Is America the New Roman Empire?

Someone sent me a right wing meme this morning comparing the fall of the Roman Empire and the USA.  How it can be blamed on open boarders, weak military, the rise of the welfare state,  etc. Typical propaganda.

I actually have a degree in History. A largely useless degree unless I am involved in a game of Trivia or need to know how to research and find an answer.

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What The GOP Now Stands For

Stuart Stevens, a top Republican Party strategist in the 2012 election, tears into the GOP in a new op-ed for The Washington Post, lambasting party members for standing only for what President Donald Trump has just tweeted.

Stevens noted in the column published Wednesday— titled “Wake up, Republicans. Your party stands for all the wrong things now.” — that most Republicans would have until only-recently agreed the party stood for “some basic principles,” such as “fiscal sanity, free trade, strong on Russia, and that character and personal responsibility count.”

But now, the party “actively opposes” those issues, he explained.

“Republicans are now officially the character doesn’t count party, the personal responsibility just proves you have failed to blame the other guy party, the deficit doesn’t matter party, the Russia is our ally party, and the I’m-right-and-you-are-human-scum party, wrote Stevens, who is now working with a political action committee backing former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld’s (R) run against Trump’s 2020 reelection.

“Yes, it’s President Trump’s party now, but it stands only for what he has just tweeted,” he added.

Stevens said the impeachment of Trump over the Ukraine scandal “and all that has led to it should signal a day of reckoning.”

“A party that has as its sole purpose the protection and promotion of its leader, whatever he thinks, is not on a sustainable path,” he wrote, adding: “I’d like to say that I believe the party I spent so many years fighting for could rise to the challenge of this moment. But there have been too many lies for too long.”

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Why Are They Screaming?

I was at a cafe enjoying a coffee when I heard 2 other patrons discussing the impeachment hearings and asking, “Why are the Republicans Screaming when they do not seem to be disputing the facts?”

If there’s one thing we’ve seen consistently from Republicans during the past few weeks of congressional impeachment hearings, it’s yelling.

The articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump have been drafted and the process is now moving steadily towards a vote in the House. But GOP lawmakers, especially GOP men, aren’t going down quietly. Perhaps Democratic Coalition’s Jon Cooper put it best when he tweeted Monday, “Why is Doug Collins always yelling?” CNBC’s Christina Wilkie pointed out a similar phenomenon, noting that Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was “yelling about whether the rules of the hearing are, in fact, the rules of the hearing.”

Indeed, in observing  House GOP  over the many days of contentious House hearings, I am reminded of a scene from the classic Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman,” where the famed (and fictional) Channel 4 News team angrily confronts its news director over the hiring of a female reporter. In the scene, several of the male journalists take turns yelling their opposition to the addition. Steve Carell’s character, Brick Tamland, isn’t really smart enough to have a critique but wishing to be included, he screams, “I don’t know what we’re yelling about!”

 

That pretty much sums up Republicans’ defense of their current leader. If they yell loud enough and long enough, what they say about the circumstances of this impeachment inquiry will become truth. Their calculation is that by yelling about anything and everything, the American people will either be convinced or at the very least so annoyed they’ll stop watching. To the GOP, yelling seems to be both a demonstration of strength and a deliberate effort to wear down Democrats and any other Americans who care enough to tune in.

Thus, the outrage that’s been on display these past few weeks hasn’t been spontaneous. This isn’t an indication of passion or righteous anger. It is the manifestation of a decadelong marketing strategy that has kept them in the driving seat of Congress for the better part of the Obama and the Trump administrations.

This isn’t an indication of passion or righteous anger. It is the manifestation of a decadelong marketing strategy that has kept them in the driving seat of Congress.

Ironically, this tactic of outrage was often utilized by Republicans to defend the widespread use of their congressional oversight authority. Just go back and watch the 2012 House Oversight Committee hearing where Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress. You’ll see Trump defenders like Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, yelling about the need to “get the facts.”

Revisit the 11-hour grilling that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was subjected to by Republicans during the Benghazi hearing and you’ll see the now familiar sight of Republicans yelling and badgering their witness. As Rep. Adam Smith, R-Wash., observed that day, the Republicans’ strategy was to try and “wear you down.”

Monday’s impeachment hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Committee continues this pattern.

It began with Republican members like Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., trying to disrupt the proceedings with out-of-order interjections. It continued with outbursts from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., when the committee attempted to take a break. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., joined the chorus accusing the Democrats of “badgering the witness.”

Republicans engaged in a parade of outbursts, mostly refusing to engage with the substance of the evidence presented by the House Intelligence Committee previously, instead trying to discredit the process. Often, this meant members used their time to deliver loud, rambling monologues that contained few if any questions for the witnesses.

The conservative approach during these hearings has been to treat every member’s time like it is a segment on Fox News. The members are playing the part of Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. Their script is built on misdirection and moving the goal posts as their paltry strategy shifts to incorporate various conspiracy theories and outlandish claims. But ultimately, the overarching argument is that the entire process is circumspect. Republicans attack Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., they demand testimony from Hunter Biden, they attack and threaten whistleblowers and do everything possible to avoid asking questions of substance.

And as disingenuous as their tactics may be, they also could be working.

Public opinion regarding impeachment has remained unchanged since the public hearings began prior to Thanksgiving. Democrats have unwittingly amplified Republicans’ misdirection campaign by initially scheduling a marathon of hearings featuring hours and hours of testimony in a condensed timeline, making it all but impossible for the American people to digest and distinguish the credible testimonies we heard from career diplomats with partisan grandstanding.

And as Republicans such as Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, disparaged impeachment and their Democratic counterparts, Democrats let the GOP off the hook by refusing to address the rash of propaganda entering the public domain.

Republicans have observed that Democrats aren’t really willing to confront them directly, and the process of congressional hearings makes such confrontation difficult anyway. And so they will continue to yell. They will continue to scream. They will continue to lie. They will not stop. The only question is, what are Democrats prepared to do about it? Clearly, banging the gavel repeatedly isn’t enough.

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Trump is the natural consequence of our anti-democracy decade

TRUMP IS WHAT WE GET WHEN WE SELL OFF OUR DEMOCRACY.

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We’re coming to the end of what might be called the anti-democracy decade. It began on 21 January 2010 with the supreme court’s shameful decision in Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission, opening the floodgates to big money in politics with the absurd claim that the first amendment protects corporate speech.

It ends with Donald Trump in the White House, filling his administration with corporate shills and inviting foreign powers to interfere in American elections.

Trump is the consequence rather than the cause of the anti-democratic decade. By the 2016 election, the richest 100th of 1% of Americans – 24,949 very wealthy people – accounted for a record-breaking 40% of all campaign contributions.

That same year, corporations flooded the presidential, Senate and House elections with $3.4bn in donations. Labor unions no longer provided any countervailing power, contributing only $213m – one union dollar for every 16 corporate.

Big corporations and the super-wealthy lavished their donations on the Republican party because Republicans promised them a giant tax cut. As Lindsey Graham warned his colleagues, “financial contributions will stop” if the GOP didn’t come through.

The investments paid off big. Pfizer, whose 2016 contributions to the GOP totaled $16m, will reap an estimated $39bn in tax savings by 2022. GE contributed $20m and will get back $16bn. Chevron donated $13m and will receive $9bn.

Groups supported by Charles and the late David Koch spent more than $20m promoting the tax cut, which will save them and their heirs between $1bn and $1.4bn every year.

 

The original article was by Robert Reich.

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Impeachment and What it Means

There is a great deal of talk and rhetoric on both sides as to whether or not President Trump should face impeachment  A president cannot be impeached just because you do not like their policies.

Reality is that President Trump potentially broke the law. He has clearly obstructed justice and hampered the investigation. Should he be REMOVED from the presidency for these acts? That is a tough question. What is important is the message is sends to future presidents and elected officials. That NO ONE is above the law.

From CBS News

Lies. Obstruction. Abusing power. Defying Congress.

Sound familiar?

These are the accusations House Democrats are leveling against President Trump during the ongoing  into him. And they’re similar to the allegations that fueled America’s few previous presidential impeachment proceedings.

Only two presidents in U.S. history have been impeached — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — and neither was removed from office. A third president, Richard Nixon, resigned in 1974 before facing an impeachment vote, but not before articles of impeachment were drafted. Mr. Trump is now the fourth president in U.S. history to face a formal impeachment process.

The Constitution says presidents and other federal officials can be impeached for “Treason, Bribery and other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” No president has faced impeachment articles for treason or bribery; all impeachment cases so far came down to what Congress considered to be “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The phrase “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” is not defined in the Constitution, leaving it up to Congress to decide what qualifies in any particular case. Historians and legal scholars say it’s generally understood to mean a serious abuse of the public trust.

The Democrat-controlled House has not drafted impeachment articles against Mr. Trump or held an official impeachment vote, so it’s not clear what specific allegations might be included. After the House began its impeachment inquiry hearings, top House Democrats have said they have evidence of briberyand obstruction.

Here a look at what led to presidents in the past facing impeachment:

How impeachment works

The House has the power to impeach the president, and the Senate, in a separate process, then decides whether to remove an impeached president from office.

The House drafts articles of impeachment outlining the president’s alleged offenses, and can vote to impeach him with a simple majority vote on any of the articles. However, impeachment in the House is not enough to remove a president from office.

The Senate then holds an impeachment trial, and ultimately votes on whether to convict or acquit the president on the articles approved by the House. A two-thirds majority of senators would need to vote for conviction in order to remove the president.

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L-R: Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 but not convicted; Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in 1974; Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 but not convicted.LIBRARY OF CONGRESS VIA AP; GETTY IMAGES

Andrew Johnson

What happened?

The 17th president was the first to be impeached.

Johnson, a Democrat from Tennessee, was President Abraham Lincoln’s running mate for Lincoln’s second term. Just 42 days after becoming vice president, Johnson ascended to the presidency following Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865. This put him in charge of a country still reeling from the Civil War, and he was soon clashing with Congress over how to handle Reconstruction.

Johnson favored a lenient approach to the former Confederate states and shocked lawmakers with some of his vetoes, including his veto of a bill that would have provided food, shelter and aid to newly freed African Americans and Southern refugees.

The final straw came in 1868, when Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a Lincoln appointee who opposed Johnson’s approach to Reconstruction. House Republicans said this violated the Tenure of Office Act, a law passed one year earlier that said the Senate must approve the president’s dismissal of a cabinet member he appointed. (Johnson vetoed that bill, but Congress overrode him. The Supreme Court ruled in 1926 that the Tenure of Office Act was invalid, and it is no longer enforced.)

What did the impeachment articles say? 

In February 1868, the House voted in favor of an impeachment resolution against Johnson. A week later, the House adopted 11 articles of impeachment.

Most of the articles centered on Johnson’s dismissal of Stanton, alleging that the move defied the Senate and violated the Constitution. One article accused Johnson of unlawfully ordering that all military orders had to come from the General of the Army.

Another article said Johnson gave speeches that attempted “to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States.” That article said Johnson had declared “with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues,” and that he had uttered “loud threats and bitter menace” toward Congress.

The text of the impeachment articles repeatedly said that Johnson was “unmindful of the high duties of his oath of office.”

What was the outcome? 

Only three of the impeachment articles were voted on by the Senate — two about the appointment of Stanton’s replacement, and one about insulting and disrupting Congress.

On each of these three articles, the Senate acquitted Johnson by a single vote. He remained in office until 1869, leaving after one term when he failed to win his own party’s nomination.

Richard Nixon

What happened?

Nixon, a Republican, resigned before facing a formal impeachment vote. But he was the first president since Johnson to have impeachment articles drafted against him.

The impeachment process for Nixon started in October 1973, after the Watergate scandal had dragged on for more than a year.

Nixon consistently resisted House subpoenas as the Watergate investigation intensified. The impeachment process began just days after the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon fired the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, Archibald Cox, and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.

In the impeachment proceedings, Nixon was not directly implicated in the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. Rather, the focus was on his efforts to obstruct the Watergate investigation.

What did the impeachment articles say?

The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon in July 1974.

The first said Nixon had worked with subordinates to “delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation” into the Watergate break-in to “cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.”

The second article said the president had “repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens” by “impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries.”

The third article focused on Nixon’s resistance of subpoenas from the House committee. It said the president had “interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.”

What was the outcome?

The House Judiciary Committee approved all three articles, but the articles never reached a full House vote. An impeachment seemed inevitable after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the White House to release the tape of a phone call that showed Nixon had ordered a cover-up of Watergate. Even the Republican House leader said he would vote to impeach Nixon.

Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. He became the first, and so far only, U.S. president to resign. And even though he was not technically impeached, he was also the first president to leave office due to an impeachment process.

Bill Clinton

What happened?

More than 130 years after Johnson’s impeachment, Clinton, a Democrat, became the second president to be impeached.

Clinton’s impeachment process sprouted from the Starr Report — the result of a four-year independent counsel investigation into his administration — and from a lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, a woman accusing Clinton of sexual misconduct.

In a deposition for the Jones lawsuit, Clinton falsely claimed that he did not have a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The Starr Report said Clinton tried to cover up his affair with Lewinsky, and had pressured his secretary Betty Currie to repeat his denials.

What did the impeachment articles say?

The Republican-held House drafted four articles of impeachment against Clinton, but only two were approved.

The first article that passed said Clinton had provided “perjurious, false and misleading testimony” to a grand jury in the Jones case. It was approved in a 228–206 vote.

The second approved article, which passed with a 221–212 vote, said Clinton had “obstructed justice in an effort to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence related to the Jones case.”

An article for a second perjury count, and another article accusing Clinton of abuse of power, failed to get a majority vote.

Clinton was impeached in December 1998.

What was the outcome?

A Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Clinton on both charges in February 1999. The Senate trial resulted in 45 “guilty” votes for perjury and 50 “guilty” votes on obstruction — both short of the two-thirds vote needed to convict and remove the president.

All 45 Democrats in the Senate voted “not guilty” on both charges, and several Republicans joined them, with some arguing that Clinton did not deserve to be removed from the White House for these offenses.

Clinton remained in office and completed his second term.

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Rest In Peace My Friend

Monday night, November 4th I flew back from London. As my flight landed in Boston I saw I had a text from my friend Dave. He simply said, “give me a call when you get a chance”.
I spoke to him for about 20 minutes as I waited for my luggage. Just touching base. He had been fighting leukemia for 5 years and was headed back into the hospital. He had picked up an infection.

On Tuesday we spoke briefly again. I had seen something that I knew Dave would find funny. We shared a laugh and said we would speak next week.

On Saturday November 9th at 8:08 AM David took his last breath. Although his final words were not documented rest assured they were likely wildly inappropriate and probably sarcastic.

IMG_1341.jpegAs soon as I heard I called my wife and then a few other people who would want to know. There was a text message chain going around and it was soon apparent that Dave had spoken to many of us in the week before his death. He knew, but didn’t  tell us, that he was going to die. He knew that we would feel guilty if we didn’t speak to him before he died. So he called us.

 

 

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As I headed into work last week my phone rang. The caller ID said it was him. My first thought was- What a great practical joke. This is definitely something he would do. Then I thought- HOLY CRAP, A call from the dead. How did Dave pull that off? He’s got serious connections! I tentatively answered the phone. It was Kate, Dave’s wife. He had left a list of people to call. To see how WE were doing. He wanted to make sure we were Ok.

 

 

 

 

That is just Dave. Even in death, wanting to make sure we were ok. Wanting to make sure that we knew he loved us.

Dave had a wide circle of friends. People he knew from gymnastics both as a competitor and then a coach, from his time as a school teacher, a chiropractor, a skater, or just a guy in the neighborhood. We all may have met him in different places but we all know his sense of humor. His ability to make even the most benign situations funny or a funny situation inappropriate.

He loved Kate, he loved his family, he loved his friends and he loved French Fries. Not necessarily in that order.

Dave liked clean endings but everyone has regrets in life. His regrets were few but may include mixing tequila shots and Yuengling and a hot dog of questionable origin at a camp in Huguenot, NY.

Dave was active and loved music, dancing, roller skating, and gymnastics. If there was music on he was moving to it. He was the DJ at my wedding reception. Every time the music slowed down and I walked by- he thrust a drink into my hand and we toasted. After the reception my wife and I went off on our honeymoon. Apparently the reception after party he helped organize lasted for days in our apartment. We found empty bottles in cabinets, under the couch, in closets for about a year. They put our LIVE fish in a blender! (thankfully never plugged it in and turned it on).

On Tuesday, November 19 we held an informal celebration of his life at the Harlem Tavern in NYC. People came in from New Hampshire, WAY upstate NY, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, and throughout NYC and the boroughs.

It was really great seeing everyone. People who I grew up with but haven’t seen in decades. I met people Dave had gone to pre-school with. I met his sister who I had never met. People from around his neighborhood. People from the NYC skating scene.
There was laughter, tears, stories, more tears, more laughter and a potential for too much alcohol and some bad decisions. Dave would have been proud.F1C1D437-EB45-45F2-B0F2-D2C126574332

Dave never wanted to be the center of attention. He was more the guy on the side making wise ass comments. Someone put a photo of Dave in a glass. We toasted with him often.

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It is heartbreaking to think that many of us are not going to see each other until someone else dies.

Dave was the one who kept us in touch through e-mails and text messages.

When I die I hope I face it with the dignity, compassion and pure thoughtfulness that he did.

I hope that I am able to make an impact in as many lives as he did. And continues to do.

While I was on the train back from NYC the person sitting next to me noticed I was upset (and possibly REALLY hungover). I told her I was heading home after a celebration of life for a friend who had passed. Her toddler asked, “Mom, what is dying?”

What is dying
I am standing on the seashore, a ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says: “She is gone.”
Gone!
Where?
Gone from my sight that is all.
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says,
“She is gone”
there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout:
“There she comes!”
and that is dying.

May you rest in peace my friend. We all loved you.

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President “Good Brain” Just Told the Same Lie for the 80th Time

It feels like it should be a bigger story that the world’s most powerful man is nuts.

I really try not to post political stuff. I almost wish I was more oblivious to what was going on. This is just too crazy.

The original article was in ESQUIRE

It pretty much says it all that there was another Presidential Episode on Tuesday and it was barely a blip on the radar. These spectacles, where the world’s most powerful man rants and raves like a guy with whom you’d studiously avoid eye contact on public transportation, happen so regularly that nobody even much remarks on it anymore. Just a fact of American life. Oh, that’s just the president again! You see, Mr. Good Brain went to Pennsylvania yesterday to give a speech that was purportedly on the topic of energy, but which swiftly devolved into a festival of personal grievance and kaleidoscopic delusion. So the usual.

Thanks to CNN’s Daniel Dale, we know the president said he’s set to lose $5 billionbecause of lawsuits against him, an amount of money he almost certainly does not have. He demanded that Barack Obama’s book deal be investigated, because reasons. He said China does not have oil and gas—no need to look that one up—and that we’d be begging China for steel (he used a whiny voice) if he hadn’t saved the American steel industry, which would be dead without him. He said the only thing we export to Japan is wheat, which they buy out of pity, all of which is entirely made up and totally bizarre. He used a racist slur to refer to a presidential candidate. He mocked the idea of computer manufacturing, suggesting people want to dig coal or make steel. He invited the workers in attendance to troll the media with tweets about how he should serve a third or fourth term. He talked about copper theft. He talked about how he’s always loved trucks.

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The brain, it is good. It was even gooder when he expressed amazement at the turnout for an 11 o’clock speech when it was, in fact, 2:40 p.m.

But the really reassuring stuff came via the insane lying. As a champion bullshitter, Donald Trump is quite adept at convincing himself of something as he makes it up with the intent of convincing others. The truth is whatever you can get enough people to believe, including yourself. And it appears that the president has thoroughly convinced himself that he is responsible for a program that was signed into law in 2014.

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As a refresher, Trump was not president in 2014. His political career was primarily contained to suggesting the first black president was actually Kenyan, and thus illegitimate. (Not a racist bone in his body, etc. etc.) But the really astounding thing is he’s told this lie 80 (eighty!) times and shows no sign of slowing down. He is an unstoppable force of fabrication, and The Lamestream Liberal Fake News Media has not exactly proven itself to be an immovable object. At some point, he says the same false thing so many times that people just give up.

More than the specific lies, though, the establishment media has fought like hell to pretend that Donald Trump is merely an exceptionally rude and eccentric president, rather than someone who is quite clearly unstable and who poses grave danger to the republic. The President of the United States regularly claims that windmills cause cancer, and some in the press just shrug. They ask him about North Korea’s nuclear escalation after his supposed Artful Dealmaking with the regime, and he rants about the Beautiful, Three-Page Letterthat Kim Jong-un sent him. Meanwhile, they keep firing off rockets.

This is insanity. It’s not Biased for the media to say so, it’s fucking reality. Even the Mooch is saying it. Remember that guy? That was crazy, too. Jesus.

 

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