66) Kavanaugh

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-2b594-bcdf5a

The fight for justice…hands stretching, muscles tearing, reaching for the sky- daunting, tempting to surrender, and submit, assuming futility, but people walked on the moon, made a vaccine for malaria, polio, and other diseases.

I contemplate my White Privilege, resenting every remnant of it, and scowl at America’s White Supremacist bigot bullies…oppressing…Native Americans, African Americans, Arabs, Jews, Women, the non-heterosexual, the poor, the vulnerable, the non-Christian, non-Caucasian and it disturbs me, makes me drink my whiskey with a little extra intensity…

I fear that nothing, not a single atrocity, would have moved Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters in the Senate to oppose his confirmation…

64) The 2018 Midterms

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-nimfp-bcdf39

This election feels like a spaceship heading for a black hole.

Please don’t explode…please don’t explode…please don’t explode, and shatter like the German democracy did in 1933…

Last Sunday night at 9 p.m.– the Sunday before the election–instead of “Headliners,” which is usually on at that time on MSNBC, there was special coverage discussing the “big day”– the anticipation, a spectacle like fireworks on New Years’ Eve…

Gun violence: linked to mental illness, lack of ethics, both, or neither?

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-gdx3u-bafe6f

With the heightened tension on the right and the left with respect to the gun violence crisis in America the President is quick to blame mental illness, while many experts and critics on the left warn that mental health is not the fundamental problem and cause. But if we do not refer to the disturbances within the mind that lead up to an act of mass violence as part of a “mental illness,” how are we supposed to characterize it? Mere unethical behavior? But not all breaches of ethics are the same. Is there any connection between severe lack of ethics and mental illness? What standards do we refer to reach such a conclusion? To the degree which we might associate gun violence with unethical behavior one question raised is whether or not the perpetrator of violence fully “knows” what he or she is doing is absolutely “unethical.”

For more about Public Comment visit the website: https://publiccommentpodcast.com/

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On the Mueller testimony

News organizations widely reported that the Mueller testimony failed to capture much of the country. As to why, exactly, I think it is more complex than some may think. Beyond claims of apathy, cynicism, or Mueller’s failure to “perform” as some would have liked, there is the rather important consideration that many of us have to work and experience varying degrees of economic anxiety and other day-to-day pressures that make wrapping our minds around the upsetting drama in Washington something much easier said than done. While I was able to listen on my drive to the tutoring center, I did still have to “work” on things beyond the production of Public Comment, and when I didn’t, I still had my own marketing, branding, and aesthetic contemplations to improve Public Comment in mind. So, while I am concerned that too many people are apathetic, to be fair, I don’t know how much has more to do with juggling life than general apathy. As for the main stream media, I was saddened by those who placed so much emphasis on Mueller seeming not “as sharp” as he used to be as I wondered if in so doing they may have overlooked a number of other possible, contextual factors, such as possible anxiety over the high stakes of his testimony, and/or what he knows, but can’t tell us, but perhaps wishes he could tell us? Whatever you make of Mueller’s testimony, I hope enough Americans come to care so that as a nation we can get our act together and start taking care of our troubled government. 

***PUBLIC COMMENT is a podcast presented in the form of extemporaneous personal essays about a political and philosophical millennial as he tries to wrap his mind around the complexities of the human experience.****

Visit the Official Public Comment Podcast Website

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On important political events (Episode 55)

What does it mean to be aware of a political event? We all have so much to pay attention to in life so how then do we determine just how much attention to pay to politics? As I wrap my mind around this question it shapes my understanding of the aesthetics of the personal journal podcast genre, for what is an account of life without an awareness and understanding of and personal connection to consequential political happenings? In this context then, I examine the relationship between introspection and political awareness and how my interest in political awareness evolves from first hearing of President Clinton as a kid, through 9/11 as a teenager, and in the age of Trump as a man in his early 30’s. What are we, as Americans, beyond the punditry and commentaries, to make of today’s Mueller testimony to congress? 

***PUBLIC COMMENT is a personal journal podcast about a political and philosophical millennial in search of ever greater clarity and honesty who shares with you his contemplative thoughts as he tries to wrap his mind around the complexities of the human experience.****

Visit the Official Public Comment Podcast Website

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On what’s after postmodernism: holistic pragmatic clarification of concepts

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

OR WATCH THE VIDEO

Contradictions, obfuscations, and lack of clarity have not only seized so much of academia (as my friend Heather Lockheart brilliantly discusses in her thesis on the topic) but also it has led to the emboldening of blatant racism from President Trump and his supporters, along with a wider embrace of immorality in general. Trump’s TV lawyer Rudolph Giuliani has gone so far as arguing that “truth is not truth.” Where did this postmodern way of thinking come from? Can we blame Nietzsche? Although postmodernism clearly leads to problematic modes of thought, does it raise any valid points? Is there anything “after” or “beyond” postmodernism? I say “yes!” and that includes some iteration of a holistic pragmatic clarification of concepts. 

PRODUCED BY ASHLEY O’CONNOR AND MONTANIZ STILLS

Thank you again for visiting the Public Comment website which I created back in 2012. After 7 years of  experimentation and uncertainty about the identity and direction the website should take on, I established, in June of 2019, an official focuses on politics and philosophy and launched the podcast. As a political activist and philosopher, my goal here on Public Comment is to contribute to a universal dialogue of critical, creative, and introspective thought on politics and philosophy– a dialogue I hope you’ll join in the comments below.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-q8w9q-b8529c

On trying to “loosen up,” “sufficient freedom” and other things

***Listen here or download at: Podbean , Google Play Music, Tune In, Stitcher

or watch the video

I am trying to “loosen up” in a way that is honestly “me” or “true to myself.” I am contemplating the ethics of compassion, and the right to “sufficient” freedom in response to the blowback and imperfections of “pure freedom.” This applies as much to basic notions of fair access to necessary resources like water as much as I believe it applies to reasonable immigration policy and treating all people in Earth like human beings, as opposed to treating undocumented immigrants like animals or second class citizens as President Trump horrifyingly does. I discuss these and more.

***SPECIAL THANKS TO The rhdpgx podcast FOR SPONSORING THE PUBLIC COMMENT PODCAST :-p !!!

On the Confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

[Note: this essay was written during a very psychologically complex time in my life. First of all, this was happening around the time my grandfather passed away. Secondly, in the midst of my final semester of undergraduate studies I was in a state of profound confusion concerning what my next step in life ought to be. Though it seemed clear I ought to do all I could to break into the opinion-writing scene within the journalism world there were two very particular things troubling me: A) I honestly didn’t know initially what to make of the Kavanaugh hearings, especially after we learned that he had been accused by multiple women– and without evidence– of sexual misconduct. No matter how much I read on the subject I didn’t want to end up saying something or thinking something biased or blatantly demonstrating how little I know about legal nuances. In a word, I felt unqualified to “think” about what was happening; B) I felt confused about the aesthetic questions behind how one ought to write a political commentary. Moreover, I felt two competing impulses: one was to be completely detached from this rather fascinating but unpleasant period of U.S. history and the other was to in fact record my thoughts on what it was like to “experience” the occurrence of such a dramatic span of political events transpire. Spiritually and philosophically I thought, as someone who loves to write, it seemed there might be a kind of ethical obligation to document how this historical crisis within the Senate and Supreme Court permeated my mind, not as a mere political analyst or commentator, but as a human living in the country where this was happening.

This complex reaction led me to wonder if I should perhaps experiment with approaching the current political events from more of a “poetic” perspective, or “artistic” or “humanistic” or “personal” perspective– though I was not sure exactly what that should ultimately mean.

As a result, this essay was initially conceptualized as a “poem,” and one composed in a very complex intellectual-psychological-aesthetic frame of mind.]

Don’t fret 

Warriors will keep alive in the blood

-Simon Ortiz

The fight for justice…hands stretching, muscles tearing, reaching for the sky- daunting, tempting to surrender, and submit, assuming futility, but people walked on the moon, made a vaccine for malaria, polio, and other diseases.

I contemplate my White Privilege, resenting every remnant of it, and scowl at America’s White Supremacist bigot bullies…oppressing…Native Americans, African Americans, Arabs, Jews, Women, the non-heterosexual, the poor, the vulnerable, the non-Christian, non-Caucasian and it disturbs me, makes me drink my whiskey with a little extra intensity…

I fear that nothing, not a single atrocity, would have moved Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters in the Senate to oppose his confirmation (not that we know whether he was guilty or innocent… “the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard,” Senator Sue Collins said in her speech, explaining her vote to confirm him…but the way Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations were “investigated” in a rush- “More than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI, according to multiple sources that include friends of both the nominee and his accusers,” NBC News reported…and what about Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick who also made accusations of sexual misconduct…ignored by the Republicans in Senate, the F.B.I., President Trump ((outright misogynistic deference to Kavanaugh, it seems to me))– a “sham” as many Democrats in the Senate called it!)

Even months later, Trump says he knows acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, then says he doesn’t know him, adding to the reeking junkyards, and mountain chains of venom filled sewage lies, poisoning our politics, government, law enforcement, rhetoric, relationships, and the Republicans– not a…flinch…

A NIGHTMARE AND AN OUTRAGE!

But hope…hope…hope…look at things like New England, where the snow seems to grace with its elegance as it falls- the homicide rates there, among the lowest in the nation…look at the gentlemen like former F.B.I. Director James Comey, and the ladies like newly elected Congress woman of Kansas, Sharice Davids…

More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.

More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.

More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.

Speaker of the House & Senate Majority Leader Have Too Much Power

Observing a Democratic House of Representatives spar with the Republican Senate reveals how the leaderships within both parties– I’m talking about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi here– possess far too much power, stifling the democratic elements that are supposed to propel our legislative processes.  

Thus, our congress now operates in a fashion that seems entirely out of touch with a much wider, international populist revolution of sorts extending far beyond politics, challenging the mainstream media, academia, traditional 20th century corporate models– including even the way companies market with the goal of establishing genuine connection with those they serve– and even cultural ethical assumptions, in the wake, for example, of the #MeToo movement.

Politically speaking though, the most revealing aspect of this global populist revolution is not Trump winning the 2016 Presidential election, and is not the worldwide nationalism and protectionism, at least as I contemplate it. Rather, what strikes me most is how many Democrats are running in the 2020 Primary elections.

The plethora of candidates indicates to me an uptick in passion and earnestness to cast aside assumptions of electability, and “Establishment” choices of who the next president should be.

Put another way, “the people” are hammering a stake into the dying heart of conventional concentrations of power.

Not in congress however.

(And even less so with respect to the presidency. Read this excellent article by Foreign Affairs for more on that specifically)

Unfortunately, the extreme concentrations of power held by Pelosi and McConnell are stalling and weakening our country from any kind of truly political productivity.

Tell me (really, please do!): what is the last major congressional achievement you can think of (if you don’t count when the unanimously passed a resolution “to reject [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s proposal to interrogate US officials.”). Maybe repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” nearly a decade ago?  

To be clear, this is a problem which is exacerbated by both parties!

Consider just how it seems, at times, like Speaker Pelosi gets treated as if she were Queen of the Democrats.

The growing call among her fellow House Democrats for President Trump’s impeachment serves as an illustrative example.

As Politico reports,

[Rep.] Nadler [of NY} pressed Pelosi to allow his committee to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump — the second such request he’s made in recent weeks only to be rebuffed by the California Democrat and other senior leaders

Why should any lawmaker– or any person for that matter!– enjoy the pedestal of such a high status that she or he gets to deny or “allow” significant legislative  “requests”–?

Please don’t get me wrong here. I get that leadership and management are paramount to making things happen and, theoretically, with efficiency, but “leadership” in a democracy should not be confused with exceptional powers such as has been granted to Nancy Pelosi.   

Maybe it doesn’t seem so awful to some of you when the one granted with so much power and status is part of your own political party, or your faction of your political party, but, if you’re a Democrat these days, how exactly do you feel about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s power to prevent the House’s legislative progress from moving any further?

How do you feel about the way he prevented a vote from taking place on the confirmation of Judge Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court?

Would you rather “bite the bullet” as they say, and chalk it up to a consequence of American politics when things of this sort occur, or are you inclined to think it would be better if McConnell never had that kind of power and that future Senate Majority leaders never do either?

As Salon’s Daley Gruen writes:

How is it possible that one man, for whom odds are neither you nor I voted, has absolute control over the ignition switch to our country, as well as the brakes, the gas, the wheels, the seats and the windows? After a bloody revolution to escape monarchical rule, our Congress was designed to be a conference of extraordinary citizens representing a polity of constituencies as equals, pushing and pulling our country towards the truest manifestation of the popular will. It’s why we call it the People’s House. But instead, “Mitch and Nancy” and their predecessors have enjoyed unchecked rule.

In a democracy, what comes to a vote should be determined by a process, a system, a democratic mechanism – not the whims of one person. If a bill fulfills some reasonable procedural trigger point, it should automatically go up for a vote by the entire body.

Gruen informs us further in the Salon piece that although it seems mostly like lip service, at least since the Democrats took back the House

any legislation that achieves 290 co-sponsors will automatically get a floor vote in the House. That threshold, however, is exceedingly high and not so different than the almost never used “Discharge Petition,” which already allows the House to force a vote if an absolute majority of 218 members sign a petition for it. [But] A democratic process should be regular order – not an act of defiance.

Indeed!

That’s why I believe Democratic Presidential primary candidates like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke (O’Rourke has been calling for impeachment just shy of a year now), along with other clear-headed legislators like Representative Al Green of Texas, and my own Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (though not for much longer as my wife and I are moving out of this congressional district) who don’t let Pelosi dictate their apparent convictions, are exceptional and worth our appreciation.

We should support more politicians like them.

Also, as suggested by Gruen, congress as a whole should vote on which bills go the floor for consideration. Why not a simple plurality?

The concentrations of power held by Pelosi and McConnell are unfair, undemocratic, and out of fashion. Giving the rest of Congress more say in things like its own legislative agenda would be a step in the right direction.

[Click here for an interesting read on the history of power growth within the position of the Speaker the Sen. Majority Leader]

House Democrats Should Begin Impeachment Proceedings Now or They’ll be Hypocrites Pandering to Re-Election Obsession Just Like Republicans

Just shy of a year ago,  President Trump confused many of us with what seemed like dogmatic deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was, Trump said, “extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of interference in the American 2016 elections.

Trump said in addition that he didn’t  “see any reason why it would be” Putin or the Russian state in particular that was involved.

At that point Mueller was still investigating. Not that it mattered to me. By then I was amping my calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. A common response I received and heard was to wait for the Mueller investigation to conclude.

Now it has.  

And now there is indeed more talk of impeachment, across the aisle (even if Representative Justin Amash is the lone Republican in the bipartisan mix among members of congress currently in office).

And if the House of Representatives did manage to pass articles of impeachment against the president– which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is doing her best to prevent–  “it would be disposed of very quickly,” Senator Lyndsey Graham told The Hill.  

I cannot help but consider what Washington Post Columnist George Will recently pointed out: as of now, it does seem, that if Trump were impeached it “will not result in Trump’s removal.” He adds, “Today’s congressional Republicans…  would make a Senate impeachment trial a partisan debacle ending in acquittal.”

Washington Post columnist Max Boot puts it another way: while “there is no doubt that [impeachment] is justified legally and morally” there are concerns among many as to whether or not it  “makes sense politically.”   

Ross Garber, a lawyer, professor and legal analyst, in an article for CNN explains why it may be unreasonable or hasty to suppose it won’t ultimately “make sense politically.” He writes:

the speaker [Rep. Nancy Pelosi} has set a novel and unrealistically high burden for simply initiating an  impeachment process. It would also be unfair and improper to begin an impeachment process only if conviction has been conclusively predetermined.The whole point of an impeachment process is to conduct a fair evaluation of the facts and constitutional standard.

Initiating an impeachment process also provides a forum for the public to learn about the relevant facts and the constitutional burdens. Impeachment hearings might also develop new evidence. The speaker’s notion of requiring certainty of conviction before even considering charges is wrongheaded and improper.

Moreover, if we consider Max Boot’s point that impeachment is “justified legally and morally” just how willing are Democrats (and Republicans for that matter) willing to sacrifice what really should be done with re-election concerns?

At what point does one say it is more important to do what is ethical, legal, and just, than what is politically likely to succeed? In other words, what is the proper  principle for defining when it is better to stand for the right thing at the cost of possibly losing than casting the right thing aside in the interest of “winning?”

No doubt, the former Prussian Prime Minister spoke with wisdom and understanding when he said that “politics is the art of the possible” and yet I cannot help but find myself in agreement with Democratic 2020 hopeful Elizabeth Warren who said:

There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution, If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they’d be arrested and put in jail.

We took an oath not to try and protect Donald Trump, we took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America, and the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.

Afterall, is it not the outrage of so many Democrats and independents that the Republicans defer to winning strategy over the right thing to do? Is that not why we arein the current political mess we are in? Do the Democrats not realize the political vulnerability they will find themselves mired in when their opponents and critics accuse them of hypocrisy?

On Mueller Statement, Keeping a Diary, Finding a Niche (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary Vlog– Episode #23)

That the president, even if he or she in theory indeed committed a crime, is essentially above the law, and, from Mueller’s point of view, should only face congress—if they choose to examine the president– this is literal unfairness. This is a perfect example of what is wrong with American society today. Special treatment for people who are lucky enough to know how to abuse the system to protect themselves from criminal and abusive and unethical behavior. I try not to get too caught up in my emotions but this angers me.

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello dear audience! I hope your day is going well. Around 11 AM this morning former Special Investigator and FBI Director Bob Mueller spoke.

I got an alert on my cellphone a little bit prior to his brief statement being made and kept the TV on to hear him but the damn “smart” TV my wife bought… there seems to be something wrong with it…specifically the YouTube TV app because it turned off without me realizing.

(YouTube TV works on all our other devices so I blame the TV which we bought at Best Buy which of late has not seemed to me…the “best buy” as there are now so few items in stock at the store –if you enjoy the experiencing of actually shopping at a store, physically, as opposed to only online. I don’t hate online shopping…it saves time where this is a lot to do but I also enjoy actually shopping in a store…moving my feet, grabbing an item to look at it physically… also, two items within the last year which I’ve purchased at Best Buy turned out defective).

Mueller said really quite little but I think the take away was that he made no effort to imply in any way, shape, or form, that he viewed the president as innocent of a crime. Instead he reiterated that Department of Justice policy advises against indicting a sitting president.

Politically, in the context of our current climate, I can understand that decision, however, in a more ideal…ethical…sense…a more just sense…the president should not be so protected politically as he or she is today.

That the president, even if he or she in theory indeed committed a crime, is essentially above the law, and, from Mueller’s point of view, should only face congress—if they choose to examine the president– this is literal unfairness. This is a perfect example of what is wrong with American society today. Special treatment for people who are lucky enough to know how to abuse the system to protect themselves from criminal and abusive and unethical behavior. I try not to get too caught up in my emotions but this angers me.

I always think back to the thousands of dollars I was fined for speeding related traffic violations when I was 23 and how that kept me from driving throughout most of my 20’s…the president however, can in theory, conspire with a foreign enemy and obstruct justice and if congress doesn’t care it’s an open invitation to get away with it.

This is a travesty and I hope…dear audience…that we will not stand for this and that as we conceptualize what the politics of our future ought to be, we include fairness, and true equality under the law as the 14th amendment of the Constitution suggests we should.  

***

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the diary for just about the last day– my thoughts on the concept have evolved over the years….though I’ve been writing probably since about I was about nine, I have been keeping notebooks (to the best of my memory) since I was 19.

I don’t remember exactly when it became a habit though I know for sure by 19 I often wandered around with notebook in hand, usually writing little poems.

Around 2008 at some point I started a prayer diary.

Here is one of the oldest notebooks I could find..

It’s from the Fall of 2006/Winter of 2007— roughly….mostly from when I lived in South Beach.

I’m tempted to throw it out because I despise who I was and the things I wrote then…but… just because I dislike who I was does not, in my view, justify destroying records of it. (There are some things I am tempted to destroy….especially certain videos…I’ve not decided where I stand on records one should keep versus the ones worth destroying. What would the proper principle be? What do you think? I could use your advice on that.)

When did I first start just taking “notes” as I do now throughout my day? (My good friend Bernard Foyuth also does this. It’s a very good habit in my opinion.)

I experimented with this a little bit in 2009 when I began investing more in the keeping of a diary and would weave between sketching “notes” and writing out thoughts more fully. But I think by 2010 I largely abandoned this diary practice, taking more interest in simply “writing” and at the time working on selling my awful book though I would stick to keeping notes in little notebooks. At some point in the fall of 2010 I did attempt a sort of “public diary” but failed to commit. I was briefly quite interested in tracking every movie I watched, book I read, et cetera.

I’m not sure why I abandoned the interest except to say my mind was very all over the place (it was this way since childhood) and I was very conflicted about what the hell I was doing with myself. I had been seriously convinced when I self published that this book would succeed.  

Damn cockiness. How it can destroy your life.

With my sense of self as a failure as opposed to any sustained sense of self merely needing to conquer adversity I…again…went “all over the place” in mind…anything to distract myself from those bad feelings.

By early winter 2011 I think (?) I grew quite depressed with a failed attempt to sell the book, I had despised a novel I wrote, and attempted a sort of vlog/internet live stream talk show concept and to compile ideas I was interested in talking about. To the best of my ability this was when I began the notebook keeping method as I still more or less maintain today.

My fascination with keeping a video diary ultimately has to do with…as I’ve been saying…interests in preservation of thoughts, and sharing of them, and self expression in general…

One issue that’s been pressing me is not wanting to sacrifice one’s self expression to the confines of what one thinks about how one ought to according to others. But important to think also about how to “sell” one’s self in the sense of knowing your value! Your uniqueness. so here comes questions of finding one’s niche.

A lot of sources insist on having a narrow specialization  / niche to market. But what’s my niche. Not quite a philosophy vlog though I am philosophical… but I’m interested in more .. in thought process and sharing it… so why not “essay”? Why not personal essay? I think… or theorize (?) a real quality “essay” reads formally enough that it’s been significantly revised. This is merely looked over and fixed up for the purpose of enjoying the experience of looking over a thought before sharing. I want something… as I’ve said… raw… but not so raw that it hasn’t been looked over for a basic vetting and some kind of directed structure.

This is what prompted me to really understand my interest in public diary/ video diary as opposed to just thinking about this effort as “vlogging” in general.

What KIND of vlog is this? What is my “niche?”

Must I have one?

If I have one…it begins with my desire to think freely quite “Wide & deep” as opposed to with the narrowness that comes with specialization. Ironically I think that is narrow, specialized & niche in itself so now I am experimenting with the tagline

Thinking deep & wide, providing fresh air for niche specialists

Do you think that sounds pretentious? I’m always paranoid of sounding either stupid or so pedantic as to be pretentious!

But while that describes the essence…the function…or distinctness of what I do here now with this vlog I still needed to conceptualize it ….categorically for a lack of better terms.

I began thinking…..video diary….but with respect to how to market this I began having a kind of semantic paranoia.

DO I call it a “vlog diary” or “diary vlog” or “video diary vlog” or just “video diary?”


I literally spent hours on my smartphone last night googling this really to little avail though pure logic helped me deduce that “video diary” is a perfect description for this kind of vlog. As oppoised to saying “vlog diary?” Actually I’m still not positive but aesthetically I like the expression “video diary vlog” because it’s direct in saying exactly what kind of vlog….as opposed to what kind of diary….but why? I really may want to develop and clarify this more.

Beyond that I have also been thinking of structure here…That to me is an important part of this… doing “thought scans” (that is the term I use… “thought scans” based on my top interests… news/politics, culture (from philosophy to technology) and self ( from deep questions to readings/ viewings and other contemplated experiences. )

I want to make one last comment today.

In my last vlog I lamented the war in Afghanistan.

My Friend Rahinne Ambrose inspired me to read up on Yemen.

Makes me think of how Afghanistan is not the only war/ military entanglement we Americans are involved in.

The gist of what I learned is some of the history. I used my old textbook from the course I took on Modern Middle Eastern Civilization which was helpful, and also a BBC article.

The one thing I didn’t really figure out yet is exactly what the Houthis in North Yemen want that those in South Yemen don’t want…I mean beyond the fight over whether or not Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi who essentially is the president though in exile …and I don’t yet know the more nuanced policy debates in Yemen though I do know there’s a power fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia for influence over the country’s politics and that we– the United States— have been supporting to some extent, Saudi Arabia. Oh, always more to learn.

I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

My name is Sean O’Connor and I thank you for checking out my video diary vlog. I call it “Public Comment” to underscore the value of commenting on one’s most valued thoughts publicly, of soul-sharing. Though I like to think wide and deep in our increasingly specialization -and -niche oriented international society the three most basic subjects my diary tends to focus on focus on include politics, culture and self. Though my approach is philosophical, political and intellectual, I’m also emotional and artistic. I’m a registered Democrat and thus lean liberal but I don’t bind myself to any political party. I’m 33, live in New Jersey with my wife, recently graduated William Paterson University with a BA in Liberal Studies, and currently work as a writing tutor for Mercer County Community College. Please enjoy my videos, subscribe if you want to follow along, and join the conversation in the comments sections.

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On Republicans for Impeaching Trump & Soft (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #14)


THE TRANSCRIPT:

Greetings ladies and gentlemen. Today I want to talk to you briefly about the stability of the Republican obsession with subservience of sorts to Trump, the blessing and curse –I’m being slightly rhetorical and hyperbolic here– of freedom of productivity, and my slow but steady development of thoughts on crafting and aesthetics of the vlog…as both a means of effective, meaningful communication and as an artistic medium

 Republican Congressman from Michigan, Justin Amash, and Fox New’s Chris Wallace recently offered a slight iota of new criticism aimed at Trump from Republicans and the Conservative Media, which I find at least a little uplifting, though by no means  am I deluding myself with notions that this means there’s a significant crack in the egg, so to speak.

Yesterday, Representative Amash Tweeted:

Here are my principal conclusions:

1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report. 2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct. 3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances. 4. Few members of Congress have read the report.

He tweeted quite a bit…he also said:

Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.

And, regarding the actions of attorney General William Barr,  Fox News Journalist Chris Wallace said on television last Friday :

“he clearly is protecting this president and advocating his point of view on a lot of these issues.”

He also conceded that :

“I think there are other lawyers who would say…he certainly was not forthcoming [to congress] about what he knew about Mueller’s opinion”  

I wouldn’t quite characterize Wallace’s attempt at objectivity a victory for holding Attorney General Barr, or President Trump accountable, however, I believe we must note that Fox News — the Trump train propaganda machine— doesn’t…as far as I know… pressure or require its so called journalists to entertain the notion that Barr is putting his strange and perplexing public relations protection of President Trump above honesty and justice. (By the way, do any of you have a theory on the story with Attorney General Barr? What does he GET out of working as another one of Trump’s sycophants? I wonder– but don’t have grounds to quite suppose– if Trump has some kind of blackmail on people like Barr, Giuliani, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham– people who so strikingly changed their anti-Trump tune).

What are we to make of the perplexing reluctance of Republicans and Conservatives to stand up to President Trump with respect to…virtually anything? Are we witnessing not just the cliche political corruption but true moral corruption, a swath of politicians, lobbyists, and pundits who have chosen to switch off their consciences as we find ourselves with direct evidence of president Trump’s obstruction of justice, violation of the constitution’s emoluments clause, cruelty towards political asylum seekers  (some of whom are children or babies) and expressed admiration for tyrants?

The psychology and their supposed pragmatics behind it truly arouse my curiosity.

You may note I’m producing these vlogs a little differently now. Now, I write down what I want to say, even if I improvise or omit  additional comments here or there. You may also note that there is no podcast accompanying this vlog. I’ve been inspired most of all by Chris Hayes of MSNBC, who has his show at 8 PM five days a week, a weekly podcast, and the occasional article. I like that pace so I’m adapting a similar approach.

(By the way, I highly recommend Hayes’ New York Times article “The First Presidential Impeachment” about the book “The Impeachers” which is about the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, back in 1868. Typically, commentators refer to Watergate when contemplating the prospects of a Trump impeachment, but I’ve been saying for months to consider the Andre Johnson impeachment because I believe this may be one of the greatest examples of a president who appears to contrast the majority or plurality ethos of the country he or she is supposedly “leading”)

The question of how to approach this new world of digital media self expression fascinates and excites me, but also confuses me. It’s a luxurious confusion though. That is to say, even though i get frustrated over questions like how often to vlog or podcast or post something on twitter or Instagram, i’m privileged to probe THESE questions as opposed to, “how am I going to afford dinner tonight?”  

The complexities of freedom is a topic that has occupied my contemplation for over a decade now.

In the miserable summer of 2007,(I say that summer was miserable because it was the summer of my near homelessness in Tampa, where thanks to the charity of the man who owned the hostel I stayed in, I had a place to live and food to eat)– this was when, for the first time in my life, it seemed that we possess so called “free will.” (As to the question of whether or not I still think we do, I call myself a “soft determinist”– I think we experience what feels like choice; that is to say, our minds inherently contemplate and land on an option…and our inclinations and knowledge would count as  factors with respect to that “choice”– the “choice” as an action occurs I believe, in our minds– but can we fight the deeper, more fundamental genetics, biology and physics involved? I don’t think so)

But my point is that my awareness of some sense of free will, which first came to me twelve years ago now, has always complicated my approach to “free productivity” — by that I mean…with a full sense of creative autonomy, whether it is a question of “what do I want to be when I grow up?” or, now that I’ve decided what kind of “art work,” “product” or “service providing business” I want to produce, and now that I’ve found the confidence to do it my way as opposed to being told how to do it, how do I determine certain creative specifics? For example, take this vlog— how long should it be? How often should it be done?

Two things I tried to keep in mind the most: how those I most admire approach these things— I mentioned Chris Hayes before—, and of course, CONTEXT. This is something that totally slipped my mind over the last two weeks. For example, it should have been obvious to me that videos require more concentration…more mental energy– so perhaps the hour long camera in my face vlog concept turns out to be irrational…my stepfather did describe these as “long winded”– they were too much so…i apologize; if I want to go on for longer I think that is more ideal for podcasts as they allow for more listening flexibility–

I can’t get over how exciting this vlogging concept is to me and the question of what it means to me to make the most of it. I see various elements to it. I see it as a sort of open, public, video journal, I see it as talking to “the world”– or the universe (assuming this is preserved and in the future people can watch this from their smart phones on a terraformed mars or on some space station ), I also see it as something quite similar to the personal essay. In that sense, additionally there is something artistic about this. So I took the advice— I forget which site I read it on, or which vlog I heard about this in– and tried to be mindful of my background, to show you something more than just plain white, that adds to the context or depth of my “personality.” I’m curios though, do ya’ll prefer a plain white background, or something which exudes more personality?  Please let me know. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog and podcast where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


Navigating Through the Debris of Information Overload (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #7)

LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC COMMENT PODCAST

How can we gain a sense of the world, of life, living it to the fullest, appreciating all that’s “out there” with such a bombardment and deluge of information…an overwhelming plethora of options to contemplate everywhere? How does this impact the way we process, say, the news, for example, when historical, monumental, complex events transpire: I’m thinking of President Trump’s Attorney General William Barr who faces Contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, and how this thrusts us, (say Judiciary Committee Nadler and Speaker Pelosi) into a “constitutional crisis.” What does that mean? What does it mean for the future of our country, our democracy, and the rule of law as the president persists in obstruction of justice and his executive branch plays along?

This conflict of prioritization has bothered me for a long time. Back in the Spring of 2011, for the first time, I identified my “priorities” of awareness. This was when I discovered the value and importance of the news, politics, & philosophy.

Read the New York Times article: “House Panel Approves Contempt for Barr After Trump Claims Privilege Over Full Mueller Report

Since then though, the struggle to determine exactly how much attention one should pay to the news has been yet another complex question for me, which persists, not because I’m a news enthusiast or “politics junkie.” Rather, I cherish basic awareness; I consider it a fundamental ethical principle.

And then I wonder: which news sources should I prioritize. I love the New York Times and the Washington Post, but I can’t read every article they publish. What about Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Politico, et cetera?

And what about the challenge of sorting through all of the news’ complexities? The details, the confusing concepts and contexts which require deeper understanding…additional research?

And beyond the news reports (the articles, the television commentaries, interviews, segments, et cetera) there’s accounting for, and mentally processing official government business: official documents, pending legislation, proposed budgets– to name some examples.

Read the resolution recommending Barr be held in contempt of congress

And what about the rest of the day?

How do we fit in our meditation, exercise, work, entertainment, cleaning, paperwork, social media feeds, all the while trying to acquaint ourselves further with art, science, technology?

It could be argued of course that the world has gone “niche” but it seems so cheap to me to abandon a holistic perspective, as if it leads to a denigration of life…of the universe and the miracle of experience.

#3 Contempt of Congress?

*Did Attorney General William Barr break the law? If so, what do we do about it?

*The Mueller Report & the infamous Trump Tower meeting & Trump et. al. just can’t seem to remember

*The problem with Biden

[Rep. Nadler quote from the New York Times article by Nicholas Fandos ]

“A Dull Aching Pain”- Impeaching Trump; Bernie or Biden for President? (THE FIRST PILOT)

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

OR WATCH THE VIDEO

…Trump’s threat to congressional oversight, the difference between a Democratic Socialist and a Social Democrat, and biases in the Democratic primary election….

I was feeling exceptionally depressed, still processing my failure to obtain a paid teaching assistantship and paid tuition from a Creative Writing MFA program, unable to find a job in the various job listings I was sorting through, troubled by the political state of things, tangled in my thoughts on aesthetics, neglecting a variety of other personal, philosophical, and practical thoughts, and like an inevitable mansoon I just had to talk…just had to get a few things “off my chest” as some might like to put it.

I was thinking of Howard Stern and my envy for how he was able to just talk straight about whatever was on his mind. I felt a similar envy towards Michel de Montaigne who wrote the most beautifully free flowing essays I ever read, with a fascinating integration of autobiography, scholarly contemplation, and philosophy. Then there was the love I felt for the pundits on MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, who work with such dedication to analyze what’s going on in the news.

I wished I could somehow be like some combination of these wonderful, inspirational people.

I was also feeling a little mad to learn that people on Twitch get paid to play video games in front of a webcam. I thought, there’s got to be something I can do in front of a webcam that is constructive too.

The PUBLIC COMMENT began here with a tremendous deal of uncertainty. Just a little under two years earlier, when I began writing my column for the College VOICE my adviser– Holly Katherine Johnson– asked if I had any ideas for a name, and “Public Comment” came to mind. I thought of it because I could never get out of my mind the intensity of my experiences during the so-called “Public Comment” periods of the East Windsor Town Council Meetings, where I really discovered, for the first time, the full significance of one’s freedom of speech, and just how much those who feel threatened by free speech desire to find ways to curtail it. For example, it was often the case that Mayor Janice Mironov of East Windsor would interrupt me and tell me things like “wrap it up,” or when I asked a question, or asked how she thought I was contradicting myself, she would just say things to the tune of “are you finished Mr. O’Connor? You’re five minutes are almost up.”

Just about a year after I began my column, I experimented with the idea of a vlog series called Public Comment via live-streaming on Facebook to voice my political concerns but I was also preoccupied with completing my BA at William Paterson University and offering my best as a columnist, plus I was trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do with myself occupationally after I graduated. So I quickly abandoned the Public Comment idea.

Though compelled to “just talk” I was quite uncertain of what I was going to do with this extemporaneous, sort of “stream of consciousness” style talking. The only radio experience I’d had consisted of a few episodes at the student station at Mercer County Community College back in 2014, which I gave up on quite quickly.

I had no “team” to help me research, figure out how to integrate media mediums into a palatable program, or to suggest how I might want to experiment by ways of style and approaches.

I had just my mind, my voice, my ideas, my experiences, my laptop and its webcam.

Then a friend and co-worker suggested I make a podcast so I began experimenting with a combination of articles, vlogs, and podcasts to see what would stick, or what method of employing all three would stick.

Yes, the President Can Be Indicted

Yes, the president of the United States can, legally, be indicted.

I made that declaration in front the Capitol Building- home to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Not only did I say the President could be indicted. I added that he should be indicted.

A number of legal and policy experts however, beg to differ  though their analyses are not legally binding. They are mere opinions of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel tasked with giving the President and the Department of Justice legal advice.

In response to my video, some of my Facebook “friends” showered me with insults. They say I have “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and shouldn’t discuss the law because I didn’t get a degree in law (meanwhile they never address the actual arguments I make, which those with just a little background in philosophy would know amounts to the ad hominem fallacy).

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Despite the fact that my critics did not refute or even address my arguments, I wanted to delve into the proof that indeed the president can be indicted.

In my latest episode of PUBLIC COMMENT LIVE I discussed a letter addressed to former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

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This letter was written by Law Professor Ronald D. Rotunda thoroughly citing remarks made by our Founding Fathers, constitutional law, Supreme Court decisions, and other legal experts demonstrating the “Indictability of the President.”

Watch my explanation below:

THE FIRST AMENDMENT IS UNDER ATTACK; AN ATTEMPT TO STIFLE FREE SPEECH

Yesterday twelve former senior intelligence officials issued a joint statement saying that President Trump’s removal of former Director of the CIA John Brennan’s security clearances has “everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”

The officials added, “We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case.” They described the president’s actions as “inappropriate and deeply regrettable.”

What did the President say in his defense? 

In a statement released last Wednesday President Trump justified his actions by saying

any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior [which] has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him.

The president added that “Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.” (Coming from a president who, according to the Washington Post, “has made 3,001 false or misleading claims” as of last May, it is quite ironic that he should question any one else’s “objectivity and credibility.”)

One example the president gives of Brennan’s questionable actions is the occasion when Brennan

denied to congress that CIA officials under his supervision had improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers [when in fact] The CIA’s Inspector General [IG], however, contradicted Mr. Brennan directly, concluding unequivocally that agency officials had indeed improperly accessed staffer’s files.

Trump’s claim however is misleading. A subsequent report by a CIA Accountability Review Board concluded that the CIA actions were not illegal and did not breech any agreement made between the Senate and the CIA. Is President Trump familiar with that report? Or is he true to form and simply lying?

[Read the Huffington Post analysis of the report]

It is also worth noting that Brennan apologized for his contribution to adding confusion over the matter. As McClatchy reported: “[Senator] Feinstein called Brennan’s apology and his decision to submit [to the IG] findings to the accountability board “positive first steps.”

In any event, if President Trump thought Brennan’s supposed shortcomings with respect to the C.I.A.’s access of Senate computer files merited removing Brennan’s security clearance one has to wonder why it is only in the midst of recent criticism from Brennan that Trump has suddenly expressed this judgement.

President Trump also said in his statement statement

Mr. Brennan told congress that the intelligence community did not make use of the so-called Steele Dossier in an assessment regarding the 2016 election, an assertion contradicted by at least two other senior officials in the intelligence community and all of the facts.

This is misleading at best. As the New York Times has said

The New York Times has reported — and Republicans who hold the majority vote on the House Intelligence Committee have concluded — that the [Russia] investigation began in July 2016 and was prompted by the actions of George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that Russia had political ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate. Australian officials then alerted their American counterparts of the conversation with Mr. Papadopoulos.

The information provided by Mr. Steele did not reach F.B.I. officials who were investigating Mr. Trump’s campaign until mid-September of 2016, The Times reported in May. 

Next, President Trump claims:

Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations- wild outburst on the internet and television- about this Administration.

He has made no reference to which “highly sensitive information” Mr. Brennan revealed to the public.

President Trump’s statement furthermore describes Brennan’s public statements as  “increasingly frenzied commentary,” attacking Brennan’s state of mind.

What does appear indeed frenzied is the approach president Trump has taken to remove Brennan’s security clearance.

As the New York Times reported:

The standard revocation process includes memos that outline why a clearance is being withdrawn, and would allow the former official to offer a defense or a rebuttal. In Mr. Brennan’s case, the C.I.A. did no such review of his behavior or comments.

Not only is the president contradicting security clearance removal precedent, but he made it even more emphatic in a Wall Street Journal interview that he was essentially punishing Brennan for his involvement in the Russia investigation, implying that anyone having anything to do with the investigation could theoretically be victim of Trump’s vindictive actions. 

President Trump reflected on Brennan and the Russia investigation, saying to the Wall Street Journal, “I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham. And these people led it! So I think it’s something that had to be done.”

According to the President then, because he thinks the Russia investigation is a “rigged witch hunt” and “a sham” that Brennan participated in, Brennan should have his security clearances removed. 

Considering only Brennan’s loss of security clearance, this might seem only to be an obstruction of justice and an abuse of power, but in light of there events of this week, it is clear that this is a piece of a broader attack on the first amendment- freedom of speech and of the press, specifically.

Recall the fact that Trump described Brennan’s public statements as “increasingly frenzied commentary”- referring most likely to Brennan’s claim that Trump’s deference to autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin, and refusal to acknowledge the unanimous findings of the U.S. intelligence community, is treasonous.

Trump cited this as part of his rationale for stripping Brennan of his security clearance but Brennan is permitted by the First Amendment to say whatever he wants about the president (so long as he does not reveal confidential information).

The Chicago Tribune reported today that former Trump aid Omarosa Manigault Newman is being attacked for her criticism of the President. Omarosa has released tapes embarassing to the president, such as a conversation between Omarosa and Lara Trump where Trump tries to silence Omarosa with hush money upon being fired by President Trump’s chief of Staff, John Kelley. She’s also written a tell-all book “Unhinged” making claims that there is a tape of the President saying the N word, among other claims.

It has also just been reported by the Associated Press that

Omarosa Manigault Newman has a stash of video, emails, text messages and other documentation supporting the claims in her tell-all book about her time in the Trump White House, a person with direct knowledge of the records told The Associated Press Friday.

President Trump this week embarrassed himself and incited tremendous outcry when earlier this week he referred to Omarosa as a “dog,” giving the public one more example of how Trump deals not in reason or evidence based criticism of his own critics, but rather, resorts to dehumanizing insults.

The Chicago Tribune adds:

Trump campaign litigation counsel Charles Harder…sent a letter to Simon & Schuster executives threatening that the book’s publication would subject the company to liability for ‘substantial monetary damages and punitive damages.’

In the letter, according to the Chicago Tribune:

Harder said that excerpts of the book ‘contain confidential information and disparaging statements’ and that the Trump campaign’s potential claims against the publisher include tortious interference and inducement of Manigault Newman to breach her NDA [Nondisclosure agreement] with the campaign.

‘Now that you are aware of these contractual provisions, and Ms. Manigault-Newman’s breaches thereof, the Company will have claims against you, and all persons working in concert with you, should you proceed with publishing and selling the Book,’ Harder said, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The [Washington] Post.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Simon & Schuster outside counsel Elizabeth McNamara said Harder [the Trump campaign lawyer]

did not identify any particular excerpts as false, and the Trump campaign ‘does not have a viable legal claim merely because unspecified truthful statements in the Book may embarrass the President or his associates.’

In other words, Omarosa is being harassed- in fact, Trump reportedly wants Omarosa arrested – and he is attempting to prevent her from speaking, because her book makes the President look bad to the public.

While Simon & Schuster has said it will not stop publishing the book, the fact is the President of the United States swears an oath to uphold the constitution and by attempting to prevent Omarosa for exercising her first amendment right he is in direct violation of the constitution. He is not doing what he has sworn to do.

Washington Post Columnist Jennifer Rubin explains what she thinks ought to happen:

In a perfect world with lawmakers on both sides committed to upholding the Constitution, there would be bipartisan agreement on the need to begin impeachment hearings. there are more than enough grounds to commence hearings based on what we know to date and on Trump’s public conduct, including abuse of his authority over security clearances, his other assaults on the First Amendment, his blatant attempts to interfere with the Russia investigation….his drafting of a phony cover story for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, his false public denial about payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, etc.

It need not be “a perfect world” however, for Congress to do what it ought to do. It just needs to be a slightly more honest world- a world with a touch more integrity.

Further, perhaps if enough Americans make it blatantly clear to congress that they will not win re-election if they fail to impeach, congress will act. Trump’s base may be hard to crack but it’s not invincible and not immune to a tripping point that sways supporters from his hypnotic grasp.

People are speaking out in increasing numbers.

These recent first amendment attacks are happening the same week that hundreds of newspaper editorial boards condemn the president’s constant attack on the press,- calling the press “the enemy of the people” for example- after the Boston Globe suggested they all do so.

Showing how visceral the President’s attacks on the press are,  Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell reminds us:

When unhappy with Post coverage in particular, Trump has threatened government action against Amazon in an apparent attempt to financially punish its chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who independently owns the paper.

Rampell adds:

Journalists and media owners are hardly the only ones whose job or financial security Trump has targeted from his bully pulpit. He called for the firing of National Football League players who kneel in protests during the national anthem. NFL owners, in a secretly recorded meeting in October, expressed concern about the president’s impact on their bottom line.

The president has been so reckless in his attacks that his removal of Brennan’s security clearances has awakened the anger of a retired Navy Admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden,  William H. McRaven. McRaven wrote: I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearances as well, so I can add my name to the men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”

McRaven says of Trump: “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”

It is interesting that McRaven notes Trump’s “McCarthy-era tactics” because when McCarthy enraged people in the military during his “witch hunt” for attacking the first amendment it ended his political career and was met with a historical response. McCarthy was told: 

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

When will congress tell Trump “You have done enough” and impeach him? Or, are there too many among us willing to sacrifice our First Amendment rights? 

Why I Am a Democrat: Response to a Critic Who Calls My Views “Very Unrefined” (a manifesto of sorts)

[My response, my story, my fundamental principles, for the record, part 1 of 2]

[My response, my story, my fundamental principles, for the record, part 2 of 2]

I pay attention to my critics because I value transparency, accountability, and intellectual discussion about challenging issues, especially in the realm of politics because policies directly affect us.

Policies affect whether we are at war or at peace. Policies impact matters of poverty and wealth. Policies determine whether or not our civil rights are protected. They influence the harmony or discord in a diverse, cosmopolitan, pluralistic, democratic society. They can cause great anxiety or great relief. If we are going to talk about policies we should do so with great care.

When one of my critics- Duke Manning, a student of philosophy at Temple University, who is also a bassist- wrote a six paragraph complaint describing his belief that I do not discuss politics with great care, tremendous thought, and synthesis and logical analysis of research, I took issue to it because it could not be further from the truth. You might even note the irony that I spent over three hours articulating my refutation to his comparatively short Facebook comment.

Here is his critique:

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While Mr. Manning’s critique is inaccurate I must thank him for one thing because it is fair to say that if I am going to advocate staunchly for a set of policies it would be beneficial to all who consider my commentaries on the matter if I were to take extra efforts to clarify with greater intensity, why I think what I think.

With respect to my thinking, Manning suggested to me that I “seem to jump in head first with a thought [I] have without really doing enough research and considering how certain” I am. He adds that I “tend to be the kind of person who gets an idea and runs with it without really investigating it deeply or without considering that you are wrong.”

He cites the fact that in 2013, when I was a member of the Libertarian Party (which I am no longer. Now I am a registered Democrat) and running for the New Jersey Assembly, I advocated establishing a voting poll tax.

He notes that he insisted to me that it was a bad idea and that I disagreed with him. (I didn’t disagree for long however. Within months I came to realize the utter absurdity and injustice of such a policy.) This to him, proves that my “views are very unrefined”  and causes him to “worry that [I] will eventually promote an idea that might harm [my] appearance.”

While it is true that Manning’s description of my intellectual shortcomings in 2013 are accurate, he fails to account for the fact that over the last half of a decade I have first of all disavowed a plethora of false assumptions I used to hold.

Secondly he fails to note that my commentaries are in fact heavily sourced and cite experts with a diversity of perspectives. In fact, in his assault on my intellectual integrity he does not cite a single published commentary of mine.

Instead he relies on statements I made half a decade ago which I in fact disavowed within months of having made those statements as proof of my intellectual laziness and “very unrefined views” today. 

I want to provide you with my refutation of Manning’s characterization and while doing so explain to you in the form of an extemporaneous statement, the story of political evolution, and the fundamental concepts that underline my social democratic political philosophy.

It is my hope that first of all, this will serve as proof that I value and contemplate feedback even when it is negative, even when it is wrong. Secondly, I hope that you will find me transparent- that it does not seem as if my point of view came to me hastily out of some vacuum. Finally, I hope that by having done this you have gotten to know me better.

As always, let me know what you think.

The President Does Not Have To Commit a Crime to be Impeached

“You can’t constitutionally impeach a president for these reasons. Please stop,” my Facebook friend said to me while I was video streaming live on Facebook discussing a plethora of grounds for impeaching President Donald Trump.

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Another Facebook friend chimed in, saying “You MUST have a crime” to impeach the president.

 

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In fact, they are both wrong says centuries of U.S. impeachment proceedings.

In order to substantiate my case I did some further research. Specifically, I read a Newsweek article written by the Vice President of the Cato Institute (the Libertarian Think Tank), Gene Healy, and I read a report made for congress entitled Impeachment and Removal written by legislative attorneys Jared P. Cole and Todd Garvey. Both of these sources explain how, throughout the course of U.S. history, noncriminal behavior- such as, for example, showing up to work drunk, all the time- have served as grounds for impeachment of U.S. officials. Violating the public trust is a popular standard for impeachment according to the report for congress.

My critic’s response to my proof that he is incorrect was: “Jesus…give it up..”

 

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That, of course, I will not do as my record on this blog clearly suggests.

My entire analysis can be seen in the video above. It is my first official episode of “Public Comment Live” (the first time I I did a Facebook live-streamed video blog with that official title).

As always, I want your feedback. 

Help Democrat Josh Welle Unseat GOP Rep. Chris Smith; Americans Throughout the Country Should Donate to His Campaign

Fire and replace the “absentee congressman” and anti-women, anti-LGBT Republican Chris Smith! Democratic candidate Josh Welle deserves the privilege of serving New Jersey’s fourth congressional district instead. The district’s voters should vote for him, and Americans throughout the country should donate to his campaign.

(“Absentee congressman”: by the way, that’s Welle’s words for the record, not mine.).

Welle is not afraid to condemn President Donald Trump for his treasonous, criminal, unethical,  behavior.

At the U.S.- Russia Summit Press Conference in Helsinki Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire asked President Trump: “would you denounce what happened in 2016 [i.e., the Russian interference in the election] and would you warn [Russian president Vladimir Putin] to never do it again?”

Trump would not denounce it, would not warn Putin never to do it again, and in fact said that Putin’s denials were “strong and powerful” while the U.S. intelligence community’s findings were not “strong and powerful.”

Trump also said he didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would interfere in our elections. (The fact that we have been sanctioning them for things like violating international law when they annexed Crimea, et cetera, seems to escape the consciousness of the president)

In response to Trump’s open treason and groveling before Putin, Welle said:

 

“As a post-9/11 veteran and an everyday citizen, I was appalled by the President’s actions in the press conference with Russian President Putin in Helsinki. For a sitting U.S. President to side with an authoritarian Russian leader while undermining the integrity of America’s intelligence community is a threat to national security and an insult to the men and women who serve and protect this country.”

 

Responding also to Trump’s claim that the European Union is “a foe, ” Welle said:

 

“In choosing to support Putin over our NATO allies, Trump failed in his duties as Commander-in-Chief and reinforces to the American electorate that he lacks the diplomatic skills necessary to lead during times of great uncertainty.”

 

In contrast, Representative Chris Smith refused to criticize the president in the least. (Anyone who is dogmatically uncritical in the name of being “a team player” for their political party proves they lack basic ethical standards and the intellectual capacity necessary for the kind of judgement a lawmaker should have).

Smith did not utter a single word acknowledging President Trump’s deference to Putin (or his sycophancy towards him) nor did he demonstrate an awareness of Trump’s blatantly obvious undermining of U.S. intelligence. In fact, Chris Smith acted as if President Trump was not even at the summit, saying:

 

“Today’s summit broached crucial issues affecting human rights in many countries, election meddling, the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, and terrorism, among other serious concerns.”

 

After it took a day for President Trump to try and play the American people for idiots, and tell us all that actually, he misspoke, Chris Smith took part in Trump’s deceit, saying

 

“Today, President Trump stated the obvious—we know that Russia meddled in the election. He said further that he has ‘full faith and support’ in the conclusion reached by the intelligence agencies in their investigation. This clarification is welcomed and, frankly, expected.”

 

Smith says this despite the president’s numerous walk-backs calling the entire Russia investigation “a witch-hunt” and “a hoax.” Smith has no comment on that, proving he is either incompetent or unethical.

But there is more at stake than a treasonous president doing the bidding of an anti-Democratic Russian President and flouting the law. The preservation of basic civil rights are under constant attack so long as Chris Smith remains in congress.

Thankfully, Josh Welle won’t have it.

Welle believes women should not be slaves to theocrats and fetuses- he believes women have the right to choose if they want an abortion or not. Welle says: “A woman should be able to make her own healthcare choices” and that he “Support[s] women’s reproductive rights and their access to safe and affordable care including contraception, preventive care and funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Chris Smith does not believe that. He believes that  rape victims should not be allowed to have abortions.

Consider Smith’s attempt to actually change the legal definition of rape as part of his Pro-Choice agenda.

As Mother Jones reported back in 2011:

“For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.)”

 

Chris Smith took issue to that and introduced legislation that would redefine “rape” and thereby limit the number of rape victims who can receive government funded abortions.

Mother Jones reported:

 

“types of rapes that would no longer be covered by the exemption include rapes in which the woman was drugged or given excessive amounts of alcohol, rapes of women with limited mental capacity, and many date rapes.”

 

Mother Jones added: “As for the incest exception, the bill would only allow federally funded abortions if the woman is under 18.”

Chris Smith’s attacks on reproductive rights spans decades, with relentless attempts to pass a constitutional amendment banning abortion.

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 11.47.15 AM

[See the bill on Congress’ Website]

 

Chris Smith has also spent his career trying to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage.

Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 11.53.34 AM

[See the Bill on Congress’ Website]

 

He also infamously denigrated the LGBT community when he said “I am a strong believer in traditional marriage and do not construe homosexual rights as human rights.” It’s clear that Chris Smith is divisive- that he thinks the 14th amendment of the constitution, which declares all Americans equal under the law- is null and void. Smith wants utterly unconstitutional control our sex lives.

Welle, on the other hand,  supports LGBT rights. He says “No American should be treated differently because of who they love. I support full federal equality for LGBT Americans because gay rights are human rights.”

A number of Smith’s constituents are disgusted by his bigoted policies and rhetoric but Smith doesn’t have the nerve to listen to their appeals to change his mind.

He hasn’t granted his constituents a town hall in a quarter of a century. He is terrified of facing their criticism. He doesn’t even have the courage to face his opponent, Welle, in a debate. He doesn’t even live in the state he is supposed to “represent.” As is widely reported, he lives in Virginia, not New Jersey.

Chris Smith is an absolute coward, afraid of the outrage his decades of bigotry have incited.

Josh Welle, a Veteran who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq has proven he does have courage.

Residents of New Jersey’s fourth congressional district deserve a Representative who is not afraid to condemn the president’s treasonous, criminal, unethical behavior, not afraid to face the people he wants to serve, and not afraid to stand up for them, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. And if Americans throughout the country donate to this campaign it will also help in the Democratic effort to reclaim the House of Representatives.

Impeach Trump For Treason: Here’s Why

“We have a cancer within-close to the presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding. It grows geometrically now, because it compounds itself.”

-John Dean, on tape discussing Watergate with President Nixon

 

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily…”

-Donald Trump, speaking at a press conference the day Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III alleges, in an indictment, that Russian election related hacking began

 

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”

            –Donald Trump speaking at a rally

 

Please, let’s at least pause and reflect because something is wrong

 

It upsets me, and it nauseates me as real has come to seem surreal when reflecting on the current political conditions in America, yet alas, I must join with my fellow patriots in calling out our President, Donald Trump, for actively committing treason (not to mention a list of other crimes, such as obstruction of justice, and violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and its first and 14th amendments). I must also join in the patriotic and just choir of lament over Congress’s refusal to protect America from the president’s attack on our national security operations (including the solidarity of our alliances), our democratic process, trust in the operation of our government as a whole, trust in the free press, and his attack on objective reality more fundamentally. To protect us from the President’s utter treason- his mysteriously dogmatic policy of doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin- congress should remove President Trump from office immediately. As of the moment I put these words on the record unfortunately Congress is yet to act as they ought to. In the meantime then, we, the people, will have to be the ones to act, and do so by inundating congress with demands to remove the president from office immediately.

I concede that my rhetoric could arguably be interpreted as perhaps unacceptably over-dramatic however I hope you might at least grant me this:  when president Trump verbally attacks our closest allies in the European Union, calling them “a foe,” and yet lavishes Russian president Vladimir Putin with praise, calling his denials of interference in our 2016 presidential election “strong and powerful”- much more so, apparently, in his estimation, than the unanimous findings of the U.S. intelligence community- such an attitude does appear quite upside down and contrary to what most of the world expected from a United States president (note that even a barrage of Fox News commentators expressed disgust with President Trump over this matter); this certainly at least merits pause and reflection.

I understand that some critics, of course, disagree with this perspective. Maybe you are one of those critics who remains passionately loyal to Trump but I hope at least you are willing entertain the Devil’s advocate nonetheless, if only to double check your convictions. Other critics reading this may share my basic concerns yet find my overall interpretation of recent events as presumptuous, since, for example, Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Trump’s possible ties with Russian interference in our 2016 elections has not yet concluded. In other words, we do not yet know all the facts. That is true but we do have some facts, and moreover we have enough direct evidence, including the President’s own behavior and words on live television to prove that his behavior and catastrophically poor judgement are not befitting of a president. Indeed, some of Trump’s actions are blatantly illegal. Take his violation of the emoluments clause for example, which he is currently being sued for in a civil case. Evidence of President Trump’s impeachable offenses exist in troves. Indeed, the case against him is so complex and multifaceted that History Professor Allan J. Lichtman wrote an entire book – The Case For Impeachment- outlining and explaining the case as he sees it.

In light of the immense complexity surrounding President Trump’s disturbing behavior and the special investigation into it- specifically his ties to the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but also his blatant obstruction of justice, his attacks on the first amendment, his cruel treatment of children at U.S.-Mexican border (he has torn babies from their parents who were merely seeking asylum), questions about campaign finance laws, violations of the emoluments clause and other financial activities- I want to hone in specifically on president Trump’s treasonous behavior throughout what NBC News anchor Katy Tur calls the president’s “worst week ever,” explain why it is indeed “treason,” why it is dangerous, and why therefore, congress must impeach President Trump and remove him from office immediately. Every U.S. citizen should be pressuring congress to do so. Even more specifically, I will focus on the frightening implications of Trump “publicly sid[ing[ with Russia over his own intelligence community” -to borrow a phrase from Katy Tur- thereby humiliating them in front of the world and of the fact that he publically considered handing over U.S. citizens to Russian President Vladimir Putin for interrogations.

 

I shall begin with a few of the week’s most tumultuous events and historically charged comments as I believe it will set the stage, so to speak.

 

Trump believes Putin, not the entire U.S. intelligence community

 

On Monday, July 16, 2018, there was a U.S.-Russia Summit and then a Press Conference in Helsinki, Finland. “We carefully analyzed the current status, the present and the future of the Russia-United States relationship — key issues of the global agenda,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing the nature of the summit. President Trump offers a similar characterization, saying he and Putin discussed “a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue.”

At the press conference following the secret conversation between Trump and Putin, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire said to President Trump:

“Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.

“My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”

President Trump said in response: “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia.

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

President Trump did not at all “denounce what happened in 2016” and he did not “warn [Putin] to never do it again,” – to never interfere in our elections again (Neufeld). Trump openly and with the whole world watching, espoused his belief in Putin over the entire United States intelligence community (including the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who Trump himself appointed), saying: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” (Neufeld; emphasis mine). Trump did not say that our intelligence community has “strong and powerful” evidence explicitly articulated in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III’s indictment of 12 Russians accused of  participating in the meddling of the 2016 election- evidence which clearly Mueller, his staff, and a grand jury all found compelling and convincing enough to proclaim the conduct of those 12 Russians so suspicious that they should face a court of law (although we can be confident that Putin will not extradite them). Trump literally and quite uncritically (so sadly true to his form) deferred to the unsubstantiated claims of a Russian dictator whose nefarious anti-American activities include ordering “Russia’s military intelligence agency [to] infiltrate[] the control rooms of power plants across the United States [which] could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control.”  (What happens to sick hospital patients dependent on power to sustain their lives if Russia shuts down the wrong power plants? That would be one concern among many. Concerns President Trump clearly does not share with rational Americans.)

 

Outrage & Orwellian Smoke and Mirrors!

 

Americans responded in outrage over this open display of pure treason.  That day, former Central Intelligence Agency Director, John O. Brennan tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treason. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” Conservative columnist for the Washington Post, George Will, wrote in his July 17 article that “collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight” and called President Trump a “sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.” One of Trump’s most ardent supporters, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tweeted: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately.”

Even those highest up in Trump’s chain of command found the situation to be something they needed to inject themselves into. NBC reported that: “Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had a private conversation with Trump to urge him to make clarifications on his comments from the news conference in Helsinki.” And so, he did, one might argue, attempt to make clarifications, though really what he did was play word games and treat we, the American people, as if we are incapable of seeing through his smoke and mirrors. President Trump said:

I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript [of the Helsinki Press Conference]. Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, “What is going on? What’s the big deal?” So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is need for some clarification.

It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t — or why it wouldn’t be Russia. So just to repeat it, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” And the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — the sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.

People are not convinced by Trump’s claim that he meant “wouldn’t” and not “would.” As NBC reported: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. accused Trump of trying to ‘squirm away’ from his comments in Helsinki. ‘President Trump tried to squirm away from what he said yesterday. It’s 24 hours too late and in the wrong place,’ Schumer said” (Clark). NBC further reports, “Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wasn’t buying it. ‘I don’t accept the president’s comments today,’ Warner said. “If he wanted to make those comments, he should have had the strength to make them in front of Vladimir Putin” (Clark).

Trump supporters like Newt Gingrich however thought Trump fixed the problem. He tweeted:

President Trump did right thing today in clarifying his comments in helsinki-reiterating his respect for and support of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the intelligence community. President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used wrong language.

Although Trump sort of changed a few of his Russia talking points, he injects a totally unsubstantiated, modifying contradiction which amounts to nothing more than an obfuscation which on the surface could only appease those who think America’s official languages should be Orwellian FoxNewsspeak, BreitbartNewspeak, and Doublethink. Trump said: “I accept our American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place, could be other people also”  (emphasis mine). Since the American intelligence community’s conclusion is not that interference in our 2016 election “could be other people also” it is blatantly obvious that Trump in fact is merely adding to the list of 3,000 plus “false or misleading claims” he has already told to the American people. Beyond the fact that he contradicts himself he also provides no source or rationale as to how he knows or even why he suspects it “could be other people also.” He is merely trying to confuse vulnerable minds and convince them to submit dogmatically to his invented, fake reality. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Trump tells the American people, implying that only what he says is happening is indeed happening. (That is why all news media content that contradicts his claims are deemed “fake news,” and why reporters who ask questions about the president [questions which his Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders deems “inappropriate”  are banned from the White House, and why Trump threatened to strip security clearances former intelligence officers who criticize him in ways which Press Secretary Sanders calls “inappropriate.”  Attacks on the first amendment, abuse of power, and desperate attempts at mind control- that is “what’s happening.”)

That’s how Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) perceives it also, saying we witnessed “an Orwellian moment” and that President Trump is “wag[ing] war on objective reality.” Senator Flake did not hold back and stop there. He clearly established an implied grounds for Trump’s impeachment when he spoke on the Senate floor three days later. Flake said: “An American president was invited by a reporter to denounce Russian attacks on our elections and in doing so defend the country he was elected to lead.” Flake addressed “the findings of our intelligence community regarding the Russian aggression” which Trump rejects and said “To reject these findings and to reject the excruciating specific indictment against…Russian operatives in defense to the world of a K.G.B. Apparatchik is an act of will on the part of the president.”   He characterized Trump’s behavior as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy of democracy,” citing the exact constitutional definition of treason, which can be found in Section 3. Clause 1 which says in full:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open court.

It does need to be noted that unfortunately not every Republican shares Senator Flake’s perspective. The view which contrasts Senator Flake’s most strikingly is that of Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul alleges that “Trump Derangement Syndrome has finally come to the Senate” and he condemns what he perceives to be a widespread “hatred for the president” and says it is “so intense that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance.”  Paul seems to confuse issues by equating widespread outrage over Trump’s refusal to acknowledge U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian meddling (and instead take Putin’s word for it that they didn’t do it) and his refusal to strongly condemn them for it with openness to talk. One might speculate that Senator Paul either isn’t thinking clearly or is himself a “partisan” who would rather defend the president’s behavior than acknowledge the troubling contradictions that tarnish Trump’s credibility on this matter.

Sen. Paul was especially infuriated over allegations that Trump is a treasonist. “For goodness sakes, we have the former head of the CIA John Brennan gallivanting across TV now being paid for his ‘opinion,’ to call the president treasonous. This has got to stop. This is crazy hatred of the president. This is crazy partisanship that is driving this,” Senator Paul said (Senate Session). (That Rand Paul of all people, once known widely for his libertarianism and his constitutionalism suddenly seems to have a problem with Brennan’s exercise of his first amendment rights is baffling and I cannot help but find it strangely suspicious. Something seems to have deeply corrupted Senator Paul but that is another conversation for another time.)

 

“This seems not treated with the urgency required.

“The entire country should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he can single out anyone.”

As if President Trump’s “submissive and deferential” attitude and actions towards Putin (to cite Senator Bob Corker’s [R-Tenn.] characterization at the beginning of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [which he chairs] hearing on the U.S. summits with North Korea and Russia)  weren’t a great enough shock to the nation, President Trump sent Americans into even more alarm during yet another disaster of a press conference. It was the Wednesday following the Monday Helsinki incident. As the Washington Post reports:

“Russian authorities yesterday named several Americans who they want to question, who they claim were involved in Bill Browder’s quote-unquote ‘crimes’ in their terms [Browder is accused of committing crimes in Russia but they are widely disputed], including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman said. “Does President Trump support that idea? Is he open to having U.S. officials questioned by Russia?”

“The president’s going to meet with his team and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that,” Sanders replied.

Putin wanted the U.S. government to allow his government to interrogate Browder and other U.S. citizens including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and this infuriated most vocal Americans. Washington Post journalist Samantha Schmidt writes:

“The willingness of the White House to contemplate handing over a former U.S. ambassador for interrogation by the Kremlin drew ire and astonishment from current and former U.S. officials. Such a proposition is unheard of. So is the notion that the president may think he has the legal authority to turn anyone over to a foreign power on his own.”

Among the most prominent of voices opposing this terrifying notion was acting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “That’s not going to happen. The administration is not going to send, force Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team,” Pomepo told the Christian Broadcasting Network. Although Pompeo thankfully says it’s “not going to happen,” where’s his moral compass and characterization; where is his pronouncement of the bigger meaning of the fact that President Trump actually considered the idea that certain Americans should have to be forced to answer questions asked by a dictator who rigs elections, annexes sovereign territory, and has his critics imprisoned or murdered? The former Secretary of State John Kerry, who served under President Obama was able to offer more clarity: he characterized the notion as “dangerous.” Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif) tweeted this: “Take this to the bank, @realDonaldTrump: you turn over former U.S. Ambassador @McFaul to Putin, you can count on me and millions others to swiftly make you an ex-president.”

One of the most sobering and crucial reactions for Americans to heed (if not the most) is seen in a Twitter exchange between a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School- Tom Nichols- and attorney Ben Campo. The exchange is as follows:

                      Ben Campo: Am I overreacting when I think that the mere consideration

of this request by the White House is an abdication of their duties and a

very dangerous precedent by the administration? This seems not

                        treated with the urgency required. [emphasis mine]

 

Tim Nichols: No. You are not overreacting. The entire country

                       should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he

                       can single out anyone. The president’s job is to protect us, not to

even * consider * handing any of us over to an enemy government.

 

 

Open Treason

 

There is currently, among us Americans, a debate as to whether Trump’s actions- undermining our intelligence community and considering subjecting American citizens to the harassment of Vladimir Putin- indeed qualify as “treason.” To begin with, what is the definition of treason? Here it should be noted that there is the rhetorical or general definition of treason (not applicable to the law, but used in informal conversation) and then there is the legal definition. It should also be noted that in response to Trump’s behavior and comments at the Helsinki press conference, “treason” was the top searched word on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, as the site tweeted. This suggests it is possible that a massive plethora of Americans thought they may have witnessed treason committed before there very eyes and sought check whether they might be right. The second, third, and fourth most searched words were: “abase, traitor, collusion” demonstrating further evidence that at the very least, a compelling number of Americans found Trump’s behavior suspicious and concerning.

According to the Oxford Dictionary “treason” is defined as “The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government” or “The action of betraying someone or something.”  But let us consult more than one dictionary as more than one perspective should always be considered. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “treason” is defined as:

1 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family

2 : the betrayal of a trust : treachery

As for the legal definition? Article III Section 3 says:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted (emphasis mine).

 

“Russia and the United States are on the opposite sides of various armed confrontations in Syria”

 

Politifact, widely known for scrutinizing controversial claims, sides with a number of legal experts that it cites, claiming in an article that “Trump’s actions have not met the strict constitutional definition” of treason. The popular rationale which Politifact’s experts adhere to is the interpretation that treason requires that the U.S. be in an official state of war, which the experts say we are not. (It should be noted that Politifact did not oppose the notion that Trump is a “traitor.” Politifact is arguing based on legal semantics) The author of the Politfact article cites legal historian at Fordham Law School, Jed Shugerman, who says: “We are not at war with Russia under any fair understanding of the word.” Jacobson then paraphrases: “Shugerman added that even a notion like ‘cyberwar’ with Russia is a metaphor for war rather than an actual deadly conflict-unless that cyberwar were to escalate to, say, hacking into nuclear power plants with the intent of exploding them.” (Here it should be noted that Russia has and is hacking into our power plants.)

University of California-Davis law professor Carlton Larson is also cited in the Politifact article and says “Even if one thought the Russian hacking amounted to an act of war, the U.S. has not treated that hacking as an act of war. So until an actual state of war erupts between the United States and Russia, Russia can’t formally be an enemy for purposes of treason law.”

Conservative commentator Kevin D. Williamson, in article for The Weekly Standard doesn’t even bother to confer with constitutional or dictionary definitions of “treason” and instead cites the concept as it was treated by ancient Romans. Williamson writes:

the law of the Roman republic defined treason in military terms: perduellio consisted of making war on the Roman republic, assisting those making war on the Roman republic, or handing over a Roman citizen to an enemy at war. During the republican period, charges of treason were levied almost exclusively at Romans in military service for actions taken in a military context.

Williamson should refer back Robert Mueller III’s July 13 indictment of 12 Russians interfering in our election and note that Mueller ties election interference to “a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”) (United States of America V. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho et al.; emphasis mine) This is clearly and explicitly a military context.

Still, clearly it is a reasonable trend among legal and intellectual minds contemplating Trump’s actions, to conclude Trump is not guilty of constitutional treason on the grounds that the U.S. and Russia are not at war in any traditional sense of the term. But I contend that the nature of warfare and aggression between nations have evolved, as I believe, is made clear by the fact that according to Mueller, Russia’s attack on our elections was a military operation. Russia is engaged in new forms of aggression which include, not just attempting to subvert our democracy in general, including our intelligence community, and our sovereignty especially as it concerns our foreign policy,  and not just waging a misinformation campaign by inundating media with propaganda as part of that subversion, but also attempts to control our power grids which poses a severe threat.  As the New York Times reports:

the Department of Homeland Security reported that over the last year, Russia’s military intelligence agency had infiltrated the control rooms of power plants across the United States. In theory, that could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control (emphasis mine)

If Russia’s cyber attacks should not be called acts of war, how exactly do we categorize Russia’s aggression? Let us briefly delve deeper into legal understandings of war for further clarity. According to 18 U.S. Code S 2331- Definitions (4) (a, b, & c):

(4) the term “act of war” means any act occurring in the course of—

(A) declared war;

(B) armed conflict, whether or not war has been declared, between two or more nations; or

(C) armed conflict between military forces of any origin; (Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute; emphasis mine)

 

The question ultimately comes down to the phrase “armed conflict.” The 2015 Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) Deskbook [“a collection of teaching outlines, collected, bound, and distributed as a matter of instructional convenience, intended only to introduce students to the law and point them to primary sources of that law”] says “it is a well-settled proposition in international law that the LOAC applies to all spheres of conflict, to include land, sea, air, space, and also cyberspace” (see page 8, footnote 3; emphasis mine). That being said, there exists a point of view that there is no definitive, explicit, legal definition for an official cyber attack, or state of war fought exclusively in cyberspace.  As Federal News Radio reported in an article by Scott Maucione last April:

Since cyber became a major domain, what exactly constitutes an attack on the nation and its people remains debatable.

Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) wants to change that. Last week he went before the House Armed Services Committee to request a provision be added to the 2019 defense authorization bill that provides a legal definition of cyber warfare.

“Cyber war does not fit within the traditional confines of how we conceive warfare. While we have a cyber command that is tasked with protecting U.S. cyberspace, we do not have a legal definition detailing under what circumstances a cyber attack is considered an act of war. That is why I am requesting an amendment that will require the Pentagon to form a working group to propose a legal definition, report back to Congress and make the findings known to the public,” Donovan said during the April 11 hearing (Lawmakers still looking).

On the other hand , Business Insider cites Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean and professor of law at Cornell Law School, who told reporter Grace Panetta:

even without a formal declaration, there is a case to be made that Russia and the US are indeed at war.

“One argument would be that Russia has engaged in a covert cyber intervention against US interests, including election meddling, that rises to the level of hostilities… However “an even better argument would be that Russia and the United States are on the opposite sides of various armed confrontations in Syria”

… referring to Russia’s backing of the Syrian government while the US backs rebel groups there.”

It is certainly true in that sense that an “armed conflict” exists between our two nations. Let us also consider that Russia has used actual force (hacking and stealing private information and using it for nefarious purposes, even accessing our energy grids, compelling the president [for reasons yet to discovered] to interrupt the coordination and functioning our government by striving to delegitimize and stifle the effectiveness our democratic process, our intelligence community, even our alliances, and to crush dissent in the media by striving to delegitimize all voices in the media critical of Trump and his relationship with Putin ) and that this force has damaged our government as an institution, and threatened our national security.

 

“Half (49%) of Americans agree with former intelligence officials’ assessments that President Trump acted ‘treasonous’ during the Helsinki summit”

 

Trump’s open, public and dogmatic deference to Putin (again, with whom we are in armed conflict, and cyber warfare) and not the findings, and credibility of U.S. institutions is by all means treason: a pronouncement that many Americans persist in making.

 

Recall again, the tweet from former Central Intelligence Agency Director, John O. Brennan: “nothing short of treason.” Recall again, as well, Senator Jeff Flake who described Trump’s behavior as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy of democracy,” again, citing the exact constitutional definition of treason. In a Seattle Times article University of Washington Law Professor Hugh Spitzer writes:

Could Trump’s actions provide a legal basis for impeachment under Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution, which provides for removing the president and other officials “on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”?

The answer is “yes.”  Spitzer says the answer is yes because in his interpretation of events, Trump is “adhering to the enemy, and giving them aid and comfort” (“’Aid and Comfort…’”).

New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman  writes:

There is overwhelming evidence that our president, for the first time in our history, is deliberately or through gross negligence or because of his own twisted personality engaged in treasonous behavior — behavior that violates his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Friedman’s rationale? Trump “threw his entire intelligence establishment under a bus,” and blamed the United States in part for our poor relationship with Russia (forget the audacity for a second, he does not even bother to suggest why he thinks this, other than to say that the U.S. and Russia “should have had this dialogue a long time ago” which they did if he will remember that both President Bush and Obama have engaged in dialogues with Putin.

Friedman’s colleague at the New York Times, Charles M. Blow says :

“Trump should be directing all resources at his disposal to punish Russia for the attacks and prevent future ones. But he is not…America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it. Simply put, Trump is a traitor and may well be treasonous”

The front page of the New York Daily News for Tuesday, July 2017 reads: “OPEN TREASON; *Trump Backs Enemy Putin over US intel….”

An astonishing trend is blatantly apparent: A number of law professors, lawmakers, and pundits in the media allege that Trump committed treason. And by no means whatsoever, do they reflect some “fringe” group (such as the Green Party or the Libertarian Party), nor do they reflect mere Democratic partisan anger at Trump. According to an Ipsos poll conducted after the Helsinki incident, “Half (49%) of Americans agree with former intelligence officials’ assessments that President Trump acted ‘treasonous’ during the Helsinki summit.”

 

 President Trump must be impeached

 

Condemnation however is not enough. The president must be impeached, and treason is an impeachable offence. After impeachment, the Senate must vote to remove Trump from office. He should then be indicted and tried in a court of law. Since lengthy commentaries such as this one can sometimes muddle the bottom line, let us be clear exactly what Trump should be impeached for (at least with respect to his ongoing treason):

 

  • Publically proclaiming the illegitimacy of U.S. intelligence (which unanimously agrees Putin coordinated an attack on our elections) and instead deferring to the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose unsubstantiated denial in interfering with our elections, Trump calls “strong and powerful,” thereby conspiring with Putin in a misinformation campaign and a campaign to literally destabilize the functioning of our government, and slow down the efficacy of our national security apparatus and coordination.

 

  • Willingness to even consider handing over U.S. citizens to Putin (who has a global reputation for having his critics murdered both in Russia and abroad) whereby they would be subjected to harassment, at the very least, and either end up in prison for phony financial crimes or murdered at worst, proving that the president not only has failed in his ability to defend Americans from Russian aggression, but has also demonstrated a disinterest.

 

  • Points 1 and 2 clearly prove that Trump is giving “aid and comfort to an enemy” (an enemy we are armed conflict with), and that enemy is Russia.

 

 

And let it also be clear that just as perceptions of Trump’s actions are not merely defined as treasonous by radical fringe groups, the same is true of calls for his impeachment. A CNN/SSRS poll found that even prior the Helsinki Crisis “42% of Americans say President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office.” While no polls have been released since the event, given the fact that perception of Trump has sunk to lower estimations post Helsinki, it is not at all unreasonable to speculate that public support for impeachment will grow. Most certainly, as I have outlined, by conferring in this commentary, with legal experts, lawmakers, pundits in the media, and the view of nearly half the American population, public support for Trump’s impeachment and removal must grow, or else Putin will have succeeded in indeed hijacking the U.S. presidency and controlling key elements of its foreign policy; he will have succeeded in subverting U.S. sovereignty, which we must never allow, as this nation was founded on the principle that no dictator may take our sovereignty from us.

 

References

“Americans Interrogated by Russians? ‘Not Going to Happen’ Says Pompeo in CBN News EXCLUSIVE,” Christian Broadcasting Network. 1:13-1:19 http://www1.cbn.com/content/americans-interrogated-russians-not-going-happen-says-pompeo-cbn-news-exclusive Accessed 30 July 2018.

 

Atkinson, Claire. “’Disgusting’and ‘Surreal’: Fox voices offer sharp criticism  of Trump in Helsinki. NBC News. 16 July 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/disgusting-surreal-fox-voices-offer-sharp-criticism-trump-helsinki-n891841

 

Blow, Charles, M. “Trump, Treasonous Traitor,” New York Times, 15 July 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/opinion/trump-russia-investigation-putin.html

 

 

Bump, Philip.“Putin’s push to interrogate U.S. officials Russia accuses of crimes, explained,” Washington Post, 18 July 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/18/putins-modest-proposal-on-interrogating-u-s-officials-explained/?utm_term=.a317e8bb632e

 

Chalfant, Morgan. “Trump mulls move against intel critics.” The Hill. 23 July 2018.

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/398478-trump-mulls-move-against-intel-critics

 

Corker, Bob (Senator), “Senator Corker Expresses Concerns About President’s Conduct of Foreign Policy,” 25 July 2018, 1:58-2:01  https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4742121/senator-corker-expresses-concerns-presidents-conduct-foreign-policy

 

Dartunorro, Clark.  “24 hours later, Trump claims he misspoke in Helsinki, meant to say Russia did have reason to meddle in election” NBC News. 18 July 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/24-hours-later-trump-claims-he-misspoke-helsinki-meant-say-n892166

 

Dean, John & Nixon, Richard. “Cancer on the Presidency.” Miller Center.  https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/educational-resources/cancer-on-the-presidency (accessed 1 August 2018).

 

Dowdy, Ryan et al. “Law of Armed Conflict Deskbook,” INTERNATIONAL AND OPERATIONAL LAW DEPARTMENT, The United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School Charlottesville, VA, 2015,  http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/LOAC-Deskbook-2015.pdf

 

Farhi, Paul & Sonmez, Felicia. “CNN reporter barred from White House event, drawing protests from journalists.” The Washington Post. 25 July 2018.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/cnn-reporter-barred-from-white-house-event-drawing-journalists-protests/2018/07/25/81dd6b5e-9057-11e8-bcd5-9d911c784c38_story.html?utm_term=.be9aba3e2ab1    

 

Flake, Jeff. Paul, Rand. Senate Session. CSPAN.  19 July 2018, 1:377:18- 1:39:47 1:52:35-1:59:40, https://www.c-span.org/video/?448415-1/us-senate-approves-resolution-opposing-russian-questioning-us-officials

 

Friedman, Thomas L. “Trump and Putin vs. America,” New York Times, 16 July 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/opinion/trump-and-putin-vs-america.html

 

Front Page, New York Daily News, 17 July 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-york-daily-news-scorches-treason-trump-with-brutal-new-cover_us_5b4d3bb0e4b0de86f485c6fd 

“Half of Americans agree that Trump acted “treasonous” during the Helsinki summit,” Ipsos, 19 July 2018, https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/Half-of-Americans-agree-Trump-acted-treasonous-at-Helsinki-Summit

 

Hohmann, James. “The Daily 202: Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there.” The Washington Post. 25 July 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2018/07/25/daily-202-trump-creates-an-alternative-reality-and-he-wants-you-to-join-him-there/5b57c83e1b326b1e64695515/?utm_term=.6f1db5b94341

 

Jacobson, Louis. “A closer look at claims of treason after Trump’s meeting with Russian President Putin.”Politifact,23 July 2018, https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/jul/23/treason-trumps-actions-russian-putin-meeting/

 

@JohnBrennan. “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” Twitter, 16 Jul 2018, 8:52 a.m.,

https://twitter.com/johnbrennan/status/1018885971104985093

 

Kessler, Glenn, et al. “President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims so far.” The Washington Post. 1 May 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/05/01/president-trump-has-made-3001-false-or-misleading-claims-so-far/?utm_term=.e866e1bb4f9a

 

Levy, Clifford, J. “An Investment Gets Trapped in Kremlin’s Vise,” New York Times, 24 July 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/world/europe/24kremlin.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

 

Lichtman, Allan J. The Case For Impeachment. Harper Collins e-Books, 2017.

 

@MarriamWebster. “Top searches, in order: treason, abase, traitor, collusion, presser,” Twitter, 16 July 2018, 2:39 p.m., https://twitter.com/MerriamWebster/status/1018973357604265986\

 

Maucione, Scott. “Lawmakers still looking for definitive answer on what constitutes cyber war,” Federal News Radio, 16 April 2018,

 

Mueller indictment, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-york-daily-news-scorches-treason-trump-with-brutal-new-cover_us_5b4d3bb0e4b0de86f485c6fd

Neufeld, Jennie, Putin, Vladimir, Trump, Donald. “Read the full transcript of the Helsinki press conference.” Vox. 17 July 2018. https://www.vox.com/2018/7/16/17576956/transcript-putin-trump-russia-helsinki-press-conference

 

@newtgingrich. “President Trump did right thing today in clarifying his comments in helsinki-reiterating his respect for and support of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the intelligence community. President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used wrong language.” Twitter. 17 July 2018. 2:31 p.m.https://twitter.com/newtgingrich/status/1019333770946621440?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1019333770946621440&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Fpolitics%2Fpolitics-news%2F24-hours-later-trump-claims-he-misspoke-helsinki-meant-say-n892166

 

@newtgingrich. “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately. Twitter, 16 July 2018. https://twitter.com/newtgingrich/status/1018967261418344450

 

Panetta, Grace. “Former CIA Director John Brennan said Trump’s press conference with Putin was ‘treasonous’ — here’s what legal experts say,” Business Insider, 16 July 2018 https://www.businessinsider.com/did-trump-committ-treason-russia-summit-2018-7

 

@RadioFreeTom. “No. You are not overreacting. The entire country should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he can single out anyone. The President’s job is to protect us, not to even *consider* handing any of us over to an enemy government.” Twitter, 18 July 2018, 12:32 p.m., https://twitter.com/RadioFreeTom/status/1019666361621143553

 

 

Restuccia, Andrew and Nelson, Louis. “Trump’s Putin fire rages on,” Politico, 19 July 2018,

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/19/michael-mcfaul-trump-russia-question-732356

 

Sanger, David E. “Russian Hackers Appear to Shift Focus to U.S. Power Grid,” New York Times, 27 July 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/27/us/politics/russian-hackers-electric-grid-elections-.html

 

 Schmidt, Samantha. “Outrage erupts over Trump-Putin ‘conversation’ about letting Russia interrogate ex-U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul.” Washington Post, 19 July 2018.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/19/trump-putin-conversation-about-russian-interrogation-of-u-s-diplomat-prompts-outrage-astonishment/?utm_term=.399aa39213e6

 

 

Spitzer, Hugh. “‘Aid and comfort’ to enemies: Trump, Russia and treason,” Seattle Times, 18 July 2018, https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/aid-and-comfort-to-enemies-trump-russia-and-treason/

 

Stempel, Jonathan. “Emoluments case alleging Trump violated Constitution can proceed: U.S. judge.” Reuters. 25 July 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-emoluments/emoluments-case-alleging-trump-violated-constitution-can-proceed-us-judge-idUSKBN1KF2GZ

 

“Treason,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/treason, accessed 30 July 2018

 

“Treason,” Oxford Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/treason, accessed  30 July 2018

 

Tur, Katy. “Trump’s Worst Week Yet?” MSNBC. 20 July 2018,0:00-0:07, https://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/watch/trump-s-worst-week-yet-1282333251677

 

“Treason,” Oxford Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/treason, accessed  30 July 2018

 

“Treason,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/treason, accessed 30 July 2018

 

Trump, Donald. “Donald Trump Asks Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Emails.” C-SPAN. 17 July 2016. https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4615538/donald-trump-asks-russia-find-hillary-clintons-emails&start=775

 

U.S. Constitution, Article III,  and Amendment I, 21 June, 1788, (Cornell Law School Legal Institute)  https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiii; https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

 

Will, George. “This sad embarrassing wreck of a man,” Washington Post, 17 July 2018,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-sad-embarrassing-wreck-of-a-man/2018/07/17/d06de8ea-89e8-11e8-a345-a1bf7847b375_story.html?utm_term=.555ca8105920

 

Williamson, Kevin D. “Stop Calling It ‘Treason,’” The Weekly Standard, 17 July 2018, https://www.weeklystandard.com/kevin-d-williamson/donald-trumps-meeting-with-vladimir-putin-wasnt-treason

 

Wolf, Z. Byron. “There’s nearly a Nixon ’74 level of public support for impeaching Trump,” CNN, 22 June 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/22/politics/impeach-trump-nixon-support-bill-clinton-poll/index.html

Impeach Trump: My Friend Mark Lewis & I Discuss Why We Must

My friend- an Aerospace Engineer who used to do national security related work under the Obama administration- Mark Lewis, and I decided to do a live stream discussion on Facebook about the case for impeaching Trump.

Mark and I both decided on the same day that we wanted the president Impeached. It was the morning after we both heard audio clips of crying children- those children who had been forced and ripped from their parents. We got to talking about it that morning and both found that any person enabling such a policy was enabling cruelty.

We began collaborating on a script for calling congress and demanding they impeach Trump. The priority of this scripting was to outline Trump’s various impeachable offenses which include:

TREASON 

-Publicly humiliating U.S. intelligence community in front of the world and chossing to take the word of a dictator who murders his critics over the word of the U.S. intelligence community

– Even considering handing over to Putin (known for murdering his critics) American citizens for interrogation.

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE 

-Refusing to legitimize U.S. intelligence

-Firing Former FBI Director James Comey

-Attempting to fire Special Investigator Robert Mueller III

VIOLATION OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT 

-Incessantly attacking the free press every time it publishes content that puts Trump in a light he dislikes

-Barring reporters from attending public events for questions he deems “inappropriate”

-Threatening to remove security clearances from former Intelligence officials as retaliation for being critical of him

-Banning Muslims from entering the United States

VIOLATION OF THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE 

-Separating families at the border who had merely sought political asylum  and denying them a right to stay together and state their case

VIOLATION OF THE EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE 

-The president currently earns a profit from foreign government officials who pay to stay at his Washington DC hotel

Trump/Putin Trying to Control Our Minds: Resist and Spread the Message- #ImpeachTrumpNow

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and everyone in their cultish gang are working desperately to control our minds and taking blatantly unconstitutional approaches to achieve those ends. I know! It sounds crazy. I feel like I’m dreaming (and it’s a nightmare) but alas let us review recent attempts on the part of president Trump and his administration to prevent dissent and criticism from reaching the media whereby the public can see at large the president’s treason, incompetence, and severe shortage of ethics.

It is crucial, I believe, for me to submit my evidence with also providing context. First of all, I am far from the only person sounding these alarms. Yesterday Washington Post analyst James Hohmann published an article with a headline reading : “Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there”

Hohmann cites a revealing quote from president Trump: ““what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” I want to repeat those words from the President of the United States one more time so that it can be made perfectly clear that the president wants to encourage people to doubt their most basic perceptions and instead put all their faith in him: the textbook method of establishing totalitarian, dictatorial, Orwellian, authoritarian, despotic, tyrannical power. Textbook, ladies and gentleman. It’s what Putin does. It’s what Kim Jung Un does. It’s what Stalin did. It’s what Hitler did. 

“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”- so went the Nazi Germany mantra. It was their fundamental principle of propaganda and mind control. There’s a really valuable and elucidating article published by the BBC, written by Tom Stafford on October 26 2016 with the headline “How liars create the ‘illusion of truth’  citing multiple psychological research findings that find that “Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford.”

Let’s make the context a little deeper now. It is important. According to the Toronto Star as of now President Trump has told 2083 lies.

CNN (which Trump calls fake news [pay attention to that]) puts the count at over 3000.

The Washington Post puts it at 3,001.

I think the takeaway should be that it is widely accepted among the media and civil society that Trump is a pathological liar. So when a pathological liar says to the American people (most of whom know he is a pathological liar)  “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening” it is blatantly clear that Trump is striving desperately, perhaps by banking on the power of shock and audacity, to pressure vulnerable minds to reject what they perceive and take Trump’s word for everything.

That’s the context. Now let us consider president Trump’s attacks on dissent and his approaches. Yesterday, as the Huffington Post reports, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins “said she was called to White House deputy chief of staff Bill Shine’s office, where Shine and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disinvited her from the next press event.

CNN said in a statement that Shine and Huckabee Sanders told Collins her questions were ‘inappropriate.’ I didn’t know that the first amendment listed “inappropriate questions” as one of the exceptions of the free press or free speech. Since it’s not written in the constitution Shine and Sanders will have to let us know where they got that one from.

The Huffington Post adds this:

Collins was serving as the network pool reporter, representing all of the major news networks, for an event with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday. At the end of it, she and other reporters asked Trump a few questions ― as is common for journalists who attend such gatherings. (Trump sometimes answers questions in these situations; other times, he chooses not to.)

According to CNN, Collins asked Trump questions about Michael Cohen, his former attorney who is under federal investigation and whose secret recording of Trump was recently released. She also asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom the Trump administration planned to invite to Washington. D.C., this fall before pushing back the meeting.

Other journalists at the event, including HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly, also asked the president about Cohen’s tapes multiple times as staffers ushered them out of the office.

Worth repeating is this: “Other journalists at the event, including HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly, also asked the president about Cohen’s tapes multiple times as staffers ushered them out of the office.”

Thankfully people on the left and the right in the media community are condemning these actions. Even the president of Fox News had this to say, according to the Huffington Post:

“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,”

Now let’s talk about Trump’s desire to revoke security clearances for people in the intelligence community who are critical of him. You’ll notice strikingly similar language in the justification out of the mouth of Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders:

“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” Sanders told reporters Monday. (That’s from The Hill)

Note that word “inappropriate.” Reporters are asking “inappropriate” questions and critics are expressing “inappropriate” concern and criticism. According to the White House “inappropriate” behavior (not illegal behavior, and not verifiably dangerous behavior, just “inappropriate behavior”) is grounds for harassment, intimidation, and silencing dissent.

Inappropriate behavior: I thought president Trump’s reference to “shithole countries” was inappropriate.’  I thought it was inappropriate for the president to boast about how he grabs women by their genitalia  without their consent. I thought it was inappropriate of the president (treasonous even) for the president to publicly humiliate US intelligence officials in front of the entire world and say Putin (who murders his critics) is the one who has it all correct, it is Putin, Trump said who is “strong and powerful” compared to our invalid intelligence community. I am just putting it out there for what ever it is worth.

I’m not the only one in the world outraged by this by the way. Again, from The Hill:

“It’s never happened before and sets a bad precedent,” said Jim Lewis, a former U.S. official and expert in foreign policy and intelligence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The New York Times adds to Huckabee’s desperate attempt to find a clever sounding ‘justification’ for a lack of better words, The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances.”

Meanwhile President Trump monetizes his public service (though I think of it more as a disservice) at the Trump hotel in DC where members of foreign governments stay and thereby bribe him in attempts to influence his policy decisions which each dollar they pay for services there.

Lies and hypocrisy and attempt to crush dissent.

Some people argue that the people Trump are targeting don’t need their security clearances anyway. But as the New York Times points writes:

“Former high-ranking officials in defense, intelligence, diplomacy and law enforcement usually maintain their clearances to advise those still in government, former officials said. A clearance also serves a more personally profitable function: helping departing officials get jobs at security contractors or similar firms.”

“Revoking their access to classified information could weaken their ability to work as consultants, lobbyists and advisers in Washington.”

More from the NYT:

“It is intended to punish and intimidate his critics and is shameful,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel for the C.I.A. 

Ah, but what is it our president tells us: “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in utterly rejecting this occultist behavior of a treasonist, criminal, and despotic president and calling congress to demand that they impeach Trump now!

#ImpeachTrumpNow: Demand That Congress Do It Immediately!

This was a Facebook Live Stream I did on 7/18/18 explaining the facts behind my utter conviction that we need to call our members of congress and demand that they impeach Trump. My friend and co-worker said I should put this on YouTube to reach more people.

Treason, obstruction of justice, violation of the emoluments clause, violation of the first amendment, forcing babies at the border from their parents- the list of President Trump’s criminal and unethical behavior goes on and on!

Perhaps the most frightening of his disgusting and unacceptable behavior was when he suggested handing to Vladimir Putin, former U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul.

As McFault put himself in a tweet:Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 4.08.33 PM

[McFaul’s Tweet]

I was terrified when I learned that Trump was open to this. I felt a fear unlike any I’d ever felt before- a fear so chilling I consider it somewhat traumatic for this thought passed through my mind: Trump is open to arresting his/Putin’s critics, sending  them by force, to the dangerous hands of Putin – a man who kills critics and journalists who make an impact. It’s happening, I thought. It’s the beginning of freedom’s demise in America. Critics will now have to fear for their lives.

As Samantha Schmidt reported in The Washington Post, “Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School” said in a Tweet:

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 4.11.18 PM

The Senate, thank God, unanimously rejected the prospect of this dangerous idea, however, as Nichols tweeted:

“the entire country should be aware of this”

because Trump cares more about how his criminal and unethical relationship with Putin than his own fellow Americans. Add to the pile of evidence the fact that Trump takes Putin’s word over the word of our own intelligence chief, and that makes treason.

I believe Trump should be impeached, removed from office, and arrested immediately! I hope you call your members of congress and demand impeachment now!

JACKSON: PROPERTY RIGHTS FOR SOME, THEFT & DEATH FOR OTHERS

-A Critical Examination of President Andrew Jackson’s Economic Policies-

jackson-2
photo via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:78yo_Andrew_Jackson.jpg

PART 1- INTRODUCTION: IMPORTANT, FUNDAMENTAL, ABSTRACT QUESTIONS ABOUT ECONOMIC RIGHTS

*PROPERTY RIGHTS*

What entitles a person or a country to land? What entitles a state, county, or town to land?

It is an extremely important question because land is a resource and a resource is valuable and thus is worth money, and moreover, land and money are both properties- things people can possess. This only leads to further questions.

Should a person be allowed to claim and keep his or her own property?

If not, why?

If so, under what conditions, and why?

The degree to which a person cannot claim and/or keep his or her own property is the degree to which either rampant slavery, theft or government regulation defines a region’s official or unofficial economic policies, and there are various factors which determine these policies.

Are we talking about a region that does not acknowledge property rights, doesn’t enforce property rights, or doesn’t fairly recognize and enforce property rights?

In the case of the United States, from a historical perspective, we must start with the fact that Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1776)

Further, in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, it is stated that its purpose was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”(1787) (Tragically though, we must add that this most sacred right of “Liberty” (so sacred a right that our founders capitalized the “L” in the word) was not fairly secured even slightly until the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments (the prohibition of slavery, the guarantee of equal protection under the law, and equal guarantee ((but only among men)) to vote) were passed.

It took until the 20th century for women to have the right to vote, and until the 21st century for homosexuals to have the right to marry. To this very day, the clash of Native American culture and Capitalist American culture remain an issue. It is one of the more tragic truths of the human condition that moral enlightenment of a society is an evolutionary process, no matter how self evident it may be to some, and no matter how self evident some may say it is while not practicing what they preach.

But this is really only half of the complexity of economic policy.

There is the morality of property rights, and then there is the politics of it.

After all, a government cannot operate if it cannot tax the citizens. Sometimes the government is short of money and needs to borrow. Moreover, the government has to decide whether or not there should be a federally mandated universal form or currency of money and whether or not the government should have any hand in the circulation of any given currencies, which means, should it have a central bank, or should banking be an entirely free enterprise?

Money is not just currency exchanged or deposited in a bank. Money is, or buys, resources.

One of the greatest resources on Earth is land.

When European Colonists came to America they faced a tremendous land conflict because there were already Native American Tribes living on the land.

And on the one hand, the Native Americans claimed the land first.

On the other hand, Colonists were introducing, albeit in a very sloppy, totally inconsistent way, an official and capitalistic idea of land ownership, whereby a person purchases land that may be his or her own to do whatever he or she wants with it.

Many Native American tribes did not share that view of handling land.

When two cultures have such fundamentally different different views of land ownership, what is to be done?

These are just some of the economic policy questions that early American politicians faced. But that’s only the more intellectual-philosophical part of it.

*POLITICS

What about the politicking part of it?

That is to say, what about that part where, in an American context, politicians have to:

1) please enough of their constituents to get and remain elected, which is a horrendous task if that constituency base is bigoted, biased, or generally ignorant, which means that in the realm of campaigning the politician’s rhetoric may resort to entirely betraying his or her real conscience just to get perhaps, a chance to suddenly flipflop and use the power of his or her vote/authority in the legislature or within his or her office to promote a policy he or she truly believes in (I am not necessary saying I condone this so much as I am saying it is a clear reality much of the time)

2) get a majority of fellow politicians with a wide range of different perspectives and different constituencies to agree on rules that everyone in country must follow. This means, I am willing to assert, that just as the moral enlightenment and education of a country is an evolutionary process, the politicking of a country is a messy and fundamentally imperfect, contradictory process.

Tying all of this back to economic policy, I’ve offered the above context, not in defense of American history’s immorality and totally unacceptable politicking and policy, but rather, as a framework from which we can at least objectively evaluate economic political reform from the perspective of the political and cultural and economic climate  that politicians have had to work within so that at least we might gain something legitimate to appreciate.

So far as reforming economic policies go, I can think of no other politician who addressed them so comprehensively than former United States President Andrew Jackson.

It may be true that Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson may have given us some basic principles of economic philosophy, and it may be true that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson may have uplifted the poor with the “New Deal” and The “Great Society” policies but each of these men I have mentioned tended to have particular focuses. In contrast, so far as economic policies in the United States goes, President Andrew Jackson took on virtually every aspect of it.

Andrew Jackson’s comprehensive economic policies, in each case, surely addressed the issue of property rights, but with the exception of paying back the federal debt and lowering tariffs, it was not the property rights for all that he concerned himself with; as his mandated increase in the supply of land was at the expense of Native American rights and tragically their lives; his increase in the circulation of gold meant a loss of purchasing power for those who owned mostly silver; and finally, his decentralization of the banks in the name of taking on the monopoly on the money supply only empowered and enriched those heading his so called “pet banks”, leaving many to fall prey to loosely regulated state chartered banks or free banks; each case being a matter of either upholding or violating property rights.

By looking back and critically examining each of these treatments of property rights, it is my hope that at the very least, it will be perfectly clear that Andrew Jackson was no hero for “the people”- that instead he was a hypocritical, extremely dangerous megalomaniac who used the seductive pretense of protecting property rights to simply bask in his own power, act vindictively towards others, impoverish some, authorize murders, and enrich his friends in his pet banks.

PART 2: ANDEW JACKSON’S FISCAL POLICIES

*PAYING BACK THE DEBT

Some historians, at least those participating in the publication of Robert Divine’s America: Past and Present, Volume 1 either are generally uneducated historians (very doubtful considering the depth of its scholarship in many aspects of its chapters on United States History) or are ones so entirely and terribly biased that they want to completely evade the monumentally historic fact that in 1835 President Andrew Jackson paid back all of the United States’ federal debt, which was, according to John Steele Gordon, “about $58 million.” (2011, 3) Gordon also notes that no president ever had paid back the debt before, and never has since. One might think that in Devine’s textbook, somewhere in the index, under “D” and “debt” one would find, among the following:

Debt: for American Revolution, 142; attempts to reduce England’s, 109–113; growth in colonial period, 89; Hamilton’s solution for national, 161–162; Jefferson’s policy on paying national, 184 (Divine 2012, I-3)

…some mention of ‘Jackson’s complete repayment of.’  Alas, it is not there. But the event did occur and as I stated, it was quite momentous but not only because Jackson was the only president in our history to do it.

Governmental debt is, in almost every situation, an unjust taxation on future taxpayers without even a democratic say in having it bestowed upon them. Moreover, it is quite literally a liability. It was debt which destroyed the Ottoman Empire. It was debt which so weakened the United Kingdom that it sought to usurp money from the American colonists. In the words of President Jackson, in his first inaugural address, debt is “incompatible with real independence.”  (1829) He is quite right about this if one will think about it literally. When a country needs money from or owes money to another country, it is to that degree, dependent on it. When a country owes no money, it is literally independent, and the amount of its surplus represents the degree of its economic strength.

Unfortunately, governmental debt alone is not the sole cause in a country’s thriving, mediocre, or failing economy and thus while Jackson may be exceptional for extinguishing it temporarily, it did not make him a savior of the United States economy. Noteworthy as it certainly was, in the context of improving the U.S. economy, ultimately it was simply a single achievement, buried under an list of failed, immoral economic policies.

LOWERING DUTIES AND TAXES

When Andrew Jackson entered the Presidency the United States was suffering from “tariffs [that were] at their highest level in American history.” (Whaples 2014,11) In 1832 Jackson approved a reduction in tariffs. (Divine, 10) A year later Jackson lowered tariffs even more. (Ibid) Tariffs went down from “an average of more than 50 percent to less than 20 percent—a rate that was well below the nineteenth-century norm.” (Whaples, 11)

It should be duly noted that historians appear to agree generally and implicitly at the time, tariffs were the main form of taxation in the United States, however it should be likewise noted that historians tend to be ambiguous about the exact particularities of early tax policies. According to Policy Almanac “in the late 1790’s, the Federal Government imposed the first direct taxes on the owners of houses, land, slaves, and estates [but then w]hen Thomas Jefferson was elected President in 1802, direct taxes were abolished and for the next 10 years there were no internal revenue taxes other than excises [until] the War of 1812, [when] Congress imposed additional excise taxes, raised certain customs duties, and raised money by issuing Treasury notes [which i]n 1817 Congress repealed …and for the next 44 years the Federal Government collected no internal revenue [i]nstead…receiv[ing] most of its revenue from high customs duties [i.e., tariffs] and through the sale of public land. (History of the US Tax System; The Post Revolutionary Era)

This is more or less corroborated by Charles Adams who tells us that the earliest federal taxation policies were 1) a tax on whiskey (which was ultimately repealed by Jefferson); 2) tariffs, 3) a “direct tax” (which is left undefined, but also referred to as “Hamilton’s taxes” which were ultimately repealed) (Adams, 2006)

Syracuse University Historian Andrew Wender Cohen also confirms that taxation in the nineteenth century “meant tariffs…” (When Americans Loved Taxes, 2015) The significance of emphasizing the notion of tariffs as the main prey of taxation is that when we think of how property taxes, and income taxes affect us, this is how people would have viewed the tariff rates, which, by the late 1820’s and early 1830’s were viewed as so intolerable that Vice President John C. Calhoun and the South Carolina declared them unconstitutional and nullified! (Divine, 235)

To realize then that Jackson cut the tariffs, i.e., the tax rate, by about 30 percent, is to further realize that he gave the American people a lot of their money back!    Just as paying back the federal debt was no small gift for the United States, neither was this massive tax cut! Say what one will about taxes and the need for various government programs, there is a point when taxation turns from a necessary revenue for financing the government, to a point of abuse and theft.

When folks are taxed up to fifty percent, in other words, half the value of their product or service, or income, or property, that is utter abuse as it is depriving a person of half their assets. But even if one wishes to criticize Jackson for giving the people more of their money back, one cannot deny that his tariff reductions, just like his debt elimination, were acts of protecting private property rights.

Unfortunately Jackson’s two major fiscal policy achievements, which more or less served the American population universally, are more or less undermined in the broader scope of things as his monetary policies proved to bring tragedy to Native Americans, deprive owners of silver their due purchasing power, and demonstrate that at his core, however much he wanted to give Americans some of their money back, he was ultimately a megalomaniac, which his banking policy proves.

PART 3: JACKSON’S MONETARY POLICIES

jacksonpic1
Image Via Boston Public Library- https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/19475865226

INCREASING LAND OWNERSHIP AT THE EXPENSE OF NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS AND LIVES

If history is to have any meaning whatsoever then its most horrific episodes must to some degree haunt us; we must feel so angry with those who committed the gravest of evils in the name of our country, that as part of our tradition we condemn them passionately, we teach every generation about the evils perpetrated, and although we cannot change the past we can at least know it and out of contriteness and self esteem constantly improve ourselves morally, and politically. True, it is ultimately insufficient but in a universe where humanity can’t be omniscient and perfect, settling for improving upon our consciences and making something out of it is better than not. I say this because one of America’s ugliest and bloodiest money grabs occurred at the expense of the Native Americans, and although Andrew Jackson was not the only American President or politician or official or person to partake in it, (in fact some of the state legislatures were arguably crueler) he nonetheless led a fair share of it.

It would be inaccurate, incomplete, immoral, unjust, ugly, useless and I think even crazy to discuss Jackson’s monetary policies without discussing the Indian Removal Act. Land is an extremely valuable thing and bloodbaths over it have plagued humanity from its earliest days even up to the present. One need only to look at the crisis in Ukraine which is really a dispute between the American-Western European Alliance and Russia, or to look at the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

As is stated in Divine’s textbook, in 1830 Jackson “called for the speedy and thorough removal of all eastern Indians to designated areas beyond the Mississippi.” (2013, 234) After the Indian Removal Act was passed he “us[ed] the threat of unilateral state action to bludgeon the tribes” as means of coercing the Native Americans to leave their homes and migrate West. Divine adds: “[b]y 1833, all the southeastern tribes except the Cherokee had agreed to evacuate their ancestral homes.” In response, the military “forced them to march to Oklahoma.” (Ibid.) The event has been termed the Trail of tears because a quarter of the Cherokees who marched died.

The Seminole Tribe was also reluctant to be coerced by Jackson and his accomplices. This resulted in what historians call The Second Seminole War (1834-1841) which Divine tells us lasted seven years and was America’s “most expensive Indian war” in its history. (Ibid.)

hunting_indians_in_florida
Image via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hunting_Indians_in_Florida.jpg

With Native Americans now forcibly removed from their land the government had vacant land to sell, which means the government now had 1) a massive-although immorally, unjustly obtained- source of revenue and 2) a massive amount of property to give, mostly to white males. Such an explosion in newly own land was an explosion of new capital, that is to say, an explosion in newly valuable and/or exchangeable, sellable property. Speaking strictly in terms of money supply and material wealth America was greatly enriched.

I grant that a complexity in the matter was the fact that not all Native American tribes were capitalistic and speaking economically, for perfectly valuable, money-making land to have its economic potential frozen when there were people willing and able to make the most of it economically, it amounted to a legitimate political conflict. To say that some kind of deal should and could have been struck where Native Americans could keep the land they inhabited while American capitalists could have found a way to profit is obviously easier to state, than to show how it could have been done. But in hindsight that is what should have been striven for. Instead, the Jackson administration committed massive theft and genocide against the Native Americans and cashed out tremendously. This demonstrates how wickedly racist and hypocritical Jackson and his accomplices were.

On the one hand, Jackson was supposedly about property rights. He lowered the tariffs and reduced the debt. He enacted policies that let people keep more of their money; and not only let them keep more money- he even increased the supply of money they could gain and not with fiat money but with actual assets: land. But what about the property rights of the Native Americans? What about their money supply? 

Suddenly one has to grow suspicious of just how pious Jackson was about property rights and economic prosperity. Clearly this principle did not apply to Native Americans and American history is forever damned by Jackson’s evil, racist exception. But was racism the only stain in Jackson’s supposed protection of property rights?

INCREASING THE CIRCULATION AND VALUE OF GOLD AS AN ATTACK ON THE NATIONAL BANK

While Jackson was increasing the money supply by stealing land from the Native Americans he was also stealing purchasing power from owners of silver in favor of owners of gold. To be contextually fair though, there was more to this political move than Jackson merely having an extreme bias in favor of owners of gold over owners of silver. The Founding Fathers of the country had unfortunately and inadvertently set the stage when they passed the Coinage Act of 1792.

The Coinage Act of 1792’s currency policy and the rationale behind it and relevant history are all a bit complex, mainly because prior to the act there were several competing currencies in America.

As the very famous economist, professor, and contributing force behind the establishment of the modern Federal Reserve, Laurence J. Laughlin, writes in his classic book The History of Bimetallism in the United States: “[i]n the time before the adoption of the Constitution the circulating medium of the colonies was made up virtually of foreign coins.” (I.II.1, 1885)

Among them, he tells us, was the English guinea, the French guinea, the Johannes, the Half Johannes, the Spanish pistole, the French Pistole, the Moidore, the English Crown, the French Crown, and the English Shilling. (Ibid.) Laughlin adds that: “[f]rom 1782 to 1786 the colonies began seriously to consider the difficulties arising from the variety of different coins in circulation, and their deleterious effects on business and methods of accounts.”  (I.II.2) This, he tells is, is what propelled American leaders to seriously contemplate the establishment of some kind of official currency policy. (Ibid.)

And so the issue was debated among Robert Morris, the Super Intendant of Finance, and Jefferson, and Hamilton. (I.II.2-8) Although it was ultimately determined, based on Hamilton’s advice, that the United States Dollar would be backed by both silver and gold- a policy called bimetallism, Laughlin tells us, Hamilton did have a bias towards gold. (Ibid) To enforce this policy would of course require determining how much gold is worth how much silver.

To determine the how much gold was worth how much silver our Founding Fathers researched gold and silver values across the world, with a keen eye on Spain.

“[Hamilton] announced that the later issues of dollars from the Spanish mint had contained 374 grains of fine silver, and the latest issues only 368 grains, which implied a current market ratio in the United States (if these dollars exchanged for 24¾ grains of fine gold) of from 1:15.11 to 1:14.87, or a mean ratio of about 1:15. Of this ratio Hamilton says it is ‘somewhat more than the actual or market proportion, which is not quite 1:15.’ But, throughout his inquiry, no one can doubt but that he was honestly seeking for a ratio as near as possible to that existing in the markets of the United States. He certainly can not be charged with an intention of underrating gold.” (I.II.16)

In other words, it was Hamilton’s point of view that fifteen ounces of silver should be worth one ounce in gold. This in fact was the standard determined by the Coinage Act of 1792. Unfortunately it led to unintended consequences: a devaluation of gold by the mint and an overvaluation of silver. This was so problematic that, in the words of Laughlin, “gold coins were seldom seen during the largest part of this period from 1792 to 1834. Even when bank-paper was used, the reserves of the banks were generally in silver, not in gold. Whatever the cause of the change in the relative values, certain it is that gold disappeared, and that the United States had but a single silver currency as early as 1817, and probably earlier.” (I.II.31)

President Andrew Jackson and his allies understood that this was a consequence of a bimetallist monetary policy and reasoned that if silver could overtake gold, as it did, under such a policy, then by changing the ratios, gold could overtake silver. Writes Laughlin: “the majority [of those debating a change in monetary policy] were evidently aiming at a single gold standard, through the disguise of a ratio which overvalued gold in the legal proportions. In the market an ounce of gold bought 15.7 ounces of silver bullion; when coined at the Mint it exchanged for sixteen ounces of silver coin. Silver, therefore, could not long stay in circulation.” (I.IV.17) Indeed the Coinage Act of 1834 was passed and the new standard increased to 16 ounces of silver for one ounce of gold. Was this change in a policy merely an appeal to owners of gold who had been essentially ripped off for decades, or was there yet more to it?

Economist Paul M. O’Leary writes: “[t]he real forces back of the ultimately successful effort to establish a coinage ratio of 16:1 were immediately political; what looks like a friendship toward gold was really more a case of animosity toward the Bank of the United States with its circulation of bank notes.” (1937, 84)

An expression of this animosity was published in The Washington Globe, as cited by O’Leary, stating that pro-silver members of congress, and the the bank favored silver because “the United States bank can then get nearly all the domestic and foreign gold, to sell to Europe and the West Indies for a premium.”(89)

Jackson most certainly agreed with

this perspective, saying in his Eighth Annual Address to Congress that “[a] value was soon attached to the gold coins which made their exportation to foreign countries as a mercantile commodity more profitable than their retention and use at home as money.” (1836) ( In other words, a bimetallic policy that favored silver, according also to the Washing Globe, O’Leary tells us, empowered the Bank, being a super rich entity compared to average Americans, would have the upper hand in gold purchases, and not for the purpose of circulating it within the American economy, but rather, for the purpose of enriching itself by selling to foreign interests.

Andrew Jackson did not stop after the Coinage Act of 1834. He also instructed the Secretary of the Treasury-Roger B. Taney- to stop depositing federal money into the national bank and to in fact withdraw federal money that was presently deposited in the bank. Then the newly withdrawn money was to be deposited into preferred state banks that were referred to by anti-Jacksonians as “pet banks.” (Divine, 238-239)

Further, in 1836 he passed an executive action named “The Specie Circular” which required that all purchases of public land be made in gold or silver. (Divine, 240) In defense of this policy, Jackson stated:

“By preventing the extension of the credit system it measurably cut off the means of speculation and retarded its progress in monopolizing the most valuable of the public lands. It has tended to save the new States from a nonresident proprietorship, one of the greatest obstacles to the advancement of a new country and the prosperity of an old one. It has tended to keep open the public lands for entry by emigrants at Government prices instead of their being compelled to purchase of speculators at double or triple prices. And it is conveying into the interior large sums in silver and gold, there to enter permanently into the currency of the country and place it on a firmer foundation. It is confidently believed that the country will find in the motives which induced that order and the happy consequences which will have ensued much to commend and nothing to condemn.” (Jackson’s Eighth Annual Address to Congress, 1836)

While it may appear that Jackson was heroic by taking gold away from the national bank’s self enrichment, devaluing its silver thus in the process, making gold more valuable than silver so that the people, and Jackson’s pet banks may enjoy gold’s newly increased purchasing power, and while it may appear that Jackson took on the evil of fiat money, logical analysis will show, I contend, that it was not quite what it seemed to be.

It is true that central banking is always a suspicious activity.

After all, left unchecked, it has the power to devalue the national currency by putting more money into circulation, backed either by something fundamentally less valuable than another commodity (as in the case of silver coins as opposed to gold ones) or fiat money, while still having the advantage of being the institution in charge of the money supply, and thus being the institution with the most money which could be used to manipulate policies domestic and foreign- everything from handpicking politicians to cashing out on instigating wars by lending money to arm two opposing parties. That being acknowledged, it would be foolish to assume that private, or free banks would not necessarily climb to the same position of corrupting power.

The only difference is, at least in theory, that a central bank can actually be held more accountable, whereas a series of free/private banks, by virtue of being totally free, or separate from the government, again at least in theory, could be subject to less scrutiny since they would be free, and separate from the government.

It should be noted emphatically here then that the current central/national bank of America- The Federal Reserve- is NOT an example of what a good central bank should and could be as is evidenced by the fact that it has not been audited in decades and is shrouded in secrecy and is significantly independent of the government, functioning almost like a federally sanctioned private bank that can do virtually whatever it wants. (One could I think argue that it is a regulated central bank in name, but a free and independent one in practice which is further arguably how it gets away with its evil and exuberant inflation)

By taking on the national bank, Jackson did not really do anything to reform actual banking so much as he took power away from particular bankers, suggesting that his famous war against the central bank was more like an act of personal vindictiveness than any kind of political heroism.

As for increasing the value of gold and decreasing the value of silver, ultimately it ripped off and served as an act of theft towards anyone in possession of silver or seeking possession of silver as it was unnaturally devalued. Now, if Jackson had the wisdom to do away with the bimetallic standard and instead establish an official monometallic gold standard, nobody would have lost out. But that he did not do.

Even Jackson’s “Specie Circular” is not really impressive since the country was under a bimetallic standard, not a fiat money standard.

In other words, paper that could be redeemed for gold or silver wasn’t fundamentally a bad thing. It was not of less value and so it really was totally unfair for Jackson to grant land purchasing rights exclusively to those in immediate possession of the gold or silver.

Granted one could argue to a holder of paper money at the time ‘just go to the bank and get your gold or silver’ but what is the point of possessing money, paper or metallic, if it cannot buy?

It might be one thing if paper money could not at all be redeemed for silver or gold but such a policy should either be universal or not at all. It is obvious by the exclusiveness of the policy (it only pertained to purchases of public land) that Jackson was seeking to grant the government’s new pet bankers with gold and silver- especially gold. After all, we must consider the fact that it was they- Jackson’s pet banks- who were now receiving deposits of money from the U.S. Treasury-in other words, money (gold and silver) that went from the hands of purchasers of public land to the U.S. Treasury then to Jackson’s pet banks.

To clarify it even more so: it was the undoing of one system of crony-capitalism which had been orchestrated by the former national bank, and the creation of a new system of crony-capitalism, which had been orchestrated by Jackson and his pet banks. The bottom line: Jackson was a hypocrite and megalomanic. His monetary policies were not about ‘the people’, they were about manipulating the people, appeasing cronies, and getting to be the man in charge.

PART 4- THE CONCLUSION: A THOUGHT FOR HISTORY TEACHERS

A portrait of Jackson’s economic policies is a highly complex one. It is also highly controversial. Within it are actions so controversial even to historians today that those with biases that federal debt is good will not even mention in their history books that Jackson paid back all of the federal debt and was the only one to do so. Some other historians with a more libertarian or nationalist leaning bias might portray Jackson as a man who took on on the evils of the institution of the central bank. James Perloff writes in his book Shadows of Power, for example: “the Bank of The United States (1816-1836), an early attempt to saddle the nation with a privately controlled central bank, was abolished by President Andrew Jackson…American heeded Jackson’s warning for a remainder of the century.” (1988, 20-21) What Perloff does not mention is that, first of all, if any credit is to be granted to anyone in curbing crony capitalism it was actually President Martin Van Buren who fought for an Independent Treasury so that government money wasn’t benefiting certain peoples’s banks. Secondly Perloff fails to mention that the country was subject to the instability of fairly unregulated banks.

Larry J. Sechrest reports in his book on free banking that nearly fifty percent of free banks (of which there was about 709. 678 of which had sufficient records for historians and economists to evaluate) failed! ( 97-98) And among the ones that didn’t fail immediately, on average, they failed to remain in business for even a decade. One could debate the significance of those statistics for a long time thus I shall not pursuit it longer.

The point is that this is just how complex Jacksonian economics was: it is a topic worth the examination of countless books, but still a bottom line about the essence of it can be succinctly stated: Jackson’s economics amounted to property rights for some, but theft and death for others.

Yes, he paid back the debt (a wonderful thing!) and yes he lowered tariffs (in other words, taxes- another wonderful thing) but it really wasn’t all that meaningful in the grand scheme of things since he stole land from the Native Americans, many of whom were murdered and died as a result, which he then sold to people only with gold- which had been newly granted a higher value- and silver-which there was less of and which had less value, amounting to theft committed against owners of silver- all of which ultimately enriched Jackson’s pet banks since federal money received for purchase of land (again, stolen by native Americans) in the form of gold (again, at the expense of silver owners).

Ultimately, the notion of protecting property rights seems more like a means to an end for President Jackson; it seems, in conclusion, to have served as nothing more than an attractive political principle that he used to appeal to and seduce the people as to remain powerful in a newly and highly democratic culture. It would have been different if Jackson had refused to force the Native Americans from their land, if he had passed an official monometallic gold standard instead of a bimetallic standard that favored owners of gold and Jackson’s pet bankers. It would have been different if instead of moving power from one banking system to his preferred bankers, he had just reformed the National Bank and sought to forbid it from conducting self enriching activities that were not fair to the American people. But he did not do those things so as lovely as his debt elimination and tariff reductions might be, they were not done in the context of integrity.

Humanity is not perfect and politics is extraordinarily messy but John Adams did not need to fit in with his peers by owning slaves. Lincoln may have tarnished his name by being a racist but he still fought for the end of slavery- and won! Jackson does not have, as an excuse, that people just tended to dislike Native Americans.

And while, again, politics is no doubt messy, if messy politics can at least lead to good policy- to justice!- at least then, we the people could feel somewhat less cynical about it all.

But Jackson did not bring more justice to America. In fact, his presidency brought to America more injustice, and not solely “more”, but great injustice, using the beauty of the protection of property rights as mere bait so that he could commit his atrocities.

Let us note that President Elect Donald Trump appears to have learned from Jackson, not about how Jackson’s actions were evil though, but rather, how Jackson used the promise of justice to enjoy his own power at the expense of his fellow Americans.

One need only consider Trump’s recent attack on the First Amendment, when he suggested that those who burn the American flag should go to jail or lose their citizenship, to know this much. (Nelson, 2016)

With that in mind I must close by stating emphatically and very seriously, that a critical examination of Jackson’s economic policies tied to a critical examination of current US politics, makes it very obvious that history teachers need to do a much better job teaching their students about the real nature of the evils of Andrew Jackson.

Bibliography:

Adams, Charles. “A Brief Tax History of America.” lewrockwell.com. October 7, 2006. Accessed December 3, 2016. ((https://www.lewrockwell.com/2006/10/charles-adams/a-brief-tax-history-of-america/))

Cohen, Wender Andrew. “When Americans Loved Taxes.” Politico. 2015. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/when-americans-loved-taxes-smuggling-213126)

Divine, Robert A.; Breen, T. H.; Williams, R. Hal; Gross, Ariela J.; Brands, H. W.. America: Past and Present, Volume 1 Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.

Gordon, John Steele. “A Short History of Debt.” American History. Volume 46. Issue 4. pp. 58-63. Accessed December 3, 2016. <a href=”https://ezproxy.wpunj.edu/login?url=http:// search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=64393590″>A Short History of DEBT.</a>

Jackson, Andrew. First Inaugural Address. (1829) Accessed December 3, 2016 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jackson1.asp_

Jackson, Andrew. Eighth Annual Message to Congress. December 5, 1836. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.wpunj.edu/eds/detail/detail? sid=1beeb4ce-6c63-430b- af28-7b83d64b714e@sessionmgr4006&vid=4&hid=4210&bdata=#AN=21212761&db=fth

Jefferson, Thomas. 1776. Declaration Of Independence.

Laughlin, J. Laurence. The History of Bimetallism in the United States. D. Appleton and Co. 1885 (First Publication.) 1898 (4th Edition) New York. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/Laughlin/lghHBM4.html#I.IV Change of the Legal Ratio by the Act of 1834

n.a. n.d. “History of the US Tax System” Policy Almanac. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.policyalmanac.org/economic/archive/tax_history.shtml)

Nelson, Louis. “Trump calls for jailing, revoking citizenship of flag-burners” Politico. November 29, 2016. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/trump-flag-burning-231920

O’Leary M. Paul. “The Coinage Legislation of 1834.” Journal of Political Economy. Volume 45, No. 1. February, 1937. The University of Chicago Press. Accessed on December 3, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1824056

Perloff, James. Shadows of Power. John Birch Society through Western Islands. Appleton, Wisconsin. 1988.

Sechrest, J. Larry. Free Banking. Quorum Books. Westport, Connecticut. 1993. Accessed December 3, 2016.(https://mises.org/system/tdf/Free%20Banking%20Theory%2C%20History%2C%20and%20a%20Laissez-Faire%20Model_2.pdf?file=1&type=document)

Whaples, Robert. “Were Andrew Jackson’s Policies ‘Good for the Economy’? Independent Review. Spring 2014. Volume 18. Issue 4. p545-558. Accessed December 3, 2016. <a href=”https://ezproxy.wpunj.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=94846602″>Were Andrew Jackson’s Policies “Good for the Economy”?</a>