Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Collaboration of Mark Meadows and Virginia Foxx

The photo-op at St. John's Church. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is at far right.
SecDef Mark Esper is at far left, who has said he didn't know where he was going that evening.
Presumably Meadows knew and collaborated in the operation
Former Congressman Mark Meadows is from North Carolina. By way of East Berlin? I ask because East Berlin was the home of the Stasi, the East German secret police who taught collaboration with tyranny as self-advancement.

Meadows' sycophancy toward Trump was already legendary. He willingly gave up a seat in the US House in order to be in that man's armpit every day, praising his ideas, facilitating his desires, fanning his fantasies, taking a hike through a park which still reeked of chemicals, trailing behind his Great White Shark like a remora.

Consider that other accomplished Republican collaborator from the Carolinas, Lindsey Graham, who in the presence of Trump acts like a sorority chick who just got pinned. Anne Applebaum reports, "A friend who regularly runs into Lindsey Graham in Washington told me that each time they meet, 'he brags about having just met with Trump' while exhibiting 'high school' levels of excitement, as if 'a popular quarterback has just bestowed some attention on a nerdy debate-club leader—the powerful big kid likes me!' "

Yes, I've been reading Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic on the psychology of collusion in an authoritarian state, an exhaustive and exhausting trip through the 20th Century and its many outbreaks of tyranny and the collusion of some of the people. Applebaum writes persuasively about the several types of collusion, from the unwilling and reluctant to the ideologically propelled, with lots of examples from the history of the last 100 years. I recommend you read her on your own time.

A remora attaches itself to a Great White
Look at Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. She becomes a giddy cheerleader (senior citizen league) in Trump's presence, a fawning autograph-hound giggling in the presence of an iron-fisted male she admires. Those of us who've known her personally for decades know her authoritarian instincts and her imperious nature. She drives a car likes she thinks: I'm the only person on this road.

Her toadying to Trump is just as inexcusable as Meadows' and Graham's, if less public and considerably less consequential. Her motivation? Gotta be personal gain. She's gotten progressively richer in public office, and it doesn't hurt building that wealth to be in the front row of group photos featuring ultimate power. Meanwhile, she's quite pious, published "God Is in the House" in 2016 (her version of waving the Bible in front of St. John's), and she issues self-congratulatory little homilies about religious and civic virtue at the drop of a body, most recently following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, offering thoughts and prayers for the family and then saying this in classic collaborator style: "I applaud both President Trump and Attorney General Barr’s decision to conduct a full inquiry into this horrific incident." 

"Full inquiry"? What? Not a word about Trump's militarizing the streets of the nation's capitol, his lack of respect for protestors, his unconstitutional grabbing of power and the deployment of the top officials in his government -- Mike Pompeo at State and William Barr at Justice -- as accessories in his subversion of the Constitution and its whole framework of checks-and-balances.

Why, even the Pope in Rome condemns such collusion with immoral authoritarianism. Southern Baptists ... not so much. Which perhaps explains Foxx's current self-descriptor as "a Catholic-Baptist," since the absolution you can't get from the one, you can probably get from the other.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The Body Count -- Jim Miller

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

In an extraordinary resignation letter, provided to The Washington Post, James Miller resigned from his post at the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board.

Miller, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, cited Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s participation in President Donald Trump’s Monday night photo op in front of St. John’s Church.

The resignation comes as the nation braced for its eighth night of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. Here is part of the letter:
When I joined the Board in early 2014, after leaving government service as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, I again swore an oath of office, one familiar to you, that includes the commitment to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States ... and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
You recited that same oath on July 23, 2019, when you were sworn in as Secretary of Defense. On Monday, June 1, 2020, I believe that you violated that oath. Law-abiding protesters just outside the White House were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets — not for the sake of safety, but to clear a path for a presidential photo op. You then accompanied President Trump in walking from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church for that photo.
President Trump’s actions Monday night violated his oath to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as well as the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble.” You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it.
Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do? Secretary Esper, you have served honorably for many years, in active and reserve military duty, as Secretary of the Army, and now as Secretary of Defense. You must have thought long and hard about where that line should be drawn. I must now ask: If last night’s blatant violations do not cross the line for you, what will?

The Ad That ABC11-WTVD in Raleigh Refused to Run

We Do Not Consent To Being Governed This Way

[From reporting by WashPost journalists]

Attorney General William P. Barr personally ordered law enforcement officials to clear the streets around Lafayette Square just before President Trump spoke Monday, ... a directive that prompted a show of aggression against a crowd of largely peaceful protesters, drawing widespread condemnation.

The forceful effort to squelch the demonstration came as Trump has sought to flex the federal government’s muscles in response to a wave of unrest across the country, filling the streets in the District with federal law enforcement officers from multiple agencies....

The president — furious about criticism that he has not done enough to stop the protests and violence that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — told senior advisers Monday that they had to show they could control the streets of Washington and the area around the White House....

Trump cheered on the dramatic show of force, tweeting Tuesday: “D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination.”

His willingness to press the outer limits of presidential powers was sharply denounced by local leaders and congressional Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who compared Trump’s actions to that of a dictator. Several Democratic House chairmen pressed the administration for testimony and documents about the decision to disperse protesters outside the White House with force....

On Monday evening, officers from the Park Police and other agencies used smoke canisters, pepper balls, riot shields, batons and officers on horseback to shove and chase people gathered to protest the death of Floyd. At one point, a line of police rushed a group of protesters standing on H Street NW, many of whom were standing still with their hands up, forcing them to race away, coughing from smoke. Some were struck by rubber bullets....

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) said in a statement that the District was “now reckoning with an unhinged president responding to nonviolent demonstration with war-like tactics.” ...

The use of such aggressive force startled some veteran former officers of the Secret Service and other federal agencies, because it appeared to be rushed and unprovoked by protesters.

The line of officers rushing protesters, many of whom were standing still with their arms in the air, violated the normal protocol for clearing protesters, something the Secret Service accomplishes dozens of times a year in Lafayette Square without ever tossing smoke canisters or using riot shields.

“Usually officers hold a line and don’t move forward unless there is provocation,” said one former Secret Service agent who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe operational procedures. “The officers give constant warnings and communicate clearly with the crowd. But here it seems like there is some time pressure; they were acting like a bomb is about to go off.”

Another veteran former Secret Service agent who reviewed video of the treatment of protesters said he feared that the order from Barr signaled a worrisome shift in who calls the shots about deploying use of force....

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

"Is That Your President?" It Is a President

Last evening in DeeCee, Trump staged "an elaborate photo op, using a Bible awkwardly held aloft as a prop and a historic church that has long welcomed presidents and their families as a backdrop."

He wanted to stand in front of a church holding a Bible as a show of strength for his God-obsessed followers, but because he's actually a coward, he couldn't walk to the church without first launching an unprovoked attack on peaceful protestors in Lafayette Park, with armored men on horseback, flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and a wall of militarized police behind hard plastic shields.
...the National Guard moved just yards from the protesters, prompting some screams. Some protesters threw water bottles, but many simply stood with their arms raised.
Then, the chaos began.
Members of the National Guard knelt briefly to put on gas masks, before suddenly charging eastward down H street, pushing protesters down toward 17th Street. Authorities shoved protesters down with their shields, fired rubber bullets directly at them, released tear gas and set off flash-bang shells in the middle of the crowd.
Protesters began running, many still with their hands up, shouting, “Don’t shoot.” Others were vomiting, coughing and crying.

As Trump began to speak, some protesters took a knee several blocks from the White House, again yelling, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” But they were never able to stay kneeling for more than a couple of minutes, because authorities kept pushing them forward, as a thick, yellow cloud of smoke hung over the crowd. [Coverage by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Rebecca Tan]
The unprovoked attack on a peaceful protest seemed to grow from Trump's rage that someone had leaked information that on Friday night he had taken cover in the White House basement/bunker out of fear for his safety: "...he repeatedly wondered why anyone would have disclosed those details to the news media, two officials said."

A massively insecure man uses military force to clear a path for a stroll to a church. Brendan Buck, a longtime former Hill aide who is now a Republican operative, commented, “We long ago lost sight of normal, but this was a singularly immoral act. The president used force against American citizens, not to protect property, but to soothe his own insecurities. We will all move on to the next outrage, but this was a true abuse of power and should not be forgotten.”

The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, told reporters,
“I am outraged,” she said, with pauses emphasizing her anger as her voice slightly trembled. “I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love and when everything he has said and done is to inflame violence.”
Let's say this human misfire who is currently president gets ousted in November. Will there even be an American Republic left for us to salvage?

Monday, June 01, 2020

The Body Count -- Dana Boente

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Being Pushed Off Luxury Liner Trump

After a 38-year career with the Justice Department, the FBI’s top lawyer Dana Boente was asked to resign on Friday. Two sources familiar with the decision to dismiss Boente said it came from high levels of the Justice Department rather than directly from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Boente has been under fire for his role in the investigation of Michael Flynn, whose criminal charge for lying to the FBI was recently dropped by the Justice Department based in part on the argument that his lies were not material to an underlying investigation. Boente signed one of the warrants renewing the FBI’s authority to surveil Flynn. The warrants, known as FISA warrants, were renewed several times and had to be approved by a judge.

Boente said in a recently leaked memo that material put into the public record about Flynn was not exculpatory for the former national security advisor. The memo undermines the Justice Department’s latest position that material about Flynn was mishandled by prosecutors.

Wray formally asked for Boente’s resignation, but the decision to end his tenure at the FBI came from Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, according to two sources.

Raleigh Office of Indy Week Destroyed During Street Protests

The Indy Week is a vital independent journal that I depend on for fearless on-the-ground news from the capitol city -- especially the writing of editor Jeffrey C. Billman, whose daily email summaries of what's up have become a must-read ritual for me (see below for a link for signing up for those emails). It was the final let-down of the day yesterday -- after another tragic week -- when we got this news from Billman:

I awoke this morning to learn that, following the George Floyd protest-turned-riot, our downtown Raleigh office looked like this:

Fortunately, no one was hurt. But our reporter Leigh Tauss was working inside when the first person threw a brick through the glass. She escaped into a hallway and then took an elevator downstairs as looters came in. After she left, sometime around 2:00 a.m., others came by, stole a computer, and set our office furniture ablaze. That set off the sprinklers, which soaked everything for the next four hours until the property manager arrived.
Needless to say, the office—and everything in it—is a total loss.
Leigh was downtown last night doing what the INDY has done since its founding in 1983: providing fearless, high-quality local journalism amid a crisis. Like the community we serve, our small, independent news organization has already been facing an unprecedented economic shutdown.
Throughout, our readers have sustained us by joining the INDY Press Club, our membership program.
Now, like others in downtown Raleigh, we are picking up the pieces. And once again, we are asking for your support. Our community needs fiercely independent reporting more than ever—and today, we need your help more than ever.
Your contributions to the INDY Press Club will allow us to continue making better journalism to foster a better community.
If you can, please join our growing community of donors by contributing $12 a month or $100 today—or more, or less, whatever you feel comfortable with—so we can get back to doing what we do best: providing our region with the best independent local reporting and enterprise coverage our small but mighty newsroom can produce.
In solidarity and hope for a better tomorrow,
Jeffrey C. Billman, editor in chief

I contributed immediately, and I hope you'll consider it too. Check out the Indy Week website: Here's the link for signing up for daily email newsletters:

The trashing of the Indy Week office is a tragedy that we can help heal.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Authoritarian Look

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin,
mugshot by Ramsey County Sheriff's office
I see that face, the look in those eyes, and I flash on the description that the British poet Shelley applied to an ancient Egyptian Pharoah, who had his face carved in stone to capture for all the ages his "sneer of cold command."

And much on my mind this morning are the lines of William Butler Yeats in "The Second Coming":

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Friday, May 29, 2020

So, Sure, Let's Keep That Gas Pedal On the Floor!

According to the New York Times, North Carolina has the worst Covid-19 death rate for nursing home residents and workers in the Southeast. According to the report, 57% of state deaths in North Carolina have come from nursing home residents or workers.

"Coronavirus deaths in [Burlington, NC] are doubling faster than any other in the US. .... Alamance County, about 60 miles northwest of Raleigh in North Carolina, has topped headlines during the coronavirus pandemic with a defiant racetrack [where somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 race fans crowded together last Saturday night]. Now the rate of COVID-19 deaths in the county’s largest city has made national news. Burlington, a Piedmont community of 55,000 people, had the highest daily average growth rate of deaths in the United States as of May 27, according to data compiled by The New York Times over the last two weeks. With a daily growth rate of 11%, the number of deaths doubles every 6.7 days in Burlington, The Times reported. The next highest rate is in Roanoke, Virginia, where the number of deaths doubles every 7.6 days." [News and Observer]