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Investigate before acting

Fortunately, for him and his political confreres, Brett Kavanaugh is not a Catholic priest.

Statically speaking, if he were, the odds are strong against his ever sitting on the Supreme Court bench. It’s also very likely he would have to resign or be terminated as a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It’s certain, however, that he would now find himself the subject of a no-stone-unturned investigation.

“[L]et’s presume that the church would apply to a case like Kavanaugh[’s] the same procedures that it would apply to a priest accused of sexually assaulting a minor while intoxicated. With such a public accusation, his bishop would be a fool to simply say he believes his priest and close the case without an investigation, let alone promote him to higher office the following week,” Thomas Reese writes in National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper independently owned, published and edited since 1964 by laypersons outside the authority of the Catholic Church.

“My guess is that the accusation by Christine Blasey Ford would be found sufficiently credible to call for a full investigation and the temporary suspension of the priest. The investigation would attempt to get to the facts of the situation.”

Judge Kavanaugh has denied the charges unequivocally.

We digress briefly to note that Fr. Reese is a Jesuit priest. The Jesuit order runs Georgetown Preparatory School from which Judge Kavanaugh graduated. Ford went to a nearby all-girls academy.  The assault, she alleges, occurred while they were in high school.

Contrast the faux bishop to whom Fr. Reese refers with real-life authorities in roughly comparable positions in the Kavanaugh matter. Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, declared flatly the other day, “In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the U.S. Supreme Court. We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.” And Donald Trump, President of the United States, said, in effect, that he had doubts about Dr. Ford’s charges and, even if true, they are old and not important. The White House “fully supports Judge Kavanaugh,” according to communications director Bill Shine, who, incidentally, lost his job as a top executive at Fox News over his handling of sexual misconduct allegations there, subsequently to become a top advisor to the President.

There’s going to be a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Unless at least a few Republicans break ranks and take seriously their obligation to maintain the Supreme Court as an objective institution preserving America’s rule of law, the committee will recommend confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh and the full Senate will follow suit.

It’s probably too much to hope that senators of both parties will consider the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”, a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. If such allegations are found to be true, guilty priests are no longer permitted to publicly perform their priestly functions and, in egregious cases, have their ordinations revoked. 

We agree with Fr. Reese when he writes: “In the past, the bishops were no model for dealing with abuse, but today the church has procedures for dealing with accusations of abuse. The U.S. Senate should not make the same mistakes the church did. The accusations against [Judge] Kavanaugh should be investigated before his nomination moves forward.


Trump should not be in the White House

Donald Trump is not fit to be President of the United States.

When he was seeking the Republican nomination and then running for election in 2016, the most frequently voiced concern was that he didn’t have the necessary temperament and qualifications to function as the top executive in the federal government and could be dangerous in the role of commander-in-chief of the U.S. military. It has been amply demonstrated that both assessments are correct.

Not yet two years into his term of office it’s clear by any measure that Mr. Trump is responsible for what is far-and-away the most corrupt presidency in our history. He has demeaned his office, disparaged several of our basic institutions and personally ridiculed dedicated men and women who daily serve the nation and its people in responsible positions. He has even questioned such concepts as rule of law and the right to due process. He is, unquestionably, a pathological liar and a racist bigot.  

We find it particularly unfathomable that the President has all but destroyed the integrity of the Republican Party. Members of Congress with records of long and honorable service shirk their constitutional obligations and stand silent in the face of developments they surely must recognize as evil. Fear of political consequences arising from being the next victim of an irresponsible early-morning ‘tweet’, they opt for putting personal considerations far ahead of the national interest.

It's ironic that Axios, a publisher of Internet newsletters, identified as the source of a recent article “a spreadsheet [that has] circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill – including at least one leadership office.” That document catalogs “more than 100” formal requests for congressional investigations made by Democrat senators and representatives. The point being made is that Republican congresspersons should prepare for an onslaught of probes into doings of the President and his administration should Democrats take control of one or both chambers as a result of mid-term election in November.

The list also can be taken as a sort of indictment. We have no doubt that most of those investigations would uncover a motherlode of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ that the Constitution requires be the basis for presidential impeachment. We likewise would expect them to give rise to multiple felonious criminal charges against many individuals at all levels – up to and including the top – of the House of Trump.

We now have hard-to-refute testimony about the sorry condition of the Trump White House. Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-available book, Fear: Trump in the White House, based on painstaking primary research by one of the country’s most highly regarded  journalists, details such bizarre happenings as senior staff members removing papers from the President’s desk to prevent his seeing and acting irrationally upon them. Corroborating Woodward’s work is an as-yet-unidentified senior administration official or staff member who, in a New York Times opinion piece, describes an organized internal effort to protect the national interest from what he or she strongly suggest is a deranged person with power and authority far beyond his ability to exercise them in a rational way.



Are we really the first state ?


We’re about to commit heresy – big time:

Delaware is NOT the first state.

It’s with a heaping dose of trepidation that a native son dares take issue with the foremost bit of braggadocio emanating from our little corner of the world. The claim, after all, is emblazoned on our official motor vehicle license plates and cited publicly and privately countless times in a wide range of circumstances. In 2002 the General Assembly embedded it in the code of state laws as our “official nickname.”

To be sure, the law justifies itself as “appropriate, dignified and historically accurate to reference Delaware's singular and important step in being the first state to ratify our United States Constitution.” 

That’s not in dispute. On December 7, 1787, 30 elected delegates – 10 from each county – met in Golden Fleece Tavern on The Green in Dover and voted unanimously to ratify the Constitution adopted on September 17, 1787, by a convention in Philadelphia. Delaware ratified the document five days before Pennsylvania and 11 days before New Jersey.

It can be argued that Delaware ratified a proposed constitution. The basic law of the land did not come into effect until the ninth state – New Hampshire on July 21, 1788 – ratified it.

Our heretical belief, however, sidesteps that issue. It rests, instead, on the actual wording of the state law: “The official nickname of the State is ‘The First State’." That’s unquestionably a declarative sentence with no clarifying reference to ratification or anything else. 

It’s a false statement. By then states had had official legal existence for 11 years. Delaware wasn’t the first, but one of the original 13. 

Go back to 1776. There’s a surprising amount of confusion about the chronology of events in that year. For starters, a large majority of Americans consider July 4 to have been America’s ‘birthday’. Almost as many believe that to have been the date the Declaration of Independence was signed. Both are incorrect.

Independence came about on July 2 when delegates at the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the Resolution for Independence offered by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia which held “That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

It was to vote in favor of the resolution that congressional delegate Caesar Rodney of Delaware rode overnight from Dover to Philadelphia. The next day John Adams famously wrote, with reference to July 2, to his wife in Braintree Massachusetts: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

On July 4 the congress approved a Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson putting forth the reasons for voting independence. No one except presiding officer John Hancock signed the document that day. Beginning on August 2 and continuing for several weeks after, 56 delegates – some of whom weren’t present when Lee’s resolution was voted – signed the official printed ‘true copy’ of the document. 

A date almost entirely lost in the Independence saga is September 9, 1776. It was then that the congress, which continued meeting, approved a resolution stating that the 13 former British colonies which had become independent were no longer 'united colonies' but henceforth would be “The United States of America.”

August 11, 2018

Trump's anti-media rhetoric is dangerous

 Juxtaposition of two news accounts this week significantly elevated the danger level of the Trump administration.  

At a political rally in Wilkes Barre, Pa., the President added a new element to his rants about the news media. It’s no longer “fake news” but now it’s “fake disgusting news.” [emphasis added]

Meanwhile, the running tabulation of the number of his public lies, distortions and misleading statements – researched and reported by the Washington Post – reached a new high. On July 5, believed to be his most untruthful day since taking office, 76% of the 98 supposedly factual statements he made at a rally in Great Falls, Mont., were false, misleading or unsupported by evidence. He’s now spewing such demagoguery at an average of 16 statements a day, double what it was at the beginning of this year.

Every public figure at one time or another takes issue with the accuracy of press coverage he or she receives. Claims of being misquoted are the most common complaints. Donald Trump, however, has very seldom voiced such complaints because most of what is attributed to him is said in public view and much of it is made public in statements he authors on his social media Twitter account. That suggests that he considers “fake” anything broadcast or published that is critical – or even not specifically laudatory – of himself. Given that anything and everything a president says or does is by definition news, his apparently innate inability to employ the truth means that he himself is the nation’s most frequent purveyor of news that is actually false.

When New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger visited the White House – at the President’s request – last month Mr. Trump broke the agreement he initiated that the session be a private one and said on Twitter that he and Mr. Sulzberger had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”

Needless to say, Mr. Sulzberger had a starkly different view of the proceedings. In a statement published in the newspaper he said he raised his concerns about the President’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.” It is, the statement continued, “not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.” He said he warned the President that his attacks were “putting lives at risk” and “undermining the democratic ideals of our nation.”

That theme has since been echoed by a broad spectrum of people qualified to comment. The crowd verbally attacked Cable News Network reporter Jim Acosta shortly before Trump began a rally in Tampa, Fla. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to respond to Mr. Acosta’s request that she express her opinion on President Trump’s claim that the media is “an enemy of the people.” Later that day the President’s daughter and White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump wasn’t so reticent. “I’ve certainly received my fair share of reporting on me personally that I know not to be fully accurate, so I have some sensitivity around why people have concerns and gripe, especially when they’re sort of targeted,” she said. “But no, I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people.” 


Immigrant children debacle isn’t over

We’re definitely not inclined to tag the horrendous story of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border with a happy ending. There have been some reunions, but you can believe the Trump administration’s claim to have met the federal court deadline for returning children to their parents only if you’re so inured as to confuse a through-the-looking-glass-world with reality.

“The only deadline they are meeting is the one they have set for themselves,” said Lee Gelernt, lead counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit challenging the family separations. “The government should not be getting applause for cleaning up their own mess, but, moreover, they’re still not meeting the deadline for all the families.” The expedient of dividing the victims into ‘eligible’ and ‘ineligible’ categories is blatantly unacceptable. 

No matter how the numbers are sliced and diced, they add up to negative sums. There are hundreds – very possibly a thousand or more – children scattered among privately-operated childcare facilities around the country with no prospect of being restored to their families in the foreseeable future. 

Among the more shocking figures we’ve heard is the suspiciously definitive 431 parents deported to unspecified destinations in Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua without their children. Kevin Appleby, senior director for international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies, called it astonishing that the government would deport parents whose children are currently in custody. There also is evidence that some parents were coerced into signing waivers for their deportation. And the media has begun to uncover instances of physical abuse and neglect. 

At the minimum Judge Dana M. Sabraw, who set the restoration deadline, will now require a thorough independent audit of the various counts the government has provided to his court. Also very much in order is a bipartisan congressional investigation of the entire process from implementation of the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy though detention of both adults and children to reunification – whether or not full reunification is eventually accomplished – with public hearings at appropriate venues in California, Arizona and Texas as well as in Washington. 

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the government of the United States – our government – has committed a crime against humanity. If so, it’s essential that we citizens receive an honest account of what happened, who is responsible and what consequences they should be made to bear.


Summit gets more nyets than dahs

The first significant opinion poll is out and it shows that Americans have reacted negatively by a large margin to President Donald Trump’s conduct last week at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the public throughout the country is notably more supportive of the President than are public figures, including Congress members of both political parties, in Washington.

The Washington Post-A.B.C. News poll, conducted between last Wednesday and Friday, found that 33% of the respondents approve of how the President handled the meeting while 50% disapprove. The remaining 17% had no opinion either way.  Generally speaking, his Helsinki approval rating is well below that of his presidency as a whole – currently in the low 40[%]s.

Asked about President Trump’s appearing to side with President Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies at the news conference after their two-and-a-half-hour private conversation, 40% felt that President Trump went “too far” in supporting President Putin while 35% said he was “about right” in his level of support. Surprisingly, another 15% said he did not go “far enough.” Again, 10% offered no opinion.

As would be expected, respondents who identified themselves as Republicans were by far more favorable to the President than self-identified Democrats and independents.


The Fox is in the henhouse

When country folk want to say something is amiss and bad things are happening they say a fox has gotten in among the egg-laying hens. It’s easy for anyone, rural or urban, to understand what that means. In case you hadn’t noticed, Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive, is now ensconsed in the White House. He’s officially an assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, the fourth person to have the job since the inauguration 18 month ago. This one, however, is more likely to stay for more than a little while.

Industry watchers credit Mr. Shine with having created the look and feel of Fox’s programming. Although journalists consider the network a poor exemplar of the profession, ratings indicate its audiences are larger than those of its cable news competitors. That is ascribed mostly to its consistently ultraconservative content. Mr. Shine also has been linked to charges of sexual harassment in the Fox organization. While he hasn’t been publicly accused of harassment himself, he has been accused in several civil lawsuits of covering up misconduct by Roger Ailes, founding chairman of Fox News and long-time friend of President Trump. Mr. Ailes died in 2017.

The public is not likely to see or hear much about Mr. Shine in his new capacity. He much prefers a behind-the-camera role. He was, for instance, in the presidential entourage at the Helsinki summit, but stayed well out of the spotlight. Back in Washington his influence will likely be reflected in subtle changes in the way press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders goes about speaking for the President. There’s likely to be fewer times she’s caught in blatant lies and less backtracking. That’s not to say the President will be consistent in his views, but he’s likely to accept Mr. Shine’s advice on how to initially present them and mitigate damage from any abrupt changes that follow.

The symbiotic relationship between Mr. Trump and Fox News goes back long before his presidency and candidacy. The network first embraced him as an outspoken celebrity businessman – The Donald. Fox and its chairman, Rupert Murdoch, also a long-time friend of Mr. Trump, laid the groundwork for his political career by giving him a regular commentary spot on the morning 'Fox & Friends' program in 2011. Mr. Trump commented on many subjects, but the one that rose to the top was his claim President Barack Obama was born in Nigeria and therefore constitutionally ineligible to be president. Depending upon how you judge his sincerity, President Trump may have later acknowledged that wasn’t so – or possibly wasn’t so – or maybe it was.

The Trump-Fox connection extends beyond friendship and flattery to outright advocacy. The network supports the President with a nightly three-hour block of aggressive prime time punditry, which has amplified his unfounded claims and given ballast to his attacks on the mainstream news media as “fake” and the “enemy of the American people.” Fox News hosts take every possible approach to deflect from and deny realities which might displease the President or adversely affect his popularity. Commentators like Sean Hannity both parrot and help shape the president’s narratives. Mr. Hannity has denounced the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of a “deep state” conspiracy carried out by a “crime family.” Laura Ingraham recently described the facilities holding children separated from their migrant parents as “essentially summer camps.” 

That works because Fox News is pointed toward a viewing community which largely mirrors President Trump's political base. Psychologically, the more often one hears something with which they tend to agree the more likely they are to be convinced it’s unquestionably  true. Therein lies the danger to our democracy from having a Fox in the White House.


What could be done about Trump’s trip?

President Donald Trump returned from his trip to Europe to a maelstrom of criticism of his performances on the world stage. To the best of our knowledge there hasn’t been a legitimate opinion poll published yet, but it’s hard to believe there is anything but overwhelming disapproval of his conduct by Americans at least minimally informed about what happened.  As a people, we are both embarrassed and chagrinned. And well we should be.

President Trump started by denigrating the North Atlantic Treaty organization which has protected western Europe from Soviet/Russian aggression since soon after World War Two. Ironically, the only time the treaty’s mutual defense clause has been invoked was September 11, 2001, after the United States was attacked by terrorists. Nato came to our aid. Mr.Trump then went on to disparage the democratically elected leaders of two of our most important friends and allies, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. 

Next came the private meeting and sham press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.  We don’t know what was discussed behind closed doors and can only pray that President Trump was not as careless about our national interests as he has been about truth, ethics and integrity. Every possible step to get a full and accurate account must be taken. So far, we’ve had only a couple of conflicting comments from the president. 

For the first time in several years – going back at least four national administrations – there has been genuine bipartisan consensus on a highly important matter. Men and women in the public eye in various capacities have decried President Trump’s words and actions. Senator and Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have been unstinting in their condemnations.  Could it actually be that they and their congressional colleagues agree the situation demands more than badmouthing? If so, Congress should take action before the furor dissipates.

In addition to the results of free election, the Constitution provides two vehicles to remove a president demonstratably unfit to hold the office.  Some have suggested President Trump may have committed treason.  At the moment, that appears to be a gross exaggeration.  A more realistic judgment is that he has openly committed the “high crimes and misdemeanors” the Constitution requires as cause for impeachment. The 25th Amendment provides a process for replacement in the event of physical disability.  It can be construed as equally applicable to mental impairment.  Neither remedy, we acknowledge, is viable at this time in the present political milieu. 

We suggest consideration of a less drastic, but potentially provocative, measure – a joint resolution passed by both houses of Congress declaring it to be the sense of the Congress that the president resign his office. Parliamentary governments have an equivalent, a vote of no confidence in the prime minister and his/her cabinet. In those cases it's binding; our suggestion is to enact a non-binding resolution the acceptance, or more likely, non-acceptance of which would stimulate voter response in the 2020 election. 

If that is still too much to expect from a divided legislature, consider congressional censure. Censure is a formal condemnation of an individual whose actions run counter to acceptable standards for individual behavior. President Trump, we believe, qualifies in that regard and there is precedent.  In 1834, while under Whig control, the Senate censured Democratic President Andrew Jackson for withholding documents relating to his actions in defunding the Bank of the United States.  Censure motions – albeit unsuccessful – have been introduced pertaining to Presidents John Adams, John Tyler, James Knox Polk, Bill Clinton, and, believe it or not, Abraham Lincoln.  The latter was for allowing an elected member of the House of Representatives to also hold an army commission.  Actually, there have been two proposed censures of President Trump -- for his comments that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in the rally last summer in Charlottesville, Va., and for his racist comments about immigrants from Haiti and some African countries.

If they are still pending, enactment of an updated version would be a good start. If not, we believe, there should be congress members of both parties sufficiently incensed to put country ahead of politics.


Who wooda thunk it?

Here we are at the major baseball leagues all-star game and the Philly Phillies are sitting up at the very top of the National League’s east division. It was just a few months ago that the overwhelming majority of the experts who get paid big bucks to write or talk about professional sports were counting the team out for this year. Only one of those we read said there was a very slight outside possibility that, with a generous dose of luck, they just might end up as the second ‘wild card’ when the regular season turns into the postseason come early autumn.

The 95 games played so far is a long way from completing the 162 which make up the season and we’re not about to prognosticate prematurely, but at this point we’ll pronounce the Phillies an unexpected and most welcome success. Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Jake Arrieta and even Seranthony Dominguez aren’t yet ticketed for that baseball Valhalla up in Cooperstown, N.Y., but their on-field performance and that of the rest of the roster has caused fans to sit up and take notice.

All we can say is that we trust they’ll keep it up the rest of the way and wish them the best. It has been 10 years since the last World Series championship; it’s high time for another. Go, Phils. Go!


An out-of-control kindergarten

  There was a television commercial a few years back promoting vacation travel which featured a teacher at her wits’ end trying to cope with an out-of-control kindergarten class. She went on her vacation and, we hope, was fired when she returned, and the commercial eventually vanished from the screen. But we were reminded of it by hearing and reading about yesterday’s marathon interrogation of F.B.I. agent Peter Strzok at a joint hearing of House of Representatives Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees.

Republicans were mouthing support for President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on the integrity of the intelligence community, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and, ultimately, the continuing investigation of relations between the Trump 2016 campaign organization and Russia-directed efforts to influence the outcome of the election. Democrats were supportive of the F.B.I. and its many decades of proven integrity. Anyone outside the Fox News orbit has to agree that Mr. Strzok and the committees’ Democrat minorities were hands-down winners, a victory which, on the grand scale of important stuff, doesn’t count for much.

Mr. Strzok was obviously irresponsible for airing his anti-Trump views prior to the election in personal e-mails he should have known, given his position with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, might become public. The question is not whether expressing political opinions is a right all Americans have – it is – but whether Mr. Strzok and his colleagues acted improperly to advance those views. There is conclusive evidence they did not. He and the F.B.I. at the time had more than conjecture that Russia was interfering with the election and releasing – or just leaking – some of that information would doubtless have had a profound effect on the result.

It's impossible to regard yesterday’s proceedings as anything but a parody on congressional oversight. “With all its yelling and interruptions, the hearing was a fitting coda to the hyperpartisan farce of an investigation that House Republicans have conducted into the F.B.I. and Mr. Mueller’s Russia probe,” The Washington Post says today in an editorial. “Oversight panels have devolved into partisan conspiracy machines racked by political bickering. The result is needless harm to the F.B.I. just when the agency should be focused on preventing more foreign attacks on the nation’s democracy.”


All we can add is that we find it hard to believe that these rambunctious kindergarteners are the same grown-ups we sent to Washington to make our laws and oversee the functioning of our government.


It'll get worse before it gets better

Did someone think to count the towels still in the executive washroom before Scott Pruitt left the Environmental Protection Agency building? Corruption and government at all levels have long been friends, but Mr. Pruitt has to rank among the all-time leaders when it comes to brazen malefactors in cabinet-level positions in the United States government. He’s a shoo-in for the Sticky Fingers Hall of Fame.

Of course it’s understandable that someone with exotic tastes who has spent some time in the nation’s capital would want to take home a used mattress from Trump® International Hotel Washington D.C. Who wouldn’t want his wife to land a $200,000+ job, preferably with a minimal amount of work expected? And how better to escape loud-mouth cellphone users than with a personal sound-proof telephone booth of your very own? Think what you could do with a fistful of customized silver fountain pens emblazoned with your autograph @$130 apiece.

Senator Tom Carper, who serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, summed it up very well in a recent e-mail: “Mr. Pruitt’s brazen abuse of his position for his own personal gain has been absolutely astounding, rivaled only by the silence of far too many in Congress and in the White House who allowed Mr. Pruitt’s unethical, and, at times, possibly illegal behavior to go unchecked. History will not look kindly on this era: neither on Mr. Pruitt’s entirely irresponsible tenure nor on Congress’ abdication of its constitutional responsibilities all in order to protect political allies.”

We hope that Mr. Pruitt doesn’t get too comfortable back in Tulsa with his good buddies in the oil and natural gas business. Don’t forget he’s still the subject of something like 15 inspector general investigations back at the E.P.A. We trust that those inquiries will be allowed to continue to conclusion and that the former administrator will have to return to answer to their findings. And, we add, bear the resultant consequences, financial, legal and otherwise.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pruitt’s personal conduct while in office is just the proverbial tip of an iceberg which isn’t likely to be melted by global warming – assuming that climate change isn’t just another bit of whimsey by the scientific community abetted by the fake news media. President Trump turned blind eyes to the shenanigans going on at the E.P.A. because the administrator was “doing a great job” leading the administration’s charge against environmental regulations. 

The New York Times – which no objective person considers a purveyor of fake news – this week published a list of 46 mostly protective federal rules and regulations that have been scrapped and another 30 in the process of being eliminated. Just a sampling of some caught in E.P.A.’s sights and killed: a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions; a rule that prohibited use of hydrofluorocarbons – powerful greenhouse gases – as a replacement for ozone-depleting substances; limitations on toxic emissions from major industrial polluters; a rule that mines prove they are able to pay to clean up future pollution.

Before you get the idea that Mr. Pruitt’s exit is good news for the environment, listen to Lukas Ross, senior policy analyst for Friends of the Earth. “The only person more dangerous than Scott Pruitt,” he said, “is Andrew Wheeler.”

Mr. Wheeler was immediately appointed acting E.P.A. administrator pending nomination and Senate confirmation of a new administrator, possibly himself. What’s important is that he comes not with a mandate to get the agency back on course, but to carry on with the Trump administration’s dangerous deregulation policy. Without the distraction of his predecessor’s inane antics, he’ll be able to devote his full efforts to that. In short, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.


A must-read book

 It isn’t a beach read, but you’d do well to put # NEVER AGAIN at the top of your summer-reading list. The miniature-size paperback sells for ±$10 – there’s also a somewhat cheaper electronic edition – and an average reader, if so inclined, can get through it in a single sitting.

That’s not to imply, however, that it’s not a serious work nor one that can or should be easily forgotten. It’s both.

Written by two teenage survivors – brother and younger sister David and Lauren Hogg – of the mass shootings last winter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., it takes you into their besieged classrooms that fateful afternoon. There were many eye-witness stories published and broadcast at the time, but the Hoggs’ stories are told only after you’ve been given enough details about their previous outward lives and inward feelings that they are real kids you actually know.

Stoneman Douglas High School was the site of the second St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The first occurred during the Prohibition era when gangsters were mowed down in a garage in Chicago. This year the victims were mostly youngsters doing what they were supposed to be doing on a normal school day. For 14 students, a teacher, a security guard and coach, and the school’s athletic director it was their last school day. Historians generally agree that the first massacre had what, for the perpetrators, was an unintended consequence, repeal of Prohibition. It’s still quite possible that the second will result in a very much intended consequence, reasonable and effective gun control.

Four days after the shootings, three students – Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind and Sofie Whitney – decided that mourning, memorial services, prayers and condolences were not enough. If adults talked for a while about taking steps to prevent needless slaughter of young people but did little to nothing to bring it about, it was high time that young people took the lead to make sure something a clear majority of Americans believe has to happen happens. They enlisted some schoolmates – including David Hogg, Alfonso Calderon, Sarah Chadwick, Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch, and Emma González – and formed Never Again M.S.D.

Using social media and the grapevine the instruments of instantaneous communication have become, the group mobilized untold numbers of teens and twenty-somethings to organize media interviews, open meetings, rallies and demonstrations not only in Florida but around the country. The March for Our Lives in Washington and cities literally on every continent except Antarctica attracted probably a million participants and a vast television audience on March 24. That clearly demonstrated the potential of a dedicated movement. This summer a nationwide motor tour will urge young people to register and vote in November for candidates on the right side of gun control.


Here comes the judge

If the boss tells you on Friday afternoon there’s something important s/he has to tell you but will wait until Monday so as not to ruin your weekend, how enjoyable would you expect the next two days to be? Something like that pertains to the nation this weekend.

President Trump has said he’s deciding whom to nominate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and will make the announcement on Monday. He reportedly has interviewed at least seven prospective justices, but claims he hasn’t asked any of them how they’d rule on overturning Roe v. Wade, his grossly inhumane border policy, gun reform, affirmative action, health care, tariffs, et al. Irrespective of how often Mr. Trump is known to have lied or made misleading public statements – 3,250 times, or an average of six and a half a day, since taking office, according to the latest Washington Post tabulation – it may even be true there was a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy in effect at the White House during the closed-door interviews. Also, there’s no evidence – yet – that the president brought up the matter of swearing personal loyalty to him as he has done with cabinet and other offices.

It doesn’t really matter because the interviewees were culled from a list compiled by right-wing organizations. Those certainly are the most thoroughly vetted job seekers in the current administration. You can rest assured it has been fully determined that they will echo Mr. Trump from the bench on every opportunity which arises.

The so far seldom-mentioned wild card in all this is the fact a Trumpian court may well be called upon to decide matters which affect him directly. The president and several cohorts are under active criminal investigation. In one or more ways, a related court finding could easily rise to the level of a landmark ruling on such principles as whether a president is above the law and-or whether the rule of law prevails in this country.

It is incumbent upon every U.S. senator – including Republicans inclined to believe their obligation to the nation trumps their present fear of opposing their supreme leader – to listen to their consciences as they participate in the ratification process. Will they agree to seat a judge on the highest tribunal in the land who has fixed opinions about the outcomes of major cases before hearing testimony or possibly has already made a commitment to someone with a strong interest in those outcome? We suggest that none of the 100 senators would accept that if applied to the lowest-standing magistrate back home. 


Clear and present danger


Extent of the harm done this week to the system of checks and balances the founding fathers wisely built into the Constitution will gradually unfold over the next several weeks and months. However, it already is a matter of grave concern. A government of three separate branches independent of each other has for more than 200 years preserved America’s freedom and democracy through good times and bad. History offers many examples of what happens when a demagogue wrests control of a country’s government from its people.  

There is much not to like in the Supreme Court’s split decision upholding President Donald J. Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States by persons form eight nations, six of which have Muslim-majority populations. Writing for the five-judge court majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. gave virtual carte blanche to any president to take such actions in the name of national security now and in the future. That makes sense given that the president has an unquestioned obligation to defend the country against all enemies, foreign or domestic. What’s more, a responsible president certainly could be expected to consult qualified military and civilian advisors, as well as the established intelligence agencies and not take such obligation lightly. 

Unfortunately, we do not have a responsible president. We have one who acts impulsively, guided only by personal and political motivations, be they good or, in most instances, evil.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of four dissenters from the decision, wrote in a blistering opinion that the court’s ‘conservative’ majority was “blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy.” She did not have to reference the numerous bigoted, racist and blatantly disturbing comments that have emanated from the White House since President Trump’s took office nearly a year and a half ago. We all have heard them and no one, supporter or opponent, can have any reasonable doubt about where the president stands.

We wonder why Justice Roberts was willing to overlook President Trump’s well-documented reputation as a pervasive liar when he claimed to have acted as a matter of national security. Nor can we understand why the judge ignored the fact that the executive order before the court was a third version that admittedly had been sanitized to slip by constitutional muster.

What concerns us most is that the court decision has taken us another giant step in a direction we should fear to go. It is evident that Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, despite references to his integrity at the time of his appointment, may actually be another Trump surrogate in an important position willing and anxious to do the president’s bidding. With Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s announcement of his impending retirement, the way is open for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to foist a sixth member of the court’s trumpian bloc upon us. Unlike three years ago when the senator refused to even consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, he is anxious now to act before voters have the opportunity in November to determine the political makeup of the chamber which has to ratify President Trump’s nominee.

It will require a strenuous effort to direct public outrage against a corrupt administration that already has blatantly disparaged rule of law, due process, fair trials and respect for human dignity. Given that outrage against the ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement policy forced at least a partial backdown, moral leadership from both major parties can turn the tide against an even more egregious danger. We can only hope it will be forthcoming.


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