Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Trump is now being targeted for “planning” pardons, commutations


“How far will Trump go in abusing his pardon authority?” That is the title of Joe Conason’s column. He’s a liberal columnist who apparently has psychic access into Trump’s mind, to wit: “But as he prepares to bestow that favor on Roger Stone …,” Conason wrote. That column suggested that in doing so Trump might open himself up to a criminal investigation, as then-President Bill Clinton did after he pardoned "fugitive financier" Marc Rich on the last day of his presidency, Jan. 20, 2001.

Stone was found guilty by a federal jury on the seven charges that he faced, including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction. That is the part of the Stone story that is pretty straight forward. Regardless of whether you like Stone, whether you trust or approve of Trump, you really ought to fairly consider the various aspects of the Stone investigation and prosecution.

Stone became a subject of interest in the Mueller investigation into who aided Russian interference into the 2016 election. More than a dozen FBI agents wearing night goggles, full SWAT gear, with rifles and side arms, knocked on Stone’s door before dawn in January, 2019, and arrested Stone in his jammies after he answered the door.

Oh, and somehow a CNN news crew just happened to be there on the scene, set up and ready when the SWAT team arrived.

What had Stone done to require a SWAT team with weapons drawn? Murder? Armed robbery? Rape? Gang activity?

Nothing, other than being a Republican and friend of Trump. He could have been served a warrant during waking hours, or even notified by a phone call.

No one — not Stone, not anyone — was charged with a crime of helping the Russians. Stone was convicted of process crimes: crimes he allegedly committed during the investigative process, an investigation which found no crimes of Russian involvement, the purpose of the investigation. He was convicted of obstructing an investigation into a crime that never occurred; an investigation trying to find a crime.

Of the charges against Stone, witness tampering carries the heaviest sentence, up to 20 years. Randy Credico, the witness with whom Stone was convicted of tampering, wrote a letter to the judge in the case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, asking that Stone not be sent to prison because he didn’t really believe Stone would ever harm him or his dog Bianca, the target of the alleged threat.

So, the alleged victim did not feel any tampering, rose to defend Stone from the charge, but Stone still was convicted of witness tampering.

Many observers are urging Trump to pardon Stone. And there are other odd things about his case and his sentence that should be considered.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, on his opinion show “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” said, Stone is “A 67-year-old man with no criminal record caught up in the Russia hoax, farce, caught up in an investigation that proved to be fruitless.”

He then listed the following average lengths of time served for certain crimes, for comparison with the prosecution’s recommendation for Stone’s sentence of seven-to-nine years.

“Do you know what the average rapist does in this country? We checked today. Four years. Do you know what the average armed robber gets? Three years. The average thug who violently assaults somebody? Less than a year and a half. But the left, CNN as well, demanding that Roger Stone dies in prison. Hmm. This man needs a pardon.”

Yet the prosecution recommended Roger Stone get a longer sentence for crimes far less serious that killed no one, assaulted no one, robbed no one, and did not tamper with a witness, according to that witness.

Why did a supposedly neutral, objective prosecution team recommend such a severe sentence for a non-violent person with no criminal background? And why did the judge ignore the exculpatory statement by the witness who was the supposed victim of tampering?

There is also a question of the objectivity of at least one of the jurors.

The jury foreperson, Tomeka Hart, is a former Democrat candidate for Congress who in her tweets refers to Trump as #KlanPresident. 

While Hart was serving on the jury, she tweeted about Trump’s impeachment. In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, Hart requested The Times use more direct language accusing Trump of committing a crime in his dealings with Ukraine.

She recently defended the prosecutors for advocating a seven-to-nine-year imprisonment for Stone. Attorney General Bill Barr lowered the recommended sentence to something more normal and reasonable, and the four prosecutors resigned in protest.

Was Hart an objective juror? Did she, as foreperson of the jury, leave her bias aside, the bias she readily showed before, during and after the trial?

Several irregularities exist: The FBI inappropriately raided Stone’s home. Hart should have declared her bias in pre-trial jury forms. The judge should have dropped the tampering charge. It was appropriate for Barr to reduce the sentence recommendation.

As a result of these irregularities, Stone convictions should be overturned, and he should get a new trial. A fair trial. Or, a pardon.

Even Trump friends and Republicans deserve objective justice.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Potpourri: Some thoughts on current topics

 ** A liberal journalist has set aside his ideology and written something honest and positive about President Donald Trump. Vox senior correspondent Ian Millhiser, in an article examining the Trump judicial appointments and their likely effect on the courts, wrote, “In less than three years as president, President Trump has done nearly as much to shape the courts as President Obama did in eight years.”

But in what could be expected to be nothing more than a leftist lecture against Trump’s judicial selections, Millhiser gave this objective evaluation. “Trump hasn’t simply given lots of lifetime appointments to lots of lawyers. He’s filled the bench with some of the smartest, and some of the most ideologically reliable, men and women to be found in the conservative movement.”

And then, this: “In other words, based solely on objective legal credentials, the average Trump appointee has a far more impressive résumé than any past president’s nominees.”

** Poor Joe Biden. He’s failing in his bid for the Democrat presidential nomination, and unlike Bernie Sanders in 2016, he has no one to blame but himself. Uncle Gaffy continues to issue non-sequiturs at a dizzying pace, and recently he said that immigrants, legal and illegal, are “a gift” to America.

Immigrants have been, and can still be a gift to the country. But they must be here for the right reasons, and they must become true Americans and contribute positively to the country in order to qualify for that honored status. However, Biden does not understand, or ignores, that illegal immigrants are not “a gift,” and too often are dangerous.

** A criminal investigation that began nearly two years ago with a referral from the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, which concluded that Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had repeatedly lied about having authorized a subordinate to share information with a newspaper reporter for a 2016 article about an FBI investigation into possible crimes by Hillary Clinton. The DOJ has decided not to bring criminal charges against McCabe, despite the investigative conclusion that he lied to officials.

Many believe that the same result will apply to all those whose criminal behavior attempted to overturn the legitimate election of President Donald Trump.

** One of the most ill-advised actions taken recently by some Americans is the desire to remove things that remind them of events in times past that they dislike. One example is removing statues of people who represented the south during the Civil War.

Fortunately, some people still understand that while some things in the nation’s history are not proud moments, they still are part of its history, and therefore should not be destroyed. History is history, and we need to be reminded of both the good and the bad elements of it.

Thankfully, Virginia Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore has ruled that the statues of General Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson are now protected monuments and will remain standing. He said the way the statues made people feel did not change the fact the statues paid homage to the Civil War heroes.

“While some people obviously see Lee and Jackson as symbols of white supremacy,” Moore stated in his decision, “others see them as brilliant military tacticians or complex leaders in a difficult time.”

Moore is absolutely right.

** One of the most divisive topics in America today is abortion. The point at which life begins is an ongoing debate. And the question of when, if ever, it is okay to terminate a pregnancy is the major factor in the abortion debate. 

From the moment of conception, when the male and female reproductive cells unite, what occurs is the development of a new person over a nine-month period. The miracle of the birth of a new human being once was an almost universally valued event in our country.

Years ago, the result of passionate interludes between a woman and a man was the blessed event of a child, a new family member. Today, that result is regarded by many as an inconvenience to be corrected by ending the pregnancy through a medical procedure.

After millions of future children have been terminated before their birth, we find people who want to terminate children even after they have been born following a failed attempt at abortion.

Despite the desires of the mother, when a baby is born, that baby is a living person. It requires and is entitled to the same efforts by medical personnel to save its life as any other person in the ER, an OR, or in a patient room. Deliberately failing to provide that critical medical attention should be punishable as manslaughter, or murder.

Yet state legislators routinely defeat measures to assure that born-alive abortion survivors may be killed or allowed to die.

If a child’s life can be ended after a failed abortion on the basis of a weak rationalization based on the intent of the mother, can it be long before other rationalizations will be cited to end the lives of the elderly, or the infirm, or those with serious diseases?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

George Orwell’s vision is coming true, but his timing was off

In 1946, author George Orwell, fighting tuberculosis, isolated himself on the Scottish island of Jura to write his last book, “Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel.” The story describes a totalitarian state where the government — “Big Brother” — created the language — “Newspeak” — to control the thoughts of its citizens.

Published 71 years ago, and having gained great fame, Orwell gave us concepts like “Big Brother,” “doublethink,” “thoughtcrime,” “Newspeak,” “2+2=5,” and “memory hole.” Some of those concepts are relevant today, both in Orwell’s fictional account, and in reality.

Now, 36 years after 1984, Orwell’s dystopian society — a society in which individual freedoms suffer under government edicts and other forms of control — is forming in the United States.

It is becoming easier and easier to find evidence of the creeping impact of Big Brother-like control. Many instances go unreported, and are even unknown beyond the local area where they occur. Some, however, are reported for all to see.

The president of a libertarian think tank in Colorado, Jon Caldara, who also was the most-read opinion columnist of The Denver Post, lost his job with The Post because of a comment in a recent column. What could he have written that would deserve such strong action? “[T]here are only two sexes, identified by an XX or XY chromosome,” he wrote. “That is the very definition of binary.”

This comment is absolutely consistent with biologic science, but is a no-no in much of today’s America. You see, it does not conform to the politically correct “Newspeak” imposed on us by a relatively tiny minority of people, even though it is the scientifically correct position.

In 2018 a French teacher at West Point High School in West Point, Virginia was fired by the local school board after a four-hour hearing, an hour of which was a closed session, in a 5-0 vote. Why was Peter Vlaming fired?

Because he resisted administration orders to refer to a ninth-grade female student with male pronouns. The girl had undergone a gender transition, and insisted she be treated as a male. Vlaming resisted because it put him in conflict with his religious beliefs. He suggested to the student that he would instead use a first or last name, but that wasn’t good enough for the student. Or, apparently, the school board.

So, a teacher’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion takes a back seat to a female ninth-grader’s desire to change genders and be identified by everyone as a male. “Thoughtcrimes” are real and being punished.

This case is thought to be the first in Virginia. It likely will not be the last.

Today, on some college campuses, where the intersection of competing ideas was once a strong and valued concept, conservative speakers are shouted down or prevented from opportunities to speak, and this occurs with the unquestioned support of the school administrations.

Professors are urged, or ordered, to give prior “trigger warnings” when a topic that may upset students is scheduled. Some schools have mandated that some types of speech are restricted to “free speech zones,” so that students will not accidentally stumble on information that is at odds with their beliefs, which may upset them, or make them think. Students now have “safe zones” where they may hide from ideas differing from their own.

A fascist group called “Antifa” (short for “anti-fascist”) indulges in violence, and crosses the line of Constitutionally protected peaceful protests in public places. Members attack police, throwing eggs, bottles and other things at them. Yet the police often retreat, rather than arresting and jailing the law-breakers, and doing so forcefully if necessary. This is partly due to the generally false narrative that police frequently indulge in unnecessary violence, so they play it safe, and back off.

And Virginia’s government is now under control of the liberal/progressive elite from the DC-Richmond corridor, and the Democrat-led government has set about turning the state into California-East, despite the strong objections of a substantial portion of state residents.

This dystopian direction America is now traveling is fueled by liberal/progressive thinking, not the national government. Many people, both in and out of government, however, prefer majority rule — a strict democracy — which can be more easily turned against the people than the republican system our Founders developed.

John Adams reminded us: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

John Marshall, the highly respected fourth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court observed, "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."

Thomas Paine said, "A Democracy is the vilest form of Government there is."

The brilliant columnist Walter Williams notes that “We would no longer be a government ‘of the people.’ Instead, our government would be put in power by and accountable to the leaders and citizens of a few highly populated states. It would be the kind of tyranny the framers feared.”

But this faction doesn’t understand the reasons our nation was created as it was; a large number of Americans have no idea how much damage their desires will impose on their country.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Radical ideas by Virginia Democrats will hurt the state

From before there was a United States of America, there were future Americans in what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia. The first English settlement in North America occurred in what is now Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. 

One of the original colonies, Virginia played an important role in the American Revolution of 1775-83, and was home to numerous now-famous persons from history, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and others. 

These men were instrumental in crafting a governmental structure second to none, based upon democratic principles. But it was not, and is not, a pure democracy; it is a democratic republic. 

The United States Constitution was ratified in 1788, and it put that system of government into effect. The first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, which forbid federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteed a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791. 

The greatest threat in the 200-plus years the United States has existed is a rise of leftist idealism that today threatens the continued existence of America as we know it. 

If this trend continues, it is only a matter of time before our history and our traditions will be erased, and the country will have adopted socialistic concepts like those radical ideas championed by the current cast of Democrat hopefuls seeking the party nomination for president. 

California has long been a cauldron of crazy ideas and failed policies, generally leading the way toward societal collapse. But now we find a state that was one of the leaders in formation of the United States of America behaving like California, and Virginia is its name.

With a Democrat governor and Democrat-controlled General Assembly for the first time in more than 20 years, several radical ideas have been proposed in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam and legislative leaders recently announced an 11-point ‘Virginia 2020 Plan.’ Among those 11 points are:
* Restore women’s reproductive rights.
* Raise the minimum wage.  
* Advance common-sense gun safety measures.
* Fight climate change, protect natural resources.

It all sounds so harmless, so good. But these four points from the list have great potential for very negative consequences:

* Women’s reproductive rights - removes the ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period requirement, as well as a requirement that abortion clinics meet the same standards as hospitals. 

It also loosens several restrictions on third-trimester abortions, including a requirement that three doctors certify that continuing the pregnancy would likely cause the patient’s death or “substantially and irremediably impair” their mental or physical health, expanding abortion rights during the last three months of pregnancy. Preventing pregnancy is both easier and better than ending pregnancy.

* Raise the minimum wage - enacting a $15 minimum wage will drive up unemployment, and place a hardship on small businesses. When California increased the minimum to $15, a Moody’s economist calculated that as many as 160,000 jobs would be lost, and that was just in the manufacturing sector. With the advances in technology, a higher minimum wage speeds up ending job possibilities for young people and others with limited skills.

* Gun safety measures - very aggressive anti-gun laws, including a “Red Flag law” that would allow weapons to be temporarily confiscated from legal owners, merely on the say-so of another individual that the person constitutes a danger to himself or others, all without due process. It impinges on law abiding Virginians’ Second Amendment rights.

* Climate change - Northam signed an executive order last September calling for the state to use 30 percent renewable power by 2030 and to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. In 2018, about 64 percent of electricity generation was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases). About 19 percent was from nuclear energy, and only about 17 percent was from renewable energy sources like wind and solar. 

Like the Green New Deal, the Virginia plan promises more than can be, or should be delivered, and is an attack on the local economies that still depend on jobs and revenue from fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources may someday replace other sources through natural processes, but shoving them down the throats of Virginians through government edict is neither smart nor necessary.

In addition to these goals, others liberal ideas also promise negative results:

* repealing the Right to Work law - this likely will have a negative impact on job growth. This law ensures that nobody will be denied a job because of that person’s decision to join or not join a union, and joining a union will be a choice, not a must.

* abolishing the death penalty in favor of life without parole - this action leads many states to also eventually abolish life sentences, meaning violent criminals could be released into society after serving their time. Some crimes deserve the death of the perpetrator. Leave the death penalty alone.

These measures turn Virginia away from the American design, which isn’t perfect, but is better than any other design. Who would ever have thought that a state so deeply imbedded in the nation’s founding would become one that would lead its downfall?