America demands good-faith public service

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Then Vice President Joe Biden receives a briefing by Bob Fenton, Assistant Administrator for Disaster Response, FEMA on the impact of Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing recovery process at the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Department in Seaside Heights, N.J., Nov. 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

The United States has just pulled off an amazing and historic feat: In the middle of a devastating pandemic, as infectiondeath and hardship ravage the country, and amid a nonstop firestorm of disinformation, the people of the United States have held a free and fair election, with record numbers of votes cast, and no evidence of fraud found anywhere. Facing real personal risk and uncertainty about new voting processes, we have acted to keep the republic.

This was an accomplishment of the whole of American society: Despite the challenges — and the coordinated attempts at election interference from a sitting president and his allies — a record number of Americans voted, and the election was not only free and fair, but the most secure in history.

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The United States is not “a center-right country”

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Photo shows view of the huge crowd from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, during the March on Washington. Original black and white negative by Warren K. Leffler. Taken August 28th, 1963, Washington D.C, United States (@libraryofcongress). Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

There are many reasons political pundits say the United States is a center-right country. None of them hold up to scrutiny. First, let’s start from the origin of the Left-Right construct:

  • “The Left” refers to the left side of the French Revolutionary Assembly — who favored a democratic republic.
  • “The Right” refers to their opponents — who favored a return to absolute monarchy.

Just starting there, even the most conservative Americans are much further left than we generally acknowledge.

  • Libertarianism cannot fit into “The Right”;
  • small-town local government as the leading lever of national decision-making cannot fit into “The Right”;
  • pro-business conservatism cannot fit into “The Right”;
  • the right of the people to compel government to tax the people less would have no place under the autocracy of the original “Right”;
  • religious liberty has no place in the absolutist mindset of “The Right”, where the monarch claims to be a political agent of God’s will.

In its original sense, “The Right” is antithetical to American democracy. Shocking as it may seem, in the true sense of the Left-Right construct, Americans who favor climate action, or the principle that Black Lives Matter, or who want tax fairness, or who defend the 2nd Amendment, are all more “Left” than “Right”, because they believe people’s aspirations, priorities, and justice, should govern, not the whims of autocrats.

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Elect Biden & Harris to Rescue the United States

The stakes this year are far graver than any we have faced since 1864.

The election of a President of the United States is a national choice about the future. It affects, in many ways direct and many more indirect, the lives of everyone living in the United States. After four years of Donald Trump’s erratic, abusive presidency, democracy itself is at risk; the people of the United States must elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to rescue the country from disaster.

The only legitimate public official is the one that works as a servant of the people. Holding high office does not elevate one above the public; it means the public is the higher rank, to whom the office-holder must report. Taking the oath of office is not the recitation of words; it is an act: it serves only if the person taking the oath understands that he or she must be, at all times, a servant to all of the people, without discrimination and foregoing all self-interest.

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Republican-led Senate Committee finds Trump campaign chairman worked with Russian intelligence operatives

The Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) has issued Volume 5 of its report on 3 years of investigations into Russia’s attack on the 2016 US Presidential election. The 996-page document details extensive contacts between Trump Campaign officials and Russian Intelligence operatives. It also provides the evidence to support these findings.

The report finds Paul Manafort worked closely with Russian intelligence operatives for many years, going back to 2004. It also found Manafort passed “targeting data” to Russian operatives, in order to assist them in their efforts to surround American voters with pro-Trump, anti-Clinton disinformation.

The report found that Manafort was paid tens of millions of dollars by “ProRussian Ukrainian oligarchs”, and that:

Manafort hired and worked increasingly closely with a Russian national, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer. Kilimnik became an integral part of Manafort’s operations in Ukraine and Russia, serving as Manafort’s primary liaison to [Oleg] Deripaska and eventually managing Manafort’s office in Kyiv.

Reacting to the release of the report on Twitter, Evan McMullin, who ran against Trump in 2016, as an independent candidate, called Manafort’s actions “the greatest betrayal of the country ever.”

While Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says the report finds “no evidence” of collusion between Trump and Russian operatives, the report does provide extensive evidence of ongoing, deliberate collaboration on Russia’s “active measures” attack on the election. The Republican-led committee also specifically said:

Taken as a whole, Manafort’s high level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat.

Volume 5 of the Senate Intelligence Committee report into Russia’s interference focused on counterintelligence investigations, and the potential risk to national security. Among its findings:

  • During the campaign itself, Michael Cohen—then candidate Trump’s personal lawyer—contacted Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking Russian officials, seeking assistance in the development of a Trump Tower Moscow property.
  • Donald Trump did, in fact, have multiple discussions with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks and its efforts to smear Hillary Clinton and disrupt her campaign, despite Trump having told Robert Mueller’s investigation he did not recall any such conversations.
  • Donald Trump, Jr., was aware he was meeting at Trump Tower with people involved in the Russian government’s efforts to provide (illegal) assistance to his father’s campaign.
  • The Trump Transition Team sought to prevent investigators from accessing key documents, but the Committee was able to verify that Russian intelligence sought to leverage Michael Flynn’s then undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador.
  • Russian operatives Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin “established a broad network of relationships with the leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA), conservative political operatives, Republican government officials, and individuals connected to the Trump campaign,” an effort that began as far back as 2013.

Significant portions of the report are redacted, to protect sources and methods, or the identity of individuals who were not engaged in any criminal activity. It is also thought some of the information mentioned may pertain to ongoing investigations and that witnesses may have been threatened or might be facing potential retaliation.

Conscience of a Country

In October 2016, President Barack Obama hosted a South by South Lawn Festival for people working to achieve social good through organizing and innovation. Rep. John Lewis told a new generation of committed change makers it was necessary to “get into some good trouble”, to upset the balance of power making injustice too much the norm, and to make more good possible.

John Lewis was 23 years old when he addressed the 1963 March on Washington. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, he was nearly beaten to death. He often noted he was arrested more than 40 times in the 1960s, during protests demanding fully equal protection of civil rights and voting rights. He was uniquely driven and dedicated, but was never alone; he believed in being part of a movement, was always attuned to the movement of public conscience, and he never gave up.

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Renewal is Possible, if We All Do Our Part

Without a healthy, inclusive, just and reciprocal social contract, we cannot be free.

This 4th of July, to honor the long-ago opened and still incomplete move for citizen-led self-government, we must fully commit to the work of ending structural racism and reckon with the ways in which misgovernment, economic inequality, and a surging pandemic affect the meaning and lived reality of human freedom. Constraints on real personal sovereignty deny tens of millions the ability to define their own journey and chase their dreams.

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George Floyd should be Alive Today

George Floyd should be alive today.

George Floyd was murdered. The four men who killed him could have chosen not to kill him at any time. Now former police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes. For six of those minutes, George Floyd begged for his life. For three minutes, he was unresponsive. Chauvin continued to press his knee down, deliberately using the weight of his body to cut off both the air and blood supply.

The actions of the 3 accomplices—who not only failed to stop Chauvin but aided him—have shredded the sense that we are protected by a shared fabric of mutual responsibility. Public authority comes from the authorization of the public. As the nation’s founding document notes, “governments … [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed”, and then only to protect universal rights.

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Mitt Romney’s address to the Senate, on voting to convict Trump for abuse of office

On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) explained his weighing of the evidence that President Trump had abused his office and committed high crimes against the Constitution and the People of the United States. His vote later that day would make Donald Trump the first and only US President ever to face a bipartisan vote to remove him from office. Below is a full transcript of Senator Romney’s historic address.

SENATOR MITT ROMNEY, Republican of Utah

The Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic’s success, and we each strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it. The Constitution established the vehicle of impeachment that has occupied both houses of our Congress these many days. We have labored to faithfully execute our responsibilities to it. We have arrived at different judgments, but I hope we respect each other’s good faith.

The allegations made in the articles of impeachment are very serious. As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

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White House was warned Ukraine aid freeze was illegal; Trump ordered freeze anyway

In a new report from Just Security, we now have evidence from inside the Trump White House that President Trump ordered the freezing of aid to Ukraine, knowing his actions were illegal. The critical new information is found in unredacted emails from the Office of Management and Budget, which explained to alarmed officials at the United States Department of Defense that the freeze was ordered by the President.

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Chief Justice Celebrates Independent Judiciary, Civic Education

In his end of year letter, Chief Justice John Roberts has directly addressed what may be the defining Constitutional issue of our time—whether brute force will govern instead of the law (and by extension: whether the federal courts will remain independent of politics and so able to uphold the principles of the Constitution and the universal rights it protects).

The Chief Justice notes the that the first to hold his post, John Jay, was sidelined from his role as one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers, by a rash of mob violence. He writes:

It is sadly ironic that John Jay’s efforts to educate his fellow citizens about the Fram ers’ plan of government fell victim to a rock thrown by a rioter motivated by a rumor. Happily, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay ulti- mately succeeded in convincing the public of the virtues of the principles embodied in the Constitution. Those principles leave no place for mob violence.

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