Archive for April, 2021

It must end

Author: admin

There are many of us who’d like to believe our national – and in come cases local – political divisions will be smoothed over one of these days and we’ll get back to “normal.”

NEW FLASH: It’s not going to happen! Not in the next 50 years!
The reasons are many. And pretty plain.

Our system of governance has been under continued stress the last 70 years as never before. Wars with no goal – no defined ending. Military spending – on an annual basis – more than the next eight largest countries combined. Out-of-control spending that’s left national needs unmet, stoking resentment and hatred among people who’ve suffered because of societal needs going unanswered.

Unlimited dollars pouring into PACs and other political coffers virtually assuring politicians of continuance in office has meant less turnover for seating newcomers with their own views to offer. Voices of division daily driving wedges between people, assuring continued political division between political parties – drowning out efforts to reunite – efforts to overcome past differences.

Even issues of a national pandemic killing over half–a-million Americans and efforts to keep guns out of the hands of killers have been politicalized, causing death and continued destruction. Even the unwarranted deaths of children.

The fires of hate and division are stoked daily. By those in office, those civilian voices making seven-figure incomes spewing lies and hatred. By those following a leader, astride a golden calf, who’s blinded them to fact, honesty and truth, in numbers sufficiently large enough to dilute reason and comity for the rest of us.

At the moment, there’s no functioning Republican Party – no core of reasonable values and goals sufficient to attract mass support. Unless – and until – such a viable center can be established, millions of voters seeking a political “home” of honest, goal-driven effort and shared beliefs will drift aimlessly in a world of distortions and untruths.

More and more of us will avoid both political parties and become disaffiliated, turning deaf ears to plaintive political voices, uninvolved in matters of political importance. Unaffiliated with political interests.

Maybe the largest cause of division is in the ranks of those who’ve achieved some political success and have shamefully used the powers
of their office to stoke anger and lies. Cruz, Hawley, Kennedy, Biggs, Gosar, Greene, McConnell, McCarthy and dozens more have shown – thru word and deed – they’re committed to no political achievement; only to continue current divisions.

The one common thread dealing with those named? They’re what national republicanism is today. Deliberately small “r.”

For the last 12 years, they – and others of the same party – have decried “Obamacare” without producing a single, workable alternative. Not one in 12 years! Just more empty voices of distraction.

Over the last four years, Mitch McConnell kept a stranglehold on any legislation from a Democrat-controlled House. The thousands of hours of work represented in those bills were killed – DOA. And his Party produced what? Nothing. Nothing.

Some of those named participated in – or otherwise supported – the vandals that attacked our national Congress. Actually lent the authority of their political office to the death and vandalism that resulted. And those congressional enablers continue in office.

It’s not Republican versus Democrat keeping us apart any more. It’s honesty versus lies. It’s hatred versus comity, regardless of political affiliation. It’s unfounded bigotry versus inclusion. It’s creating continual verbal and legislative barriers versus coming to the table to reason. It’s “us versus them.”

It’s interesting that recent polling shows many Republicans are supportive of a Democrat President. In less than 100 days on office, a Democrat has accomplished not just his own party’s work but has received positive feedback from the other side. Maybe we’re seeing the beginnings of creation of some common political ground.

There is no short-term answer to return us to “normal” – whatever that was. This milieu of disparate voices will continue unabated for the near future. Maybe the long future. What will come of that – what danger it poses for our Republic – no one knows.

But, eventually, there will come a new political structure – a new organizational order – some mutually agreed-upon political environment we cannot predict. It may not involve political parties as we know them now. There may not be the traditional Democrat or Republican system we’ve lived with for centuries.

Whatever this nation is bound for, one thing is clear. We cannot – we must not – continue the way things are today if we want to reclaim our position as a world power. The discord, the divisions, the wedges that have separated us one-from-the-other have become cancerous and threaten our national future,

There will be – there must be – a time when the current discord – the current anger – the current distrust – the current animosity – will end.

There must be!

Is speech really free

Author: admin

Congress and the rest of us are about to run head-long into the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding “free speech.”

Ever read all those words? Well, here they are:

“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of free speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

That’s all of it. Right there. Forty-five words. But, just four words – “…freedom of free speech” are the ones pounced on by everyone who believes that right, as it may – or may not – apply to them, has been tampered with. And, while many people may make that claim, constitutional scholars by the hundreds have hundreds of “legal” interpretations but no clear answer. It can be awfully fuzzy.

Please note right here. I’ve spent a lifetime defending the right of free speech. As someone who’s been a reporter/writer for most of 60 years, I’ve held my nose and defended some really terrible “free speech.” And, for the most part, still do. But, there are limitations.

Here’s a list of generally recognized legal limitations to “free speech” I came across the other day: obscenity (depends on context but not regular old porn), fighting words, defamation, child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to lawless action, true threats, solicitations to commit crimes and plagiarism of copyrighted material. Legal decisions have been rendered – and, for the most part, accepted – on all counts. But, as I said, “fuzzy”still applies

Private companies – like the one’s who’ve deleted all of Donald Trump’s accounts – have a lot of leeway in how they handle users – DJT and others – including their own employees.

But, let’s say you’re a government employee. Any government employee. Your employer has the right to make sure your speech doesn’t conflict with your job. But, (un)social media has made it more difficult to regulate employee speech in a constitutional way. (Un)social media has blurred a lot lines. Legal and otherwise.

So, let’s consider what DJT said awhile back which resulted in an attack on our Capitol. Were his words to a crowd of many hundreds, spoiling for a fight with Congress, really protected “free speech” as Republicans claimed?

Well, go back to the limitations list above and see. I find “incitement to imminent lawless action” and “solicitations to commit crimes” pretty well nails it. True threats, too. You might throw in “fighting words” for a topper. I don’t think he’s off the hook there.

When people talk of “free speech” relating to government, the issue is often turned on its head. “Free speech” in the Constitution is really used to protect you from government punishing you for your speech – not the other way around. But – and this is a big jump – the article citing “free speech” means government – and its representatives – are most often held to a higher responsibility to make sure what they do and say doesn’t lead to unlawful actions.

So, again, “free speech.” Did Trump cross the line? Did he abuse the right of “free speech?” Did he use his speech to instigate or condone illegal actions? My take is yes. One House of Congress, too, it seems.
Trump has proven to be the false prophet so many of us believed to be the case years ago. A lot of Republicans in Congress – and I believe elsewhere – have recently thrown in the towel and decided that is a fact, too. The defections in the House are interesting, especially some from the “hard” right.

While “Donnie” still has a corps of several million “believers,” it appears he’ll be too busy defending himself in one courtroom or another to “lead.” And, it seems, he’ll be too busy scrounging for dollars to keep his heavily mortgaged companies alive. Trump just has to be thinking that running for president was the worst decision he’s made on his own.

“Free speech” finally got him. Got him good.

But, look at the bright side. He’s got his own special place in our country’s history. And an asterisk beside his name, too. Something no other former president can say. Talk about speech. And free, too.

It can’t be over

Author: admin

QUESTION: Could Donald Trump, Dr. Deborah Birx, the former head of the CDC and several other top government officials be charged with one or more crimes because of their inaction upon the arrival of COVID-19 in this country? Could they?

As a non-lawyer, I have no authoritative answer to that question. But, I believe some smart attorney-types could make a valid case for some sort of prosecution.

This issue has been on my mind since the CNN interview of Dr. Birx and others in the medical field a week or so ago.

At the moment, 550-thousand Americans have died of COVID in just over a year. Did they have to die? Did that many have to die? Could timely medical and political action have saved thousands of that number? If so, why wasn’t that action taken? Given many decision makers knew the actual danger looming over this nation, what legal responsibility do top-level political and medical people have? Was there malfeasance/misfeasance in office? Should there be legal actions taken against those people? Did the political divisions in this country contribute to the deaths of thousands of innocent victims?

For openers, consider Dr. Birk’s statement that, after the first infectious wave, the death toll could have been “substantially reduced.”

She didn’t say it outright, but all her interview remarks seemed to indicate she believed there was negligent management of the pandemic by Trump – that he had a willingness to put economic and political goals above science and the nation’s well-being.

Birx’s anguish was apparent throughout the interview. Especially when she acknowledged “There were about a hundred-thousand deaths that came from the original surge. All the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”

For someone at the top of the administration, as the COVID advisor to the President at the time, that’s one helluva statement.

So is this: “All deaths over the first hundred-thousand could have been mitigated.” “ALL!”

Birx seemed to be making a public confession of sorts – an unburdening of her conscience tinged with some acknowledgment of her own role in the fiasco.

She also said some scientific colleagues understood the magnitude of the looming crisis but “some White House officials refused to take it seriously.” She added, “Some were fatalistic about what could be done.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, participating in the same interview, said Trump’s demands to reopen the country, despite all the advice from leading government health authorities, came as “a punch in the chest.”

As I acknowledged at the top, I’m no lawyer. But, that interview hour seemed to lay out material that could be actionable on several fronts.

Then, there’s this. Millions in this country don’t trust government at any level. They turn a deaf ear to professional advice on almost any subject if it’s government-related. Many Americans actually fear government and believe they have to be prepared to defend themselves against it.

So, did that play any part in letting COVID ravage this nation? Did their refusal to wear masks, distance themselves from others and ignoring advice coming from Birx, Fauci and top federal health agencies play a role in worsening the fight and, in so doing, contribute to the deaths of thousands of their fellow countrymen and women? Did Trump’s public avoidance of any sort of protection against COVID lead millions of his admirers to follow suit?

I’ve laid out a lot of material here. I’ve asked a lot of questions. The point being, just ridding ourselves of this COVID scourge doesn’t end the terrible saga. When over half-a-million Americans have died and millions of others have been sickened – when those who died had to do so alone and without family – when costs of care have driven thousands of fellow citizens into bankruptcy – when political leaders failed to be responsible – when needless suffering and death were allowed to prevail because of governmental inaction – how do we resolve what’s happened?

Do we turn our collective backs on all of the death and destruction? Or, do we take action against those who willingly ignored professional advice for their own interests – political or otherwise? Do we hold those who failed their responsibilities to walk away as if nothing had happened? Do we seek justice for those who died needlessly?

I can’t get Dr. Birx words – almost a confession – out of my head. I’m filled with the need to seek redemptive action for all that’s happened in the last year. Those thousands who died needlessly deserve our best efforts.

Damn it, Dems

Author: admin

Came across a comment the other day from Economist Robert Reich, a Democrat to the soles of his little feet. Former Labor Secretary for Clinton.

Here’s what he had to say. “Bipartisanship is not a goal. Goals are raising the minimum wage, securing voting rights, ending police brutality, getting universal health care and saving the planet. If these can’t be done in a bipartisanship way, the Hell with bipartisanship.”
In other words, to Democrats, if Republicans are going to sit on their asses while continuing to deny Americans access to health care, a living wage, creating roadblocks to voting in state after state, continue trying to make the writings of Dr. Seuss a national campaign issue and passing more tax breaks for the very, very wealthy, effectively use the votes you have, Democrats. DROP THE HAMMER!

And another thing: the filibuster. Fix it. Operating from minority strength, the GOP has stopped Senate action repeatedly. Under the current rules, one or more members of the Senate can tie up/delay everything. And, it takes 60 votes to override and get back to work. Passing the huge Covid relief bill out was a squeaker. Other, lesser legislation has not been so successful. Now, some voting rights bills and one on gun control, already out of the House, are being sent to the Senate where they’ll be DOA. Filibustered.

I’m on the side of those who’d “kill” the ‘buster. But, there’s talk in both cloak rooms of reform – of making it a “talking” filibuster. In today’s 50-50 situation, Republicans would have to rise and talk. And talk and talk. Imagine Jimmy Stewart in “Mister Smith Goes To Washington.” A Republican would have to talk continually about his/her objections until they either gave up or Democrats pulled the bill. Might work. If it doesn’t, axe the damned thing and get going!

Democrats will not always control the Congress and the Presidency. Now, they do. Odds are they’ll continue that majority for at least four more years. Maybe six or even eight. It’s “now or never,” folks. All that talk of getting this-that-and-the-other done needs to be turned to using that unique situation to produce and pass legislation fulfilling those promises.

Biden’s big bill means, for most of us, a $1,400 support check, more Covid vaccine, extended jobless benefits, child tax credits, big help for schools and a lot more. Democrats did all that without a S-I-N-G-L-E Republican vote! Not one. GOOD JOB! But, there’s more to do. Lots more!

The next big task MUST BE voting rights. Republicans – with a major boost from SCOTUS – are continuing a state-by-state attack on the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of all of us to vote, including minorities. Reduced polling places, reduced voting times, unnecessary identification paperwork, cutting down dates for voting and all sorts of B.S..

Here in Arizona, where mail-in voting has been conduced successfully for many years, we must now send copies of our driver’s licenses or some other photo ID with our completed 2022 ballots. Totally unnecessary! But, a legislature, heavily dominated by Republicans, has made it so. Other states are erecting more barriers voters must conquer. It’s got to stop!

How do GOP politicians, by unanimous votes against the interests of citizens, go home and campaign for re-election? How do they do that? How do you vote a unanimous “NO” to health care and health insurance, voting rights, unemployment benefits, child care, added voting restrictions, attacks on Constitutionally guaranteed rights and face the people? Long on guts – short on smarts. But, uneducated voters buy it! Year after year.

A Louisiana Republican who voted “no” on the stimulus package had – within an hour of the vote – an email on the way to constituents telling of all the good stuff in the legislation. No smarts. Just guts.

Democrats need to go to those same voters – with proof – and educate ‘em. We know many Republican voters have had enough and many Independents are looking for a home.

Now – right now – is the time Democrats should be telling voters what’s going on, showing people what’s been done, offering evidence of Democrat Party leadership and extending a welcoming hand. Right now! Stop talking to each other about how bad conditions are and get to work. You’ve already good Democrat Party accomplishments to share. Right now!

And more. The Republican Party is in tatters. For reasons thinking people can’t understand, some 30-40-million lost souls will follow Trump into oblivion. That portion of the GOP will stand for nothing – produce nothing – accomplish nothing. And they’ll complain about everything. They’ll only be a threat on the ballot if Democrats don’t fill all open races. What’s left of the Grand Old Party will flounder and, similarly, produce nothing.

More than at any time in my knowledge, now is the time for Democrats to create a movement to educate – inform – recruit. In less than three months, Democrats have accomplished a lot. Republicans have accomplished nothing. And they’ll continue to accomplish nothing. I can’t think of a single GOP-authored proposal in the past 90 days. The past year.

There are still Republicans in Congress who know better, know Trump is a fraud and likely headed to jail. Some still talk of “party loyalty” when the truth is there’s no party. Trump wants all future donations made to his PAC rather than the RNC. How long can the RNC be financially viable if donors do what Trump wants? “Party loyalty” to what?

The 2022 campaign has already begun. Republicans are out there beating the bushes, looking for money and volunteer support. All they’ve got, in the words of Andy Griffith in the movie “No Time For Sergeants” is “a handful of gimmie and a mouthful of ‘much obliged.’” They can’t produce any Republican programs or legislative successes. They’ve got nothing! Nada!

The future is wide open for Democrats in Congress and the White House. Republicans will continue to produce opposition and obstruction. If – IF – Dems hold together, both can be overcome.

But, more than that, they’ve got to sell. Sell, sell, sell! With evidence of major successes in less than 90 days, there are already plenty of accomplishments to take to the streets for recruiting.

Go get ‘em!