Cox Farms Stands Up For Social Tolerance

I am posting, with permission, the entirety of a Facebook blog post by Cox Farms, a roadside fresh foods market of the type that used to dot the rural landscape but are now a rarity. Cox Farms is set up on Route 620 (Braddock Road) in what was once rural Virginia, between Flat Lick Stream Valley Park and Gilbert’s Corner. Details here: www.coxfarms.com.

I report, with profound sadness, that some people chose to attack the owners for their actions and words in favor of an inclusive society. This led to the usual rancorous exchanges on Facebook as the hate-mongers were drawn, like moths to the flame, by a public statement encouraging people to treat each other  with respect. There is nothing meaningful I can add to what Cox Farms had said and done, so I will just leave their statement here. I urge you to read it, all of it, and share it with someone you care about:

“Our little roadside signs have power. Most of the time, they let folks know that our hanging baskets are on sale, that today’s sweet corn is the best ever, that Santa will be at the market this weekend, or that the Fall Festival will be closed due to rain. During the off-season, sometimes we utilize them differently. Sometimes, we try to offer a smile on a daily commute. Sometimes, a message of support and inclusion to a community that is struggling makes someone’s day. Sometimes the messages on our signs make people think… and sometimes, they make some people angry.

Last week, some of our customers and neighbors asked us to clarify the sentiment behind our sign that said “Rise & Resist.” So, we changed it to read “Rise Up Against Injustice” and “Resist White Supremacy.” We sincerely believe that fighting injustice and white supremacy is a responsibility that can- and should- unite us all. We struggle to see how anyone other than self-identified white supremacists would take this as a personal attack.

Some have asked why we feel called to have such a message on our signs at all. Here is why:

Cox Farms is a small family-owned and family-operated business. The five of us are not just business-owners; we are human beings, members of the community, and concerned citizens of this country. We are also a family, and our shared values and principles are central to our business.

We’re not seeking to alienate folks who have different perspectives on tax reform or infrastructure spending. But when it comes to speaking out against systems of oppression and injustice, we see it as our moral responsibility to use our position of privilege and power, along with the tools of our trade and the platforms available to us, to engage visibly and actively in the fight for justice. Our roadside sign messages are one small way we do this.

Some folks have expressed that they would prefer not to know where we stand. We appreciate that being an informed consumer can sometimes be exhausting, disappointing, and frustrating. It can involve making hard choices about values and priorities. We respect that some have decided to no longer patronize our business as a result. We also know that there are some who may see our signs, roll their eyes, and still choose to come back for the kettle corn. We get it.

Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We consider the present state of our country to be far beyond partisan bickering or politics as usual. We see our nation in crisis, and peoples’ lives and safety and humanity are hanging in the balance. We are gravely concerned about the hateful words, destructive actions, and detrimental policies coming from this administration. We are not neutral, and we will not feign neutrality to appease our customers. We are committed to speaking out for love and justice, even if it costs us some business.

Almost twenty years ago, some visitors started a boycott because we fly rainbow flags over our hay tunnel, and they were concerned that Cox Farms was “promoting the homosexual agenda.” A few years ago, some folks got very angry about the Black Lives Matter sign hanging in a window of an owner’s home on the farm. Last year, some locals took offense at our “We love our Muslim neighbors” and “Immigrants make America great!” sign messages. What do all of the messages have in common? They are statements of inclusion. They attempt to tell members of our community, people that might feel discriminated against or alienated in a particular moment, “Hey, you are welcome here, too.” To our customers and neighbors that feel that this is somehow a divisive stance, we ask you to reflect on the possibility that your lived experience may be one that hasn’t necessitated a message of inclusion to make you feel welcome.

We’re not strangers to controversy or hard conversations. When we take a stand, we do so knowing that it could hurt our bottom line, and we are comfortable taking that risk. As a family, we know that when you’re on the right side of history, love wins. Right now, it means that some people in our community no longer feel comfortable supporting our business, and we respect that. While our intention was not to make anyone feel unwelcome, we certainly respect every consumer’s right to decide which businesses to support in our community.”

Shilling for Trump

Well, well, well. As the rumors of more indictments of Trump acolytes circulate in the winter winds of Washington, the Trump enablers in Congress appear to have been overcome with a bad case of nerves. They are pulling out the stops in an overt effort to derail the investigation by Special Prosecutor Mueller before it makes another public move against the Trump team. Trump himself approved the release of classified information in the now infamous “Nunes memo,” and promptly tweeted that the memo completely exonerated him of any charge of collusion or obstruction of justice. In case you don’t do Twitter, here is what he said:

This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!

Au contraire, I suggest that his personal involvement in the release of the memo and attempt to use it to thwart the Mueller investigation represents, by itself, hard evidence of a direct attempt by Trump to obstruct justice by interfering in the investigation regarding his and his allies conduct. Bad move.

Today I want to turn to Alan Dershowitz who, not long ago, was a “regular” on CNN, first as a seemingly independent “legal expert” and then, increasingly, making partisan arguments in support of Trump’s position that “because I am President, I can do no wrong.” Dershowitz, a highly educated and aggressive advocate, is now a “regular” on Fox News.

Dershowitz has now argued that the Nunes Memo is a credible document entitled to respect andfurther validation. See http://fxn.ws/2DYLWDO While acknowledging that the memo is a “second hand, hearsay, account,” Dershowitz nevertheless says the memo establishes “probable cause” (the legal standard for making an arrest), for further investigation. His use of the term “probable cause” is an unsubtle way of suggesting, without saying it, that the Nunes document is evidence that a crime was committed by the FBI and/or Justice Department in applying for legal permission to surveil Carter Page, a Trump promoter and campaign worker. Dershowitz repeats his earlier call for a “nonpartisan commission of objective experts to investigate the entire issue of Russian involvement in the election and other claims made by either party about any unfairness surrounding it.” [my emphasis]

Putting aside where on this planet and this country, such “objective experts” might be found, Dershowitz, to his credit, adds that the Democratic version of the Nunes claims, also “secondhand and hearsay,” should also be released (not happening while Republicans are running things) and that this will “help to level the playing field.” Then, subject to “real needs of national security,” whatever that means and whoever would decide, the public should get the entire “redacted version” of the FISA application for surveillance of Carter Page and be able to judge for themselves whether the FBI and Department of Justice engaged in a flam-flam, not once, but at least four times, with the FISA judges (different ones for each renewal of the FISA warrant).

So what we have here, according to Dershowitz, is a situation where secondhand, highly partisan hearsay “information” from Republicans like Nunes with a history of secret dealings with the White House about the Russia election interference raises sufficient issues that we should stop the Mueller investigation and start all over again with a “nonpartisan commission” of “objective experts” to consider the issues raised by Russian interference, all because of a partisan contention that one person was surveilled inappropriately supported only  by “secondhand hearsay” information.

If this weren’t so serious. it would be laughable. Whether or not it’s true that Congress should have proceeded by nonpartisan commission rather than a special prosecutor, it is too late to change trains. The Mueller investigation is way down the tracks. The desperate maneuver of releasing only the Republican version of the Nunes memo indicates pretty clearly that the heat is being felt in the White House and on Capitol Hill. Whether deliberate or not, Dershowitz’s argument would lead to a massive slowdown, perhaps a complete shutdown, of the entire investigation, which is, of course, exactly what Trump and the Republicans in Congress wanted when they released the memo.

Dershowitz disagrees, of course, arguing that the “American public has lost faith in the objectivity of congressional committees.” No doubt, they have. Why would it be otherwise? The secret maneuvering of the Republican leadership, Nunes’s dark-of-night visits to the White House and all the other nonsense would give the Pope a headache. The notion that the public can effectively act as a jury viewing a heavily redacted document while Republicans and Democrats hurl invectives at each other about its meaning is a bridge way too far, a prescription for delay and ultimate failure. Imperfect as the process may be, the Special Prosecutor has the intelligence, independence and proper tools to do the job that needs doing.

If the President would just shut up, the entire process, and the American people in the bargain, would be well served. The fact that he keeps proclaiming his innocence when he hasn’t been charged with anything is quite telling. His behavior is that of a guilty person flailing in panic at the realization that his conduct is about to be laid bare for the world to see.

As a final word on this, do not fall prey to the facile word play of skilled advocates like Dershowitz. His legal credentials and carefully crafted arguments may seem reasonable on the surface. Before making a judgment about this, read the piece in Politico by Paul Rosenzweig at http://politi.co/2DW2fkG entitled “Even If You Take the Nunes Memo Seriously, It Makes No Sense.” The conservative R Institute, with which Rosenzweig is a Senior Fellow, sits quite far from the left wing of the Democratic Party. He is clearly not a partisan for the anti-Trump side of this fight.

The article addresses this: “let’s take the Nunes memorandum on its merits and assume that it is what it purports to be—an accurate summary of a purported problem with the FISA application process. What then should we make of it?” Rosenzweig, in my opinion, eviscerates the Nunes/Dershowitz/Trump position on the FISA application.  Read it – it’s short and accessible — and then judge for yourself.

March of the Tin Billionaires

[Warning: this post is long, but so was the speech]

I am not going to spend a lot of time or energy dissecting the State of the Union speech because that will be done elsewhere by persons more knowledgeable about the issues and more skilled in, well, dissecting political speeches. For that purpose, I recommend http://n.pr/2DSyH7G   which, in its typically matter-of-fact way, shows that nothing of substance about President Trump has changed. The outright lies, gross distortions, claiming credit for events he did not cause — it’s all there.

I must digress briefly, and I swear I am not making this up, but when the Cabinet entered the House chamber to much huzzahing from “Republican lawmakers,” the tune from the March of the Tin Soldiers entered unbidden into my head — except that the title was the March of the Tin Billionaires. It was quite a moment seeing deep thinkers like Rick Perry pretending he knows what his job is.

We should, however, admit that the President did a decent, if not great, job of delivering the lines written for him. Thus, we have confirmation that the President of the United States can read and speak the written word. Indications are that Trump loyalists loved it. Of course they did. He read his last speech to Congress without stepping on his … foot. While reading is not mentioned in the Constitution as a prerequisite to being elected president, it’s reassuring that under pressure the President can read.

He is also accomplished at narrowing his eyes and jutting out his chin to look … determined and, well, smug. I suspect those side shots with his head titled back were the way he sees his image engraved on a U.S. coin someday, commemorating the greatest president in the history of the world. Kind of like the Roman emperors. Before the Fall, of course.

Most prominently, Trump was really strong in leading applause. I may be mis-remembering but I don’t recall past presidents applauding so many of their own lines. He even motioned for groups of the audience to rise from their seats when, apparently, they were not responding to his remarks sufficient verve. None of that comes as a big surprise but it was more than a little strange to watch the putative leader of the Free World applauding himself repeatedly. This is, I think, what authoritarian personalities do – “watch me, I’m applauding, so you had better applaud too – I’ve got my eye on you.”

The speaker took care of his little “Puerto Rico problem” by promptly noting that some people were still recovering from the storms there and elsewhere but, don’t worry “we are with you, we love you, and we always will pull through together, always.”

I guess that’s what they mean about “tough love.” You say ”we love you” while withdrawing aid. It’s right out of the magician’s bag — distract attention with the left hand while …. It is reliably reported that four months after Hurricane Maria (the speaker didn’t name the hurricane because, most likely, the name is, well, Spanish sounding) almost a third of the residents have no electricity. FEMA apparently does not consider this an “emergency” any more. Tough love, baby.

The speaker quickly moved to a message, repeated throughout the speech, about what has come to be called “American exceptionalism:”

Over the last year, the world has seen what we always knew – that no people on Earth are so fearless or daring or determined as Americans. If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it. If there is an opportunity, we seize it. So let’s begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our union is strong, because our people are strong.

The concept is that Americans are better than everyone else which is why they are entitled to act superior and treat “others” as lesser beings, not equal, “not up to it.” This view of the nature of the country informs virtually all of the administration’s policies. This may be what enables it to cynically espouse practices that threaten to despoil the landscape (level those mountains and you won’t have to climb so much), and poison the air and water in the name of economic growth — American’s are especially tough and they can take it. This is perhaps what enables Trump and his enablers in Congress to act like they are human beings while deporting harmless heads of families to countries they have never known in the interest of “protecting Americans from criminal elements.”

There is, however, some indisputably good news and we do want to be fair here. To quote the speaker: “The great news for Americans – 401k, retirement, pension and college savings accounts have gone through the roof.” Of course, the family in Puerto Rico is saying: “Hey, we have no roof but, yeah, there’s a lot of sunshine coming in.” And today, well, let’s just say that the stock market tanked and leave it at that. Tomorrow is, as the famous saying goes, another day.

Now I’m going to depart from the popular acceptance of what has become a tradition in the SOTU speeches.  I really really wish that presidents, all of them, would stop the practice of bringing various individuals into the House chamber to bleed all over the place or to be held out, to their apparent discomfort, as “American heroes,” exemplars of American virtue to which other humans may aspire but never measure up.

There can be no doubt that people whose daughters were killed by gang members deserve our sympathy but why do presidents believe it is helpful to parade their misery in front of the nation? In

Trump’s case, it is totally cynical — to support his message that those lousy people from south of the Texas border are evil and should be deported or worse. Let’s hope that his comments don’t lead o claims of “unfair trial” and prejudice by the defendants who were singled out for criticism and presumed guilty by no less than the President of the United States. If that happens, Trump will, of course, just blame it on some Mexican judge. And, certainly, the bravery of the helicopter pilot and the firefighter cannot be questioned, but, at least to these eyes, they did not look very comfortable being used as exhibits in support of the president’s agenda.

In one of the most disturbing statements, Trump said “So tonight I call on Congress to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust, or fail the American people.”

Phrased that way, few would object. However, what this likely represents is a further effort to undermine the civil service protections that have largely kept politics out of federal hiring/firing practices. Remove those protections and the way is clear for the administration to populate the civil service with political loyalists and unqualified hacks.

Speaking of which, I must, simply must, note that the day after the speech, Trump’s appointee to head the Center for Disease Control, who had just moved into position in July, resigned in the wake of reports, not denied, that she had been trading in … tobacco stocks. And stocks of major pharmaceutical companies.  And in stock of at least one health insurance giant. http://read.bi/2nyiVEQ

In case you missed it, a spokesperson for the CDC said this:

Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC director….”Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.

That is Washington horsepucky for “she couldn’t do her job due to conflicts of interest; resolving those would have cost her too much money so she quit.”

Are we to understand that the vetting process of this administration did not detect that this person was a stock investor; did they not discuss the self-evident concept of “conflict of interest” with her?  Oh, yes, I almost forgot: Japan Tobacco, the irresistible lure for Dr. Fitzgerald’s money, is one-third owned by the Government of Japan! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Tobacco. If you want to make yourself sick without smoking, take a look at this: https://www.jti.com/node/181. This is the same administration that has complained bitterly and falsely about the alleged failure of the prior administration to adequately vet incoming foreigners.

And while you’re at it, if you want to see another stellar example of an administration appointee to high federal office, feast your eyes on this video, if you dare: http://bit.ly/2E8sRy7 View only on an empty stomach.

But I digress again. I was writing about Trump’s SOTU speech.

He proudly declared that “we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.” Truly, no one knows what the hell he’s talking about. See the NPR critique cited above. Maybe he believes that there is a new kind of coal that is white or translucent, so breathing the dust can kill you but you won’t be able to see it, so what’s the problem?

Regarding energy, jobs and many other topics, my best analogy is to someone who walks to bank of a great river. The river is rising rapidly because of glacial melting and higher-than-normal rainfall hundreds of miles to the north. Noting the increased flow, Trump claims credit — “look at all that water; there has never been so much water until my administration came to power; now the river is rising like never before in history!”

Enough nitpicking the details.  The real issue here is, I think, Trump’s belief that the United States is under attack from every side. Immigrants cruising freely across the southern border to rape, pillage and murder. Foreigners coming here with no intention to work and no useable skills. Bad deals with foreign countries intent on plundering our wealth. And so on.

This is the Fortress American Deja vu all over again. Whether the President actually believes this or is simply playing to his political base that believes it is an open question. Many knowledgeable commentators have suggested that the President has no political philosophy or core set of beliefs at all, other than being a self-promoter and all that is implied by that term.

In any case, among other things, the President has translated the Fortress America concept into a new version of Us versus Them:

Last month, I also took an action endorsed unanimously by the U.S. Senate, just months before. I recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Shortly afterwards, dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this decision. In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20 billion in aid. That is why, tonight, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.” [emphasis mine]

The President has thus gone from “America First” to “America Alone” and in the process branded multiple former strong allies as enemies of America. While international diplomacy has a way of overlooking even the most heinous of hostile stupidities, it is clear enough why, since Trump was elected, the standing of the United States in the international community is at an all-time low, similar to the President’s approval ratings among Americans.

Isolationism has a long history in the United States (see http://bit.ly/1j8FAlI) but was often practiced in the breach as the U.S. extended its commercial hegemony wherever it thought its interests justified it. It has never been an effective foreign policy and was dashed on the rocks of reality when the United States was caught flat-footed by Japan at Pearl Harbor. That attack ended, among other things, the influence of the America First Committee. See http://bit.ly/2GENz7r. The current President did not invent the term ‘America First;’ he resurrected it from the garbage dump of history.

The United States was again surprised by the North Korean invasion of South Korea just five years after the end of World War II.  In the current world of highly interconnected digital communications, jet travel and the rest, it seems the height of folly to pursue a foreign policy based on the idea that the United States can “go it alone.” That nevertheless is the essence of the current President’s “policies” which, ironically appeals to his political base who will likely be among the first call-ups if we end up in a larger war.

And, so, my fellow Americans, we have a situation here where, as one of Trump’s followers said on Facebook the other day, “Obama destroyed America” and yet “the state of the union is strong.” Where we are under assault on every front, yet we are the greatest of all people on the earth and our economy is flourishing.

And, oh yes, where our President is under investigation for obstruction of justice and conspiring with actual historical and current adversaries of our country to fix the last election.

Undeterred by all the self-interested and self-contradictory blather from our disgrace of a national leader, I choose to end on the optimistic note: the American people are sufficiently exceptional that they will survive this blot on their integrity, the republic will survive, bruises and all, and in the end, Martin Luther King Jr. will have been proved right again — we shall overcome.

The Two Faces of Russian Election Interference

Sometimes there is something so obvious staring you in the face and, thus, entering your brain, and yet you just don’t see it. I just had that moment of startled recognition.

I awoke to the realization that, even assuming that Donald Trump did not collude with Russia in influencing the 2016 election (jury is still out), Trump’s sole interest in the subject appears to be establishing his personal innocence. Despite being the President of the United States, sworn to uphold the law, protect the Constitution and so on, Trump has shown no interest in getting to the bottom of what our intelligence apparatus has declared to be conclusive evidence of Russian interference.

Not only has Trump repeatedly denied his own complicity, but he has been a harsh critic of the U.S. intelligence community, about which he knows little or nothing. Trump’s interest in the subject of voter fraud seems entirely limited to proving that there was domestic cheating that resulted in Hillary Clinton receiving more popular votes than he did. We must wonder what he will do now that his “voter fraud commission” is being disbanded for gross failure to accomplish anything.

We can expect at least that he will continue the Trump Deflection Strategy, by continuing to harp on the newest sideshow involving missing text messages at the FBI and the debunked theory that a “secret society” was operating inside the FBI with the mission to destroy Trump and his presidency. You can’t make this stuff up.

Well, actually you can. Some people do. They write fictional mystery/espionage novels some of which are made into movies and make a lot of money on the false but entertaining stories of dark conspiracies, super-human government/anti-government agents running amuck until the “hero” makes a last-minute discovery and saves the country and/or mankind from the evildoers. Trump’s political base appears to live in that same world. They have smoothly transitioned from “Benghazi!” and “what about her emails?” to “what about the texts?” Looking at some of their tweets, they are convinced there is a “secret society” inside the FBI out to get Trump.

They may indeed be half right. Those who believe in the efficacy of prayer likely hope fervently that the FBI/Special Counsel investigation produces enough evidence to support impeachment of the President. Trump’s core base, however, refuses to be concerned in the slightest about the monumental inconsistency between Trump’s repeated declarations of personal innocence and his utter indifference to the possibility that a hostile foreign power, historically the proponent of everything reviled by Trump’s adopted political party, interfered in the election of the most important political person in the country.

For Trump, of course, there is no inconsistency because, if anyone benefited from foreign meddling, it was he and that’s just fine with him.  Trump is the only one that matters to Trump. I would not be surprised if, before his term ends (by whatever means), he does not demand that all written references to his person shall have the initial letter capitalized. You know … as in He, Him …. don’t bet against it. Time will tell.

Cholesterol: Democracy’s Only Hope

The title of this post comes from my favorite sign at this year’s Women’s March in New York City. It is, of course, not true, but I thought it was clever. There are better ways to remove Trump than waiting for him to have a heart attack. I will return to that in a moment.

I had planned to title this piece something more like “And still they came.” Meaning that beginning at 11 am and continuing for more than five hours, the marchers processed in New York. The size of the crowd was overwhelming.

They started somewhere up past West 72nd (we never made it up there for the rally) and came down 8th Avenue (aka Central Park West) passed by Columbus Circle went east on West 58th to 6th Avenue, then down to the mid-40s where the March ended. We had to walk out Broadway and quickly ran into a near standstill crowd at 60th. We crept forward to 63rd, where the police finally allowed our crowd to cross back toward 8th Avenue to merge into the main body of the March. Thus, we processed across town to 6th Avenue and turned toward Downtown. We finally gave out at West 54th Street and headed back toward our apartment. On the way we stopped to get a bite to eat (splitting a corned beef on rye, for which New York is justly famous). Back on the street at about 4 pm, we realized that the people were still marching and chanting; even when we reached Columbus Circle, almost back to our apartment, the street was packed with marchers carrying signs.

So, back to the signs. I can’t say this year’s crop was as creative as those of the first March in Washington last year but some of them were pretty good. I have attached photos of the ones suitable for a “family blog.” If you want to see the others, submit a reply and I will send them privately to you.

The “cholesterol sign” mentioned above is, of course, an allusion to the recent medical report on Donald Trump’s health, a report that, like everything else about Trump, cries out for a redo by people not employed in the White House, Fox News or the Republican Party. My ultimate message, however, is not to quibble about Trump’s health.

Rather, I want to say that the real way to get rid of Trump is to bring about one or more of the following:

(1) Robert Mueller’s investigation acts upon the conclusion that Trump was complicit in the Russian interference in the 2016 election or that Trump has otherwise engaged in obstruction of justice or some other “high crime or misdemeanor,” leading to irresistible pressure for impeachment.

This is, of course, beyond the control or influence of us as individuals. As much as we may prefer a direct take-down of the president, his co-conspirators and enablers, we cannot afford to rely solely on that approach, especially since Republicans control both houses of Congress and are virtually certain to defend Trump to the death.

Thus, we turn to No. 2:

(2) effect a massive Democratic turnout for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms and strip the Republican Party of control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This is the part we can control. The massive turnout for the Women’s March around the country is strong, but not conclusive, evidence that the Democratic Party can experience a massive renaissance and reverse the anti-humanity, anti-environment plague of the Trump-Republican regime. Marching is great, resistance is essential and bringing constant pressure against the regime is important. But, in the end, victory can only be accomplished by one thing:  VOTE THE BASTARDS OUT OF OFFICE.

It is likely that, if you read this blog, you agree with me on this. But it is not enough for each of us individually to follow that prescription and arrange our affairs so we can vote in the 2018 midterms. There are many other potential supporters who, for a variety of “reasons” will not be sufficiently motivated to actually go to the polls or who, for a variety of reasons, will face obstacles to voting, either in their personal circumstances or because they are unaware how to handle the barriers to voting that have been erected in many jurisdictions. If we’re going to win this election going away, we each must reach out to such people and offer to help them by guiding them, driving them, just plain encouraging them, asking them to make the commitment to you personally and then remind them again on Election Day, taking the extra step to assure that every possible vote for Democratic candidates is actually cast on Election Day.

If you run into resistance, with, for example, someone telling you that for reason X or Y, they are going to vote for some third party single-issue candidate, you need to double down with that person and bring pressure on them so that they understand that voting for such candidates is the same as not voting at all or, worse, the same as voting for the Republicans and a continuation of the anti-American agenda they have pursued since Donald Trump was inaugurated. This is a solemn obligation of every right-thinking American. VOTE and make sure that every like-minded person you know also VOTES. This may be awkward in some cases, but if you approach friends on a positive, personal basis, they will generally respect what you are doing.

Understand that the supporters of Donald Trump are not going to just give up if they feel his position is being threatened. No matter what you may have read about the softening of his support, those folks who have found a way to believe in Trump are not going to sit at home whining about how the Democrats are organized and passionate about turning Trump and his cabal out of office. They will vote because they passionately believe Trump is a victim and that they are victims and that sense of victimization and loss is a powerful driving force that largely explains the shock vote in 2016.

That means that every vote is more important than ever. Recall that one legislative seat in Virginia was recently lost by drawing the Republican winner’s name from a bowl because the actual vote of the people was deemed to be a tie! Think about that – an “elected” representative chosen by drawing a name from a bowl.

That doesn’t happen often, but it can happen again. Moreover, the Electoral College vote was determined ultimately by a total of 77,744 votes in three states. Those votes represent .057 percent of the total votes cast for Trump and Clinton combined. Our fate was determined by the slimmest of margins. If this happens again in 2018, resulting in continued Republican control of the House and Senate, who will we blame then? We will just have to look in a mirror to see who is responsible.

Enjoy the photos. Be moved. Act! Join the ACLU. Or Moveon.org. Or Indivisible. Or all of them. Play a part, win the fight, win the war for the soul of the country. Save our republic and its democracy … without cholesterol.

Miss Saigon — All Are Punished

Over the years I have seen most of the major “contemporary” (for their time) plays/musicals/dramas of the live theater. This may be an exaggeration but the current staging of Miss Saigon at the Broadway Theater in New York City is likely the best I have ever seen.

This was my third viewing, the last one being over a decade ago. No matter, it was all like new. In the event, I recalled few details of the story and little of the music. The presentation was, however, almost unbearably extraordinary in every way. A live orchestra added to the drama of the acting. The integration of the music and the play was so perfect that you were not really aware of the role the music was playing until it stopped. Even if you knew the story and what was about to happen next, the presentation was so effective that the suspense, pain, horror and resolution came each time as a surprise and a shock. The suffering of the participants in the inescapable conflicts felt completely genuine.

Jon Jon Briones played the Engineer, a maître d’-like character who brings to mind Joel Grey’s masterwork as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. You love to hate him even as you are forced to admire his handiwork. But most stunning, in my view, was the performance of Eva Noblezada as Kim, the love object of an American soldier about to depart Vietnam as the tragic American intervention came to its horrific close. In addition to completely convincing acting, her voice was transcendent. Her duet with John (Nicholas Christopher) entitled Too Much for One Heart says it all.

Overall, the play evokes Romeo & Juliet in that good people are trapped in a situation not of their making and there is no way out.  For those who lived through the period, and likely more so for those who served there, the complete personal and national tragedy of the American participation in the Vietnam War is fully captured in this emotional juggernaut of a play. Even if you have seen it before, this is a presentation you should see again. If you’ve never seen it, get thee to New York and do yourself a favor by witnessing this compelling spectacle.

And bring tissues.

Most Disturbing Statements Since Trump Was Elected

According to a recent report in Axios, cited by CNN’s Chris Cillizza, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, recently said the “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.” http://cnn.it/2AUcpAw  That extraordinary claim has now been repeated in even more stark terms by the President (not mine) himself: ““I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” Trump asserted in a widely reported interview with the New York Times. My emphasis on “absolute right,” because this is the type of claim made by dictators and kings. Under the Constitution there are few, if any, absolute rights and the right to break the law is certainly not one of them.

By extension, Trump’s principle leads to this: since every governor is likely the chief law enforcement officer in a state, the governor cannot obstruct justice under state law by interfering with the independence of the state office of attorney general.  And, since the police chief is the chief law enforcement officer in a city, he cannot obstruct justice either, no matter what he does or no matter what inspires him to act (e.g., here’s $100,000 to stop my friend (or me) from being prosecuted)? Or is it the mayor? Or both? Does Trump really believe that all these people are above the law and may interfere in investigations and prosecutions that could lead to themselves as targets? If that is the state of things, and you add up how many powerful people that involves, with command over the military, National Guard and police, you have the makings of tyranny and dictatorship.

Most likely, Trump never thought about the implications of his statement which he probably sees as applicable only to himself in his capacity as the supreme being.

Mr. Dowd, in his capacity as Trump’s lawyer, is entitled, of course, to make what are sometimes called “extension of law” arguments to support his client’s position, even if, as I believe is true here, the argument is pure poppycock. It is fundamental that a statement (read “expression of view”) made in one context may be harmless but pure poison if said to the wrong person or in a different context. Is the President merely expressing his opinion when he says to the head of the FBI “I sure wish you would let the Flynn thing slide,” and then fires the Director when he does not comply?

One might have pause over this in light of the supporting statements of Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz (disclosure: I studied First Year Criminal Law under him). Dershowitz, however, as smart as he is, is not infallible. His position reminds me of some of the ultra-fine point-making for which law school classes were notoriously famous and are fine in an academic setting. In the real world we inhabit now, it proves way too much to say that the President of the United States is essentially immune from the law against obstruction of justice.

Dershowitz seems to be saying the President is “merely” exercising his Constitutional authority when he, for example, countermands a potential criminal prosecution or, for another, pardons himself or pardons targeted members of his staff even before they are charged with anything. He argues that no president has ever been charged for doing so. So what? Perhaps Special Prosecutor Mueller will be the first. There is always a first time and Trump seems primed to be it.

Obstruction seems just the kind of “high crime” that the Constitution’s impeachment provision was intended to expose to sanction by Congress and by law enforcement after impeachment succeeds.

This “I am the law” approach to governance is precisely what the Founders of the country were trying to overcome in fashioning a constitutional republic of laws, not of men. It was the essential lawlessness of the King of England, whose decrees were final and not subject to question, that the Founders intended to prevent when the office of the President of the United States was created with a provision for impeachment of the President for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” For a short, but incisive, treatment of this subject, read Impeachment, A Citizen’s Guide, by Cass Sunstein. [Note: I expect to discuss that, and some related books, in a forthcoming post.]

Mr. Dowd’s/Trump’s view that the President is both “the law” and “above the law” poses a threat to every American, including those who still think, if that word can be used here, that Trump is infallible. In this country, no one is immune from the reach of the law for crimes committed, including obstruction of justice.

No doubt an impeachment action based on obstruction of justice, collusion with enemies of the country, would end up in the Supreme Court pretty fast because Trump will never yield no matter how compelling the evidence. So, Mr. Mueller, the world turns its eyes to you. Whenever you’re ready. Bring it.

And Happy New Year.