11 December 2017

Update no.832

Update from the Sunland
4.12.17 – 10.12.17

            To all,

            Well, once again, our congratulations go to the Corps of Cadets at West Point—two years in a row. Well done!  Army beat Navy 14-13.  I also offer my personal congratulations to my cousins: Greg [USMA 1974] and Sandy [USMA 1978].  It was a really good game played in the snow of Philadelphia.  Navy beat themselves with two rare and crucial penalties on the final drive at the end of the game, and a missed field goal . . . by a few feet.  Nonetheless, a win is a win, no matter how sloppy.  Next year!  Go Navy; Beat Army!

            The follow-up news items:
-- The Supreme Court issued a brief written order granting an administration emergency request to void lower court injunctions and let the restrictive Trump travel ban rules [789 & sub] take full effect while litigation challenging the travel restrictions continues.  The Trump rules cite national-security concerns and apply to eight countries: the Muslim-majority nations of Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as North Korea and some government officials in Venezuela.  This action is related to the injunction only and is not affirmation of the USG policy by the Supreme Court.
-- Senator Al Franken of Minnesota announced on the floor of the Senate, “Nothing I have done as a Senator—nothing—has brought dishonor on this institution.”  He said, “Today, I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.”  He also drew contrast to his action versus Trump [774, 807] and Moore [829].  We are a long way from being done with this topic.
            The seductive opiate of power over others knows few boundaries, although I must observe it is predominately confined to males (the 1994 movie Disclosure aside).  Beyond the gender affinity, there are few other discriminating factors.  I am becoming progressively more troubled of the trial by Press and public opinion that is far more punitive than due process of law and trial by a jury of peers.  A precedent is de facto evolving—wait until the statute of limitations has expired to make accusations of sexual misconduct to achieve the greatest possible damage to a target individual; he has little to no recourse.  Whether the Democrats are setting up the Republicans is irrelevant to me.  Crucifying Franken and Conyers while Moore garners Republican support presents a very stark contrast in political morality.
            Wow, in recent days, I have listened to more than a few angry women who do not flinch when they proclaim these victimized women were not given “due process” why should the perpetrators whine about “due process.”  So, in essence, two wrongs make a right; we have a new world, or at least societal, standard to live by.  This is beginning to feel like vengeance and retribution, which is a very slippery slope to be on, and will quite likely lead to unintended collateral damage (and may have already occurred, I suspect).
-- The U.K. and the European Union have reportedly reached agreement on the Brexit [758] divorce terms after six months of difficult negotiations.  European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU's negotiating team will recommend to EU leaders next week that the process should advance.
-- The Wall Street Journal reported that some of Trump’s supporters are pressing him to take a harder line in portraying Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation [804] as politically motivated.  The President would not be well advised to listen to such counsel, unless he intentionally wishes to taunt obstruction of justice charges.
-- The Trumpian campaign phrase “Make America Great Again” [735 & sub] implies that the United States is not great today, but was once great; and, only he and his buddies can make it great again.  Numerous times I have wondered when that greatness existed in the eyes of Trump—he has never answered the question.  We do know that Trump’s bosom buddy Roy Moore provided his answer during a campaign speech in Fairhope, Alabama, on Tuesday.  “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another.  People were strong in the families.  Our families were strong.  Our country had a direction,” Moore publicly stated.  His imagination apparently sees the ante-bellum era (prior to 1860) as that idyllic time he wants to return us all to whether we agree or not.  If he would ever answer the question, I suspect Master Trump would say the same thing.  They may well be correct, as long as you are Caucasian, Protestant, male, literate, and quite likely a land/property owner—a rather narrow definition of great, it seems to me.  Do we really have political leaders who actually think like that?  Are we going to elect future political leaders who think like that?  The under-current behind such statements are strong and dangerous, especially if you believe in equality, respect and dignity for all citizens regardless of the social factors.  We can only hope Alabama voters do the right thing; we shall know in a few days.

            The issue of Israel’s capital has been simmering for decades.  On Wednesday, President Trump unilaterally announced the intention of the United States to abandon decades of national policy and move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as recommended by Congress in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 [PL 104–045; 109 Stat. 398; 8.11.1995] [538].  Once again, I find myself in agreement with Trump . . . continuing to do what we have always done, while expecting different results, is not a stable state.  As his predecessors have done, Trump waived the directive for six months, which means his action was a shot across the bow for the Palestinians to get serious about peace and two-state negotiations.  As expected, the Palestinians did not react well to the warning shot.

            Amazing!  Congress passed yet another continuing appropriations resolution.  The bill was introduced on the 4th and signed into law by the President on the 8th; they certainly can move fast when they want to do so.  The bill funds the U.S. Government (USG) through the 22nd of December, presumably to give Congress a couple of more weeks to pass a proper appropriations bill.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.831:
Comment to the Blog:
“I am as cautious as I can bring myself to be about convicting anyone without due process.  All the same, I don't ignore what I know.  Special Counsel Mueller follows the process of criminal prosecution exceptionally well, and his investigation is edging closer to Trump.  I await Trump’s disowning of Jared Kushner and Ivanka’s response to that with the same fascination others have for soap operas.
“Odd trivia note: The New York Times' morning update today (12-4-2017) points out that only one person has ever been Time Magazine's ‘Person of the Year’ twice in a row.  That was Richard Nixon in 1971 and 1972 (shared with Kissinger in 1972).  Trump's recent blowhard incident about repeating that status is just plain weird.  It's not evidence of anything at all, but it's a strange ‘echo’ of the Watergate era.
“We are largely helpless over the Congress's handling of the tax (and social structure) bill currently headed to a conference committee.  The Senate version of this passed with no chance of anyone having read the whole thing, much less having studied it.  The odds of anyone really understanding a revised version by the Republicans' self-imposed Christmas deadline are almost zero.  I'm sure many of the ‘donors’ want it that way.  Most of the speculation I've seen says that the current version does include repeal of the PPACA individual mandate, but who knows?  Unpredictable changes will be made in the conference committee, then both houses vote again.
“Trump made an appropriate symbolic gesture by donating his pay toward intervention in the opioid crisis, but I want to see how much money his party's Federal budget will devote to that effort and how that funding will be directed.
"Your correspondent who seeks ‘religious reformation’ ignores history.  Historically, religion and politics were synonymous.  Among many other things, that is the cause of Christ's crucifixion for those who believe any of the Christian Bibles.  That continued into modern times and still prevails in several Muslim and Christian countries and one Jewish nation.  If that writer follows any of those religions, they should try living in one of those places for a year or two.  They might regret their loss of freedom, but that’s not our problem.
“I believe sexual harassment and assault have increased only to the degree that women entered the work force after World War II, thus becoming more vulnerable to attackers.  What we are seeing now is women finally speaking up in large numbers together, so that they can't be ignored any more.  That begins a process that I believe will improve society in many ways over the long term.”
My response to the Blog:
            I share your caution.  I am troubled by the mounting examples of trial by Press & popular opinion, rather than due process of law before a jury of peers.  In the case of the current administration, we are well within the statute of limitations.  Given the guilty pleas so far, I continue to believe whatever bad conduct there was will be given due process of law.  Unfortunately, with far too many of the sexual misconduct cases, we are beyond the statute of limitations.
            An interesting and relevant mini-debate occurred this morning (Tuesday, 5.Dec.) on CNN between lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Jeffrey Toobin regarding the President’s vulnerability to obstruction of justice.  On this one, I think Alan expressed the law, i.e., the President cannot be prosecuted while in office.  He is only vulnerable to impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, i.e., removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  However (although it has never been tested in court), once removed from office by Congress, I believe he would be prosecutable in court for his crimes.  If as Toobin argued, the President obstructs justice for corrupt purposes, he could only be prosecuted within the statute of limitations once he was removed from office.  It is conceivable that a president could use the shield of his immunity of office to exceed the statute of limitations even for a felonious crime.
            The fellow in the Oval Office does not have a good track record with Time magazine covers, e.g., his fake cover in one of his properties.  That said, Time has chosen Hitler and Stalin as past persons of the year.  If they can justify those choices, they can justify the recognition of the fellow in the Oval Office.  There is certainly little question or debate that fellow has dominated the consciousness of the world.  We continue to debate his conduct virtually every single day since well before he was rightfully elected.
            Yes, correct, we have little direct effect on Congress.  We only have our votes for who represents us in Congress.  We can and should voice our opinions to our representatives, but they have no obligation to listen.  Yeah, the Press continues to report that the PPACA personal mandate repeal remains in the HR.1 bills.  As I said, it is well disguised.  I have used all of my search techniques and I’ve not found that repeal in either version.  I do not have the capacity for a word-for-word search to find it.  Quite so, unpredictable changes in conference committee will occur.  We shall see.
            I share your concern for federal budgetary provisions for opioid intervention.  The President’s 3Q2017 salary is a pittance of what is needed, but it is a noteworthy gesture.
            Additionally, I share your apprehension regarding the injection of religion into the political arena.  We have far too many examples of the oppressive product of mixing religion and politics.  We do not need another example.
        Certainly, the entry of women into the workplace has been a contributing factor.  I do not know about a direct correlation.  I do believe some of what we bear witness today is a consequence of the changes in our ability to communicate with each other, bypassing the traditional means centered upon the Press.  The Press knew quite well about President Roosevelt’s disability and his affairs; they also knew quite well about President Kennedy’s philandering; and yet, we heard nothing until many years later . . . after the passing of both men.  The restraints of the Press have been substantially overcome by our ability to communicate directly.  Further, I believe the abuses in the workplace have been present for a very long time.  The victims self-suppressed their accusations by their isolation.  The warm embrace of the collective has given them voice, finally.  Lastly, on this topic, the religious conservatives (Muslim, Christian & Jewish) contend and reinforce their dicta of strict separation of the genders in the public domain for a host of reasons, which adds to the headwind in rectifying this offense.  Yet, we must endure, survive and grow from the current catharsis.  To me, this issue is not about sexual harassment or the transgressions of weak men; it is ALL about equality and respect for others regardless of the social factors.  We are in violent agreement; we will improve society once we move through this period toward a more enlightened state . . . that is conditional upon the social conservatives not regressing society to a bygone era.

            My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cap                        :-)