Are you scared of placards? Trump is scared of placards.
The jerk in the White House doesn’t know the difference between placards and weapons.
The jerk in the White House is a scaredy cat, scared of lettered cardboard.
Yes, pass it on.
Are you scared of placards? Trump is scared of placards.
The jerk in the White House doesn’t know the difference between placards and weapons.
The jerk in the White House is a scaredy cat, scared of lettered cardboard.
Yes, pass it on.
The Black Lives Matter movement is being waylaid by provocateurs and others who want to use the opportunity to loot stores or, as one hoodlum did, shoot people on camera and then, apparently craving notoriety, tried to give himself up to police who ignored him because he’s white and they were convinced all bad things are black.
That’s part of the reason Martin Luther King was so determined that his people be completely nonviolent. People like John Lewis had their heads cracked. Four little Black girls were blown up in their church. Emmet Til and lots of others were murdered, including white people working in solidarity with the African-American population struggling for freedom. How many murders, how many lynchings does it take to convince people that the African-Americans were innocent victims, not perpetrators.
Thousands of people were killed and lynched. Do we have to go through that again. We’re taught the police are brave. How brave do you have to be to shoot people in the back? How brave do you have to be to shoot a woman asleep in her bed, or a man putting his key in his door, or keep a knee on a man’s throat as he dies? None of them were armed. But seven shots paralyzed Jacob Blake. 41 shots killed Amadou Diallo – who never had a chance or a weapon. Abner Louima was attacked and sexually brutalized by police. When will it be enough? When will it ever stop?
We’re told there are good cops, that most cops are good cops. I’d be delighted if they’d act the part, if they’d stop the bad ones from committing murder, if they’d participate in drumming people like that out of the force. One former policeman in our area came here to live because he had exposed massive corruption in the New York City Police Department and, regardless of those supposedly good cops, cops drove him out of town, initially by attempted murder. Where are those good cops when we need them?
Where people aren’t allowed to protest in peace, they may have to find a different way to protect themselves while making their point. Perhaps they’d do better putting Black Lives Matter t-shirts on everyone and circulating on busy streets without congregating or waving signs. Perhaps they’d do better using the time working on the election. Do Trump, and other bigots, with and without guns, have to be driven out of power, before it’s possible to deal with the real violence? There’s what’s called a ground game to be fought to win this election – letters, calls, information, rides – lots of organizations are working on it and lots of people are trying to help out. People of color need friends in high places to get what they deserve. Martin Luther King was in league with President Johnson – King was the greater man but Johnson had the power. Perhaps the demonstrators would do better to skip the streets and take the White House. Perhaps that would deny Trump and the hoodlums who support him anything to scare people with. Perhaps going for votes would outfox them and put the truly violent elements in our society in their cages.
— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on September 1, 2020.
Two weeks ago, I commented about Jefferson’s fear of a presidential coup. Last week I spoke about using nonviolent methods to prevent a takeover by the incumbent president, who told Chris Wallace on Fox that he might not leave the White House if he loses the coming election. Afterward, I expressed my concerns and showed a copy to Ian Shapiro, a friend and polymath who’s done brilliant work on both foreign and domestic policy. He sent me back a portion of his new book on economic insecurity, The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It. I quickly realized we were approaching the same problem from different angles. Insecurity makes people want to believe that Trump is leading them to better days. And getting Ian’s message across will help protect us against a presidential takeover.
The Army is a crucial player in any takeover. American military tradition is stanchly against political activity and devoted to defending the Constitution. There would be great resistance at all levels to using the military politically, especially to end politics by takeover. And because the military contains a large cross-section of America, we all influence it. Military diversity makes it harder to unite on unauthorized, unpopular activities in conflict with American military tradition, especially if they depend on secret planning.
But presidential takeovers in other countries force us to the sobering realization that a perverted commander-in-chief can pervert the military, given enough time. That makes all the work we’re doing to prepare for this election crucial to prevent White House treason – even though he’s talked about it openly. Concerted opposition to Trump and to takeovers, expressed in a vigorous campaign, make it less likely that the military will participate in a coup.
But outside the military, Trump has been constructing other forces which respond to him – using or threatening to use the National Guard, border guards and other armed federal agents in Portland and elsewhere to stir up trouble where peace had reigned. Even more serious are the private militias that conduct their own training with their own arsenals. The great bulk of domestic terrorism has come from those groups. Instead of fidelity to the Constitution, they aim at violently defeating American government in order to achieve undemocratic aims in conflict with the Constitution and the law. Some American elections have been overturned by force of arms.
Unreconstructed admirers of Civil War secessionists would gladly reverse the results of the Civil War. Guns and racism have become closely entwined. Gun shows and private militias confront us with a plethora of racist and conspiracy theories making the point. Their treasonous impulses fuel my strongest objections to gun rights today – guns are not being used for self-defense but for calculated murder, intimidation and political takeover.
Trump’s outrageous racism and complements to racist killers are obvious efforts to get those armed but irresponsible groups behind him, ready to function as a palace guard to keep him in office regardless of the election. Private militias, like gangs and criminal cartels are dangerous because they oppose democracy, are divorced from national values, and expect to gain from violence. Instead of respecting peaceful demonstrations, they’ve spawned provocateurs in places like Portland, to give Trump an excuse for shutting democracy down. They and their standard-bearer in the White House must be stopped. And we have to keep up the fight for government of, by, and for the people.
 Washington Post Blogs, A violent send-off on feds’ final night at Portland courthouse, July 31, 2020 Friday 12:07 AM EST
 John A. Wood, THE PANTHERS AND THE MILITIAS (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002); Kenneth S. Stern, A FORCE UPON THE PLAIN: THE AMERICAN MILITIA MOVEMENT AND THE POLITICS OF HATE (Norman: U. Okla. Press, 1997); Southern Poverty Law Center, “Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City,” http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/terror-from-the-right (visited Jan. 23, 2014).
 Stephen E. Gottlieb, Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and the Breakdown of American Politics 173-77 (NYU Press, 2016).
I was weeding some of my papers last Saturday and found a copy of a letter sent by Thomas Jefferson from Paris, where he was representing this country, on December 20, 1787, to James Madison here in America. As a slave-holder, Jefferson committed grievous wrongs, but Thomas Jefferson wasn’t stupid and what he wrote struck me because he was precisely describing what we most fear today. Jefferson’s letter was about the Constitution. He played no part in writing it, stationed in Paris as he was. But having gotten a look, he wrote his friend about what he did and didn’t like.
He wrote Madison “I like much the general idea of framing a government which should go on of itself peaceably.” He also wrote:
The second feature I dislike, and greatly dislike, is the abandonment in every instance of the necessity of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of the President.
That has now been limited to two terms by an amendment, but listen to Jefferson’s reasoning. The president [quote]:
becomes of so much consequence to certain nations to have a friend or a foe at the head of our affairs that they will interfere with money and with arms. A Galloman [Frenchman] or an Angloman [Englishman] will be supported by the nation he befriends. If once elected, and at a second or third election outvoted by one or two votes, he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of the reins of government, be supported by the states voting for him, especially if they are the central ones lying in a compact body themselves and separating their opponents: and they will be aided by one nation of Europe, while the majority are aided by another. The election of President of America some years hence will be much more interesting to certain nations of Europe, than ever the election of a King of Poland was. Reflect on all the instances in history, antient and modern, of elective monarchies, and say if they do not give foundation for my fears, the Roman emporers, the popes … [from their alliances], the German emporers til they became hereditary in practice, the Kings of Poland, the Deys of the Ottoman dependencies.
The timeliness of Jefferson’s fears stunned me.
Many Americans tend to be romantic about our presidents – if they like one thing about a president they think they’re all good. A star on a popular TV show must know how to govern America, protect it from disease, and foreign powers, and raise the people’s income and welfare by bellowing about whom they hate. Please forgive my sarcasm.
The same afternoon, my wife tuned into a town meeting run by the National Peace Corps Association, with the current head of the Peace Corps among the speakers. My mind drifted back. John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps. Many people liked him because he was young, vigorous and handsome. But the gifts most valued by the people where we served were John F. Kennedy half dollars. They valued Kennedy because he showed respect for people all over the globe – not necessarily the leaders of their countries, but always the people. It was a nonpartisan tradition, followed by presidents of both parties ‘til it was up-ended by a man who thought all a president has to do is talk tough and tell people who’s fired.
But he has no right to fire voters. In the same letter, Jefferson remarked that it is crucial to protect
the fundamental principle that the people are not to be taxed [and I would add or otherwise governed] but by representatives chosen immediately by themselves.
— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on July 21, 2020.
Recently I spoke with a class of high school girls. They asked me to talk about the Constitution and we agreed I’d talk about how we interpret it. I wasn’t advocating any particular method. In fact, I referred to the late Justice John Paul Stevens, adopting an observation by the then sitting president of the Israeli Supreme Court, that a judge does best who “’seek[s] guidance from every reliable source.’”
While talking with the girls, I finally realized how to encapsulate what I wanted to say: The Constitution is a human document, written by human beings for use by human beings. It is not self-executing. There’s nothing automatic about checks and balances. They work when people believe in and use them. They don’t work when people in power care only about favoring themselves and their friends.
That’s not a flaw in the document. There are flaws in the document. It still bears the marks of slavery ̶ numerous clauses were designed to protect slave-owners even though the word slave does not appear. And it was written by men for men in 1787. But the men who wrote the Constitution referred to its prohibitions as “parchment barriers.” Parchment was an older form of fine paper, often used for formal documents. The Founders clearly understood that the document they wrote and ratified would prove as good as the people running it.
I didn’t draw conclusions for the girls, but I want to spell out some implications for you:
The Constitution is a parchment barrier. We have to do more than protect the document. We have to use it wisely.
— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on July 14, 2020.
 Judicial Discretion 62 (Y. Kaufmann transl. 1989).@ BedRoc Ltd., LLC v. United States, 541 U.S. 176, 192 (2004) (Stevens, J., dissenting).
 See https://www.businessinsider.com/michigan-open-carry-laws-legal-protesters-guns-at-state-capitol-2020-5 and https://www.newsweek.com/michigan-closes-down-capitol-face-death-threats-armed-protesters-against-gov-whitmer-1504241.
Many years ago, one of my professors at law school, Boris Bittker, wrote a book called The Case for Black Reparations. Bittker was known mostly for his work on taxation, but he cared and wrote a great deal about race. One year at Reunions, he took my wife and me to see a pair of very interesting films about the confinement of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast in internment camps during World War II, and the experience of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii, many of whom served in the American military. Bittker’s book on black reparations went through the issues in a very lawyerly way as if he were arguing to a court. But let me describe it on a very human level.
First the white slavers stole the freedom of Africans. Then they stole many of their lives, and, of those who survived, they stole the fruits of Black labor. When finally, the slaves were legally freed, White Supremacists stole it all again: the lives of African-Americans by lynching, their labors by a century of intimidation that virtually re-enslaved them. And when finally they found places where they could prosper, White Supremacists, many in the white robes of Klansmen, burned those places to the ground – the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Rosewood in FL; changed election results by murder in places like Colfax County, Louisiana, and Wilmington, North Carolina; and went on murderous rampages in a number of northern cities. When whites made programs that helped build white wealth – like Social Security and Unemployment Insurance – jobs held by Blacks were excluded by statute. When Blacks sought good jobs, discrimination shut them out. When segregation finally became illegal, African-Americans had to start again on the ground floor of white men’s businesses, where once again they were given little for their effort – how many times do Trump and his white supremacist supporters insist on making their own wealth by stealing the labors of African-Americans?
And when they engage in peaceful protest, they’re told it’s unseemly behavior. Heaven forbid a Black man take a knee, or complain that Black Lives Matter. We aren’t supposed to focus on righting the wrongs to our African-American friends, colleagues, clients, customers and citizens.
So yes, there’s a strong case for reparations. I understand we’re not equally responsible nor equally beneficiaries of the wrongs done. But we Americans quite ordinarily help each other when we can. And, anyway, that’s a problem for the tax code – if the rich make the poor pay for reparations, it will be just as unfair as everything else the rich make others pay for. It matters how it’s done.
I have, however, one reservation. The most important thing that we can do for our African-American brothers and sisters is to secure their safety. We’ve all been talking about that nonstop for quite a while as each new case surfaces of African-Americans viciously and needlessly killed. I’ve been commenting about that for years and have worked to fight it in the courts. I’m not sure what road gets there first, so that my friends, colleagues and former clients can enjoy their lives, family, property and careers in safety. That will take more than money. It will take effort and commitment to turn so-called law enforcement around so that it enforces the law for the benefit of everyone, including people of color. Few things would give me greater joy or peace of mind than to be able to share this life in peace and justice with all of you.
— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on July 7, 2020.
The pandemic has been making life quite difficult for many of us, but if we don’t figure out a way to deal with Trump’s invitations to violence things can get a lot worse.
Gun owners are not made in cookie cutters and the differences are large. I know lots of people who own guns and it’s never given me a moment’s concern. Many if not most gun owners are responsible and trustworthy. They are not killers and they’re not using their guns to play rough with people.
But there is a minority that believe that gun rights, or what Mr. Trump prefers to call Second Amendment rights, give them the privilege to threaten, intimidate and even kill to make things come out their way. Threats, intimidation and murder are not protected by the Second Amendment. They’re crimes. People who believe the Second Amendment gives them such rights are hooligans or terrorists, not responsible people who deserve anything but the insides of jail cells or loony bins. Those people are “deplorable.”
The statistics make clear that they’ve done more damage in America than the foreign terrorists we say we fear. Trump wants us to believe that there are, as he put it, good people on both sides, but White Supremacists account for the vast majority of home-grown terrorism in this country. And they reliably respond to his invitations, resulting in a very clear and present danger of violence and bloodshed.
When Mr. Trump told people to liberate Michigan with their Second Amendment rights, he was not suggesting that they keep their guns holstered or cased or even pointed at the sky. He was appealing to hooligans and terrorists to force the rest of us to do their bidding.
When Mr. Trump took office the Constitution required him to:
“solemnly swear (or affirm) that [he] will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of [his] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Millions of Americans have taken oaths that we were
“not a member of the Communist Party or any other organization which advocates the overthrow of the Government by force or violence.”
In fact Mr. Trump is trying to overthrow it. A leading, so-called birther, he denied Obama’s right to the office though Obama was properly elected and behaved in a careful and thoughtful way for the good of all of us. By contrast, Trump uses the classic methods to try to overthrow the government by force and violence. Budding dictators encourage violence, create chaos and then pose as the savior to take over. When Trump creates a clear and present danger of violence by inviting gun owners to use their Second Amendment rights, they get the signal, and Trump relies on their lawlessness to put people in terror if they oppose him. Like other budding dictators who’ve called out the military against their own people, Trump called out a show of military force against domestic demonstrators to clear his path to a photo op in front of a Washington church and over-awe Americans with his control of the levers of deadly power. A would-be dictator, Mr. Trump is repudiating his American citizenship.
Guns owners who respond to Trump’s incitement are giving a very bad name to responsible gun owners, to owners who don’t use their guns and their votes to constrain political behavior like that. It’s time to take back the NRA from the unreconstructed Civil War rebels, terrorists, hooligans and their enablers who claim the protection of their guns and the Second Amendment in your name. It’s time to break the White House link with liars, hooligans, and terrorists.
— This commentary was scheduled for broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, on June 9, 2020.
New America Foundation, IN DEPTH, Terrorism in America After 9/11 https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/terrorism-in-america/what-threat-united-states-today/;
Daniel Byman, Right-Wingers Are America’s Deadliest Terrorists, Slate, Aug. 5, 2019, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/08/right-wing-terrorist-killings-government-focus-jihadis-islamic-radicalism.html.
DANIEL MORITZ-RABSON, New NRA President Is Board Chair for Organization Managing Country’s Largest Confederate Monument, Newsweek, 4/30/19 AT 10:52 AM EDT – https://www.newsweek.com/nra-president-chairs-organization-country-largest-confederate-mounment-1409648
How the NRA went from a marksmanship group to a controversial political powerhouse. In his new book, investigative journalist Frank Smyth explores the group’s rise to favor, particularly under the Trump administration. By Hope Reese Updated Apr 2, 2020, 11:00am EDT, The Highlight by Vox, https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2020/3/24/21191524/nra-national-rifle-association-history-frank-smyth-wayne-la-pierre
I spoke last week about Trump’s intentions. His intentions are particularly scary because of the growth of wrong-wing violence. Time Magazine published an excellent summary as The Terror Within, in its August 19 issue. Vera Bergengruen and W.J. Hennigan first broke their story on Time’s website. They explained that white nationalists are responsible for a multiple of the deaths and injuries from any other causes of terrorism in the U.S. since 9/11, more than all other causes put together. But Congress and this Administration frustrated FBI efforts to assign more agents to stop mass killers from mowing us down. As a result it gets worse.
Violence has spread as copycat crimes. Potential killers are separated from others like Communists who used to work in cells. That makes them harder, though not impossible, to find. The FBI has a good record of stopping more Muslim terrorism in the U.S. But, what I refuse to call the right-wing because there is nothing right about them, feasts on assault weapons newly made available courtesy of the wrong-wingers on the U.S. Supreme Court. And, as the authors of the Time article put it, we now have “a Commander in Chief whose rhetoric appears to mirror, validate and potentially inspire that of far-right extremists.” Nothing has been a better predictor of armed revolution and dictatorial takeover than the spread of weapons among the public.
The president elides the necessity of blaming killers by referring to good people on both sides and attacking Antifa, which stands for Anti-Fascist, as if there is an equality between those trying to take our democratic institutions down and those standing up to the Fascists and trying to stop them.
In a prior era, the House Committee on Un-American Activities would have challenged the president’s loyalty. But conservatives and their wrong-wing-nut allies insist on a correspondence between investigations of the left and right as if illegal activity on the alt-wrong means that there must be at least equal and opposite illegality on the left – no evidence required. The Court has barred removing American citizenship from American citizens. But that might be the best way to protect ourselves from a disloyal president before he has the opportunity to do serious damage.
A second problem traces back to how we handle armed might in this country. Trump invited many members of the military into his Administration and then fired them. They had the backbone to resist some of the nonsense being cooked up in the White House. But they are no longer in the military. How deep can Trump get into the loyal ranks of the military before putting people in charge willing to do his bidding. Dictators have followed that dangerous pattern to power in many countries. The NRA claims it’s prepared to protect the country against governmental abuse. But their definition of abuse is public servants trying to enforce the laws about grazing cattle on public land, not presidents trying to engineer a wrong-wing takeover.
The country switched to an all-volunteer military at the height of the war in Vietnam to calm some of the controversy over that war. But if the military installs a dictator, we will see the mistake after it is too late.
Trump must be removed from office before it is too late.
I spoke last week about the importance of the whistle-blower’s complaint. It’s also the tip of the iceberg. Burt Neuborne was ACLU legal director and a founder of NYU’s Brennan Center. I’ve known Burt for decades. His publisher accurately describes him as a leading constitutional lawyer who’s sued every president since LBJ.
His new book raises very serious concerns about Trump’s dictatorial intentions. As Burt notes, we’ve known since 1990 that Donald Trump kept a copy of Hitler’s collected speeches by his bed and studied them carefully.
For those born later, Adolf Hitler initiated World War II and the extermination camps that were responsible for the deaths of seventy to eighty-five million people, from all continents. More than a million American soldiers were killed or wounded. That’s Trump’s idol.
Burt goes further, comparing the themes that both Hitler and Trump emphasized. Whatever else he hasn’t figured out, or doesn’t care about, Trump has been a good student of Hitler’s.
There isn’t time to lay them all out. Like Trump, Hitler fired his supporters up with racial and religious hatred, extreme nationalism, closing borders, mass detention and deportation. Almost every word from Trump is about hostility based on race, religion, national origin, closing the southern border and extreme nationalism, stirring a recipe for violence.
Hitler and Trump insulated themselves from criticism by denying the press any credibility and found ways to reach the public without going through the media. Reporters spend their days interviewing people, checking documents, records and participants in the news. Trump simply calls everything fake, and attacks the media in its entirety, though he’s obviously the biggest liar among us. Everything he says is reduced to single adjectives – fake, terrific, good, bad, etc. – without evidence or explanation while denying the obvious. Unhinging his audience from the work of everyone else means he can speak without fear that contrary argument will reach his audience’s ears, until truth becomes meaningless.
Both Hitler and Trump cemented their rule by enriching the wealthiest, giving them outrageous gains, tax cuts, and exemptions from rules meant to protect the public from death, destruction and deceit.
Both thumbed their noses at democratic, judicial and legislative processes and powers. In other words Trump cares only about himself and his ability to become a dictator in the style of his idols. Encouraging people to use what he labels their “Second Amendment rights” in politics is what Hitler did with his Brown Shirts, substituting the nozzle of their guns for ballots and elections. That’s the path to hell but it is a path, with the trappings of dictatorship, that looks good to Trump.
I’ve hesitated to call for impeachment because my priority is to oust Trump from office, however possible, before he can get further with his obvious desire for unchecked power.
That said, Trump’s refusal to obey constitutional limitations on using his office for personal gain, and to abide by statutes and congressional subpoenas, are clear indications of his thirst for power and disrespect of the work of the American Founders, the Constitution, its meaning, original or otherwise, and the system of checks and balances set up to control people like Trump. The emoluments clause was intended to limit opportunities for presidential disloyalty to America. But rather than make America great again Trump is intent on destroying America for personal gain, the ultimate form of disloyalty.
He must be removed from office.