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