Category Archives: Photos

MUELLER REPORT PART I – TRUMP CANOODLING WITH RUSSIA

Introduction¹

This is the first of a series of posts in which I will analyze the Mueller Report based on the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) investigation into two questions: (1) did the Trump Campaign conspire with the Russian government to affect the 2016 election in Trump’s favor and (2) did Trump engage in obstruction of justice regarding the Mueller investigation or otherwise? Based on the evidence adduced by the SCO, I believe the answer to both questions is ‘yes.’

Trump has argued that everything that transpired with Russia during and after the Campaign was intended merely to improve relations with Russia. On its face, there is nothing wrong with that — as a policy position – since Russia is clearly a major world power and, provided US interests are protected, better relations with it would be an important and valid foreign policy objective. Such claimed improvements in relations, however, must have mutual benefits, including that (1) vital relationships with allies around the world are respected and nourished, and (2) the personal and financial interests of our government leaders are not implicated in decisions regarding Russia. Because the Trump administration has been conducted largely in secret, often violating federal laws governing record-keeping by federal officials, and because the president has demonstrably lied about so many aspects of his governance before and after his election, including particularly his relations with Russia, little or no credence should be given to his protestations of innocence and doubts should be resolved against him.

Moreover, and this supersedes all other considerations, efforts to improve relations may not, under any imaginable circumstances, include seeking or accepting offers of assistance in the election of our leaders. Such activities by candidates are plainly and completely forbidden. It is well to remember, as President Obama reminded us when asked about possible changes to US foreign policy following his election, but before his inauguration, we have only one president at a time. Interference in the foreign policy of the United States by collaboration with a hostile foreign power, which Russia unquestionably has been, is beyond the pale. Every putative leader and those in the inner circle are chargeable with knowledge of, and the duty to comply with, this policy. Failure to adhere to it is a clear violation of the constitutionally prescribed oath of office (Article II, Section I, Clause 8) and is tantamount to, if not actually, treason.

Treason is a term that should not be thrown about lightly. The U.S. Constitution, in an effort to limit the abuses of the King of England, provides “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Since the Constitution provides only a limitation on what may be treason, the Congress enacted 18 USC 2381 of the federal criminal code:

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Historically, very few formal allegations of treason have been brought in the United States and, as a practical matter, there is little chance that Donald Trump will be so accused. Nevertheless, in evaluating his behavior, and that of his chosen associates, it is well to keep the concept in mind. “I didn’t know the law” is no excuse.

It is important to me personally and, I hope, important to readers, to understand the many curiosities and nuances of the Mueller investigation, especially now that the Trump-appointed Attorney General has taken it upon himself to “decide” the very issues about which Mueller declined to make a final prosecutorial judgment. In doing this, the AG has made blatantly false statements about the substance of the Mueller Report in an effort to shape the public understanding of that Report in Trump’s favor. The AG has acted more like Trump’s personal attorney than like the chief legal officer of the country.

Mueller opened the door to this chicanery by failing to state clear conclusions about many aspects of the investigation. He could have done otherwise even if he believed, as he says, he was constrained by Justice Department policies that prevent the indictment of a sitting president for the corrupt conduct of his office. But he didn’t state those conclusions. Overall, his approach to the investigation seems to lack an appropriate measure of aggression, considering what was and is at stake.

Understanding the Report is also important because the Republicans in Congress now seek to “investigate” the investigators, pursuing the false narrative that there was no justification for the investigation in the first place and, taking words from Trump’s tweet storms, it was all just an effort to “take down a president.” That characterization is plainly false. That fact does not mean, however, that the Muller Report is without shortcomings. In addressing what I believe those are, I will be unsparing in my own critique.

That critique does not support the false Republican narrative. Indeed, the reverse is true. For reasons I will state, Mueller, in my view, failed to pursue leads and to follow up and report on some obvious issues. I understand, of course, that Mueller is famous as a prosecutor and highly regarded as a man above reproach. I accept that, but that just makes the questions about the Report all the more pointed and the absence of answers more difficult to accept at face value. This was not a time to be timid and, I believe, the Report reflects a stunningly timid approach.

On the issue of election interference, the Report contains many details, some of which refer to what seem like peripheral matters. Large sections of Vol. 1, for example, deal with Russian cyber-attacks and how they were investigated, not with Trump Campaign coordination. If you choose to read the Report, do not be distracted by this. The Report’s crucial finding is that not only did the Trump Campaign “expect … to benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts” [I-MR 1-2] but the Campaign did not report what it knew was going on, and being attempted, to the FBI.

Also, keep in mind this warning from Mueller: “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” I-MR 2 There are many instances in which that statement applies to the situation the investigation was trying to explore.

Mueller has stated that if questioned in Congress, he will say nothing more than what is written in the Report. That is, for reasons that will appear, an unacceptable position. There are many legitimate questions about the conduct of the investigation, the framing of the analytical basis for the matters investigated and the conclusions (and non-conclusions) drawn. Mueller has, I believe, a solemn obligation to appear and respond to questions. He has apparently now agreed to do so, despite the continued entreaties of the Attorney General that he should not undergo that examination. I trust Mueller will not simply say “sorry, I have nothing further to say.” Time will tell.


[1] Page references are to the actual Report, not the pagination in Adobe Reader. I-I-MR X refers to Volume 1 at page X and II-I-MR X refers similarly to Volume II.

Next: Collusion vs. Conspiracy – Setting a High and Unnecessary Threshold of Proof

Good News & Bad News in Hawaii

Good News & Bad News in Hawaii

No, this not about the volcano, but it is about the environment. The bad news, of course, is that the coral reefs are being destroyed all over the world by, among other things, a process called “bleaching.” According to the National Ocean Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce:

When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white…. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality. [A scientists way of describing “likely to die”]

In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. The warm waters centered around the northern Antilles near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expanded southward. Comparison of satellite data from the previous 20 years confirmed that thermal stress from the 2005 event was greater than the previous 20 years combined.

Not all bleaching events are due to warm water.

In January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death. Water temperatures dropped 12.06 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the typical temperatures observed at this time of year. Researchers will evaluate if this cold-stress event will make corals more susceptible to disease in the same way that warmer waters impact corals. [That was 8 years ago – no update]

The NOS site also says: “If the stress-caused bleaching is not severe, coral have been known to recover. If the algae loss is prolonged and the stress continues, coral eventually dies.”

Quite.

Notwithstanding the optimistic views of NOS, the worldwide losses of coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is progressing rapidly. Based on the best available climate change science, to depend on reversal of ocean water temperatures to save the corals is a fool’s errand. There are, however, other measures that can be taken and Hawaii has done so.

As reported in TravelMarketReport.com on July 5, https://bit.ly/2KYM2L6, Hawaii has banned, effective January 1, 2021, the use of two chemicals that contribute to coral bleaching. These obscure chemicals are used in many commercial sunscreens which, of course, are sold in huge quantities in Hawaii. One study found that, on average, more than 400 pounds of sunscreen a day fell on the reef at Hanauma Bay, an area on Oahu that attracts 2,600 snorklers a day. [Hanauma Bay shown in photo at top of post]

Not surprisingly, the legislation was opposed by the makers of commercial sunscreen. https://nyti.ms/2rdFsbR We can only hope that Hawaii’s model of aggressively protecting its reefs will spread rapidly to other states and countries. The oceans are getting warmer, notwithstanding the denials of the Republican science-deniers, and all the reefs are at risk.

While on the subject of Hawaii, I cannot resist the temptation to show a few of my favorite photos from some of the islands.These are typical of what you can see there.

Families Together March

The blog post that will shortly follow the posting of these photographs says all that I have to say about the march and the issues it raised. This is heavy stuff for the July 4 day of celebration but I think the times require a more serious reflection on what our independence means and what it requires us to do.

As Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he was asked: “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a Republic or a Monarchy? HIs answer: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

 

Scott Pruitt – Destroyer of Worlds

Do you know how many soldiers make up a platoon in the U.S. Army? While answers vary by source, there appears to be consensus around a size of 16 to 60 soldiers. Thus, the security detail demanded by Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s appointee as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, numbering at least 20 is the equivalent of having a full-time platoon of American soldiers for “protection.” Exactly what Pruitt is so afraid of remains an open question.

On the one hand, we have Pruitt stealing, in effect, from the public through a multitude of unjustifiable first-class trips, installation of a “secure phone booth” costing more than $40,000, and other over-the-top charges for his office rework. On the other hand (or is it the same hand?), we have a man who, before his appointment by Trump was firmly entrenched as a public official in Oklahoma with the industries seeking to exploit the environment for private gain, now using his federal office to further reward those same industries and companies.

Thinking of Pruitt’s tenure as EPA head brings to mind Robert Oppenheimer, a famous physicist who led the Los Alamos Laboratory and is credited, with others, as being the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role in the World War II Manhattan Project that created the first such bomb. After observing the test firing in New Mexico, Oppenheimer later said it drew to his mind the words from the ancient Hindu text, Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Pruitt, of course, appears to know little of science and to care nothing about it in any event. His worldview appears to be that Earth is here for one reason, the unlimited exploitation of its resources by mankind, through the vehicles of mining, logging, drilling, whatever it takes and wherever is desired. Thus, in the space of a little more than a year, Pruitt has:

  • spent millions on his personal around-the-clock security, including salaries ranging from $103,000 to nearly $162,000
  • slashed the working budget of EPA by about 30 percent;
  • claimed that threats against him have sky-rocketed, but there are no public reports of arrests or prosecutions;
  • flown on charter flights and first-class flights that included putting his security detail in first-class, with the excuse that being in first-class means they can exit the plane faster; when paying for his own travel, Pruitt flew coach;
  • rolled back auto fuel-efficiency rules;
  • promoted Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord;
  • directed payment of extraordinary bonuses of 30 & 52 percent to two close aides who joined him from Oklahoma;
  • taken adverse job actions against professional agency staff who questioned his spending/travel practices;
  • insisted that vehicles in his entourage use lights & sirens when moving through Washington streets to attend dinners;
  • rented a room from the wife of a lobbyist with business before the EPA;
  • denied, contrary to the evidence, that he authorized the excessive raises or that he approved the $43,000 installation of a sound-proof booth in his office, including biometric door locks and other security features more appropriate for a banana-republic dictator;
  • incurred frequent high-cost luxury accommodation charges, seeking approval after-the-fact;
  • accepted expense reimbursements from groups with business before the EPA;
  • rescinded, often with limited process, rules protecting the water, air and national parks, allowing uncontrolled exploitation of unique national resources without regard to the consequences.

In light of those and other legal/ethical lapses, the Washington Post has called for Pruitt’s firing, but Trump continues to support him because he is executing Trump’s plan to undo every environmental protection he can find. If there’s one thing Trump hates as much as exposure of his own corruption, it’s Obama-era environmental regulations. He wants them all gone and Pruitt is just the man to do his, and the exploitative industries’, bidding.

Pruitt is on par with the likes of Ben Carson, Trump’s appointed head of the Housing & Urban Development agency, for which Carson had zero qualifications, and Ryan Zinke, Trump’s appointed Secretary of the Interior, who repeatedly calls himself a “geologist,” based solely on having a college major in geology 34 years ago, and whose principal goal appears to be reducing the size of national parks so they can be exploited for minerals, oil and gas. Scott Pruitt sees his charge as clearing the way for unregulated commercial exploitation by private firms of the nation’s precious natural resources, including its clean water and air.

It is extremely unlikely that such a person would have been allowed to continue in office overseeing an agency whose legally established purpose is the exact opposite of Trump’s and Pruitt’s agenda. The Republican controlled Congress, however, continues to tolerate this situation and is thus complicit in the crimes against nature and humanity that this administration is perpetrating in the interest of enriching already wealthy corporations and individuals.

You have read it here before, but it bears repeating. We are facing a grave threat to our well-being as a people and as a country. Absent the bringing of criminal indictments and impeachment against Trump, the 2018 mid-term elections are the next real opportunity to regain the upper hand before it is too late. You should tell everyone you know that is capable of independent thought and reason why they must vote in November for Democrats, and why they must help others in need of assistance in getting to the polls and fulfilling their citizen responsibilities. This is not a drill.

Sources for this post: https://cnn.it/2vlJVOb; https://bit.ly/2J5LRwm; https://politi.co/2qD1hBg; https://wapo.st/2qFXBho; https://nyti.ms/2Eoc7iC;https://bit.ly/2JVc1De; https://bit.ly/2qfdACU; https://bzfd.it/2J6g0LZ; https://nyti.ms/2H40tiY; https://politi.co/2viE7F0.

 

NRA, Fear Emma Gonzalez

If you didn’t march with the kids today in the March for Our Lives, the loss is yours. My wife and I participated in New York City, where the turnout exceeded estimates by many multiples. We did not hear the speeches live because the crowd was so large. The starting point was West 72nd Street at Central Park West but we were directed by the police to go to 86th Street before being allowed to turn and join the main group of marchers. If you have not heard Emma Gonzalez speech, witnessed her extraordinary poise and maturity, you owe it to yourself to watch it in its entirety. Here is the link: https://bit.ly/2pBSuz8 Do not turn it off during the long, most extraordinary pause in her address to the assembled marchers.

Emma Gonzalez and her generation are the next great wave of voters. Many are already old enough or will be by the 2018 mid-term elections. They have had all they are going to take of excuses from the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio with his “let’s all get together on a compromise because some people don’t think gun control will be effective.” An overwhelming majority of Americans in poll after poll say that the time for action is now, not some vague point in the distant future. The young people of Emma Gonzalez’s generation and the ones behind them are motivated to compel change through the ballot box and there are many of them. NRA money can’t buy them. They are not afraid of a government takeover or other paranoid delusion spread by the gun lobby. They are afraid of being massacred next week or next month in their schools, like so many of their friends. Yes, NRA, you should fear Emma Gonzalez more than anything else. She sees you for what you are and she, and her friends are going to remove from office the sycophants that have taken NRA money and done its bidding for too long. Time’s up.

Here is a selection of photographs I took during today’s march in New York City. For context, the photos start as the huge group of marchers moves uptown from the 79th Street subway station toward 86th. It is worth noting that the NYPD we encountered were uniformly helpful in answering questions. The “show of force” near the end of the photo set is simply the police trying to move the marchers off of 6th Avenue onto the exit at 44th Street. The pictures close with a chanting session near Times Square where the kids attracted a large crowd of supporters. These amazing young people are not going away.

#MarchforOurLives

March for Science 2017

It was a wet and gloomy day in Washington DC yesterday, the appointed time for the mothership of the global March for Science, but it had little, if any, effect on the size or enthusiasm of the crowd which had to be in the tens of thousands in DC alone. By the latest count, more than 500 satellite marches were scheduled in all 50 states and around the world. A report and some pictures of the DC march can be found here: http://bit.ly/2pLoSgV

The march will be followed by the Climate March in Washington DC on April 29. Satellite marches will be held around the country and in Canada (and perhaps elsewhere). See https://peoplesclimate.org/

In keeping with his unbroken history, Not-My-President Donald Trump issued a tweet demonstrating his total cluelessness and venality regarding science and the environment:

“Today on Earth Day, we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes and land. We stand committed to preserving the natural beauty of our nation.”

That statement must be intended solely for his infatuant base since all informed people will recognize that Trump’s actions as President are directly contrary to the interests of science and the environment that sustains us. More on that another time. The turnout for this march shows pretty clearly that the people are not going to stand by idly while the administration wrecks the planet.

For now, I have set out below a few photos I took. It was hard to see much because of the umbrellas and the absence of high ground but these will convey the general gist.

 

I

 

Tax March DC 2017

Yesterday tens of thousands of Americans gathered in cities across the country to demand that the sitting President of the United States release his tax returns so that the country can decide for itself whether there are concerning ties to Russia, whether and where lie his continuing conflicts of interest resulting from failure to divorce himself fully from his business interests and how he and his family may benefit from changes in the federal tax code now being considered.

There are also many questions whether he has lied about his charitable giving, the scale of his earnings and others. Trump first said he would release his returns when the audits were finished. That excuse fails on multiple grounds. He signed the returns when they were filed and, as we all do, vouched for their accuracy and completeness. The audit may reveal issues with those criteria, or other failings, but the audit, which Trump could and likely would contest for years, is no excuse for withholding the returns from public scrutiny. As many of the signs at yesterday’s march stated: what is Trump hiding? T

he same question arises due to the Trump decision to withhold from public view the visitor logs to the White House. The proposed excuses for this latest example of secret government are security and privacy. The security question can easily be handled by time delaying the release or by masking names where there is a legitimate security reason for not disclosing a visitor to the White House. In an open democracy those should be few and far between. The privacy rationale is ludicrous coming from an administration that supports letting Internet providers sell the browsing records of their users.

For those interested but couldn’t attend a march personally, I have attached 116 images from the march in the District of Columbia which was massive. The photos from ground level do not fully reveal the size of the event nor, of course, the sounds.

Next up is the March for Science on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. I urge you to join this march to convey to the administration that the people of this country are not going to accept the dismantling of the environmental protections that have been put in place to protect our life-essential air, water, bio-diversity and other natural elements critical to life on the one planet on which we can live. See this site for information:  https://www.marchforscience.com/