Category Archives: politics

Will Trump fire Mueller?

This is the question on everybody’s mind right now, and one that is often asked with it, how come now? It appears that the Trump folks just figured out that Mueller is in possession of all the emails that the Trump people produced as part of their transition team on a government server. The fact is that Mueller was entitled as a matter of law to these emails, though FOX news would have you believe otherwise.

A lawyer for the transition team has sent a letter to both houses of congress protesting this invasion of their privacy and privilege.  The problem with this complaint is that anyone using this account received a warning, standard to all federal government computers, that there was no privacy in the communications and that they would be handed over to sanctioned law enforcement investigations. Mueller’s is obviously sanctioned.

Trump and friends thought they had put up a defensive wall to hide their transition emails by appointing an associate from Rudy Giuliani’s law firm as head of the General Services Administration, the keeper of all this material. His name was Richard Backler whose main claim to fame was that he was good defense attorney for white collar criminals. He apparently told the transition team that he would bury the emails where none could find them. This can be neither confirmed or denied because Mr. Backler left work in early August, and died of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in September.

Mueller had no obligation to notify anyone of his receipt of these emails, and he was entitled to them as a matter of law. He had them before he interviewed anyone closely connected with the president. What may have looked like good guesses to Kushner et al. were in fact based on his knowledge from the emails.

Trump is allegedly ballistic over the failure of his plan to keep these emails quiet. Can’t imagine why, but the irony is perfect. Given his harping on Hillary’s emails throughout the campaign with cries to “lock her up!” isn’t it a form of justice if he is taken down by his own team’s totally open emails through the federal system?

So now, Trump’s only out is stop Mueller anyway he can. He cannot directly fire Mueller, but can order Rosenstein, the guy acting as AG for supervision of Mueller’s investigation, to fire Mueller. For those of the older generation, we saw this play out with our old favorite nemesis, Richard Nixon, in the Saturday Night Massacre. Nixon ordered a number of assistant AGs to fire Archibald Cox, and had to go through several until he found Robert Bork who was willing to do the deed. This is where Trump now finds himself.

The problem as I see it is that Mueller probably has enough information now to indict anyone he wants to in the campaign, up to and including the president. These emails are priceless in showing the inner workings of the campaign and the involvement of so many key players with the Russians. Even if Mueller is fired, is there a way to get the information to an incorruptible source, such as New York’s Attorney General, Schneiderman, who has already shown a willingness to pursue the various players in this scheme? From what I have read and my knowledge of the law, I suspect that there is the making for a very big RICO case out of this, which would involve lengthy jail terms for anyone convicted.

Those of us who believe that Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation ought to be prepared to act in the case of his firing. I agree with those who believe it will happen when Congress is away for the holidays, meaning between about the 20th of December and the 5th of January. I’m not a big fan of Move-On, but they have set up a Mueller Firing Rapid Response plan with events planned in, as of last count, 49 states. If you are interested in joining this massive movement, you can find the link here and sign up for your local action. We must be strong if we want our democracy to survive!

What’s going on with the Comey firing?

Is this a question that plagues you at night? Do you wonder why Comey and various prosecutors were in the crossfires of our “you’re fired!” president? There’s lots of information yet to be heard by the American people, and you need look no further than a wonderful expose prepared by a former editor and a former investigative reporter for the Village Voice, one of the first papers to expose early misdeeds of the Trump people. The article in question is called “Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia” and can be found here on Who.What.Why. It’s a nasty tale of organized crime, both here and in Russia, and stool pigeons who are still on the Trump payroll.

If this does not provide the wherewithal for an impeachment, nothing does, but it surely fills in a lot of the blanks on why Comey and Preet Bharara were so unceremoniously fired by Mr. Trump. It is a lengthy read but well worth the effort.

Tim Kaine and the courting of Republicans

Hillary had a few choices when it came to making her VP choice, and she picked the oligarch move. She picked the centrist Tim Kaine and her message was clear. Screw the left and Bernie Sanders. She’d rather lose by going right than left. She has undoubtedly sealed her doom with this pick, given the attraction that Trump seems to be to a vast number of undereducated and emotionally crippled right wing nutjobs. This looks to be a very low turnout election if the left stays home, and a very amusing one if Jill Stein actually picks up Bernie’s 13 million plus voters, along with the millions who supported Bernie but didn’t get a chance to vote in this cycle.

Tim  Kaine is not and never has been a true democrat (note the small d). He is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Democrat who will never push for an increase in social security taxes on the wealthy or increased benefits for those seriously left behind. He is pro-TPP, and personally opposed to a woman’s right to choose. The only reason to name Tim Kaine as her veep is for Hillary to appeal to the Bushes and Romneys of the Republican Party, those appalled at what Trump is doing to the GOP. These include neo-cons we all loved to hate during the W administration, and Republican women who cannot abide the sexism oozing out of everything Trump says.

I confess I was somewhat ambivalent about all the silly Hillary-bots who claimed that a vote for Stein or a write-in for Bernie was a vote for Trump. But Hillary, by picking Kaine, has told us that we and our priorities just have to get in line behind her because she’s the only way to defeat Trump. Nonsense. She has given the progressives a gift by picking Kaine. She has freed us of any guilt in not voting for her and the Clintons’ constant triangulation to the right. She has said that progressives don’t matter, that unity on the center left isn’t necessary, and that she’d rather have Republican support than the traditional support of the Democratic party, the workers, the middle class (what’s left of it), people of color, immigrants and the downtrodden. Tip O’Neill is turning in his grave at this lurch to the right. FDR and Eleanor are weeping at the death of the New Deal. And the Green Party will gain admittance to the debates when the Bernistas flood to Jill Stein and she rises above 15% in the polls.

Thank you, Hillary, for confirming all my worst suspicions of you, and confirming that you don’t want my vote anyway.

Thank you, Bernie. Hello, Jill.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Bernie Sanders for doing the impossible. He awoke an entire generation of  new voters with the message he has been sending for the past 40 years. He has awoken a sleeping giant that will be heard for many years to come because he has shown a signpost for how we can redeem our country from the 1% and turn it back to a democracy, as has been done in the past by trust-breakers and men of good conscience who couldn’t be bought. There are those of my generation who thought that the left could never rise again, and we were on the road to one of the many dystopian worlds so beloved by the younger generation. We were thankfully wrong.

Bernie’s message resonated as well as it did precisely because it was not a cult of personality, though it sometimes seems that it might be veering in that direction. His repeated utterance of “Not me, us” was so antithetical to the way politics has been presented to us since forever that it caused people to sit up and take notice. When he spoke to issues that actually mattered to folks, they stayed interested, they sent money, and they voted. It is neither Bernie’s fault nor the fault of his supporters that they were victims of the most fraudulent primary in this nation’s history (the academics can see it, even if the Hillary-bots and the MSM cannot).

What Bernie did in endorsing Hillary was to preserve his right to speak at the convention. Without the endorsement, he could have been prevented from speaking. Because he will be there, he can compel a true vote by the delegates, where the impact of the  superdelegates will be on display for all the world to see. We still have a few weeks, and Hillary can still step into a big hole. I’m not holding my breath, but I can certainly hope.

I know Bernie has asked us all to join him in fighting Donald Trump, and he has good and realistic reasons for doing it. I’m sorry that I cannot vote for Hillary, but it remains, and will remain, my position.

Today I read a long statement in the comments section of a report of Jill Stein’s tweets during Bernie’s and Hillary’s speeches on Tuesday. The rant explained that, by not voting for Hillary, we would be electing Trump, and he made the argument in many new and interesting ways, but added the usual ad hominem attack that our temper tantrums were childish and selfish. Condescension is never going to win friends and influence people, especially that of white men toward women of any race.

Jill Stein is adopting virtually all of Bernie’s policies in that hers closely aligned with his where they existed before and she has schooled herself on those that Bernie had developed more fully. Since Bernie did not create a cult of personality, I have no difficulty in shifting my vote to Jill under the circumstances. I have written here before some of the difficulties I have with Hillary and I am not going to repeat myself. What I responded to the ranter was effectively this.

When Bill Clinton was running for his second term, I voted for Mickey Mouse. My voting for Mickey Mouse did not in any way affect the outcome of that race. I see no reason why my voting for a real person, i.e. Jill Stein or a write-in for Bernie, is likely to cause more damage to Hillary’s chances than it did to Bill’s some 20 years ago. Maybe I’ve become more powerful over those years, but I sincerely doubt it. But I will make one concession, although it might not cheer the ranter, Hillary, or Bernie very much. If it appears that Hillary is likely to lose my state (and that is possible but would speak terribly about her campaign were it to happen), I will leave the presidential entry on the ballot blank. Otherwise, I will vote my conscience, and the coming months will help me decide whether to vote for Jill or Bernie.

So welcome to the conversation, Jill. I’ll be watching you.

End game

It is interesting to watch the Main Stream Media try to get its head around the undercurrents running through America and the Democratic Party since the IG of the State Department released his findings last week. Certain factions that are definitely pro-Hillary have castigated her for the flaws found in the IG’s report, and they seem a little conflicted about what their posture should be to this unluckiest of candidates.

I commend doing a Google search for some combination of “FBI” and “Hillary.” You will find that local or regional newspapers and magazines are much more interested in publishing what is going on than the big members of the MSM. According to several of these offerings, the White House is on alert for the next shoe to drop, making inquiries of its supporters about possible endgames to this troubling saga. The most suggested outcome is a convention naming Joe Biden as the nominee with Elizabeth Warren as his veep.

Many speculate on what Obama will do, and most come down on the side of allowing the investigation to take its course, including indictments if they are warranted. Nobody wants the Democratic nominee to be facing indictments during the race, although Fox News has contributed a poll that suggests that 71% of Democrats surveyed would have no problem with voting for Hillary if she’s indicted. This has caused great consternation among the commentators, although Bernie supporters have seen the irrational devotion of many of Hillary’s supporters over the past several months.

Only one brave soul has suggested that the Democratic Party somehow owes it to Bernie to allow him to be the nominee. This doesn’t surprise me. The general antipathy of the Third Way Democrats toward Bernie and his supporters is that which one would expect of a dying regime. Imagine Marie Antoinette on the guillotine. Bernie represents such a break with the status quo that he looks positively alien to the corporatists in charge of the party now. Those who have claimed that the separation between Bernie and Hillary is greater than that between Hillary and Trump are quite close to the truth. Neither Hillary nor Trump is interested in any reins on unbridled capitalism. Unfortunately, the American people seem to be with Bernie on this one.

We are living through remarkable times. Winds of change may well blow gale force if an indictment is issued. Who the nominee is who arises from these ashes will tell us how violent the revolution will have to be.

Hillary bashing

Okay, I’m joining the Hillary bashing brigade. I’ve watched in amazement the lack of outcry by members of the Democratic party (which is an enemy to democratic process) at the seriousness of the findings and conclusions of the State Department’s IG regarding  Hillary’s use of the private email server.

Hillary has said on myriad occasions over the last year that her use of the server was “permitted” or “allowed.” While those terms have every day meanings, they also imply the legal conclusion that she had approval. The IG’s report says not only did she not have this approval, she never requested approval. Surprise, surprise. The queen of autocratic secrecy did not use any of the formal processes of the department with regard to her email set-up. When during the time she used the server issues arose, the rules of the Department required that she report such issues to the Department. On two occasions such issues arose, once when her tech shut down the server because of a series of attacks against it, and once when she believed her email had been breached when she received mail with suspect links in it. She reported neither.

We know from the released emails that she once instructed an aide to remove the security header from a document in order to be able to send it over unsecured lines. What we don’t know is whether the document was sent in that condition. If it was. that is a violation of the Espionage Act where intention is irrelevant. The mere act of doing is a crime.

What can we make of Hillary’s response to the IG’s report? First a statement from her campaign: “While political opponents of Hillary Clinton are sure to misrepresent this report for their own partisan purposes, in reality, the Inspector General documents [show] just how consistent her email practices were with those of other Secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email. The report shows that problems with the State Department’s electronic record keeping systems were longstanding and that there was no precedent of someone in her position having a State Department email account until after the arrival of her successor. Contrary to the false theories advanced for some time now, the report notes that her use of personal email was known to officials within the Department during her tenure, and that there is no evidence of any successful breach of the Secretary’s server. We agree that steps ought to be taken to ensure the government can better maintain official records, and if she were still at the State Department, Secretary Clinton would embrace and implement any recommendations, including those in this report, to help do that. But as this report makes clear, Hillary’s use of personal email was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her record.”

First she claims that her practices were consistent with prior secretaries’ practices. No, no prior secretary ever had a private server, according to the IG, and even Colin Powell tried to segregate his personal email from his official email. More than that, Powell was the first SoS to use email, and he was the one setting up the program in the State Department. As such, he was unlikely to be running afoul of any regulations and security procedures because there weren’t any. In early 2009, various changes were made in security procedures as a new, more tech savvy president made changes in the security systems government wide. But Hillary already had her server and ignored anything that came along.

Notice how her report says “there was no precedent of someone in her position having a State Department email account until after the arrival of her successor.” That’s certainly an odd way to say that she was the last person not to use a State Department account. I don’t know what this is meant to convey, but she is claiming that, even with advances in in technology and rules, she should be viewed the same as earlier secretaries who did not face the same rules and regulations.

The statement concludes with the disingenuous statement, “But as this report makes clear, Hillary’s use of personal email was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her record.” The first statement is irrelevant, but the second is laughable. The Federal Records Act requires that persons leaving the government must give the government all records created during the person’s work for the government. This law was in effect at the time that Hillary left her position. Two years later, after the email controversy was in full stride, she finally gave some of her emails to the State Department, and later begrudgingly handed over the server. Neither transfer was made to comply with the Federal Records Act, but rather in response to the FBI investigation and the IG’s plan to investigate. Her “steps to preserve” were the server, and her “release” was the handing over of the server to investigators. Real impressive.

Hillary has said from the beginning that this was a permitted way to handle her email. It was not. She lied, folks, and she continues to do it. Now she says that “her use of personal email was known to officials within the Department” but it was not known to either the security people in the Department or the techs, other than the one who set it up. The IG found that lower level workers were advised by higher ups to not discuss the Clinton email subject any more after one began to question whether it was safe. That sounds suspiciously like an effort to keep the whole set-up under wraps. And that’s the point.

At least one commentator has said that this would be blowing up the Democratic party if it weren’t for Trump. In fact, the existence of evidence that the presumptive nominee is currently lying about a matter under FBI investigation would be enough to derail any candidate in any year other than this. But not this year, and we should ask why.

Does the Democratic party care? If it does, why doesn’t it do something? And if it doesn’t, why should we vote for a nominee who lies about something currently under investigation?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lac-Megantic and “Bomb” Trains

Today, I was in Albany, NY, for the Break Free From Fossil Fuels action against the Port of Albany and Global Partners, LLC, among others for the routing of oil and gas trains through New York’s capitol. The action was also in memory of the 47 people who died in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a train similar to those that come to the Port of Albany, exploded and destroyed the Quebecois city three years ago. The fossil fuels come to Albany in tanker cars from the Bakken oil reserves in North Dakota. These trains are “bomb” trains.

A study discussed by Bloomberg news revealed that “crude oil produced in North America’s booming Bakken region may be more flammable and therefore more dangerous to ship by rail than crude from other areas, a U.S. regulator said after studying the question for four months.” Why is this excessively flammable oil being shipped through a state’s capitol very close to a housing project and playground utilized by people of color?

We learned some of these answers the hard way today, hearing from local legislators and council members of the costs in asthma and related childhood illnesses in the neighborhood of the Port. We saw the effects of these “bomb trains” in cities like Lac-Megantic, and the dangers posed to similar cities throughout the world.

We spent most of the day hanging around the area where we intended to block the tracks. At some point during the afternoon, we learned that the primary action of the day was held at another spot where the train we were expecting had been diverted to avoid our action. Five intrepid members of Break Free Northeast had discovered the ploy and two of them had rappelled down to the track from a bridge and laid down on the tracks. They were successful in delaying the train in an inaccessible place until they were finally arrested. When their activity was reported to the larger group back in Albany, there were great supporting cheers from the remaining protesters.

A DJ arrived and set up shop, and the protest turned into a dance party. The Albany police and the railroad police looked on in some bemusement as the dancing continued for over an hour. I confess I watched with some glee and regret that I was no longer able to join the younger activists in their energetic work.

With the threatening rain coming in, an industrious group began to set up a tarp to cover the food area and give some protection from the rain. Several people had expressed the desire to set up an encampment on the tracks. As our bus arrived to return us to Burlington, the hardy group of about fifty were standing their ground against the police who were beginning to lose their patience. They were still standing strong after the police removed the tarps and we got our last report to that effect as we exited our bus hours later in Burlington.

Were we successful? In some sense we were. We slowed the train and occupied the tracks into the Port of Albany. We joined groups throughout the world on six continents who were protesting the continued use of fossil fuels in the face of incontrovertible evidence of climate change. We engaged the local community to get involved in the discussion, and we put the railroads, local officials and producers of these fuels on notice that the potential damage from this means of transportation far outweighed in human cost any profits they might make from their disregard of human safety. Will the world join us in saying “No?” We’ll see.