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.