Category Archives: 2022 Election

Is it too late for Donald Trump to redeem himself by dying in his sleep?

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For several years after spending the majority of the months of the year, for a few years, living in a rain forest with people who did not speak English, I developed these habits: When I was warning people of an imminent danger (something about to drop, a car about to come too close, etc.) I would say “Keba!” Or, if I was out in the wilds with someone and I saw a snake, I’d say, “Keba, Nyoka!” Neither was effective in the American context, but the reactions were burned in to my head. They were burned in because in the rain forest there was no way to get the kind of help we Americans are accustomed to (like doctors and urgent care facilities and such) and there were some mighty impressive deadly snakes. My brain rewired. “Careful” became “Keba!” and “Look out for the snake!” became “Keba, Nyoka!”

The other day, at the beginning of March, I woke up for the first time in years without a sense of urgency as I grabbed my cell phone to check my email. I woke up and did not check my email even before I was fully out of bed. I checked later, and when I did, I was specifically looking for two or three emails from colleagues, about the HOA meeting later that day, or about a letter we needed to send to a guest speaker at an upcoming forum, or some such.

What I was not looking for, for the first time in years, was a news alert announcing that Donald Trump was dead, for one reason or another.

I stopped caring so much if Donald Trump died in his sleep on January 20th, about noon. I still care. It would still be nice, since he is still a threat to the entire world, and especially the United States. But his dictatorship is over, and the reckoning has begun, and I’m thinking he will have a hard time running an effective campaign for president from within Wallkill Prison.

I think that what I’ve been experiencing could be called PTSD, of a sort. Having experienced PTSD (following acts of terrible violence and/or maiming) I have to say it doesn’t feel just like that, but maybe there are different versions. And, maybe I’m still experiencing it. Maybe we all are still getting over Trump and, likely, that is going to take some time. Or, if not getting over, maybe growing used to the new situation where Trump is not the dictator, but still a boogeyman in the background along with the Proud Boys and other White Supremacist insurrectionists.

I say Wallkill, but maybe it would be Sing Sing. Sing Sing would be good.

Anyway, I’ve only spoken at length to one person who was in the Capitol at the time of the January 6th Republican Insurrection. He is a mild mannered guy in politics who had worked hard to get around party divides, and bring people together around issues of common concern. But after the insurrection, when he realized that it was the Republicans in the Capitol that were hoping for mayhem, destruction, and even death, even helping make it happen, he has had something of a Come to Jesus moment. I was there with the proverbial Jesus long ago. I stopped trusting Republicans way back, and my disdain has only grown, and I have railed against the “independent thinker” meme for years. (That’s, like, “I don’t vote on party lines. I look at the issues, then chose the candidate based on their stance on the issues,” said by someone who usually doesn’t vote.) January 6th did not change my mind at all. This person is, I think, likely to experience some really serious PTSD, having actually been in the building, to hear the screaming, the gun shot, the exhortation to remove identifying pins else be captured by the enemy that has breached the breaches…

I recommend that folks examine their own PTSD or quasi-PTSD — which may be mild and it may be strong, but is likely to be at least somewhat hidden — to see if there are any demons that need to be held down in the bucket until the last bubble floats up.

I have taken solace, and kept some degree of strength and sanity, with a particular idea. First, an idea that I don’t like, by way of contrast.

This is the domino or Ponzi idea. You and I decide that the best thing to do is to vote for a particular candidate. So we each get ten people to agree, and then, they get 10 other people to agree, and so on. If I do this with a particular idea here in Minnesota, within fewer than 7 iterations, I’ve convinced twice as many people as actually live here (including babies) to vote for my candidate! That won’t actually work, wont’ actually get past the first iteration.

A version of that is the domino effect. I push over one thing, it pushes over the next thing, and so on, until finally all the things are pushed over (figuratively). That doesn’t even work very well with actual dominoes. The reason why there are YouTube videos of it actually working with dominoes is that if you get this to really work impressively, of course you take a video of it!

Here is what I do instead. Imagine a heavy ball, like a bowling ball, suspended on a long chain from some object high atop the thing. It is motionless. Now, stroke it with a strip of 34 pound (heavy weight) paper. The ball will hardly move. But if you wait for it to ever so subtly move back to where you stroked it, and a little beyond, where it is about to swing once again in the away direction, and stroke it then, the next swing will be a tiny bit father. If you keep doing that, the heavy ball on the long chain will eventually be swinging so far that it will be hard to stop, certainly unstoppable with a strip of paper.

And that is what I do every single day, and it is what I’ve been doing every single day since Trump was elected. I was doing it a lot before, but every single day, sometimes multiple times, since then. Probably 5,000 strokes since November 2016.

Of course, I do things like send an email or make a call to an elected representative, or give 50 bucks to a candidate, or spend an hour on a phone bank, etc. But I like to do somewhat bigger strokes when I can. Like write a letter to the editor for my local kitchen-stop paper, that might get read by, I dunno, 100 people. I employ messaging skills to make that letter a little more effective, and I make sure it gets around on social media. Stroke, stroke, stroke, right there. Or I help organize 100 people to write an email or make a call. Or I recruit or help train a new volunteer who is going to go at that suspended ball in their own way. Tonight, three of us spent a couple of ours on a zoom with a hundred folks helping them craft excellent comments in support of a regulation that will increase the use of electric cars.

It is very important to pay attention to the timing and direction of each thing. Just doing something to feel good about it may not be ideal. Doing just the right thing at the right time can move the bowling ball. Real live activism requires less precision than the actual bowling ball stroking, of course. At the same time, we can calculate the exact effect of the paper stroke but with real live activism we are often shooting in the dark.

Anyway, every day since the day Trump was elected, through his inauguration and eventual departure, I have been pushing the heavy weight just a little bit at a time, enough that I know that I’ve moved it. I can not say that every act has had an effect, but I’m certain that several thousand, together, have.

Oh, and I should say this: There are a few million of us.

Of course, there are always the federal prisons. I hear Yazoo City is nice.

Anyway, this is not done. The future is dangerous and must be paid close attention to. Keba! Kazi yetu haijakamilika.


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What is Treason, Exactly? (And has it been committed by anyone you know recently?)

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What is treason, exactly?

I recently asked on major social networking platforms, “Did Donald Trump Commit Treason,” and got two well argued and often detailed answers: “Yes!” and “No!”

Then, I read On Treason: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law by Carlton F.W. Larson.* I discovered that both positions are wrong. And right.

Ultimately, it can not be argued that Donald Trump violated the treason clause of the US Constitution in his dealings with Russia, even if the worst that has been suggested is true. (Larson’s book came out before 1/6, so it is silent on the events of that day.) When people in the US use the term “treason” in a sentence like “Trump committed treason, lock him up!” they are (inadvertently, most of the time) referring to the Treason Clause in Article II, Section 3, of the US Constitution, which says:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

First, I’d like to point out the use of the plural in referring to “The United States.” This is how the United States were/was referred to prior to the US Civil War. After the war, it would have been “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against it.” But I digress.

Some of this is obvious, some of it not, but I learned from Larson’s book that treason must involve giving aid to an enemy of the US, in the sense that we are in a state of war. However, we have been and are now at war with multiple entities with no formal declaration of war, and haven’t been since World War II. Why war has not been declared since then is a bit mysterious, but I hear it is because it would make the US a war criminal country, since it is against convention of international law to go to war against anyone. But again I digress.

The point is, if someone adhered to (helped) the Hanoi government during the US period of involvement in the Viet Nam war, that act would be considered aiding a country at war with us, because everybody understand that a war is a war even if Congress has not declared it.

But, there are enemies, to which Larson and other legal experts apply the highly technical legal term “frienemies,” that are countries with whom we are not getting along at all, but avoid using the “w” word because we would all die in nuclear holocaust. Such as Russia. Trump did not commit treason in his dealings with Russia not because there is no declared war with Russia, but because we don’t want to openly admit we are in some sense at war with Russia. A treason charge against Trump for aiding Russia by the US Attorney General would be tantamount to declaring war against Russia, and then, we would all die in the nuclear holocaust.

If you think that Trump still could be considered to have committed treason against the United States by aiding Russia, then you would be absolutely correct. Maybe. But if you think that the US can or should charge Trump with treason based on his dealings with Russia, then you would be absolutely wrong, but NOT because we are not technically at war with Russia (see above) but because we won’t admit to being in a state of hostility against Russia. (By the way, if you want body counts, you can have body counts. Many have died in the cold war, Russia had seen to the killings of US soldiers, putting Trump in place as US President to disrupt our country has resulted in countless excess Covid-19 deaths, and so on and so forth).

In my personal opinion, the so-called “insurrection” was treasonous, even in the narrowly defined Constitutional sense. Why? It was an attempt to put an unelected dictator at the head of government, using a violent attack on a major US governmental facility. But with whom are we at war you ask? Well, the group of terrorists who carried out that attack. According to the legal arguments discussed in Larson’s book, the major terrorist groups such as ISIS and the US are functionally at war. A person who aids ISIS can be considered committing treason, if certain other things are in place.

But wait, hold on. If these insurrectionists are “at war” with the US, then they are not really committing treason, they are in essence soldiers. They can’t even be charged with criminal activity and would have to be treated as prisoners of war. That would require their immediate release because hostilities are over. But, what about those who aided them but were not with them? What about those guys??? Treason would apply.

But what does the Civil War say about this? The southern soldiers and generals who were captured during the war were treated as prisoners of war, yet the North never considered the southern states as separate. The northern legal attitude towards the south, in the eyes of Europe was (ideally) “this is not a war between belligerents so don’t aid or recognize the south.” Yet southerners were treated as soldiers. This contradiction was sometimes the focus of much attention at the time, and sometimes ignored. It never, however, went way. So, when the war ended, why weren’t the generals and soldiers and such charged with treason? Because it wasn’t really a war? No. Mainly because of the terms of surrender supplied by General Grant, and the political approach preferred by Lincoln. But what about Jefferson Davis? Why was he not charged with Treason? For that, I’ll let you read the book.

Clearly, little is clear. And, to me, one of the most interesting things about Carlton Larson’s treatment of treason is the degree to which relevant legal arguments are made, to help define treason, in settings where there was never a successful (or in some cases, even unsuccessful) prosecution. One would think that treason law would emerge as a combination of what the US Constitution says and what high court decisions include. Well, there is some of that. But a large amount of the legal conversation, opinions that help us to understand treason law in the US at the Federal level, come from decisions made, in some cases to NOT pursue a case, by US attorneys or other prosecutors, and by lower court judges wrestling with the problem.

In some cases, a treason charge was not made, or failed in court, because of the “two witness” rule or for some other technicality. But, the legally framed conversation that happened among the participants still informs us of what treason might or might not be. Not mentioned above is the idea that the treasonous person must be a citizen of the United States. Turns out, that is not strictly true. Why? Read the book. This part is really fascinating. Generally speaking, the most common outcome of a possible consideration of treason, in US history, has been to not make that charge because it is so difficult. The second most common outcome, possibly (I did not keep count) is to fail in court for similar reasons.

And, I should note, that Larson affirms that very few US Federal treason cases have been brought, and among those that were, few have succeed, because the requirements of the provision are intentionally hard to meet.

I discovered an interesting Reality vs. Wikipedia rip in the chronosynclastic continuum. According to treason expert Larson, only one person in the US has ever been put to death on a Federal treason charge, and he was not a US citizen, and did not commit treason, it was not really in the US but in a recently acquired territory, and perhaps he was not even tried in what would ultimately be considered a legal court. Nonetheless, he was hung by the neck until dead after being convicted of treason. Larson notes that nearly all discussions of treason don’t mention him, and I checked Wikipedia: Hipolito Salazar is not mentioned. However, there is a second person that Larson is mum about who was executed for Treason in the US under apparent Federal authority: William Mumford. Wikipedia says he is the only person so executed, and gives details. I suspect Mumford doesn’t count because he was tried and convicted under Martial Law by a military tribunal, which would be different than being charged with Treason under US jurisdiction and Article II, Section 3, Clause 1. If so, I say, “stand there in your wrongness and be wrong, Wikipedia!” One can argue forever as to whether Mumford was legitimately convicted of this or that law. The statement was made that he was charged and hereby convinced of Treason and he was then executed, right or wrong. But if the law that applied was not Articla II, Section 3, Clause 1, then he does not count, while Salazar does count.

In On Treason: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law Carlton F.W. Larson, a widely recognized expert on Treason law, describes and analyses every case of treason, or almost case of treason, or case of almost treason, in the US (and several cases outside that purview). The history of treason law, also covered in detail, is full of interesting (and sometimes necessary) contradictions. The origin and history of the Constitutional article itself is fascinating.

So the other day, a neighbors house was entered by hooligans, things stolen, and when the neighbors returned (they were out) they found that lots of their stuff had been trashed. Right there in broad daylight. Do you think that the perpetrators should be charged with robbery? If you have a degree in Facebook Law, you will probably swoop in on that statement and say, “why, no, it is not robbery, burglary! They can’t be charged with robbery. Burglary!” But you would be wrong in some states. What you call burglary by you is, in some states, called “housebreaking” if it happens during the day, and this happened during the day. Gotcha.

Treason is a little like that. The concept is centuries old. Most or all US states have treason laws and they vary. As noted above, the definition of Treason is not easy, since it relies on citizenship and a state of war, and also, an understanding of what “helping” the enemy was. All three of these things are tricky concepts.

I think that if you read this book, and you see someone say “so and so should be charged with treason” your immediate response will no longer be (if it was before) either “right, obviously!” or “no, that would be insurrection!”

Donald Trump committed treason in his dealings with Russia, according to me (but Larson says no) but he can’t be charged with Treason because we are not at a sufficient state of war with Russia. Both yes and no are valid answers to the question posed above, in my opinion. Not only is the answer “yes and no” more correct as a response to the question, it is a heck of a lot more interesting, if you bother to find out why. And to do so, read On Treason: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law.

While you are waiting for the book to arrive, have a look at: Treason, the Death Penalty, and American Identity also by Carlton F.W. Larson.


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