, before we knew he wanted to involve the attorney general, or that aid may have been held up in the plotting.

Except, we did know each of those things. The president hasn’t been quiet about what he’s up to. And while we didn’t know many details, much of the hanky-panky has been happening right before our eyes.

Let’s review a few facts.

The president urged an investigation into Ukraine and Democrats back in 2017. He didn’t do it in a secret meeting. He tweeted.
Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign - "quietly working to boost Clinton." So where is the investigation A.G. @seanhannity— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
Trump and his allies theorized that Ukrainians had engaged in a kind of bank shot: They suspected Ukrainians of plotting to help Hillary Clinton by manufacturing evidence against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (There’s no evidence to support that.)

Trump brought up the theory again this April, and he floated getting the Attorney General involved. “This concept of Ukraine, they’ve been talking about it actually for a long time,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “I would certainly defer to the attorney general and we’ll see what he says about it.”

The next month, The New York Times reported that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, was planning to visit Ukraine to pressure the government to investigate those who helped catch Manafort and to dig into former Vice President Joe Biden.

BuzzFeed and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project followed up in July with an even more detailed story on how Giuliani was pushing Ukraine “to discredit the president’s rivals.”

Giuliani was straightforward. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation,” he told the Times. Giuliani added that, of course, Trump knew about it. “My only client is the president of the United States,” he said. “He’s the one I have an obligation to report to, tell him what happened.”

The next day, Politico interviewed Trump. The president said he had spoken to Giuliani “very briefly” about his plans to pressure Ukraine. “He’s involved with a number of people that are looking into the whole thing because a lot of very bad, a lot of very bad things took place prior to the election.”

Politico asked Trump whether he would order Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate Biden’s son work in Ukraine. “Well, I haven’t spoken to him about it. But certainly it is a very big issue and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said, later adding, “Certainly, it would be an appropriate thing to speak about.”

Next came the July call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. We didn’t know the details of it at the time, but there were hints for those closely following. Here’s a snippet from Ukraine’s official summary of the call:
Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.
By that point, of course, Trump had already publicly discussed what exact “corruption” he wanted Ukraine to investigate. A month later, Politico reported that Trump had ordered the delay of aid to Ukraine.

The push to investigate a political opponent’s family. The prospect of using aid as a cudgel. It was all in the air. Vice President Mike Pence was asked directly about it at the beginning of September. “Can you assure Ukraine that the hold-up of that money has absolutely nothing to do with efforts, including by Rudy Giuliani, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family?” a reporter asked Pence during his visit to Warsaw.

Pence didn’t give a clear answer. But he did say, “As President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.”

The Washington Post began to put it all together a few days later, on Sept. 5: Trump “is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.”

That didn’t run on the front page, or anywhere on the news pages at all. It was in the third paragraph of an unsigned editorial.

The point of all this isn’t that we knew exactly what was going on. We didn’t. The transcript of the call and the whistleblower’s complaint have been critical.

But the urgency for digging was clear. Some reporters were on the case. So why wasn’t more attention paid?

There’s the avalanche of news, scandal and outrage. Many of them have facts that are clear and easy to grasp. We have to make choices.

But there’s something else, too. Two weeks after the 2016 election, my colleague Jesse Eisinger and I recorded a podcast [I attempted to find this podcast. The ProPublica article, headlined "How Journalists Need to Begin Imagining the Unimaginable" IS there, but the podcast is not there. So, I'm including a 14:40 long YouTube with Gessen at the end of this post and will update this note if the podcast becomes available.] with Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen. We discussed how journalists should think about covering the Trump administration. She had a warning. If you dismiss something because it seems unimaginable, that’s a mistake.

It’s a failure of imagination.

Many years ago, I wrote about another scandal: the revelations about torture of detainees in U.S. custody. The fact that the U.S. was abusing detainees had been reported. It only became recognized as a scandal after the Abu Ghraib photos were published.

This time, it was a phone call. In both cases, the dots were there. But we couldn’t quite wrap our heads around it. Not just the facts of it, but the reality of it.

With torture, we couldn’t grasp that the U.S. government would treat detainees the way the photos eventually showed it did. And the same with Ukraine. “A president shaking down another country to investigate his opponent? It can’t be THAT!”

Research assistance by Katie Zavadski, Katherine Sullivan and Alice Wilder.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.