Monthly Archives: January 2020

Oath, Say Can You See


The Constitution of the United States mandates three oaths which apply to those who govern our nation.

The oath of the president of the United states administered upon inauguration or ascension to office via succession is specified in Article II, Section One, Clause 8.

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.

Article VI, Clause 3 requires all other federal and state legislators, executive officers and judges take an oath, specified by Congress, to protect the Constitution.  The current legislated language reads:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. [So help me God.]

The third oath is situation specific as provided for in Article I, Section Three, Clause 6.  It states the Senate has sole power to try all impeachments and Senators “shall be on Oath or Affirmation.”  The oath, established by Senate rule in 1868, reads as follows.

Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of [NAME], [OFFICE], now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you god?

If you are a commissioned officer in the United States military, you take the following oath prescribed in Section 331, Title 5, United States Code.

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

If you are a naturalized citizen of the United States, you too must take an oath as prescribed by law in Section 337(a) in the Immigration Nationality Act as follows.

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  The only people who do not have to take the an oath of allegiance to the Constitution are the 82.3 percent of Americans who are native born citizens who are not government officials or serve in the armed forces.  The closest one comes to such an oath is the Pledge of Allegiance, in which we are asked to be faithful to the flag and “to the Republic for which it stands.”  I use the term “faithful” intentionally, for it is literally an act of faith that the overwhelming majority of Americans, by accident of birth, will uphold the foundations of our republic.

Republic, an interesting word which has been thrown around a lot in the past two months.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the first of many to relate Benjamin Franklin’s admonition about the fragility of our constitutional form of government during her announcement the House would move forward with impeachment.

On the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when our Constitution was adopted, Americans gathered on the steps of Independence Hall to await the news of a government our founders had crafted. They asked Benjamin Franklin: “What do we have? A republic or a monarchy?”  Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

If things go as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicts, one wonders if we still have a Republic.  When 75 percent of Americans want to hear witnesses and 50 plus Senator ignore them, it is hard to call that a republic.  When 90 percent of Americans want universal background checks for firearm purchases and one man Massacre Mitch refuses to bring legislation to the Senate floor, how can you call that representative government?

As difficult as this is to acknowledge, the ideal of a republic envisioned by James Madison and the founders was laid to rest on January 31, 2020.  Those who swore to ensure this day never came have violated their sacred oaths.  Franklin was right.  However, he did not complete the thought.  If only Franklin, often referred to as “the first American” had added, “But if the republic fails, you still have democracy.”

Image result for pocket constitutionSo, the question we should be asking on January 31, 2020 is, “What do we have?  A democracy or a monarchy?”  The answer will come on November 3, 2020.  If only every voter had to raise their right hand and put their left hand on a copy of the Constitution before casting their ballots and avow:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

For what its worth.


Crystal Balls


BLOGGER’S NOTE:  If you thought today’s post, based on the title, was going to be about Ken Starr, Pam Bondi and Alan Dershowitz, you will again be disappointed.  Although the reference is appropriate, the topic du jour is modern day prophets.

I said, whatever you do, don’t hire a “yes man,” someone who won’t tell you the truth–don’t do that.  Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly
October 26, 2019

Kelly was recalling a conversation with Donald Trump concerning selection of a successor following his announcement on December 8, 2018 he would be leaving his position as chief of staff.  Nostradamus would be proud.

This is not the only example.  Expressing his belief Trump would exact revenge on any member of the Senate who defied his claim of innocence during the impeachment trial, Adam Schiff hypothetically asked Republicans, “Do you honestly believed Trump would not turn on any one of you if you were viewed as a threat to his self-interest.”  Well, just ask John Bolton.  Or Judge Andrew Napolitano, chief judicial analyst for (drum roll) Fox News.  Yesterday, on Fox Business, Napolitano reminded viewers Bolton was “a conservative icon until two days ago.”  Psychic Jeane Dixon should have been so accurate.

To be honest, neither of these predictions signal any evidence of extraordinary powers.  Why?  First, both Kelly and Schiff were voicing sentiments that were widely held among their peers and political pundits.  I could not find one instance on-line where someone challenged these assessments.

Second, how tough is it to make predictions of things that happen just weeks or months into the future?  Forecasting Trump would attack someone who crossed him is the equivalent of calling a football game at the two-minute warning with one team ahead by four touchdowns.  Or laying down a bet on Secretariat to win the Belmont Stakes as the horses enter the home stretch.

Real prophets need to see farther into the future and foretell events which challenge conventional wisdom.  Let me share one example.

As some of you may know, among other things besides this blog, I co-host a monthly event at our local bookstore.  The series is titled Cinema and Conversation.  We first screen a movie and then moderate a discussion about the subject matter, the filmmaker’s approach and style or both.  Based on the license we have with the Motion Picture Licensing Association, we cannot charge admission nor advertise the event using the title or the names of any of the cast or crew.  We are allowed to provide an ambiguous teaser.

For January, I picked a film which we marketed as “the perfect movie to kick off an election year.”  Between the announcement and the screening, when I ran into one of the regular patrons of the series, they would tell me they were sure I chose Wag the Dog, Barry Levinson’s 1997 story about a presidential campaign which produces a fictional war to distract from the candidate’s sexual discretion.  They should have known better.  I eschew box office blockbusters.  And often pick a story I think the critics overlooked or misunderstood.

On movie night, I warned the audience I had picked a 2006 production which ranked 2,305 on the all-time domestic box office list ($37.4 million gross revenue) and at the time of its release received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 23/100.  It was Barry Levinson’s other political satire Man of the Year, starring Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken and Lewis Black.  The story focuses on the improbable presidential election of a late night television personality as the result of an error in the program code of voting machines used in several states.  Levinson said he was inspired by suspected irregularities in electronic voting tallies associated with Diebold machines used in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election.  HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE:  Walden O’Dell, the chairman and CEO of Diebold was a major Republican donor from Columbus, Ohio.

Every time I host Cinema and Conversation, the first question I ask is, “What do think the filmmaker was trying to communicate?”  The consensus this night being it was a warning about the following things.

  • The integrity of electronic voting machines with no paper backup.
  • Whether the design and maintenance of voting machines should be left to for-profit companies.
  • The attraction of celebrities as political figures.
  • The rise of populism resulting from dissatisfaction with both major political parties.
  • Reliance on comedians from Mort Sahl to George Carlin to John Stewart for news commentary.
  • The role of whistle blowers in the private sector as well as public sector.

A pretty good list of things to consider as we approach November 2020.  So why did it flop in 2006?  Consider the following reviews.

A sort-of-political kind-of-satire written and directed by Barry Levinson, the picture resurrects a fantasy that periodically seizes the imaginations of Hollywood studios, and also, a bit less frequently, of some American voters: that a plain-talking outsider will roll into Washington, propelled by popular frustration with the status quo, and clean up the mess.

This is a shame since Mr. Levinson was responsible for “Wag the Dog,” a gratifyingly sharp and imaginative dissection of the media spectacle that often confuses itself with political reality.

New York Times

Levinson made a much smarter political comedy a decade ago called Wag the Dog. That one also was constructed as a thriller, but it didn’t star a comedian, and it didn’t spring from what is essentially a pretty old joke.


Related imageIronically, Levinson who both directed and wrote the screenplay, anticipated this response.  In an exchange between president-elect Tom Dobbs (Williams) and his manager (Walken), Dobbs expresses his continuing disbelief he has won the election.  To which Walken replies, “Well, Mark Twain once wrote, ‘The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.’  We are, my friend, in uncharted waters.”

Which proves the point, to be considered a prophet requires capturing an inconceivable future reality first as a credible fiction, regardless whether anyone believes it or not. And in 2006, Levinson epitomized the prophet who was a stranger in his own land–Hollywood.

So, the next time you go to the movies and someone tells you, “This could never happen here,” respond by asking them, “Have you ever seen Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year?  Don’t tell me it can’t happen here.  It already has.”

For what it’s worth.

A Few Bad Men

With appreciation to Aaron Sorkin, screen writer, and Rob Reiner, director, of A Few Good Men on which this parody is based.

Yesterday, Castle Rock Productions announced it has approached Rob Reiner to direct a sequel to his 1992 tour de force starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson.  Below is an excerpt from the working script.

A  FEW BAD MEN/Scene 45

[The United States Senate.  Chief Justice John Roberts gavels the session in order.  Donald Trump is sworn in as Adam Schiff addresses the witness.]

Schiff:  Take your seat Mr. President.

Trump:  What shall we discuss?  My golf game?

Schiff:  The meeting with your National Security Advisor in August 2019 where you told John Bolton you wanted to continue withholding military aid to Ukraine until they announced the investigations of Joe and Hunter Biden and Ukraine interference in the 2016 election.

Trump:  But that meeting never existed.

Schiff:  We believe it did, sir.  And you told Ambassador Sondland there was no quid pro quo, that you did not want the aid withheld.  He was clear what you wanted?

Trump: Crystal.

Schiff:  Could he have ignored the order?

Trump: Ignored the order?

Schiff: Or forgot it?

Trump: No!

Schiff:  When Sondland talked to Rudy Guiliani, any chance Rudy ignored him?

Trump:  Have you ever sat at the Resolute Desk, son?  Ever been in the White House situation room?  Ever had the fate of the free world in your hands?  People follow orders, son.  Otherwise they find their heads on a pike.  It’s that simple.  Are we clear?  ARE WE CLEAR?

Schiff: Crystal.  One last question before I call Ambassador Bolton.  If you ordered Ukraine’s military aid not be withheld, and your orders are always followed, then why was the aid withheld?  Why would it be necessary to withhold aid which had been appropriated by a bi-partisan majority of Congress and you signed into law?

Trump:  Because I was concerned about rampant corruption in Ukraine and their interference on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Schiff:  But you said you did not order the aid to be withheld?

Trump:  I know what I said!

Schiff: Then why was the aid withheld?

Trump:  Men can do things on their own.

Schiff:  But your men never do.  Your men obey orders, right?

Trump:  You snotty little bastard.  I request a recess.

Roberts: The court will wait for an answer.

Schiff:  If acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney did not order the aid be withheld, why was it withheld?  Mulvaney sent an email to OMB to halt the funding because you told him to.  And when your “drug deal” went bad, you told Sondland there wasn’t one.  And you locked down the transcript of the July 25th phone call to hide the direct evidence.  Mr. President, did you order withholding aid from Ukraine pending announcement of the two investigations by President Zelenskyy?

Roberts:  You don’t have to answer that.

Trump:  You want answers?  

Schiff:  I want the truth.

Trump:  You can’t handle the truth.  Son, I live in a bizarro world with walls that must be guarded.  Article II of the Constitution gives me more power than you can fathom.  You weep for Ukraine and curse my administration.  And my existence, while grotesque to you, depends on those walls.  We use words like lock her up, send them back home and covfefe.  They are the backbone of my support.  You use them as a punchline.  I haven’t the time or inclination to explain myself.

Schiff:  Did you order the withholding of military assistance to Ukraine.

Trump.  You’re goddamn right I did!  (Evangelicals gasp)

Schiff:  I suggest the witness be dismissed and we immediately move to a vote on the articles of impeachment.

Roberts:  The witness is excused.

Trump:  What the hell is this?  I did my job, I’d do it again.

Schiff:  We know, sir.  We know.

Trump:  I’m going back to the White House.

Roberts:  You’re not going anywhere.  Sergeant-at-arms, escort the president out of the chamber.  You’ve the right to remain silent.  (Everyone laughs.)

Trump:  I’m being charged with a crime?  This is funny, that’s what this is!  I’m gonna rip the eyes out of your head and piss on your skull!  You f***ing people have no idea how to win an election.  Sweet dreams, son.

Schiff:  Don’t call me son.  I’m a prosecutor and a member of the House of Representatives.  And you’re under arrest, you son of a bitch.

Roberts:  The witness is excused.


Rob Reiner, due to previous commitments chose to pass on the opportunity to direct this film.  Other considerations for director include Quentin Tarantino who has requested the title be changed to Once Upon a Time…in Mar-A-Lago or Baz Luhrmann who has proposed a musical version titled Moola Ruse.

For What It’s Worth


Searching for Bobby Kennedy


The title of today’s post is an obvious reference to the book and movie Searching for Bobby Fisher, chess’ version of the The Great White Hope.  Except in this case, the goal was not to find a Caucasian boxer who could defeat the first black heavyweight champion.  It was the story of Josh Waitzkin, a young prodigy who many viewed as America’s best chance of regaining superiority over Soviet grand masters of the “game of kings.”

Fifty two years ago, the United States was a divided nation.  Divided along racial lines, divided along economic status, and divided over a war in Vietnam.  In June 1968, American voters were looking for a candidate who could bring the country together.  Many Democrats believed Robert Kennedy had such potential.   In the era of Donald Trump, many of us are waiting for the next Bobby Kennedy without quite knowing what that means.  Perhaps the best description comes from the eulogy delivered by his brother Ted.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Is that not what so many cry out for today?  The Democratic nominee need not be larger than life.  We know what that looks like.  A narcissistic cult figure who governs by fear. Good and decent, righting wrong, healing suffering and pursuing peace should be sufficient.

So how do we decide who best satisfies these criteria.  One way is to examine their life’s work.  And each of the candidates for the Democratic nomination can point to achievements and causes of which they can be proud.  But, as is often said, being president of the United States and leader of the free world is unlike anything else an individual can appreciate or experience until they occupy the Oval Office.

We complain about what Jimmy Carter called “not a sprint, but a marathon,” the months and now years of campaigning to win the White House.  But the challenges of running for the nation’s highest office are the best indicators of how one might govern.  How prepared is the candidate to respond to current events?  Can he or she bring people together, not by pandering to different audiences, but explaining consistent goals and policies in a way they can be understood by  a diverse audience?  How do they treat their rivals, as enemies or as future allies?

The number of still undecided voters in the national and early primary state polls suggests many Democrats have not yet found a champion.  I am one of them.  I am concerned that the current front runners have taken their eye off the prize, competing against each other rather than explaining what decency, compassion and justice will look like in a post-Trump America.  Trump daily force feeds them opportunities to do this and they do not seem to respond.

Perhaps the most blatant example are recent charges by several of the candidates that the party should not allow Mike Bloomberg to “buy the presidency.”  The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has implicitly affirmed this position by making the number of grassroots contributions a criterion for debate participation.  (NOTE:  As I have argued on numerous occasions, being excluded from these so-called debates should be viewed as a plus.)  Is it not more important what you do with the resources at your disposable? Is that not what we ask of Congress and the President?  We expect to pay taxes and probably would mind less if we felt those dollars were being spent effectively.

Which brings me to why attacks on Mike Bloomberg are short sighted and self-defeating.  Today, I received an email from  The message?  If only I would send them some money today, they would start airing television ads in states with vulnerable Republican senators, imploring those members of the Trump jury to demand witnesses and evidence.  Mike Bloomberg has been doing that for the last 10 days.

Trump again showed his ignorance and lack of compassion for our men and women in uniform by suggesting injuries suffered as a result of Irani retaliation for the death of Qasem Soleimani were minor, just “headaches.”  Within 24 hours Bloomberg aired spots on national TV, including Fox News, chastising Trump for disrespecting the troops he commands.  And following further rollbacks in environmental protection, there were ads about the existential danger from Trump’s climate change denial.

Some may find these ads self-serving.  But that does not explain the $45 million dollars Bloomberg spent on behalf of 24 Democratic candidates in 2018.  Of the targeted races, the Democrat in 21 districts flipped the congressional seat from red to blue.  Or the millions of dollars he has donated to causes including sensible gun laws, climate change and the opioid crisis.

If Democrats want to talk about buying elections, they need to turn their attention to the $29 billion of your money that Trump hopes will placate farmers who should be suffering more than they already are from his trade wars.  Or the trillions of dollars in tax cuts to lure wealthy donors to finance his dishonest and inflammatory campaign.

Like so many things espoused by the evangelical community, there is no biblical reference for the oft repeated adage attributed to Jesus, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”  But it does help explain my current fascination with Mike Bloomberg.  I am far from convinced he is the Bobby Kennedy for whom I keep searching, but I wholeheartedly endorse the campaign he is running.  In other words, one can love the campaign without yet loving the candidate.


POSTSCRIPT:  Media Gone Wild

Ignoring facts must be contagious.  This morning, Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources was discussing the impact of the impeachment trial on public opinion.  Both he and his two guests suggested the country was “split down the middle.” He then showed a graphic of opinions of independent voters in which 53 percent now favor impeachment and removal from office.  Support for acquittal was 34 percent.  To which Stelter said (I kid you not), “Again, split right down the middle.”  No statistics text I used in college ever described a 19 point difference as evenly divided.  It makes one wonder if these folks ever listen to what they are saying.

For what it’s worth.


Ultimate Distraction


Much was made in the media whether Donald Trump would attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in the midst of the Senate impeachment trial.  Critics argued his leaving the country was a further sign Trump still fails to understand the gravity of his actions.  While supporters contended their leader was just continuing to do his job, promoting the United States as a model of economic growth and stability.  This approach is a continuation of a theme Trump first posited in August 2018, when citing the economy, said, “I  don’t think you can impeach somebody that’s doing a great job.”

The same could be said of the gang in 1950 responsible for the Boston Brinks Building robbery, the largest such crime in the nation’s history.  Under this legal theory, one can imagine Joseph “Big Joe” McGinnis claiming he and his 10 accomplices were immune to prosecution because the crime was so skillfully executed.  “You can’t throw us in jail after we did such as great job.  Some people say it was ‘the crime of the century.'”

However, when you look at the events this week you realize the ultimate distraction is the trial itself.  America is witness to perhaps the most prescient illustration of misdirection in the Trump era.  While press and broadcast media devote their time and space to a story with a predetermined outcome, we are deprived of coverage about an equally sinister series of events which may have an even greater impact on the future.

Just in case you too have been preoccupied with or ignoring the procedural and substantive roller coaster ride in the United States Senate, consider what Trump and his merry minions are doing under cover of impeachment.

During a Wall Street Journal interview on Monday, Trump revealed he plans to introduce a new tax-cut proposal in 90 days.

We’re talking a fairly substantial … middle-class tax cut that’ll be subject to taking back the House and obviously keeping the Senate and keeping the White House.

Anyone who criticizes Mike Bloomberg by charging him with “buying the presidency” needs to understand the difference.  Bloomberg is spending his own money.  In the above statement, Trump is telling you he is going to bribe you to vote Trumpist in 2020 using your children’s and grandchildren’s money.

If not, he needs to tell us how he plans to pay for this tax cut.  Does anyone really think  Trump is planning to avoid further increasing the budget deficit by rolling back some of the excesses for corporations or the wealthiest Americans in the 2017 so-called tax reform act?  Or reducing defense spending?  Or reducing the number of days he golfs at one of his properties at taxpayer expense?

The truth is you need not speculate.  He is telling us exactly how he’s going to do it.  Yet, under the cover of impeachment mania information about the priorities during a second Trump term is on page six when it should be on the front page.  Consider the following examples from the White House’s 2020 budget proposal.

The Trump administration on Thursday announced a repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation that limited the amount of pollution and chemicals in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.  The rollback of the Waters of the United States rule was announced by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler at an event in Washington at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that has pushed for its repeal and replacement.  (NPR, April 2019)

President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget plan to slash federal funding for farm subsidies and other safety net programs for agricultural producers is getting criticized by farmers who say they are already struggling. (CNBC, February 2019)

Or this story based on an interview with the Wall Street Journal just yesterday.

President Trump suggested on Wednesday that he would be willing to consider cuts to social safety-net programs like Medicare to reduce the federal deficit if he wins a second term, an apparent shift from his 2016 campaign promise to protect funding for such entitlements.

Maybe the offsets will come from the Environmental Protection Agency or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signaled as much when he challenged teenager Greta Thunberg’s credentials as a climate change activist.

Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I’m confused.  After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us.

According to the New York Post, “Mnuchin’s swipe came two days after President Trump slammed ‘environmental alarmists’ to a crowd at Davos that included 17-year-old Thunberg.”  Can you say “toady?”  I knew you could.  Perhaps in the Latest Testament, the parable of David and Goliath will feature Thunberg and a Goldman-Sachs executive.

Image result for las vegas at nightLast night Steven Colbert had fun comparing Trump’s suggestion the wheel was invented in America to a ring of shiny keys designed to get you to look elsewhere. But the shiniest of objects is the impeachment itself.  As Dustin Hoffman observes of the Las Vegas Strip in Rain Man, “It’s very sparkly. Very twinkly.” And once again, the media and much of the public have unfortunately taken the sparkly and twinkly bait.

For what it’s worth.