Will Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker Fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller?

Leading news stories on Cable TV today focused on Robert Mueller releasing documents revealing former security adviser Michael Flynn’s cooperation in the Russia investigation.  The documents were heavily redacted (blacked out), but they did note Flynn’s “substantial help” in several parts of the continuing investigation.  Prosecutors on Mueller’s team cited Flynn’s assistance as a basis for leniency when he is sentenced by a judge on December 18.

Prologue:  The FBI original Trump-Russia investigation began in summer 2016 during the presidential campaign with very little reporting to the public.  In May 2017, President Trump fired Director James Comey and said a day later that the Russia investigation was on his mind.  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was in charge of the  investigation because Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions had recused himself when it became known that he had met with the Russian ambassador during the Trump campaign.

Rod  Rosenstein then named Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel on May 17, 2017.   That day, Mueller issued the only public statement he’s issued since he took the position.  “I accept the responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability.”   Rosenstein said at the time,  “The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree independence from the normal chain of command.”

Results of the Investigation to date:  Mueller enlisted a team of sixteen:  FBI agents, former prosecutors and other lawyers to investigate Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether any Trump associates conspired.  Each of the prosecutors has a specialty, like political corruption, hacking or money laundering.  The team has secured   indictments against 32 people and three Russian companies with interfering in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald J. Trump. This includes four Trump campaign officials: Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn.  All have reached plea deals.  Manafort was the campaign chair at one time while Flynn had been a key participant during the entire campaign, sparking the “Lock her Up” chant at rallies. He pleaded guilty to   lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak during the transition.

President Trump has labeled the Mueller Investigation from the beginning as a “witch hunt” with no validity.  He has insisted in tweets, interviews on cable TV and at midterm rallies , “I have had nothing to do with Russia!”  “ No business deals in Russia.”  “No interests or connections of any kind in Russia!”  For some months he refrained from attacking Robert Mueller, a Republican, personally.  More recently, his attacks include Mueller by name for conducting the “witch hunt.”  Trump has always attacked the media as “the enemy of the people” who write and broadcast “fake news”.

Department of Justice change at the White House: Donald Trump also continued to denigrate Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.  He had been head of the  D.O.J. Department of Justice. Trump said many times he never would have appointed him if he had known he would recuse himself.   On November 7, 2018 , Jeffrey Sessions submitted his resignation to the  president. Then, Trump announced the same day that he was appointing Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States.  Whitaker had been Sessions’ chief of staff since September and  practically unknown in Washington.  He was a Republican who had said that the Mueller Investigation was a  “witch hunt” .  Trump bypassed Rod Rosenstein the deputy attorney general with the appointment.  Matt Whitaker would now be responsible for the Mueller Investigation and the entire Department of Justice.

Reactions to Matt Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general:

On November 8, The New York Times printed an Op Ed by Neil Katyal former U.S. Solicitor General and George T. Conway III , lawyer and husband of Kellyanne Conway, White House adviser.    Headline: “Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional “  “ The president is evading his responsibility to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and the person who will oversee the Mueller Investigation.”

Their central argument was that a principal office such as acting attorney general must be confirmed by the Senate. “Evading such a procedure defies one of the explicit checks and balances set out in the Constitution,  a provision designed to protect us against the centralization of government power.”

On November 9, The New York Times printed a second Op Ed by Neil Katyal and George T. Conway III. “Whitaker’s Appointment Is Illegal” From the text: “Mr. Whitaker … has now been vested with the law enforcement authority of the entire United States government, including the power to supervise senate confirmed officials like the deputy attorney general, the solicitor general and all United States attorneys.”  They concluded their piece , “Constitutionally Mathew Whitaker is a nobody.  For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.”

On November 19, three Democratic Senators went before a federal judge to issue an injunction barring Mathew Whitaker from exercising the powers of the Justice Department.  They argued that his installation violated The Constitution.  Senators Richard Blumenthal  of Connecticut, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island sit on the Judiciary Committee.

One week after Trump appointed Whitaker as Acting Attorney General, four hundred and three members of the Department of Justice from across the United States signed a letter strongly opposed to his appointment. They had learned as any interested reader of The New York Times that “Mr. Whitaker is an avowed antagonist of Robert Mueller and has called the investigation “a witch hunt”.  He has said, “Mr. Mueller’s team should not investigate Trump’s finances and has suggested an attorney general could slash the special counsel’s budget.”

It became even clearer to millions of citizens who follow the political news that Whitaker was unfit for the position.  It was revealed on cable news that “ Whitaker is skeptical about Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case by the first Chief justice of the United States that established judicial review by the Supreme Court of the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Whitaker would also support confirmation of federal judges who hold a “biblical view of justice” and he may have prosecuted a political opponent for improper reasons when he was a federal prosecutor.”  Finally,  Whitaker’s business involvement with a company accused of scamming customers is being investigated at this time.

Latest political news:  December 7: Robert Mueller will release documents concerning Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen related to their cooperation with the Russia Investigation.  Donald Trump will be riveted to  every word to see if he or family members may be closer to becoming targets of the overall investigation.

At the same time, there is a bill in the Senate to stop Trump from firing Robert Mueller.  Majority leader, Mitch McConnell is holding up the bill.  But Jeff Flake, Republican, who is retiring in January is threatening to stop sixteen appellate judges from being confirmed by the Senate.  Flake is the key swing vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  If he votes No on the judges, they will not move to the full Senate.

We all watch as another scene unfolds in this chaotic Donald Trump White House.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Joyce S. Anderson

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Chief Justice John Roberts Rebukes Donald Trump!

 

On Tuesday, November 20, Donald Trump complained about the decision of Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court in San Francisco.   Tigar had ordered the administration to resume accepting claims for asylum from migrants, no matter how or where they entered the United States.  Trump expressed his anger at this order in long comments, calling Judge Tigar “an Obama judge”.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rebuked Trump the next day  for calling a judge who had ruled against his administration’s asylum policy “an Obama judge”. He said in a statement,  “ We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges.   Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should be thankful for.”

Later that day, Trump responded on Twitter, “Sorry, Chief Justice  Roberts,  but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”  Trump always persists in having the last word in an argument.  It appears that he never takes time to consider what the consequences may be for his speech or actions.

The rebuke was the first time since Trump ran for president that the Chief Justice has ever commented upon his previous attacks upon federal judges.  They have been a constant part of his early morning tweets , starting during his run for office in early 2016, when he attacked Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel  of the Federal District Court in San Diego.   Judge Curiel was over-seeing a class –action suit against Trump University.  “They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what he is doing is a total disgrace”, he said.  Then he added that the judge had a conflict of interest since his family was of Mexican heritage. Judge Curiel, who had been born in Indiana, decided the case in favor of the plaintiffs, former students. They had argued that Trump University had been a sham and had taken large amounts of their money.  Trump settled the case after the election, paying millions to the plaintiffs.

In 2017, after Trump lost one of his travel bans against Muslims, he attacked the judge, James Robart on the Federal District Court in Seattle, calling him “ a so-called judge”.  Roberts made no comment.  When Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first appointment to the High Court called such attacks  “demoralizing” and “disheartening”, during his confirmation process, Roberts again was silent.

During 2016, when Trump was running for office, the Senate Majority Leader,  Mitch Mc Connell had blocked Barack Obama from appointing a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died. McConnell had said,  “The people will decide in the next presidential election.  Senate Republicans refused to meet and there was never a vote to confirm or deny in the Senate. Obama did nominate Merrick Garland, Chief of the Second Circuit, the most influential Court in the country next to the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Roberts had only eight justices for a year instead of nine.  Yet, he never commented , while Democrats inveighed against the unfair practice of denying a president his “duty” under The Constitution to nominate a successor when a vacancy occurred. It is certainly possible that Roberts going public at that time could have influenced Mc Connell to ‘follow The Constitution” and have the Senate meet to confirm or deny the nomination.  Garland was a centrist who had been praised by influential Senate Republicans when he was named.  We will never know if he would have been confirmed.

What we all appear to know is that Donald J. Trump will continue to believe that The Department of Justice is there to follow his orders on all matters of state and policy.  He sees the Attorney General as his personal lawyer, there to protect him as “Eric Holder did for Obama and Bobby Kennedy did for J.F.K. “   He does not seem to grasp that we have three branches of the Federal Government:  Legislative,  Executive and Judicial.   They are listed in the Constitution Articles I,  II  and III.  The longest Article is the Congress, since the founders were wary of any leader who might be like King George against whom they fought for Independence.

It will be very interesting to see what happens in January when the Democrats take over the Judiciary,   Intelligence and Oversight Committees in the House of Representatives.  They then have the power of Subpoena to investigate Trump’s tax returns and possible “obstruction of justice” and “abuse of power” during his first two years in office.

Right now, Americans are waiting for Robert Mueller to make his next announcement.  Will there be charges against any members of the Trump family?   Will he specify when the report will be completed and given to the Congress and the Public who can hardly wait to read it?

……………………………………………………………………………Joyce. S. Anderson

Blue Wave: “The People Yes”

 

After the Midterms were over, the big headline was “The Democrats win control of the House!  There will be a check on president Donald Trump.”  In the days that followed, additional seats were won by the Democrats. Nancy Pelosi appeared to be returning as Speaker of The House of Representatives. Another huge story was “One hundred women elected to the House!” 2018 became the Second Year of the Woman.   In every region of the country, in red and blue states, Democratic women campaigned for the first time and won seats from incumbent Republican men.  It seemed clear that Trump’s misogyny had galvanized women in the suburbs and the cities. The first signal was the huge Women’s March on Saturday after Trump’s inauguration in January, 2017 –the largest march in United States history.

Often, in times of great import, I remember a poem that captures the essence of the moment.  Poets can express the human condition better than psychologists and historians. Carl Sandburg was such a poet. He wrote from Chicago in the first half of the 20th century about the American people — who we are, our struggles and what we strive for. His epic poem, “The People Yes” captures this moment in our history.  Here are excerpts to illuminate what has happened to all of us .

“The people yes”

The people will live on.

The learning and blundering people will live on.

They will be tricked and sold and again sold

And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,

The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,

You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.

The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

*   *   *    *    *    *    *    *

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,

Is a vast huddle with many units saying:

“I earn my living.

I make enough to get by

And it takes all my time.

If I had more time

I could do more for myself

And maybe for others.

I could read and study

And talk things over

And find out about things.

It takes time.

I wish I had the time.

*   *    *     *    *     *     *

Man is a long time coming.

Man will yet win.

Brother may yet line up with brother:

This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.

There are men who can’t be bought.

The fireborn are at home in fire.

The stars make no noise.

You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.

Time is a great teacher.

Who can live without hope?

In this darkness with a great bundle of grief

The people march.

In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the

People march:

“Where to? What next?”

…………………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

Midterm Elections Alert: Your Vote Counts on Tuesday, November Six!

Presidential historians, Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin have called this election the most important in modern history.  President Donald Trump has created an atmosphere of anxiety, fear and bipartisan enmity throughout the nation with his daily tweets and speeches at rallies. He singles out the Press as the “enemy of the people” and attacks the F.B.I. and The Justice Department on a regular basis.

Trump has promoted fears that immigrants in huge “Caravans” from Central America are bringing criminals and deadly diseases to the United States.  The facts are that parents and children are fleeing dangerous lives in their homelands as they walk hundreds of miles toward  a better future in this country.  They are seeking asylum through legal means. At present, they are over eight hundred miles south of Mexico,  but Trump claimed  he may send  fifteen thousand of our military to the border.  Not the National Guard… the Army!  However, Defense Secretary James Mattis pushed back against that statement, telling reporters, “ We don’t do stunts.”

On October 31, Trump  tweeted, “We will not let these Caravans which are also made up of thugs and gang members into the U.S.  Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND! “ The next day, he spoke from the Roosevelt Room of the White House  about the “crisis” at the border. He said he had ordered troops to respond to any in the Caravan who threw rocks or stones as if they were weapons.  I told them: “Consider it a rifle.” He said the government had begun to construct massive “cities of tents” to imprison legal and illegal immigrants who try to enter the United States.

In the weeks running up to the midterm elections, The New York Times has been keeping track of the “Litany of Untruths” the president has been telling to aid Republicans running for office.  On November 1,  reporters Peter Baker and Linda Qui wrote an introduction to the  fifteen “most egregious  falsehoods Mr. Trump has told since October 22.”

From their introduction, “ In the past couple of weeks, the president has spoken of riots that have not happened, claimed deals that have not been reached,  cited  jobs that have not been created , spun dark conspiracies that have no basis in reality….rewritten history and contradicted his own past comments.  He has asserted that construction has begun on his border wall (It has not), that he is one of the most popular presidents in history (he is not), that he ‘always’ opposed the Iraq War, (he did not), that his tax cut was the largest in history (it was not), and that the United States is the only country guaranteeing citizenship to those born here (it is not) . At least 30 other countries, including Canada and Mexico,  grant automatic birthright citizenship.

The past weeks have brought two mega deadly events:  First, package bombs were delivered to Democratic critics of the president:  Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Joe Biden, Maxine Waters, George Soros, Robert De Niro, Tom Styer, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and at the CNN offices in New York, John Brennan and James Clapper.  The bombs were all intercepted, rapidly by F.B.I. and postal workers, sparing the country the assassination of a former president, vice president, secretary of state and multiple intelligence officers, senators. Congress woman,  actor and citizens calling for the president’s impeachment.

The second shocking event was the massacre of eleven Jewish worshipers on the Sabbath at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  The killer brandished an assault rifle and hand guns as he shouted, “All Jews Must die!”   at the Tree of Life Temple.   The service had been special for the community since a family was celebrating a ‘bris’, naming of a newborn boy.  Many of the dead were elderly and all were closely knit in the larger Jewish community.  The Anti-Defamation League said it was the worst act of terror against Jews in the history of the nation.

In the days that followed the community was split about whether the president should make a condolence call.   He was asked by the mayor to wait until the funerals took place.   The rabbi of the temple said he would be welcome. He decided to come and was not greeted by the mayor or governor.  He came with his wife, daughter and son –in law.  The community split with huge crowds  holding critical signs along the highway.

We now are three days away from voting on Tuesday.  Many senate, house and governors races are extremely close.  “Toss ups” according to the latest polls.   There is no question that the election has become a referendum on Donald Trump as well.  At all his rallies, he says “My name is also on the ballot when you vote on November 6.”

David Remnnick, editor of The New Yorker wrote, “This election is a referendum on Trump, a contest between his base and those who feel that it is in the national interest to establish at least some brake – a new majority in the House of Representatives, a new crop of governors and state legislators—to slow the disintegration of American life and his despoilment of the national spirit.  Two years ago, the prospect of a Trump presidency presented an emergency.  Tens of millions of voters found a reason to stay home.  This year the polls are tight. The stakes cannot be overstated.”

YOUR VOTE COUNTS.

………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce  S. Anderson

 

 

Chutzpah in Georgia: 53,000 Voter Registrations on Hold as ‘Pending”

 

The Yiddish word ‘chutzpah’ is defined as “unusually shocking behavior, gall, nerve, cheek, temerity”.  Here’s the dramatic news that broke on October 12 in the National Press and Cable TV.  Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Republican, running for Governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams had placed 58,000 voter registrations on hold.  The Associated Press reported that nearly 70 percent of the 58,000 voters were African Americans.

Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams have been waging a very bitter campaign, described as a “toss-up”.  She served as the Georgia House Minority leader, and founded the New Georgia Project ahead of the 2014 Midterm elections.  It was aimed at signing up 800,000 new young and minority voters. If elected, Stacey Abrams will be the first African American woman state governor in United States history.

The New York Times reported that Kemp’s office uses “a controversial method called ‘exact match’ to verify voter applications which in some cases means that individuals can be purged from the voter rolls if their submitted information has even trivial differences from their government identification, such as a dropped hyphen.”

Stacey Abrams campaign demanded that Kemp resign as Georgia secretary of state amid the media uproar.  Kemp responded in an email to supporters that “all 58,000 Georgians on the pending voting lists will be able to vote on Election Day if they meet all the state’s identification requirements.” He added, “Clearly, Stacey Abrams   is afraid to run on  her record.”   Democrats responded that the ‘pending’ status could lead to longer lines at the polling places and might discourage some voters from trying to cast their ballots.  Discrimination against black voters for decades is part of the state’s history.

Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice said, “Georgia has been a cause for concern , ranging from polling place closures to technical blocking of registration and purges. Georgians deserve fair and accessible elections.” It is important to know Kemp’s history since he became Secretary of State in 2010.  The state purged a total of 1.5 million voters between the 2012 and 2016 elections, reported by the Brennan Center for Justice.

The “exact match system was used by Kemp’s office from 2013 to 2016 , with minorities disproportionately affected according to a lawsuit settled in 2017.However the Republican controlled legislature passed a new law that included it.

On October 13, CNN headlined, “Civil Rights Groups sue Georgia Republican Brian Kemp over 53,000 ‘pending’ voter registrations.   A coalition of advocacy groups has launched a lawsuit to block Georgia from enforcing a practice that critics say endangers the votes of more than 50,000 people in November and potentially larger numbers headed into the 2020 presidential election. “

The argument of The Campaign Legal Center and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under law was that the states’ “exact match” requirement violates The Voting Rights Act, The National Voter Registration Act,  and the First and Fourth Amendments to The Constitution.  The  plaintiffs argue that the “exact match” checks had been shown to “disproportionately and negatively impact voting of eligible African-American, Latino and Asian –American applicants” even before the process was signed into law by the current governor, Republican Nathan Deal in 2017.

Georgia Democrats have kept the story on the front pages and the airwaves through their “Voter Protection Hotline”.  The state party in February became the first in the nation to hire a full time election watchdog in recognition of the different forms of voter suppression over the years in their state. They are in direct contrast to the emphasis during the Trump administration on voter “fraud”. Appointment of a commission to investigate this non-existent phenomenon went nowhere and was abandoned.

The Brennan Center has reported through exhaustive surveys that voter fraud did not exist in the 2016 election despite the president’s insistence that it did.  Donald Trump disputes the fact that Hilary Clinton won the popular vote although all state election results add up to that conclusion.

The lawsuit has no official connection to the Stacey Abrams Campaign. At this point, we do not know how long the court will deliberate and produce a decision.  However, It could prove to be the deciding factor on election day —her share of   “ pending voters” in the tight race versus his.

 

Joyce S. Anderson ……….…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“I Remember The Laughter….. Uproarious Laughter…..”

 

On Thursday, September 27, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was testifying  before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Senator Patrick Leahy asked her what was the single most powerful memory she had of the assault by Judge Brett Kavanaugh when they were teenagers.  She answered, “Indelible in the hippocampus was the laughter… uproarious laughter as they enjoyed the fun they were having at my expense.”

Dr. Ford,  a professor at Stanford, was drawing on her deep knowledge of the science of the brain. She holds two Masters degrees and a Phd in psychology.   She took the required oath and spoke slowly in a quiet voice throughout her three hour testimony which began with, “I am terrified.” She explained that she was there because she felt “it was my civic duty to testify” when she saw Brett Kavanaugh’s name on the short list President Trump received from the Federalist Society for nomination to The Supreme Court.

Dr. Ford described in detail the small house party she had attended 36 years ago on a summer day when she was 15 and he was 17.   She had gone up the stairs to the bathroom and before she could open the door, she was grabbed and taken into a bedroom by Brett and his friend Mark Judge.   They locked the door and turned on loud music.  Brett threw her onto the bed, groped her body and tried to take off her clothes.  She was wearing  a one piece bathing suit under her sports outfit. Mark joked and laughed along with him.  When she tried to scream, Brett put his hand over her mouth and she had trouble breathing.  Dr.Ford testified that her greatest fear was “that he would accidentally kill me.”  She was sure he was going to rape her when Mark jumped on the bed and they all tumbled onto the floor.

Dr. Ford was able to free herself and run out to the bathroom and lock the door.  She heard “Brett and Mark still laughing” as they went downstairs.  When she came down, she walked out without saying anything to the other girls and boys there.

When she returned home, Christine Blasey told neither her parents nor her friends what had happened at the party.  She was fifteen and stopped going to all social gatherings for the rest of her high school years.  She went  on to college where she earned a Bachelor’s, two Masters and a Phd with a major in psychology.  Now, as a research psychologist at Stanford, she knows she was suffering from PTSD,  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  She testified to the senators that the sexual attack by Brett Kavanaugh haunted her until she went to a therapist for counseling with her husband in 2012.  She then shared the details of the attack for the first time with the therapist.  At the hearing, Dr. Ford said, she was 100 percent sure Brett Kavanaugh had sexually attacked her when asked that question by Senator Richard Durbin.

Experts in sexual attacks have proven evidence that two thirds or “71 percent” of women who are sexually molested and attacked never tell anyone.  They feel guilt,  shame, fear of reprisal or other negative reactions.  Since the growth of the  #MeToo movement, this has changed.  A significant example occurred at the hearing after Brett Kavanaugh had given his testimony in the afternoon.  Jeff Flake, Republican, who had announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh after being on the fence, was confronted at an elevator by two women who had survived sexual assaults. They berated him for his decision in loud voices with passionate appeals for him to keep Kavanaugh off the court.  “Look at me when I am talking to you!”  the older woman exhorted.  The episode went viral on cable TV for days.

Senator Flake conferred later in the afternoon with Senator Coons, Democrat, and called for the F.B. I. investigation into Kavanaugh’s nomination that Democrats had been urging for days.  He asked for a delay of one week before a final vote took place in the senate.  The committee agreed to ask President Trump to call for the investigation.  The president agreed after saying that Dr. Ford’s testimony had been “very compelling”.

It is now Monday and only three days have elapsed since the hearing last Thursday.  It appears that the White House and Republicans have been pressing to shorten the investigation.  Senator Feinstein has written a strong letter of protest.  Public opinion has been mounting against Brett Kavanaugh after his angry, emotional answers to questions from senators at the hearing . He blamed a “conspiracy” by the Democrats when questioned about possible “blackouts from beer” in his college days.  He shouted and appeared close to tears when questioned about his high school yearbook notations with sexual context.  Commentators  on Cable TV after the hearing questioned his “ fitness to be a judge on any court” based on his performance under sworn testimony.

We now wait to see if the F.B.I. investigation will continue.  Will the third woman accuser who came forward be contacted and questioned?   Julie Swetnick said she saw Brett Kavanaugh drinking excessively and engaging in sexual misconduct while he was a student at Georgetown Prep in the l980’s.  The F.B.I.  has met with Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale with Kavanaugh.  She told James Roche, a friend who had been Kavanaugh’s roommate at Yale about his exposing himself to her at a dorm  party when everyone  had been drinking.  Roche, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur was quoted in a New Yorker article, “I believe her and support her story.”  He remembered Kavanaugh, becoming. “drunkenly incoherent”  at times at Yale.

There are four more days in the “week long investigation”  Jeff Flake called for.  The clock is ticking….

Joyce S. Anderson ………………………………………………………….

 

 

 

 

Who Shall Live? Who Shall Die?

 

 

The words from the central High Holy Day  passage are chilling and awesome. They limn the unknown future in stark terms. When I heard them each year as a child, I was frightened. There followed a list of different ways in which dying could happen. Then, at the end of the  passage came the reassuring words that “Prayer, Penitence and Charity can avert the evil decree.”

 

The words have been changed somewhat in  revised editions of the High Holy Days prayer books. But the fundamental message is the same. We each face choices in our behavior in the year ahead. On the Day of Judgment, we stand before God to reveal ourselves — our  thoughts and our actions. We are asked to search our conscience and forgive others. And it is incumbent  upon us to do better in the year ahead.

 

In the secular world, there are also questions of life and death that are a part of our mores and our laws. One of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill.” Yet, in every society, as in ours there are circumstances where killing is not only allowed, but proscribed. The Armed Forces train members to kill with deadly weapons. When they do this with great distinction in battle, they are awarded medals. It was ever thus. In civilian life, a person attacked may fight off an assailant and kill in self defense. This is recognized as appropriate behavior for which there is no legal penalty. There are both federal and state crimes defined as capital offenses. And there are states with the death penalty; states without . In certain states with the death penalty, a life sentence without parole is not an option.

 

How do we as individuals and citizens sort this all out? We each have our own beliefs as to whether capital punishment should ever occur. Some have the exception only in the case of heinous crimes or the death of police officers. Studies consistently show that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent. In fact, homicide rates are higher in states with the death penalty than in states without. Many homicides are crimes of passion without forethought. Today, courts in different states have complex bodies of law and criteria for presenting a case to the jury.

 

A recent study revealed that minority group members are more likely to face the death penalty for inter-racial homicides. Of the l77 defendants who faced the death penalty for killing a person of another race since 1955, 55 percent were African Americans, 25 percent were Hispanic, 11 percent were Caucasian and 8 percent were from other groups. Although the focus is on federal cases, the vast majority of people on death row are there under state laws. States executed 4,400 people from l930 to 1999 according to the Justice Department, compared to 33 federal executions since l930. And there were 3,433 people with death sentences in the states as of l998, compared to l9 people in federal prisons with death sentences.  The issue of racial disparity exists in state cases and death penalty sentencing as well. Since l972, when the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional, certain states have revised their laws and conducted numerous executions. Some are high profile. Others are not.

 

When we look outside the United States today, the plight of millions of Syrian refugees is front page news as they try desperately to reach European countries. They have lost their homes and possessions. They walk hundreds of miles or take boats to reach a country that will take them. The picture of a little boy’s body washed up on the beach,  after his family tried to take a rubber raft to safety, shocked the world.  When it capsized, only the father survived. His wife and daughter also drowned.

 

Our rabbi started Rosh Hashanah services with the need for members of our congregation to act now to help these people.  There was a paper waiting for us in the lobby when services were over that gave the names of three organizations working to help the refugees.  Phone calls and dollar donations are needed. “Charity” to join our “Penitence and Prayer”.  There is also a direct link to the last two questions that Hillel posed two thousand years ago.  “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  But, if I am only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?” — the clarion call to action

Joyce S. Anderson…………………………………………………………………………..