Monday, August 28, 2017

Pardon Me?

Arpaio Pardon May Be Opening Act of a Constitutional Crisis

Trump's move Friday night shows the same disregard for the rule of law with which he’s trying to quash the Russia probe.

By Charles Kaiser

This morning, I received an email from an old friend — one of the country’s top trial lawyers: “I have underestimated Trump. He knows what is coming, including a variety of criminal charges and other impeachable offenses. He is not just arousing his base to anger but to arms, some of them. There is no other way to explain the transgender ban, the Arpaio pardon, his Charlottesville remarks…

“I would think he will pardon himself, family members, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, among others, and if he is angry enough, Mrs. O’Leary, who, you must admit, got kind of a raw deal.” (Note: Myth has it that one Kate O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern in the barn and started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. She was widely blamed but never charged.)

And the following came from the journalist and author Charles Kaiser. His books include Gay Metropolis, 1968 in America, and The Cost of Courage, a riveting account of one family that joined the French resistance against the Nazi occupation.

— Bill Moyers

Donald Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio marks the real beginning of the coming constitutional crisis in America.

Trump started tweeting trial balloons about this a month ago — “all agree the US president has the complete power to pardon” — and he has even asserted the unlitigated idea that he can pardon himself. But what he did yesterday puts his presidency on a whole new plane: a Category 5 political hurricane. By pardoning a man convicted of criminal contempt for direct violation of a federal order, Trump is now flaunting his eagerness to overturn the rule of law in America.

I have never seen anyone who has acted more obviously guilty than Donald Trump has almost every single day since he became president. From his tête-à-tête with James Comey, in which he asked the FBI director to end his investigation of Michael Flynn, to his firing of the same man when he failed to heed that warning, to his newly reported phone call to Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to complain about a bill that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s independence, the president has engaged in one blatant attempt to obstruct justice after another.

Here is the most logical way to view his pardon of Sheriff Arpaio: It is the latest and gravest step he has taken in his continuing efforts to undermine the rule of law. Obviously Trump delighted in fueling the racism of Arpaio’s supporters by pardoning this convicted criminal — he made that clear earlier this week during his repellent speech in Phoenix. But I am certain that is not the main reason for this heinous act.

For many weeks, Washington has been swirling with rumors that Mueller already has secured the cooperation of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort in his investigation of the president. And Trump undoubtedly is more vulnerable to the testimony of these two men than he is to that of any other players in this fearful drama. Therefore, Trump must feel compelled to send this message through Arpaio’s pardon: The president is eager and willing to do the same thing for anyone who might be pressured into testifying against him.

I have written a book about France under fascism, and what we are now experiencing is exactly what incipient fascism looks like. The combination of Trump’s relentless assaults on the free press, his open encouragement of Nazis — which is the only honest description of his initial refusal to condemn them — and now a pardon without even pretending to go through the normal channels of the Justice Department: These are all the acts of man who is blatantly defying his sacred pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Like the men and women of Vichy France who began their collaboration with the Nazis 77 years ago, from now on, every senator and House member of either party who continues to remain silent about this president’s unconstitutional acts is directly complicit in the high crimes and misdemeanors of Donald Trump.

I know very serious students of American justice who already were convinced last night that the pardon of Arpaio has fatally undermined Robert Mueller’s investigation by killing the incentive for anyone to testify against this president. Personally, I am not yet that pessimistic. I still believe that any pardon of Flynn or Manafort or Jared Kushner will produce a large enough firestorm to end Donald Trump’s presidency, either through impeachment or the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which would allow for his removal by a majority vote of his cabinet.

But if there is a majority of Republican senators and House members who wish to avoid a full-blown constitutional crisis worse than anything we have seen since the secession of the Confederate states, they must speak loudly and act clearly right now. They must immediately pass the bill introduced by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator Tillis of North Carolina that would shore up the independence of the special prosecutor, and they must pass it with veto-proof majorities.

Senator Lindsay Graham already has said that the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions would mean the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency. It is long past time for all of Graham’s colleagues in both houses to declare that the same thing will be true if the president dares to repeat the horrific abuse of his pardon power that we witnessed last night. Otherwise, America is destined for an era of violence and darkness unlike any we have ever witnessed since the end of the Civil War, 152 years ago.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Anything To Declare? A Horror Story On Toothache

Many Canadians (and Americans likewise), have a pronounced anxiety when crossing the border. Rules could have changed and some times vehicles are searched. That all being true, I never had felt such anxiety. We have always been giving truthfull answers when asked about whether or not we had anything to declare.
When the familiar question was asked while crossing into Lubec,ME yesterday, I had my answer ready.  I told the officer that I would leave something in the U.S. Of course, he wanted to know what that was and I said “MY TOOTH”.

Yes, yesterday I left a tooth in the U.S. I was on the way to the Lubec Medical Center where a dentist lady from Louisiana would take out a tooth which almost brought me to insanity last Friday.

The whole story had begun on Tuesday last week when I had felt that I had a hot/cold sensitivity on a tooth. So on Wednesday I checked in with the Lubec dentist and she confirmed an inflammation under the tooth. I received an antibiotic prescription and was released. I was still doing OK through Thursday, even though I still could feel the tooth aching a bit.
But the story took a dramatic turn on Friday when pain shot up my gum and into the side of my head.
I made many phone calls to dentists in the entire area, but none was available. Actually, the dental offices were either closed or the doctor not on site.

When my pain increased further on Friday afternoon, I was writhing and rolling on the couch. I was crying and holding my head which felt like it would explode any moment. Watching me in horror, Bea got scared and asked what to do. Finally, she called 911.  Only minutes later, the local ambulance appeared on our lawn. It was decided that they would take me to the emergency room in St.Stephen.

Arriving there an hour later I was checked in and sent to the waiting area.
This could all have ended good if a doctor had seen me giving me a numb on my pain, but after 2.5hrs I had not been called up, and none of the other patients either. After Bea came into town to pick me up for a ride home (she had been on a tour with tourists) we had waited another 40 minutes when a nurse came out announcing that whoever was there to see a physician would need to wait another 4 hours. That’s when most people got up and left the ER.

We went home as well and like a miracle, my pain subsided, probably because the antibiotics had finally killed the inflammation.

Saturday ran up with me leaving my breakfast in the toilet…. the enormous amount of toxic painkillers had finally upset my stomach. But I was almost painfree. I was totally exhausted and for hours I rested on the couch drifting in and out of sleep. Sunday I was still painfree but I knew that tooth would have to go before it caused more trouble.
The Lubec dentist has the weekend and Mondays off, so I had to wait until Tuesday to get it out.

And when it finally happened it was all over within 30 minutes, anesthesia included.
1-20170814_1657401-20170814_170118I am considering a trip to Mexico in October for getting a bridge over the gaping hole.
        Flower pictures taken in Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A professor of German history explains the true horror of Trump’s response to Charlottesville


As a scholar of modern German history, I’ve been working on a study of antisemitism in Germany and the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What I saw unfold over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia and then at Bedminster, New Jersey gave me the horrible, sinking feeling that my book is going to need a new chapter.


On Saturday, August 12, 2017, thousands of young Americans marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia chanting hate-filled slogans like, “Blood and soil,” and “Jews will not replace us,” and carrying the swastika flag. They clashed with protesters and caused dozens of injuries. A car plowed into a crowd of people protesting the white supremacist demonstration, killing one person and injuring many more.

Later that day, President Donald Trump issued a statement:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.

The “hatred, bigotry and violence” he said, came from “many sides” (a point he apparently felt he needed to stress). He did not mention the fact that one side was carrying swastika flags, the flag of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party, the flag of Nazi Germany. He did not specifically condemn those who carried that flag. They were, according to the president, all equally responsible: those who marched under the Nazi banner, and those who opposed them. All equal. Nazis and anti-Nazis. But how is that possible? How can it be that in 2017, the President of the United States, a country that fought Hitler’s Germany and sacrificed hundreds of thousands of its young men in order to ensure its ultimate defeat, could not or would not bring himself to condemn Americans who marched under the flag of the Third Reich?

What does it mean to march under the swastika flag? What does the swastika flag symbolize? What did it mean to the people who hoisted it in Germany—the people who inspired the Americans who marched this weekend in Charlottesville?

Those who inspired the marchers in Charlottesville marched through the streets of Germany, provoking violence, and singing “when Jewish blood spurts from the knife.”

Those who inspired the marchers destroyed democracy and eliminated all civil liberties in Germany.

Those who inspired the marchers demonized Jewish citizens, physically assaulted them, removed them from all aspects of public life, stripped them of their rights, their property, their very ability to survive in the only country they had ever called home.

Those who inspired the marchers carried out the biggest pogrom in modern German history, destroying 267 synagogues, vandalizing Jewish businesses, attacking Jews in their homes, and killing hundreds, all in a single night in November 1938.

They demonized and physically attacked political opponents, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti, the handicapped, and any others they considered outside the boundaries of the German racial community.

They murdered more than 70,000 men, women, and children—German citizens!—who had been diagnosed with mental and physical disabilities in just two years between 1939 and 1941.

They started the most destructive war in the history of the world, causing the deaths of tens of millions of people, mostly innocent civilians.

They murdered more than 33,000 Jews in just two days at Babi Yar, outside Kiev, Ukraine in 1941.

They shot one million unarmed Jewish civilians—men, women, and children—across Eastern Europe in just the last six months of 1941.

They murdered close to three million Jews in the gas chambers of Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek, and Auschwitz.

They enslaved millions of people—Jews and non-Jews—from across Europe to work for their war of conquest.

They fought to destroy the most basic values that America has claimed to stand for over more than two centuries: the fundamental dignity and equality of all people.

The world is a complicated place. There are rarely simple, black and white answers to the problems that confront us. But sometimes, every once in a while, there are. And this is one such moment. If the President of the United States cannot condemn individuals who march under the flag of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, how can he possibly claim to represent America, its values, and all of its citizens? In perhaps the easiest test of his young presidency, Donald Trump has failed, and failed miserably.

It isn’t often that historians get to see their work gain such relevance in the present. And for those of us who study the history of hatred, bigotry, and the evils of Nazi Germany, the prospect of such relevance is most uncomfortable. If my work has taught me anything, it’s the importance of keeping the boundaries of one’s moral universe as wide as possible. In the early twentieth century, too many Germans pushed too many others beyond the boundaries of their moral universe—beyond the borders of the German racial community—where their fate was at best no longer of any concern to them, at worst, they represented an existential threat.

When that happens, the horrors committed under the swastika flag become possible. How safe are we today? How extensive are the boundaries of our own moral universe—each and every one of us? Those who marched in Charlottesville under Hitler’s flag and the President who chose not to condemn them revealed the boundaries of their moral universe to be sadly and frighteningly small. The flag that flew on that horrible day—with that symbol of ultimate evil at its heart—should remind us all just where such a limited sense of fellow feeling can lead.

Richard E. Frankel is an Associate Professor of Modern German History at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

This article was originally published at History News Network

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Damaged Beyond Repair. America In Crisis And Mourning.

“I’d like to punch him in the face”.
We all remember Trump’s rhetoric under his campaign rallies and we have not seen any moderation since Trump disgraced the Oval Office with his presence. His riling up white supremacists and nazis has now resulted in a new low in the “Land of the Free”.
The tragic Charlottesville event has led to the death of a young woman.

Is America at the verge of a new civil war?

The role of a president is to unify and lead the country with a cool and calm mind. Trump has failed to do that and his approval ratings are at a record low. Yet, his core base, around one third of the American people, are still supporting this abomination of a president and it is them who are to blame for putting America’s democracy at risk.

Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists and nazis shows that he is afraid of losing his supporting base. But Mr Trump's failure to unambiguously and repeatedly condemn those far-right, racist groups gives them oxygen and strikes a blow at the heart of American identity. And it becomes crystal clear that one third of the American population is either too stupid to understand or that they are consciously supporting vile racism and violence. The country is so mired in political division that even Nazi symbols have become political symbols some can live with if they feel that condemning them would give succor to their opposition.

Yet, fhe overwhelming majority of Americans are appalled by all that the hideous scenes in Charlottesville represent.

America is in a knee-deep crisis and if this president is allowed to continue to lead the country, America will soon be mired in a civil war and possibly even face a nuclear confrontation with North Korea.

Friday, August 4, 2017

When The Bee Stings Thrice

It was about a most normal morning today, except that I had a little repair job at the lighthouse parking lot, where local vandals had demolished a picnic bench. So I had been out there doing the necessary repairs. With the sun out it was already pretty hot when I was on my way back home riding down the road with an open side window. Suddenly something hit me in my face really hard, an insect, no doubt, and it was big.
Almost expecting a sting, I was surprised when nothing happened so I continued driving thinking that whatever it had been, was knocked unconscious on the floor. When going through the village of Wilsons Beach, I suddenly felt a sting at my throat. I hit it with my hand, and I felt the insect falling down the inside of my T-shirt, where it stung twice. By now, I had my foot heavily on the brakes, coming to a screeching emergency stop right in front of a storefront, where I exited the van banging on my chest and ripping and tearing off my shirt. I was in a panic.
Image result for paper wasp
And there….I saw a huge paper vasp falling to the pavement, where it was crushed by my foot. Indeed, I was stomping on it.
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Ouch, my chest and my throat were hurting, but had somebody seen my involuntary strip-show? 
Looking around I couldn’t see anybody, so I got back behind the wheel.

When approaching the next bend I noticed that my brakes were gone.  The brake pedal was soft like a balloon with half the pressure. Later, I found that a brake line on a rear wheel had ruptured when I did the sudden brake-up.

So, Monday I have an appointment at the local repair shop.

Like I said initially: It was about a normal morning…well, almost.