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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
September 20, 2017


“Mr. Madison thought it indispensable that some provision should be made for defending the Community against the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the chief Magistrate. The imitation of the period of his service, was not a sufficient security. He might lose his capacity after his appointment. He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers. The case of the Executive Magistracy was very distinguishable, from that of the Legislature or of any other public body, holding offices of limited duration. It could not be presumed that all or even a majority of the members of an Assembly would either lose their capacity for discharging, or be bribed to betray, their trust.”
Framers Debate on Impeachment; James Madison; Philadelphia, PA; 1787

The Founding Fathers had serious concerns about government corruption. They knew that a corrupt person could be elected to office. More, they recognized that a previously honest person in government might be corrupted, and even be part of a larger group of corrupt officials. The remedy they prescribed was a civil trial within the House and Senate for the executive and judicial branches. Interestingly, they would even note cases of impeachment as an exception to the president's power to pardon.

“Constitutional law” is, of course, how the US Supreme Court has interpreted that Constitution. But from the Founding Father's era until present, the relationship between potential pardons and possible impeachment is unexplored in the federal courts. Obviously, they were aware a president should not parson any official being impeached. Since an impeachment could involve group corruption, it is worth considering if they intended to limit the president from pardoning associates in common corruption. We need look no further to the past than Richard Nixon for an example of a president aware of this dynamic (or to George Bush the Elder for one who violated this trust).

It has become increasingly clear that Mr. Mueller is investigating the Trump-Russian scandal in the context of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Acts (RICO) case. The news regarding what his investigators are focusing on, and who has been called before the grand jury, suggests that the case is moving along quickly. This increases pressure on everyone associated with Trump. Hence, we read that White House staff are paranoid that co-workers may be “wearing wires,” and that Trump's top lawyers discuss the case over lunch in public.

The model I think best illustrates what is happening is with the Trump White House as a mobile, like those that hang over an infant's crib. Trump is, of course, the central piece. If one other piece moves – either on its own, or due to external pressure – the others must adjust. As the Trump piece attempts to dig in and hold its position, it is putting itself under pressure. Trump has tried to make other adjustments, such as firing Mr. Comey, to secure his position. Clearly, that did not help.

Paul Manafort is another piece of his campaign mobile that Trump pretended to sever ties to. As we've learned recently, Manafort is under increased pressure, as Mr. Mueller's investigators' informed him he will soon be indicted. More, that the FBI had a FISA warrant and recorded his calls at important times – including, most likely, discussions with Trump as late as January, 2017. There is a good possibility that the pair discussed their “Russian problem.”

As I write this, my Little Sister sent me the link to an article on this topic. (See below) Charles Pierce is a good source. I think it's good to keep the mobile in mind while reading the article. We are living in strange times.


H2O Man

September 15, 2017

Republican's Burden

“We must change to master change.”
– President Lyndon B. Johnson

The republican party has two burdens as 2018 approaches. The first is, of course, Donald Trump. In a normal cycle, mid-term elections include a shift away from a sitting president; in 2018, Trump will be a ball & chain upon the leg of the republicans that represent the more “moderate” segment of the party. Trump alone provides the Democratic Party with the potential to make significant advances in congressional elections.

The other burden is equally important for the Democratic Party to exploit between today and November, 2018. It is the rabid right-wing of the republican party that comprise the Porka-Gorka brigade. No longer the “pajama boys” donning white sheets in the night, they range from the inbred Klan clans of the south, to the khaki-clad torch-bearers who infested Charlottesville. They are known as “Trump's base.”

To understand the philosophy, for lack of a better word, of Trump's base, one should re-watch the 2008 movie, “The Dark Knight.” There is a scene in which Alfred Pennyworth tells Bruce Wayne about an opponent who was upon but one thing: the destruction of the social order. The very thought of this “naughty boy” delighted Gorka and Bannon, and fermented in their minds during the years of the Obama presidency.

The “republican party” of the past no longer exists. The “party of Reagan” is but a fragment of a faded memory. The corporate branch, and the conservative citizen (re: Christian) are but two remnants that form minority branches of the halls of political power. They are incapable of exercising control over the rabid, in-bred, white trash branch. This reality was brought to the surface in the recent attempts to repeal and displace health care.

Thus, the Democratic Party has a unique opportunity to begin to institute meaningful change in 2018. To fully access this potential, we need to recognize that our party has undergone changes since the years of Bill Clinton's presidency, and even in the post-Obama period. In simplistic terms, we can see there are the two camps that defined the 2016 Democratic primaries: the Clinton camp, and the Sanders' camp.

Yet, there are other important concepts that need to be recognized, accepted, and dealt with in an open and just manner. In doing so, the Democratic Party can create a united front with the Democratic Left. As indicated by the Obama coalition, this united front presents the best way to win elections.

If we take an objective look at potential votes for Democratic Party candidates, some basic realities can be identified. There are some well-known groups, based upon ethnicity. Those overlap with some issues that aren't often taken into account. In general, for example, the progressive community is comprised of individuals in the lower-economic groups, liberals and moderates in the middle class, and conservative Democrats among those with higher incomes. Clearly, there are individual examples from each group that do not fit that pattern. But to deny the pattern is to deny reality.

Each group has issues that are important to them. Some of them are different, based upon the obvious differences in economic status and security. Yet more of those issues are shared concerns. Middle class parents, for example, tend to take on a large debt to pay for the college-university educations of their children. Low-income people recognize this, and support Democratic candidates who are in a position to do things to address this middle class problem. We understand why, well before their children are in high school, so many parents are intent upon their child eventually earning a college scholarship for one sport or another. It is, of course, an unrealistic hope. It's far better for the parents – and community – if everyone advocates for affordable education when election day comes around.

Very few lower- or middle-income people have an opportunity to mingle with the heads of the corporations that mangle the economic system. We understand that it is primarily the wealthy Democrats – especially those in elected office – that have face-to-face contact with these executives. There are often differences of opinion among us regarding if our elected representatives do enough to represent the low- and middle-income citizens. But we can all agree that they certainly represent the interests of the corporations.

While a few of the offspring of the wealthy do enter into military service, it is definitely the children of the lower- and middle-class families that are fighting the numerous undeclared wars that the USA is currently involved in. One might accurately note that it is always this way. Yet, if the nation were not sending these young men and women into war zones, and for reasons the government and certain corporations want to keep secret from the public, they could serve their country in other, more important ways.

Congress holds the purse strings. Why fund the failure in Afghanistan, rather than invest in the success of helping all those who's lives were turned into hell from the two recent hurricanes? And the sad fact is that Afghanistan is only one of about nine foreign nations where our sons and daughters are involved in violence in. Yet, very few in Washington, DC, speak out about this. Very few, indeed.

It's a damned shame that an estimated 14 million Democrats voted for Trump last November. And it is pathetic that any union members did so. But some did. Part of that was the direct result of sexist stupidity. No question. That's beyond any debate. But that is another social construct that factored in. Groups of people tend to act out in a manner that is objectively in their worst interests when their expectations were raised, but there was no advance following.

This highlights the lack of understanding that, for all intents and purposes, is related to the failure of unions to educate their members on sexism's damaging results. There is a general belief that elected representatives in DC could “do something” to create immediate changes in the system. As a matter of fact, I encountered that same mistaken belief when I served on a school board. “Why don't you do this?” or “why not do that?” Oh, if it were only so easy!

Systems remind me of rivers. Neither are easily diverted in new directions. To change a system such as a school board – much less DC – there are but two possibilities: change the people in office, and/or change the thinking of those in office. Still, that change will rarely provide immediately gratifying changes. That type of change requires citizens who patiently advocate for that change, and who refuse to stop trying. More, their position can be enhanced, if they understand how to coordinate with those who the elected representatives consider unreasonable hot-heads. For example, by 1964, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X understood that they could benefit everyone by putting their heads together.

In summation, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity today. If we don't take it, it will float down that river, and be gone forever. Other opportunities may show up later, that look the same, or smell similar. But they can only be different. We have the opportunity now to exploit the divisions within the republican party – and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate are doing this now – to our common advantage. But we need to unite the various sub-groups to create that united front. And that is one possibility, one option, that is available to us to begin working upon now. There are, of course, many other possible options, but they do not offer these unique advantages. Thus, it is up to each of us to decide.

H2O Man

September 14, 2017

Golovkin vs Alvarez

September 16

At Las Vegas (HBO PPV): Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez, 12 rounds, for Golovkin's WBA/IBF/WBC middleweight title

Saturday's middleweight title fight is, on paper, the most important boxing match of 2017. It is much more important to the sport than the Mayweather vs McGregor bout, though it is unlikely to create the excitement – hence, sales – among sports fans. But for the boxing community, this promises to be among the best fights in many years.

Canelo, 27, appears to be entering his prime; GGG, 35, is probably at the tail-end of his. Both are about the same size, with GGG being 1.5 inches taller, and Canelo having a .5 inch reach advantage. Both fight in the orthodox style, and are talented counter-punchers. Golovkin has been better at putting pressure on his opposition. Both do their best with an opponent standing in front of them.

Alvarez's record is 49-1-1, with 34 knockouts. GGG is 37-0, with 33 knockouts. In general, both men have faced the top opponents in their weight classes. Alvarez's lone defeat came against Floyd Mayweather, Jr., on September 14, 2013, which means he faced one better opponent than has GGG. However, he has also faced smaller opponents than has Golovkin.

GGG has earned the respect of the boxing community for his willingness to face literally anyone his size. His last fight was in March against Danny Jacobs, who entered the ring significantly larger than Golovkin. GGG got the decision in a tough, closely-contested fight. Canelo's last bout was in May, in which he easily outpointed Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.

A year ago, I would have favored GGG to win this fight. Now, however, I think it is as close to 50-50 going into the ring as could be in a top fight. Years ago, when the two sparred, GGG hurt Canelo early. But Alvarez has matured a great deal since then. Both men are definitely powerful punchers, and both have outstanding left hooks to the body that can render an opponent helpless on the canvas for over ten seconds. Both are impressive “finishers,” once their opponent is hurt. Canelo has an edge in defensive skills, which is important, though both can take a hard shot. Canelo has shown a pattern of tiring after nine rounds.

Who wins, and how? I'd guess that it is most likely going to a decision. However, if either man can catch the other with solid combinations, going to both the body and head, it could end sooner.

Enjoy the fight!

September 7, 2017

Easy Choices

I've liked books for as long as I can remember, which is a long time. I've read and collected lots of books over the decades. I like the way that bookshelves look. But most of all, I like reading good books. That includes books by authors I like, writing about issues that I agree with them on. It also includes quite a few by authors I'm not fond of, often on topics that I absolutely disagree with them on. As long as a book makes me think, and teaches me something new, I enjoy reading books.

Some of my favorites are books on politics. Some are authored by politicians. Others are about politicians throughout our nation's history. Some are old, and others are new. Books about the 1960s and early '70s, the Kennedy family, the presidents, and on the presidential campaigns since 1960. Thus, I will definitely be buying Hillary Clinton's new book, “What Happened.”

Her 2014 book “Hard Choices,” about her experiences as Secretary of State, was an interesting and important read. Its 600+ pages provided plenty of information for Democrats to evaluate her qualifications to serve as president. I remember attempting to get a discussion started among forum members who had read the book at the time; there were very few responses, perhaps because I wrote the OP, perhaps because few had read the book.

Fast-forward to 2017: an associate informed me that they were sending me a copy of the book “Shattered,” about Ms. Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Before getting the book, I posted here, asking for opinions on the book. The overwhelming response indicated the book was a shoddy hit-job, with recommendations that I not buy it. While I did not spend a penny on the book, I did read it when it arrived.

In my opinion, it was a cheap, shoddy hit-job by two opportunists looking to cash in. Yet, the book was not without some value, in that it detailed the on-going conflicts within segments of the campaign. The most important of these was, I believe, the tensions between those that were invested in running a “high-tech” campaign, versus those who believed in the older, door-to-door style. That influenced how resources – including cash and people – were used. Hence, while I will never spend a penny on any other book by either of the authors, I consider the book worth reading.

I will also be buying James Comey's book when it is published. It promises to be an interesting book, no matter if one “likes” or “dislikes” Mr. Comey before opening the first page. He has clearly had significant influence on the state of our nation in recent years, for good or bad, or both.

I will never buy, or accept as a gift, any book about Donald Trump, until one is published documenting his impeachment for the Trump-Russian scandal. With George W. Bush, I understood that he was “the” president, though certainly not “my” president. I believed the US Supreme Court gifted Bush with a decision over the clear winner, Al Gore. Because I am of limited intellect, I viewed it as an awful example of what is known as a “hometown decision” in the sport of boxing.

Trump, however, “won” on a flagrant foul. His campaign was based upon conspiring with Russia, which in and of itself is grounds for a disqualification. While the disqualification is required no matter if it did or did not directly impact the vote totals in individual states, recent information makes a much stronger case by those who hold that some of those totals were indeed changed by Russian hacking. So I'm hoping that Malcolm Nance comes out with another book on this topic. One can never have too many good books.

September 6, 2017

A Gadfly in the Ointment

“There is no present or future – only the past, happening over and over again -- now.”
Eugene O'Neill; A Moon for the Misbegotten

There are a number of important issues being discussed by members of the Democratic Party as we begin to prepare for the most important mid-term elections of our lifetimes in 2018. The hurricanes, climate change, and the government's response to national emergencies; the cruel DACA move by the administration; the Trump-Russian scandal; and North Korea. I thought it might be interesting to take a few minutes to discuss the general topics involving North Korea today.

Within the DU community, there are some members who remember the WW2 era, more who lived during the Korean war, many from the Vietnam era, and everyone has been alive during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were, of course, other military actions in between these; likewise, the military is also participating in other, unlisted countries today.

I would speculate that most people recognize that there are differences between, say, WW2 and the military invasion of Grenada under Reagan. People can – and do – have different ideas about what position the Democratic Party should take on each war. And that's a good thing. It has been an important factor within our lifetimes.

Any rational person who lived through (or has studied) the Cuban Missile Crisis knows it is a good thing that John F. Kennedy was president. In 1964, before the experience of aging mellowed Barry Goldwater, it was better that LBJ won. The Vietnam war hurt our Party in 1968's primaries, though VP Humphrey likely would defeated Nixon if he had parted with President Johnson on the war, even a week earlier than he eventually did.

Things are not always as they seem. LBJ would almost certainly rank high among the great presidents, had it not been for Vietnam. George McGovern was a WW2 hero, and an honorable Senator, yet he lost by a wide margin to a crook named Nixon. The Vietnam war had a huge impact upon our society, including – obviously – domestic politics.

In the 1980s, as terrible as Reagan-Bush were, there was a strong anti-war movement, protesting the US participation in the wars in Central America. This was connected with Democrats, including numerous church groups, fighting the administration's attempts to deport “illegal” immigrants, many from those war-torn lands of Central American countries the US military was systematically devastating.

In the Bush-Cheney era, many good Democrats did not fall for the lies about WMD in Iraq, and opposed the US invasion and occupation there. The longer the war continued, the clearer it became that the administration had intentionally lied our nation into that war. In 2008, Senator Barack Obama won the Democratic Party's nomination largely because of his early opposition to the war in Iraq. More, he won the presidency, partly because the American people believed he would do his best to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I believe that President Obama did attempt to end US participation in both of those wars. I think that he learned that there were limits to presidential powers beyond those he was aware of as a candidate. Perhaps he could have done more if the public was demanding an end to the insanity of those wars. But the issues relating to those wars seemed to fade from the public discussions, and somehow the US would extend its participation in military operations that never saw public debate.

In 2016, a gadfly in the ointment of the republican primaries promised to end the US military role in Afghanistan, and to re-invest in American infrastructure. While his chronic lying makes it impossible to determine if he ever intended this salve, it is apparent that he is now surrounded by generals who favor the continuation of the failed military occupation. This is the flip side of having advocates of the military industrial complex providing stability within what is otherwise a dangerously unstable administration.

Serious discussions about ending these wars should not be “the dog that didn't bark” during the upcoming congressional campaigns. They have not made America safer. Quite the opposite: the world has become a much more dangerous place since 2001.

I'm curious what other forum members think about this?

September 1, 2017


Obstruction of justice

Obstruction of justice is defined in the omnibus clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1503, which provides that "whoever . . . . corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense)." Persons are charged under this statute based on allegations that a defendant intended to intefere with an official proceeding, by doing things such as destroying evidence, or intefering with the duties of jurors or court officers.

A person obstructs justice when they have a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding. For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, they must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but the person must know (1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and (2) there must be a nexus between the defendant’s endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the defendant must have knowledge of this nexus.
§ 1503 applies only to federal judicial proceedings. Under § 1505, however, a defendant can be convicted of obstruction of justice by obstructing a pending proceeding before Congress or a federal agency. A pending proceeding could include an informal investigation by an executive agency.
Cornell Law School

Last night on MSNBC, there was solid coverage of how Trump's legal team is attempting to convince Robert Mueller not to charge Donald with obstruction of justice. The legal team's effort was focused on one thing – Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey. They submitted two memos to Mr. Mueller. The first made the case that a president has the power to fire anyone working for him/her; the second attempted to make the case that Mr. Comey would not make a good witness against Trump. Already today, we see the attempt by Trump's team to smear Mr. Comey, by focusing on his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's server.

It is not unprecedented for lawyers to try to prevent legal charges in such circumstances. Older forum members remember that Robert Luskin's “last minute” communications with Patrick Fitzgerald saved Karl Rove from the indictment that Mr. Fitzgerald was prepared to bring. This is detailed in the afterword of Michael Isikoff and David Corn's book “Hubris” (Crown Publishers; 2006; pages 399-404).

However, obstruction charges focus upon a pattern of behaviors. Each example of behavior intended to obstruct the investigations becomes a strand in a rope that ties Trump to the charge, rather than serving as a link in a chain that might be broken. And there are numerous strands of Trump's behavior, ranging from his pressuring Mr. Comey to end the Flynn investigation, to his attempts to get other intelligence leaders to “clear” him, to his demands that congressional republicans “protect” him. More, Trump's own words provide strong evidence of consciousness of guilt. The shifting explanations of why he fired Mr. Comey, as well as the false statements on the meeting between Donald, Jr., Kushner, Manafort, and the Russian agents, demonstrate an attempted cover-up.

Trump's legal team is aware that the firing of Mr. Comey isn't the lone evidence of obstruction. And, while they are correct that a president has the power to fire people, they recognize that presidential power can be abused. It is evident that the current reports on their communications with Mr. Mueller reflect their first step in fighting a charge they believe is very, very likely to be filed against their client.

And how are Trump and his alt-right supporters reacting to these events? The alt-right is reporting that Trump has been placed under “house arrest” – citing neoconservative John Bolton for evidence – while the reliable media is reporting that Trump is angered by John Kelly's attempts to make the president act in a sane manner.

Hopefully, there will be more leaks being reported on this evening's news. That should make for an interesting weekend.

H2O Man

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