Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

As President Trump (Madman Across the Water) and Supreme Leader Kim (Rocketman) engage in a battle of old Elton Jon songs, I am tremendously concerned. After reading about Trump’s speech to the United Nations this morning, it seems like KIM may be the more stable of the two leaders.

Trump seems more than willing to “think the unthinkable.” He is openly threatening not just the lives of the North Korean people, but the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Koreans, thousands of Japanese, and hundreds of thousands of US military and civilians in South Korea. It is a struggle to rationalize how the “leader of the free world” is so willing to engage in such reckless talk.

In the Cold War days it was called Nuclear Brinksmanship. The “hope” is that the US has determined a strategy of “carrot and stick,” where Trump and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley represent the stick of nuclear war, and Secretary of State Tillerson represents the carrot of peaceful resolution. And the grim reaper, General Mattis, remains poised to fulfill his duty to annihilate the nuclear capability of North Korea.

This is the “hope.” The world is aghast at our actions, as we stoop to the lowest denominator, acting as if we too were a petty dictatorship. And the “hope” is based on the premise that Kim is in the end a reasonable actor, who will value self-preservation over annihilation. From the North Korean standpoint staying alive makes perfect sense.

But that’s only if they calculate the decision in the same terms. What if the North Koreans don’t believe the “Madman Across the Water,” and instead think it really is all a bluff. What if they decide that the odds are right to call the bluff, just as Sadaam Hussein did in Iraq, claiming he had weapons of mass destruction when he did not.

Then what will the United States do? Will we engage in a war with North Korea, likely the biggest since World War II? And will this be because of North Korea’s miscalculation, or ours? And in the meantime, is this what Trump needs to distract from the looming Russia crisis?

Or will world peace, and the people of South Korea, be “like a candle in the wind?”



On this the 240th day of the Trump Administration, it’s a wonder that he can concentrate to get anything done. What’s on the menu today?

North Korea

The North Koreans launched another missile over flight of Japan, triggering air raid warnings across the northern island of Hokkaido. South Korea responded by firing short range missiles into the Sea of Japan demonstrating their ability to target North Korean missile sites. All of this brings us one step closer to a war, possibly nuclear, that would go beyond the Korean peninsula.  And US Ambassador Nikki Haley states: “if diplomacy fails to rein in North Korea, (Defense) Secretary Mattis will take care of it.”*

United Nations

President Trump is scheduled to address the United Nations Tuesday. His topics: North Korea, Iran, and World Terrorism. Let’s see if he can handle that without saying something that sounds racist. In the meantime, he is having multiple bilateral talks with world leaders. Who is not at the United Nations for this summit? Putin and Xi aren’t attending (not that Russia and China could help with North Korea.) However, Sunday night Secretary of State Tillerson did meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. This time we hope they aren’t joking about who got fired!!

Hurricanes and Fires

The Virgin Islands are devastated. Millions in Florida still don’t have power. Everglades City hasn’t seen an emergency worker. Texas is just starting to recover. Fires in Montana have been dampened by a freak early snowstorm, four days before Fall begins. Hurricane Maria is strengthening to possibly Category 3 before it hits the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, then heads northwest towards the US coast. Meanwhile no one seems to be clear about what Hurricane Jose will do. But Climate Change: since we don’t cause it there’s not much we can do. And by the way, there are billions of tons of coal in land now designated as National Monuments and the Interior Department’s Zinke recommends that we reduce restrictions and go get it[1]!!


Mitch McConnell is rumored to want to try “one more time” to kill the Affordable Care Act. Bernie Sanders is further dividing Democrats as he pushes the “Medicare for All Plan” (my opinion: good idea, bad timing) and helps intensify Republican efforts. And Republican Lamar Alexander is trying to find a way to support the Affordable Care Act through the next couple of years. Kasich and Hickenlooper want to help, but this doesn’t seem like a time when reason will prevail.

DACA and the WALL

Trump has made a deal with Democrats, maybe. Trump wants DACA Dreamers to be able to stay, maybe. And we will build a WALL, maybe. There is massive confusion by everyone about what the President will or will not support regarding immigration, the border, and the Dreamers. But there is one thing we know: New York Democrat Chuck Schumer thinks the President likes him!!!

But the President and his team have much more important issues to consider than those. Are their colleagues in the White House wearing secret recording devices to get in good with the Special Counsel? Can they afford the private attorneys they hired to council them during questioning?[2] And will their “friends” cut a deal to throw them “under the bus” when indictments come down?

The Mueller investigation is getting closer to the White House and the (New York Attorney General) Schneiderman investigation is getting closer to the Trump/Kushner family jewels (investments). General Flynn’s son is now a target[3], as well as Manafort’s son in law[4]; the pressure is clearly on to get these principals to flip. As they are near the top of the pyramid, there is only one person left for them to turn on, the President.

Meanwhile the President’s own lawyers can’t seem to get their act together, as they fight over the amount of cooperation they should give the Mueller investigation. Ty Cobb, newly hired Presidential counselor, known best for his outlandish midnight tweets, can’t keep his conversation private over steak in a Washington restaurant, and the world finds out. [5]

With all of this, how is any President supposed to concentrate. Especially when there’s so much tweeting to do: re-tweeting Hillary getting hit by his golf ball, calling North Korea’s leader Kim a “rocket man”, and calling terrorists “losers” like they were caught smoking in the high school restroom.[6]

Attention Deficit Disorder isn’t the problem: a Presidency and a world sliding out of control is. And no matter how many Generals demand ATTENTION, it’s unlikely there will be much unless and until the Commander in Chief is focused.











Is it Trump?

Is it Trump?

I apologize for not blogging much this week. In the “other” world where I run really big high school cross country meets, I’ve been involved in a crisis of leadership and “political correctness.” It’s led me to this blog.

There seems to be a “new” style of dealing with each other in every day life. My role models both in education and as a coach, taught me that it was the job of a leader to care about the folks that he/she led. A good friend, who won five state championships as a coach and school administrator said: “…my job is to serve those that I lead. If I serve them, then we can achieve our common goals…”

A leader is a servant. It’s not a new concept, but it’s one that seems to be lost in our current era. Whether it’s on the “macro” level: with President Trump creating an equivalence with Nazis and the “antifa” and calling even his allies “losers”, or whether on the local level where leaders demand obedience without question. “Be happy you have a job” is the message that comes across. Ask questions or disagree, and risk retribution and unemployment.

In both cases, we have lost the view that the role of a leader is to serve. As a coach, my biggest goal was to get a team of high school kids to “buy in” and believe in themselves. To lead was to not only make them feel that THEY were leading, but actually have them be the leaders. That era seems to have past.

And in life it seems like “Trump World” has overtaken civil relationships. We had to build “a wall” around our yard to fence out the neighbor (we paid for it) and even that could not keep out the intimidation and hate (see Thanks Mr. Frost.) We have local politicians who espouse fear tactics, and threaten legal action for every criticism. We have lost the common goal: to improve life for everyone.

Trump is not the cause. This has been going on for a while, and the divisions in our society grew far before his political career began. I believe part of the problem is our “new” ability to voice our opinions without having to be “face to face.” We can tweet and post and all of the other electronic media (including blog) without having to look someone in the eye. We can be cold and cruel without sharing in the emotional burden that results. And, of course, it all can be inflamed by others, whether they are individuals who enjoy the “game,” or more globally, those institutions who gain from division.

I am not calling for a “leader” in the Facists sense. I am not looking for someone to strong arm our nation back to caring. I hope that we can find leaders whose true goal is to serve US (both in the you and me and national sense.) They don’t have to agree with everything we believe in, but they do have to care. I certainly feel that President Obama tried to be that kind of leader, but I also think Governor John Kasich has that sense as well (though I don’t agree with much of his policy.) It’s about serving others, not a just serving a term in office.



Thanks Mr. Frost

(nothing to do with Trump World – just my world!)

Thanks Mr. Frost

Thanks to you Mr.Robert Frost. Today I had our yard surveyed. I paid to have someone tell me to the tiniest inch where the property lines were. They used high tech metal detectors to find fifty year old pins buried in the ground.   They used high tech sights to hone in on the actual line of property. The placed stakes and flags: HERE IS THE PROPERTY LINE!!!!

We have two neighbors. On one side, a young couple with a child and a dog, friends. Their fence (to hold the dog) hooks to ours; we have temporarily ceded some of our property to them (to avoid digging post holes into buried cables.) We are happy and they are happy.

On the other side, the neighbors that required a survey. They hate us, they hate our dogs, they hate, hate, hate. To avoid interaction we built a fence, six feet high, picketed across: they don’t need to see us, nor we them. But good fences haven’t made good neighbors.

After the fence went up came the questions: it’s on OUR property, your fence is on OUR property!! We fought over cutting grass, we killed all the weeds on the other side of the fence (that’s OUR property); good fences didn’t make good neighbors. So today, we surveyed – and the fence is on OUR property (though the corner is pretty close.) The stakes and flags meant to reassure – they will most likely inflame.

We will border the “line” with steel garden border; we will place bushes between our fence and our property line; we will build another barrier to hold out the hate. If good stakes, and steel, and bushes, and fences won’t make good neighbors, perhaps nothing will. But we will try – because good fences should make good neighbors.


Under Water

Under Water

We have been appropriately distracted from the Trump Administration for the past two weeks. From Harvey to Irma to fires in the West, we have watched with empathy and dread as the winds blow, the waters rise, and our fellow citizens step up to help each other. And while the triple tragedies of storms and floods and fire are heart rending, the true “heart” of America is visible as well. Regardless of race, political views, gender: Americans are working to save their communities, and to join together to begin to recover. As Lincoln would say: “it is all together fitting and proper that we should do this.”

But these events did not completely cloud the failures of Trump through these weeks. While he (so far) has managed the crises pretty well, including making a deal with Democrats to get reconstruction money for Harvey damages; he also thrust over 800,000 young people towards deportation with the soon to come end of DACA, and he has moved the United States one step closer to a major war in Korea.

And last night the veil was lifted on Trump’s strategy to continue to govern. In his first interview since leaving the White House, Steve Bannon declared war: not on his hated “liberal elites” (though they got plenty of mention), but on the establishment of the Republican Party. Bannon attacked McConnell, Ryan, and the entire Bush Presidency. He claimed that he intentionally left the White House to free himself from the constraints of being a “Federal employee.” His plan: to continue the “insurgency” of the Trump candidacy from the outside, and take the Republican party from the “forces of establishment.” Bannon advocated for his “America for Americans” view, whether it’s economically against China, or against the DACA Dreamers.

So the Trump strategy: to fight from the outside, with Bannon at Breitbart and Lewandowski at the Trump PAC, with Trump TV and the support of Sinclair Communications and the Mercers, as well as with the official Trump 2020 Presidential campaign. What he can’t win in Washington he will try to win “in the heartland.” He will use his core support to pressure the Republicans in Washington. That pressure will be used to try to keep his Presidency alive as the Russia investigation gets closer to the top. If Republicans are afraid to run for office against a Trump insurgent, then they will be forced to find ways to protect him.

This is already at work in the House of Representatives, where Devin Nunes has returned to meddle in the Intelligence Committee investigation. Nunes, the chairman who was scorned and forced to recuse himself last spring for trying to sidetrack the process, has taken action as chairman again. Over the objections of Democrats and despite his “recusal,” Nunes has subpoenaed the Department of Justice and the FBI for all documents relating to the Steele Dossier.

The Steele Dossier is the “opposition research” document, originally contracted for by Republicans running against Trump, that revealed deep connections between Trump and Russian Intelligence. While parts of this report have yet to be confirmed, many of the allegations are proving valid. The Republican hope is that the Department and the FBI in some way relied on the Dossier as part of their investigation of the President.  If they did, and the committee can somehow discredit the dossier, then the claim will be that the entire investigation into the Trump campaign should be discredited ( Can a recused chairman do this? The only check on his actions is the Speaker of the House, and Speaker Ryan shows no sign of intervening.

And while Special Counsel Mueller quietly continues his investigations, the more visible aspects of his work seem to be concentrated on obstructing justice charges, rather than the underlying causes. While lying to prosecutors and interfering in investigations are all illegal and actionable; in the biggest action of all, Presidential impeachment, it is likely to take more than just obstruction to convince the Republican majorities in the House and Senate to proceed.

It’s September. Congress is back in session, and, absent more storms and fires, may begin to actually  work. Part of that agenda is the continuing investigation of the Trump campaign. But, don’t be surprised when the “insurgency” strikes back with more attempts at distraction and intimidation. “God willing and the river don’t rise,” they won’t succeed.








“No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law. Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed.”

Jeff Sessions – Announcement of the end of the DACA Program[1]

Today, Tuesday September 5th, 2017, President of the United States Donald J. Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.  He is ending the legal status of over 800,000 Americans who have committed the sole “offense” of being brought by their non-citizen parents illegally into the country as children.  Implicit in this is the eventual deportation of these 800,000 to their “country of origin;” countries where they did not grow up, have little or no contact, and may not even speak the language.

This is just another step in the slow erosion of America.  America has over the past two hundreds years gradually expanded citizenship.  First it was white, property owning men, then the property qualification was dropped, then the “white” was dropped, then women were added, native Americans included, and since we have continued to expand the legal definition to include more of the diversity that makes America great. Clearly the Dreamers, this group of Americans, here by no fault of their own, raised here, serving here, working here; most deserve this expansion.  Until the last six months with the election of Donald J. Trump.

He is a coward.  A coward:  hiding behind the “strength and well being of the Republic,” when the real strength and well being of our Republic is the value we place on life, liberty, and happiness. A coward:  using the old saw of “law and order” instead of the real values of America.

Lincoln said:

“With malice for none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in…”

This was from a man who recognized the citizenship of Americans who fought AGAINST their country. Instead of following this Republican model, Trump hides behind the “law” to inflict his ultimately racist views on our nation.

He is a coward.  A coward who could not even stand up to spout his racist decision.  He did it through Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, a man familiar with racist views.  And he didn’t even have the courage of his conviction to really “do it;” he passed the buck to the Congress to let them struggle with it.

And he did it to those who committed no crime:  whose only act was to follow their parents.





Short Bursts

Short Bursts

just a few sentences on issues today.

Sins of the Fathers

We have many traditions in this country. One is that we believe that the “sins of the father” should not be visited upon the son. This is enshrined in the US Consitution which states that no “corruption of blood” could be punishment for treason (Art III, Section 3, Part 2.) Corruption of blood is the punishment of the family for the parent’s ultimate crime against the state, treason.

Dreamers are children of illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration is also a crime “against the state,” though nowhere near as terrible as treason. Dreamers were brought to the United States as children. They had no choice in this “crime.” If they had been born in the US, there would be no question of their citizenship. They would be “born under the flag,” born under US jurisdiction and therefore automatic US citizens (some would use that incredibly demeaning phrase of the last election, “anchor baby’.) Since Dreamers were not born “under the flag,” they were and are technically illegal immigrants, subject to possible deportation.

Children: unable to legally speak for themselves. Children: raised “American,” and who have known no other home. Children: innocent of the sins of their parents. Dreamers are Americans in every way but paper, and America should treat them as such. No matter what your view about what should happen to those who illegally entered this country, this should be different. For this particular class of Americans there should be a quick path to citizenship, to the full rights of Americans. They have no other home, and they already are American in every other way.

Riders on the Storm

We have discovered that President Trump and others are using the disaster of Hurricane Harvey as a “cover” for other actions. Trump admitted as much when he said that he pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Friday night as the storm made landfall, because he knew that “the ratings would be high.”

Today, both Vice President Pence and Texas Congressman John Culberson used the Harvey disaster as an excuse to avoid discussing the possible end of the DACA (Dreamers) program. Trump documented his order to ban military service by transgender persons, and fired Sebastian Gorka (not all bad that one) all under the literal clouds of Harvey.

As the folks in Texas face this, it seems inappropriate to use the overwhelming catastrophe as “cover.” “Lets slip this by, no one will notice it hidden in the storm.”

Who Can Fix This

Several years ago my parents Florida condo was seriously damaged by a hurricane, along with many other places along the barrier islands.  Roofs were gone, walls moldy, carpets and furniture ruined.

There  wasn’t enough construction labor in Florida to even begin to deal with the problems.  My parents condominium association made an offer:  allow migrants to live in your damaged home and they will fix it and others, faster.

Were they legal or illegal immigrants?  That question wasn’t asked.  These Honduran and Guatemalan workers camped in the damaged homes, cooking re-fried beans, drinking cerveza; and repairing walls, ceilings and roofs.  They got the job done quickly and with high quality.

My parents moved back into their condo six months later, years before they could have done so if they had waited for existing contractors.  Mike Rowe, famous “Dirty Jobs” actor and pitchman for vocational education, spoke today about who might fix the hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed in Harvey.  There was already a shortage of construction labor in the Southeast, and particularly Texas, before Harvey.

We don’t need to build a wall, we need to bring in the labor to rebuild ALL of the walls.



The Next Civil War

The Next Civil War

As many in our nation struggle over what to do with the relic monuments of America’s Civil War, others fear that we are on the brink of the next.

There are the ridiculous. Roger Stone, former Nixon dirty trickster and long-time political advisor to President Trump stated last week: “…Try to impeach him, just try it,” Stone continued. “You will have a spasm of violence in this country, and insurrection, like you’ve never seen.”[1]

Pamela Geller, an anti-Muslim columnist for Breitbart uses the works of Ayn Rand to back her prediction of insurrection. She sees the “left” as advocating a breakdown of institutions (including the Presidency), leading to the vision of Rand:

“Politically, mass civil disobedience is appropriate only as a prelude to civil war—as the declaration of a total break with a country’s political institutions.”[2]

And then there are the more serious. The National Rifle Association has put out videos calling for a “counter-resistance” and threatening “elites.” “We’re coming for you…”

“The times are burning and the media elites have been caught holding the match,” NRA spokeswoman and radio host Dana Loesch says in one video aired on NRATV, the gun lobby’s web video site, as it shows footage of people fighting police, breaking storefront glass and burning the American flag.”[3]

And the violence of Charlottesville by the white supremacists and in Berkeley by the antifas demonstrates that for some violence is more than just threats.

If, as the “resistance” hopes, we are moving into a time of open investigation and the beginning of the end of the Trump administration, what should we expect?

Looking back at the Nixon era, Roger Stone believes that there was a “vast conspiracy” to unfairly end his Presidency. That is a re-writing of history. It was in fact the leadership of the Republican party that convinced Nixon that it was time for him to resign or face impeachment and removal. While, as Stone embodies, there were true believers in Nixon, a large proportion of the country (over 75%) had lost confidence in him.[4]

It was a different time. Today we are faced with even greater divisions in America.   It is greater than the “blue and red” seen in electoral results. There is a clear division in “culture” as seen in the details of the Trump election. It isn’t the overall numbers, it is the overwhelming percentages Trump was able to gain in rural America, versus the less dramatic but still dominating numbers that Clinton got in the cities.

Trump has definitely tapped into an American reality: there are a substantial number of Americans who feel left behind by the social changes of the last decades. They look to solutions much like ones that appealed to Americans in the past. From World War II: the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, all Japanese are bad, put Americans of Japanese descent in relocation camps. That sad view is reflected in the anti-Islamic views of today: terrorists claiming to follow Islam caused 9/11 and other acts, therefore all Muslims are bad, and lets ban them.

In the same way, Trump has tied illegal immigration and globalization to the failure of the US economy to provide “great paying” jobs. Just as the coal miners in West Virginia didn’t want to hear Hillary Clinton tell them that mining jobs were gone for good, some Americans are looking for easy answers to go back to the “good old days.” And while most Americans wouldn’t do the jobs done by illegal immigrants, they accept that excuse  rather than face the changed climate (both economically and literally.)[5]

Some Americans are armed and prepared to fight by the NRA, threatened by new social mores which include open acceptance of the LBGTQ, told that they CAN go back to the days of great factory jobs and big paychecks, and allowed to disregard all the information they get to the contrary as “fake news.” And they are made afraid: afraid of the vision provided by Trump of “the urban area” where people are constantly shot on the street and other crime and violence are so rampant that “it’s worse than Afghanistan.”[6] It plays to the white supremacist ideology still lurking under the table of American life.

Trump has pandered to the worst “angels” of America, and in doing so has found a strong vein of support. That’s why it is so important for the process of removing Trump to be not only beyond reproach, but clearly define his illegality and illegitimacy. It cannot be just a list of “obstruction of justice” charges: Trump’s followers already believe that the entire “establishment” is arrayed against him and that his obstruction would be justified. And it cannot be just firing Comey or pressuring Sessions: Trump followers believe that people who work for the President SHOULD  ALWAYS obey the President.

And while the case showing that Trump was a criminal financier and developer might be compelling to those who already don’t like him; to his base there is acceptance that this is “Wall Street” behavior. We’ve seen it in all of the movies. It’s how they all act, Democrats and Republicans, when Goldman Sachs and politics come together. It’s probably  illegal, but it’s not the impeachable issue.

No, the case against Trump has to prove that Trump cooperated with another country, Russia, in order to win the Presidency. It needs to show that in fact Russia has had Trump “by the balls” for years; that he is NOT the powerful leader they are looking for, but simply a controlled man fidgeting to avoid “the squeeze.”

In short, Trump needs to be proven weak and manipulated. Months ago I wrote an essay about Trump’s view of manliness.[7]  Part of Trump’s allure is that he is the worldly, manly billionaire who can fix things ( and, who has “big hands”.) If the “resistance” can demonstrate that Trump is not that man but as a “gig0lo” used by the Russian kleptocracy, then even those who have swallowed his bile will not rebel. They will grouse, and a few will scream, but they will turn their back on him. If not: then there will be a percentage of Americans (20%?) who will always believe that their ideals and beliefs were ignored. They may or may not be violent, but they will always be there.

Whatever you think of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, he did do one last thing for the UNITED STATES. As he contemplated surrendering his army at Appomattox, some of his junior officers proposed to dissolve the army, to slip away into the mountains and reconstitute as a guerilla force. Some of his generals in the West, notably Morgan and Mosby were already using these tactics. Lee absolutely refused, recognizing that the war he was fighting was to gain legitimacy, not for never-ending violence and illegitimacy. The next day he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant, and spared our nation a protracted guerilla war.[8]

In the same way, we need to make sure that the removal of Donald Trump from the Presidency doesn’t just meet the standards of the “resistance.” We must be able to convince all but the most crazed that he is an illegitimate President who represents the interests of the Russian kleptocracy, not American citizens. That is the rationale needed so that ALL Americans  accept the conclusion.










It Ain’t All Their Fault

It Ain’t All Their Fault

It feels like America is truly divided. Even before the election of Donald Trump, the nation felt like two different places: the progressive trans-national vision of Barack Obama, and the protectionist, nationalist philosophy of the Republican right. And now we have the “alt-right” outflanking the already conservative Republican party. There is little room left in the middle. There are few “blue-dog” Democrats, liberal on social issues, but conservative on defense and economics. And there are almost no “moderate” Republicans. The few that look moderate now (John Kasich for example) are far more conservative than Jacob Javits or Edwin Brooke of the past, or even Mitt Romney in his Massachusetts Governor days.

Some would argue that America is essentially a “purple” country. While a look at the 2016 Presidential election map is quite stark in its red and blue contrast, an analysis of the election show state after state had incredibly narrow results. In “all Republican” Ohio, Trump received 2.8 million votes, but Clinton had 2.3 million. North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania: all were narrow wins. There was no “mandate” for President Trump, just a perilously close electoral win.

Others would take the same evidence and note that Clinton won only 8 counties in Ohio, while Trump won 80. The contrast was clear: the urban areas of Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton, Cincinnati, Youngstown and Akron, along with “liberal” Athens County went for Clinton: the rest were for Trump. In many of those counties Trump gained more than 70%.

The “progressives” feel that the gains of the past decades in LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, national health, education, the environment and a multitude of other issues are being lost. They also feel that the President at the helm might get the US in a war across the world.

Conservatives feel like even though they “won,” Progressives still rule. They feel that the institutions of government (the “DeepState”) are preventing the “winners” from running the country. They feel  that Trump’s win should give them the right to rewrite the changes of the past decades. Instead, they feel that America is re-writing its own history, writing out the role of traditional heroes, and defiling the symbols that represent our nation.

Are we re-writing history? Today we are tearing down the monuments to the Confederacy, declaring all Confederates “supporters of slavery.” We are focusing our rear view vision on the war fought over 150 years ago. And just as the idea that the South was fighting for “states’ rights” only and not slavery is foolish, so is the idea that every Confederate was a “traitor” fighting for slavery. Like all history, it’s a whole lot more complex than that.

While slavery was always an issue for the United States, the dynamic of state versus federal power was always on the table. We struggled with that from the writing of the Constitution. Madison had to add the 10th Amendment, reserving rights to the states and the people, to try to clarify the issue, but it didn’t. The first great argument for secession was from New England, facing economic losses from Jefferson’s embargo prior to and during the War of 1812.

The next was between President Andrew Jackson and Vice President John C. Calhoun, both slaveholders, over taxation in South Carolina in the early 1830’s. Calhoun argued the concept of nullification – that a state could nullify a federal law within its jurisdiction – originally authored by Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolution. Jackson proclaimed that the union must be preserved. Calhoun ultimately resigned from the Vice Presidency, and Jackson sent Federal troops and ships to the state. A compromise was reached: the state dropped nullification, the taxes were reduced and the troops removed, but the argument of the power of states versus the federal government would continue.

So to claim that the state’s rights argument was only about slavery is far too simplistic. Had slavery not existed, there probably would not have been a Civil War, but the issue was more complicated than just slavery. And while Northern abolitionists were loud and clear about ending slavery, they truly represented a small minority of Northern thought before the war.

Prior to the Civil War, Lincoln, like Jackson, declared that the Union was inseparable. When the Civil War began, Lincoln made the war one of union versus dis-union, not slavery versus freedom. It was only after a year and a half of war that Lincoln began the process of emancipation.

So does this mean that we should maintain Confederate monuments? Whether they were fighting for states’ rights or slavery, they were fighting for dis-union. We should begin our discussion there, and determine what is right today. And we should do so as communities, not as a national showdown. We should remember that while Confederates were fighting for dis-union, most perceived the fight as protecting their homes. At the least, we should allow their cemeteries to be honored for the sacrifice they made, even for a losing cause.

And “progressives” should not make re-litigating the Civil War as the cause of the day. There are too many issues of NOW that we must contend with as we attempt to maintain the progress of the last twenty years. To allow our focus to be drawn to the alt-right distracts us from that more important cause.

This is but one issue that divides our country, and one where some feel that “progressives” are changing the nature of it. Others “hot button” examples:  kneeling during the national anthem as a  form of protest, or university campuses providing “safe zones” from free speech, all make “the red” side of our nation feel like the nation is changing beneath their feet. Right or wrong, it ain’t all their fault that they feel that way.



Contempt of Court

Contempt of Court

Yesterday President Donald J. Trump pardoned the former Sheriff of Maricopa County (Phoenix, Arizona) Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was convicted in Federal Court for Criminal Contempt. His department was profiling Hispanics, stopping and placing them in custody until they could prove their US citizenship. When some of the US citizens who were jailed went to Federal Court, the Court agreed that the Department was violating their 4th and 14th Amendment rights. The Court ordered Arpaio to stop these actions. He continued the profiling for years, and therefore was held in contempt.

Trump’s actions really surprised no one. He has made it clear that he will go to great extents to keep “undesirables” out of the United States, including his Muslim ban and asking local police departments to enforce immigration policy. Arpaio decided he knew better than the Courts what was “good” for Maricopa County, mirroring Trump’s own view.

Trump has demonstrated disdain for the Courts. His career in real estate began in Court, as he was sued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for discrimination in leasing apartments. His businesses have used the Courts to avoid paying debts, to declare bankruptcy, and in general as a tool for furthering their own financial interest.

Trump doesn’t recognize that judges might operate without bias. His claim against Gonzalo Curiel, who heard the case against Trump University, was that of course Curiel would rule against him;  he was Hispanic and Trump was against illegal immigration. (Curiel, the son of legal immigrants, was born and raised in Indiana and got his law degree at Indiana University.)

Trump has constantly criticized the judges (as opposed to the decisions) of the Courts that have ruled against his various immigration schemes. Most notably, he has claimed that the 9th Circuit of Appeals is an “Obama” court,  getting back at him for being elected.

Trump clearly has contempt for the Courts, and his pardon of Arpaio allows him to display that contempt. It also fits in with his current strategy of “playing to the base.” More insidiously, his preemptive use of the pardon power at this time also may be the beginning of a grander strategy to “pardon” his way out of the Russia crisis.

Here’s how that might work. The Mueller investigation in part is based on pressure. Like any criminal enterprise investigation, it begins with the “smaller fish:”  truthful testimony elicited with promises of leniency. The information gathered is then used to get the “bigger fish.”

A Presidential pardon can be for actions that might have occurred (see Ford’s pardon of Nixon) and prevents any Federal prosecution. However, it would also remove the “pardonee’s” 5th Amendment right to refuse to testify due to self-incrimination. Should a person who is pardoned refuse to testify, the next leverage against them is criminal contempt of court. However, with the Arpaio pardon, it is clear that the President would be willing to pardon that infraction as well, thus closing down that entire line of testimony.

It would be incredibly ugly, but it would work. There is absolutely no legal check on the President’s right to pardon, with the exception that it applies to Federal cases only. State cases could continue. (Could Trump pardon himself?  There is no precedent, and it would certainly end up in the US Supreme Court.)

There is, of course, one massive check on Presidential power. If it became clear that President Trump was using the pardon power to obstruct justice, that certainly would be an impeachable offense. It would require the members of the House and the Senate to put down their political battles, and find the courage to do what’s right for the country. If Trump starts to “pardon his way out” of this, let’s hope they find it.