If President Donald J. Trump is convicted by the U.S. Senate or if he loses the 2020 election, many liberals and lefties worry he won’t leave office voluntarily. I am not overly concerned. In order to carry out a coup, Trump will need the active cooperation of the military. And the leadership of the armed services regard the president as a harmful buffoon.
Over the weekend, Trump fired Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer. The termination resulted from the parties disagreeing over Trump’s pardon of Navy SEAL and Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who had been convicted of a war crime violating military law. First, Trump pardoned Gallagher, 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorance, a soldier convicted of war crimes and Major Mathew Golsteyn, who was awaiting trial for a war crime. The military brass made no secret of its unhappiness.
CBS News reported former Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey tweeting, “Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously. Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us. #Leadership.”
Link light rail stations and garages would use new surveillance equipment
By George Howland Jr.
In the first quarter of the next year, Sound Transit security staff will ask the Sound Transit Board of Directors to take the first step in installing artificial intelligence (AI) cameras throughout its Link light rail system of stations and garages. The Sound Transit Board of Directors will be asked to approve a Request for Proposals (RFP) from private vendors for the initial $979,200 purchase of the AI technology. There are no public meetings or public outreach planned in connection with this decision, according to John Gallagher, Sound Transit spokesperson. Branden Porter, Sound Transit’s System Security Manager, states the objective of the AI cameras is to save over $1 million per year in security costs. Sound Transit’s Gallagher stresses, “We’re not using these [cameras] in any way for facial recognition.”
Critics are not mollified by the promise. Shankar Narayan, Technology and Liberty Project Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-WA), says, the use of AI cameras would force “people to choose between privacy and transit.” This controversy comes on the heels of Sound Transit, last month, releasing data that shows its fare enforcement results in disproportionate citations for African Americans (first reported by Erica C. Barnett and then The Seattle Times).
Voters in a tri-county region (roughly approximating King, Snohomish and Pierce counties) have approved an ambitious expansion plan of Sound Transit’s light-rail, express-bus and heavy-rail transit services. Sound Transit’s current light rail is 22 miles long and runs from the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium to Angle Lake, just south of Sea-Tac Airport. By 2041, Sound Transit plans to expand light raid north to Everett, south to the Tacoma Dome and east to Issaquah. There are also two planned expansions in the city of Seattle itself: one to West Seattle and the other to Ballard. Recently, statewide voter approval of Initiative 976 put Sound Transit’s funding into doubt. Currently, I-976 is facing a court challenge.
J. B. Bosworth’s excellent “Mussolini’s Italy” illustrates the vast differences between the two right-wing populists
Mussolini’s Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship 1915-1945, R. J. B. Bosworth, Penguin Press, 736 pages, 2006, $25.00 paperback
By George Howland Jr.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump should not be compared to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Commentators ranging from The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey have compared the president to the Duce, who ruled Italy from 1922 to 1945. While Trump is a very dangerous chief executive, Mussolini was a fascist who cleverly combined violence against the Italian population itself with deft manipulation of the existing political elites. Whatever his desires, Trump has not practiced the former and seems incapable of the latter.
A good jumping off point for examining the Duce in detail is Mussolini’s Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945, by R. J. B. Bosworth, the renowned Australian scholar.
Fascism: from decentralization to dictatorship
After World War I, when the fascist movement began, its organization was highly decentralized. There was no single leader and no nationwide or regional coordination of activity. Instead, local strongmen attacked their enemies as they saw fit. Communists and socialists were the common enemies of these little Duces. The fascists used squads of thugs and former soldiers to beat, maim and kill their enemies. The squads also destroyed the leftists’ infrastructure: burning their offices and smashing their printing presses. During the rise of fascism, 3000 Italians were killed (425 were fascists).
While Trump has used the government to commit acts of horrible cruelty against immigrants and refugees—separation of families and detention in inhumane facilities—populist violence has not been in his toolbox. Gangs of Republicans are not physically attacking Democrats and setting fire to their offices. I do not see any signs of such “squadrism” emerging in our current political environment.
District elections have brought change, but it’s unclear what kind
By George Howland Jr.
On Nov. 5, there were seven Seattle City Council district seats up for election. Election night returns indicate that the labor/lefty coalition won four seats and the Chamber of Commerce slate won two seats. In District 5 (North Seattle), incumbent councilmember Deborah Juarez was endorsed by both the Chamber and the labor/lefty coalition.
If these results hold, it will be a major repudiation of the business community’s $4 million (with Amazon contributing $1.4 million) effort to make the city council more conservative.
Yet given the political positions taken by the apparent winners, it is unclear what the new city council’s direction will be on key issues such as homelessness, displacement, growth and tax and wealth inequality.
Let’s look at the districts one by one.
District No. 1 (West Seattle, South Park)
Incumbent Lisa Herbold held a small lead on election night 51-48 percent over a weak challenger Phil Tavel. In the August primary, C is for Crank’s Erica C. Barnett reports that Herbold increased her lead by 4.2 percent from election night to final results. Herbold looks safe.
Herbold is a neighborhood progressive, very much in the mold of former Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, her mentor. Earlier this year, Herbold introduced the most important anti-displacement legislation in decades: a one-for-one replacement requirement that any low-income housing that is destroyed by redevelopment must be replaced by the builder. The future of the proposal is, however, gloomy because of legal issues and a lack of support from other councilmembers.
On Marc Maron’s WTF, Maddow says she prays every day
On Monday, October 14, while appearing on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said that she is a practicing Roman Catholic. “I pray every day,” she said. “I doubt the Catholic Church is happy with me but too bad, they’re stuck with me.” [The discussion of religion begins at the one-hour, six-minute mark.]
The Rachel Maddow Show, which debuted in September 2008, is one of the top-rated cable-programs in the United States, attracting millions of viewers five nights a week on MSNBC. Maddow, 46, is an unabashed liberal who features in-depth news analysis on her program. She is a lesbian who, is partnered with Susan Mikula, an artist and photographer.
Maddow was raised in the Catholic Church. Despite the Church’s homophobia, she told Maron, she never experienced a crisis of faith or abandoned her religion. As a young woman, Catholicism was relegated to the background while she focused on her self-development.
The president’s totalitarianism has been constrained by U.S. institutions
By George Howland Jr.
There’s been some loose talk lately comparing President Donald J. Trump to Adolf Hitler.
First, Christine Todd Whitman, who previously served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Republican governor of New Jersey, tweeted that Hitler “has nothing” on Trump. “Hitler took a long time to get where he was and he had to do a lot of other things. Trump is going much faster,” Whitman told New York NBC affiliate Channel 4, on Oct. 16.
Yesterday, Oct. 20, on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic U.S. Representative and a presidential candidate, talked about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. O’Rourke said, “Outside of Nazi Germany, it is hard for me to find another modern democracy that had the audacity to say something like this and then this idea from Goebbels and Hitler that the bigger the lie and the more often you repeat it, the more likely people are to believe it. That is Donald Trump to a T.”
If we are going to be able to defeat Trump, we need to be clear about what is going on in our country. Much to my surprise, Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy and civil society have been defeated on many fronts. By contrast, Hitler quickly dismantled Germany’s constitution and destroyed the nation’s democratic institutions.
In the election for Seattle City Council District Two, the favorite prioritizes stopping displacement
By George Howland Jr.
Tammy Morales is Mexican American by birth, Jewish by choice and an organizer by vocation.
The Seattle City Council candidate for District Two (Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, Chinatown International District) grew up poor in San Antonio, Texas. For the last 20 years, Morales, 50, has organized for economic justice in Seattle’s south end. Now she hopes to bring her perspective to city hall.
She won August’s seven-candidate primary with a whopping 50 percent of the vote—the kind of numbers that are usually reserved for incumbents. In Nov. 5th’s general election, she is facing off against Mark Solomon, 59, a crime-prevention coordinator for the Seattle Police Department. Solomon only won 25 percent of the primary vote, despite conservative and corporate groups spending over $100,000 to support him.
It’s very likely Morales will be celebrating on election night. If so, Morales would become the third Latinx woman on the nine-member city council in a city with a Latinx population of only 6.6 percent. Morales would be serving with sitting city council members Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda.
Morales says, “I do identify as Mexican American, not as Latinx.” She explains that it is probably her age that makes her prefer the former term. “It is part of who I am,” she says. Both of her parents are Mexican American, but she grew up living with her mother in a single-parent household. “I did not grow up speaking Spanish. I grew up hearing it. It was what the old folks spoke when they didn’t want us kids to understand.” She remembers sitting under her grandmother’s dining-room table, listening to the adults talking Spanish and trying to make out some juicy tidbits of gossip.
One summer night in Wallingford, near Dick’s drive-in
By George Howland Jr.
My boyfriend, Tommy, and I walked with arms around one another to the bus stop. It was the summer of 1979 and he was working graveyard at a print shop. We both had long hair and beards. My hair was blonde, and my beard was black; all his hair was brown. Both of us were way skinny. He wore jeans, a t-shirt and boots. I had on draw-string pants, a t-shirt and Birkenstock sandals with no back strap.
We were on North 45th Street, a main drag through Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, at the time a neighborhood of overwhelmingly white middle-class and working-class people.
I was living right up the street at Camp Blossom for Boys, an intentional community for gay, bi-sexual and straight men. I had spent 18 months putting Camp Blossom together as part of my effort to “fight the patriarchy” by changing men. Seven of us had rented a suburban looking house next to a gas station on First Avenue Northeast. Four gay men, two straight guys and me—the lone bisexual. Three of us were anarchists, one was an activist skeptic and the other three were gay guys who were curious about living with other men.
At the time, you didn’t see many gay couples in Wallingford. We didn’t care. We were proudly, militantly out.
I wore dangling earrings and androgynous clothing. The more stares I drew, the better. I wanted to confront people’s homophobia. I told everyone—my school district employer, my alternative public high school students, people that I met—that I was bisexual. The confrontations took their toll—my stomach was often convulsed with cramps.
U.S. House Democrats must be strategic about impeachment. Currently they have launched an impeachment investigation. If they impeach—similar to an indictment—President Donald J. Trump and then the U.S. Senate, controlled by Republicans, holds a trial and acquits him, the president wins. Trump will declare himself, once again, “completely exonerated.” This time, it will be true.
It is vital that those of us who are opposed to Trump do not fall into the same trap as the Gingrich Republicans did with former President Bill Clinton in 1998. The Rs allowed their visceral hatred of Clinton to overwhelm their tactical understanding of politics. Clinton was acquitted in the Senate and the Ds won seats at the ballot box. Trump is too dangerous for the Democrats to repeat that mistake.
In theory, the impeachment and conviction of a president should be about the rule of law. Given the threat that Trump poses to democracy, the Ds must choose their course based on politics. Democrats must be guided by which course of action will strengthen Trump’s re-election.
Currently, the evidence about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is enough to launch the impeachment investigation. It’s clear from the quasi-transcript released by the White House that the U.S. president leaned on Zelensky to investigate Trump’s most feared opponent in the U.S. 2020 election—former Vice President Joe Biden—and his son Hunter. (It’s also clear that Hunter acted unethically by taking a board slot at Burisma Holdings, for which he had no qualifications and was paid up to $50,000 a month.)
The evidence against Trump is not strong enough to move one Republican senator to the convict column. The Senate needs two-thirds of its members to agree to remove a sitting president. Currently, there are 53 Republican Senators, 45 Democratic and 2 Independent (Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King, both of whom caucus with the Ds). The math is daunting.
City council candidate (District 6) and former city councilmember takes responsibility for her past mistakes
By George Howland Jr.
Heidi Wills rang my doorbell.
Earlier this summer, I put up a Facebook post about Wills and Strippergate–a City Hall scandal involving illegal lobbying and political money laundering by Frank Colacurcio, a vicious gangster. Wills, who served one four-year term, 2000-03, as an at-large city councilmember, is currently running for city council in District 6 (Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood). On Nov. 5, in the general election, she will face off against Dan Strauss, a former aide to City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. Strauss won the primary election 34 percent to Wills’ 21 percent.
In 2003, Strippergate was partially responsible for Wills losing her city council seat to David Della. In this summer’s Facebook post, I wrote, “I have never heard Wills adequately explain her behavior and demonstrate that her judgment has improved. To me, this is a necessary step before serving on the council for a second time. “
That same night, Wills was in my Phinney Ridge neighborhood ringing doorbells (at publication time, she says she had personally contacted 6,500 households). Wills’ social media person telephoned her to raise the alarm about my post. Wills decided to come over to my house–she had the address as part of publicly available voter lists–and answer my questions. Over a cup of tea, in my fortunately clean kitchen, we talked about her political past and how it relates to the present campaign.