Republicans for the Rule of Law condemn Trump behavior (and obstruction) with Ukraine

As reported in Huffington Post this weekend, a group called Republicans for the Rule of Law is encouraging Republicans to remember their better angels. Here is a reprint:

“Now, dozens of Republican lawmakers have been targeted for TV and digital ads in a $1 million campaign that will begin running this weekend in their home districts. Among the first subjects are Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).
The advocacy group behind the ads, Republicans for the Rule of Law, is a project of Defending Democracy Together, an organization that counts conservative commentator and noted Trump critic William Kristol as a co-director. Other directors include Linda Chavez, who served in the Reagan administration, and Christine Todd Whitman, who served as Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President George W. Bush.

‘Republicans in Congress must condemn this behavior without reservation,’ Chris Truax, a legal adviser for Republicans for the Rule of Law, said in a statement to HuffPost. He continued:

‘It is no longer about whether Republicans believe President Trump or whether they support his policies. It’s about whether they support his admitted abuse of power and his efforts to secure a foreign government’s help in an American election.’

The black-and-white 30-second ads are similar, but customized for each lawmaker. ‘The country is in crisis,’ the ads warn. They slam Trump’s actions as an ‘abuse of power’ and warn it will happen again ‘unless Republicans … stand up and say it’s wrong.'”

This article speaks volumes. Please help the message get heard. My hope is Republicans will listen to these Republicans.

 

Talking to Strangers – another good read by Malcolm Gladwell

I just finished reading “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell and highly recommend it. Gladwell is one of my favorite non-fiction authors and has penned multiple best sellers such as “Outliers,” “Blink,” and “The Tipping Point.” His style is to season examples with a touch of data and analysis, without infringing on the story.

“Talking to Strangers” shares numerous examples and data that we humans tend not to read strangers very well. The main reason is we “default to truth.” In other words, we give more benefit of the doubt to strangers than we should. A healthy dose of skepticism would help in this regard. Without giving too many of his examples away, here are few to think about.

  • Neville Chamberlain wanted to meet Adolph Hitler to see if he could be trusted at his word. It should be noted that Chamberlain was not the only person to meet Hitler and misread him. The ones who saw Hitler more clearly never met him.
  • Amanda Knox was convicted of a crime she did not commit on very flimsy evidence, primarily because she did not react to the news of her roommate’s murder as the Italian police expected her to. Her manner convinced them she had something to hide.
  • Bernie Madoff did not come across as someone who was running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. When investigators met him they could not believe he was so doing. Yet, a man who had not met Madoff named Nat Simons handed the case to the investigators years before they paid attention – he saw too may red flags and dug deeper.
  • Fidel Castro had seven double agents working in the CIA that went unnoticed for years until the US allies caught a key Cuban agent in Europe. The CIA dismissed what would have been red flags rationalizing that the lie detector was picking up a false positive, for example.
  • Brock Turner was convicted of raping a co-ed at Stanford, primarily on the evidence that two Swedish grad students came upon him having sex with a comatose women near a dumpster. Gladwell notes meeting a stranger at a college party is bad enough, but made far worse when both have been drinking.
  • The Penn State president and Athletic Directors could not believe coach Jerry Sandusky was a prolific pedophile. People gravitated to all the good he had done without heeding the first witness to have observed something. The witness was not forceful enough to follow-up and make sure something was done.
  • Sandra Bland was arrested on a very minor traffic offense in a conversation that went awry when it needed not. There were too many incidences where the conversation could have been diffused, yet was not. She was taking a job at Prairie State University in Texas and her Illinois license plates gave Officer Brian Encinia pause. She committed suicide in her jail cell.

Gladwell highlights a study that concluded through tests that we tend to think people who are innocent, but nervous or anxious, as guilty and tend to give a free pass to the good bluffer who is guilty. The folks inbetween, we tend to judge a little better. Given the above CIA and other intelligence, judicial and police examples, those who say they are better at judging are not as good as they think.

One of the examples noted a computer algorithm looking at criminal history was far better than a judge who met the person at setting bail or releasing the offender. The judges released too many that should have had higher bail. Another noted the use of torture was not a good elictor of truth, as when people are tortured, they go into trauma and cannot recall the truth very well.

Like all Gladwell books, “Talking to Strangers” is a quick read. Yet, I hope you will walk away with a few nuggets of knowledge as I did.

 

Country music documentary – a review

Ten days ago, I gave a quick heads-up about Ken Burns’ excellent eight-part documentary series on “Country Music.” We have now watched all eight shows and highly recommend the series, even if you are like us and not huge country music fans. For those unfamiliar with Burns, he has produced similar documentaries on the history of jazz, the Civil War, baseball, national parks, the Roosevelts, e.g.

I shared a few themes in my last post, but want to stay away from spoilers. The documentary takes us through 1996, so the more current artists are not delved into. What makes the documentary live are the stories told by several artists, writers, historians, musicians, producers, etc.

Some of the more frequent commenters included: Marty Stuart (a mandolin prodigy and long time performer), Vince Gill, Brenda Lee (who had several hits in her early teens), Rosanne Cash, Carlene Carter, Bill Malone (a historian), Merle Haggard (who passed away after filming), Kathy Mattea, Dwight Yoakam, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Darius Rucker, Wynton Marsalis (the jazz musician), Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Ricky Skaggs and many others.

A few more take aways trying not to reveal too much, include:

– more than a few performers who made it big had doors closed in their faces, but kept at it;
– more than a few big artists held firm in playing songs and doing things their way (Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Garth Brooks, etc.)
– country music thrived because the artists spent huge amounts of time being among their audiences at fairs, gatherings, rodeos, small venues;
– country music is not just Nashville based, with Bakersville, CA, Bristol, VA (and TN), and places in Oklahoma and Texas all playing a hand with different influences; and
– country music was and is influenced by multiple types of music and has an influence on other types.

On this last point, Ray Charles, the R&B star who grew up in Georgia was ridiculed for cutting a country album. The music was part of his roots, so his best selling album was his way of sharing.

Check out the series. I think it will be worth your while.

Republicans should lead the impeachment effort

Whistleblowers should be heeded because of the risk. We have been told by the DNI acting director that this one is credible. The partially released phone call is indicting enough per Judge Napolitano on Fox whose opinion is supported by other legal people per Shep Smith, a Fox news person.

But, what should give Americans and Republicans pause are these three things:

– multiple sources in the White House felt the president abused his powers;
– the White House lawyers tried to classify the call and move it to a national security data base – why?
– this is not the first time it has occurred.

In my view, based on this and the obstruction of justice and lying by the president portrayed in the Mueller report, the Republicans should be leading the impeachment process. You simply cannot be the self-portrayed party of law and let this president not be impeached. Trump is a wounded animal and this will get far worse. Yesterday’s press conference where the president accused all of his accusers with ill-intent or bad behavior is just one example.

As an independent and former Republican, I have consistently shared my concerns over this regal-minded president with Senators and their staff. I see him as a clear and present danger to our democracy, our planet and the Republican party. What people fail to realize is the president has never reported to anyone besides his father. His regal behavior has been cultivated for many years.

But, the question that should scare the crap out of Mitch McConnell, et al is what will you have to defend next week, next month or next year? And, its scary corollary is you don’t know if he has already committed such a sin or if it is to be committed. (I have been saying this for months even before the latest Ukraine issue).

I have said all along, the president’s worst enemy looks back at him when he shaves. That image reveals an untruthful, unaccountable and (proudly) unprepared bully. And, it is proven recurringly, he does not think he ever does anything wrong, even when evidence to the contrary clearly exists.

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Note: It was reported today: “Fox News anchor Chris Wallace called out ‘astonishing’ and ‘deeply misleading’ spin from President Donald Trump’s defenders over the whistleblower complaint on his contacts with Ukraine.”

 

 

The clown and comedian

As Gerry Rafferty once sang “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.” A clown had a conversation with a comedian, but the joker was too inexperiencdd to know the clown was breaking his country’s laws.

Yet, the clown would have only laughed if the joker questioned him. “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges.” Don’t worry about laws as we are above the law. I can get my toadies to do anything. So, don’t worry about it.

Yet, what the clown continually fails to realize, sometimes there is just not enough make-up to cover up all the blemishes. Nor, is there enough make-up to go around for others to help drive the clown car. Sadly, a few of those clowns are realizing too late they should have left the circus.

I feel sorry for the comedian who is caught in the comedy of governance with an overbearing clown. He is looking for an off ramp. He has quickly learned if you deal with a clown, be prepared to be part of a farce or even abetting a crime.

This circus watcher who is stuck in the middle with others, keeps scratching his head as to why the people clapping for the clown do not see the make-up. Even when he admits to them “I have make-up on my face,” they chose not to see the clown. History has shown those who have dealt with this clown do not leave with their dignity.

 

Wednesday walkabout once again

It is a Greenwich time Wednesday, so I thought I would meander over several paths on my walkabout. So, get out your hiking boots and let’s go for a walk.

On one path, I thought of the passionate advocacy of the young kids over insufficient climate change action. Greta Thunberg is a hero to our planet and her efforts should be applauded. A couple of months ago a conservative Australian pundit decided to attack her person making fun of her having Asperger’s syndrome. He was roundly and rightfully criticized.

It was followed up yesterday by a Fox News guest speaker who equated Thunberg’s Asperger’s with a mental illness and was roundly and rightfully denounced even by the Fox network. Then there is the US president who likes to denigrate people tweeting “tongue-in-cheek” how happy she looked. Many of us had predicted the president would act true to form because he simply cannot help himself from picking on critics. And, he called himself the “Chosen One” recently. Chosen by whom for what?

Down another path, I thought of poor Boris being ruled against by the UK high court for canceling parliament for so long before Brexit. Right now, the UK is so ill-prepared for Brexit, that who would think canceling parliament could even resemble a good idea. Yet, while Boris is short on doing his homework, he is never bashful. Let me say this for the umpteenth time, Brexit is not the best of ideas in the view of many financial people, but I understand the rationale. Yet, please do not let people that don’t know any better convince the UK a “no-deal Brexit” will be OK. It will be about as big a disaster as can be imagined. Brits should be worried that the US president thinks it will be OK as he is as studious as Boris.

Moving on to another path, the US president does not think it is wrong to try and strong arm a country for dirt on an opponent. He also does not think it is wrong to avoid the whistleblower rules. Both of these are crimes. I will not be surprised to learn that the departures of Dan Coats and Sue Gordon, two well thought of Intelligence leaders, in August are related. When people say the Mueller report cleared Trump, it did not. He obstructed justice and would have done more if some folks followed his orders. He continued to obstruct Congress after then. Yet, the Mueller report also showed a lot of poor action and behavior on his staff in courting Russian officials. Mueller did not delve far enough, but I feel he would have found more. But, what he did find showed sloppiness that was easily taken advantage of.

As I said last week to staff of Republican Senators, what will the Senator have to rationalize next week, next month or next year about the president? And, what may have scared them the most is when I said he or she won’t know if the sin has already been committed or will be committed in the future. The whistleblower stuff had already been committed. That should scare the hell out of Republicans. And, should because they have fed this monstrous behavior. The president is a clear and present danger to our democracy, our planet and the Republican party.

 

 

He doesn’t think he did anything wrong

He doesn’t think he did anything wrong. And, that is a part of the recurring problem. The US president thinks nothing of trading something to a country for dirt on an opponent. He did it before and will do it again until Congress says it is not OK.

But, that is not the only problem among the recurring equations. He sees nothing wrong with making money off the presidency. It is unethical and, at times, illegal. People feel obligated to stay at Trump facilities to curry his favor. He need not order it to happen, he just creates an environment that people feel they need to do it.

He thinks nothing of lying recurringly. He lies everyday, even when he does not have to. In fact, with about 1,000 days in office and over 12,000 lies per The Washington Post, that averages to 12 per day. While that seems a little high, it is closer to being correct than Fox host Stuart Varney’s zero estimate.

We should recall the words of his long-time attorney and fixer of Trump missteps. Michal Cohen said under oath, “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.” Maybe it is because he has gotten away with it all of his life, that Trump feels he can continue with impunity.