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Sitting federal prosecutor says AG Barr has ‘brought shame’ and ‘unprecedented politicization’ to DOJ

September 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Preza

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts James D. Herbert on Thursday slammed Attorney General William Barr for his “unprecedented politicization” of the Department of Justice, marking the first time a sitting U.S. attorney has publicly rebuked the head of the DOJ.

Herbert made the remarks in a letter published by the Boston Globe, arguing the attorney general’s efforts to serve President Donald Trump are “a dangerous abuse of power.”

“While I am a federal prosecutor, I am writing to express my own views, clearly not those of the department, on a matter that should concern all citizens: the unprecedented politicization of the office of the attorney general,” Herbert wrote. “The attorney general acts as though his job is to serve only the political interests of Donald J. Trump. This is a dangerous abuse of power.”

Herbert cited Barr’s “misleading summary of the Mueller Report” as one example of the attorney general’s apparent willingness to protect the president at the expense of truth. Barr offered his abridged summary of the report in 4-page letter to the members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee, and also commented on the report during an April 18 press conference. Mueller himself said Barr’s letter “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of his report.

“William Barr has done the president’s bidding at every turn,” Herbert argued in his letter to the Boston Globe. “For 30 years I have been proud to say I work for the Department of Justice, but the current attorney general has brought shame on the department he purports to lead.”

…read more


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Trump's top 10 tricks: Here's a useful guide to have on hand as the presidential debates get underway

September 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Mark Green

Ready for even more Trumpian disinformation?

Cornered by a continuing pandemic, teetering economy and racial strife, President Houdini has been resorting to rhetorical tricks honed over a lifetime to escape political calamity. One way to prepare for this Tuesday’s first debate and his Fall barrage is to reveal Trump’s “magic” beforehand so that viewers and voters can be their own BS Detector when he next tries to sliver away from lying about Covid-19 or his fascistic plans to overthrow the election.

1. Cherry-picking — Black Swans.

This trick is based on seeing a black swan and then pretending all swans are black.

So when millions of Black Lives Matter protesters peacefully march against police brutality, Trump will cite one who years ago allegedly called cops “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon” to imply that all are looters and anarchists. And when a Republican US Attorney in Pennsylvania this week told AG Barr that his office had found nine discarded Trump ballots (later changed to seven), the White House immediately played it up to imply that this was organized mail-in ballot fraud (though it was quickly shown to be an isolated, local administrative error, not a Democratic conspiracy).

The idea is to make the aberrational appear typical. Would anyone judge Michael Jordan’s career based on a reel of three missed clutch shots rather than his career stats?

2. Adjectives and Assertions.

Since it’s hard to enact legislation, why not instead just predict great or awful events since hard to prove the contrary. Or to paraphrase Nike, “Just Say It.”

Hence “next year [the economy] will be the best ever.” This summer Trump began declaring that Democrats would “destroy the suburbs.” How? Presumably by prohibiting segregated public housing, stating that this time the 2018 “caravan” from Latin America might directly settle in White Plains, New York.

The ‘tell’ here his frequent refrain, “believe me!”

3. The Bully’s Pulpit.

Humorist Larry Wilmore joked that Trump was indeed our Roosevelt since “the only thing Trump has is fear itself.”

Politico reported that a third of his first 2000 president tweets disparaged people, totaling a hard-to-believe 598 people by the end of 2018. Here he’s channeling the Italian philosopher and politician who said five centuries ago, “it’s better to be feared than loved.”

Like Machiavelli’s princes, Trump loves being feared. And since a president’s bullying can do real reputational damage, this thuggish tactic often …read more


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GOP-led legal inquest into Bloomberg helping Florida felons vote condemned as attempted voter suppression

September 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Independent Media Institute

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s call for state and federal investigations into billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s effort to raise millions to pay off court fees to help Florida felons restore their voting rights was a “gross abuse” of power, “voter suppression,” “a fearmongering tactic used before” and based on a “fundamental misconception” of anti-corruption laws, according to experienced campaign lawyers and former federal election regulators.

“It’s not just that an investigative process and grand jury proceedings would likely extend past Election Day, but also that we’ve seen this fearmongering tactic used before,” said Jonathan Diaz, legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., founded by Trevor Potter, a Republican and ex-Federal Election Commission (FEC) chair. “There are countless examples of elected officials or law enforcement announcing ‘bombshell’ investigations like this with no evidence of actual wrongdoing (for example, recently in Texas and Georgia) and indeed, no actual conclusions that any misconduct has taken place.”

It’s “outrageous and likely an extortionate threat designed to suppress the vote and deny citizens their constitutional right to vote,” said Benedict Kuehne, the Miami attorney whose team recently won a settlement to save digital images of ballots if there’s a presidential election recount. “Not at all unexpected. But still an abuse of power.”

The fray is the latest development in one of the nation’s most important voting rights battles. Two years ago, a majority of Floridians approved Amendment 4, which restored voting rights for nearly 1.4 million former felons. Florida’s Republican-led state government responded by passing laws and going to court to impede the rights’ restoration, mainly by requiring former felons to pay off all court fees and fines before being eligible to register to vote.

As legal battles are continuing in the courts—where delays mean that these Floridians won’t necessarily be eligible to vote this fall unless they pay fees that typically are between $500 and $5,000—many celebrities and philanthropists have been making donations to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), which led the Amendment 4 campaign, to help pay the fees.

The FRRC raised about $6 million in the past year for that effort, the Miami Herald reported, noting that celebrities …read more


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From Washington to Trump, all presidents have told lies — but only some have told them for the right reasons

September 27, 2020 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Michael Blake, University of Washington

Michael Cohen, in his recent book, has called President Trump a “fraud,” a “bigot,” a “bully” – and, most emphatically, a “liar”. The Trump administration’s response to this book simply reverses the accusation, calling Cohen someone who attempts to “profit off of lies”.

Nonetheless, the media has often noted the frequency with which President Trump lies. The Washington Post, for instance, maintains a running database of what it terms the President’s “false or misleading claims” – which now number over 20,000, or an average of 12 per day.

Media’s accounts of Trump’s lies would seem to indicate that most people are wholeheartedly opposed to lying – and, in particular, opposed to being lied to by presidents. And yet a recent survey of presidential deception found that all American presidents – from Washington to Trump – have told lies, knowingly, in their public statements.

As a political philosopher, with a focus on how people try to reason together through political disagreement, I argue that not all lies are the same.

History shows examples of presidents who have lied for a larger public purpose – and have been forgiven.

The morality of deception

Why, though, are lies thought so wrongful in the first instance?

Immanuel Kant, in the 18th century, provided one powerful account of the wrongness of lying. For Kant, lying was wrong in much the same way that threats and coercion are wrong. All of these override the autonomous will of another person, and treat that person as a mere tool.

For Kant, human beings were morally special precisely because they could use reason to decide what to do. When a gunman uses threats to coerce a person to do a particular act, he disrespects that person’s rational agency. Lies are a similar disrespect to rational agency: One’s decision has been manipulated, so that the act is no longer one’s own.

Kant defended these conclusions without exception. Kant regarded any lie as immoral – even one told to a murderer at the door.

Modern-day philosophers have often accepted Kant’s account, while seeking exceptions from its rigidness. In his book “Ethics for Adversaries,” philosopher Arthur Applbaum explains why citizens might sometimes consent to being deceived, which might be useful in understanding presidential deception.

For example, a political leader who gives honest answers about …read more


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Ralph Nader offers practical advice for casting informed votes

September 27, 2020 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

Here is some practical advice for casting informed votes to improve the livelihoods of all Americans where they live, work, and raise their children and also to lessen their anxiety, dread, and fear.

Democratic voters should demand that the Democratic Party candidates pledge to vote to (1) raise the long frozen, federal minimum wage of $7.25 to a living wage; (2) support more efficient full Medicare for All (with free choice of doctors and hospitals and no cruel, irritating networks); (3) repeal Trump’s two trillion dollar tax cut, with additional loopholes for the rich, and huge corporate subsidies and giveaways; and to use the money to upgrade and rebuild the job-rich public works sector as well as the infrastructure in every community in the country – both in the red and blue states; (4) crack down, with law and order, on the corporate crimewave that bleeds consumers out of trillions of dollars a year; (5) repeal anti-labor laws to facilitate empowering tens of millions of workers who want to join unions to defend their economic and safety interests; and (6) accelerate the transition to a solar-based economy with better air, water, greater neighborhood self-reliance, and to reduce the devastating climate disruption from the burning of fossil fuels.

Democratic candidates will benefit by embracing such a covenant. Moreover, candidates who repeat the planks of this covenant incessantly and authentically in political communications and grassroots mobilizations will be seen as caring for the people in their daily lives and struggles in all the states of our union.

This covenant can be contrasted with the offerings of the Republican Party, which failed to adopt a new platform for 2020. Instead, the Republican National Committee (RNC) said, “The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden Administration, as well as those espoused by the Democratic National Committee today…” The RNC largely supports turning the government over to Big Business and further entrenching Wall Street rule over Main Street.

The contrast also illustrates the Republican Party’s callous indifference to the immediate desperate needs of millions of Americans. Senate tyrant Mitch McConnell is blocking the House-passed six-month renewal of the much needed $600 a week Covid-19-driven assistance for families nationwide. This and other crucial aid to states and localities is necessary to make schools safer and to provide protective equipment and other assistance to patients in hospitals and clinics, and to …read more