Combatting Sedition

“I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them (Members of Congress) and the people in this room. Too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”

— Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone

The House Select Committee to investigate the 6 January attack on the Capitol met for the first time yesterday. I was able to watch nearly all of the emotionally charged, vivid, heart-breaking and exasperating testimony on TV. Officer Fanone was one of two Metropolitan Police Officers (MPD) from Washington DC who joined two officers from the Capitol Police Department to relate what happened during the domestic terrorists’ attack to overturn the results of the most secure election in our history. In the quote, Officer Fanone reflected the disappointment and resentment he and his colleagues feel as the majority of elected Republicans in Congress profess that the attempted coup was no big deal.

The testimony was chilling and brought home once again how close we came to losing our Republic. Had those officers failed in their duty, the past six months would have a completely different narrative. People think it was “no big deal” because the officers won. Had the terrorists won, many law makers would have been kidnapped, injured, or killed. We would live in a different world. They saved our democracy. And yet, senior elected officials willingly and knowingly disgrace those officers’ personal sacrifices.

In fact, and to their everlasting disgrace, prior to the testimony Republican leaders from the House of Representatives held a press conference and tried to blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the attack. Further debasing themselves and demonstrating the depth of their moral depravity, during the hearing six other elected Republican members of Congress tried to hold a sham press conference in front of the building housing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to demand justice for the terrorists that conducted the attack. As of yesterday, 591 people have been arrested for various crimes related to the attack. However, to many elected Republicans those people are, in the words of those in front of the DOJ, “political prisoners” that are subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.” Despite the fact that the attack on the Capitol may be one of the most documented crimes of its size in history — people just can’t resist taking selfies and posting them on social media — their seditious supporters claim that evidence of their innocence is being withheld.

If it is possible, the most despicable actions took place on a main stream media platform known for its unrelenting support of the disgraced ex-president. A certain “personality” mocked the police officers by handing out acting awards for their “performance” in relating the horrific beatings and abuse that they suffered on 6 January. Other “news” organizations with no regard for the truth “revealed” that the officers were actually actors playing a role. Yet another literally laughed at Officer Fanone’s statement that he suffered psychological trauma from his experience.

This is what our country has become. All in the name of a cult of personality for one man.

Unfortunately, I think it is deeper than that. It is a sickness in our country and the cult leader was, and is, able to exploit it for his own purposes. Likewise, the bulk of elected Republican officials are going along with it not because of any policies or principles, but because it suits their purposes to gain and retain power. They are fine with autocracy.

The tool for their power grab is race.

Without sounding too superficial or simplistic, the evidence is there. Roughly 99% of the terrorists attacking the Capitol were white and most were men. The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters were all known to have a part in fomenting the insurrection, and all are white supremacist groups. The focus of the new “election security” laws, faux audits, and “stop the steal” efforts are places like, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Houston and other large cities with large numbers of voters that are people of color. During the presidential debate the ex-president told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” School Boards across the country are fighting back against state legislatures that are limiting the elements of history that can be taught in schools. Using “Critical Race Theory” — a term they do not understand — as a code word for diversity, celebrating other cultures, appreciating the contributions of all Americans, teaching the ugly along with the beautiful, and as a catchall for any topic or fact about race relations in the United States that may make a white person feel “uncomfortable.” They would prefer that schools whitewash history. Literally.

Here is an example of the fact that many Republican law makers don’t even pretend to hide it anymore. Texas House Bill 241 calls for an audit of the November 2020 vote for all counties with a population over 415,000 people. There are 13 such counties, of which 10 voted for now President Biden. The bill’s sponsor says that his constituents are concerned about fraud in that election — even as earlier in the year Texas election officials fell all over themselves congratulating themselves on how smooth and secure the elections in Texas had been that fall.

Here is the punchline. When asked why not audit all of the counties in the state, the bill’s sponsor State Representative Steve Toth said, “What’s the point? I mean, all the small counties are red.”

The cult is destroying our country. It is a cancer. Cancer cannot be rooted out until it is identified, analyzed, and thoroughly destroyed and removed. The House Select Committee has important work to do and they must use due diligence to follow the facts wherever they lead. To the officers that testified yesterday, who stood on the front line and faced fascism in the flesh, they have no doubt that the facts will lead to positions of power. Power politicians may not have been on the front line abusing the police, but there were undoubtedly some or many behind the insurrection. As Officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police put it yesterday when asked what he wanted the committee to do, he used the analogy that when somebody hires a hitman to conduct a murder, the hitman goes to jail and so does the person that hired the hit. “There was a hit carried out on January 6, and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.”

We need to know who arranged, aided and abetted the hit, and hold them accountable, in order to bring our country back from the edge of darkness.


What Is Happening?

“If I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley.”

— Donald J. Trump in a 15 July 2021 statement.

It is nice to know that the ex-president would not use the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) to lead a coup, but his statement above begs the question as to who his first choice might be.

The pronouncement is a reaction to an excerpt from the book I Alone Can Fix It by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker of the Washington Post. In the book, General Milley is reported to have been deeply concerned that the ex-president would attempt a coup after he lost the election. The CJCS spoke of the ex-president following the “gospel of the Fuhrer” and creating a possible “Reichstag moment” in the wake of the ex-president’s Big Lie about the election. (Regular readers of this blog will recall that my 11 December 2020 post expressed the same concerns. Although I did not know of the CJCS worries at that time, it was obviously a wide-spread fear.)

I must say that in the days since the 6 January insurrection, my apprehensions about the future of our democracy have only grown deeper. I think that we are in a real crisis.

It is easy for me to ignore the incoherent rantings of a demented ex-president who spends his time scamming his followers and relieving them of their hard earned dollars. What I cannot ignore is the concerted, coordinated effort of elected Republican leaders at all levels of government to continue to push the Big Lie, spread concern over the safety of the Coronavirus vaccine, and work to divide our country for their own personal ego, power and monetary gain.

Our democracy was attacked on 6 January 2021 with the aim of overthrowing an election and extending the reign of a budding autocrat in a clear violation of our Constitution. As the criminal investigation continues, it is ever more clear that the goal of the majority of the rioters that entered the Capitol building was to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Without the protection of the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police (DC), sprinkled with a heavy dose of luck, law makers would have been severely injured or killed, and, in my view, the loser candidate would have invoked the Insurrection Act and sent the active duty military into the streets. That was certainly General Milley’s concern and he had a front row seat to the inner workings of the administration.

If there is any doubt about that, consider another passage of I Alone Can Fix It where the authors report that the ex-president’s only regret is that he did not send troops into American cities during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer. Not the National Guard. Active duty military forces. He was willing to use the American military against American citizens in order to silence their protests because he feared he looked weak. His only regret. Not the hundreds of thousands of people that died from the mishandling of the pandemic, not the refusal of people to take the vaccine because they think it is some kind of badge of loyalty to him, not the insurrection he fomented to bring down our democracy. Only that he did not use American military might in the streets of American cities.

Now Republicans of various stripes (perhaps down the middle of their backs?) are working hard to change the narrative surrounding the insurrection. In typical Orwellian fashion, Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan commission to investigate the events surrounding 6 January which included everything the Republicans wanted — including a co-equal chairmanship, bipartisan agreement on subpoenas, and on, and on. As a result, the Speaker of the House moved forward with a House Select Committee to investigate. Immediately came the howls of “partisanship” “politics” and other accusations that would be laughable if not so serious. They blocked a bipartisan effort! But now it is partisan. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Tr-CA) appointed five members to the Committee, of which two were clearly installed to disrupt and distract from the serious proceeding. When the Speaker took the highly unusual step of blocking those two individuals, Mr. McCarthy withdrew all of his nominees. He now intends to have his own, Republican only, inquiry into the insurrection. The intent of that move will be to create a circus to divert attention from what really happened. The current Republican mantra is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the real cause of the attack. (Remember, logic and fact-based reality no longer apply to anything 90% of Republican officials say these days, which I find subversive and un-American because they know better. Mr. McCarthy thinks that he will be Speaker of the House after the 2022 elections and he will do anything to achieve that goal. God Bless America if he becomes Speaker because we will certainly need it.)

While Mr. McCarthy’s investigative committee will be partisan, at least two Republicans will be on the official Select Committee. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) was on the original appointee list (Speaker Pelosi gave her one of the Democrat’s slots) and today we learned that the Speaker appointed Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-ILL) to the committee. It will be bi-partisan. Politically, there is little to nothing that I agree on with those two Representatives, but I admire their courage and willingness to put the Constitution and our country above raw politics.

While I am 100 percent in favor of the Select Committee doing a thorough investigation, I have little hope that they will be able to accomplish all that we might expect had the original bi-partisan commission been able to do its work. I deeply suspect that members of Congress and/or their staff members were involved to varying degrees in the events of that day. Although the committee will have subpoena power, a lesson learned from the previous administration is that individuals can ignore Congressional subpoenas with impunity. The Congress has no real method to force people to testify other than by going to the courts. In recent years, we learned that even if individuals eventually get ordered by the courts to testify, it could be two or three years of court fights before they are so ordered. Even then there is nothing to compel them to talk. We may even find that the Biden Department of Justice protects some of the high ranking officials of the previous administration because they do not want to set a precedent of undermining Executive Privilege. I believe that our country needs to fully understand what happened and hold those responsible accountable. In the current political climate, we may never fully know who did what.

Meanwhile, the Big Lie continues to spread. There may be no bigger threat to our democracy. The 2020 election was the safest, most secure in our nation’s history. Yet, millions of people think that the election was “stolen” and that President Biden is not the legitimate leader of our country. Once people lose faith in the election process, and thus think that any election that does not turn out as they would like is fraudulent, they will take action as they did in January to “restore” what they think was stolen.

In another Orwellian twist, the only way to change the proliferating election laws resulting from the Big Lie is to vote out those people that are implementing them, but the laws are designed to keep them in power. There will be challenges in the courts, but meanwhile elections continue under the new laws. Even should voters succeed in dumping the old gang, the laws are written such that legislatures or other partisan officials can overturn the will of the people if they decide they don’t like the results. So first they are trying to suppress the vote to stay in charge, but should that fail, measures are in place to overturn the elections.

These are turbulent times. What is happening is not “politics as usual.” It doesn’t have anything to do with politics. It is a direct assault on our way of governing. Most people are not really paying attention to what is going on around our country with changes to election laws, fake audits of the 2020 election, and active measures to undermine the vote. Misinformation, disinformation and pure unadulterated lies are being used to curtail our right to vote and to end the peaceful transfer of power.

Perhaps the assault on the Capitol was more like the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch than the 1933 Reichstag Fire. We must remain ever vigilant to keep history from repeating itself.


The Coup Is Still Underway

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Trumpian Zone! — with apologies to Rod Serling

It seems as if we are in one of the spookiest and weirdest episodes of the Twilight Zone. It is almost as if we are experiencing an out-of-body experience as our democracy is under attack to a degree that we have not seen since the Civil War. We are in a place where facts don’t matter and the Constitution is ignored. Apparently, laws do not apply to those in pursuit of autocratic goals. We are in the zone where the federal and state governments exist only to serve one man — a zone most of us would never have imagined to be possible. Hyperbole? No. In fact, I think most Americans do not understand how precarious our democracy is and that it is under a full frontal assault. An ongoing coup attempt is underway, instigated by the then president about a year ago with claims that he could only lose if the election was rigged and that has grown and continued to the present day. Sadly, one of the two major political parties in our country is a full-on participant in the attempt to destroy our democracy — either acquiescing to the effort or actively enabling it.

These are the facts, not opinions. Over time, more and more revelations have uncovered the full extent of the ex-president’s efforts to overturn the election to remain as president illegally, or to be a dictator, depending on one’s view of an individual seizing power for his own purposes.

Here are some of the efforts that we know about so far:

  • In December 2020 Michael Flynn, the disgraced one time National Security Adviser and a retired Lt. General in the United States Army, goes on the cable network Newsmax to argue that the president could deploy the military to confiscate voting machines and then rerun the election. The next day, the president invites him to the Oval Office to discuss Mr. Flynn’s plan and to review the possibility of deploying the military to impose martial law.
  • The president pressured officials in key states to “find” more votes and encouraged lawmakers in state legislatures to overturn the election results in their states and replace the Electors voting for Mr. Biden with a slate that would vote for him instead.
  • The president and his Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressured the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to give him the victory and hinted that Mr. Raffensperger could be criminally prosecuted if he did not — a phone call now under investigation for violating the law. Additionally, he forced the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta to resign because he was not working hard enough to uncover “fraud” and to negate the Georgia election results.
  • The president directed his Chief of Staff and other aides to pressure the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate bogus and hare-brained ideas claiming election fraud including one that “proved” Italian military satellites sent signals to voting machines in the U.S. to change votes for Mr. Biden. (Remember, we are now in the Trumpian Zone.)
  • The president planned on appointing a senior DOJ staffer, sympathetic to his efforts to overturn the election, as Acting Attorney General when the existing Acting would not do his bidding. (That plan died when the bulk of the senior professional staff at DOJ threatened to resign if it happened.)
  • Emails released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show that the president and other White House officials not only pushed DOJ to investigate bogus election fraud cases, they also sent the Acting Solicitor General a draft Supreme Court filing to dispute election results in six states. They pushed DOJ officials to seize voting machines in key states. (A different effort than the Flynn Plan to use the military.)
  • The then president organized a “Save America March” in Washington D.C. on 6 January 2021 to protest the election results. The rally was purposely scheduled for the same day that Congress was to certify the Electoral College vote and timed to give the rally goers the opportunity to get to the Capital before the vote. He gave a roughly one hour speech where he exhorted the crowd to “fight like hell” to “take back our country” and repeating over and over that the election was stolen. He mentioned Vice President Mike Pence numerous times incorrectly claiming that the Vice President had the power to stop the Electoral College process. He then sent them on their way.

All of those efforts, and more, were thwarted by dedicated professionals in federal, state and local governments. The system worked! So, now, that means that the system must be changed so that next time, efforts by the ex-president, or someone like him, cannot be stopped. Since the beginning of the year, Republicans throughout all levels of government are hard at work to change the narrative (“nothing bad happened”) while insisting that the system still needs to be “fixed.” Many continue to openly push the Big Lie and to scheme to bring back the former guy.

It would seem that a 9/11 type commission should be empowered to investigate what happened leading up to the 6 January insurrection and to recommend ways to prevent it from happening again. Nothing could be more bipartisan — even non-partisan — than that.

Oh, I forgot.

175 House Republicans and thirty-five Republican Senators (aka the Sedition Caucus) voted against a commission to investigate the attack on 6 January. For that matter, twenty-one House Republicans voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the police officers that protected them from the insurgents. Some Congressional Republicans continue to push the absurd assertion that it was just a regular day at the Capital and that those rioting inside the building were just “normal” tourists. This comes on top of the 121 House Republicans and six Senate Republicans that voted to overturn the 2020 election by decertifying the results of the Electoral College.

The Big Lie continues to be pushed hard and the never ending explanations for the attack on the Capital now include the preposterous proposition that it was the FBI that instigated and directed the insurrection.

The Grand Old Party is not so grand anymore. Most of its members no longer care about supporting the Constitution or about looking out for the country’s interests. They only owe their allegiance to one man and appear to be signaling to him that it is okay for the ex-president to assault our democracy once again.

Republican legislatures are working over-time around the country to disenfranchise as many voters as possible. Worse than that, they are not just working to suppress the vote, but they have enacted measures to make sure that if their suppression efforts fail, they can ignore the will of the voters and choose winners and losers on their own.

The former guy still will not acknowledge that he lost and is enamored of the idea that he will be “reinstated” in August. The fake audit in Arizona is trying to prove that tens of thousands of ballots in Maricopa County (Phoenix) were shipped in from China by “analyzing” the ballots for bamboo shoots in the paper. (We’re still in the Zone.)

At the same time, it was just revealed that during the last administration DOJ subpoenaed the personal computer and phone records for reporters for CNN, The Washington Post, New York Times and for two members of the House Intelligence Committee. Representatives Adam Schiff (CA) and Eric Swalwell (CA) and their aides’ and families’ records were secretly obtained from Apple. DOJ put a gag order on all of those subpoenas. Those monitored did not find out about it until last month. At the same time that they were under the subpoenas, the then president was publicly calling for them to be arrested and put in jail.

In an attempt to right some of these ongoing wrongs, Democrats bought into Senator Joe Manchin’s (WV) effort to compromise on a bill to protect voting rights. His proposal includes many provisions desired by Republicans. None-the-less, before the proposal could even be analyzed, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared that no Republican would vote for it.

Which leads me to ask, given the concerted effort to overturn our democracy and an expressed Republican goal of opposing President Biden’s agenda “100 percent”, why do Democrats continue to try bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems when the Republicans just shut them down at every turn? By the way, of all of the state legislature attacks on voting rights, none of the new laws are bipartisan.

I have opined in this space before, in conjunction with the horrible effort to combat the pandemic and his general incompetence in office, that the ex-president could only screw it up as badly as he did by trying to screw it up. Thus, perhaps, he was actually a Putin agent. As he coerces and pushes his supporters to continue to devoutly follow the Big Lie and to tear our country apart, I come back around to that idea. Mr. Putin must be thrilled with what he sees happening in the U.S. He said as much during the run up to his summit with President Biden, including calling the 6 January insurrectionists “patriots” that are being persecuted by the U.S. government.

How did I miss the exit sign that said we were on the road to Crazy Town?


We Should Remember It All

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the opportunity to remember and honor our fellow citizens who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our way of life. It is important at all times, but in my mind especially so now, to stop and think of this holiday as more than a long weekend or the unofficial start of summer. It can be a time for reflection on our history and to understand that it often takes lives and treasure to keep us all safe. The date was originally known as Decoration Day, and came into existence following the Civil War to honor those that died in that conflict. It officially became a federal holiday in 1971.

Unfortunately, as many of us have only recently come to know, 31 May is also the date for the beginning of the Tulsa Race Riot, as it was called originally, or the Tulsa Race Massacre as it is now known. (Historians believe that it was designated as a “riot” because insurance companies would not then have to pay for damages.) This year is the 100th anniversary of this horrible event. I was born in Tulsa Oklahoma, although I only lived there for a few months afterwards, but I became aware of the massacre only in recent years.

The beginnings of the incident are typical of the Jim Crow era in our country. In sum, a Black male teenager was accused of accosting a White female teenager in an elevator in the Drexel Building, one of the larger buildings in that part of town. It is believed that the Black man either tripped and fell against the White woman or accidentally stepped on her foot. She screamed and observers reported the “attack” to the police. The next day the young man was arrested and a lurid headline and story in the 31 May 1921 edition of the Tulsa Tribune inflamed the situation. (Note that the young woman never made a formal complaint about the incident and actually put into writing that nothing happened.) A white mob formed at the courthouse and the sheriff and his deputies had every belief that the young man would be lynched, so they barricaded themselves into the top floor of the courthouse to protect him. At the same time, approximately 75 African-American veterans arrived to protect the young Black man. Accounts vary as to what happened next, but a shot was fired and the situation quickly escalated.

According to an Oklahoma state Race Riot Commission formed in 2001 (later the name was changed to the Race Massacre Commission) municipal, county and state officials did nothing to defuse the situation. The young man in question disappeared — probably smuggled out of town by the sheriff and is believed to have gone to Kansas City.

On the night of 31 May to 1 June the white mob, many deputized and armed by local authorities, attacked the Black part of town known as Greenwood. Greenwood was also known as the “Black Wall Street” as it was probably the most prosperous Black enclave in the U.S. at the time. When the carnage stopped, about 300 Black Tulsans were killed, 800 injured, 6,000 Black Tulsans were arrested and interned in the Convention Hall and at the Fairgrounds, 35 city blocks of Greenwood were looted and then burned to the ground, and 10,000 Blacks were left homeless. It was one of the worst such incidents in our country, and there are still people alive that experienced it.

Until recently, every effort was made to cover it up and to pretend that it never happened. Official records disappeared and even archived newspapers covering the incident in Oklahoma had holes where stories of the massacre had been cut out. It was a lost memory, or so people in Oklahoma hoped, until the 1990’s when activists pushed the state legislature and in 2001 the Commission was formed. Schools in Oklahoma now discuss the massacre.

But will they continue to do so?

As part of the “see no evil so we did no evil” approach to history that state legislatures are taking around the country, this month Oklahoma passed a law that prohibits the teaching of “critical race theory.” (Although they were careful not to use those words in the law, the sponsors stated that was the impetus to the law.) Most people misunderstand what that theory entails. In short, it is a long-standing theory that tries to provide a framework for understanding how laws and social norms can perpetuate inequality in our country. Mostly white legislators and governors are using the term as a short hand phrase to include most discussions about racism and to attack diversity and inclusion training because it makes our country “look bad” and thus the law is needed as “a defensive measure against psychological warfare from those that hate America.”

Specifically, the Oklahoma law passed this month, and others like it in other states, dictates that public school classes should not include anything where “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” Well, that just about leaves out everything that may be of importance in discussing all of the facts about the history of our country. Any individual? Does that mean that one student complaining stops an entire class from studying a controversial topic? It is clearly aimed at protecting White Americans and completely ignores what may cause Black Americans or Native Americans “discomfort” or “anguish.”

Many school teachers and administrators are now scrambling to figure out what the law means, how to implement it, where the boundaries might be, and what the consequences are for crossing those boundaries. Most are in agreement that it will cause changes to, and in some cases totally eliminate, an array of classes. And who are the Thought Police that are going to enforce this law? So long academic freedom, hello Big Brother.

So under this law, how do schools in Oklahoma teach their students about the Tulsa Race Massacre? Surely the topic will cause some students discomfort, guilt or anguish. Does that mean that it isn’t taught?

If you wonder why the Black Lives Matter movement exists, perhaps one should take a look at what has happened to the Black community in the U.S. and the continued efforts to minimize or eliminate their experiences.

Talk about cancel culture!


The Death of Bipartisanship

Today, any hope of bipartisanship in the era of Trumpism died in the Senate. Senate Republicans succeeded in blocking the bill that creates a bipartisan 1/6 Commission (H.R. 3233) to “report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol Complex.” This deadly attempt to overthrow the 2020 election shook our democracy to the core and resulted in the loss of five people and injuries to 140 police officers. The procedural vote to move on to debate and consideration of amendments went down in a 54-35 vote. 60 votes were needed to break a threatened filibuster. Six Senators from the group formerly known as the Republican Party voted with Democrats to move forward.

I would say that those that voted against creating the Commission should be profoundly ashamed of themselves, but like so much over the last few years — say it with me now — They. Don’t. Care. They have no shame. They have no moral compass. Just blind allegiance to their cult leader.

An investigation will take place in the Congress, as existing committees can subpoena witnesses and investigate what happened. The president can convene a Presidential Commission to investigate the attack. Most probably, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) under her own power will convene a Select Committee, including Republicans, to consolidate the investigations in Congress. The point of the Commission that Republicans blocked today was to make it bipartisan — even non-partisan — with the power and resources, under a proscribed timeline (that requires its work to finish by 31 December of this year), to give the country an unbiased look at what happened and how to prevent it from recurring. It was modeled closely on the 9/11 Commission that investigated the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The breach of the Capitol was a domestic terrorist attack by white supremacists and other dangerous groups — and the majority of the minority party said that they aren’t interested.

On 14 May of this year, the Department of Homeland Security (HLS) issued a second National Terrorism Advisory Bulletin that will be in effect until 13 August. It warns that Domestic Violent Extremists (DVE) may try to exploit the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions to engage in “grievance-based violence.” The same grievances that created the conditions for the 6 January attack and that an ex-president and his lackeys such Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (Q-GA), and others, continue to shout about at every opportunity. The Big Lie may be the most successful propaganda campaign in U.S. history, and probably in the top ten in history. All of this stokes violence and all of this is perfectly okay with most Republicans in Congress.

The Commission had everything in it — I repeat, everything — that Senate and House Republicans insisted must be included in order for them to support it. Surprise! They got it. Then the word came down from the mob boss at Mar-a-Lago that nothing shall be done. And so it is that nothing shall be done.

Please! Never again tell me that Congressional Republicans support law enforcement. They voted to defund the Capitol Police. They voted to stop a commission that would investigate the violent attacks on them on 6 January. They do not care one bit about Blue Lives when it matters.

Here is a larger take-away for the Democrats. Do not waste time on any bipartisan efforts. Just do what needs to be done. Hopefully, Democrats have read the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz. Do not let the Republicans be the Lucy to your Charlie Brown where despite continued assurances that this time I will absolutely not pull the football away, Charlie Brown tries to kick it and falls flat on his back when she does. Every time. This is where we are now. The Republicans got everything that they wanted in the bill creating the Commission. Yet, they would not vote for it. Why should the Democrats ever consider that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will do anything that the Democrats propose? Or even that their word means anything at all? If there is even a hint that the Democrats or the Biden Administration will consider the passage of any legislation a “win,” they will work to block it. Senator McConnell already publicly stated that he is “100%” focused on blocking anything the Administration puts forward.

The failure of most Congressional Republicans to support the Commission is shameful and a black mark on our history that will be a part of their legacy. It is up to the remaining, and increasingly only, party that cares about democracy to take action. As the Rolling Stones song says, “…don’t get fooled again.”

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again


They Can’t Handle The Truth

With apologies to Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, USMC (Jack Nicholson) in the movie a Few Good Men (1992).

It was my expectation that in 2021 I would be able to move this blog beyond dealing with an ex-president and his feckless Republican Party enablers. Movies. Cultural events. Things that I thought were funny. And of course, big international and national news events. But, I was wrong. I cannot get past the continued shenanigans of the group formerly known as the Republican Party. They just won’t quit with the Big Lie and the attacks on our democracy.

This week the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives pushed hard to have the entire Republican caucus vote against a bill that would establish a 1/6 Commission to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol on that day. The bill passed in the House anyway, and included 35 Republicans that broke with their leadership. At least they might be able to handle the truth. Unfortunately, 175 House Republicans voted against it. The irony is that the commission rules were truly bipartisan. House Democratic Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (MS) reached total agreement with his Republican counterpart John Katko (NY) on the terms, make up, and powers of the commission. Originally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) had different ideas about how the commission should work and who should be the members. Representative Katko was deputized by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) to negotiate and reach a settlement, but only if certain elements were included. Everything the Republicans wanted they got. The bill was exactly what the Republicans wanted. And then they ran away from it. After first signaling that he may be open to the commission, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday suddenly decided that he was now against it and is pushing his caucus to vote against it. Senate Republicans are now threatening a filibuster to keep the bill from coming to a vote.

Why are the Republicans now against something that they were for before they got everything that they wanted?

Because they got it. In my view, the Republican leadership never thought that Speaker Pelosi would acquiesce to their demands. When she did, they had a choice. Participate or try to stop it in its tracks. They chose the latter. On one level, it is because the ex-president told them to oppose it. It became some kind of litmus test — one more in a long line where unquestioning loyalty to the mob boss and part-time open mic host at Mar-a-Lago is more important than maintaining our democracy. That could be it. Unfortunately, I think that is too easy of an explanation. It may be true for some, but Senator McConnell, for example, has no interest in doing anything with the ex-president. I think it runs much deeper. First and foremost, Republican leaders are afraid of what the commission may uncover. To date, no investigation or inquiry has looked into the ex-president’s actions on that day when he was back in the White House. Additionally, it is entirely possible, that members of Congress had some knowledge of events to come or had some interaction with the insurrectionists before or during the attack. Mr. McCarthy himself is reported to have specific knowledge of the ex-president’s actions, opinions, and demeanor that may indicate that he was perfectly fine with an attempted coup. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), the now banished member of the caucus, has said publicly that Mr. McCarthy “clearly has facts about that day that an investigation into what happened, into the president’s actions, ought to get to the bottom of.” She also intimated in a televised conversation with Fox News’ Chris Wallace that the ex-president and Mr. McCarthy tried “to get their story straight” after the events of 6 January.

That is some serious stuff.

I will note that the U.S. Capitol Police sent a letter to Congress deploring the insurrection deniers words and actions and calling for a full and independent commission to look into the insurrection. The Republicans are ignoring it. Yep, the great supporters of our police rank and file don’t want to know about it when it comes to taking an actual stand on an issue. By the way, after voting to stop the commission, every Republican in the House (and three Democrats) voted to defund the police on Thursday. Specifically, they voted against a supplemental spending bill to address deficiencies found following the 6 January insurrection that also would reimburse the National Guard and D.C. Metro Police for expenses incurred in protecting the Capitol, and provide the Capitol police with overtime pay, retention bonuses, and trauma resources.

As I try to make sense of all this, I am really doing some hard thinking about where this is all headed. I have given up on the bulk of national Republicans who seem to think that their only path to power is by destroying our democracy. I really have come to that conclusion. Sadly, but with my eyes wide open. On one level, Congressional Republicans are clearly willing to throw our democracy under the bus in order to regain power. They do not want anything in the public eye that reminds us all of how close we came to a coup back in January, and that 147 of them voted to overturn the results of the Electoral College. All of them suddenly have amnesia about those facts as they desperately try to gaslight us into thinking nothing happened. (Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) actually said in a Committee meeting that the videos show that those in the Capitol that day were acting like “it was a normal tourist visit.” Other videos shows Mr. Clyde helping to barricade the entrance to the House Chamber with furniture as insurrectionists tried to break down the door. Shameful.) They are afraid to get to the truth because they know that it could cost them the 2022 election victories that they expect. Shoot, Mr. McCarthy is all but measuring the drapes in the Office of the Speaker of the House. If the truth comes out, that may be all in peril. So far, 493 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection. Many Republicans continue to call them “patriots” and some even argue that they are being “abused” by law enforcement. Some continue to claim that it was “antifa” that attacked the Capitol. Ridiculous. But if they think that, would not an investigative commission uncover that? Would that not be a good thing for their argument that the ex-president was not responsible? Then why stop the investigation?

But I am afraid that the danger to our democracy is much deeper. The Republicans are systematically setting up the means and the opportunity to overturn the elections in 2022 and 2024 if the results are not in their favor.

Among the tools they are using are changes to election laws in many states, gerrymandering election districts following the 2020 census, pushing for new inquiries into the 2020 election claiming that the results were rigged, and threatening violence.

Making it harder to vote, as is happening in Florida, Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere, is aimed at deterring minorities, young people, and the poor from voting, all groups that tend to vote for Democrats. These can be overcome by concerted and persistent get-out-the-vote efforts and certainly those provisions could also inhibit some Republican voters, especially older Americans. What is harder to overcome is the changes to the laws that give legislatures the final word on verifying the election results and certifying the winners. These changes have been enacted in states with large Republican majorities in their legislature. Republicans on state and local levels did their jobs in 2020 and stood up to immense pressure to decertify the results. They were honorable in the execution of their duties and faithful to the Constitution. They have been replaced or bypassed all the way to the county level in many contested states. This opens a huge door for unscrupulous manipulation of the election.

When election results in the states are disputed, the issues are resolved in the Congress. When all else fails the House of Representatives, voting by states, not members, decides. Republicans control more state delegations in the House even though they are in the minority — both in terms of pure numbers but also in the number of American citizens each represents. (By law, there are no more than 435 Representatives in the House, apportioned by state. Thus, a Congressman from a populous state has many more constituents than one from a rural, less populated state, making for a real imbalance in a “representational” democracy.) The Republicans already demonstrated their willingness to overturn an election as they tried to do in 2020. Who in their right minds doesn’t think that they would do it if they controlled Congress?

My biggest concern is that we are headed to a Civil War. Right now we are in a Cold Civil War but it could turn ugly in a flash. I hesitate to say that as the consequences are immense and it is not a statement that I make lightly. In my mind it is not hyperbole or hyperventilating.

On 11 December 2020 I wrote about my concern that we would have a “Reichstag” moment where our democracy would be directly attacked. And then on 6 January 2021 it happened. That could be just the beginning. The ex-president has no qualms, indeed may actually take pleasure, in firing up his followers to act in violent ways. 6 January is only one instance. As Representative Cheney said in a Washington Post op-ed that if the ex-president never concedes and continues to claim that he is the “rightful president” — as he did this week and has done consistently since he lost bigly in a fair and free election — he will continue to inspire violence. As Ms. Cheney said, the ex-president “repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6.” She goes on to say that there is every expectation “to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again.”

There may or may not be another attack on our nation’s Capitol. But what about the attacks on state Capitols? What about the death threats to election officials and their families, be they Democrats or Republicans?

It seems to me that the Republicans maxed out in 2020. They have done nothing to expand their base or to put forward policies that may help people and make them want to vote for their candidates. Indeed, they have done the opposite. Consequently, to win elections, they must keep people who will not vote for them from voting. Making it harder is one way but the most effective way is to intimidate them, make the voters afraid to cast a ballot. Go after election officials and poll volunteers with threats to them and their families. It goes on and on.

The ex-president may soon be irrelevant when he is indicted by a grand jury. He may even go to jail. This will either further inflame the violence or make him obsolete. We’ll see. Unfortunately, Trumpism will live on. Too many people see it as a path to power.

I have also thought long and hard about why the Republicans are so determined to retain power at any cost, including evading the Constitution and winking at violence if it achieves their goals. Why gain power when over the last twenty years they have done mostly nothing, other than cut taxes. They are bereft of any ideas for leading our country.

I have only two answers — so far. One, there are some who truly believe that any Democrat is really trying to lead our country to ruin and to turn it into a communist/socialist/fascist country (pick one — many think all three). Others see our country changing and cannot abide it. They have some notion that our history is totally a result of northern Europeans and their intrepid customs, traditions, ambition, and general intelligence — something no minority or immigrant or any of the “others” have. The “others” would only destroy our country. Thus, their conclusion. Any means necessary is required to save our nation’s soul. Without them in charge — mostly white, Christian, men — our way of life will be lost. They will not allow that to happen and therefore they are willing to fight to the death — figuratively but in some cases literally — to save it. It is the outlook and values of white supremacists, who are now valued members of the Republican coalition.

Republicans see themselves at war. They will do anything to achieve their goals. Democrats keep trying to play by the rules and work for bipartisanship. Foolish. The filibuster must go. If there is no 1/6 Commission (Congressional committees can still investigate, but because they are chaired by Democrats, “politics” “partisanship” and other denunciations will follow any findings) we cannot get to the fundamental truths of the attack on democracy. If the Congress does not pass the voter protection acts, then the game is lost. No other issue will matter because the foundation of our democracy will be lost.

Truth cannot be a relative thing.


Purging The Truth

As you may know, next week the Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to vote Congresswoman Elizabeth Lynne “Liz” Cheney (WY) out of her leadership position as the chair of the House Republican Conference, the number three position in their leadership. They will do so not because of immoral, illegal, or unethical behavior. It will not be done because she is a radical espousing policies and ideas that are antithetical to her party. She voted in support of the former guy’s policies 91% of the time according to the conservative group Heritage Action. They will not remove her for any logical reason. They will unseat her for one reason and one reason only. She will not lie. She will not lie about a disgraced ex-president winning the election. She will not lie about the election being rigged. She will not lie about the insurrection that attempted to overthrow our election actually being a bunch of friendly citizens visiting the Capitol on 6 January. She will not lie and say that the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer were the same as the white supremacist, militia led attack on the Capitol that intended to bring down the government.

There is little to nothing about Representative Cheney’s views and policies with which I agree. However, she should be a lesson to us all in putting country, honor and the Constitution above personal gain.

In one sense why should the average American care about the “inside baseball” workings of the Republican Party in Washington DC? Most people would understandably say that they could care less. However, in the context of one of my favorite sayings, that there is a difference between what things are and what things mean, it has real significance. What this is, is a power squabble within the ranks of one political party. What it means is that the Republican Party no longer cares about the truth, facts or rationality. It means that to be a member in good standing in the Republican Party one must embrace a lie and repudiate the Constitution. It means that they are willing to subvert democracy in order to make money and to attain power. By any means necessary.

The ouster of Representative Cheney is more than a gesture to appease the ex-president. Countless Republican politicians have and continue to pay homage to the open mic host at Mar-a-Lago. What this impending action signifies is the total repudiation of democracy. When this action is coupled with numerous Republican controlled legislatures working overtime to make it harder to vote, combined with activities like the ongoing circus in Arizona where they sublet the attempt to manufacture fraud where none exists, it becomes more and more evident that Republicans are willing to do anything to overturn an election when they don’t like the results.

This is a direct assault on democracy. Most troubling is that many of the voting laws enacted or under consideration in several state legislatures give the power to monitor, certify, and declare the winner of elections to themselves. They removed the practical power or provided the means to override the state offices responsible for free and fair elections — positions held mostly by Republicans in key states in 2020 — that did not go along with the Big Lie. In addition, should the Republicans have control of the House following the elections in 2024, they will have the means to accomplish what they tried to do this past election — overturn the will of the people and install their preferred candidate as president. It was close in 2021 — 147 Republicans voted to overturn the election, even after the assault on the Capitol — they know how to do it. As I explained in previous posts, the final arbiter of a contested election, even if the Senate does not agree, is the House of Representatives. So long USA.

Democracy most often does not fail via a violent revolution. It can slip away quietly as a result of small, but continuous changes over time until one day it is a democracy in name only. Polls show that 30% of Americans favor a “strong man as leader” and they don’t mean a weight lifter.

The Big Lie encourages domestic terrorism. Despite the revisionist history Republicans are now trying to peddle, people died at the Capitol on 6 January and hundreds were injured, some permanently. The Republicans are now trying to change that narrative, including saying that Donald J. Trump tried to tell the “boisterous” crowd that afternoon to go home peacefully. Maybe. It seemed too little too late for me, and even a bit tongue in cheek. That day he also called the rioters trying to kill the Vice President and Speaker of the House and others “patriots.” He went on to say “We love you. You’re very special.” Don’t forget that he basically told the country and our elected officials that they deserved what they got. More specifically he tweeted “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from the great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.” He later added, “Remember this day forever!”

He has never condemned the attack. He never conceded the election. For the first time in our American history, there was no smooth and peaceful transition of power from one president to the next. I worry that the domestic terrorists that ransacked the Capitol, tried to kidnap a state governor, invaded numerous state capitols and undertook other acts of violence in the past year will do even more traitorous deeds if they continue to be aided and abetted by a major political party. Apparently, as long as they get their money and their votes, most Republican politicians are okay with white supremacy as a major force in their ranks.

This is what Representative Cheney is supposed to support in order to remain a member in good standing of one of the two parties in our democracy.

All of us can have different ideas about how to solve our nation’s problems with immigration, infrastructure, the economy or a host of other issues. There can be legitimate differences of opinion on policy. One party is trying to solve these problems, the other is laser focused on “owning the libs” and sabotaging our democracy by supporting a wannabe autocrat at all costs. To be honest, I am not sure why they want power because they don’t do anything when they have it. They have become the Do Nothing Party with one objective — block anything that President Biden proposes. (Just this week Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “One hundred percent of my focus is standing up to this administration.” He went on to say that the Republicans are in “total unity” “in opposition” to the Biden Administration. Bi-partisan, eh?) I will be curious to see if they continue the blind support of Trumpism after Mr. Trump is indicted by a grand jury.

These developments are a clear and present danger to our Republic. It is up to all of us to see what it is happening and to call it out for what it is.


The Quiet Part Out Loud

Watching the politicians of the Republican Party struggling to outdo each other in their devotion to Trumpism reminds me of the last years of the Know Nothing Party in the 1850’s. Their official name was the American Party, but as it was originally a secret society, adherents would claim that they “knew nothing” when asked about the elements of their beliefs. In fact, they were an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, populist movement that put “Americans First” (meaning the descendants of the original colonists) and were known for their violent activity against their opponents. By the late 1850’s, they ceased to be a political force.

Sound familiar?

Last month, a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives started to form the “America First Caucus.” Its aim was to promote “Congressional policies that are of the long-term benefit of the American nation.” Due to its offensive nature, once their platform became public, Republicans could not distance themselves fast enough, including those that called themselves the founders of the caucus. Unfortunately, the document still exists and to me, it espouses what most Republican politicians today believe. It is worth taking a look at their key points.

The America First Policy Platform contains fourteen basic issues. (Read it for yourself here.) I will summarize them briefly in order to bring home their core beliefs.

  • Election Fraud. The 2020 election was a failure and we have lost electoral integrity. Voting machines were compromised and illegally accessed. Mail-in voting is fraudulent. They will work to implement new nationwide procedures to eliminate the “mass voter fraud” perpetrated in 2020.
  • Sovereignty. Washington D.C. bureaucrats and the “elites that control them” have formed a new oligarchy. They aim to eliminate “deep state actors,” regulations, and most bureaucracies.
  • Big Tech. Silicon Valley corporations have weaponized data against conservatives and allowed terrorists and pedophiles to organize on their sites. This is a direct attack on our First Amendment freedoms.
  • Immigration. The U.S. must show it is a product of our “uniquely Anglo-Saxon” traditions. Certain immigrants threaten “the existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture.” Birthright citizenship [what we call the 14th Amendment in the Constitution] must be abolished.
  • Infrastructure. Our infrastructure needs work, therefore we should not send money overseas for other countries to improve their infrastructure. Our domestic infrastructure should reflect the values that “befits the progeny of European” roots.
  • Foreign Aid. Whether for humanitarian or military purposes, sending money outside the U.S. is “unwise” and of little benefit. The U.S. citizenry can contribute to charity in order to help people outside of our country rather than have “corrupt bureaucrats play around with it.”
  • National Security. The U.S. can no longer afford to be the “world’s policeman.” Our allies refuse to pull their weight and our overseas wars only serve to enrich defense contractors.
  • Coronavirus. Health mandates to stop the spread of the virus are “socially conditioning the culture and behavior of Americans.” All restrictions must be lifted and the caucus will work to ensure that the government does not “over react” to future pandemics.
  • Trade. Free trade accomplishes the same “nefarious economic goals” that immigration does. There should be a new approach to trade that puts Americans first and that may require the imposition of tariffs and restrictions to stop others from taking advantage of us.
  • Environment. The Paris Climate Accord cripples our manufacturers. The Green New Deal is a “wasteful social justice program.” Balance recreational opportunities with necessary manufacturing to preserve our way of life.
  • Energy. We must preserve our environment but not use that as an excuse to destroy the energy industry.
  • Protecting the Value of American Savings. American currency is under attack by “Keynesian economists” and globalist institutions. Cryptocurrencies and other things such as gold and silver should be the key to wealth.
  • America First Education. Our education system has declined and works to “undermine pride in America’s great history.” It is now focused on “progressive indoctrination and enrichment of an out-of-control elite oligarchy.”
  • The Chinese Communist Party. China presents a threat to our civilization like no other since the demise of the USSR. The U.S. must be prepared to compete economically and militarily.

Why did I take so much of your time outlining the rantings of a fringe group in Congress? Because they are not a fringe group. The Caucus Platform could be the current platform for the Republican Party. Indeed, they should adopt it because in the 2020 election, they literally had no platform. At all. (“Resolved, That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”)

The problem is that the America First Caucus said the quiet part out loud. They put down on paper what many Republicans now consider to be their core beliefs, but it is too obvious that the above is mostly unpatriotic rantings that if adopted will lead to an oligarch taking power, the subjugation of minorities, and the end of our Republic.

Too much for you?

Consider what is actually going on in our country. The Big Lie continues to dominate Republican thinking. It is now a litmus test for the party. If one does not support the allegation that the 2020 election was stolen and that President Joe Biden is not actually the president, then you are accused of being a traitor or at least a “RINO.” (Republican in Name Only.) Eight Senators and 139 Representatives voted to over turn the election. They still will not publicly recognize that Mr. Biden won. Still! And then they complain that the Biden Administration won’t work with them in a bipartisan way? Really? Republican legislatures are significantly rewriting election laws in numerous states in order to inhibit the vote. If you can’t win, cheat!

There is currently a “recount” ongoing in Maricopa County (Phoenix) Arizona to prove that there were irregularities in the last election. The effort is being conducted by a company called Cyber Ninjas. The CEO was very vocal in claiming that the election was stolen. It is not a county or state sanctioned recount and the company is unable to articulate the methods that they are using to “investigate” the ballots. Republican county and state officials have already held valid recounts and verified the original results. The only reason for this Cyber Ninja effort is to rile up the Trumpists and get them to continue to support a twice impeached, one term president. It is dangerous.

Why do they continue to push this alleged conspiracy? Because it is lucrative. A lot of politicians are making a lot of money by keeping the Big Lie alive.

Pushing the Big Lie and firing up people’s emotions is what directly lead to the insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January. Any accusations of nefarious activity in Arizona is going to rally the same white supremacists, Q-anon believers, and die hard right wing radicals to again take action.

Oh by the way, try and talk to any Republican in Congress about the insurrection, with the exception of too few such as Representative Liz Cheney (WY) and Senator Mitt Romney (UT) and a a handful of others. The majority want to “move on” “look to the future” and not to “dwell in the past.” Really? A mob tried to over throw the government, hang the Vice President and kill the Speaker of the House at the behest of the president and we should forget about it? No way. In my view all 147 members of Congress that supported overturning the election should be kicked out of Congress. The topic should come up any time those people are on TV or radio or hold any kind of press availability. Rub their noses in it. Hold them responsible.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) is willing to hang Representative Cheney out to dry but continues to support Representatives Matt Gaetz (FL) and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (GA) and other wing nuts. What a profile in courage.

I think that Donald J. Trump is a has-been. Toast. But he unleashed a movement that brings out the worst in America. As one pundit recently put it, for four years we thought Republicans avoided condemning Trump’s worst actions and words because they were afraid of him. Not true. They stayed quiet because they agreed with him. They liked what he was saying. They are unleashed to do what they want.

So, yeah. Maybe the America First Caucus is a small minority, but I don’t think so. I think they reflect their party and roughly 70% of self-identified Republicans throughout the U.S.A. We can only hope that they end up like the Know Nothings. Perhaps a new Republican Party will emerge from the ashes. I hope so. Right now we only have one party that is willing to govern.

It is a dangerous game. I worry about the future of our great country. I worry that factions of our fellow citizens will act on the lies that they have come to believe.

“Uniquely Anglo-Saxon traditions.” It isn’t hard to understand the code.


Mr. Potato Head

Since the current national Republican Party has no policy initiatives or ideas to help the citizens of the United States, they have taken to claiming that the Democrats (even though they have nothing to do with any of the following) are pursuing a “cancel culture” to undermine American values. Just exactly what values those are depends on the Senator or Congressman speaking but, pick one, the Democrats are either fascists, communists, or socialists. Which, of course, totally ignores the fact that each of those is a totally different ideology from the others, but why should facts get in the way of “owning the libs,” which seems to be the Republicans number one goal. That, and continuing to push the Big Lie that the former guy actually won the 2020 election.

Recently, rather than put forth ideas to combat the ongoing pandemic, improve the economy or reform immigration, the Republican Party is focused on the “cancelling” of Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head. That neither of those things were cancelled is beside the point. In fact, the family trust that owns the rights to the Dr. Seuss books decided not to republish six books out of the more than sixty that he wrote because they believed some of the characters “portray people in a way that is hurtful and wrong.” No books were banned. No books were pulled out of libraries. No Seuss police took books away from the little kids in your home. But why ruin a good scare tactic?

Likewise, the hullabaloo and the gnashing of teeth over dropping the “Mr.” from the Potato Head brand was all about nothing. The Hasbro toy company did not make Mr. Potato Head gender-neutral. According to the company CEO, the company is expanding its brand to the Potato Head Family. There can be a Mr., a Mrs., and kiddies — all gendered as assembled by the whims of the kids playing with them.

End of discussion.

But why stop there? Did those cancel culture Republicans understand the insidious nature of what was really going on? That kids were being secretly indoctrinated? More on that in a minute.

First, it might help to know where the term “cancel culture” comes from. In short, it was created by the black community in the United States and became, like so many things, appropriated by the white community that has no understanding of what it means. According to the Washington Post, the black song writer and leader of the band Chic Nile Rodgers wrote a song in 1981 about a date that he had in which he was embarrassed by the actions of the woman he was with and included this line in the lyrics, “No, your love is cancelled.” The song was not a particular hit, but some in the black community started using the line to indicate that someone’s behavior was inappropriate and therefore, I am “canceling you” as a friend, acquaintance or whatever. It became more mainstream in the 1990’s with the gangster movie “New Jack City” when the drug boss played by Wesley Snipes tells a subordinate (in non-blog friendly language) to “cancel” his girlfriend because she offended him. As she is being taken away he says, “I’ll buy another one.” The screen writer Michael Cooper stated that he was listening to the song written by Nile Rodgers when he wrote the cancel line. The term was later picked up by a number of rappers in various forms and it took off as part of the vernacular.

As usual, its ubiquitous use by white Republicans who stand for nothing other than fighting the culture wars, do not know the culture that the words came from. It just makes a nice bumper sticker. It is easier than trying to articulate, you know, actual policies and solutions to problems. Anything that you don’t agree with can just be dismissed as another attempt at cancel culture. Never mind that the former guy tried to cancel a presidential election and was aided and abetted by 147 Congressional Republicans that now complain about everything.

Here is something for those complaining about the cancel culture to think about.

Mr. Potato Head was introduced to the public in 1952 by Hasbro, the Pawtucket Rhode Island toy manufacturer and it was the first toy advertised on TV. I was a kid in the 50’s and I most certainly played with my Mr. Potato Head. And there was also a Mrs. Potato Head. I really enjoyed them. In the early days, the kit supplied various plastic parts, but we used real potatoes, and some folks used other vegetables, as the body. It was supply your own. Later in 1964, after complaints about rotting potatoes and vegetables and wasting food, Hasbro began including a plastic body in the kit. Before that it was BYOP.

And it just didn’t matter what kind of potato one used. It was valid to use Russet, Fingerling, Red Gold, Yukon Gold, Idaho, Maine, Kennebec, Red, Yellow, Purple, White, Norland, Magic Molly, Yams and Sweet Potatoes to name just a few. Talk about diversity! Potatoes of all shapes, sizes and colors. Wait. What? Mr. Potato Head could be any color, shape or size? Yep. I thought he was a white guy. Nope. Here is another thought. As I recall, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head could come in the same package (I don’t know if they were actually married or just lived together.) Parts is parts. Especially if you are a little kid that just likes using her own imagination and putting together all kinds of interesting pieces of plastic stuck into a potato. A little of this, a little of that. Just playing. Hmmm. What gender is that Potato Head? If a boy played with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head was he playing with dolls? Talk about subversive!

Was Hasbro indoctrinating an entire generation of Americans into accepting diversity in culture, color and sexual identity? Was it it a secret communist plot to destroy true blue 50s American values? Or was it just a kid’s game that was fun and allowed for kids to use their imagination?

Maybe the Republicans should put together a special investigative committee to find out what nefarious methods Hasbro and other toy makers used to indoctrinate young kids into a society other than a white, male dominated, Christian one.

It makes as much sense as anything else that Congressional Republicans are doing today.


The Filibuster Rules Must Be Changed

The Senate tactic known as the filibuster is designed to prolong debate on a bill in order to delay or to prevent voting on the bill. It came into the Senate Rules in 1806 and, importantly, is nowhere to be found in the Constitution or other founding documents. It is an administrative rule for the Senate alone. Rules can change. This one is steeped in over two hundred years of usage and custom and is ingrained in the heart of the Senate. In 1917, with Senate Rule 22, for the first time the Senate adopted a change allowing a filibuster to end if there was a two-thirds majority vote to override it, a term known as cloture. In 1975, the Senate voted to reduce the two-thirds majority (currently 67 votes) needed for cloture to a three-fifths majority (60 votes). The 60 vote threshold is significant because it also changed the requirement for that number from those Senators present and voting to an absolute number of votes required, making it possible to filibuster without ever entering the Senate chamber. In recent years, the filibuster was abolished for judicial and other nominees, most famously allowing Cabinet nominees, federal judges, and Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed with a simple majority. The filibuster now is only used for legislation, although there are other arcane Senate rules that allow for passage of some budget bills with a simple majority. Notably, under the Senate rules, a piece of legislation can pass with a simple majority, it is the move for cloture that requires a 60 vote threshold. This allows for Senators to say that they would have been “for” a particular bill, but that procedurally, they were “against” moving forward without debate. In other words, many times the rule can be used to provide a given Senator or group of Senators political cover by not forcing them to vote up or down on a particular bill. It just never comes to the floor, leaving the Senator to be able to claim almost anything about what he or she might have done.

The filibuster was rarely used in the long history of the Senate, until the latter part of the twentieth century. Now, especially in a fiercely divided political atmosphere, it is being used with regularity. One person can stop a bill from coming to a vote if his or her party refuses to supply sufficient votes for cloture. This is extremely frustrating to the majority party, and is a major reason that little significant legislation gets passed.

There is no penalty for a single Senator to threaten a filibuster. They do not have to go to the floor anymore to actually hold the floor and talk — think Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” The last time a similar scene occurred was in September 2013 when Senator Ted Cruz (TX) held the floor for 21 hours 18 minutes in an attempt to shut down the government by opposing an appropriations bill. In August 1957 Senator Strom Thurmond (SC) talked for 24 hours and 18 minutes to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the longest single-person filibuster in U.S. history. The bill passed. (Senator Thurmond was part of a group of Senators that used the filibuster to hold up The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for 60 days.) Originally, no other legislation or business could be conducted in the Senate during a filibuster. In 1970, as a reaction to Senator Thurmond’s and other southern Senators’ filibusters of civil rights legislation, the Senate adopted the “two track rule.” This allows for other bills and business to come to the floor while the filibuster is on. This allowed the Senate to become more efficient, but opened the door to ever increasing threats of a filibuster because there were no real consequences to saying that a particular Senator will filibuster. They can sit in their office and play solitaire if they so desire, while their threat holds up a bill that may not reach cloture.

Why the history lesson? I am no Parliamentarian and I am not trying to make anyone else one either, but it is helpful to try and understand where we are in our Republic today.

The filibuster is considered to be the one rule that makes the Senate what it is (or was) — the world’s greatest deliberative body. The idea is that the majority cannot cram through any whim of the moment piece of legislation. The minority party can block it. In theory, this is supposed to lead to negotiation and compromise, steering a steady course for the nation as the Senate provides a firm hand on the tiller to keep the wind and currents driving the People’s House from putting our country on the rocks. Unfortunately, in today’s environment, compromise and negotiation are dirty words to the extreme fringes of the political parties. It is easier to go on Fox News or other cable networks and make a name for oneself among the “base” as “fighting” to save Mr. Potato Head or whatever, than it is to actually do their jobs.

To be honest, why would President Biden or any Democrat in Congress want to compromise or negotiate with the other side when 147 of them in the House and Senate, nearly two-thirds, voted to overturn a free and fair election? And after an insurrection at that. Most of those 147 still will not acknowledge that President Biden won. The president held out an olive branch, but he rightly moved ahead with the COVID Relief Bill without a single Republican vote. Not one Republican in the House or Senate, despite the fact that every poll shows that 75% of the public — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — support it. Try for bipartisanship, but move on with the people’s business if all the opposition wants to do is obstruct.

I used to agree with the need for the filibuster. It was what made the Senate the Senate and not the whimsical House of Representatives. Now, I have changed my mind. The filibuster as currently interpreted must be changed. If no one can agree on how to change it, get rid of it. The counter-argument to keep it basically amounts to “pay backs are hell” — just wait until Republicans regain control of the Senate and watch them undo everything on a straight party line vote. After reading about the filibuster and listening to various pros and cons, I still think it should go. First, I have no doubt that if Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) regains his place as Majority Leader he will get rid of it in some form. Second, elections have consequences. Whichever party is in control will pass legislation to fulfill their agenda. The voters sent them there to do that. Right now the Senate accomplishes very little. If the controlling party passes legislation the voters do not like, they will vote them out of office. As it stands now, Senators have very little accountability. Modifying the filibuster or doing away with it will bring the spotlight on to those that would sabotage legislation and force them to defend their position.

Here is the point of this discussion. There are 253 bills proposed in 43 states, almost all by Republicans, to change voting laws. Most are meant to inhibit voters from going to the polls and are geared towards disenfranchising minorities. For example, in Georgia the legislature, among other things, is prohibiting Sunday voting. This is directly aimed at eliminating the successful efforts to mobilize black voters through “Souls to the Polls.” This is where many working class African-Americans go from Sunday church services to their polling places as a group. Many of them are people who may not be able to get off of work to vote on Election Day. Other provisions limit early voting, severely restricts voting by mail, and for some reason makes it illegal to provide food or water to people waiting in line to vote. There are other draconian measures in the legislation that is clearly aimed at decreasing turnout by making it as difficult as possible for people to vote, mostly aimed directly at minority populations in large cities. Jim Crow is alive and well.

The House passed H.R. 1 the “For The People Act” without a single Republican vote. The bill provides a uniform baseline within the U.S. for voting. It includes provisions for voter registration, early voting, voting by mail (it is worth noting that Oregon holds its elections entirely by mail and has done so for years without any problems), military and other overseas voters, election integrity, nonpartisan commissions for drawing up House districts, election security, the use of paper ballots as back up to electronic voting and a host of other common sense requirements.

Traditionally, the rules and methods for voting are left up to the states. H.R. 1 does not preclude states from adding additional features, as long as it does not restrict the baseline requirements proposed in the bill. In essence, it would make it easier for all Americans to vote. Voting can be done with full integrity with large numbers of participants, and we demonstrated that in the 2020 election. The ex-president’s own Administration called it the most free and fair election in our history with an historic turnout.

But the Big Lie continues to underpin Republican arguments that the voting process must be changed. As recently as this past Tuesday, the ex-president went on his favorite cable news channel to continue to complain that the election was rigged and that he actually won by “millions” of votes. Republican members of the House and Senate continue to do the same. Their entire premise for changing states’ voting laws is a lie.

The Senate version of H.R. 1 will not pass if the Republicans filibuster it, which they plan to do. This is where the rubber meets the road and could create the conditions to end the filibuster. Many people, me included, think that restricting the vote and disenfranchising Americans must be stopped and is alone sufficient cause to end the filibuster in order to save our Republic.

Try modifying the filibuster first. Perhaps going back to the time that a Senator or group of Senators actually have to hold the floor, talk, and be present for the entire filibuster. Perhaps by invoking a rule that three-fifths of the Senators present in the chamber can vote for cloture. I am sure that a good Parliamentarian can come up with a number of ways to preserve the filibuster but still make Senators put some sweat equity into the process and make them defend their position in public.

I would love for Republican Senators to have to publicly defend their disenfranchisement of African-Americans and other minorities. I would be truly interested in having them explain and defend restrictions on early voting, vote by mail, polls closed on Sunday and other restrictive measures. It would be fascinating to learn why a Senator thinks that it should be illegal to provide food and water to people waiting in line to vote.

Change the filibuster rule to make Senators accountable to the voters. Do not let them continue to hide behind arcane rules that hide their true values and intentions. If it can’t be changed, then get rid of it.