The Historical Moment that Americans are Ignoring

This week, American impeachment hearings continue into the investigation of President Trump’s questionable dealings with Ukraine’s new president Zelensky. As the investigation committee works to untangle the complex story of what happened, two things are becoming crystal clear—the truth of what occurred is shocking, and there are many Americans who are unable or unwilling to hear, see and take  it within themselves.

On an interview Tuesday night with Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein by Anderson Cooper of CNN, Bernstein spoke of the need for the “best obtainable version of the truth” in relation to the impeachment hearings. I ponder this phrase–best obtainable version of the truth. I agree with Mr. Bernstein, truth in our world is never absolute, and open to interpretation. And yet, what is true is attainable by each of us. In fact, American democracy is dependent upon it. Each witness who is sworn in before testifying repeats the oath: I swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. It really cannot be any plainer than that.

I listened to the opening statements by the witnesses last week and today, Tuesday the 19th of November. Their words resonated deeply within my heart and mind as truthful. I truly believe that every one of us has the capacity to recognize what is true, as it contains a certain resonance and energy that is universal and common to being human. That being said, the onus is upon each person to have the willingness to hear and feel the truth within. When a person is unwilling and stubbornly clings to an ideology with their mind closed, they will be unable to discern what is true from what is false. Herein lies our current conundrum.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the impeachment process is the extraordinarily damaging vitriol directed at the witnesses who have testified, coming from Trump’s team and from the president himself through his tweets. Of course, none of it is surprising, since it has been their pattern from the very start of this administration to deflect any notion of blame or wrongdoing and fling it back onto whoever may be handiest or a likely target. But in the case of the brave men and women who have come forward to testify of their own volition, I find it extraordinarily wrong to accuse them of giving false or misleading testimony. In particular, the testimony by Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, was poignant. As one eloquent writer wrote in a letter to the editor of the New York Times at the end of last week’s hearing,

“This brave and heroic woman has no agenda other than to serve the country she loves. Her clear, straightforward depiction of the abuse and smears she received and the corruption of United States foreign policy and security to serve the political and financial interests of the president and his enablers cannot be ignored or dismissed. Ambassador Yovanovitch deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Instead she is defamed, dismissed and threatened.” NYTimes, November 16, 2019

Another letter stated,
“We Americans had the opportunity last week to hear from three stellar Foreign Service professionals. Their love for this country is unquestionable, and the dignity with which they serve us is admirable. Anyone who has become dispirited by the stark, in-your-face corruption and degradation visited upon us by President Trump and his stable of sycophants would do themselves some good to find and watch videos of the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch, my hero, as well as George Kent and Bill Taylor. They remind me that droves of people of good character and integrity still exist within the realms of government. They give me hope. Any American who is turning his or her attention elsewhere is missing an opportunity to see our democracy in action. May it prevail.” NYTimes, November 19, 2019 

The New York Times reported that Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, appeared in front of the House Intelligence Committee on the third day of public impeachment hearings. His testimony carried a similar tone of loyalty and duty to his country, the United States of America. Here is an excerpt from his statement:

“On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with White House colleagues. I was concerned by the call, what I heard was improper, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg. It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermine U.S. national security, and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.

I want to emphasize to the Committee that when I reported my concerns — on July 10, relating to Ambassador Sondland, and on July 25, relating to the President — I did so out of a sense of duty. I privately reported my concerns, in official channels, to the proper authorities in the chain of command. My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for our country. I never thought I would be sitting here testifying in front of this committee and the American public, about my actions. When I reported my concerns, my only thought was to act properly and to carry out duty.

I want to take a moment to recognize the courage of my colleagues who have appeared and are scheduled to appear before this Committee. I want to state that the vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible. It is natural to disagree and engage in spirited debate, this has been our custom since the time of our Founding Fathers, but we are better than callow and cowardly attacks.

The uniform I wear today is that of the United States Army. The members of our all- volunteer force are made up of a patchwork of people from all ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds who come together under a common oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. We do not serve any particular political party, we serve the nation. I am humbled to come before you today as one of many who serve in the most distinguished and able military in the world. The Army is the only profession I have ever known.”

Dear Readers, hearing these, and the other state department officials’ words during these past couple of weeks has brought all the months of the Mueller investigation and impeachment proceedings into clearer focus. I struggle to find strong enough words to describe just how disheartening and simply tragic the state of our country is now. I mean, America is in a state of crisis that is difficult to overstate. We are at the cliff’s edge, right now. For those of us who are keenly interested and listening to the impeachment hearings, we understand the gravity of our situation. This country is facing the very real possibility that the president may be found guilty of high crimes, for which our constitution mandates he be removed from office. If ever there was a moment for Americans to be paying attention, Now is that moment.

 

American Impeachment: The Subject Everyone Loves to Loathe

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US Bill of Rights, via Daily Kos

Happy November, Dear Readers! As we continue to plow through this unwieldy year of changes, indictments, whistleblowing, and revelations of various kinds, many of us are by turns exhausted, enraged and saddened by world events. Climate changes and extreme weather events continue, including the latest round of fires in California. Particularly hard to take is news of farmers in Ventura County who are losing their citrus and avocado crops to the fires burning there. And again, the wine country of Northern California has been struck by fire and loss. Please join me in sending all the people and animals involved prayers for the help and support they need during these trying days.

This week on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C., the House finally voted to proceed with formal impeachment hearings for President Trump. It has been a long time coming, as anyone who follows US politics is well aware. In this blog post, I’d like to share my own opinions on the current situation, and would love to read yours in the comments below.

First, for the record, I am no fan of Mr. Trump. In fact, I have purposefully avoided writing about him during the time I’ve been blogging simply because I haven’t wanted to give any more energy to that person or his administration than is already given (an enormous amount on the daily). Like many of you, I have helplessly watched as one protection and helpful policy after another was slashed and burned away across federal agencies during the past three years. One wonders how much more can be added to the already huge body of damning evidence which clearly shows that his true colors (instead of the red, white and blue that he claims), run strictly the color of dollars. Likewise, I am not a fan of the Republican Party, given that they simply stand behind Trump’s lawlessness without even a whimper, let alone any of them showing Americans that they actually have a spine or a trace of morality or justice. On the other hand, it is also clear that there are also some lawmakers within the Democratic Party who have shown similar traits, and neither can they be trusted to do the right thing for America as a whole. We are in the middle of a conundrum, with no clear path out.

Having said all this, however, what is obvious to most awakened Americans is the fact that President Trump has absolutely no regard for the United States Constitution, its laws, and its very structure. It is quite possible that his whole premise for becoming president was to systematically dismantle our government, piece by excruciating piece. Dear Readers, I’m sure all sorts of articles and books have already been written about this very theme by writers far more clever and knowledgeable than I am.  For me, more than any other wicked act this man has committed, the idea that he actually wants to collapse the American government’s very essence—three branches that have equal power and a system of checks and balances—is the most disturbing of all. Chilling, in fact. The Constitution makes it clear that no one in high office, including the President, is above the law.

The United States of America’s Constitution remains one of the great works written during our common age. More than simply words on parchment, the ideas and laws written therein are alive, embodying a sense of justice and freedom for all human beings to aspire to, to be inspired by, and to strive to live by.  Here is an excerpt from the US Constitution (I have included the most salient points in regards to our current fiasco.) (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript)

            We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article I, Section I. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section III. The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article II, Section I. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows: (the section goes into detail about how the states may create electors to vote on the president by a majority vote. See here for details.)

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Additionally, and equally important to the Constitution, are the Amendments, or Bill of Rights. Here are the original ten amendments that were ratified by Congress on December 15, 1791.  https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 2: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment 6: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment 7: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10:  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

As one reads the rights guaranteed the citizens of the United States back in 1791 (228 years ago), it is clear that the current administration is doing everything within its power to erode and reinterpret some of the most critical ones. Take a close look at Amendment 1–Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is obvious to any thoughtful person that there is a spirit to constitutional law which was never intended to be used for personal, manipulative gain. Yet, here we are. Trump and Twitter in 2019.

From the NY Times, here is a concise takeaway of the Impeachment as it currently stands:

A Guide to Impeachment

What Impeachment Is: Impeachment is charging a holder of public office with misconduct. Here are answers to seven key questions about the process.

What the Accusation Is: President Trump is accused of breaking the law by pressuring the president of Ukraine to look into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a potential Democratic opponent in the 2020 election. A second person, this one with “firsthand knowledge” of Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, came forward and is now protected as a whistle-blower.

What Was Said: The White House released a reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s call to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

A Visual Timeline: Here are the key figures and dates as Mr. Trump and his allies pressured Ukraine to investigate his political opponents.

Why Now: A whistle-blower complaint filed in August said that White House officials believed they had witnessed Mr. Trump abuse his power for political gain. Here are 8 takeaways from the complaint.

How Trump Responds: The president said the impeachment battle would be “a positive” for his re-election campaign. Mr. Trump has repeatedly referred to the whistle-blower as “crooked” and condemned the news media reporting on the complaint. At the beginning of October, Mr. Trump publicly called on China to examine Mr. Biden as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XR Rebels across the planet

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XR Rebels marching through the world’s streets via https://rebellion.earth

Dear Readers, can you feel the excitement in the air? In case you haven’t seen it on the news media (and chances are good you won’t), #ExtinctionRebellion activists are busy rebelling this week. In 60 major cities in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, Mexico, and the United States, people are gathering to shout, dance, sing, glue themselves to heavy objects, do performance art, and whatever else they can think of to tell global governments to STOP INVESTING IN AND SUPPORTING FOSSIL FUEL GIANTS. NOW. Our global house is on fire, and it is a CLIMATE EMERGENCY.

Here is a news segment from Democracy Now! which interviews Dr. Gail Bradbrook, one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion. It’s a great segment to watch, especially if you aren’t familiar with XR’s basic philosophy and three foundational demands. Because climate heating is really happening, and governments can no longer simply pay lip service to the world’s citizens. We are demanding Real. Action. Now.

Here are links to XR’s website, for all the latest news, inspiring videos and amazing photos of what is happening in the streets of our world this week. The People are Awake! Shouting! And Fearless! https://rebellion.earth/2019/10/09/xr-unchained-day-2-of-rebellion/

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Get inspired and involved. To change our world, it takes everyone and that means YOU!!