Tag Archives: ACLU

Pulling on the Right Rope – ACLU

We are coming up on a momentous event in the form of the 2018 midterm elections. They offer the real possibility of overturning the Republican control of Congress, and thus ending the subordination of Congress to the president and the return of the checks and balances that were expected by the Founders to prevail indefinitely.

The grand scheme of the Constitution was a tripartite balance of authority and power in which each of the three pillars of the republic — Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary – would interact is a way that prevented any one of the pillars from overpowering the others. The Founders were not, of course, expecting a situation to arise in which a single political party would gain control of all three branches of the federal government and in which the members of that party would place the interests of that party above the welfare of the country. But that’s what we have and it is that which threatens the continued existence of the democracy that makes the United States a country of unequaled achievement.

Of course, the journey of American democracy has not been straight and pure. We fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery, struggled to end Jim Crow, and struggled to establish racial equality and opportunity in education, voting, employment, human relations and all the rest. Then we elected an African American man to be president. Twice. Many of us thought we had, at long last, moved past our past. We were wrong. Trump’s ascendancy has exposed the ugly underbelly of the nation’s bigotry, fear and cruelty. You know the story or you wouldn’t be reading this.

So, what to do? We don’t want to fight another civil war. Obviously, everyone needs to vote and help someone else vote. I have harped on this repeatedly and I won’t repeat it here. Instead, I suggest an additional approach: look at this as an exercise in tug o’war.

On the other end of the rope is the Trump administration. We all await, with hope and apprehension, Special Prosecutor Mueller’s action on the core issue of Trump’s illegitimate election victory as a product of Russian interference in which Trump and his campaign actively conspired. There is also a large body of evidence that Trump has committed multiple “high crimes and misdemeanors” which would support his impeachment and removal from office.

None of that is going to be resolved by November and the pull on the other end of the rope is strong. Many Americans believe that Trump is an ideal executive, disregarding his serial lying, attacks on our allies and sucking up to dictators around the world. They seem to be untroubled by his attachment to Vladimir Putin and his amateurish, schoolyard bullying of private companies and foreign countries.

On our end of the rope, we have … the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU. Think about that name: Civil Liberties Union. Since its inception, preservation of civil liberties and enforcement of the Constitution have been the singular preoccupation of this group. Sometimes the ACLU defended the rights of genuinely and widely unpopular people or groups, but they persisted because they understood that if the rights of one are disregarded, the rights of all could be next. We simply cannot pick and choose who gets protected and who does not.

If you are like me and have at one time or another made a donation to some #RESISTANCE group, you are no doubt being bombarded by requests to sign petitions and, more importantly, to donate more. Many great organizations are doing important work to resist the Trump administration’s fear-based agenda. Common Cause comes to mind. And Everytown for Gun Safety. And many others. The question is: which rope are you going to pull on?

I suppose I am prejudiced in favor of an organization that directly and forcefully challenges the illegal conduct of the administration at every turn and that wins most of its cases. The ACLU has initiated or joined most of the major legal challenges to the Trump administration’s most outrageous acts and policies and has enjoyed amazing success.

The ACLU record is genuinely remarkable. As reported in a major article in the New York Times Magazine on July 8, in the 15 months following the Trump election “victory,” ACLU membership increased by more than four times! A huge increase in funding followed, leading to the hiring of more lawyers for the 54 affiliated offices (1 in each state with 3 in California and one each in Washington, DC and Puerto Rico). But, the article notes, there are 11,000 lawyers in the Justice Department.

Since Trump’s oath of office, the ACLU has initiated 170 Trump-related actions, including 83 lawsuits. The additional resources have enabled ACLU to start two new advocacy organizations: PeoplePower.org and Let People Vote. With the new threat to the independence of the Supreme Court, the ACLU will face even more challenges.

Therefore, I make this appeal: yes, support all political and charitable organizations whose values align with yours, but also make an additional contribution to the ACLU. ACLU enlists the aid of the third and most independent branch of government, the Judiciary, to fight the incompetence and cruelty demonstrated repeatedly by the Trump administration. So far, the administration has accepted judicial decisions as binding. If that changes, we will have entered a new and perhaps final battle for the salvation of the American democracy. Until then, and, hopefully, that day never comes, the ACLU’s direct legal actions may be the last best hope for effectively resisting the Trump administration until we can remove him from office.

 

 

Donald Trump & Attorney General Sessions Committing Crimes Against Humanity

Attorney General Jeff Sessions graduated from law school 6 years after I did. While the schools were in different parts of the country, there is no reason to believe that, by virtue of geography or timing, the law taught to him was significantly different than the education I received. I can’t be sure of that, of course. But I am sure that going to law school does not, by itself, make you a better human being. I will explain why below.

Among the well-known graduates of the University of Alabama Law School are Harper Lee (wrote To Kill a Mockingbird); Hugo Black (Associate Justice of U.S. Supreme Court); and Howell Heflin (Democratic Senator who preceded Jeff Sessions and who voted against most progressive legislation but came to realize “we live in a nation that daily is trying to heal the scars that have occurred in the past. We’re trying to heal problems that still show negative and ugly aspects in our world that we live in today, and perhaps racism is one of the great scars and one of the most serious illnesses that we suffer from still today.”)

On the other hand, the notables list of UALS includes George Wallace (as Alabama’s governor, sworn to uphold the law, he defied the school integration ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court); Spencer Bachus (at the center of insider trading scandal under rules that exempt Congress from the prohibitions); and, not least, Roy Moore (defeated Senate candidate for Jeff Sessions’ vacated seat, multiply accused of sexual harassment of underage females and twice evicted from his job as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to comply with federal court decisions).

No doubt there are many other notable UALS graduates on both sides of the divide that separates the two groups I have singled out. The same is certainly true of my law school, which graduated Ted Cruz, Anthony Scaramucci and Mitt Romney, all on the wrong side of the humanity divide.

I use the phrase the “humanity divide” because law school should instill in its students not only a respect for the law and legal institutions operating under a complex federal-state system with a constitution as the overarching legal framework for the whole, but also some sense of what is right, what is fair, what is justice. I do not suggest that “justice” is always obvious; clearly, it is not and we have long strings of conflicting Supreme Court decisions to prove it. Justice is hard sometimes but if you search deeply enough, you can usually find it.

As a people, we have, imperfectly for sure, but generally over time. adopted certain norms of civilized conduct from which we do not permit deviations that deny basic human rights and individual dignity to humans. (We are far behind the curve when it comes to protecting animals, but set that aside for today).

For example, we don’t torture prisoners. It’s not that we’ve never done it. We have, but as a societal norm under most controllable circumstances we don’t accept torture as legitimate. A soldier in combat conditions might torture a prisoner in an effort to get information that could save the lives of his comrades in arms. As a society we don’t approve of that torture but perhaps we can at least understand it in the circumstances. But, we don’t accept that behavior when it occurs in circumstances where imminent threats to safety are not present. Those situations are hard to identify sometimes, but we keep trying.

We don’t summarily execute criminals as a lesson to others. To reverse paraphrase our Attorney General’s position on separating children at the border, we don’t say “if you didn’t want to be shot in the head, you shouldn’t have committed a crime.” We don’t say “if you didn’t want to be drawn and quartered, then disemboweled in front of your family, you shouldn’t have robbed that bank.”

In declaring our country’s independence, our founders declared that we hold as self-evident truths that all men (defined now as humans, not by gender) are created equal and are endowed with inalienable rights, among them Liberty. Over time, in our quest for a “more perfect union,” as you would expect, the standards of what “justice” entails will change, and they have, sometimes dramatically. Recall, for example, that until 1954, it was permissible for schools to segregate students by race on the false premise that they were “separate but equal.” The Supreme Court changed that and, as a country and as a people, it is indisputable, I believe, that we are better off because of it. Men once were permitted to own other people as property. We put an end to that too, at the cost of much blood and sacrifice.

Remember that the second opening clause of the U.S. Constitution says “establish Justice.” We don’t always get it right but we keep trying. We have humanity. We show humanity in our treatment of others, even those found to have committed serious crimes against society. It would be more efficient to eliminate court appeals and just take convicted criminals out back and hang them from a tree. Or burn them at the stake. We don’t do that anymore. We have humanity. We have learned. At least we thought we had.

The Trump administration has shown little humanity since coming to power in 2017. It has departed, deliberately and with malice aforethought, from the moral standards that have governed our progress as a people for more than 200 years in a multitude of situations, none more egregious than the policy and practice of separating children from their parents who bring them across the border without required documents.

The Trump/Sessions deportation policy may, I emphasize may, be legal in some technical sense (I am not an expert in that field), but it is certainly not just. It lacks humanity in any meaningful sense. The practice of separating children, some mere babies, from their parents when they have arrived in the United States, whether illegally or legally seeking asylum, and placing the children in cages with no contact with parents who are in some cases deported without process and without their children, is, by any reasonable standard, inhumane, an offense against decency and against higher values to which we aspire. It is a practice of which the German Nazi Party would have been proud.

Among the many things wrong with the policy is that it conflates what the child did with what the parent did and punishes the child for the parent’s transgressions against U.S. law. Self-evidently, a toddler has no control over the parental decision to attempt entry into the United States without proper documentation. Yet, the children are removed from their parents and sent to “camps,” often hundreds of miles away. There are reports that many are unaccounted for. Whatever the reason behind that, there is simply no excuse for creating or maintaining such a system on the theory that it will teach the parents a lesson.

I believe the Trump/Sessions policy, on its face and as practiced, violates the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court said, ““Protection against disproportionate punishment is the central substantive guarantee of the Eighth Amendment.” Montgomery v Louisiana, 577 U. S. __. Surely locking a child in a cage away from her parents is disproportionate to anything the child did.

The Supreme Court elaborated on the history of imposing mandatory life sentences without parole on person who were juveniles at the time of their capital offense, noting that

Miller v. Alabama, 567 U. S. 420 (2012 … held that mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “‘cruel and unusual punishments.’” [citations omitted]

My point is not that the children being wrenched away from their parents on the southern border are being given life sentences. They are, however, being punished for a crime that they, acting on their own, could not have committed in many, if not most, cases. Locking a child in a cage is punishment. Put Donald Trump or Jeff Sessions in a cage and see how fast they agree.

In addition to U.S. law, there are other resources that inform our understanding of what treatment is appropriate, is just, for children of illegal immigrants caught at the border. According to the United Nations,

The International Law Commission was established by the General Assembly, in 1947, to undertake the mandate of the Assembly, under article 13 (1) (a) of the Charter of the United Nations to “initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of … encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification”.

http://legal.un.org/ilc/

Article 17 of the Draft Code of the International Law Commission states:

“A crime of genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: … (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; … (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” [emphasis added]

The Commentary on Article 17 includes this:

“(With regard to subparagraph (e), the phrase “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”, was drawn from article II, subparagraph (e) of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The forcible transfer of children would have particularly serious consequences for the future viability of a group as such. Although the article does not extend to the transfer of adults, this type of conduct in certain circumstances could constitute a crime against humanity under article 18, subparagraph (g) or a war crime under article 20, subparagraph (a) (vii). Moreover, the forcible transfer of members of a group, particularly when it involves the separation of family members, could also constitute genocide under subparagraph (c). [emphasis added]

Article 18 of the Draft Code of International Law Commission states:

“Crimes against humanity A crime against humanity means any of the following acts, when committed in a systematic manner or on a large scale and instigated or directed by a Government or by any organization or group: … if) Institutionalized discrimination on racial, ethnic or religious grounds involving the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms and resulting in seriously disadvantaging a part of the population; (g) Arbitrary deportation or forcible transfer of population; (h) Arbitrary imprisonment; (h) Forced disappearance of persons; (i) Rape, enforced prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse; (A) Other inhumane acts which severely damage physical or mental integrity, health or human dignity, such as mutilation and severe bodily harm.” [emphasis added]

I am aware that international lawyers can, as lawyers will, make all manner of arguments about what exactly each word or phrase means and will argue that this draft language is not binding on the United States, and more. Maybe, but I don’t believe they can overcome the fact that this language frames the concept of inhumane treatment, especially of very young children, as understood by civilized people of the world.

In addition, the ACLU has reported that it has

uncovered tens of thousands of pages of evidence documenting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials physically, sexually, and verbally abusing children. The majority of these children are asylum seekers fleeing violence in Mexico and Central America. Some are teenage mothers. Some are escaping gang violence. Some are in need of medical attention. All of them have risked their lives to find safety – and tragically, CBP has shattered that dream for so many.

CBP’s abuses are not only unconscionably inhumane, but they also violate United States law and international human rights law, which give protections to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers – no matter their country of origin.

The uncovered documents show CBP officials – including Border Patrol agents – committing the following abuses:

  • Threatening children with rape and death
  • Depriving children of food and water and holding them in freezing and unsanitary detention cells
  • Shooting children with Tasers and stun guns
  • Punching a child in the head repeatedly
  • Running over two 17-year-olds with patrol vehicles
  • Subjecting a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they forcefully spread her legs and touched her genitals

The violations are numerous. By law, CBP can’t hold unaccompanied children for longer than 72 hours. Children in CBP custody are entitled to safe facilities, adequate food and water, and proper medical care. And as federal officials, CBP officers are legally required to report all allegations of child abuse to law enforcement, child protective services, or the FBI.

All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their immigration status – and children, in particular, deserve special protection. The misconduct demonstrated in these records is breathtaking, as is the government’s complete failure to hold officials who abuse their power.

https://action.aclu.org/petition/cbp-stop-abusing-children  [bolding in the original]

Also, read this if you have the stomach for it: https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/ice-cruelty-knows-no-bounds

Who bears the burden of guilt here? Apologies for the length of this, but you really need to grasp the enormity of what is being done to these children and their parents:

In an interview on Tuesday morning with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions doubled down on his defense of the Trump administration’s practice of tearing apart families seeking refuge in the United States, including those seeking asylum. The interview revealed not only Sessions’ lack of basic empathy and compassion but also his willingness to deceive the public in defending this cruel policy.

During the conversation, Hewitt pushed Sessions to consider the implications of separating a child from his or her parent, even asking if Sessions could imagine his own grandchildren being taken from their parents. Yet Sessions would not be moved, opting instead to paint these devastated, vulnerable parents as criminals who are “just coming here because they’d like to make more money.”

Further questioned on the morality of detaining people seeking asylum, Sessions resorted to outright lies. The issue, Sessions explained, is that people are not pursuing asylum in the correct way, by arriving through a U.S. port of entry: “If you come to the country, you should come through … the port of entry and make a claim of asylum.”

Here’s what the Attorney General is not saying: Under its family separation policy, asylum seekers who have followed this exact protocol are still having their children ripped away. It happened to both Ms. L and Mirian G, two mothers who are a part of our class-action lawsuit. Fleeing the Congo, Ms. L, arrived at a port of entry near San Diego with her then 6-year-old daughter to seek asylum. Despite having committed no crime and having followed the correct protocol for seeking asylum, Ms. L and her daughter were detained. Four days later, her daughter was taken from her and sent to a government facility in Chicago. Ms. L was sent to an immigration detention center. The mother and daughter were kept apart by 2,000 miles for more than four months until the ACLU intervened on their behalf. Mirian G., an asylum seeker from Honduras, experienced similar cruelty: After presenting herself at port of entry, Border Patrol agents took away her 18-month-old son. She didn’t see him again for more than two months.

Sessions would have us believe that those who follow the rules will not be subjected to this kind of inhumane treatment, but that’s simply untrue. No one seeking asylum, even those not entering through ports of entry, should be treated like a criminal. But for Sessions to claim that the administration is only separating families who cross the border illegally is just wrong. Our clients did everything by the book and still had their children taken from them.

Sessions also spent much of the conversation attempting to portray the administration’s family separation policy as par for the course. “Every time somebody … gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they’re separated from their children,” Sessions argued. Parents seeking refuge in the United States who are prosecuted for crossing the border someplace other than a port of entry, Sessions’ line of reasoning goes, are simply being treated as any American citizen who is incarcerated.

But since when does the government refuse to reunite a parent and child after someone has served her time?

Crossing the border without proper documentation is a misdemeanor that typically carries the penalty of a few days in jail if you’re prosecuted. What the Attorney General failed to mention is that the government is refusing to give kids back to parents once they have served their time. Our client, Ms. C, experienced this firsthand. After Ms. C, an asylum seeker who was prosecuted for entering the country illegally, served her 25-day criminal misdemeanor sentence, she expected to be reunited with her 14-year-old son who had been cruelly taken from her. Instead, Ms. C was forced to wait more than eight months after serving her sentence before the two were reunited.

It is one thing to defend a morally reprehensible policy, but it is another thing entirely to spew lies in making that defense. On Tuesday Sessions crossed that line.

https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/jeff-sessions-deceitful-spin-family

What, I ask, do these fools in the Trump administration think the long-term consequences of these practices are going to be? What impact will they have on the attitude of people whose rights are disrespected in this way? How are they likely to think about the United States when they mature? Through these practices, the United States is guaranteeing a new generation of enemies who will see the promise of America as a vast lie perpetrated knowingly by a government that resembles the Nazi regime that took over Germany and overran most of Europe.

I submit that the practices and policies of the Trump administration being enforced by the Attorney General as outlined above are crimes against humanity and may be a form of genocide under international standards. As has been the case elsewhere, in time there will be a reckoning about all of this. The callous indifference and blatant disregard for human rights that is evident in these practices and policies will be returned one day to those that are responsible for it. The maintenance of civilization requires nothing less.

To help bring that about, please support the ACLU. It is using our legal system, the one designed as a bulwark against authoritarianism and the critical pillar of the checks and balances of the Constitution, to help defenseless children against egregious violations of human rights. If the government can get away with doing this to these children, it can do it to anyone. We must #RESIST with every means at our disposal.

Killing Us Bigly – Trump Environment Policy

Killing Us Bigly – Trump Environment Policy

Surely Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of the smartest, and I think also the funniest, humans on Earth.

In Death by Black Hole (2007) he devoted the first chapter, “Coming to Our Senses,” to the reality that the five senses humans enjoy, while robust for many purposes, are insufficient to help us understand the world and the universe. He wrote this:

“Consider that the human machine, while good at decoding the basics of our immediate environment – like when its day or night or when a creature is about to eat us – has very little talent for decoding how the rest of nature works without the tools of science. If we want to know what’s out there then we require detectors other than the ones we are born with. In nearly every case, the job of a scientific apparatus is to transcend the breadth and depth of our senses.” [Death by Black Hole at 26]

He expanded that idea by noting that the development of our senses as we grow up helps us make sense of the world but almost no scientific discoveries in the past hundred years were accomplished by relying just on our senses. Instead, they came through the use of mathematics and human-created hardware. Id. at 29.

And finally Tyson made this powerful point:

“Our five senses even interfere with sensible answers to stupid metaphysical questions like, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”” My best answer is, “How do you know it fell?” But that just gets people angry. So I offer a senseless analogy, “Q: If you can’t smell the carbon monoxide, then how do you know it’s there? A: You drop dead.” In modern times, if the sole measure of what’s out there flows from your five senses then a precarious life awaits you.” [Id. at 30]

That brings me to the environment “agenda” of Not-My-President Trump. His proposed budget, which is subject to review and adoption by Congress, seeks to lay off 25 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency staff, terminate 56 programs involving restoration of some of America’s largest and dangerously polluted bodies of water (the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay). See details at http://wapo.st/2nJy9FX.

To the extent that there is any solace in these proposals, some funding would be directed at the states who would, in theory, act to protect the environment in lieu of the federal government. However, at the root of this view is the inevitability that the influence of the large polluters on state regulators is likely to be significantly greater than they have been able to exercise at the federal level. The threat to “move our assets, and jobs, elsewhere” is powerful lever against aggressive environmental regulation by states and localities, creating a “race to the bottom” among the states to show the big polluters that they are a “coal friendly” or “farmer friendly” state where regulation in the name of the environment is nothing to be feared.

In addition to the possibility, however remote, that the Republican-dominated Congress will reject those drastic cuts, coalitions of environmental groups are using the courts to challenge Trump’s effort to turn environmental protection over to the polluters. See http://wapo.st/2nMn7B6. These actions portend a long fight to protect the country and the world from the Trump agenda to reduce or eliminate regulation of corporate behavior in the interest of the biosphere.

Trump’s approach to the environment is not a “conservative” program. It more closely resembles something an anarchist would propose. Not surprising, perhaps, considering the prominent position at Trump’s right and left hands of Steve Bannon who has vowed to “deconstruct the administrative state.”

There can be no reasonable doubt that the implementation of Trump’s plans will result in many deaths, not only of animals and their habitat, but of humans as well. I haven’t seen any estimates, partly, I think, because Trump’s proposals are in a state of flux and get more draconian with each iteration. But deaths will surely result, along with more black lung disease, cancer and other avoidable ailments arising from lack of care for the environment.

The number and quality of “new jobs” created due to the removal of environmental protections will be miniscule compared to the costs to humans and the planet. All of the regulations that Trump is now sweeping away through Executive Orders and budget hatchet jobs were carefully evaluated, before adoption, for costs and benefits as required by federal law. The destruction of the environmental safety net is not being accompanied by a similar demonstration of costs and benefits.

The ensuing damage to the biosphere and the deaths of animal and human life that will inevitably result from Trump’s policies will be laid by history at Trump’s feet. The blood will be on his hands and on the hands of his enablers in Congress. But the pain and suffering will be felt by others.

Disturbingly, in my view, a contrary view was set out in the Washington Post on Sunday, April 2 at B1 (not posted on WaPo website). The article by Ben Adler, a New York journalist, is entitled “Trump can’t do much to worsen climate change.” As I understand it, Adler’s basic point is that Trump’s anti-environmental policies in the U.S. cannot by themselves do much to worsen global warming and, in any event, other countries will likely step up their game to offset the negative contributions of the United States.

That, I suggest, is wishful thinking of the worst kind. The United States has been a leading force in bringing about the Paris Agreement under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris treaty went into effect in the United States just days before the last presidential election. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php.

There are no guarantees that other countries will not lose their resolve in the wake of the United States’ retreat from its commitments as the Trump administration appears intent to do. Moreover, whatever other countries may do in the way of offsets on a global scale will do nothing to resolve the air and water pollution and habitat destruction that Trump’s no-nothing approach to the environment will impose directly on the United States.

If you have young children, or grandchildren, you no doubt understand already the harsh future that Trump’s policies will yield. If so, you should immediately engage with the Resistance to oppose what the administration is trying to do. It is not enough now to wring your hands and hope for better days after the mid-term elections. The damage will have been done by then. It is time now to join actively with the Resistance by connecting with MoveOn.org, PeoplePower.org, the ACLU, Indivisible, the Sierra Club and any of the many other organizations actively working right now to stop the desecration of the planet which is the only home the human race is going to have in any time frame that matters. Just ask Neil deGrasse Tyson.

When You Rest on Your Laurels, You Become a Stationary Target

The defeat of the Republican-sponsored American Health Care Act (AHCA) was a great victory for the people.  Thanks go to the organizing leaders at, in alpha order: ACLU/PeoplePower.org), Grassroots Alexandria, Indivisible (and its many local arms), MoveOn.org, Women’s March, plus the many other national and local groups whose names I don’t even know and, of course, to the individuals who called, wrote, marched, protested, demonstrated and rallied against the atrocity of the AHCA. And thanks also to AARP, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Planned Parenthood, among others.

I have noted that some people feel that we have somehow “won the war” with this victory and that they can now either step back or at least “move on to something else.” This is an understandable response to what has happened. At the same time, we must not become complacent about the Trump administration. The AHCA could be brought back by the Republican majority at any time. So by all means celebrate, relish the feeling of a huge and, I must say it, improbable achievement. Then prepare to fight the enemy in our front.

But also post guards on the flanks and in the rear. Trump blames the loss of the ACHA on Democrats and, of course, he would. It is certain as the sunrise, however, that Trump never expected any Democrat to vote for the bill. Blaming Democrats is just another head-fake. Remember, as someone (not Thomas Jefferson) famously said, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” This is particularly true now. Trump and Ryan are humiliated and angry and they have shown that they do not grasp what “the welfare of the people” really means.

Moreover, Trump has tweeted that the way forward is this: “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!” That tweet has been “liked” over 91,000 times. As suggested by Deepak Gupta and others, what does this say about Trump’s constitutional obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed?” U.S. Constitution, Art. II, sec. 3. Trump appears to believe that the Take Care obligation is part of the “fake Constitution” and does not apply to him. Wrong again.

What comes next is not clear. It could be “tax reform” or something else. Or multiple things. We already know that the Trump administration, through executive orders and Cabinet appointments, has declared war on the environment. Many more craven acts of legislative and regulatory vandalism are coming. But the March for Science is also coming – on April 22 in Washington and elsewhere … and many other demonstrations of the peoples’ commitment to resisting the destructive agenda of the Trump administration. It is critically important to show Trump that the people do not accept his assault on the air they breathe and the water they drink, that the people do not accept his attempt to shift the burden of taxation toward the population sector already suffering economic hardship or worse and that the people will not accept his effort to turn the country into “fortress America” with border walls and distrust of everyone who does not fit his narrow concept of what it means to be an American.

The Resistance must remain constant, relentless and ubiquitous so the administration sees that there are no weak spots to be exploited. Resistance is the only course left to stop the right-wing idealogues from undermining American values. In this regard, finally, it is important to make clear to Democratic lawmakers at every level that supporting the Republican agenda in any respect is unacceptable.

We have seen what the Republican agenda is prepared to do to achieve its imaginary wonderland of the “free market” in all things: just consider that the leadership was prepared to strip from the Affordable Car Act replacement legislation most of the “essential benefits” in order to appease the Freedom Caucus and secure their votes. Fortunately for the country, enough of the extremist demands of the Freedom Caucus were rejected to stop them from supporting the legislation. While Trump’s oft-touted-but-never-demonstrated negotiating skills failed him in this instance, we have seen the price the leadership was willing to pay to achieve their ideological ends, regardless of the consequences to the people who need those “essential benefits” the most. We cannot afford to take chances with a group that is willing to drive the country off a cliff to prove a point.

The President of the United States Lied … Again

President Donald J. Trump has distinguished himself in the pantheon of American presidents by his remorseless lying about dozens of important issues. His White House support team has become famous by asserting “alternative facts” and arguing that actual facts are irrelevant now – the only thing that matters is what you choose to believe. (The lies have been listed in a multitude of places so I won’t repeat all of them here.)

Thus, it comes as no particular surprise that a few days ago, Trump awoke early, thought about the fact, yes, the fact, that his administration is embroiled in a serious crisis related to lying and/or dissembling about the relationship between his election campaign and the Russian government. This is an existential crisis for the President because if the truth emerges that his campaign people, with his knowledge, worked with the Russian government to tilt the 2016 election his way, his status as President will be in the gravest jeopardy.

So, at 6:35 am on March 4, 2017, Trump tweeted that he “just found out” that “Obama had my “wires tapped” [Trump’s quotes], citing no evidence because, of course, there is none. If there were, Trump would have published it. Instead, he has demanded that Congress investigate what he already “found out.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to media calls for release of confirming evidence by saying the administration will have nothing further to say until Congress ferrets out the truth about the President’s allegations. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for him, but he has chosen the bed he lies in so, no, no sympathy. And the Republican-dominated committees with jurisdiction appear to be complying by adding this issue to the Trump-Russia connection that they are, with extreme reluctance already allegedly “investigating.” They resist calls for an independent counsel to conduct the investigation because, of course, they want to investigate themselves and, surprise, “we found no evidence….”

It is tempting to say, as I and many others have said before, that Trump’s claim is another unhinged example of his erratic behavior that makes him unfit to hold office. It is that certainly, but it is also the latest example of Trump’s deflection skills. He is treating the country like a school yard where he the biggest bully. Then, just as someone is about to stand up to him, he yells “look, there’s XX, he stole the money, get him!” And the kids all chase after XX. The bully laughs and counts out the money.

Consider this. Suppose Trump had not “found out” about the wiretap but instead “found out” once again that President Obama was born in Kenya to non-U.S. parents and thus arguably all his actions as President would be null and void. Would the Congress then add that issue to the Russia-Trump investigation? Maybe they would. They likely appreciate that their “hold” on the government turns on Trump not being held accountable for lying to the American people. So they continue to do his bidding.

But that doesn’t make the lies anything but lies. Trump’s strategy earned him the presidency so he likely will continue to play the lying hand until it fails to work. If you read his infatuants’ tweets (I beg you to not expose your mind to them), you can understand how difficult it will be to deal with a president for whom the truth is simply whatever he chooses to make up.

The question for the majority of Americans is: how long will this continue before they rise up against Trump’s official supporters in Congress? Continuous, unrelenting pressure through calls, letters, postcards, demands for answers at town halls for those legislators with the courage to face their constituents, marches, demonstrations, public humiliations are essential elements of the process of making these people uncomfortable with what the President, and they, are doing. Give money to ACLU, Planned Parenthood and every other organization that has shown it will stand up against the tyranny of the Trump administration. Attend the rallies and demonstrations whose numbers are increasing almost daily.

This national disgrace and nightmare will not end until the people make it end. Go to https://www.resistancecalendar.org/ where you will find the amazing array of actions being planned. Take action.

 

This is Only the Beginning

Some people with high intelligence and general thoughtfulness about important matters are shocking me now with their view that we are being hasty and unfair in judging the new president. They argue that it is “early days” and that naturally there will be a few “distractions” as Trump gets his bearings. In addition, some serious people have argued that it is alright for the press to soft-peddle Trump’s constant “misstatements of fact” as “falsehoods,” because lying requires intent to mislead and they can’t see into Trump’s mind.

But, of course, they can. We all can. You know a liar when you hear one. They are persistently resistant to evidence. They repeat false statements with overt indifference to the truthfulness of their statements.

There is a principle in the law that states “if you take an action with reasonably foreseeable consequences, then you intended those consequences.” Thus, if you drive your car into a crowd of people, killing several of them, you will not be heard to claim “I didn’t mean to kill them; I only wanted to scare them.” Applying this logical and common sense principle to Trump, it must be concluded that he intended to make these false statements and that those statements are “LIES!” We should call them by their true name.

Because he “believes” in multiple mythologies about how foreign-born persons are admitted to the United States, notwithstanding the elaborate vetting processes in place for years now, Trump has issued an Executive Order that has led, foreseeably, to chaos and harm to many people who are otherwise legally entitled to enter the United States. A short summary of some of the early damage is well-told in this piece. http://nyti.ms/2kxA3Y4  Fortunately in the short term, a federal court, at the behest of the ACLU, has issued nationwide stay of the Executive Order.

Trump’s actions regarding refugees are illegal and unconstitutional. They are also likely to cause more actual harm that any harm actually prevented. There is no “wait and see” here. It is clear beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard of proof for criminal cases, that the man in the White House is the same person we saw on the campaign trail. Nothing has changed. A child does not grow up in a few months. So to my friends who say I am being too hasty, I say open your eyes and your minds to reality. What you now see is what we’re going to get.

The Republican Congress, meanwhile, is running out of sand into which to bury their collective heads. In their inverted positions, they won’t even see the next one coming.  They vilified President Obama for claimed abuses of the power of executive orders in the face of refusal by Congress to even consider some of his proposals. Now their man is issuing such orders almost every day without a thought to Congress, the agencies of jurisdiction (and expertise) or anyone else. Trump appears to have forgotten, if he ever knew, that there are three branches to the United States Government. Yesterday he was forcefully reminded.

Not that he cares. The White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus has stated, in effect, “we don’t care who got hurt. We got our rights to protect the borders.” No doubt we have that right, but one would hope that the acts taken to protect the border are thought through and competently executed. Instead, the direct consequence of Trump’s need to show he’s in charge was incompetence on a massive scale, leading to large protests across the country, loss of respect overseas and more fodder for the maniacs of ISIS to use in recruitment. Richard Nixon faced many protests and reacted by making “enemies lists” and lying about the war in Vietnam. Trump likely will turn to that next. Round up the usual suspects and to hell with the consequences.

How long then before Trump and his “team” start to execute on their threats to stop the press from criticizing him? How long before they tire of facing a multitude of legal challenges arising from his arbitrary and unjustified executive orders and begin ignoring court orders? How long before they order the military to start arresting people for sedition?

Here are some things you can do.

  1. Communicate with your representatives in Congress that you demand that they stand up to the arbitrary conduct of the President;
  2. Join the protests whenever you can;
  3. Make clear to everyone you know that you are not satisfied with a country in which the Executive Branch runs roughshod over the rights of the people;
  4. Join your local political organization and actively engage with neighbors.
  5. # RESIST everywhere all the time.