If you think that America still can act rationally about immigration, or even wants to act rationally, you are wrong. The NYT reports:
“A right-wing militia group operating in southern New Mexico has begun stopping groups of migrant families and detaining them at gunpoint before handing them over to Border Patrol agents, raising tension over the tactics of armed vigilantes along the border between the United States and Mexico.”
This group, one of many, calls itself the United Constitutional Patriots. They filmed several of their detentions including one of a group of 200 migrants who crossed the border near Sunland Park, NM, with the intention of seeking asylum.
Many different militias operate along the border. They say that their mission is to support the Border Patrol by attempting to curb the flow of undocumented migrants into the US.
The NYT and other media use the word “detain” to describe what these militias are doing. But they aren’t law enforcement. They don’t have any authorization to detain. They’re simply holding people hostage at gunpoint. Detained is NOT the right word to use here. It’s a euphemism that minimizes the unconstitutionality of their actions.
Americans should have no issue with legal immigration, which includes legally seeking asylum under current law. Immigrants may cross our border anywhere and ask for asylum. See 8 US Code 1158. Regardless of what the Trumpists think, this is US law. “If you don’t like the law, change it”, is something Republicans always say. To paraphrase the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, you are free to express your own opinions, but you are not free to make up laws based on your opinions.
On to cartoons. Here’s a new administration separation policy that’s just coming into focus:
The dog who ate America’s homework:
What to do with the Mueller Report changes by Party:
Some answers aren’t obvious:
What’s happened in France and America will take years to fix:
Maui, on the back road to Hana – 2013 photo by Wrongo
The hot takes on the Mueller Report are in, and just like before, there remain two camps. One is glad he got away with it, and the other is unhappy he can’t be fired. Virtually the entire GOP apparatus has been mobilized to defend Trump, and focus blame on the media, the deep state, and liberals.
But Trump is not portrayed as an angel, in fact, the report rips him apart. There are technical and legal reasons why a recommendation not to prosecute Trump was made by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Moreover, the OSC believes that Congress can (presumably should?) exercise its “authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.” They say that Congress “may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of the office,” and that doing so would “accord with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” (From Volume 2, page 8 of the Mueller Report)
The OSC lays out the reasons why the DoJ isn’t the “right” authority for dealing with a criminal president. The OSC is also very clear that it does not have confidence “after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president [would be cleared of] obstruction of justice.”
Since the OSC has completed the most thorough investigation of that subject that we have, the clear implication is that while they believe Trump is guilty of committing corrupt and obstructive acts, they don’t reach that conclusion, because they are not charging him.
And this is why they make the case that an impeachment by Congress is the proper forum.
So, Mueller basically punts, and leaves it to the Congress. Trump has not been vindicated, or exonerated. He just wasn’t charged. In this country, a person is innocent until proven guilty. For sitting presidents, that can only be accomplished through impeachment.
The Democrat’s leadership has already said that impeachment is off the table. But Wrongo’s theory is that Nancy Smash will do investigations this term, and find out if there is any more bad news that can help defeat Trump in 2020.
If not, then impeachment could be pursued during his second term. Plan A and Plan B are both in place, and ready for execution.
Conduct the investigations by the various House Committees. Let’s see what is revealed, not only what else goes into the record, but what we learn by observing the behavior of the many Trump administration actors.
The Mueller investigation may have ruled out conspiracy with the Russians, something that Wrongo was unconvinced about. But it was a shot across the bow that should lead to closer examination of future campaigns. The redacted OSC report is bad enough for the President politically. How much more damage might be done if/when the Congressional committees reveal more?
What with the Mueller Report and the Notre Dame fire, western culture seems to be on the skids here in the spring of 2019. No time like right now for an unredacted Saturday Soother!
Start by brewing up a coffee that you probably haven’t had before, Café Granja La Esperanza Sudan Rume Natural ($37.50/8oz.) by PT’s Coffee in Topeka and Kansas City, KS. Wrongo is certain that long-time reader of the Wrongologist, Monty, can write a review for all of us.
Now settle into a comfy chair and listen to music played on the great organ at Notre Dame Cathedral. We now know that the organ was not damaged by fire or water during the conflagration, and was removed intact from the cathedral. Here is Organ Sonata No.1, Op.42 by Alexandre Guilmant, played by Olivier Latry. Latry was awarded the post of one of four titulaires des grands orgues of Notre-Dame when he was 23 years old. That means he has a key to get into the Cathedral and practice on the organ. Watch him play:
“I decided to fly to Paris for a few hours on Sunday. We just have to see the church, even if we are not allowed to go in, which is still forbidden at the moment. It feels like a nightmare we have not yet woken up from. Slowly, hour by hour, I understand the reality more and more. This is very hard.”
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Wrongo and Ms. Right saw “What the Constitution Means to Me” on Broadway last night. It’s a riveting and powerful show, good for both your head and heart. The cast is led by Heidi Schreck in an amazing performance. Schreck also wrote the play. She tells her (true) story of earning college money by traveling around the country delivering short speeches on the Constitution and competing in rapid-fire challenges about its amendments.
In the play, she resurrects her teenage self, tracing the effects of the founding document on generations of women, including many in her family. She focuses on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and the “penumbra” of Amendment 9. She applies these to a few cases, specifically, the Supreme Court case, Castle Rock v. Gonzales.
Schreck plays a recording of Justices Scalia and Breyer debating Castle Rock v. Gonzalez: They focus not on the mother, or her children who were kidnapped and killed by her husband. Or, on the negligence of the local police, who failed to respond to the permanent restraining order she had against her husband, despite the many, many times that Gonzalez called them. Instead, they pedantically debate the meaning of the word “shall.”
It’s a debate about rhetoric, entirely stripped of humanity.
She lost. The Supremes decided that the police did not have an obligation to protect Ms. Gonzalez or her kids. They held that enforcement of the restraining order was not mandatory under Colorado law. See the play if you can.
On to cartoons. Barr’s report isn’t the report you are looking for:
Barr’s report will keep America at odds until we see what Mueller says:
Barr tells us that Donnie’s clean:
Last week, Republicans called for Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), to be removed. Every Republican on the committee was on board for Schiff’s removal. Schiff didn’t take it lying down. He pointed out everything shady and suspicious that Trump & his associates did during the campaign. He closed by saying “But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK. And the day we do think that’s OK, is the day we will look back and say that is the day that America lost its way.” Watch Schiff’s response here:
Betsy shows her disability:
Trump, king of health care, says the Republicans will sometime in the future, become the party of health care:
Ice climbing remnant glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – 2018 photo by Christian Pondella. The climber, (upper right) Will Gadd, said: “We were climbing ice that is easily 10,000 years old and isn’t going to be there next week….We camped up on top of Kilimanjaro for about five days, and some of the things we climbed on, we came back and they had fallen over.”
Now that the key non-findings of the Mueller Report are known, the first thing we are hearing is that Mueller found no conspiracy with Russia. Unless the House committees turn up something that Mueller didn’t, there won’t be any legal consequences for Trump, his spawn, or what remains of his inner circle.
The Attorney General’s conclusions are that the Mueller report says Trump neither colluded with Russia, nor obstructed justice. This will help Trump and the GOP, who are already crowing, “EXONERATION!”
Like many others, Wrongo is disappointed that Muller didn’t give us a quick, clean end to the horror of this administration. This disappointment marks the third time in the past 20 years that Wrongo has felt the country was wobbling on its axis because of the GOP.
The first time was in 2000 when the Supreme Court gave the presidency to Bush II. That was a terrible outcome for our democratic process, one that led to a gigantic strategic error, as Bush 43 took us into war in the Middle East.
The second was Trump winning the presidency in 2016. Everything that has happened since that November night was predictable, and again, we are a weaker, and a more divided country as a result.
Now, the Mueller report represents the third time that America has been divided by our anachronistic system. Now, we’ve had three occasions where we trusted that our system would make crucial decisions that had enormous impact on our democratic system, and in each case, our trust was misplaced.
Today’s news was the worst case scenario. While Wrongo has never believed that Russian election interference changed the outcome of the 2016 election, he thinks there was a quid pro quo with the Russians regarding a possible Moscow Trump Tower in 2016.
We all hoped AG Barr might rise to the occasion. Instead, Barr (and not Mueller) made the call on obstruction. Instead, Barr (not Mueller) cast the lack of proof on collusion by narrowing it to solely collusion with “the Russian government.” Apparently, the Trump Tower quid pro quo wasn’t on the table.
That said, we have to hope that all of this may turn out for the best.
Barr’s letter may not be the final aria sung by the metabolically challenged diva. She may return to the stage in due time. The Mueller/Barr punt says this is now Congress’s job to sort out.
Wake up America! Now we must acknowledge that we’re in a war to reclaim our system of government. To win the fight requires America to take control of the Congress and the White House away from the GOP in 2020.
And it can’t be by razor-thin margins, or there’s a decent chance the Democrats will be outplayed again.
This is a necessary battle. If it isn’t won, our country will continue to spiral out of control. It isn’t just about getting Trump out of office through the democratic process. This is a fight to reaffirm who we are as a country.
You know leadership when you see it. In the US, we are chronically short of inspiring leaders. But there is a great model of leadership on view in New Zealand, their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Now 38, she was the world’s youngest female head of government, when she took office at age 37.
“Let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism….That’s something we can all do.”
She announced a ban on military-style assault rifles and ammunition on Thursday. She has hammered social media companies for allowing and amplifying extremism. Ardern has called capitalism a “blatant failure” due to the extent of homelessness in New Zealand.
She has spent her political capital to unite her country, not to divide it.
None of those things could have been accomplished by Trump. And none will ever be accomplished by him. He’s too politically and ideologically conflicted to give a full-throated denouncement of extremism from the right.
He doesn’t have the empathy to sit with relatives of the dead and comfort them. He’s not capable of leading us through a teachable moment. He can’t move our government to action, except to pass unnecessary tax cuts and hire right-wing Supreme Court Justices. He can’t be a role model for any positive behaviors, and is a terrible communicator to the general public.
So, look clearly at America’s politicians, and find someone who has the ability to lead like Ms. Ardern. Wrongo doubts that you will find many. Ms. Ardern is a politician not a saint, but her actions prove that politicians exist who can be effective thought and cultural leaders.
Remember that she’s just 38 years old!
Does this imply we shouldn’t be thinking that America necessarily needs an older politician driving the bus of state?
By the time you’re reading this, you’ll already know that the Mueller Report has been submitted to the Attorney General. Where we go from here depends to a great extent on the leadership of the Attorney General, the House and Senate, and the president.
Now, get to your favorite chair, put on your headphones and listen to Roxane Elfasci play “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy, on guitar. This 2016 live performance was in Paris. “Clair de Lune” is the third movement of “Suite Bergamasque” by Claude Debussy, from a poem by Paul Verlaine. It was written for piano, and here it is arranged for guitar by James Edwards. This is a wonderful performance of a well-known piece which is incredibly difficult to play on solo guitar:
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Railroad bridge over Housatonic River in snow – 2019 photo by Quadco Joe
We start driving back from sunny, warm FL this am. While you are having coffee and listening to music, we’ll be once again driving by a few Civil War battlefields. But today, let’s talk about Paul Manafort. On Thursday, Trump’s former campaign manager and a one-time lobbyist for unsavory people, was sentenced to 47 months on tax evasion, when the sentencing guidelines called for something like twenty years.
Manafort was sentenced to four years, just like the rest of us. But his seems lenient, while ours seems harsh.
Manafort’s judge was T. S. Ellis III, of the Eastern District in Virginia, who isn’t a model of judicial consistency. Few remember Rep. William J. Jefferson (D- LA), who was convicted of corruption. He was sentenced in 2009 to 13 years by Judge Ellis, who said that he hoped Jefferson’s punishment would serve as a “beacon” to warn other public officials not to succumb to corruption.
Ellis gave Jefferson the longest corruption sentence ever for a member of Congress. It was five years longer than a different judge gave former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, (R-CA), after he plead guilty to more egregious charges, of steering defense contracts in return for bribes.
After the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in McDonnell v. United States, which narrowed the definition of public corruption, Mr. Jefferson appealed his conviction. Judge Ellis threw out 7 of the 10 charges against him, accepted Jefferson’s plea on the three remaining counts, and sentenced him to time served. In total, Jefferson served five and a half years.
Think about it: Ellis made an example of Jefferson, while sending the opposite message with Manafort’s sentence, and ignoring sentencing guidelines. Ellis said: “He’s [Manafort] lived an otherwise blameless life.” Franklin Foer in The Atlantic debunked that:
“In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations.
In an otherwise blameless life, he helped the Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent.
In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of landmines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees.
In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was kicked out of the lobbying firm he co-founded, accused of inflating his expenses and cutting his partners out of deals.
In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state, so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.”
There’s more, but you get the drift. People will argue that Manafort wasn’t charged with ruining the world, he was charged with tax evasion. And that using one crime to punish others the subject was not charged with is not a good practice.
True, but had Judge Ellis heard about Al Capone?
And giving less than one quarter of the recommended punishment says that Ellis, a Reagan appointee, saw the Republican in Manafort, while he saw the Democrat in Jefferson.
Time to leave the world behind and line up for your Saturday Soother. Let’s start by sampling the AK-47 Espresso Blend from Black Rifle Coffee, a veteran-owned coffee company who calls their products “freedom fuel”. Wrongo saw their billboard while driving through North Carolina, and doesn’t want to hear any comments from wussy liberals about how the South is different.
Now, settle into your most comfortable chair and listen to Pablo Villegas, playing “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (Memories of the Alhambra) by Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega, live at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center in 2013:
The piece showcases the challenging guitar technique known as tremolo.
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP – 2018 photo by dontyakno
Wrongo hasn’t written much about the Trump/Russia investigation. Most of those pieces have shown skepticism about Russian interference in our election process. There is, however, clear evidence that the Trump campaign reached out to the Russians more than 100 times. While that’s unusual, it isn’t on its face, criminal, although the Trump campaign failed to alert the FBI about those contacts.
There are investigations underway by Mueller, the Southern District of NY, and several House committees. Trump has castigated each, calling them a witch hunt and fake news. Nearly all Republicans have sided with him about these multiple investigations.
It isn’t unusual that the GOP is indifferent to the range of possible Trump wrongdoing. On Tuesday, the WaPo’s Greg Sargent helpfully cataloged the things that Republicans in Congress think should not be investigated about Trump by the Democrats in Congress:
Materials relating to any foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses, which might constitute violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
Materials that might shed light on Trump’s negotiations about a real estate project in Moscow, which Trump concealed from the voters even after the GOP primaries were in progress. Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress about the deal.
Parenthetically, and not part of Greg Sergeant’s list, Marcy Wheeler thinks that the most important crime in the Trump era is a probable quid quo pro in which the Russians (and Trump) seemed willing to trade a new Moscow Trump Tower for sanctions relief should Trump win the presidency.
Materials that might show whether Trump’s lawyers had a hand in writing former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress that falsified the timeline of those negotiations.
Materials that might illuminate/prove Trump’s suspected efforts to obstruct the FBI/Mueller investigation.
Materials that would shed more light on the criminal hush-money schemes that Cohen carried out, allegedly at Trump’s direction, and on Trump’s reimbursement of those payments. These most likely violate campaign finance laws.
But, they close by saying that Trump may survive all of it, and that Republican voters seem basically unmoved by the mounting evidence.
Why is it so difficult for people of both parties to coalesce around either his guilt, or innocence? How is it that we just forget about the breathtaking corruption of Trump Cabinet Secretaries Scott Pruitt, or Ryan Zinke?
Many of the Federal judges on the Russian investigation who have ruled against Trump’s associates. The judges say the Trumpies were selling out the interests of the US. That has consequences for Americans, including the constituents of the Republican members of Congress who want us to stop investigating.
It’s depressingly clear that 2020 will be another close presidential election. The Republican Party is willing to condone bad behavior and criminality when the perpetrator is one of their own.
How can America rectify this problem? Even if a Democrat wins the presidency, it is unlikely the Dems will win a majority in the Senate. So, the GOP will again use the same obstructionist game plan we saw during the Obama administration.
It turned out that most people agreed with the statement, until they are told that it was said by someone in the other political party. Then they disagreed. If people can only agree with a meaningless statement when they think it was said by their political party, what hope do we have to find agreement when the stakes are high, like in the Mueller investigation?
Given the Republicans’ disinterest for seeking the truth behind the Trump scandals, the outlook for our democracy is grim.
We need to be clear-eyed about how much work, and how long it will take, to right the ship.
Wrongo doesn’t know about you, but he’s not ready to make a cull of the top presidential candidates from the current herd of Democrats running for the job. And most of us are barely watching the 20+ politicians closely at all.
But inside the White House, Trump is watching Democrats’ announcement rallies, and televised town halls, listening carefully to commentary on the Democratic presidential race. Apparently, he wants to play an active role in choosing his Democratic opponent, and has instructed his aides to look for ways he can sow divisions among the Democratic rivals. He’s hoping to cause chaos from the right. Perhaps he’s learned from the Russian model.
Media Matters for America says that the right is also focused on the so-called “illegal coup” that Mueller, the FBI, and Democrats are attempting to pull off via the Mueller investigation. They reported a disturbing episode of Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s “The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast” Thursday, when guest Joe diGenova said:
“We are in a civil war in this country….There’s two standards of justice, one for Democrats one for Republicans. The press is all Democrat, all liberal, all progressive…they hate Republicans, they hate Trump. So the suggestion that there’s ever going to be civil discourse in this country for the foreseeable future in this country is over. It’s not going to be. It’s going to be total war. And as I say to my friends, I do two things — I vote and I buy guns.”
After the arrest of Christopher Paul Hasson, the white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant with the stockpile of guns and ammo, and a list of Democrats to assassinate, it’s easy to see how casual talk about our political divisions can slip into thoughts of open warfare. This isn’t a “both sides do it”, problem. Only one side speaks openly about war, and they seem to really want one.
On to cartoons. We’re hearing that Mueller may have something for us:
Some think that there’s nothing to see:
Bernie’s back, but there seems to be less enthusiasm:
Dems are at the eye test stage, and it’s confusing:
The GOP hates Dem agenda, and suggests a really bad idea:
Remember the GOP’s socialist plots from the old days? Their old ideas never die:
The sleeping kid is Joshua Trump. He was bullied for sharing the same last name as, you know. The kid is one Trump who has already mastered “Executive Time”.
Young Trump kinda sums up the SOTU, along with this:
Certainly looks like an “FU” clap from Nancy Smash. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times/Getty Images
Wrongo thinks the best part of the 1 ½ hour Trumpshow were the shout outs to people in the audience. They took up about 1/3 of the time, and provided some interest, even if most were ham-handed efforts to represent administration policy. These introductions of citizens in the SOTU audience have been around since Ronald Reagan in 1982, and usually give us a bit of a break from the eternal SOTU spewing.
“There were two truly well-done sections of the speech. One was the troll of the Democrats present around the divisive term ‘socialism.’ The other was a series of moments on the stories of Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans.”
Most of the speech was either recycled campaign themes from 2016, or possible 2020 themes being screen-tested for the Republican faithful. Republicans in the room were very happy to see that Dems wouldn’t clap for the war on abortion, or for Trump’s pledge that America would never be a socialist country.
Wrongo thought that Trump’s review of the economy was effective. It is surprising that he doesn’t reference America’s late-stage economic recovery from the Great Recession more often. That, along with abortion, marauding immigrants, and socialism are setting the stage for what we can expect from Republicans over the next two years.
Why did Trump threaten Democrats about investigations? He said:
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”
He’s saying that he will obstruct legislation unless Democrats stand down on investigating him. Fat chance. He also said this:
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations…”
Nobody should threaten America’s economy for personal reasons. That prompted some boos from Democrats. Even Republicans greeted Trump’s threat to economy with near-silence. And the GOP weren’t totally craven yes boys for Trump elsewhere in the speech. The part about trade was poorly received by GOP members. The part about pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Syria was also met with near-silence.
Nancy Pelosi said afterwards that even though Trump spoke of the honor of being in the House chamber to deliver the State of the Union:
“He threatened the United States Congress not to exercise its constitutional responsibility of oversight.”
The SOTU was as boring as Sunday’s Super Bowl, but without the uncertainty of knowing who would win or lose.
Even before Trump opened his mouth at the SOTU, it was clear that America would be the loser.