Tag Archives: Resistance

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.

 

 

Remove Security for US Capitol & White House

I am going to venture into sensitive territory here so if anyone is offended, you have my advance apology. But after watching the Broward County Sheriff and the usual collection of dignitaries (Governor, School Board members, etc.) at a press briefing after the Parkland school massacre, I have to say this.

The common theme now is “it’s those mentally unstable people who are the real problem.” So, “If you see someone whose behavior has changed or is acting peculiarly, call the police so they can take that person in for questioning and a mental health evaluation.” At the same time the gun crowd recites and repeats their mantra: “if you can’t fix everything, don’t fix anything.” And “I got my rights so if you want my guns, come and take them.”

So, the new theme is that we are to turn ourselves into a totalitarian country of spies, a dystopian nightmare of reporting our neighbors and anyone else whose behavior does not fit our personal norms.  Let’s have everyone report somebody they don’t like and then let the authorities take care of them. Round up the usual suspects, while we cover for those who are really guilty. Yes, you see, if we can just get those mentally unstable people under control, everything will be fine and we can all keep our semi-automatic military grade weapons in case the government comes after us.

This is the usual playbook for post-catastrophe posturing while actually doing nothing of substance. The President added this gem in purporting to speak “directly to America’s children:”

“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. Answer hate with love; answer cruelty with kindness. We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life, that creates deep and meaningful human connections, and that turns classmates and colleagues into friends and neighbors.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Changing culture isn’t something that can be willed; it takes decades and even centuries. This is just another deflection. Meanwhile, the putative leader of the Free World ordered flags to half-mast. Wow. That took real guts. The NRA was ok with it because it adds to the impression that someone actually cares about these kids, and the ones who will be killed next, while actually doing nothing at all to help them.

The “round up the usual suspects” approach to the gun problem has the same facile attractiveness of the other pro-gun arguments. But if you want to see a real-life example of how this might play out in practice, have a look at the story reported in Bloomberg News: “This Short Seller Pressed ‘Tweet.’ Then the FBI Showed Up” https://bloom.bg/2GnX5uL

In a war of words between two businessmen on Twitter, threatening statements were made. The FBI showed up and warned the author of those statements to stop sending such messages. There were intimations of political influence, as the target of the threatening messages was apparently a “top Republican fundraiser in Georgia” and “Georgia finance chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.” The request to send agents was issued from the FBI’s Atlanta office which, along with the Justice Department is, of course, not talking.

True enough, no one was taken in for questioning and mental evaluation, but you surely get the picture. In this case it was a well-placed corporate executive apparently using his influence to induce the government to act against a rival. Under the “see something, report something” approach to stopping mass murders of children, you can just imagine how the complaints will fly as conflicted neighbors, romantic rivals, resentful former employees, etc. decide to get even by reporting the sources of their angst to the police who will be under new expectancies to act. “My neighbor has been bringing home long packages at night; I think he’s stocking up guns.”

And, of course, even when the report is legitimate, as it sometimes may be, it won’t necessarily resolve the threat. The FBI botched the reports it had on the Florida shooter. The Republicans, of course, jumped on this new excuse to undermine the FBI while continuing to whine about politicizing the Florida murders.

In my view, the FBI mistakes in this case, while tragic, simply illustrate that we cannot rely on a government agency, not matter how dedicated, to get everything right.

We are also faced with the usual argument that if you can’t solve everything, you don’t solve anything. That is just plain stupid. The inability to fix the entirety of a problem should not stand in the way of partial solutions that could save lives, such as removing semi-automatic military style weapons from circulation. There is no other area of life in which such a moronic idea would be accepted.

So how do we get semi-automatic military style weapons off the streets and out of the hands of those who would use them for slaughtering children? Right now, the Republican Party, complicit as it is in the Russian fixing of the 2016 election and fully committed to doing whatever is necessary to keep Donald Trump in power, is not going to move without an additional incentive. I propose to give them one. Two actually.

First, remove all the security from the Capitol, the White House and the Cabinet. Crazy, right? It would, of course, expose the legislators and the elite members of the Cabinet, etc. to the same risk that our children face every day at school, or at the mall or at a concert, the risk that some “mentally unstable” individual or group of individuals would attack them with a legally-acquired weapon. Well, of course, it would. That is precisely the point. If the legislators and administration officials who, after every mass shooting, say “it is too soon to talk about controlling weapons of rapid destruction,” were exposed to the same vulnerabilities as school children, they might soon change their tune.

Of course, this approach would also endanger the staff and administrative people who do most of the actual work in these places.  Some of them support reasonable restraints on ownership of semi-automatic weapons. They are the good guys. As the Republicans, funded to the hilt with NRA money, would say: necessary losses. It would not, in any case, take too long for the Republicans to come around. Set a deadline: enact a weapons control system within 30 days or lose your security. Faced with the choice of losing NRA cash or losing their lives, I’m betting they quickly come to their senses.

That proposal is, of course, just a fantasy. The same complicit individuals that control the government control the security for themselves.

So, here’s another, perhaps more realistic, solution. The Resistance must now engage in all-out mass movement of the same nature as occurred during the Vietnam War by making it difficult or impossible for pro-NRA and pro-gun politicians to conduct business as usual. Protesters will have to show up every day with bullhorns and noisemakers and make it difficult or impossible for the Congress to function. Do sit-ins. Even if they couldn’t get close enough to stop the government from operating, the Resistance could disrupt the local offices of the recalcitrant politicians. And they can turn these politicians’ rallies and other public appearances into spectacles of resistance centered around their support for the NRA and the gun lobby. Make their support for the merchants of death a constant topic on all social media. Name the names. Fill their inboxes, mail boxes, comment sites and phone mail with protest messages.

The same treatment should be meted out to the NRA at its offices and anywhere else it appears at conferences and meetings. For the unspeakable misery they have caused, their lives should be made miserable in return.

To be clear, I am not advocating violence against the government or anyone else. I am suggesting that if the American people truly want to stop the killing of children and others with semi-automatic weapons, they are going to have to resort to extraordinary measures. The NRA has the money, the politician enablers can’t get enough of it, and so it’s time to simply stop them from doing business as usual. A non-violent mass movement consistently and relentlessly applied is the only apparent way to force the hand of those supporting, and financed by, the gun lobby.

There will be no quick outcome to this struggle. Many “responsible” people will say this goes too far, that what we need is responsible advocacy, more “honest debate,” etc. Let’s not rush into this. It’s complicated. Let’s take a few years to study it and then, after more children have died at the hands of unhappy people with semi-automatic weapons and multiple high-capacity magazines, maybe we can come up with a solution.

To quote the kids speaking out at Parkland, I call BS. Enough is enough. Read this: https://agingmillennialengineer.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/fuck-you-i-like-guns-2/ The gun people will never yield until they are forced, so they should be forced. Starting now. The will of the majority of Americans on this issue must be presented to the lawmakers in a way they cannot ignore as they have for so long. Enough.

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend — Where are the Musicians?

A recent story about Joan Baez speaking with protesters who accused her of betraying soldiers during the Vietnam War reminded me of something that has been nagging me for some time. Where are the musicians? We are locked in a fight for the political and moral well-being of the country but there is apparently no folk-music building around the struggle, no anthem for the truth we seek to find amid the torrent of lies, deceptions and self-dealing with which the Trump administration has disgraced the United States.

Everyone who lived through the ‘60s and the upheaval generated by the Vietnam War will recall the many artists who gave us some of our iconic folk and protest songs that were one of the defining elements of what came to be called the counter-culture. So far, at least, the RESISTANCE to the Trump administration has no such identifying music or musicians, though there are a number of familiar chants associated with the protest marches. There is also, I am told, some rap music that may fit the description of protest anthems but they seem unlikely to become widely known as representative of the broader issues involved in the Resistance to Trump and his enablers.

I, for one, miss the music. The lyrics of the Sound of Silence, the masterpiece by Paul Simon (©Universal Music Publishing Group), seem particularly apropos of our current circumstances:

‘Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence’

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.