White House Fence

This Peter Konieczko essay was posted on 06/09/2020.

One of the most often quoted lines is, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ The line is in Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall. It has been argued that the poem does not praise fences. Frost says:

‘Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out, …’

I could ask Donald Trump the same question. What is the second fence around the White House walling in or walling out? A Secret Service source told Fox News that the new enclosure is an anti-rioting fence. It walls out the rioters, who are no longer rioting. But they might. In fact, the new fencing doesn’t surround the White House, but it makes more land in the neighborhood off-limits to the public. It walls in more real estate for the sole use of the White House.

The new riot fence makes Donald Trump more isolated from the protesters. Perhaps that is Trump’s plan – to frame protesters as the enemy. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has taken a different tack. He has reached out to protest groups and started dialogs. As Trump is more isolated from the issues, Biden is making himself more relevant.

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Frost contends that walls, or fences, should have a purpose. Sometimes the purpose is to be symbolic. The protest groups are taking over the fence and plastering it with posters that champion their cause. By doing so, they are hijacking the symbolism of the fence from Donald Trump and turning it into their movement’s best spokesman.

Peter Konieczko
South Portland, Maine

The Inhumanity Along our Southern Border

One hundred years ago Mexican agricultural workers entering the United States through Texas had to endure humiliating delousing baths of kerosene and vinegar before they were granted entry. We have not made significant progress in how we treat those asylum seekers who come from south of our border. Currently there are an estimated 65,000 people who have been forced to return to Mexico from the United States; they are in border cities spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on which city they are in, they are living in tents , or on the streets, or squatting in abandoned buildings, or are in shelters. These are dangerous cities which have been labeled by our government as too dangerous to visit. Cartels patrol them with the intention of kidnapping asylum seekers and extorting money from them. There have been many reported rapes, kidnappings, murders, and torture by these cartels. For obvious reasons they cause intense anxiety and fear in the asylum seekers, who have no protection from them. Often the Mexican police are in cahoots with the cartels, feeding cartels the very people who go to them for protection.

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It has been a little over a year since I began work helping those striving to bring attention to the inhumanity along our southern border. Some label it ethnic cleansing and genocide. I am inclined to agree. That is what is happening. For me it began by organizing the witness movement at a migrant child “temporary influx shelter” that sat on the edge of a hot swamp in Homestead, Florida. In January of 2019 children began to arrive from the recently closed Tornillo child detention camp in Texas. From January 2019 through August 2019 over 14,000 children went through Homestead. Homestead was the largest child detention camp in the country and the only one that ran for profit. The last of the children left Homestead August 3, 2019. We still do not know where the children went and neither do the Members of Congress representing that area.

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Witnessing at Homestead was a vital action because it brought attention to this national disgrace. Nothing can prepare you for the emotional and physical reaction you have when you climb up on one of the ladders which stood by the side of the road overlooking the soccer field inside the camp. Looking at children who were taken from their families is not something anyone in the United States should ever experience. Yet there we were, a handful of us, from different areas in the country, standing on ladders watching teenage boys from Central America play soccer. It is difficult to describe the physical pain I felt at that moment as well as the emotional sense of deep grief. Grief for the children and their families certainly. But also grief for what our country had become.

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Several months later a fellow Homestead witness and myself traveled to El Paso, Texas to see for ourselves the effects of our administration’s policy, called Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) or what is commonly referred to as the Remain in Mexico policy. We connected with two young women living in El Paso who cross daily into Mexico bringing supplies to the shelters in Juarez. At the time, fall of 2019, an estimated 1,700 asylum seekers were in Juarez, Mexico waiting for their turn to present their asylum cases. 600 were in shelters. Several hundred were in a makeshift encampment by the bridge. The rest were wherever they could find shelter, both indoors and out.  We quickly saw that what we were being told by our government were bold and blatant lies. For three years our current president told us through television and Twitter, that those crossing our southern border were “bad hombres, criminals, vermin, drug runners, very dangerous people, an infestation”. They were not. Many were women with young children. Some were teenage boys. Most were from Central America, although that is now changing as many Mexican nationals are joining them (as well as people fleeing Cuba, Brazil, and several African countries). It didn’t take a lot of time to see the toll that their travels had taken on them; their faces gave away the realities of their exhaustion and how deeply traumatized they were. It was clear that they continued to live in deep anxiety and fear. Seeing and speaking with these people was the most  heart wrenching thing I have ever experienced in my life. It was late October with temperatures at the hillside shelters in the 30’s and 40’s, yet many of the seekers were in tank tops, shorts, and flip flops. I can’t imagine a journey such as they had just experienced in such clothing and footwear. We brought warm clothing and blankets to them, but not nearly enough. 

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Yet they quietly shared what we brought, passing blankets to those who I assume were in the most need. These were the people we were told to be afraid of. They were gracious, kind, shy, and appreciative. The children were beautiful.

During our time in Juarez we learned about something that the asylum seekers all experienced and were deeply afraid of. Initially I was under the impression they were telling us, through an interpreter, about the journey north and the dangers they experienced along their travels. But it was explained to us that they were telling us about what they referred to as: the icebox. When they presented themselves to Customs and Border Protection agents at the bridge which crosses into the United States, not only did they have their possessions taken from them (including medications and rosary beads) but they were also put into icebox cells. They and their children, even babies, were put in these cells with their scant clothing anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The depths of this practice was still lost on us. When the Roman Catholic priest explained to a young mother of three that her asylum hearing was coming up the next day she burst into tears. He explained to us that she didn’t want to go back into the icebox. We began to understand that something was very wrong with what was happening here. We met a young boy who looked to be about ten and who had frostbite across his left cheek due to being in the icebox. I realized then that these cells aren’t just cold from air conditioning but are freezers! This is what our country is doing to these vulnerable, scared, traumatized people. I had never felt such deep shame to be a United States citizen as I did at that moment listening to these mothers share their stories.

Later this February a group of Maine women, including myself, will be traveling to Brownsville, Texas. We will help with the humanitarian work that is occurring across the border in Matamoros, Mexico. In Matamoros an estimated 2,500 asylum seekers are living in tents along the edge of the Rio Grande River.

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Like those in Juarez, they too have presented themselves to Customs and Border Protection agents on the bridge coming into the United States. Like in Juarez, they too have experienced iceboxes only to be returned back into Mexico to wait for their asylum hearings. It use to be that when people were fleeing violence and seeking asylum they would wait with family or sponsors in our country. That has changed, and now we have MPP. Because these people are arriving in Matamoros with nothing, the citizens of Brownsville began humanitarian work providing food, the tents they live in, clothing, medicine, and legal counsel. Volunteers come from all across the county to help in the relief efforts that should be provided by government agencies and humanitarian organizations but are not.They help those who live in constant fear of the cartel while they wait for the opportunity to cross the bridge and have their asylum hearings in the Tent Courts. Their hearings in these courts are via teleprompters with judges who live far away. Most do not have legal representation. Most will never be granted asylum even though they share stories of unimaginable violence in their home countries. These tent courts are what many immigration attorneys rightfully call a sham. There are now United States citizens who bear witness to these atrocities standing outside the tent courts. We will join them while we are in Brownsville.

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This witness presence in Brownsville began in early January. The purpose was to shine a light on what is happening in the courts and across the bridge in Matamoros. But since then an unexpected series of events came up and witnessing has also included spending early morning hours at the Brownsville airport watching the deportation of asylum seekers to Central America. It appears that separating children from families and putting them into child detention camps wasn’t cruel enough for this administration, so they enacted the Remain in Mexico policy. And it also appears that they didn’t consider that cruel enough, so they enacted the third country asylum rule. According to this rule, asylum seekers who did not present themselves for asylum to the first country outside of their own will be sent to a bordering country outside the United States. Families are still being separated, with some members shackled and sent to a country they do not know. Many wonder what the next cruel policy will be.

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Right now human rights abuses are occurring in the name of Homeland Security throughout our country. Asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants, migrants are living in fear of being rounded up and sent to detention camps or jail cells or deported to countries they don’t know and without their families. It has even happened right here in our home state of Maine. So we must ask ourselves: “Do we choose to see this or do we choose to look away?” I hope we are very careful with this decision, because we are living in a historic moment right now and not one that will be remembered kindly. Please reach out to your representatives. Ask them how they are responding to this. Ask them if they have been to the border to see for themselves. Ask them if they have seen the camps, the shelters, the airplanes taking shackled people away to a land where they will undoubtedly experience yet more violence. How do we and they want to be remembered?

Mary Dunn, Maine

For more information about this important issue, contact Mary [mdunn80@gmail.com or on FB as Maryellen Dunn] or read her blog. Mary accepts donations to continue her work on the border: Mary Dunn, PayPal – mdunn80@gmail.com or contact her to send a check.

More Links:

One of Trump’s Cruelest Immigration Policies, A Year On

The abandoned asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border

‘Vulnerable’ Asylum Seekers Are Supposed to Be Able to Stay in the U.S.—But Critically Ill Migrants Are Still Being Sent Back to Mexico

Tornillo will reopen as a migrant detention center, this time for up to 2,500 adults

How the Trump Administration is eliminating asylum in the U.S.

 

Who To Vote For on Super Tuesday!

Are you still undecided? Not sure who you want to vote for? You are not alone!

We are finally getting close to our chance (here in Maine) to weigh in on who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States in the November 2020 election. It seems like it has been a long slog already, with an enormous number of candidates vying for that honor. President Trump started his own campaign for reelection more or less directly following his election in 2016!

You will not be surprised to hear that over the past year I have participated in many discussions about who we want to be our champion in the upcoming struggle to save the republic from what most of us agree is an authoritarian regime [the Trump administration]. I have watched or listened to countless hours of discussion, interviews, analysis and commentary on the campaigns and watched all of the Democratic debates

Like many of you, I have found it difficult to make my choice. I hope that by sharing my thoughts on options for the primary, I will help you to arrive at a choice on March 3rd. The primary is the best chance you will have to vote for who and what you want in our government [until ranked choice voting comes along for presidential elections]. My advice is to forget about the polls and who the talking heads think has the best chance to win: vote for the person you want to be the nominee to run in November 2020!

The Washington Post has a good article about where the candidates stand on more than 85 policy questions. They have a questionnaire with 20 questions to help you decide how closely the candidates are to your values.

Tom Steyer has said that climate change is his number one concern. If elected, he would declare a state of emergency and address that immediately. He is a self-made billionaire who divested from fossil fuel investments about a decade ago, after deciding that we needed to address the impact of green house gases on the climate. He believes capitalism needs to be restrained with major structural reforms and a wealth tax.

Joe Biden was Vice President in the Obama Administration and would like to erase the Trump years and reset to 2016 and continue the Obama Administration where it left off. Before 2008, Biden was a senator for many decades (an “establishment” Democrat); his foreign policy positions are weak and he was a supporter of the banking system that led to the Great Recession. He claims credit for much progressive legislation, but he has a lot of baggage and make an easy target for the Republican attack machine. His performance in the Clarence Thomas Hearings and in the Obama Administration has many critics. He thinks he would be the best candidate to beat Trump in the general election; he is Trump’s primary target so far (even leading to articles of impeachment related to the Ukrainian phone call that led to the Senate trial). He is prone to gaffes in his speeches and has a spotty record in the primary debates so far. He connects well with people on the campaign trail and has a lot of support among people of color and among people who favor tweaking the system and returning to Obama Administration policy positions. He believes in gradual changes to improve the system.

Amy Klobuchar is a mid-western pragmatist who has a good track record in the Senate. She has won consistently in heavily Republican areas of her state. She believes in making relatively small changes to improve our lives, not overhauling the whole system to make it fair. She has not been polling very well, but she has grit.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are the progressive candidates who want to see major changes in the way our government is run. Their plans for the changes are slightly different. The emphasis in the Warren plans is on eradicating corruption and getting a fairer representation for women and the working class. Her style is intellectual and professorial; she appeals to the more economically comfortable voters. She is a “capitalist in her bones”; she believes the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes. She has been a champion for attacking greed by Wall Street corporations and would work hard to prevent another financial disaster like the one we experienced in 2008.

Bernie also emphasizes fairness, but his emphasis has a much more socialist flavor. He is the closest candidate to the policies of FDR; he believes in a role for government in certain areas like healthcare and education, where the profit motive interferes with ensuring that all recipients get the services that benefit society the most. The quality of education is reduced by not paying teachers adequately. The cost of healthcare in America is so high because of unnecessary administrative overhead and by allowing health care providers to profit from delivery of health care (a basic human right).

Bernie’s signature issue is Medicare for All, paid for by an income tax on everyone, but offering healthcare as a right to everyone. Elizabeth agrees that Medicare for All is the right approach, but wants to fund it directly by a wealth tax instead of by an income tax. Both approaches would save consumers a lot of money and would eliminate redundancy and profit for the healthcare industry. It would also result in unemployment for many clerical people and administrators; a generous plan of support and retraining of those displaced is part of the plan.

If you agree with Andrew Yang, AI will eliminate many clerical and white collar jobs soon, anyway. Andrew Yang got into the race because he saw the impact that automation and AI was having on employment in this country. Nobody else seemed to have a good strategy for coping with the tsunami of unemployment that he expects to see in the near future (2030). His signature issues of Universal Basic Income (a Freedom Dividend of $1000 per month for all adults, paid for by a value-added tax) and Human-Centered Capitalism (“humans are more important than money”) are his solution to the threats of massive unemployment, income inequality and a culture that “serves our common goals and values”.

Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are the “establishment” candidates. They believe that switching from a private insurance market to Medicare for All would alienate voters who like their current medical coverage and don’t want to be forced to switch to a government-run plan. They believe consumers should be offered the choice (to choose a “public option”). Their approach would cost taxpayers less than they pay now, but would continue to support the profit motive (which would be paid for by consumers) and the administrative overhead (which is also paid for by consumers). They all agree that the current system needs to be improved, but want to tweak it instead of replacing it.

Pete Buttigieg is a very articulate campaigner and the only openly gay candidate in the race so far. He is younger and has less experience in politics than many of the senators but he has captured the attention of the media (much as Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris did earlier in 2019). He claims that his experience as mayor of South Bend, Indiana is sufficient and will scale up to the presidency. He is having a challenge getting support from the African American community; there is commentary suggesting that he did not treat them well as mayor. He and Amy Klobuchar are in the part of the country devastated by the NAFTA trade agreement. Is he the dark horse in this race, the candidate who will surprise us all by winning in Iowa and igniting popular support? He thinks he is offering a sensible alternative to the “radical” programs advocated by Warren and Sanders.

An interesting new entrant in the race is Mike Bloomberg, billionaire and former three-term Mayor of New York City. Unlike Trump (who inherited his money), Bloomberg was a truly successful business man. He has used his money to support important causes like education, public health and the fight against climate change. When he decided to enter the race, he also decided to skip the caucuses and debates before Super Tuesday, instead launching a massive ad campaign in states that will be holding primaries on Super Tuesday and beyond. Because of the DNC rules for the debates, he will not be in any of the debates (though he has offered to debate if they change the rules).

“Whether he wins or loses the nomination, the ubiquitous television and digital ads he is running have been crafted as the opening exchange in a conversation about Trump’s failures that will continue through November.”

A few other candidates are still running (Michael Bennett, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney and Deval Patrick) but are polling far behind the leaders. Will any of them appeal to you? In the end, the only poll that matters is when the votes are counted.

This blog post is about what factors I consider when evaluating the candidates. Regardless of who wins the nomination, any of the remaining Democratic candidates would be preferable to four more years of Donald J. Trump. There are essentially five factors that I feel should be considered:

  • Issues and Proposed Remedies
  • Electability
  • Candidate Characteristics
  • Track Record
  • Working with Congress

Issues and Proposed Remedies. Is the candidate a strong supporter of the Green New Deal (plan for addressing climate change)? Is the candidate a strong supporter of Medicare for All (universal medical coverage); do they have a credible plan to pay for it that results in lower out-of-pocket costs to consumers? Does the candidate have a strategy to address growing income inequality? Does the candidate have a strategy to address the unfair burden of college debt? Does the candidate favor meaningful immigration reform and a path to citizenship for immigrants already living in America? Does the candidate have a plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure? Does the candidate have a plan to end the wars in Afghanistan and in the Middle East?

Electability. The candidate must be able to increase voter turnout by bringing new voters to the polls. A very large proportion of regular Democratic and Republican voters have already made up their minds, so the election will likely be won or lost on turnout by independents and new voters.

Candidate Characteristics. The successful Democratic nominee must be capable of raising money from regular voters (not corporations and special interests). The nominee‘s motivation must be to help middle class families and working people, not to be a steward of the status quo. The general campaign will be grueling so the candidate must be able to stand up to vicious attacks by the Republican opponent.

Track Record. The successful Democratic nominee will have either solid executive experience or legislative experience (or both) and will not have baggage that can be exploited by the Republican attack machine. Nobody is perfect, but support for policies that are out of step with the current political climate would not be helpful.

Working with Congress. Whoever becomes President will have their hands full working with a divided Congress (or with a centrist Congress); they need the skill to make very good use of the bully pulpit and move the public to put pressure on legislators to support progressive policies and plans. It will be tremendousely helpful to bring new voices into Congress that share a progressive outlook.

Final Word: Vote! Don’t stay home because you are disgusted by the process. Vote because it is one of the most important ways that you can influence who will have the power to make decisions that will affect your life and the lives of those you care about.

Don Smallidge

Waterville, Maine

Note: This is a draft/work in progress! I knew this would take a lot more time and effort but I wanted to get started (“the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step“). I welcome your help to clean up my logic and my language. Supporting links for much of my analysis is in progress and will be added to this blog post over the next few weeks.

Hilary Koch Running for State Senate

Progressives in the 16th District have wanted to see a viable alternative to State Senator Scott Cyrway for some time. Here is the announcement speech from a new voice in Waterville, Maine who decided to step up and provide meaningful representation for the 16th District. 

My name is Hilary Koch and I am running for Maine State Senate District 16.

 

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I married my college sweetheart, who was an immigrant, and we’ve been married for almost 25 years. We have two boys, Noah and Leo, and about a year ago my grandfather joined our family. I am a former teacher, but for the better part of the last 10 years, I’ve been a caregiver. When Noah was born, I learned what every parent knows – that parents would do anything to make sure their children are healthy and safe. My youngest son, Leo, has had several medical challenges throughout his life and I have been his primary caregiver. He was diagnosed with hydrocephalus when he was 6 months old and when he was 2 and a half, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. There is no cure for either of these conditions and both are life threatening. I learned quickly that not only would I need to care for his medical needs, but I would also have to learn how to fight to get the care, the medicine and the supplies to keep him alive. Having a prescription doesn’t mean access to medicine. Having a recommendation for a surgery doesn’t mean insurance will cover it. The tragedy of having medical needs in the United States is that we don’t have a system that works for us. It often works against us. And people don’t just go broke over healthcare, they die.

So over the years, I developed an attitude that if life could be better, I needed to make it happen. When the medical industry failed to produce technology to make managing type 1 diabetes better, I joined an international, open-source medical project and built my son an artificial pancreas. When Leo’s neurosurgeon said there was no hope for his debilitating headaches, I refused to accept a lifetime of pain pills, and found him a surgeon in Boston who could help. And when my grandfather faced some of the challenges unique to senior citizens, I invited him to move in with us and suggested we tackle the challenges together.

The moment that led me to tonight was when people within the type 1 community started dying because they couldn’t afford insulin and lawmakers seem helpless to make it affordable. So I’m done waiting for things to get better. If the system doesn’t work, I want to change the system. I want to help create a future in which my son’s existence is a guarantee, not a hope. And I think we owe it to Mainers to make sure everyone is taken care of. We deserve access to quality and affordable healthcare and prescription drugs. Such access needs to extend to people suffering from opioid addiction. We also need to protect Maine’s future and to do that, we must address the reality that we have an aging and a declining population. Focusing on providing quality education to all our children is a good place to start. We need to treat teachers like the professionals they are – their pay needs to reflect it and they need supplies to do their job well. Teachers also need to be allowed to teach what they are trained to teach and not be forced to teach for standardized exams. Maine educated, and trained students need incentives to put their skills to good use here in Maine. So, trade skills and job creation must be priorities. And we need to be willing to welcome all newcomers into Maine and entice them to stay as well. This means recognizing that immigrants have not only played an important part of our past but will also be integral in our future. Maine landscapes are second to none; we need to keep them that way by protecting our environment and supporting renewable energy.

Finally, I want to note that a desire to serve and a wealth of ideas aren’t enough. We need leaders who tell the truth and bring us together in ways that strengthen us. We can disagree and have passionate debates, but the public is better served when we work together rather than act like tribes drawing lines in the sand. We need to remember that good problem solving only happens when diverse ideas can flow freely. True consensus must come from everyone having their voices heard and considered, and it can’t just be “my” side. I’m committed to making sure that happens. Real leaders focus on people, not partisan politics.

So I’m done waiting for change and that’s why I am running for Senate District 16. If you’re done waiting too, please join me on this journey. I need to hear your ideas, I need volunteers, I need money, and most importantly, I need your vote.

If you want to join our team, please see our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HilaryKochForMaineSenate
Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HilaryforME

For more information about Hilary Koch’s campaign, check out her web site.

Don Smallidge
Waterville

The Second Democratic Party 2020 Presidential Primary Debate

The Democratic Party candidates running for President met in Detroit for their second debates at the end of July. If you missed the first debates, check out our coverage (including material on each of the candidates in the first debate); this post will give you some more information about the candidates (including those who were new to the stage for this debate). Some candidates have dropped out since the debates began (Rep. Eric Swalwell after the first debate; Governor Jay Inslee, former Governor John Hickenlooper and Rep. Seth Moulton after the second debate)! You can watch the entire four hours of the debates if you wish.

Remember, you don’t have to watch all the links below, but you are welcome to watch whichever ones jump out for you.

The debates ran from 9 to 11 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday nights [July 30 and July 31, 2019] with ten candidates per debate, moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon. Wikipedia gives a good summary of the candidates that qualified for the second debate. For some MMPF reactions to the debates, see the bottom of this blog post.

Highlights : if you are in a big hurry – CNN – 07/31/2019 [4:57]

Tuesday Night – July 30, 2019 – Second Debate – CNN: full video [5 videos – 150 mins.]

The lineup for Tuesday night’s debate (see our first debate coverage for links about each candidate):

  • Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Governor Steve Bullock
  • John Delaney
  • Former Governor John Hickenlooper
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Rep. Tim Ryan

Wednesday Night – July 31, 2019 – Second Debate – CNN: full video [5 videos – 150 mins.]

The lineup for Wednesday night’s debate (see our first debate coverage for links about each candidate):

  • Former Vice-President Joe Biden
  • Senator Kamala Harris
  • Senator Cory Booker
  • Andrew Yang
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • Senator Michael Bennet
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Julián Castro
  • Senator Kirsten Gillebrand
  • Governor Jay Inslee

REACTION TO DEBATES:

Impeachment Proceedings NOW!

“THOSE WHO FAIL TO LEARN FROM HISTORY ARE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT”
– Winston Churchill in 1948 before the House of Commons [paraphrase of an earlier quote from philosopher George Santayana]

I was a real nerd in the ninth grade. One of the shortest and scrawniest kids in the class, I was no match for Gary Moore and Brian VandeBogard whose testosterone spurt had long since kicked in to help these taller tormentors build mature physiques with well-developed muscles. Their modus operandi was to come up behind me and deliver a zinger punch to the top of my head. Not only were they menacing to me (it was not known back then that each hit could have caused a dangerous concussion), it just plain hurt and felt humiliating.

It went on for a while. I waited for my opportunity. It came one day when the science teacher was late to class, as was his wont. In front of the whole class I came up to Moore’s desk intoning “I’ll have less and less of Moore and Moore” and delivered the same sort of sucker punch to the top of his head. A few seconds later when the science teacher arrived the class was in hubbub. There would be no further harassment, not in gym or any other class, nor in the halls.

That day I learned how to deal with bullies. If my form of social embarrassment
hadn’t succeeded I would have gone on to fight them. Either would have whipped my butt, but I knew then and I know now that you cannot run away from bullies.
If you act afraid of them they just get worse. You must confront them, even if it requires taking a risk.

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And so I come to the question of impeachment of Donald Trump, a bully if ever there were one. At Oberlin College I majored in history, specializing in German history; my seminar paper explored the election of 1932, Hitler’s tactics that year and how he garnered the support that he did. The parallels between the Trump Administration and the early years of Hitler’s Third Reich are uncannily similar. The horrors of Nazism did not unfold all at once. It would be almost six years between Hitler’s ascension to power and Kristallnacht. Like Trump, Hitler never received a majority of the votes. In fact, his popularity in 1932 and 1933 was declining (just as voters administered Trump’s party a real defeat in the 2018 elections). Yet, with the complicit accommodation of the German right wing that believed they could control him, Hitler was able to consolidate his power. First they were unwilling, and later they were unable to stop him. If that sounds like the latter-day Republican Party, it should. And as time went on, Hitler emboldened his tactics, continually ratcheting up the ante until he did the unthinkable. Trump’s doubling down response to criticism is reminiscent. If you’d like further particulars I’m sure Don Smallidge would be willing to circulate my class notes that I shared with him from Professor Robert Neil’s Modern German history class in the late sixties.

Like climate change, Trump is a ticking time bomb. Like Hitler in 1933-1936 as he
consolidated power, Trump is systematically demolishing core functions of
government, from the foreign service and labor and education departments to our national parks, packing one of the last remaining holdouts against his absolute rule, the federal courts, with right-wing ideologues, verbally harassing and pressuring another one, the Federal Reserve, and unleashing ICE agents, his counterpart to the Nazi SS. As he ups the ante of intimidation against those he opposes, his playbook is right out of Hitler and Goebbels. They marginalized Jews and communists; he marginalizes people of color and immigrants. The longer his power goes unchecked, the more damage he does, the more dangerous the social and the real climate becomes for us all.

For this reason alone Democrats must institute impeachment proceedings NOW. Bullies must be confronted with any available tactic. History has shown from the two most recent impeachments that the process of hearing and considering evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors, in and of itself, and regardless of the outcome, will preoccupy Trump, hinder his agenda, limit his ability to do further damage, and render him relatively ineffectual (just as it did Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton).

I am mindful of the argument put forth by Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and others that Democrats in the House were elected to pass legislation addressing such social needs as health care, social security, voting and election security, climate change, declining infrastructure. Pelosi, you’ve made your point. Your charges have passed some excellent bills only to have them stonewalled by mortician Mitch McConnell in the Senate where legislation goes to die. As long as Trump is in the White House and his Republican lackeys control the Senate, almost no significant House initiatives will ever become law. Democrats can try to legislate from now till Kingdom Come under these circumstances, and nothing will change. The voters get it. Do you? Time to move on to address new challenges. The elephant in the room (no pun intended) is impeachment. Yes, it is inconvenient, divisive and potentially risky. But it is specious to argue that passing more futile phantom legislation should take precedence over Congress’ constitutional duty to impeach.

6 john darkow

Given the Republicans’ proven success at voter suppression and gerrymandering in many key states, the handicap of an electoral college that gave Trump 30 states and 74 more electoral votes than Clinton even though she had a 2.09% advantage in the popular vote, with Trump’s popularity polling now well into the 40s, is it wise to stand pat and put all your faith at one last shot in the 2020 election? Which is more risky? To continue to dither while the elephant grows stronger and does more damage or to take the available opportunity now potentially to bring him down or at least damage him severely?

Constitutional duty to impeach? YES, indeed. Much has been made by the media of Mueller’s ineffectual moments in the Congressional hearing, including ridiculous claims that he disappointed Democrats by offering nothing significant to further the likelihood of impeachment. But as I looked more closely four things stood out.

  • First, Mueller was understandably reluctant to testify. As a prosecutor he had no interest or desire in being put on the big political stage and he had made that abundantly clear in advance.
  • Second, his age, 74. As a 73-year old, I sympathize. In that circumstance, I’d hesitate before answering, want to be sure I did not fall into any of the many traps prepared by either side, and be sparing and careful in my responses.
  • Third, and most important, Mueller was a lifelong Republican. He clearly would have been ashamed and even appalled by the findings of his investigation and what they showed about how his party and its leader conducted themselves. Thus, his brief answers looked to me like ashamed admissions, yet his comparable eloquence and passion in addressing Russia’s interference in our elections, something Trump has ridiculed and refused to acknowledge, looked like something else: a clear and impassioned warning.
  • Fourth, what Mueller did say is far more than enough to justify impeachment hearings.

In response to questioning by House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): on obstruction of justice, “The finding indicates that the President was not exonerated for the act he allegedly committed.” In response to questioning by Ted Deutsch (D-Fla):

Deutsch: “You found evidence, as you lay out in your report, that the President wanted to fire you because you were investigating him for obstruction of justice. Isn’t that correct?”
Mueller: “That’s what it says in the report. Yes. And I stand by the report.”

In response to other questioning: “It would be ‘generally’ fair to say the President’s written answers to investigators’ questions were not entirely truthful or complete.” And “to call the President’s remarks about the stolen material (Wikileaks’ publication of Democratic emails) ‘problematic’ would be ‘an understatement.’ As Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Wisc) summed up, “Mueller gave us all the evidence necessary to hold the President accountable. Now it’s up to Congress to act.”

The evidence against Trump is no less damning than was that against Richard Nixon. What has changed over the last 55 years is that by Nazi-like tactics of intimidation and fear, Trump has immobilized any serious Republican opposition and rendered even many Democrats, especially the corporate mainstream, spineless. Where is the equivalent of Senator Robert Byrd, the unsung hero of Watergate, when we need him?

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Why did I study German history in the late sixties when it was more hip to focus on Russia or China? Perhaps because my parents had never told me about the Holocaust. I was 11 years old when I first learned about it from my sixth grade teacher. Horrified and incredulous, I came home and confronted my parents, “Can this possibly be true?” And they said it was. Maybe they were simply motivated by a desire to shield me from unpleasant truths about the world for as long as possible as were many fifties parents. Or maybe there was a bit of guilt as both abandoned Judaism, my mother having quarreled with her orthodox Jewish father and become a communist in the 1930s. I can imagine just how horrified they were when Hitler and Stalin signed the Non-Aggression Pact in 1939 that made World War II inevitable. In any case I became pre-occupied with how could such an advanced and cultured country like Germany have committed such atrocities? and read both Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Junior High. Age-old questions these, and yet I little dreamed in the late 1960s when I took Professor Neil’s class that they would ever become so relevant to my own country as they are now. As we in America flirt with re-enacting the same horrors as Germany, the enabling Republicans and spineless Democratic establishment in the role of the good Germans who looked the other way, I struggle with how we can yet turn back from this precipice.

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Step 1 is to stop under-estimating the enemy. I said many times in our Saturday morning Waterville gatherings how smart Trump is. Maybe not smart in the intellectual sense of comprehending a complex issue, but street smart in the sense of knowing how to use fear and ridicule to manipulate people and get what he wants.

Step 2 is to call it what it is. Kudos to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for calling the ICE camps what they are: concentration camps. Far from disrespecting Jews with this comparison, she, though not Jewish, was actually being a good Jew, invoking the Jewish vow after experiencing the Holocaust of “Never Again!” In the face of heavy criticism of her, Jewish Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who understood exactly what she was doing, staunchly defended her. Kudos to all those calling out the fascists, racists, nativists and misogynists for what they are.

Step 3 is to stop running away from the bully and to confront him. Resist in any way you can. Take action. What did you do today to resist? I completed this piece and I contacted Congressman Jared Golden urging him to vote to open impeachment proceedings. Be brave. The alternative is unthinkable.

Step 4 is to think strategically and get ready to take more risks for what you believe. Consider what ifs and keep fallback options. We don’t know yet what the nature of these risks will be or where we are heading as a nation. There could be fascist dictatorship, more and larger foreign wars, civil war, secession, climate disasters, revolution, continued uneasy stand-off, or more likely, some combination of the above. For this the old Boy Scout model “Be Prepared” looks pretty good, even if the workings of that organization left much to be desired. What strange and scary times we live in! Maybe our first act of serious resistance should be to topple the Statue of Liberty until our country again believes and acts on what it stands for. Topple Trump or topple the Statue of Liberty; we can’t have it both ways!

CR Lawn
Searsport, Maine

The First Democratic Party 2020 Presidential Primary Debate

In case you missed it (or prefer to wait until after the primary voters have made their choice), the very large field of Democratic Party candidates running for President had their first chance to joust with each other at the end of June. Whether you watched them or not (or just got to see snippets on the news), this blog post will give you a chance to look a bit further at the candidates (including those who were not represented on stage). Each candidate has announced their intention to run, most have set up web sites to satisfy your curiosity about them [or make donations to their campaign] and many of them have been interviewed or commented upon; check out the links for the candidates you want to know more about. You can even watch the entire four hours of the debates if you wish.

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The debates ran from 9 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday nights [June 26 and June 27, 2019] with ten candidates per debate, “moderated by Today anchor Savannah Guthrie, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart.” Rolling Stone and Vox gave good teasers about what to expect and how important this first debate would be in setting expectations for the campaigning to come in the next seven months before the Iowa caucuses. For some MMPF reactions to the debates, see the bottom of this blog post.

Executive Summary – if you are in a big hurry
4 Hours of the Democratic Debates in 5 Minutes – Best Moments – Now This – 06/28/2019 [4:57]

 

Wednesday Night – June 26, 2019 – First Debate – NBC News: full video [2:35:59]

The lineup for Wednesday night’s debate (including links for each candidate):

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney

Thursday Night – June 27, 2019 – Second Debate – NBC News: full video [2:35:51]

The lineup for Thursday night’s debate (including links for each candidate):

Author and activist Marianne Williamson

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet

California Rep. Eric Swalwell

Not Qualified for the Debates (including links for each candidate):

Montana Governor Steve Bullock

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA)

Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam

former Alaska senator Mike Gravel

REACTION TO DEBATES:

Our Two Cents (Summary of MMPF Saturday Conversations):

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In our regular Saturday morning meeting of the Mid-Maine Progressive Forum in Waterville we were more or less in agreement that Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker stood out. We all felt that Joe Biden got beat up pretty bad (and none of us want to see him stay in the race); he has a tough record to defend and has made a lot of mistakes since he announced his candidacy. Bernie sounded like an angry curmudgeon and didn’t shine in this format, as he did in the one-on-one format of the 2016 campaign. We all support most or all of his agenda, but felt that his demeanor came across poorly; and he should upgrade his rhetoric; we can all recite his phrases from memory at this point! Exhorting us all the “join the revolution” doesn’t make as much sense after he has successfully aroused an army of supporters for his ideas (but not necessarily for another run as the Democratic Party’s candidate). We all felt that he has not offered a good explanation for how we could transition from private insurance to the Medicare-for-All plan. The other candidates have also not explained how we could fund a public option; this will hopefully be discussed in future debates.

Shouting matches, highlight reels, candidate zingers: Our presidential debates are becoming more like sports events with each passing election cycle, says Bob Bordone, a professor at Harvard Law School. It’s time for something else.
What Would A Better Format For The Presidential Debates Look Like? – NBC News – Think Opinion – 06/25/2019

We all felt the debate format itself was deficient, resulting in the candidates interrupting and shouting over each other to make maximum use of the small amount of air time available. One of us suggested that Marianne Williamson (who was largely ignored by the “moderators”) should have marched out from behind the podium to present some of her ideas. If you were wondering how the Democratic National Committee came up with the format, check out Trevor Noah’s video: Staging the Democratic Primary Debate: The Thrilling Backstory. See the Seth MacFarlane and Think Opinion links above for some sensible suggestions about alternatives to the debate format.

There are many more articles and videos out there about each of the candidates and plenty of commentary on the race and polling, etc. We will share some of them in the next newsletter. Meanwhile, it should take you a few hours to work through the links above!

Don Smallidge

Waterville

Beware the Ides of March!

I decided to take advantage of a cold I caught recently and spent even more time on the internet than usual. As you might have noticed by now, I have allowed the MMPF Facebook page to go out to pasture (to be buried actually). We didn’t have a lot of avid followers [no offense intended to those of you who did follow us on Facebook] and we didn’t update the content often enough to make it worth checking. I did, however, keep my own personal Facebook page alive and every once in a while I run across extremely important material that I feel is worth sharing with the rest of you Progressives out there.

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We’ve now been warned by the world’s leading climate scientists that we have just twelve years to limit climate catastrophe. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put the world on notice that going from a 1.5° to 2.0° C rise in temperature above preindustrial levels would have disastrous consequences across the board, with unprecedented flooding, drought, ocean devastation, and famine.

Patterns of Meaning

Greta Thunberg is a young student activist in Sweden who attracted international attention when she stopped attending school in August 2018 to sit outside the Swedish Parliament to protest inaction on climate change.

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In this passionate call to action, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg explains why, in August 2018, she walked out of school and organized a strike to raise awareness of global warming, protesting outside the Swedish parliament and grabbing the world’s attention. “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions,” Thunberg says. “All we have to do is to wake up and change.”

“In November 2018, she spoke at TEDxStockholm, in December she addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference and in January 2019 she was invited to talk to the World Economic Forum at Davos.” – Wikipedia

Recently she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. In her own words: “What you do or don’t do, right now, will affect my entire life, and the lives of my children and grandchildren. Maybe they’ll ask why you did nothing, and why those who knew and could speak out, didn’t.”

We Don’t Have Time are currently building the world’s largest social media network for climate action. Together we can solve the climate crisis. But we are running out of time.” – Greta Thunberg: “Sweden is not a Role Model”

My advice: follow the links above and learn more about this compelling argument for doing something about climate change. Do it now.

WhatOilRefineriesDo

Coinidentally, I ran across an informational video by Geo History which uses an animated map to give a summary of the modern history of petroleum until the present day. The image above shows how the oil refineries convert crude oil into various uses (an extremely large part of modern economic activity, such as transportation, clothing, pharmaceuticals, heating oil and cosmetics). When we talk about “getting off of fossil fuels” and switching to renewables, this is what we are talking about! How can we make all these things and continue to function “normally”? Greta’s point, of course, is that we can’t and we shouldn’t.

There is some good news out there, such as attempts in China to significantly reduce the unnecessary pollution caused by urban sprawl and automobile exhaust. Peter Calthorpe produced a very interesting informational video: Seven Principles for Building Better Cities.

Meanwhile (in Waterville, Maine), we are still fighting over whether to ban plastic bags, whether to allow firearms in City Council meetings and whether or not to allow Colby students to vote in Waterville. Even after the Maine Supreme Court dismissed the case after those who brought the case to court “notified the Clerk of Court that they no longer wished to pursue the issue before the state’s highest court.”

If Greta and the scientists are right, most of the issues we argue about here in Waterville will be moot in about 12 years. But there will be plenty of parking downtown!

Don Smallidge

Waterville

 

 

Reasons for Impeachment

This Peter Konieczko essay was posted on 02/25/2019.

When someone suggests impeachment, the usual answer is: Wait for the Mueller Report, as if the Mueller Report is the only impeachment game in town. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While the Mueller probe grinds to a conclusion, Donald Trump commits acts that are likely impeachable. First, Trump profits directly from the office, in probable violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. Customers at the Trump International Hotel are often foreign and domestic political leaders. Second, Quid Pro Quo arrangements like the one between Jared Kushner and the Saudis should not be tolerated. Trump is exempt from conflict of interest laws, but abuse should have consequences.

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Third, Congress, not Trump, sets funding limits, according to the Constitution. Trump’s recourse to Congress is the veto. Donald Trump’s declaration of a National Emergency is really an attempt to go around Congress’s funding authority. Trump essentially admitted as much when he said, “I didn’t need to do this,” referring to his Declaration. Trump’s declaration may be legal, but his motives arguably violate the Constitution.

Congress is responsible for impeaching the President. Impeachment is Congress’s check against the President. The Veto is the President’s check against Congress. When the President commits a high crime or misdemeanor, he can be impeached. The big question is the range and scope of high crimes and misdemeanors. Starting with Nixon, high crimes have focused mostly on real crimes. Therefore, everyone waits for Mueller.

While we wait for the investigators, Trump continues to push the Presidential power envelop. If impeachment is a true check against Presidential excess, then high crimes ought to be broader than just felonies. They should address the question of Constitutional authority and power as well.

Peter Konieczko

South Portland

Restarting Washington

This Peter Konieczko essay was posted on 01/13/2019.

We are in a wild experiment of Donald Trump’s assertion, “I alone can fix it.” The experiment includes the notion, “My party alone can fix it.” So far, this experiment has led to an Obamacare replacement fiasco, an unpopular tax cut, disastrous immigration decisions, and now an endless shutdown over a wall that no one can describe and experts say won’t work.

Too much time is being spent on placing blame for the shutdown, defending whether or not the wall is the right tool, and trying to guess Trump’s next move. Forget about whether the wall is the right approach for immigration. We should be asking: Is a shutdown the right approach for making legislation?

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Shutdowns happen, but a shutdown used to browbeat the House of Representatives into abandoning its Constitutional duty to authorize funding may violate the Constitution or at least violate its spirit. Using shutdowns to make laws is the wrong approach. If Speaker Pelosi caves on this, then she should consider resigning as Speaker.

The right approach for legislation is to use normal legislative procedures found in regular order as championed by the late Senator John McCain, but there is a problem. When Trump bypassed regular order, he put Pelosi and himself in a stalemate position where neither side will budge.

With a stalled process, a completely different approach may be needed. The kickstart that will preserve our Institutions is an impeachment process against Trump for his attempt to override Congress by shutting down government thereby destabilizing the U.S. economy and threatening the general welfare. If the threat of impeachment doesn’t work, then the actual impeachment will. If the Republicans don’t cooperate with Pelosi, they too should resign.

It is time for the politicians in Washington to remember why they are there.

Peter Konieczko

South Portland