Who the hell are these people?

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What would you do if you saw these people advancing on you? What if they ordered you to stand still, or drop to your knees, or put your hands up in the air? One of these thugs, they do remind me of a motorcycle gang, is carrying a shield marked “police.” But you can buy one of those in any army-navy store. These guys have no badges, no insignia, no nametags, no proof they have the authority to order you or anyone else about. I don’t know about you but facing them I’d be scared stiff.

These ghost soldiers confronted residents of our nation’s capital city and it was a sight unseen in modern times. The residents these stormtroopers confronted were almost all peacefully protesting. That is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Actually, calling these guys stormtroopers is unfair to stormtroopers, who in Star Wars wore white. They are more like Robocop, the cyborg created by corporations to enforce their interests in a dystopian comic book future.

They really are most similar to the “little green men” who appeared to lead an insurgency against the government of Ukraine. They were so named because they wore green uniforms with no insignia or other markings, a violation of the Geneva Convention making them all eligible to be shot as terrorists or spies. They were Russians, sent to help the Russians invade and annex Crimea.

In fact these black attired men, and a few women, were William Barr’s goons. The so-called attorney general of the United States had assembled a multitude of paramilitary forces and deployed them at the behest of Donald Trump, ready to do violence against Americans protesting that Black Lives Matter.

Big, tough Bill Barr, who like his boss coward Bone Spurs Donnie Trump never served in the military, strutted at the head of his nameless army just after they attacked peaceful demonstrators in Layfette Square to clear the way for Trump to stage an awkward photo-op in front of the historic St. John’s church.

Joining Barr and Trump (left to right) are Mike Esper, the Secretary of Defense, and trying to avoid the cameras at the right is General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and therefore the highest ranking uniformed soldier in the United States. Both Milley and Esper apologized after the fact for joining Trump on his little excursion across the street from the White House, noting that active duty forces of the United States should not be involved with clearing the streets of demonstrators. Both should have resigned.

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No such apologies came from Donnie Trump or Billy Barr. I suspect both were deprived as boys of the pleasure of collecting and playing with toy soldiers and now get kicks out of deploying the real thing. Donnie in particular had something to prove because it had been reported that he retreated to a secure bunker under the White House when the protestors got close. He is always willing to make a macho display but only while surrounded by heavily armed guards.

In spite of Trump’s repeated threats to step in, this kind of display never materialized in the states, where governors were content to deploy national guard forces, under their authority, to maintain order. But this was the District of Columbia, the federal enclave created in the Constitution because the framers didn’t want to choose between the thirteen original states as the seat of the national government. Although Congress has allowed for the creation of a DC local government it retains ultimate control. And, as is its practice, it has delegated much of the police power to the executive branch.

Following 9-11, Congress went into a frenzy in an attempt to look like it was doing something, anything, to protect America. The Republicans in charge gave the executive enormous new powers, creating the Department of Homeland Security, which has grown into a huge policing bureaucracy. Congress granted virtually all federal agencies and departments authority to create their own investigative (in other words, “spy”) divisions and greatly expanded their ability to create domestic police forces. They also took steps to equip them, as well as local police forces throughout the nation, with military tools of war. These new forces were given expanded powers that ignored historic guarantees of Constitutionally protected rights. Most Democrats, afraid they’d be branded “weak” on terrorism, meekly went along.

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Bill Barr’s anonymous troops on the streets of DC, reportedly came from FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the U.S. Marshals; and the federal Bureau of Prisons. Those Department of Justice forces join Homeland Security officers, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol Police, the Federal Protective Service, the Secret Service and the District of Columbia National Guard.

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Barr even managed to get the Pentagon to deploy helicopters over the crowd, flying low using a technique designed to be used against terrorists. A technique intended to scare and threaten. A technique considered highly dangerous especially when deployed in an urban area. Those helicopters also displayed the red cross symbol falsely signifying a medical rescue mission.

This is a very scary time.

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A Clear and Present Danger

I’ve been avoiding this issue for months. I just got tired about writing about Donald J. Trump. Somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought that he simply could not keep up the pace. He could not commit, every single day of his administration, a bigger travesty than the one he had committed the day before.

I was wrong.

So here is the first of what will be a long stretch of blogs on Trump and the nation. The Trump reaction to a week of protests is just the latest manifestation. The groundwork had already been laid and was in the open for everyone to see. Take a look at April 17, 2020, the day a sitting President of these United States incited violent revolution. Here were Trump’s tweets:

Three calls to arms, to “LIBERATE,” one invoking the 2nd Amendment on gun ownership, all directed at states with popularly elected Democratic governors, who just happened to offend Trump in one way or another.

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From Ham to Dragon

Sunday May 31 2:00PM Update

They have arrived! Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley opened the hatch on the Crew Dragon and joined Expedition 63 on the International Space Station at 1:22pm Eastern Time and were greeted by fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The crew will spend several days continuing to test the Dragon, making sure it is fully operational and ready to return crew members to earth. Then they will work with the other members of the space station crew to perform experiments and maintenance on the station, which has been in orbit with a human crew on board since the year 2000.

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Memorial Day 2020

On Memorial Day we in the United States honor the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces bravely defending the freedoms so many of us take for granted. It is a solemn occasion, meant to be a day for reflection. An acknowledgement of the sacrifices made and the lives cut short.

Presidents traditionally place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. The Tomb is marked with the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

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The Justices Take a Landmark Step. Unwillingly.

Mark your calendar. Beginning May 4 and ending May 13, the Supreme Court of the United States will make history. It took the coronavirus pandemic to do it, but over six dates the Court will hear oral arguments on ten cases, and the people of the United States will be able for the first time to hear those arguments as they happen.

This is happening because the Court, like most of us, is practicing Covid-19 social distancing protocols, with the justices and staff working mostly from their homes. The Court first delayed these arguments, then decided to hold the hearings via teleconference.

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Pale Blue Dot

A recent study found anecdotal evidence that our increased exposure to political strife is having a negative effect on our mental health, resulting in “frayed personal relationships, compromised emotional stability, and even physical problems.” So what else is new? I, for one, am getting sick and tired of writing about politics. I see it as a service, and personally cathartic. But still a stressful task.

So for once I’ll skip a political column and try something completely different. Pretty much lost in Donald Trump’s post-acquittal victory lap, NASA gave us all a Valentine’s gift. It reprocessed and re-released an image recorded thirty years ago, February 14, 1990, by Voyager 1, at the time 3.7 billion miles from the Sun.

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And So It Goes….

US Senate

It is over now. In the 241 year history of the United States there have only been three impeachment trials of a president. The impeachment of Donald J. Trump ended just as expected, with his acquittal by the United States Senate. The Senators sat as jurors but heard no live witnesses and read no documentary evidence other than that gathered by the House of Representatives. That was a marked departure from all other impeachment trials in the Senate.

What have we learned? We have learned that our government process has devolved into one where only party loyalty and raw political power counts. The House, with the Democrats in the majority, did not allow Republicans to call witnesses. The Senate, with the Republicans in the majority, blocked witnesses and documents and considered voting to “dismiss” the charges without even allowing the House managers to present their case.

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