Writing

Piece 64 – A United States of Europe, The Natural Ally By. Raimondo Graziano

                                   A United States of Europe, The Natural Ally

                                                  By. Raimondo Graziano

     There has been a great deal of talk lately of The United States and its relationship with allies across the Atlantic, and how moving forward into the 21st century what that relationship will mean for international security, regional cooperation and a myriad of other interconnected issues. The West, including the United States and Europe have been at loggerheads for at least two decades, with brief interludes of true cooperation and appreciation. The last few years have shown some considerable strain on issues of security, trade, the military alliance underpinning our relationship and dealing with adversaries both near and far.

     We can see quite clearly that these last few years has brought immense strain as the intelligentsia of European strategic planners and party elites have more loudly and clearly began to call for greater interdependence among the nations of Europe. From greater military cooperation going as far as to call for a United European Army; others have called for A United States of Europe. The international crisis that has gripped the world for the entirety of this year has exacerbated the acceleration toward what seems to be the inevitable. Recently European leaders have come together to work on a slew of economic relief packages aimed at buoying the European economy. What some are calling the Hamiltonian moment for the continent, a national bank – a clear first step towards unification of the continent. A feat which has not been accomplished since the fall of the Roman Empire.

      Some may attack this move as an attempt by the dominant European powers of France and Germany to consolidate power and create a nation that could rival both the United States and China. In reality the people, nations and elites of the West ought to be rejoicing. This would signal perhaps the strongest sign yet that the West is understanding the moment that lies ahead in this century. The first action in decades, perhaps since the 2nd World War that clearly and unequivocally demonstrates the dormant resolve and power of the West. Facing its decline and a relinquishing of power across the world, the devastation of its institutions and the turn and slide toward autocracy and ill liberalism, the West seems poised to go boldly down the path of federal centralization to secure its future and solidify its supremacy.

     We must face a stark reality – the time when the United States of America reigned solely as the guardian of liberty and democracy is reaching a period of unprecedented pause. It is not over but we are retreating inwardly to reflect on ourselves and to tend to the homefront. The current occupant of the White House is not the sole reason for such but he brought to light corruption and inadequacy at every turn of American society. We are not up to the task, we at this time cannot be the standard bearer for liberty; we must rebuild and wait in the wings. In years to come if we can reverse our path to decline, ourselves allied with a strong and United Europe will forge a period of unparalleled liberty, freedom and democracy – a model of governance which can serve as the answer to the crises of illiberalism. A United Europe should not be feared by the United States, rather it would represent the most natural ally for this country for centuries to come.

Old Howard Union

65 – The Judiciary Under President Trump: Conservative Supremacy & Presidential Immunity

 

Show Notes

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1. Obama-Era Officials Requested ‘Unmasking’ That Identified Flynn in Intelligence Reports https://www.wsj.com/articles/more-than-one-dozen-obama-officials-may-have-requested-unmasking-that-revealed-michael-flynn-in-intelligence-reports-11589396531
• The National Security Agency received and approved requests on behalf of more than three dozen Obama administration officials, including then-Vice President Joe Biden, to “unmask” a U.S. citizen mentioned in classified foreign intelligence reports during the presidential transition
• The requests were made between President Trump’s November 2016 election and inauguration in January 2017
• Mr. Flynn resigned weeks into his tenure as Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser over his conflicting statements about his contacts with Russian officials before the inauguration and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those talks. The Justice Department has moved to drop the charge.
• In addition to Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee against Mr. Trump in November, the officials listed as making the requests for Mr. Flynn’s identity included then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, then-Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan, and President Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough, as well as a range of other senior and lower-ranking officials across several government departments.
• Unmasking U.S. identities in intelligence reports occurs thousands of times annually, according to statistics maintained by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The rate of unmasking has increased during the Trump administration, surging in 2018 by 75% over the previous year, according to statistics released by the intelligence community.
• “What this indicates is he was in communication with people who were foreign intelligence targets,” said April Doss, a former NSA lawyer under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama who served as a Democratic counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
2. The ‘Unmasking’ of Michael Flynn Explained https://www.wsj.com/articles/an-unmasking-q-a-11589481210
• Republican senators on Wednesday released the names of Obama administration officials who had requested and received the identity of a U.S. citizen mentioned in classified foreign intelligence reports collected during the 2016 presidential transition.
• Mr. Trump and his conservative allies seized on the release of the list of more than three dozen names—which amounts to a who’s who of senior Obama administration officials across several agencies—to again claim that unmasking was used to spy on Mr. Flynn and potentially entrap him, leading to his departure from the administration.
• The public record doesn’t reveal that any officials operated beyond their customary duties as national security officials in requesting to see the identity of an individual contained within foreign intelligence reports. The release didn’t make clear what specific conversations were revealed or identify the foreigners with whom Mr. Flynn had spoken.
• “Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the reality is that most of these requests are routinely approved,” said Glenn Gerstell, who served as general counsel at the NSA until earlier this year. “They are coming from a senior official who has an easily understood and obvious reason why they would have interest in that identity.”
• The practice has increased during the Trump administration. The rate of unmasking surged in 2018 by 75% over the previous year to nearly 17,000 U.S. identities being revealed, according to statistics released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Officials have previously attributed that increase in part to a need to identify U.S. businesses targeted by foreign hacking.
3. Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Releasing Trump’s Tax Returns https://nyti.ms/2Ws5UOV
• The court’s ruling, expected by July, could require disclosure of information the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect. Or the justices could rule that Mr. Trump’s financial affairs are not legitimate subjects of inquiry.
• The first argument of two the court heard, which dealt with the congressional investigations, seemed to go better for Mr. Trump. The justices seemed more skeptical of the president’s case during the second argument, in which Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, argued that he was absolutely immune from criminal investigation while he remained in office.
• The subpoenas sought information from Mr. Trump’s accountants or bankers, not from Mr. Trump himself, and the firms have indicated that they will comply with the court’s ruling. Had the subpoenas sought evidence from Mr. Trump himself, there was at least a possibility that he would try to defy a ruling against him, prompting a constitutional crisis.
4. Democrats Accuse Conservatives of a ‘Dark Money’ Bid to Influence Judges https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/12/us/federalist-society-judges.html
• Some top Democratic senators on Tuesday accused the Federalist Society of supporting a conservative “dark money” campaign to influence the federal judiciary, including who gets selected to become a judge and how he or she rules once on the bench.
• In a sharply worded letter, the senators said they supported a proposal by a judicial ethics panel that would ban membership among judges in the conservative legal group.
• The prohibition, the letter said, would help curb the “rampant politicization of our federal courts.” Nearly 30 Republican senators have already written the panel to oppose the proposed ban, as have more than 200 federal judges, nearly all of them appointed by Republican presidents
• Both of President Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court had ties to the group, as did all but eight of his 51 appointees to the court of appeals, an analysis in March by The New York Times showed.
• The ethics panel had proposed the ban in January out of a concern that membership could “call into question the affiliated judge’s impartiality.” The panel, led by a Trump appointee and composed of judges nominated by both Democratic and Republican presidents, also proposed banning membership in a liberal legal group, the American Constitution Society, which had influence in the Obama administration.
• Six law professors who specialize in legal ethics submitted a separate letter to the ethics panel echoing support for the proposal, calling it “eminently reasonable and balanced.” The letter, submitted in April, said that “Americans are increasingly concerned about the impartiality and integrity of the federal judiciary.”

Transcript

Writing

Piece 55 – Weep for the Nation by. Raimondo Graziano

Weep for the Nation
By. Raimondo Graziano

This Monday that just passed, November the 11th 2019, was Veterans Day, for anyone who may not have been aware. It is a day where we honor all veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It is also a day to thank current service members for the important work they do of defending our nation’s shores. Regardless of how anyone may feel about the reasoning behind this country’s military engagements, disparaging those that serve is the lowest, basest most unpatriotic act a citizen not in uniform, not entrenched both figuratively literally on the front lines of honor and duty can commit – treason being the second. There are certain themes within the American body politic that are common to all Americans that go far above partisan divides. Ideals, ideas and a vision that is uniquely American and one that unites us all – whether we choose to see this for what it is or reject it; these ideals are The American Ideals.

We are at a point in our history where as nation we are harshly divided along partisan lines and I often contemplate if not for the rigid social structures and norm that prevail today, would the country have already plunged into desperate and tragic Civil War. Perhaps we have too much lose, or we are too dependent on one another for our continued struggle for survival in an increasingly unequal, inequitable world. Perhaps our reluctant codependency is what has stopped the rifles from unloading. Absent of armed civil strife, one can say confidently the divides along party are tearing this country apart and are seeping into all aspects of American life – from the media, to the companies of the nation, from the White House to the dinner table of your average American family. Perhaps most dangerously are the divides we are begining to see deepen within the Armed forces. Of those both currently serving and those who are the veterans of the country. There are concerted attacks on American institutions such as the courts, the rule of law, and the legislatures by partisan hacks on the domestic front and rogue actors who wish to seek American descend into chaos. The politicization of the historical apolitical institutions which govern the lands norms and customs is a threat to our democracy and to our tenuous unity. The politicization of the Armed forces however – is downright dangerous and could jeopardize the national security of the country, and threaten the stability of the entire globe.

I read a piece recently from the New York Times about division in the country and specifically it spoke of the Presidents recent speech on the 100th New York City Veterans Day parade. The tension was palpable in the crowd of supporters and detractors alike.

Here is an excerpt from the article for context – “Thirty minutes later, as our group waited to enter the parade on 24th Street, I watched a man who said he was a Desert Storm veteran confront two women holding anti-Trump signs. He called them libtards and ungrateful. The women didn’t back down. A man wearing a Vietnam veteran shirt stepped forward to intervene.

“They’re patriots,” he said. “And I agree with them.”

The Desert Storm veteran looked at the other’s shirt. “Where’s your honor?” he asked.

“Honor’s what brought me here today,” the older man said. Then he held up his own anti-Trump sign.

“Same,” said the other man. Then they just kind of stared at each other for a few seconds before turning away.

As we marched up Fifth Avenue, ciphers and proxies for a republic as divided as we are about our elected leader, I thought a lot about those men and about honor, too. I should’ve said something, I thought, to bring them together. It was Veterans Day, after all.”

Truly heartbreaking when one begins to think deeply of how divisive the political climate is today on all fronts. The days ahead for the nation are going to be tried, we are grappling with who and what we want to be. I recall the President speaking briefly on Armistice Day, the name which Veterans Day was prior. Armistice Day was the day when the warring powers of the First World War, then the Great War, laid down their arms to discuss terms of peace. Perhaps this country needs a revival of Armistice Day. When we as a divided people lay down our and end our war of words against one another, end the acts of violence against those of the opposing the side, and sit down and discuss terms of peace to heal this broken country. For if we do not, one should surely weep for the nation, for the Republic.

Old Howard Union

56 – Political Misinformation

Political misinformation – a new age of propaganda to sway, cajole and divide the American public.

All Articles Referenced

Americans Trust Local News. That Faith Is Being Exploited. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/upshot/fake-local-news.html

Should Facebook Fact-Check Political Speech? https://nyti.ms/2C0in19

Threat to US Elections in 2020 Is Not Limited to Russia https://nyti.ms/2PyrvSH

‘Everything You’re Seeing Is Deception’: How Right-Wing Media Talks About Impeachment https://nyti.ms/2lvlcms

Old Howard Union

55 – The Middle East Today

The Middle East Today – a massive quagmire of problem after problem and no real end in sight, why we are here and how we got there.

All Articles Referenced

Iran Adds Advanced Centrifuges, Further Weakening Nuclear Deal https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/04/world/middleeast/iran-nuclear-centrifuges-uranium.html

Russia Dominated Syria’s War. Now It’s Sending Mercenaries to Libya. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/05/world/middleeast/russia-libya-mercenaries.html

Iraqis Rise Against a Reviled Occupier: Iran https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/04/world/middleeast/iraq-protests-iran.html

With Israel in Limbo, Benny Gantz Vows to Seek a ‘Peace Within’ https://nyti.ms/2C7b4oD

In Another Bipartisan Rebuke of Trump, House Votes for Sanctions Against Turkey https://nyti.ms/32YDBIO

Turkey Wants Refugees to Move to a ‘Safe Zone.’ It’s a Tough Sell. https://nyti.ms/336xBxE