“BATTLE for the SOUL of the NATION”

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Speaks at Gettysburg

I am including this video of the speech Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden delivered at Gettysburg in its entirety because I think it gives such a good overview of the man and his values. I hope you’ll spend the full 22 minutes to watch it. (To begin, click on both the central arrow and the one in the lower left-hand corner.)

There are briefer versions online, but they don’t do justice to the breadth and passion within. It is a fine, Presidential speech that is worthy of far more attention than it’s received. A transcript is also available.

I am as eager that it be seen and heard by folks outside the US as by American voters because I know the world needs reassurance that most of us in the US have not gone crazy.

Biden represents who we are and where we want to go as a nation—in the immediate future and the years ahead.

I have been urging everyone not to panic about the possibility that Trump could win by cheating. I had planned simply to post the video of Biden’s speech.

But I think there are growing ominous signs we must be cognizant of and emphatically oppose. To change direction, the remedy remains the same: they are all on the ballot in this election.

ENDING THE FUELING OF HATRED

The hatred and division Biden spoke about was writ large in the arrests of domestic terrorists determined to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer in a vast plot that included killing police officers to start a civil war.

Yet the current occupant in the Oval Office will not condemn white supremacy. He and his attorney general persist in claiming, against all evidence from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that it is a left-wing conspiracy we should fear–not the emboldened armed and dangerous so-called militia groups and individuals he’s encouraged with his rhetoric.

STANDING UP FOR DEMOCRACY

For the first time in my lifetime, I heard a United States Senator—Republican Mike Lee of Utah—say/tweet:

“We’re not a democracy. That’s a good thing…democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are.” 

He also wrote:

“We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.”

Rank democracy? Fits in with the phrase tyranny of the majority” that I cited in a previous post.

Lee was harking back to the “republic vs democracy” debate of the founders, which eventually brought us the Electoral College. Although the founders were concerned about Athenian democracy in which small numbers of the public were working on policy, this argument has been misconstrued and used by Republicans through the years as an excuse to oppose the will of the majority on a host of issues. 

OK. So one Senator goes off the deep end. But how representative is his thinking of that of his colleagues, who have remained silent as Trump has smashed through one norm after another?

An article in Vox, offering historical perspective, observes:

“In the context of the 2020 election, the anti-democratic strain embodied by Lee’s rhetoric takes on particularly serious significance.

“President Trump has been clear that he believes any Biden win will be fraudulent; he has refused to commit to accepting the results of the election or even agreeing to a peaceful transition of power.

“The Republican Party as a whole has largely aided and abetted this approach, most notably by insisting on the fiction of massive voter fraud and enacting policies at the state level that make it harder for Democratic-leaning constituencies to vote.

“The idea that majority rule is intrinsically oppressive is necessarily an embrace of anti-democracy: an argument that an enlightened few, meaning Republican supporters, should be able to make decisions for the rest of us. If the election is close, and Trump makes a serious play to steal it, Lee’s ‘we’re not a democracy’ argument provides a ready-made justification for tactics that amount to a kind of legal coup.”

It’s worth noting that FBI Director Chris Wray, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the government’s chief counterintelligence official released a video in which they all stressed the integrity and “resilience” of the election system and explained what their agencies were doing to ensure that integrity. 

Much of this was prompted by concerns about Russian intervention in favor of the President.

Without mentioning Trump, they also knocked down his claims of mail ballot fraud. Said Wray:

“No matter which method you choose, your voice is important. Rest assured that the security of the election, and safeguarding your vote, is and will continue to be one of our highest priorities.”

Chris Krebs of DHS stated that the results may be delayed beyond November 3, but not by fraud —“and that’s OK. But we’re going to need your patience until official votes are announced.” 

That is welcome news, of course, in view of the pronouncements from Trump and his Attorney General. The infamous Bill Barr seeks to play an oversized role in thwarting a fair election. 

He has bolstered Trump’s phony charges about fraud in mail-in ballots.

CONDEMNING EFFORTS TO STEAL THE ELECTION

It’s a sad day for America that one failing candidate’s power obsessions have necessitated all this lawyering up by the Biden team as well.

There is concern that lawyers in swing states are prepared to make nit-picky charges to disenfranchise minority and other voters presumed to be casting ballots against Trump. 

Many have associated the President’s increasingly bizarre behavior with one of the medications he’s been receiving as part of his coronavirus regimen.

Thus, a statement by the chief counsel of the Republican National Committee emphasizing the vast number of legal (?) actions they anticipate has to be the most mordantly ironic statement of all:

“[legal activity] is going to be on steroids this year.”

To counter that possibility, Tom Rogers, who founded CNBC, and Timothy Wirth, a former Colorado Senator and Undersecretary of State, warned in a Newsweek Op-Ed about the lawyers who participate in such chicanery, knowing that the incidence of vote-by-mail fraud has been proven to be essentially a phony issue:

“As much as President Donald Trump has tried in many ways to subvert our system of constitutional government, it is the lawyers supporting this ‘cancel vote culture’ tactic who will lead to post-election chaos. Lawyers should not be party to these attempts…

They urge state bar associations in the swing states (which they cite as Maine, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, North Carolina, Georgia, and Iowa) to issue statements to attorneys that…

“2020 election-related litigation will be scrutinized, and frivolous lawsuits brought to deprive citizens of having their vote counted will not be tolerated.”

In other words, be forewarned, lawyers who are contemplating or plan to knowingly engage in Trump-Barr chicanery. Such behavior may get you disbarred.

I hope that a consideration of the shipwreck that is the Trump Administration—with so many close advisers convicted of crimes and so many others in danger of legal repercussions—will make any lawyer (or prosecutor) think thrice before risking their licenses and reputations on such a Putin-pleasing plot to destroy America.

The goal, of course, is to deprive Biden of a victory he’s earned in both the Electoral College and the popular vote and throw the election into the courts and/or Congress, where Republicans have an advantage due to various procedures (12th Amendment or Electoral Count Act of 1887).

WE ARE THE BULWARK

But the prevention of these wrongful acts also remains with us. The citizenry, already voting by the millions, can be the bulwark. That’s why every single vote for Biden and Harris and the Democrats is absolutely critical. A landslide may not prevent the attempts to wreak havoc, but it will make them a helluva lot harder to gain traction.

Annie

Continue reading ““BATTLE for the SOUL of the NATION””

Barr’s Army: The Slender Legal Reed for Overtaking American Cities

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Wall of Moms, Portland. Photo credit: Reuters/Caitlin Ochs

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and other elected officials in Oregon have been telling Washington in no uncertain terms: “Take your troops out of Portland.”

Wheeler has referred to the unidentified federal individuals dressed in camouflage and driving unmarked vans as President Trump’s “personal army.” You’ve no doubt heard that there have already been casualties in this foray.

But it would be more appropriate to call them “Barr’s army.” Our quite-recent history includes Attorney General Barr’s giving the orders for the attack on nonviolent protesters outside of the White House to facilitate Trump’s photo op holding a Bible.

That episode, which generated anger and ridicule for the President, led General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to apologize and say he should not have been there.

Using federal forces against an unwilling state or municipality has apparently been a work-in-progress for Barr for decades, according to an article in justsecurity.org, an organization based at the Reiss Center on Law and Security,  New York University School of Law.

The article is titled “Portland’s Pretext: Barr’s Long History Manipulating Law to Put Federal Forces on US Streets.” (all emphases mine)

Since the President has already announced his plans to have counterparts to the forces now in Portland readied for “deployment” wherever and wherever the Attorney General and or the President chooses—specifically, Chicago, New York, and any other city run by Democrats that they deem “out of control,” it seems useful to look closely at Barr’s well-formed plan.

It can be traced back to the Virgin Islands, where there were civil disturbances following a large hurricane (Hugo) in 1989. Barr was then an assistant attorney general, leading the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

According to the authors of the justsecurity piece, in a 2001 interview Barr “boasted that during this time he found a way to deploy federal forces based on a legal justification that appears to now being played out in Portland:

“Barr: We started quickly looking at the legal books. What authority do we have to go in there and start enforcing the law in St. Croix? We looked at some statutes, and we finally decided that without Presidential authority we could send down law enforcement people to defend the federal function.

“That is, we said, ‘People are interfering with the operation of our courts’ and so on. I said, ‘We can send people down to defend the federal function, keep our courts open, and if they see any crime being committed in front of them, then, as law enforcement officers, they can make the arrest.’ Our object was just to get federal law enforcement down there and play it by ear. Technically, we couldn’t send them down to—

“Question: Did you consider interference with the mail as a basis?

“Barr: Yes, we had a whole list of things like that, interference with the mail, interference with the courts. But basically we were claiming that there was breakdown, civil unrest that was interfering with the federal function. We found these old cases that said the federal government could go in there. This was without declaring martial law.”

So he claimed they used the purported—and false—need to defend the federal function of the courts to put down the looting and unrest in the Virgin Islands.

“Barr bragged in his 2001 interview that he had found a way to get the federal forces ‘down there and then play it by ear’ without having to declare martial law.”

The authors note that he said in the same interview that he could, similarly, deploy military forces abroad—without Congressional approval—by, in the authors’ words, “changing the facts on the ground.”

The implications of that view are rather harrowing, don’t you think?

But it gets worse.

In fact, as the authors describe in a subsequent article, Barr’s use of the Virgin Islands situation was based on historical revisionism: in 1989, the governor of the Virgin Islands had requested military help—entirely the opposite of the Portland situation.

That episode and California governor Pete Wilson’s request for federal assistance to control the rioting following the beating of Rodney King in 1992 are the only recent instances when the Insurrection Act was invoked—and both times were at the request of the governors involved.

And, the authors note, “the only modern precedents in which governors’ consent were overridden was under a section of the Insurrection Act purposefully established to implement the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee to equal protection.”  [Used during the Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras.]

So Barr’s slender legal reed—based on a false revision of the historical record—snaps in two. You can understand that invoking the Insurrection Act would not be deemed a wise political move so close to the election. Better to weasel around it.

In the Portland mess, the President signed an executive order that directed federal agencies to send personnel to protect monuments, statues, and federal property.

The Department of Homeland Security,  now headed by an Acting Security, a former lobbyist with no relevant credentials,  then formed “rapid deployment teams” that consist of officers from Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to support the Federal Protective Service, which is responsible for protecting public property.

Portland state and local officials, the US attorney, and the ACLU are filing lawsuits, and other mayors, such as Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot, have said they will fight these unwanted incursions with whatever means they have.

But Washington also claims that the Homeland Security Act of 2002 permits the Department’s Acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, to deputize others to help the Federal Protective Service.

Such newly minted, untrained agents of the law can be armed, make warrantless arrests, and conduct investigations “on and off the property in question,” notes The New York Times.

Garrett Graff, a historian who’s been studying the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told the Times:

“An interpretation of that authority so broadly seems to undermine all the other careful checks and balances on DHS’s power because the officers’ power is effectively limitless and all encompassing.”

And does that give you chills?

We talk a lot about this administration’s breaking norms. Here’s another. Prior DHS officials, the Times reports, said the agency would “normally only dispatch agents to assist with local incidents if the state or municipal governments asked for help and deputized that responsibility.

“In Portland, local leaders have done the opposite.”

What happens now? As is often the case with the Trump administration’s moves—usually with Barr at the helm—the damage proceeds while the parties wrangle in court. Meanwhile, this lawless President, tanking in the polls, bored and helpless to seek remedies for the pandemic that is destroying lives, livelihoods, and our economy—is playing his “Law and Order” card to the hilt.

Show enough graffiti on government buildings, he seems to think, and people will be so disgusted or frightened that they’ll forget the enormous threats they’re facing every day due to his ineptitude. Sure, that should get the suburban women into the President’s camp.

Or will it? What about the Wall of Moms in Portland (pictured above) who are bravely covering their faces with shields and their heads with helmets and placing themselves, arms locked together, between the peaceful protesters and the armed federal officers?

Yes, there will be more violence; all the local and state officials are in agreement that things were de-escalating until these deputized makers of mayhem arrived on the scene.

Watch the video of a former Navy officer, his shirt emblazoned with the word “Navy,” mistakenly thinking he could engage them in conversation to find out what their goals were. They beat him and sprayed him and broke his arm.

But isn’t that the goal? Get people so angry that they begin to side with the disrupters? The crowds have grown substantially since this federal “action” began.

I have written before about Attorney General Barr and the damage he’s wrought. In the past, I’ve used rhyme and hyphenated his name, my little tricks to myself to cut him down to size.

But this time the horror defies rhyme. He can bend the law any way he chooses. He has unleashed fascistic forces onto American streets. I no longer think that word is excessive.

It is time to impeach, disbar, or otherwise end his reign of continual harm to our nation—employing his despicable misuse of the law for nefarious ends that move us further and further away from our democratic ideals.

Annie

Continue reading “Barr’s Army: The Slender Legal Reed for Overtaking American Cities”

The Attorney General for the Person of the US Receives Scrutiny

The Attorney General for the People Person of the US Receives Scrutiny

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Bill Barr Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Once again I must turn to Bill-Barr
To examine behavior bizarre;
This is not the first time
That things seem to skirt crime
And his antics sink less than subpar.

Barr’s descent has made some feel quite sad
For the straight-shooter rep that he’d had;
But the gloss is long gone
And the battles he’s won
Have been awfully, terribly bad.

You recall when the Mueller Report
Raised questions of quite grave import?
Barr’s goal was persuasion
Of exoneration;
No Russians? Of course nyet, he’d retort.

He’s the President’s guy, that’s quite clear
In every last case that we hear;
According to his lights,
The Executive’s rights
Are absolute (I quiver in fear!).

He’s helped various convicted men
Such as Roger Stone and Mike Flynn
Although Flynn confessed twice,
His lies didn’t suffice–
Barr found “hinky stuff” made the case thin.

It was Bill-Barr who served as the source
Of that outside White House show of force–
When those marching in peace
Were peppered by police
While generals in haste reversed course.

And then came a Friday night surprise:
The US attorney’s job demise;
Though Barr said Berman quit,
Berman had none of it–
So was pushed out the door by sunrise.

Berman said that ongoing cases
Will move along on the same basis;
That appears an alert
He was nearing pay dirt,
Leading to some powerful places.

Expect Barr to go on the offense
With “findings” purportedly immense
The purpose: to confuse
It will all be a ruse
And may well be at Biden’s expense.

So what should happen now to Bill-Barr,
Who’s done damage that’s been wide and far?
Will the Dems try impeach
For his gross overreach?
Or at least, let us hope he’s disbarred!

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Note: It is unclear at this point whether Barr will appear before the House Judiciary Committee, which he has agreed to do on July 28, to explain his sudden firing of Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and his handling of other cases.

Two existing Department of Justice employees appeared before the Committee this week to express their dismay at the politicization of the department under Barr, including pressure to get a lighter sentence for the President’s convicted friend Roger Stone and interference in antitrust decisions based on his personal preferences–not the legalities.

But the most damning comment came from Donald B. Ayer, deputy attorney general under President George Bush, seen here on video explaining why Barr’s actions are setting the US “on the way to something far worse than Watergate.”

Previously, in an article in The Atlantic,  Ayer had gone into considerable and specific detail about the damage that Barr is doing to our Justice Department and the rule of law.

His conclusion:

“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen. To prevent that, we need a public uprising demanding that Bill Barr resign immediately, or failing that, be impeached.”

Annie

Continue reading “The Attorney General for the Person of the US Receives Scrutiny”