NRA On The Run

The carnage continues, and after every high profile gun massacre in recent years, the National Rifle Association has been successful in preventing common sense gun safety provisions with the worn-out phrase “now is not the time.” That is the contrarian message carried by hand maidens for the NRA―our elected legislators who took an oath to protect the health, safety and welfare of America’s citizens. However, students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida have put the NRA on notice (BS) following the massacre of 17 students and teachers at their school. These students have no interest in repealing the Second Amendment; they are largely apolitical and simply expect their lawmakers to enact reasonable measures in the area of gun safety, and have scheduled a march on Washington, D.C. on March 24 of this year to make their point. They want to feel safe when they attend school, and all of America should join their crusade. The time has come to put the wrong-headed lobbyist for greedy gun manufacturers out of business.

Donald Trump deserves credit for giving students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and victims of previous gun massacres a platform at the White House to share their grief and offer solutions.  The raw emotion displayed, and articulate measures for gun safety demanded by the group put the NRA on notice that they are now facing their most formidable opponent.  Nevertheless, Trump destroyed all of the good will he created by stating that teachers should be “armed” via CCW permits as a primary solution to gun violence in schools.

Like most old white men, Trump grew up viewing romantic versions (mostly false) of the Old West where Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott would saunter into the local saloon, tip their hat to some bar mistress, down a shot of whiskey, and then proceed to shoot ten dudes in black hats with one six-shooter. However, old white men and their fantasies are dying, and according to the 2010 census, being replaced by approximately 4 million young people who attain voting age each year. Most of the students at Stoneman High School are not even old enough to vote, but they have nevertheless become effective activists with a message to deliver.

Unlike past massacres, much of corporate America has sided with the students, and against the bullies from the NRA. The nation’s largest employer, Walmart, said that it would raise age restrictions for gun purchases to 21, and would remove assault style weapons from its sale inventory.  Likewise, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would end sales of assault style weapons and high-capacity magazines, regardless of local laws.

Nevertheless, the NRA still controls politicians who are willing to get into the mud and push back against public sentiment. After Delta Airlines announced that it was cutting ties with the NRA, Republican Lt. Governor Casey Cagle (a candidate for governor) authored and pushed through a rescission of a jet fuel tax break intended for the airline. The optics of this ham-handed approach to legislative action could not be worse. Cagle’s strong-arm protection of the NRA bears the same flavor as mafia types burning down a business because the owner refuses to pay “protection” insurance. Moreover, if the event were strictly business, and not a legislative matter, Cagle would be guilty of violating anti-tying arrangements prohibited by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.  It would be poetic justice if, as a result of Cagle’s misguided efforts, Delta decided to move its hub out of Atlanta and into Dallas or Denver. Thousands of jobs and millions in revenue for the state of Georgia would be lost.

The “March for our Lives” rally scheduled for March 24 in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall had to be relocated to Pennsylvania Avenue because a student talent show had already reserved the Mall.  Every American can participate in the rally by contacting local school boards and administrators and demanding that March 24 be declared a national student holiday, so every child who is old enough to stand in a crowd can march on Washington, D.C. and each of the 50 state capitols. In other words, paralyze and shut down the law factories in this nation for one full day. In addition, leave the law dogs with a message: “Either do something fast about gun violence in America,” or, to quote one action movie star, “I will be back.”

You Are Dead Wrong, Professor Turley

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, where he teaches constitutional and tort law. Turley published an opinion editorial in the February 6, 2018 edition of USA Today which stated that “Treason talk is reckless, whether it is coming from Trump or Democrats.” From a historical perspective, Turley wrote an informative essay and concluded by saying:

 “Democrats like Kaine are using treason to mean an actual criminal charge while Trump is using it more in a rhetorical sense, but both uses are reckless.

From the Sedition period to the Joe McCarthy period to civil rights marchers and Vietnam protects, our history is replete with politicians who showed the same “why not?” attitude toward treason. The answer should not be simply that it does not fit with our definition; it does not fit with our values.”

Professor Turley could not be more wrong. Treason by Donald Trump is still an open question, and our “values,” at least in the minds of Evangelical leaders, have been reduced to a “mulligan.”

Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution reads:

Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

Mr. Justice Douglas gave a thorough explanation of what does, and what does not constitute treason in Tomoya Kawakita v. United States (1952), 343 U.S. 717 (72 S. Ct. 950, 96 L. Ed. 1249). Justice Douglas wrote:

The act may be unnecessary to a successful completion of the enemy’s project; it may be an abortive attempt; it may in the sum total of the enemy’s effort be a casual and unimportant step. But if it gives aid and comfort to the enemy at the immediate moment of its performance, it qualifies as an overt act within the constitutional standard of treason. As Chief Justice Marshall said in Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cranch 75, 126, 2 L.Ed. 554, ‘If war be actually levied, * * * all those who perform any part, however minute, or however remote from the scene of action, and who are actually leagued in the general conspiracy, are to be considered as traitors.’ These two overt acts, if designed to speed up Japan’s war production, plainly gave aid and comfort to the enemy in the constitutional sense.

Never in their wildest dreams could the framers have imagined telephones, let alone the monstrosity we refer to as the Internet. But they did have the foresight to realize that changing times required the Constitution to be a living instrument, one that can adapt to whatever a citizen, at any time certain, is due under the Fifth Amendment, and as applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, we must look to cases decided by the Supreme Court, a panel guided by stare decisis, to determine how any law or constitutional provision is applied. The proper starting point is Annotation 24 to Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution.

As to levying war, Annotation 24 states:

Early judicial interpretation of the meaning of treason in terms of levying war was conditioned by the partisan struggles of the early nineteenth century, in which were involved the treason trials of Aaron Burr and his associates. In Ex parte Bollman, 1291 which involved two of Burr’s confederates, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for himself and three other Justices, confined the meaning of levying war to the actual waging of war. ”However flagitious may be the crime of conspiring to subvert by force the government of our country, such conspiracy is not treason. To conspire to levy war, and actually to levy war, are distinct offences. The first must be brought into open action by the assemblage of men for a purpose treasonable in itself, or the fact of levying war cannot have been committed. So far has this principle been carried, that . . . it has been determined that the actual enlistment of men to serve against the government does not amount to levying of war.” Chief Justice Marshall was careful, however, to state that the Court did not mean that no person could be guilty of this crime who had not appeared in arms against the country. ”On the contrary, if it be actually levied, that is, if a body of men be actually assembled for the purpose of effecting by force a treasonable purpose, all those who perform any part, however minute, or however remote from the scene of action, and who are actually leagued in the general conspiracy, are to be considered as traitors. But there must be an actual assembling of men, for the treasonable purpose, to constitute a levying of war.

The framers never could have imagined that an army of invisible foot soldiers would land on the shores of the United States and attempt to overthrow our government via the Internet. This would be a “ levying of war.”That is exactly what happened when hackers under orders from Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia sent millions of bots to targeted homes and businesses in the United States for the purpose of upsetting, or rigging, a democratic election. It is clear under the settled law that any American citizen who assisted Putin in this endeavor, upon sworn testimony of two individuals, is a traitor; small wonder that every individual in the Trump campaign denied every contact with Russians, when in fact, there were many.  It should also be noted that Donald Trump is the candidate who brought up the issue of election rigging―as if he had some inside information on the subject.  Moreover, the fact that Trump refused to issue sanctions authorized by a near unanimous vote of Congress falls within the purview of constitutional law, and as comfort and aid to the enemy is clearly an overt act of treason. Consequently, Professor Turley’s claim that Tim Kaine’s treason charge was “reckless” is misguided.

In deference to the learned professor, it is better to be dead wrong, than wrong dead. It could not be clearer that Donald Trump’s fondest wish is to join history’s long list of despots. This he demonstrated when he stated at a rally during the last presidential election campaign that he would “order his justice department to prosecute Hillary Clinton.” He demands and receives loyalty from a legion of bootlickers. Such conduct is the substance of banana republics and autocracies like the one presided over by Kim Jong-Un of North Korea. We have witnessed the North Korean dictator murder members of his own family at the smallest hint of dissent, and imprison countrymen for six months at hard labor for not “crying hard enough” at his father’s funeral. No man is above the law, including the President of the United States. Donald Trump is a proper subject for an indictment alleging treason against the United States. With due consideration given the number of Trump enablers within the Republican Party, the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III may be our only security against those who would turn  our constitutional republic into a dictatorship.

Truman Goodspeed, February 2018

Faulkner’s Curse

The federal holiday we celebrate in commemoration of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth is a good day to discuss America’s original sin―the curse of racism. Ugly and wrong as racism might be, an even more befitting subject for condemnation is racist enablers, and especially when they hold high positions in government.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. Due to growing up in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era, Faulkner was witness to full-blown racial intolerance, and he featured the “ineradicable curse” of racism in his novel Absalom, Absalom! In the novel, Faulkner used the demise of the once glorious plantation known as “Sutpen’s Hundred,” an overgrown wasteland commanded by a burnt out mansion to symbolize and expose the futility of the concept of racial superiority. Inevitably, when reducing the “ineradicable curse” to its natural conclusion, we are informed that only one cure for the racist attitude exists―it is called a grave.

There is no reason to quibble over a settled issue. Donald Trump is a racist. He proved as much in the last century by calling for the death penalty of the wrongly accused and convicted black and Hispanic members of the “Central Park Five.” He gave confirmation to that proof in the current century with his dogged pursuit of the so-called “birther issue.” Consequently, no one should have been surprised when Trump referred to Haitian and African nations as “shit hole” countries, and claimed during a White House conference on immigration that we should instead be only looking at countries like Norway for immigrants.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) reported the President’s comments and a media blitz followed. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) confirmed Durbin’s report and stated that he pushed back and directly confronted Trump for his use of degrading words. Nevertheless, Trump began calling friends on the Thursday following for feedback on his “shit hole” comment to find out how it would resonate with his base of followers. On the next day―a Friday―U.S. senators David Perdue (R-Ga) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark), both of whom attended the conference and sat at the same table, claimed they “didn’t  remember”  Trump using the language reported by Durbin and confirmed by Graham. During Sunday talk show appearances, Perdue and Cotton changed their story. Both men claimed that Trump never spoke such words, and stated that Durbin was an outright liar, and inferred likewise that Graham’s public statements were false.

The fallout from the latest White House episode is clear. Donald Trump continues to prove that he is unfit to hold any public office. Perdue and Cotton have been outed and exposed as racists. Condemnation of United States immigration policy under the current administration has poured in from nearly every country on the planet. And following Trump’s latest degrading and disintegrating venture into foreign policy, his ambassador to Panama, John Feely, has resigned. Feely stated:

“As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the President and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come.”

Feeley is indeed a man of honor.  But Perdue and Cotton have lost all semblance of honor and deserve no respect.  As the Grim Reaper marks his recruits―one by one―an inescapable historical narrative is being formed, and fifty years from now, Perdue and Cotton will appear in the record as liars and racists.

The Enemy Within

The Spanish Civil War took place between 1936 and 1939. During the siege of Madrid by four columns of Nationalist forces, one of the leaders in that conflict, General Emilio Mola, told a journalist that a “fifth column” of supporters within the city would support the Nationalist cause and seek to undermine the Republican government from within. Thus was coined the phrase “fifth column.” Now, like a teeming colony of ants, we can see a fifth column in America hard at work in an attempt to undermine the rule of law and replace our constitutional republic with an autocracy. Included in this conspiracy of subversion are a law professor, a drain-the-swamp president, Fox News and members of the Congress of the United States.

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The rule of law is a hallmark of free societies.  Representatives of the people pass laws, which, in part, are codified into criminal code. Upon complaint, investigators, such as rank-and-file citizens in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, investigate complaints and turn the facts found over to prosecutors. Prosecutors, and sometimes grand juries, review the gathered facts and make a decision whether to indict or exonerate. A citizen charged under a bill of indictment receives full panoply of defense rights under the Fifth Amendment, and a right to a trial by an impartial jury of peers as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. An unbiased judge conducts the trial, and among other duties, is charged with removing prejudicial evidence. Thus, even though an investigator indulges in what may seem like prejudicial bias, the gatekeeper judge will remove all bias from relevant facts and present a clear case to the jury. Upon conclusion of a trial, a convicted defendant has a right of appeal.

It should first be noted that under our Constitution, the rule of law is equally binding on the governing leader as well as the governed citizenry. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 57:

“If the American people shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.”

As a country, we are now far past the point of caution raised by Madison, and deep into a full-scale assault on the rule of law.  Donald Trump and his “BIG nuclear button” is a clear and present danger to all of humanity.  Almost as dangerous as Trump are those who attempt to legitimize his authoritarian tendencies. Such a man is Alan Dershowitz.

Dershowitz, a renowned defense attorney and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School is now on the outside of the legal profession looking in after making the nonsensical claim that Donald Trump “could not be charged with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire former FBI Director Jim Comey and his constitutional authority to tell the Justice Department who to investigate and who not to investigate.” The most ignorant of laypersons understands quite well that even when one has the authority to fire, such as a supervisor in an “employment at will” state, if that supervisor fires a person for being black, he has broken the law. Likewise, if the President fires the FBI Director to end an investigation (as Trump admitted to Lester Holt), he has corruptly obstructed justice and broken the law.  The second part of Dershowitz’s claim is a practice that only takes place in banana republics,  and is hardly worthy of mention.   However, Dershowitz’s theory has been roundly condemned and critiqued by a number of legal scholars, most thoroughly in an article by scholars Daniel J. Hemel and Eric A. Posner.

New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, much to the chagrin of White House staffers, obtained an interview with Donald Trump in the grillroom at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Resort during the Christmas break. In the recorded session, shortly after heaping plaudits upon Dershowitz, Trump stated: “I have the absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department.” That claim should curdle the blood of freedom loving people everywhere.

Intelligence agencies inform us that we are living in a time where Russians have penetrated and affected the outcome of our elections. Donald Trump both ignores this fact, and furthermore fails to initiate the corrective action for which he is duty bound.  There is a reason for this malfeasance (treason in the eyes of many). Dating back to 1984, Donald Trump has been laundering ill-gotten Russian money through his condominium properties.

Most people live in one home, and some have a second vacation property.  Thus, for honest people the sirens like those sounding a seven-alarm fire would be set off when an itinerant Russian offers to purchase five condominiums in one building; but not Donald Trump. He took the money when David Bogatin (who was reported to have assisted North Vietnamese in shooting down American pilots over Hanoi during the Vietnam War) made such an offer. This and other matters were revealed by investigative reporter Craig Unger in a September 2017 edition of New Republic Magazine article entitled “Trump’s Russian Laundromat.”

A clandestinely exposed tax return for the year 1995 reveals that Trump mismanaged three Atlantic City casinos, lost money on an airline venture, and lost even more through the ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.  The sum of his misadventures totaled 916 million dollars.   At that time, his business empire was under water and he was insolvent.   However, he had at his disposal a carryover tax credit relevant to the reported massive loss for each of the next eighteen years, which in effect amounted to an annual grant of nearly 50 million dollars from the public treasury—all of which added up as an expense to the American taxpayer.  But he could play the American taxpayers for suckers only if he continued in business. Trump is a deadbeat who simply did not pay his bills, and often sued contractors to get out of paying for services performed.  Consequently, U.S. lenders would not touch his loan requests, so Trump went to foreign branches of Deutsche Bank (Cypress) and other known fronts for Russian mobsters to satisfy his financial necessities.  The Russia source of financing has been admitted by both of Trump’s sons (“Most of our money comes from Russians”).

Fox News is a media outlet with perhaps a couple of honest and reputable reporters. For the most part, however, the organization is a propaganda mill modeled after ITAR-TASS (Information Telegraph Agency of Russia), the official Russian state central information distributor and newspaper. Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politifact declared that nearly 60 per cent of the statements it checked on Fox News were either mostly or entirely false. Another 19 per cent were only half-true. The leaders in this “fake news” cavalcade of dishonesty are conspiracy theorist Sean Hannity and soap opera judge Jeanine Pirro.

There are two variations of the conspiracy theorist. The first, like Alex Jones, who claims the Sandyhook massacre was staged by the government, suffers from paranoid delusion disorder (PDD).The politics of Jones and his band of some three million followers can be summed up by most psychiatrists as paranoia-tinged diatribe. The second type of conspirator, however, operates from a sound mind. Hannity, in a cold and calculating manner, delivers bald-faced lies to his gullible audience of old white people in wheelchairs and walkers. Indeed, if you are white, you dare not go to your grandparent’s house and say anything even slightly negative about the man who falsely claimed that Democrats were running a pedophilia ring out of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria, or the likewise false claim that DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered for releasing Clinton emails.

Pirro, a former judge deluded by fantasy, used her bully pulpit to make wildly false and destructive accusations against every enforcer and prosecutor of law she could locate within the Federal Bureau of Investigation:  “Take them out in handcuffs,” she urged. As Pirro knows from her judicial experience, none of these FBI employees are perfect, but they generally follow facts to a proper conclusion, and when they do not, they are proper subjects for punishment.

Next comes subversive activities by United States Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), both of whom have requested a criminal referral of perjury against Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the now infamous “dossier.”

Donald Trump has made no secret of his unfitness for office: he demonstrates as much on a daily basis through tweets and pathological lies. Graham at one time was critical of the President when appropriate, but following a golf outing with Trump now appears to be “all in” on the Trump agenda (“Law is what I say it is”), and damn the means by which that agenda is attained.  It may be that Trump demonstrated his golf course mastery and tutored Graham on the finer points of using a “foot-wedge,” and now, Graham will be eternally grateful.

The Grassley matter is altogether different. Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Chairman, has been on a mission to trash Steele’s dossier, presumably to protect Trump. The criminal referral authored by Grassley and Graham follows other efforts that indicate the Republican controlled panel is playing tribal politics, rather than attempting to prevent another Russian incursion into American elections. Indeed, one Democratic source called it an “effort to deflect attention” from the Trump-Russia probe.

There has indeed been a major effort on the part of Republicans to trash the Steele dossier, believing that the dossier was the genesis of the FBI investigation, and further, that the entire Russia issue would fade away once this feat was accomplished. A large hole was blown in that theory when a New York Times article revealed that the FBI investigation began after an Australian diplomat reported to the agency that Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, during a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar, revealed that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Florida GOP Congressman Francis Rooney wants the FBI and Department of Justice “purged” of officials he says are politically biased against President Trump. A political purge, of course, is one of the more effective tools in keeping a dictatorship free of popular dissent.

It appears that a classic fifth column, an infiltration of malign elements, is presently occurring in the United States House of Representatives.  Along with the judiciary, Congress was intended by the framers to be a check on abusive power grabs by the Executive Branch. Nevertheless, subversives Devin Nunes (R-Ca) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both in open hearings, and behind the scenes with a secret committee, are attempting to undermine the rule of law and a legitimate investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It could not be clearer that Nunes (who was also a member of the Trump transition team) has abdicated his House responsibility through his frequent trips to the White House to rat out the results of the House probe. While Special Counsel Robert Mueller has already proven the validity of his appointment by securing indictments and guilty pleas, nevertheless, these two wayward House members continue in their attempts to destroy Mueller’s credibility and end the continuing investigation into Russia’s interference in the last presidential election.

Finally, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson created quite a stir within the Beltway media when he referred to his boss as a “moron.” Here, it is useful to relate that Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956), also known as the “Sage of Baltimore,” was regarded as one of the most influential American writers in the early twentieth century. Mencken, seemingly prescient, once stated:

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Now we have confirmation that both Tillerson and Mencken were correct through reviewing the recent bombshell release of “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolf. This book put into printed word what had previously traveled through whispers in the West Wing and the halls of Congress: that one hundred percent of the people in the upper echelon administration of Donald Trump considered the president entirely unfit for the position he holds.

Everyone―right, left, moderate, independent, even the politically indifferent―is missing the big picture. We live in a society in decline; the lights are dimming, and will eventually be extinguished. Nonetheless, there are people who no longer believe in that country born upon a Declaration of Independence and nurtured by a Constitution; they prefer a dictatorship.  They could care less about the boys who never had a chance to become men: those who sat next to us in class, lived around the corner and played on the same football team, but lost their lives defending freedom’s frontier in the jungles of Southeast Asia, while those of us lucky enough to come home from that ill-fated war had to endure being spat upon by hippies in airports.

If their fascist agenda is successful, the aforementioned subversives will be patriots in a new autocracy.  With much fanfare, those of us who still love the government of our founding fathers will be deemed traitors.

 

Truman Goodspeed, January 2018

Are You A Republican?

A new year is upon us. This is a time when people indulge that time-honored tradition―a New Year’s resolution―of resolving to change an undesired trait or behavior. It is in this spirit that the following survey is offered for politicians and their faithful supporters.

Has anyone ever called you a “miserable son of a bitch?  If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican.  Former Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, during a speech in 2016 called Texas Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh,” and further stated: “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone. But I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Are you a white nationalist who believes that racial diversity is not our strength as a country? If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican. Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa), quoting Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, tweeted “Diversity is not our strength. Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.” In addition, King has frequently questioned contributions to society by non-white people.

Have you ever supported, or voted for a person facing credible accusations of pedophilia? If the answer is yes, you could only be a Republican. Former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, who, as a man in his thirties only enjoyed the company of teenage girls, was endorsed by the Republican President and supported financially by the Republican National Committee, headed by Ronna Romney McDaniel.

For men: have you ever bragged that you are a “star,” and this therefore gives you the power to grab female genitalia without consequence? If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican.  The infamous “Access Hollywood” videotape revealed only one out of a host of character defects in the Republican who resides in the White House.

For women: have you ever voted for a man who brags about his prowess in molesting women? If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican.  There are two streams of thought here. First, you might be an introvert who has latent fantasies of bedding a billionaire, and second, you might be a brazen extrovert (also known as a tramp) who openly accepts an invitation to slither into the gutter and wallow in the filth and perversions of a Republican Commander-in-Chief.

For self-styled Evangelicals:  does your faith in God give you confidence to stand before a crowd of reporters and lie with a straight face? If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders proliferates lies on a daily basis. A study by the Washington Post reveals that the number of lies in the first year of the current administration is over 1,000, as compared with 18 by the previous administration over a four-year period. The only time that Sanders does not lie, like her boss, is when her lips are not moving.

Have you ever attempted to subvert the rule of law? If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican…not to mention a traitor. It is common knowledge that Russians interfered with our last presidential election. We also know that certain Americans assisted the Russians. At this time, we do not know what these Americans received in return for their treasonous acts. Nevertheless, Congressmen Devin Nunes (R-Ca) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) are acting like lawyers for the Kremlin in their bold attempts to undermine the FBI and the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian collusion and conspiracy.

Have you ever accepted a bribe to vote in a certain way? If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican.  Representative Chris Collins (R-NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) publicly admitted that their contributions from big donors would end following their failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, if they did not soon do something to enrich their political benefactors (“Get it done, or don’t ever call me again”). At the time of these statements, a “tax reform” package was on the legislative agenda.

As a legislator, have you ever voted in favor of a bill that would greatly enrich your finances? If the answer is yes, you might be a Republican. The recently passed Republican tax bill greatly enriched many of the senators and representatives who voted on it, not to mention the man who signed the bill into law. No Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Pundits referred to one of the more noteworthy Republican votes as the vehicle for a “Corker-Kickback.”

If you answered yes to one of the above questions, you have the necessary credentials to present yourself as a bona fide member of the Republican Party; this must be a great source of pride for yourself, your family and your community. If you answered yes to three of the foregoing questions, you are a contemptible person, and probably a traitor. If you answered yes to all of the above questions, you are a revolting specimen of humanity, and not even decades of successful New Year’s resolutions will eradicate your moral unfitness.

This year past has been a period of unprecedented tumult. Republicans have led a withering assault against free speech, the rule of law and the various institutions of democracy. They have poisoned the air, given corporations the authority to fleece the public, stolen  public lands, and in a final act of contempt for hard working Americans, lined the already deep pockets of wealthy individuals with a pseudo-tax reform act that future generations will be forced to pay for.

To those who are not Republicans, HAPPY NEW YEAR! And good luck with saving our democracy in the coming months. The storm is gathering.

Russian Lapdogs

A question for democracy loving citizens:  why would Vladimir Putin waste time and money recruiting and training spies to plant in the United States, when he already has willing American citizens fulfilling his espionage agenda? The institutions of democracy are presently under a three-pronged attack emanating from the White House, Fox News, and even the United States House of Representatives.

There is nothing complicated about Vladimir Putin’s agenda. His North Star is greed; the accumulation of money.  To feed his insatiable beast, he needs power. Putin received a prolific education during his tenure at the Soviet KGB on how to use propaganda to destabilize governments and is now using social media supported by turncoat domestic players to attack every democratic government on the planet.

Forbes Magazine claims the world’s wealthiest billionaires are collectively worth $7.05 trillion.   However, a strong case can be made that it is Vladimir Putin, and not Bill Gates (estimated net worth 89.2 billion), who is the richest man in the world. Investigative reporter Craig Unger, in a revealing and explosive September 2017 article for New Republic entitled “Trump’s Russian Laundromat” exposed Donald Trump’s longstanding connection to Russian mob leaders, and among other things stated:

“How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House. It was stated that some 1.3 trillion dollars has been exported from Russia since Vladimir Putin took control of the Russian Federation.”

All of the money that left Russia under Putin’s watch is either deposited in hidden bank accounts outside of Russia, or held by oligarchs who, as a matter of self-preservation, report directly to Putin. Both of Donald Trump’s sons―supposed caretakers of the family business―have admitted in the past that most of their business capital comes from Russian sources. Reliable intelligence agencies have reported that the Trump campaign received Russian assistance in obtaining the presidency of the United States, which ongoing investigation Donald Trump continues to label as a “witch hunt.” This failure to admit the obvious brings us to an old adage: “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

Next comes Fox News led by conspiracy monger Sean Hannity and acid-tongued trollop Jenine Pirro. These fascist-inspired Putin puppets desire a totalitarian government directed by an autocrat, and will use any subversive item in the traitor’s tool chest to achieve as much.

Conspiracy theorists fall into two categories. Most psychologists can diagnose the first type, like Alex Jones, as suffering from paranoid delusion disorder (PDD). It was Jones who claimed that the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre of 20 schoolchildren and 6 staff members by Adam Lanza never happened, and was instead a charade carried out by “government crisis actors.”

The second type, like Hannity, are outright liars who prey on the gullible instincts of an older viewing audience in furtherance of a fascist agenda. Out of a number of his conspiracies that insult even the most conservative members of the viewing public comes his knowingly false claim that Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich was murdered for leaking DNC emails. Hannity’s claim, of course, was clearly intended to throw both investigators and the public off the trail of the true leakers, which was the Russian government.

Next to free speech, the rule of law is one of the supporting pillars of a democracy. Pirro used her bully pulpit to make wildly false and destructive accusations against every enforcer and prosecutor of law she could locate within the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  As Pirro knows, none of these FBI employees are perfect, but they generally follow facts to a proper conclusion, and when they do not, they are proper subjects for punishment. The former prosecutor in the infamous “Duke Lacrosse” case learned this lesson the hard way. Sensible people should not bother tuning into this Putin Puppet.

The most dangerous infiltration of malign elements is presently occurring in the United States House of Representatives.  Along with the judiciary, Congress was intended by the framers to be a check on abusive power grabs by the Executive Branch. Nevertheless, Putin henchmen Devin Nunes (R-Ca) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both in open hearings,  and behind the scenes with a secret committee, are attempting to undermine the legitimate investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It could not be clearer that Nunes has abdicated his House responsibility through his frequent trips to the White House to rat out the results of the House probe. Indeed, the Special Counsel has already secured indictments and guilty pleas, nevertheless, these two wayward House members continue in their attempts to destroy Mueller’s credibility and end the continuing investigation into Russia’s interference in the last presidential election.

Take an objective look at the aforementioned “Americans.”  What do we call them―other than spies for Russia?

Goodspeed On Literature

Today, I am reviewing a novel published in 1935 by Sinclair Lewis entitled “It Can’t Happen Here.”  This cautionary tale about the rise of fascism in America is a timeless classic, and given the current political landscape, a chillingly prescient voice from the pages of history that outlines how fascism and martial law comes wrapped in red, white and blue bunting. The parallels between the Trump administration and the characters and events in Lewis’ novel are nothing less than astounding.

In a review of Lewis’ novel published in the October 1935 issue of Nation, critic R.P. Blackmer stated that “there is hardly a literary question that it does not fail to raise and there is hardly a rule for the good conduct of novels that it does not break.” Other reviewers complained of a loose melodramatic plot, and among other things, heavy-handed satire and irony.

I will leave the “good conduct of novels”  to writers of novels, but insofar as a “loose melodramatic plot” and “heavy-handed satire” are concerned, I could not disagree more. Chaos and the absence of a happy ending were purposeful. And Lewis authenticated his award of the Nobel Prize with the psychological underpinning of this novel. It Can’t Happen Here is a loud satire about the dangerous inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude, a condition which modern day psychologists know as the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.”  In other words, these are people who are ignorant about what they don’t know. Lewis brilliantly created this condition in his dog-kicking character, Shad Ledue.

From the novel:  Jessup, returning home at 7 AM after staying up all night with a circle of friends to discover the outcome of a political convention encounters his hired hand, Shad Ledue, uncharacteristically early on the job.

Ledue: “I’m going to vote for Buzz Windrip. He’s going to fix it so everybody will get four thousand bucks, immediate, and I’m going to start a chicken farm. I can make a bunch of money on chickens! I’ll show some of these guys who think they’re so rich!”

Jessup:  “But Shad, you didn’t have so much luck with chickens when you tried to raise ‘em in the shed back there. You, uh, I’m afraid you sort of let their water freeze up on ‘em in the winter, and they all died, you remember.”

Ledue: “Oh, them? So what!  Heck! There was too few of ‘em. I’m not going to waste  my time foolin’ with just a couple dozen chickens! When I get five-six thousand of ‘em to make it worth my while, then I’ll show you! You bet. Buzz Windrip is O.K.”

Jessup:  “I’m glad he has your imprimatur.

Ledue: “Huh?”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was born in Sauk Center, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University.  He worked on both coasts as an editor for newspapers and magazines, and supplemented his income with submissions of articles to various magazines.  He considered himself a despised critic―the eternal faultfinder; in his own words, “That’s what I was put here for.”  Indeed, Lewis was a remarkable student of the human condition, and chose satire as the vehicle to relate the findings of his studies.  Insofar as effectiveness and political satire are concerned, only one piece of work in all of literature rivals It Can’t Happen Here; that would be Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, wherein Swift suggested  in the guise of an economic treatise that Ireland could lessen poverty by butchering the children of the Irish poor and selling them as food to wealthy English landlords.

Lewis published his first novel in 1914, Our Mr. Wrenn.  The book was favorably reviewed by critics, but sold few copies.  However, Lewis secured his reputation as one of the giants in literature in 1920 with the publication of Main Street, as seen through the eyes of protagonist Carol Kennicot in the Minnesota town of Gopher Prairie. Gopher Prairie, of course, was modeled after his home town of Sauk Center, and Lewis used local customs and social amenities to satirize both the townspeople and the superficial intellectualism of their critics. This double-edged satire is probably what led the Columbia University trustees of the Pulitzer foundation to reject Main Street as winner of the Pulitzer Prize after judges had selected Lewis’ novel as the winner. Lewis thus vowed to refuse the award if it was ever offered.

As an author, Lewis owned the 1920’s, and followed Main Street with Babbit, Elmer Gantry, Arrowsmith and Dodsworth.  Through his novels, Lewis stirred the waters of social niceties and forced every part of middle-class America to look at itself in the mirror.  Arrowsmith (1925) was selected as a Pulitzer Prize winner, however, Lewis, in keeping with his earlier vow, rejected both the prize and the thousand-dollar award that came with it. Nevertheless, following his outstanding body of work during the 1920’s, Lewis became the first American recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.

At the outset, Lewis conceded that It Can’t Happen Here was pure propaganda, but he stated that the novel was propaganda for one thing; American democracy.  When the stock market crashed in 1929, the previous target for Lewis’s satire―

America’s carefree and provincial middle class―had all but evaporated into soup lines and unemployment. Most banks closed, and farmers had to deal with the dust bowl in the Midwest, and scant funds to purchase agricultural products elsewhere. People were not in the mood for soul searching; they simply wanted to survive. Lewis understood this narrative very well.  Anyone with a plan to distribute money―no matter how far-fetched―would command a very large audience. Thus, the groundwork for It Can’t Happen Here had been laid threefold; by a mind-numbing depression, a threat of the spread of communism, and observation of economic powerhouse Nazi Germany building a war machine.  Consequently, in America, of all places, the Nazi Party and German Bund were attracting new members by the thousands.  Lewis, who for the most part was apolitical, became alarmed and decided to take action.

It Can’t Happen Here takes place between 1936 and 1939. In addition to what he was personally observing in the United States in the 1930’s, Lewis’ second wife, Dorothy Thompson, was a newspaper correspondent in Berlin and had interviewed Adolph Hitler on several occasions. As was his custom, Lewis pumped his wife every morning at the breakfast table for the most minute details of her Hitler interviews.  Through the information he gathered, he found a ready-made plot for his book.  He wrote and revised the novel in just four months, releasing it for publication in October 1935, which short period probably accounts for the large number of negative reviews it received. However, his friend Clifton Fadiman declared it “one of the most important books ever produced in this country.” (New Yorker, 1935).  More than 320,000 readers agreed. And the New York Post, with a circulation of 60,000,  serialized the book―without abridgment―in the summer of 1936.

Doremus Jessup is the protagonist in It Can’t Happen Here.  Lewis presents Jessup, born in 1876, as an individualist and liberal newspaper editor who subscribes to the Congressional Record, the New Yorker, Time, the Nation, the New Republic and the New Masses.  Jessup sports a beard, making him look scholarly, and Lewis uses Jessup to satirize and criticize ―among others―the Ku Klux Klan, Father Coughlin and Huey Long. Jessup’s allegiance to American values, along with a streak of silent individualism, make him a political subversive in this novel’s plot.  Jessup has a wife Emma, and three children, Philip, a lawyer who is married and practicing law, Mary, the wife of a doctor, and Cecilia, who is 18 and goes by the name “Sissy.”

Berzelius (Buzz) Windrip is the antagonist. The introduction of Windrip is a clear satire of former Louisiana Governor Huey Long, who had presidential aspirations. Lewis disguises Windrip as a folksy senator from New England and avoids legal implication by also listing Long as a separate character in the plot. Huey Long was assassinated in 1935 at the age of 42 after Lewis sent his manuscript for publication, so the publisher had to modify the script. In the run-up to the 1936 presidential election, Windrip has presented for public consumption a Fifteen Points of Victory for the Forgotten Man position paper.  This bizarre adaptation of some of Long’s plans (Share-the-Wealth―$5,000.00 for each homestead, and $2000.00 for each family) and Hitler doctrine was a “treatise” of contradictions

which proposed to disenfranchise women, blacks, Jews and intellectuals, and further intended to end free speech as an “enemy” to the Corporate State.

Shad Ledue is Jessup’s hired hand and the psychological profile for the novel’s tension between protagonist and antagonist.  Lethargic Shad can barely tolerate the learned types who don’t coon hunt or take pleasure in games of craps and poker.

A peripheral character is Windrip’s secretary, Lee Sarason. Lewis cast Sarason as a monstrosity; not only as Windrip’s minister of propaganda, but also a sadomasochist who wavers between socialism and anarchism, with an admiration for Hitler and Mussolini. It appears that Joseph Goebels was the model for this character.  Furthermore, Sarason was credited with writing Windrip’s lone book, Zero hourOver the Top, portions of which serve as chapter epigraphs throughout the novel.

Widow Lorinda Pike is the manager of a boarding house known as the Beulah Valley Tavern. She is cast as a troublemaker and the discrete lover of Doremus Jessup.

Bishop Prang is an anti-semitic  radio host who leads an organization known as the League of Forgotten Men. This character is an unmistakable reference to Father Coughlin, who had a large radio following estimated at 30 million during the Depression.

The story begins in Fort Beulah, Vermont (a town of ten thousand souls) at the Ladies Night Dinner of the Fort Beulah Rotary Club, and continues with the observations of Jessup leading up to the election of 1936.

Buzz Windrip wins the election―fairly―and immediately implements martial law in the United States. He redistricts the country into provinces and seizes control of the press and universities. He abolishes the Supreme Court and holds Congress subject to his proclamations. The Fifteen Point Plan is activated, paving the way for a corporate state (Corpos) in which labor unions are banned, women are told to get back into the kitchen, Jews are forced to pay extortion and blacks are denied all rights. All of these measures are enforced by “Minute Men,” a thuggish knockoff of Hitler’s Gestapo.  Other changes take place so gradually that hardly anyone notices; such as the erection of concentration camps and the torture and murder of political rivals. All of this activity continues under the mantra of a “necessity to preserve the American way of life.”

Following the murder of two respected friends, Jessup decides to stray from his silent individualism and publish an editorial condemning the brutalities of the Windrip regime. While friends and family urge Jessup not to publish the article, his confidante and mistress Lorinda Pike lends support. Following publication, the Corpos haul Jessup off to the county jail.

Jessup is in the midst of a Corpo interrogation in the early morning hours when his enraged son-in-law doctor enters the courthouse to confront the Corpos.  The doctor receives summary judgment on the spot, and is sentenced to immediate execution. The sound of the rifle volley, followed by a single pistol shot from the courtyard outside provides the psychological turning point for this novel.  “It is we, the Jessups, who have let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest.”  Jessup laments the fact that his silence and inaction may have played a part in the rise of Windrip, and thereafter, vows to revolt by all means available.

In Chapter 22, the bloody rebellion begins. The Corporate state responds by opening concentration camps. Lewis listed thirteen actual journalists of the 30’s who were imprisoned by the Corpos.  Furthermore, he used Shad Ledue as a prop in replicating the book burnings of May, 1933 in Germany.

A new “underground railroad” leading to safety in Canada is formed by Corpo dissenters.  Jessup makes an attempt to gather his family and flee to Canada, but is caught and returns home with more enlightened thinking;  “Now I know why men like John Brown became crazy killers,”  and decides that perhaps Brown was not so insane after all. On top of it all, an enraged Jessup discovers his lawyer son Phillip justifying the book burnings and violent suppression of dissenters with the blasé comment that “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs,” and quickly throws him out of the house.

Jessup begins publication of the Vermont Vigilance, an underground paper that exposes the corruption and murderous reign of the American Corporate State and the Patriotic Party.  His widowed daughter inserts copies of the publication into volumes of Reader’s Digest at the local drug store.

Shad LeDue, now a district commissioner in the Corpo hierarchy, discovers Jessup’s covert activities, and on July 4, 1938 leads a band of Minute Men to Jessup’s home. The home is destroyed, and Jessup is carted off to the local concentration camp.   Thereafter, LeDue terrorizes Jessup’s family and makes lewd advances toward Sissy. Acting as a spy, however, Sissy discovers corrupt affairs by LeDue and exposes his conduct to a superior. LeDue is sentenced to the same concentration camp as Jessup, where inmates he caused to be incarcerated plan and carry out his murder.

Jessup’s stay at the camp is brief. As a result of inhumane treatment and conditions at the camp, Jessup becomes more aware of how men like John Brown come unhinged. Nevertheless, despite a feeling of camaraderie with other group-minded prisoners, Lewis’ hero shuns communism and refuses to abandon his individualism.  Jessup relates, “What I want is mass action by just one member, alone on a hilltop. I’m a great optimist…I still hope America may someday rise to the standards of Kit Carson.” Jessup’s friends bribe one of the camp guards and he escapes to Canada.

Jessup begins work for the underground, first, as a spy in the northeastern part of the country, and next,  as a secret agent using a cover of farm implement salesman. He resurfaces in Minnesota and coordinates raids against Minute Men outposts. Although participating in an organized response to fascism, Jessup remains apolitical, conducting what he thinks of as a “one man revolution.”  Jessup, wrote Lewis, saw that he must remain alone…scorned by all the noisier prophets for refusing to be a willing cat for the busy monkeys of either fascism or communism. Jessup:  “I am convinced that everything that is worthwhile in the world has been accomplished by the free, inspiring critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever.”

Windrip’s popularity erodes as Americans come to realize that his promises of economic prosperity will not materialize.  Lee Sarason and General Dewey Haik seize power and exile Windrip to France. Sarason succeeds Windrip, but his administration is cut short when Haik enters the White House with a band of supporters, murders Sarason, and declares himself president. Following the two coups and a contrived action against Mexico, one of Haik’s senior officers defects to the opposition, taking a large portion of the Corpo army with him. Civil war breaks out, and the novel ends with Jessup working as an agent for the New Underground in Corpo-occupied portions of Minnesota.

Criticisms of It Can’t Happen Here were largely unwarranted.  Chaos and mayhem―the animating features of the novel―came as Lewis meticulously planned. As a matter of poetic justice, Shad LeDue, the psychological model for the fascist theme, was murdered by the same people he imprisoned. And Doremus Jessup rides off into the sunset with firm confidence that the benevolent human spirit will prevail.

I would agree that Lewis began to slide as an author, probably due to his heavy drinking. But not until after he published It Can’t Happen Here, which, for its timeliness, and in spite of the short period of creating, belongs on the same masterpiece shelf as the novels Lewis created in the 1920’s.

* * *

If It Can’t Happen Here were made into a contemporary movie, Donald Trump would star as the unmistakable reincarnation of Buzz Windrip.  Lewis expertly crafted this character, as seen through the eyes of his protagonist:

“Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, watching senator Windrip from so humble a Bœotia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily  detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.”

Like Windrip, Trump suggests that he can use the Department of Justice to prosecute his political foes, and has labeled responsible media as “fake news.” Furthermore, he has indicated that he would like to revoke the FCC license of media outlets that accurately report his activities. Most disturbing, however, against a backdrop of constitutional law, is the fact that on his recent trip to Asia, Trump sat next to Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte and chuckled as Duterte called journalists spies.  Duterte earlier made news when he claimed that journalists would not be assassinated if, by his own estimation, they were not corrupt.

Greed and the love of money will bring Donald Trump’s demise. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is tightening the noose, and Trump will soon be on the scaffold. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s text to a business partner―some eight seconds into Trump’s inaugural speech―that Russian sanctions would be “ripped up” and we’re “good to go” provide the smoking gun which proves that the Trump campaign promised to drop sanctions against Russia in exchange for assistance in throwing the presidential election to the Republican candidate. While the text referenced a plan involving nuclear reactors, no doubt Trump envisioned a condo-hotel operation in Moscow to house Russian oligarchs and the epicenter of a worldwide money laundering enterprise.

Sadomasochist Lee Sarason could fit quite comfortably into any one of the several shirts that white nationalist Steve Bannon wears at one time.  Bannon worships at the altar of nineteenth century philosopher Julius Evola.  Evola’s dark philosophy recognizes progress and racial equality as “poisonous illusions.”

Lewis created provinces in his novel as political subdivisions and this bears strong resemblance to the gerrymandering project used by Republicans after the 2010 census to subvert democratic process and take control of state houses across America, despite a minority position in the number of votes cast.  Gerrymandering, no doubt, is a critical fascist tool.

Finally, in Bishop Prang we see the present day “Evangelical” oxymoron. This never-do-wrong group of pure and pristine souls has hitched their wagon to the most vile drivers of filth in the history of man; a sexual predator named Donald Trump, who belongs in the National Registry of Sex Offenders, a horse-faced White House Press Secretary named Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, who uses her faith in God as confidence for spreading a litany of lies, and a man we can confidently label as a pedophile, one Roy Moore, who enjoys the unqualified support of the Republican National Committee for election to the U.S. Senate.

 

 

Truman Goodspeed, December 2017