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.


A Humble Anniversary

Thursday was the “official” one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it one. At the time of the declaration there were 118,000 known cases world-wide and 4,291 deaths. On that day, the NBA suspended its season, the NCAA said that there would be no fans for March Madness (the Division I championship — the next day the tournament was cancelled), and Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced that they tested positive for the Coronavirus. On that day the now ex-president addressed the nation on developments, tried to reassure the nation (“the risk is very, very low”), and banned travel from the European Union (EU) (except the United Kingdom) for 30 days, causing mass confusion due to a lack of warning or coordination with our European allies. Unfortunately, the virus was already here and spreading quickly.

On that day there were just over 1,000 known cases in the U.S. and 31 dead, mostly in Washington state. Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to Congress that day and warned that the outbreak was spreading and that “it’s going to get worse.” We were also in the midst of a stock market collapse. On 11 March alone the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped over 1,200 points, continuing a downward trend and closing about 20% lower than its peak the month before. The nation was in the midst of a crisis that few had experienced in our lifetimes. The economy tanked almost overnight following a spate of shutdowns and lock downs and no one was sure as to what precautions each of us should take to prevent the spread of the disease.

One year later, there are roughly 118 million known cases around the world and 2.6 million deaths. Unfortunately, the U.S. is number one in total known cases and deaths — as of today, we have experienced approximately 29,287,876 cases and 530,977 deaths. We lead the world in both categories. And yet, many of our fellow citizens do not take the pandemic seriously, or worse yet, some still think that it is a hoax. Like so many issues over the last four years, we Americans have managed to politicize a deadly disease that took far too many of us over the course of one year.

Just think what the reaction would be a year ago if any scientist or doctor or other health expert predicted that one year after declaring the pandemic, the U.S. would have over 530,000 dead Americans. Outrage! Scare tactics! Using the numbers to gain a political advantage! No one would have believed it. At the time, our worst case predictions were in the 100,000 to 200,000 range. Worst case. We would be in the lower end of the scale if precautions were taken, in the upper end if they were not. It was hard to imagine. Some Americans argue that “they would have died anyway” and that the figures are inflated. Well, in one respect, the critics are correct — every living thing dies eventually. But those 530,977 died before their time and many of them died alone without comfort or love from families or friends. But for arguments sake, let’s say that the numbers are twice as high as “the real” pandemic death toll. That is still over 265,000 dead Americans. How is that really any better? It still means that we did twice as bad as the predictions from one year ago. It also ignores the long-term impact on the health of people that were sick, but survived. Some have been hospitalized for months. We just do not know what the second order impact of the disease might be over time.

Here is what bothers me the most. These days people talk about “over 500,000 deaths” to date. That means that 30,977 dead Americans are a rounding error. We should be appalled if that was the total number of human beings lost to the disease. Now it’s just a rounding error. That is where we are today. Perhaps the full measure of the huge number is difficult to comprehend. Think of it in individual terms. All of those families, friends and acquaintances that were impacted by that number of dead Americans. It is staggering.

No one is responsible for the pandemic coming to America. Plenty, however, are responsible for lying to us, misleading us, politicizing the disease, actively undermining common sense measures to stop the spread, and generally providing poor leadership in refusing to take the easiest steps to slow down the spread significantly. This was the greatest health disaster in our country in at least 100 years. We should have been better, smarter, united and focused in combatting this scourge. Didn’t happen. There were no “miracles.” No bleach injected into bodies. Hydroxychloroquine did not make it “just go away.”

Instead, people lost their lives and livelihoods. Went hungry. Fell behind in their educations. Created massive food lines that differ only from those of the Great Depression by the fact that you can drive through instead of line up on the sidewalk. Many of us have seemingly lost a year of our lives without the benefit of friends or family to carry out even the most basic of our social rituals. And it didn’t have to be this way.

Thankfully, if we can stay the course and stay smart in taking precautions, we are nearly through the worst of it. Only a few more months to go as more and more people are able to receive the vaccinations that appear to be very effective. Compare the presidential speeches of 11 March 2020 and 11 March 2021. Leadership is back. More importantly, technically and scientifically competent people are back in charge within the Administration, working day and night to fight to get us out of this mess created by a silent killer.

Stay safe. We are almost there. No one wants to be the last war casualty before the Armistice goes into force.

It was a long tough year. A lot has changed, a lot has not. I trust that a year from now we will be able to memorialize those that we lost, without having lost a lot more.


Gaslighting America

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or group sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception or judgement. Those conducting the gaslighting use denial, misdirection, contradiction and misinformation to delegitimize other’s beliefs. It is recognized in psychological analysis, especially in the definition of abusers. The term comes from a 1938 stage play called Gas Light which was turned into a 1940 movie and, most famously, a 1944 movie called Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer where a man tries to convince his wife that she is going insane so that he can have her committed and he can retain her murdered aunt’s wealth. The term relates to his turning down their home’s gas lights while insisting that they are fully bright, among other things to make her feel detached from reality.

The United States is being gaslighted by most of the Republican Party, especially those in Congress. They are trying to gaslight us about the Big Lie of the 2020 election, about the attempted coup on 6 January 2021, and are using these lies to propel Republican controlled state legislatures into passing laws limiting voting opportunities and engaging in voter suppression.

For one example, listen to Republican Senator Ron Johnson (WI) question whether it was an “armed” insurrection which he did on a local radio station in Wisconsin. “That didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me. When you hear the word ‘armed’ don’t you think of firearms? How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?” (Numerous firearms and explosives were known to law enforcement to have been at the capitol in the hands of the rioters, more were confiscated later, and detailed plans have been uncovered for the use of firearms by those storming the capitol.) Or perhaps this bit of misdirection by him on 7 February in a Fox News interview? “I have always believed the Russian hoax was a diversionary operation from the corruption occurring certainly within the FBI and potentially some of our intelligence agencies. You kind of have to ask the question, what is this impeachment all about? We know that 45 Republican senators believe its unconstitutional. Is this another diversionary operation? Is this meant to deflect away from potentially what the Speaker knew and when she knew it? I don’t know. But I’m suspicious.” (Senator Johnson is joined by the lead seditionists Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) in trying to blame Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for the attempted coup at the capitol.)

Since that was not enough, Senator Johnson went further during the Senate hearings on 23 February investigating the attack on the capitol. He claimed that the “great majority” of the rioters had a “jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor.” In his portrayal, the rioters were festive and the demonstration was “jovial.” The rightful focus of an investigation should be on those that perpetrated the violence. You know, the “plainclothes militants, agent provocateurs, fake Trump protesters, and disciplined uniformed column of attackers.” He later added, “Basically it was like a picnic here that day until they [meaning antifa] got involved.”

For the record, on Tuesday 2 March FBI Director Christopher Wray clearly stated in his testimony that the insurrectionists did not have any (any!) members that were “antifa,” or “anarchist violent extremists,” or any other left-wing participation. He did say that the primary instigators of the attack were white supremacists or members of right wing militias. Of the roughly 270 rioters arrested so far, 33 belonged to right wing militia groups, 82 were friends and associates of organized right wing groups and the rest did not belong to any organized group. Director Wray testified that this latter group was his biggest concern as they do not fit into any “chain-of-command” type organizations and are likely to be “lone wolfs” ready to conduct violent acts based on their having been influenced and radicalized by right wing extremism on the internet and through social media. The Director said that combatting domestic terrorism is currently the FBI’s number one priority and that they are investigating about 2,000 cases right now.

There is no “what aboutism” to this. There is no both sides. Those that try and and compare the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations to the attack on the Capitol are trying to change the subject. There is no comparison. The attack by right wing extremists on the Capitol was intended to overthrow the government and to undermine a free and fair election in order to hand the presidency to a wannabe autocrat. I will state unequivocally that any criminal behavior taking place during any protest, BLM or otherwise, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And it is. Actions by any BLM groups or others associated with the otherwise peaceful protests does not in any way justify what happened at the Capitol in January. And yet, Republican Senators are trying to say that it does.

At this week’s hearings Senator Cruz asserted that “in the past year we have seen massive rioting and violence as extremists, many of them leftists extremists, took to the streets across the country.” After clearly speaking about the BLM demonstrations, without using the name, he asked Director Wray what the FBI is doing “to counter this ongoing pattern of domestic terrorism.” Of course! According to Senator Cruz the real terrorists are not those attempting to over throw the government and kill the Vice President and Speaker of the House. It is those terrible black people and those that support them.

In spite of all the evidence, politicians, media personalities, activists, and others on the right are trying to rewrite history to turn the violent insurrection at the Capitol into “no big deal.” As chronicled in the Washington Post, it is a concerted effort to blame leftists and to absolve the ex-president (a.k.a the former guy) of any blame. In a tried and true tactic, many of them are actually blaming the Speaker for the attack. Representative Ken Buck (CO) said that Democrats are trying to create the impression that “there’s a bunch of people running around in the woods with Army fatigues on the weekends, and they’re going to take over this country, and that’s just nonsense.” Others criticize the fences and National Guard troops still at the Capitol as some kind of trick by Democrats to create the illusion of danger. They think it is part of a political effort to exaggerate the threat from right wing extremists dubbing the Capitol “Fort Pelosi.” Some even contend that the circumstances surrounding the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick are fishy and that it is being used by the Democrats to further their anti-Republican agenda.

Senator Cruz, of course, is one of the eight Republican Senators that joined 139 Republican Representatives to vote against certifying the results of the Electoral College, even after the Capitol had been sacked by supporters of the now ex-president. (You can find their names here.) This is the biggest gaslight of all. Most of those Republicans still refuse to recognize that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the duly elected 46th President of the United States. Those 147 Republicans, and the Gaslighter-in-Chief continue to perpetuate the Big Lie that the 2020 election was rigged, stolen, or otherwise fixed to put Mr. Biden in the White House. This has real consequences. Mr. Cruz, Mr. Hawley, and everyone else that keeps pushing this devastating lie is actively and willfully undermining our democracy. They are using a circular argument. They have actively pushed this lie, directly leading to the insurrection in January. They then turn around, after having convinced their constituents that their votes did not count, even in the face of all factual evidence to the contrary, and say, “gosh” my constituents want to know what is going on, therefore I must act to fix the problem.

Those fixes involve voter suppression and disenfranchisement for millions of Americans. Republicans cannot win at the polls based on their ideas and policies, so they are working as hard as they can in state legislatures to pass laws that will keep many people from voting — most of whom usually vote for Democrats. Want an example? In Arizona they are considering a law that designates the state legislature as the final authority on deciding who the state’s Electoral College electors will be. No matter the vote count. No matter if the Governor and Secretary of State certify the results. No matter if the loser fails to win a single case in the courts. A simple majority of the legislature can substitute their own slate of electors at any time up to the day of the inauguration of the president. Indeed, why should we even let people vote?

Gaslighting has real consequences.

There is a distinct moral void taking hold in our country. Don’t like the consequences? Pretend that nothing happened. Don’t like the facts? Create your own alternative facts. Can’t win elections? Change the rules so that only your folks can vote. There is no shame. There is no taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Do you worship a man rather than fulfill your oath to the Constitution? No problem. Just vilify everyone that doesn’t worship at the feet of the golden don. (If you missed it, here is a picture of the Republican Party version of the Biblical golden calf at CPAC in Florida.)

The danger to our Republic remains. As long as the majority of Republicans at all levels of government keep the Big Lie alive, we are under threat. Call out the gaslighters when you seem them. Keep the facts out there. Advertise what the FBI Director testified to concerning the threat. Remind people that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) puts out warnings about domestic terrorism from right wing white extremists. We are in a cold Civil War. We need to work to keep it from going hot.


Cowardly Copouts

As we well know now, the Impeachment Trial for Donald J. Trump ended on Saturday with 57 votes to convict and 43 votes to acquit. Since 67 votes (a two-thirds majority) were required to convict him, Trump is not held accountable for his actions in fomenting an insurrection culminating in an attack on the Capitol building on 6 January, 2021. A shameful day for our country.

My schedule in these days of a pandemic was such that I could watch or at least listen to most of the proceedings. I am not an attorney, but I learned a lot about various interpretations of the Constitution and about legal concepts. Foremost in my education was understanding the term “but for.” In this case, it was clear that but for Trump, there would have been no Big Lie, no campaign to overturn a free and fair election, and no attack on the Capitol. Take Trump out of the equation — say he did not exist or more realistically, was not president or a candidate for president — and there is no attack. Period. It is unimaginable that any other presidential candidate would have provoked the same attempted coup that Trump undertook. Today, I am not so sure that it couldn’t happen again in the future. A smarter, more knowledgeable future losing candidate might be able to pull it off, especially if that candidate is aided and abetted by key election officials and members of the House and Senate.

Most disappointing during the week were the spineless votes cast on the single Article of Impeachment. Of the 43 Republicans that voted “not guilty” I would say that some — those in the Sedition Caucus — would have voted for Trump regardless of anything that he did. They voted to acquit not from fear, not from an appreciation of his policies, but rather for pure personal power reasons. Their sworn oaths of office are just words to them, not a solemn promise that protects our country. I would put six or seven of the Republican Senators in this category. The others mostly voted to acquit, in my opinion, out of fear. Some out of political fear that they might lose their job, some out of personal fear given the nature of the domestic terrorist threat that saturates Trump’s supporters, and some out of fear that their colleagues might criticize them. Some could possibly be found in all of those camps. What was galling was that immediately after the vote, many of the “not guilty” crowd came to the Senate floor to give speeches that point to the fact that they did think that Trump was the inciter-in-chief, but they let him off on a technicality. Pick your copout — as there were several — but the most common was that a former official could not be tried by the Senate. Once out of office, impeachment does not apply.

There are several things wrong with that approach. Foremost, of course, is that Trump was impeached while in office. When the House tried to convey the Article of Impeachment to the Senate, then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate so that the Article could not be delivered. It was out of session until the Inauguration. Remember that, because it will come up again. If it is possible for common sense to be a factor, it is logical that a president or other official subject to impeachment under the Constitution cannot commit a “high crime and misdemeanor” and then resign and get out of a conviction. Indeed, there are precedents in our own history where people were tried by the Senate after they left office.

As I understand it from my Constitutional Law 101 course watching the proceedings, the Founding Fathers left the rules and procedures for impeachment and subsequent trial rather vague. In this case, well over 100 Constitutional scholars of all political stripes opined that the Senate sets its own rules for the trial and that most certainly a president can be tried after he leaves office for offenses that took place while in office. Prior to the actual trial, this issue came up. In a bipartisan vote, the Senate voted 56-44 that it was Constitutional to hold the trial. That should have settled the matter and the presumption moving forward should be that the Constitutionality of the trial is not a factor when rendering a verdict. But then, in this day and age, and especially in Trump World, rules do not seem to matter.

The shamelessness of the 43 can best be epitomized by the speech that Senator McConnell gave immediately after the vote. He hung his “not guilty” vote on his claim that the trial was un-Constitutional. He did so by claiming that the House did not deliver the Article of Impeachment in a timely manner. (See above. Hypocrisy, you’ve found a home.) He did so even after the majority of his speech condemned Trump and his actions in great detail and said that “there is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” Whaaat? It appears the Mr. McConnell may have wanted to vote to convict. He probably would have brought more Republican Senators along with him by voting to convict, possibly even reaching the 67 vote threshold. But he would not have been with the majority in his own party and thus would not be the Republican Leader. His decision to acquit was a pure personal power move. He likes being his party’s leader. There were only a few profiles in courage that day.

What are the takeaways from this episode? I have a few that I discerned from the proceedings.

  • There are no impeachable offenses. Two precedents have been set with Trump. You can try and get a foreign power to intervene in our elections and not be held accountable. Was the Ukraine case too complicated, arcane, or insignificant for you? Okay, how about Obstruction of Congress? Obstruction of Justice? Trump dodged all of those. But attempting to overthrow the government of the United States? That’s not an impeachable offense? If a president attempting a coup is not worthy of a conviction on that charge, then I am hard pressed to think what would be worthy.
  • It is okay to use violence to try and overturn an election. In fact, if you lose and don’t like it you can use any means necessary to over turn it. Bully election officials. Lie. Threaten state officials. Lie. Disenfranchise millions of Americans and nullify their votes. Lie. Ignore election laws. Lie. Send a mob to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote. If someone in your administration — say, the Vice President of the United States — doesn’t help you overturn the election then send white supremacists to track him down and hang him. (“Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.” I hope all of those loyal Trumpists in the Sedition Caucus took notice of what loyalty gets you with Trump.) Violence is okay if you don’t win the vote and you can do anything you can think of to try and change it.
  • The minority rules. The conservative political observer David Frum wrote a very interesting article in The Atlantic titled “The Founders Were Wrong About Democracy”. In it he argues that the Founding Fathers thought that by setting up the government so that head strong populist charlatans could not hoodwink the American public into wild and self-defeating actions, they would create a stable and enduring republic. They specifically did not want a true democracy because they did not trust the vast unwashed, uneducated, and ill-informed average American (all white men, by the way) to do the right thing. But what we have now is a minority (Republicans) that control nearly every aspect of government by their ability to block actions favored by the majority of the people.
  • The Electoral College exacerbates the problem of minority rule and aids hooligans like Trump in their attempts to thwart the votes of the majority. Trump lost the popular vote by over 3 million ballots in 2016. He got about 46 percent of the vote. As the math shows, that it is less than Al Gore, John Kerry and Mitt Romney got when they lost. There were other even closer elections. Trump did not win in a “landslide.” In 2020 he lost by over 7 million popular votes. In the current era that is a landslide. It is too big of a number to overcome. So where did Trump focus his efforts? He focused on states to try and get them to change their Electoral College votes. Where did he focus his efforts in Congress? On the certification of the Electoral College vote. He was hoping to throw the election into the House of Representatives where, although the Democrats have the majority, the vote would be by state, and the Republicans control the most state delegations. One state one vote. Thus South Dakota gets the same vote as California. We can see that the Electoral College is vulnerable. It is an anachronistic vestige of another time.

It was a near miss. Trump came closer to pulling it off than I think most people realize. Despite the hand-wringing over Trump’s acquittal and the jubilation of the Seditionists and Trumpists (mostly all the same folks), Trump is an injured power broker. He is soon to be engulfed in significant legal challenges that are not ignorable now that he is an ex-president.

For the moment, I rejoice in having a competent president, addressing the nation’s crises. Best of all I don’t have to hear about Twitter attacks, Big Lie rallies, or see a failed showman suck up all the air whenever he shows his face. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen the face of the twice impeached worse president ever in weeks. And I sleep a lot better at night as a result.

I hope we learn the lessons of these past weeks and months. The system is not perfect. It can be broken. We need to address the issues that were exposed and close the legal loopholes. Forgetting the past and moving forward will not work in this case. Our republic is too important to pretend that it doesn’t need fixing.


A Battle For America’s Soul

We are just over two weeks into the Biden Administration and good things are starting to happen. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but we finally have a president and an administration that can competently address the health and financial crises at hand as a result of the pandemic. As the Covid-19 Relief Package moves through Congress, the administration is trying to work with the Republicans for a bipartisan bill. Unfortunately, some Republicans are using that as a weapon. The “party of no” cries foul if the bill or any other administration action is not exactly what they want. It seems that to many of them, it is only bipartisan if they approve it. The Democrats are smarter this time around. They are using Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (KY) own tactics against him. The Democrats will get a bill through and most Americans do not care about the process. They only care about results. Six months from now, when real Americans are doing better, all that they will remember is that the Democrats got it done.

Besides, why would the Biden administration want to broker a deal with a group of people whose majority still claim that Trump won the election and not President Joe Biden? The president and majority leaders should make it a condition of any talks that the purveyors of the Big Lie come out and formally and forcefully admit that President Biden won. By a lot.

Instead, many Republicans in Congress would rather divide the country by pushing conspiracy theories and fantastical lies about doctored voting machines and other foolishness. Regrettably, millions of people believe it. More on that in moment.

As a result, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week put out a Domestic Violence Extremists (DVE) Advisory. It is effective now and the advisory lasts until 30 April 2021. It says in part,

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”

It then goes on to say,

“Throughout 2020, Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) targeted individuals with opposing views engaged in First Amendment-protected, non-violent protest activity.  DVEs motivated by a range of issues, including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities.”

Doesn’t that match well with what Trump and many Republicans in Congress are saying? It also matches Q-Anon and other radical right wing extremists. The Advisory notes that these extremists are “emboldened” by the events at the Capitol on 6 January. And yet, the propagation of the Big Lie continues.

The new face of the Republican Party is Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene from Georgia. She should be a back bench freshman with no influence in the caucus. She should especially have no influence because of her nutty Q-Anon beliefs such as that the school shootings in Florida and Connecticut were fake, fires in California were caused by Jewish space lasers, and she condones threats of violence against prominent Democrats, to name a few of her public pronouncements. It is her First Amendment right to think and say whatever she wants about Jewish space lasers and the like, and such comments can be ignored as the rantings of a nut case. The threat of violence against a president, the Speaker of the House and others cannot be ignored or sloughed off as silly. They especially cannot be ignored when she is now in close contact with those same people. Yet, only weeks after other adherents of those crazy ideas attacked the Capitol, the Republicans would not discipline her.

Why are they afraid of her? Because she is a disciple of Trump. She is like a Trump Mini-me espousing many of the lies that Trump bombarded us with for four years. The Republican Party does not want to do anything to upset Trump’s, or Taylor-Greene’s supporters. Many are one and the same.

Representative Taylor-Greene is part of the enemy within, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) said the other day. Just as with the cliche in many horror movies, the threatening phone calls are coming from inside the house. She is not alone. Another Q-Anon sympathizer is freshman Congresswoman Lauren Boebert from Colorado who supports many of their conspiracies. Representatives Mo Brooks (ALA), Paul Gosar (AR) and Pete Sessions (TX) helped to organize the Trump rally on 6 January and spoke to the crowd. Representative Brooks told them to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”

The Big Lie continues to be a dominate issue in the United States. Those that believe the election was stolen — the right wingers and Q-Anons of the world — feel that they have no recourse or say about the changes taking place in society. If ballots are stolen, changed or stuffed, then the elections are rigged. If they are rigged, then they feel that they have no avenue for their causes except through violence. Thus, violence is likely to continue and we get advisories like those above from DHS.

I am baffled as to why elected Republicans still so staunchly support Trump. There are no excuses. Trump being Trump no longer works. They cannot justify supporting him because of tax cuts, or federal judges, or anything else they applauded him for doing. Yet, they are still all in. Trump will not be held accountable in the Senate next week. As a result, he will gain more power. They all know that he is guilty, but most Republican Senators will weasel out of convicting him by arguing that the “process” is un-Constitutional.

Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) gave away the real reason last week. Speaking of Trump and why most Republicans will vote against conviction, he said “We cannot take the House and Senate back without his help. That’s just a fact.” In other words, politics once again trumps holding an ex-president accountable for his actions that resulted in deaths at the Capitol. In fact, just the opposite is happening. All around the country Republican Party state and local committees are censuring any Republican that did not support Trump, either in the election or through the impeachment vote. Some of those censored includes people who were never in office, such as Mrs. Cindy McCain.

I thought that by now Trump would have crawled back to Florida to become an irrelevant player in today’s more hopeful society. I fear I am wrong. The Republicans had a chance following the attack on the Capitol to make a clean break with the man and his divisive, mean-spirited methods and policies. Instead, Lindsey Graham is talking about how much they need him. The spineless House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) made a special trip to the castle-by-the-sea to go on bended knee before the king and kiss his shoes. They totally caved. Now they expect everyone to “move on” from an attempt to overthrow the government. Most Americans will not move on. We certainly will not forget that Trump and numerous Republicans in Congress sold the Big Lie so well, that it lead to an attempted coup.

This is a battle for our country’s soul. I am not sure we have a functioning two-party system anymore. Democrats have their flaws, but they are now the party working hard to restore and maintain the norms of our democracy. The other party — whatever we should call it — has a majority of members in Congress that just want to tear everything down, undo any election they do not win, and install an autocrat as president. Apparently, they are willing to use any means necessary to do that. Lies. Violence. Anything. Republicans have brought the Proud Boys, Q-Anon, Boogaloo Bois (Boys), white supremacists and conspiracy theorists into the mainstream. They are afraid to call them out because it will cost them votes. They are being held hostage by self-projected fear in some cases. In other cases, I think some in Congress see those groups as their allies.

We cannot talk about bipartisanship, progress, or unity until this is resolved. We do not negotiate with terrorists. Those people, in or out of office, must be held to account.


Crushing An Insurrection

Only one week into the Administration of President Joseph R. Biden, there is a definite change in tone from the White House and around the country. The remarkable Inauguration Day, in spite of the pandemic and extremely tight security precautions, brought home the sense that indeed, a new day had dawned and hope is in the air. Unfortunately, there is some unfinished business that must be attended to in order to keep our country moving forward.

Donald J. Trump is impeached for a second time. The Senate trial is scheduled for the week of 8 February. It is imperative that after a due process, the Senators vote their conscience and carry out their Constitutional duty rather than play party politics. This is not a “both sides do it” issue. The impeachment is not “politics as usual.” Only one side tried to destroy our country. As I will review below, for the first time in our nation’s history a president, of these United States, actively sought to overthrow the government and install himself as the unelected leader of the country. So far, the Trump supporters have presented a circular argument. They continue to raise questions about the electoral process claiming that it was subject to widespread fraud and was rigged. Trump and his cultists in the House and Senate continued to repeat these claims loud and long. This is propaganda utilized to its fullest to convince his loyal followers that the allegations — and it never moved beyond unproven allegations — were true. The House and Senate cultists argue that since their constituents believe the election was rigged, then they must represent their constituents. Of course they think that there was fraud because their elected officials tell them that. And they do this with a straight face. Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Josh Hawley (MO) are the leaders of this ridiculous argument for their own personal ambitious goals. They use allegations that they create to justify their claim that it should be investigated — even though roughly 90 court cases proved otherwise and all 50 states certified the election, including those run by Trump’s own party. Even Trump’s personal attorney, oops, I mean the Attorney General of the United States, said that there was no fraud and that the results were legitimate.

And yet, after the insurrection that caused five deaths at the Capitol, eight Trump cultists in the Senate and 139 in the House voted to overturn the election. Learn their names. They are guilty of sedition and are as culpable as anyone else for the death and destruction that resulted from their lies. Unfortunately, most will not be held accountable. Probably none of them will be held accountable. Some of them are proud of the havoc that they wrought.

Make no mistake what they are saying and doing. Those Trump followers, the majority of their party, are demonstrating their belief that any candidate but their own is not legitimate. Period. They believe that stopping Democrats by any means necessary is better than succumbing to their “socialist” ways. Democracy be damned. White Christian men are supposed to be in charge. One party believes in elections and the peaceful transfer of power and one believes that such quaint customs apply only when they win. As the newest Senator from Alabama, a member of the Sedition Caucus, and eminent scholar Tommy Tuberville put it “my dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe from socialism.” In his speech he later explained that his dad helped in “liberating Paris from socialism and communism” during World War Two, therefore Democrats must not gain power. Facts just do not matter to them.

The Senate trial is a place to start. Contrary to the revisionist stories starting to be spun, Trump had a long pattern of trying to overturn this free and fair election. It was not a spontaneous act. The lead up to the attack started well before the election. For months, Trump repeated at his rallies that the only way he could lose was if the election was “rigged.” He touted fraud at every turn. He made baseless claims about mail-in voting and bogus concerns about voting machines. These despicable lies were the only foundation to his campaign’s numerous lawsuits around the country. They were all based on allegations, not facts. Every case was shot down. To put a finer point on it, the maker of the voting machines, New Dominion Voting Systems, is going after those that spread the lies. They just filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani for over a billion dollars (yes, billion). Other lawsuits caused Fox News to retract their statements repeating the lies against Dominion and to confirm that there was no fraudulent use of the machines. Other news outlets such as Newsmax had to do the same.

In court, baseless allegations do not win cases. Facts do. If you lie in court, there are penalties. Apparently, the Trump cultists in the House and Senate have no fear of retribution in the courts. They may be surprised.

After losing every meaningful court case surrounding the election, Trump pressured election officials in Michigan. Then he pressured the Michigan legislature. When that did not work, he tried pressuring the Pennsylvania legislature. When that did not work he went after officials (Republican, but that did not matter to him) in Georgia and Arizona. When that did not work he made his now infamous phone call to the Republican Georgia Secretary of State and threatened him with criminal proceedings if he did not “find 11,780 votes” — one more than Mr. Biden’s margin.

But that was not enough. Upstanding state and local officials refused to cave to his demands. So he moved on. We now know that he plotted with an attorney in the Department of Justice (DOJ) to fire the Acting Attorney General, bypass the chain of command and install a person as the Acting Attorney General that was willing to bring the full power of the government to get the election overturned. When that plan was thwarted he wanted the Solicitor General to take a case directly to the Supreme Court to have millions of votes thrown out.

It seems a pattern is developing here. But, wait! There’s more! And it gets worse.

Trump started Tweeting in December urging people to come to Washington DC for a “wild” “Save America” rally on the day the Electoral College votes would be certified by Congress. Trump campaign money and former staffers were used to help organize it. In the days before and again at the rally, Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence to defy the Constitution and overturn the election by decertifying the Electoral College votes. Before the rally, Mr. Pence told Trump that he could not and would not decertify the votes. As a result, Trump implied to the mob at the rally that Mr. Pence was a threat to his continued campaign to overturn the election. They understood what they were being told to do. Mr. Pence was now a target. Many groups that participated in the attack clearly pre-planned their actions based on Trump’s statements at rallies and over Twitter. The attack on the Capitol was definitely not a spur of the moment spontaneous attack.

Trump sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight” for his re-election. When they broke through police lines and violently entered the building he did nothing to stop it for hours after the riot started. Numerous reports indicate that he actually enjoyed it. His followers were “fighting” for him like no one else would do. Reliable reports indicate that Mr. Pence had to fill in as the Commander-In-Chief to get the National Guard moving into the fray because Trump would not do it. (This should also be troubling to all of us. Separately, an inquiry should be held on this point. If the Vice President was the de facto Commander-In-Chief, there was a very real breakdown in Constitutional law.)

Now the Trumpists are arguing that the Impeachment and trial is “divisive”. As if defying the will of the people at the ballot box, fomenting sedition, and sending insurrectionists to overthrow the government is not divisive. Spineless politicians such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) change their story daily. Originally he said that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack. Now he says “I don’t believe he provoked it” and that “we all have some responsibility” for the attack. Perhaps he realized that if they convict Trump, then the whole cabal is admitting their own guilt in the plot.

So if the argument now is to “move along — nothing to see here folks” how many dead police officers or dead politicians would it take to convict him? Apparently one officer beaten to death by the “demonstrators” is not enough. Four other deaths is not enough. Would it be an impeachable offense if the mob got ahold of Mr. Pence and/or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and harmed them? Would Leader McCarthy’s stance be different if he had been taken out of the House in zip tie handcuffs and put on trial on the Capitol steps? A near miss of a massive catastrophe does not absolve anyone of a crime.

More importantly, many experts on the dark side of our society where the white nationalists, Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois (Boys), white supremacists and others operate say that for the attackers and their supporters, 6 January 2021 was their equivalent of 19 April 1775 at Lexington and Concord. They view the attack as the opening shots of the coming revolution. Some are ardent Trump supporters, some support Trump as a means to an end, but the goal is to overthrow the government. Just because they failed this time doesn’t mean that they have given up on doing so.

Without punishing every domestic terrorist that participated, without convicting Trump in the Senate, without holding politicians responsible for the Big Lie, we send the message that it is okay to do it. Without punishing those proven guilty to the fullest extent of the law, then 6 January was merely a dress rehearsal for what is to come. Whether or not we think that is true, the insurrectionists think it is. Whether or not you believe that Trump really expected to overthrow the government and have himself installed as the leader, the insurrectionists believed it. Whether or not you think Trump’s message was often racist, the racists thought he had their back.

Without accountability we cannot begin to heal and without healing there can be no unity.

I will be surprised if the Trump defense team actually tries to defend his actions. What will ensue in his “defense” is a Constitutional argument that an ex-president cannot be removed from office that he has already left. Therefore, they will argue, to try him, much less to convict him, is un-Constitutional. I am not an attorney and I am not a Constitutional scholar, but that line of argument makes no sense to me. If it carries the day, then no president can be held accountable for their actions. Even when, as in this case, it was the worst action ever taken by any president in our history. Trump systematically and with malice of forethought worked to destroy the Constitution and people died as a result. To that we just say “oh well?”

Trump supporters in the House and Senate remain afraid of Trump. Why this is so, totally escapes me. However, if in their hearts they wish he was gone, a conviction is the way to usher him onto the dust heap of history. Unfortunately, for most of them, cowardice trumps honor and truth. When the Senate Trumpists acquit him for a second time, it will make him relevant again. He would have no power if they did not give it to him. Apparently, for them, holding power is more sacred than their oath to support and defend the Constitution.

End it now, or suffer the ongoing violence and acrimony that our country can ill afford now, in the midst of a pandemic, or ever, if we really stand for what we say we do.


The Big Lie

Little did we know when Donald J. Trump delivered his inaugural address four years ago that when he spoke of “American Carnage” he was setting an aspirational goal. He succeeded.

We have 400,000 dead Americans thanks to his incompetence and indifference to putting measures in place across the country that could have effectively stopped or certainly slowed the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. In days, we will pass the number of Americans killed in World War II. Before it is over, we have a shot at surpassing the 675,000 Americans lost in the 1918 flu pandemic. What a proud record.

Trump fomented racial division and supervised the rise of white nationalist and other supremacist groups throughout the country. Where these groups existed in the shadows in the past, they are now front and center in American politics and a threat to many of us who despise their values. We have Q-Anon believers as Members of Congress. We have governors as the focus of kidnap plots to try them for “treason” because Trump told them to take back their state from the “tyranny” of having to wear a mask and social distance. As he said after the “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville in 2017 that resulted in fighting in the streets and the death of a counter-protester, “there were good people on both sides.” A clear signal to those groups that he supported them. He further encouraged them with his statement in the fall debates in front of a national audience when he said to the Proud Boys, “Stand down and stand by.”

The list can go on and on. I often wonder how one person and one administration can be so incompetent, uncaring, feckless and destructive. One has to work hard to cause as much mayhem as Trump has created. I cannot help but sometimes think that given his relationship with Vladimir Putin that perhaps Trump did work hard at causing so much trouble and nearly causing our country to collapse under the weight of his singular focus on working only for his own power and riches.

His crowning achievement for the title of the Worst President Ever came two weeks ago when he attempted to overthrow the government. As we learn more and more about the events surrounding the attack on the capitol on 6 January, we come to realize that it was a very close thing for the survival of our republic and our system of government. Organized groups were, it seems, ready to kidnap and probably kill Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Other Senators and Representatives barely escaped the mob’s wrath and probably would have been severely injured or killed if the mob had gotten to them. In my view, if the seditious mob had succeeded in destroying the legislative branch of our government, I have no doubt that Trump would have accepted the result and used it to keep himself in the presidency. As we now know, the mob missed their targets by less than a minute. It surely would have been a horrific blood bath as the Secret Service would have fought to protect the Vice President and the mob would have reacted with even greater fury. We were so lucky as a nation. As it was, the “peaceful demonstrators” beat a police officer to death and their actions resulted in four others dying at the capitol during the melee.

Their blood is on Trump’s hands as it is on the rest of the Sedition Coalition made up of a few “Republican” Senators and over two-thirds of the “Republican” Congressmen and Congresswomen that voted to overturn the most fair and free election in the history of our country. (But don’t take my word for that last statement. It was so judged by those in Trump’s Administration tasked with protecting the election, confirmed by the Attorney General, reinforced by states throughout the country led by both Republicans and Democrats, and upheld by over 60 court cases that were dismissed or laughed out of court for their frivolousness and remarkable lack of evidence.)

It is the lowlight of the Bizzaro world that we lived in over the last four years.

Now called “The Big Lie” by many, it was a concerted effort — months if not years in the making — for Trump and his soulless allies to make millions of Americans think that the election was rigged, or unfair or otherwise set up to deny Trump his “landslide” win. It really started in 2016 when Trump shouted from the rooftops that the election was rigged in Secretary Hillary Clinton’s favor. Even he was amazed when he won. None-the-less, he claimed that he lost the popular vote because of fraud. He created a commission to look into voter fraud and to find the fake votes. You may remember that the commission quietly stopped its work a few months after its creation because they were unable to find any evidence of any fraud that changed the outcome.

Throughout 2020, Trump claimed that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged and massive fraud occurred. Rally after rally, speech after speech he spewed this same lie over and over. Millions of his followers believed him. His enablers and cohorts in Congress reiterated the same message. And now we are here.

Even as I write this piece, Trump has yet to admit that President-elect Joe Biden won the election. Trump goes home a loser in every way possible. Likewise, his accomplices in the Senate and House refuse to acknowledge that the 46th president was duly elected by the will of over 81 million Americans. Shameful. Somehow they stick to their blind loyalty to Trump out of fear of some political or personal retribution. They pledge their true faith and allegiance to a wannabe dictator rather than to the Constitution of the United States. They disgrace their oath and their personal honor. If Trump is such a political “kingmaker” then please explain how the Republicans, during his watch, lost the House, the Senate and the presidency. Some kingmaker. I hope they do as well into the future.

The consequences of their seditious actions and continued defiance will be felt long after the inauguration tomorrow. Those same seditious Representatives and Senators — and other elected Trumpists — claim that to try Trump after his impeachment would be “divisive.” They argue that it is now the duty of Democrats and President-to-be Biden to bring unity to the country — this as they continue to argue that the election was not valid. It would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. The pure unmitigated gall of these people! Do they think that all Americans are so gullible or short-sighted or fooled by their sleight of hand? Apparently. Or do they have further plans to rile up the Trump base to wreak further havoc on our republic?

At this moment, news reports indicate that some of these “patriot” lawmakers are seeking pardons from the president to absolve themselves of responsibility in the attacks. If this happens, they surely must be removed from the Senate. Such shining examples of leadership they are!

Try them all! Trump should be convicted in the Senate for his crimes against the state. The counts in the indictment could have been volumes long, but the House leadership wisely focused on his seditious actions in sending a mob to destroy the capitol. It cannot stand without punishment. I know there are numerous arguments pro and con about doing so — along with Constitutional concerns that have yet to be tested in court — but I cannot imagine that his actions over the months leading up to the insurrection should be allowed to go unpunished. Think of the precedent. A president can foment any illegal act that he or she desires near the end of their presidency and feel perfectly comfortable that they will get away with it. If no one is above the law in the United States of America then a president cannot pardon himself and he is liable for impeachment and conviction for actions in office even after they leave. The president wouldn’t even have to wait until the end of a term. Commit any impeachable offense and then resign with the knowledge that in this case, actions do not have consequences. It seems no different than retired military officers who are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for the rest of their lives.

I cannot believe that we can begin to heal until those that fomented the attacks on our fragile state are held accountable. The FBI and other agencies are tracking down and charging the domestic terrorists that stormed the capital. Those that encouraged them to take those actions should be equally accountable. Senators that voted against verifying the Electoral College results should be censored and removed if they don’t resign, but they most certainly will not. If criminal charges are appropriate under the law, they should be held to account. Likewise with the roughly 147 Representatives that voted not to verify the results. Remember, these votes came after the attack on the capitol.

Tomorrow is a new day. Thankfully. President Biden has a huge job ahead of him. It will not be easy to conquer the pandemic, restore the economy, re-establish our leadership role in international affairs and accomplish all the other tasks ahead needed to clean up the mess Trump leaves behind, all while those that he must work with continue to push the canard that he is an illegitimate president. It could take years to undo the damage. Only with the help of those on the right side of history can he succeed. I trust that like many former members of cults, once his followers no longer have to drink the Kool-Aid of divisiveness, grievance and lies that they will come to their senses and help to restore the America we thought we knew. Some will. Some will not. As an optimist, I hope that more will than will not.

It will not be an easy road. We have a long way to go. Bringing those that sought to intentionally destroy our country to justice will help us to make our way. They must all enjoy the full consequences of their actions to the fullest extent of the law. This includes an ex-president and his family.

On to a new chapter in our history!


A Shameful Day In America

Most of us watched yesterday’s events in the nation’s Capitol with horror, dismay, and sadness. It was a terrible day for democracy. First, Trump loyalists in Congress worked to overthrow an election that was won by President-elect Joe Biden with over seven million more votes than the incumbent. That in itself was appalling. Yet, at the same time, and in an effort to overthrow the election and prevent Congress from certifying the results, the President of the United States committed treason by inciting his followers to riot at the Capitol. Not since 1814 when the British burned Washington D.C. during the War of 1812 has our Capitol building been assaulted and ransacked. This was no exercise in First Amendment rights, it was a full-fledged mob intent on deliberately wreaking havoc. These were domestic terrorists.

What did Trump do while the attack was underway? He posted a video hours after it began rehashing his alleged grievances, perfunctorily asking the rioters to go home and then closing by saying “We love you.” In other words, Trump was happy that they did what they did. His sidekick Rudy Giuliani also riled up the crowd by telling them that they needed to undergo “a trial by combat” at the Capitol. Not content with that bit of rabble rousing, the president’s sons Don and Eric also told the crowd to “stop the steal” and declared that “This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party!”

I want to know why they have not been arrested, the whole lot of them. They sent the mob on its way to do harm. Four people lost their lives in the melee. Those responsible need to be held accountable. The terrorists inside the Capitol were clearly proud of what they were doing. Most of them took selfies and videos of themselves. Others clearly knew that security cameras were capturing their actions. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies must track these people down and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Trump must go. There is no way that he can remain as president. Between his criminal phone call to Georgia election officials and his speech yesterday that incited violence he has broken enough laws to be impeached or otherwise removed. The House could vote today to impeach him. All they need to do is play the tape from Saturday and his speech from yesterday and they would have all of the evidence that they need.

For those that argue he “only” has thirteen days left in office, I would point out that yesterday morning he only had fourteen days in office and we now know what havoc he can create without shame or remorse. He is a desperate man willing to do anything to keep from having to face the reality that he will be just another citizen in less than two weeks. As with any other citizen, he will be subject to prosecution for past and present crimes. He has a lot to worry about. He must be removed before his next attack on our democracy.

Equally despicable are Trump loyalists in the House and Senate that continue to defraud Trump’s supporters by challenging the validity of the election. The whole bunch should be fired but the pure naked, raw power play perpetrated by Senators Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) deserves special scorn. Even after Congress reconvened following the attack, they continued to challenge the results of the election in Arizona and Pennsylvania. I hope that the good citizens of their states hold them accountable. I trust that the other Senators will shun them. They deserve all of the scorn that can be sent their way.

Today there are members of Trump’s cult in the Congress and in the media (I’m looking at you Fox News) that are spreading more lies by claiming that the rioters really were not Trumpists. They claim that the rioters were “radical leftists” dressed up as Trump supporters to make them look bad. These Trump enablers will stop at nothing to install Trump as a dictator, otherwise there is no explanation for the scurrilous statements that they make. They continue to try and destroy our democracy. Lies, lies, and more lies. It feeds their narrative and undermines truth and authority. If you don’t know what to believe you can believe any old thing that suits your own narrative. The lies start at the top. Trump is now at about 30,000 provable lies since he took office. According to the Washington Post, he told 500 lies on the day before the election alone. He is an effective liar as well. If he knows nothing else, he knows how to tap into people’s fears and grievances and stoke them until a mob is willing to do his bidding. Even if it means overthrowing the government.

This raises another question. Why was security so lax when Trump had been promising for weeks that his thugs were going to do bad things in D.C.? Before the insurrectionists arrived at the Capitol building Trump had already given his marching orders to wreak havoc. Why wasn’t there a response to reinforce the flimsy, business as usual, deployment of law enforcement officers? It seems fishy to me. The rioters got into the building way too easily. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist looking for things that do not exist, but given all of the circumstances it just does not ring true to me that the only explanation is that the Capitol Police were overwhelmed by the crowd. In individual cases I am sure that is true. My concern and suspicion is focused on the larger picture of why security was so lax. Where were the units from the Department of Homeland Security? Where were the National Guard members activated for the days surrounding the counting of the Electoral votes? Where were the Department of Justice special units, especially those from the FBI? There was no federal presence to prevent an attack and their response to the attack came several hours after the assault began.

Take any Black Lives Matter demonstration from this summer, including in Washington D.C. and you will see hordes of uniformed people from the “alphabet soup” of federal agencies with law enforcement officers, many of them trained in handling riots and urban violence. For the BLM marches there were rows upon rows of National Guard personnel deployed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, for example. Our Capital should be one of the most secure places in our country, and yet it was easily overrun by a mob intent on fomenting a coup. Could it have been because the rioters were mostly white “decent folk”? Anyone that wants to know why black lives matter rings true for most of our African-American neighbors, all one has to do is compare how the mostly peaceful demonstrations of the BLM movement were handled with how this mob was handled. Only fourteen arrests were made in the Capital. Watching the coverage on TV, I could see the police helping rioters up and down steps. There was just a more relaxed vibe and method for many of the police officers outside the building. It was different than the actions surrounding many BLM demonstrations. Which is to take nothing away from those officers inside the building that truly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the Members of Congress and the others that work there.

Here is my take away from yesterday’s events. Trump’s primary appeal, and certainly to those attempting the coup, is to those that believe white, Christian men should run the country. Period. All others are “outsiders” that may or may not be allowed to live in this country depending on whether they stay in line and acquiesce to those that “deserve” to be here. I was struck by the nonchalant attitude of those on camera. They were mostly at ease, relaxed and acting as though they owned the place. They showed no respect for the solemnity or symbolism of the halls, chambers and offices. Rather than “if you break it, you own it,” they seemed to have the attitude that because we own it we can break it. When you are supposed to be the rulers of the world, you can do pretty much anything that you want. It was that attitude that struck me the most. I am still shaking with anger and with sadness that one man and his lawless supporters can attack our democracy with impunity and without regard for the damage to our country that they are causing.

Trump has never been held accountable for any of his outrageous actions. He must be held accountable now. If the Vice President and the Cabinet fail to act under the 25th Amendment within the next 24 hours, then the House must immediately begin the impeachment process. I say this with a heavy heart as it will inevitably make a bad situation worse as his supporters will rally to his side and inflict violence across America. Unfortunately, Trump may cause that to happen anyway. Therefore, we cannot wait to take action. It is time for our national leaders in the government, the House and the Senate, regardless of party, to stand up for America rather than for themselves or a cult leader.

Our proud nation has taken a heavy blow. It will take action and time to recover. With the next president we will have a chance to heal and to restore sanity to our national discourse. The change cannot come fast enough for me.


The Cult Trying To Steal Our Country

At a time when we should be looking ahead to the good times coming in 2021, we find that there is significant danger in the coming weeks as Donald J. Trump continues to act like a mob boss and actively work to overturn the results of the election that he lost by over seven million votes. The very foundation of our democracy is under continuing attack as the president, members of the Senate and the House and scores of white nationalists, Q-Anon conspiracists and others attempt to overthrow the duly elected incoming president and vice-president. This is the most dangerous attack on our national values and core principles since at least 1860.

In the last twenty-four hours we experienced the spectacle of Mr. Trump calling the Secretary of State of Georgia to tell him to “find” enough votes to give the state’s electors to him. As reported in the Washington Post, and captured on audio given to the reporters, he wailed, threatened, whined and cajoled the Georgia officials for over an hour. The president wants them to “reexamine” the results, “with people that want to find answers, not people who don’t want to find answers.” In other words, fabricate new results. He repeatedly complained that “there’s no way I lost Georgia. There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.” In fact, he lost by 11,779. There were three recounts. The state legislature certified the vote. The Republican governor certified it.

Mr. Trump’s efforts could be criminal. They certainly are immoral and unethical. But then what do we expect from the worst president ever that will leave the White House as an impeached one-term president?

Meanwhile in the Congress, the Sedition Caucus of about 140 Trumpist Representatives and twelve Trumpist Senators will object to the certification of the Electoral College votes. As explained by Senator Josh Hawley (MO), he wants the allegations of fraud in Pennsylvania investigated. He says he owes it to the 74 million voters for Mr. Trump who “are not going to shut up” and must have their concerns addressed. Which, of course, ignores the 81 million people that voted for Mr. Biden that he wants to disenfranchise. Equally despicable is the effort led by the Chief Sedition Officer of the group Senator Ted Cruz (TX). He wanted to argue a case against certifying the election in the Supreme Court and is now organizing his fellow rebels without a cause to try and create a special commission to look into the “unprecedented allegations of election fraud, violations, and lax enforcement of election law and other voting irregularities.” He argues that the commission will “significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next president.” Nice. Note that their plan, as with all of their other “facts” are merely allegations. No one has produced any evidence of any activity that would change the results of the election. NONE. The Trump campaign lost over 60 cases in appearances before judges in multiple states including many judges that were appointed by Mr. Trump. Twice the Supreme Court turned them away. States conducted as many as three recounts with no findings of any significant issues. The person from the Department of Homeland Security, in charge of making sure our elections were secure, appointed by Mr. Trump, said that this was the most secure election in our history. Attorney General William Barr, appointed by Mr. Trump and who acted like his personal attorney, said that there was no fraud. There is no “whoever becomes our president” because only one person won the election and the other one is going to Florida.

What we really have, is a significant group of elected officials that apparently believe that if their candidate did not win, then we should disenfranchise millions of Americans and overturn the election. We have elected officials that put loyalty to the leader of a cult above the oath that they swore to the Constitution. That is the bottom line. Think about that. They are more loyal to one man than to our country. That man demands loyalty and they cave like a child’s cardboard box in a hurricane. Thank goodness there are still some patriots in the president’s party that recognize that we are a nation of laws and who will not go along with the coup.

I cannot emphasize enough how abominable their actions are. This is a full-on attempt to undermine our democracy. Period. Yes, they are making money off of this. Yes, they think that this will help them get re-elected. Yes, they are playing to the Trump base. It is still an attempt to overturn a free and fair election.

Additional danger comes from Mr. Trump’s detestable effort to stir up trouble in Washington D.C. He is calling for his supporters to come to a “wild protest” on 6 January, the same day that Congress is required to open the official Electoral College votes to certify the election. On Friday another member of the Sedition Caucus lost yet another attempt in court to overturn the election and called for “violence in the streets” to block Mr. Biden from becoming president. I trust that the FBI will be visiting Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX). Groups are calling for turning the national mall into “an armed camp.” The Proud Boys and other extreme white nationalist groups claim that they will have thousands of members on the streets. Some have threatened to keep members of Congress from getting to the capitol building to vote. It will be a dangerous time.

We have four years until the next presidential election. A serious bipartisan effort is needed to review every aspect of our system of voting from how we vote, to how we train poll workers, to reviewing whether a ranking system is a better way to elect our officials to doing away with the Electoral College or at least standardizing the way electors are chosen. We certainly need to close legal loopholes that allow state legislatures or the Congress to change the expressed will of the voters. It is a near miss this time. We cannot be sanguine that all will go well in the future.

I look forward to the vote on Wednesday, however many hours it may be delayed by objections or protesters or any other reason. Mr. Biden will be president on 20 January. History will record the names of those that sought to overthrow a duly elected president of the United States and install an avowed autocrat. To me, their actions are seditious if not treasonous. I will leave it to attorneys and constitutional scholars to sort that out. The bottom line is that they want to destroy our country by destroying our right to vote.

The best news for the coming year is that as of 21 January, we don’t have to give a damn about anything the orange menace has to say.