America’s Wake-Up Call-Can Joe Biden Unify the Country?

In our next-to-final week of our project, Jeff writes about Joe Biden’s plan to unify the people of this nation, to heal the Great Divide, to bring hope and peace to replace the desperation and chaos. Thanks Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

I come to you today with a high dose of anxiety and reality. We’re now ten days away from the most consequential election in modern times, and I cannot say how this thing will turn out in any uncertain terms.

Over the past several months, Jill and I have tried to give you facts and opinions about why this election is so important – first, with Discord & Dissension, and now with America’s Wakeup Call. We’ve talked about the critical issues facing us, as well as the differences between the two candidates.

Whether it’s climate change, the federal judiciary, problems with voting, or how we’re viewed in the world, to name a few, we think we’ve made a compelling case that Joe Biden is the right choice – the only option – on November 3, 2020.

But as this will be my last post for our project before the election…

View original post 1,422 more words

Post-Debate Grumbles

You surely don’t expect a sweet, complacent post from me after I only just finished watching the final presidential debate, do you?  A couple of times, I had to take off my headphones and step away from the computer lest I throw it or punch it, but I’m pleased to say that I survived.  They should give us buttons or stickers saying, “I survived watching the debate!”, for it is no small task!debate-3

All in all, the debate really wasn’t a debate, but at least we were able to hear and understand most of Biden’s responses without Trump talking over him.  Trump did, however, keep on talking long after the moderator had told him “Okay, we’re moving on to the next topic” repeatedly.  In my book, the only truly relevant question was the final one, when each candidate was asked what, on inauguration day, they would say to the people who didn’t vote for them.  Their responses, in part …

Trump:  “We have to make our country totally successful as it was prior to the plague coming over from China.  We are on the road to success. But I’m cutting taxes and he wants to raise everybody’s taxes, and he wants to put new regulations on everything. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell, and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country.”

Biden: “I will say, I’m an American president. I represent all of you. Whether you voted for me or against me. And I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear. We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities to make things better.

And I’m going to say, as I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country, decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that, what you haven’t been getting in the last four years.”

Notice the difference?  Trump used his 60 seconds to criticize Biden some more, while Biden actually answered the question with what sounded very much like the best possible way to begin the healing process.  A negative answer vs a positive message.

And that’s all I have to say about the debate … another 90 minutes of my life that I can’t get back.


According to a story in yesterday’s New York Times

The Trump campaign has been videotaping Philadelphia voters while they deposit their ballots in drop boxes, leading Pennsylvania’s attorney general to warn this week that the campaign’s actions fall outside of permitted poll watching practices and could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

The campaign made a formal complaint to city officials on Oct. 16, saying a campaign representative had surveilled voters depositing two or three ballots at drop boxes, instead of only their own. The campaign called the conduct “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code,” according to a letter from a lawyer representing the Trump campaign that was reviewed by The New York Times. The campaign included photos of three voters who it claimed were dropping off multiple ballots.

Last week daughter Chris, granddaughter Natasha (aka Miss Goose), and I completed our mail-in ballots.  Not trusting the United States Postal Service to deliver them in a timely fashion, we had already decided to use the drop box at the county board of elections.  Since there is only one ballot drop box per county in our state, the nearest drop box is about 15 miles from here … not a long distance, but my van is not reliable outside of a 2-mile radius, and daughter Chris works from 6:00 a.m. ‘til 6:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday.  So, on Saturday she took all three of our ballots to the drop box.  She put all three into the drop box, and yesterday I received notification that all three had been received and accepted.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with her dropping off all three of our ballots!

I find it rather creepy to think that Trump cronies might be filming her, take down her license plate number, and harass us or attempt to negate our ballots.  And are these government employees doing the videotaping?  Are we paying these people to spy on us???

The Trump campaign’s aggressive strategy in Philadelphia suggests its aim is to crack down on people dropping off ballots for family members or anyone else who is not strictly authorized to do so. Ms. Kerns demanded that the names of all voters who had used a drop box in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall on Oct. 14 be turned over to the campaign, and insisted that the city station a staff member around every drop box “at all times.” She also asked for footage from municipal cameras around City Hall.

Bullshit!  “Ms. Kerns” needs to go choke on a turnip!  It is a blatant attempt at voter intimidation and there is no law prohibiting a family member from dropping off a ballot.  What would be the difference if a family member put someone’s ballot in the mailbox for them?  None whatsoever.  This is a step too far in Trump’s attempt to claim that there is voter fraud in voting by mail, where there is none!  First it was fake ballot boxes put up by the GOP in California, and now this!  If by some chance Trump wins this election, it will not have been an honest win, but will have been because he interfered with the right of the people to cast a ballot!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Filosofa Is In A Mood — Look Out!

I’m past being snarky tonight … I am into all out bitchiness.  I’m angry about the conspiracies that Trump is trying to cook up in a last-ditch attempt to save his ass on November 3rd.  I am angry that he has boot-lickers like John Ratcliffe promoting the conspiracy theories while denying the reality.  I am angry that some 42% of the people in this nation are still blind and ignorant enough to vote for a dictator-in-the-making.  I am furious that a group called “One Million Moms” is naught but a cover for a right-wing hate group determined to destroy a good portion of the people in this country because we don’t follow their same religious beliefs.  And I am sick and damn tired of the voter suppression techniques going on, including setting fire to a ballot box!  I am working on some of those stories, but for the moment, I just need to blow off a bit of steam, and Trump’s li’l darling daughter, Ivanka, got in my path.

I nearly choked with laughter when I read this headline:

Trump taps Ivanka for a rescue mission: Win back suburban women

Ivanka-1Seriously???  Ivanka, she who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, who has never once done an honest day’s work, who never once had to worry about how to buy food, pay the rent, or afford a doctor for her children?  Ivanka who has had so many botox injections that she cannot even perform a proper smile, and her bottle-blonde teeny-bopper hair?  Ivanka who is about as witless as any woman has ever been, pretending to understand what is being said at the high level meetings where Trump attempts to show her off?  Ivanka who still sits on daddy’s lap?  Ivanka, America’s #2 Bimbo???  Hah!  Tell me another joke!

I suppose you could say I’m a suburban woman … I am, last time I checked, a woman and I do live in the suburbs outside a large city.  However, I am not what Trump has in mind when he speaks of suburban women, and in fact my ‘suburb’ is the Trump family’s worst nightmare … probably 50% Black, 30% Middle Eastern refugees, 15% Hispanic, and 5% Caucasian.  Trump would run for his life if he ever came into my neighborhood!  I, on the other hand, am quite comfortable here.

According to the article in Politico

“Ivanka Trump has become the de facto head of the eleventh-hour campaign to appeal to swing voters, specifically the white college educated women …”

Ivanka-2Ha ha ha … she couldn’t appeal to a college-educated giraffe, let alone a woman of any colour with a brain!  And why is she only sent out to appeal to white women?  Do the Trumps not realize that some 25% of the people in this nation are non-Caucasians and that they vote too, despite the Republican Party’s best efforts to make it damn near impossible?  Ivanka, like the entire rest of the Trump clan, is a joke … a privileged, spoiled, tyrannical, ignorant joke.

According to one of Trump’s campaign workers, somebody called Mercedes Schlapp …

“As a working mother who has dedicated her career to the improvement of women’s lives, Ivanka intrinsically understands the issues facing American families today.  Ivanka Trump can speak to President Trump’s success from the perspective of both a policy adviser and close family member — a remarkably effective combination on the campaign trail.”

Bullshit!  A ‘working mother’“Understands the issues facing …”???  She has round-the-clock nannies taking care of her brats.  Other people, those who like you and I actually do work for a living, clean her house and cook the family’s meals, do the laundry, the grocery shopping, and every other mundane task that we struggle to keep up with.  No, folks, she cannot relate to us … not one little bit.  Ms. Schlapp says that Ivanka has “dedicated her career to the improvement of women’s lives”.  WTF???  She used overseas slave labour to make crappy-looking clothes and accessories that she then sold for a prohibitive amount of money to rich bitches in the U.S.  Ivanka herself never lifted one bloody finger to do a damned thing!  Improving women’s lives?  I think not … I think she doesn’t even have a clue what it means to be a woman.Germany Ivanka TrumpAs a woman who has worked hard every day of her life since the age of 13, I am highly offended (in case you couldn’t tell) by Ivanka Trump, as well as her stepmother, Melania, who is equally a spoiled rich bitch.  So yeah, send Ms. Ivanka here to da ‘hood and we’ll show her what it really means to be a working woman in the country where the pandemic has changed our lives, taken many of our lives, and where we struggle every damned day just to survive.

And now, I return you to your regularly scheduled programming, while I go take a nice long shower.

America’s Wake-Up Call — Voting & Voters — Part III

In Two weeks ago, we looked at the reasons people give for not voting, and in last Wednesday’s post, we looked at the demographics … who isn’t voting, and why.  When we put those two together, we see why some people aren’t voting, for the system is designed to make it difficult for them.  In this, the final post on voters not voting, we will look at some ways to effect change.  There are actually three distinct groups of non-voters:  those who are at least partly disenfranchised, for whom the system has made voting a difficult task, those who are either too lazy or apathetic to stir themselves to vote.  The solutions are different for each of these groups, so we need to look at them separately.  But first, a disclaimer.  There is no panacea, no simple, single solution that will all of a sudden solve the problem of nearly half the eligible voters failing to vote.  We must find a multitude of small steps that all contribute toward bringing us closer to the goal.

Registration

The first step in the process of voting is to register.  At present, the onus for registering lies solely with the voter. Every state’s registration rules are a bit different.  In 37 states, one can register online, but in the other 13, registration must be done in person.  For many, this means taking time off work, and possibly difficulties finding transportation.  Online registration is a great idea, but it needs to be made well-known to all, for many are not aware that it is possible, or how to begin the process.There are ways to remind people:  workplaces and churches could place posters reminding people to register and listing places, such as DMV as well as the website.  Schools could send home flyers reminding parents to register.  And to be really proactive, districts could mail registration forms to all homes in the district.  Another, even better idea is automatic registration, such as is used in countries like Canada and Germany where voter turnout rates are in the 90 percentile range.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration, and 19 states have introduced automatic registration proposals in 2018. In addition, the New Jersey Legislature passed automatic voter registration on April 12th, and the bill is awaiting Governor Phil Murphy’s signature.”

Registration may well be half the battle and some combination of the above ideas would likely have a significant impact on voter turnout.

The Disenfranchised

This group consists of people who are typically lower income or minorities, for whom just getting through the day and feeding their family is hard.  State regulations have made the process of voting harder for these people by closing polling stations in their neighborhoods, shortening the hours of polling stations, and requiring a driver’s license or other state-issued identification that they may not have.  The solution is simple, right?  But with the repeal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, there is no longer a requirement for federal oversight, and the states are largely free to do whatever they want, within certain boundaries.  Section 5 needs desperately to be reinstated, but that will not likely happen soon, if ever.  Meanwhile?

With a republican majority in Congress, it is unlikely that legislation to help make voting easier for the disenfranchised would fly, for those it would benefit are more likely to vote for a democrat.  One partial solution is what happened in Pennsylvania recently, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s district map must be re-drawn in order to be more fair.  The ruling was unsuccessfully challenged by republican lawmakers, and the map has been redrawn.  While gerrymandered maps are not technically a barrier to voting, in the sense that they may cause polling stations to be farther from a person’s home or workplace and thus require greater travel time, the reality is that they can be a barrier.  I would like to see the Supreme Courts in every state follow the lead of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

One thing that many of us can do is actually help people get to their polling places.  There are many volunteers who spend the entire election day driving elderly people and others without transportation to and from the polling stations.  A reader of this blog left me this comment when I first published this post in April 2018:

“I have a listing of homeowners and rental units in the town in which I live..and together with other “ladies” from the Resist Movement in OK, go door to door and hand out voter registration papers..we will offer to assist in filling them out, and we then offer a ride to the polling places on voting days. You’d be amazed how many do not vote because they thought they “weren’t allowed to vote” after having misdemeanor convictions!”

I just wanted to hug this lady!!!  She is doing something to make the world a better place, and to her, my thumbs are all up!

Other measures that have proven helpful in getting voters to the polls include:

  • Early voting, which allows any qualified voter to cast a ballot during a specified period prior to the actual election day.
  • Absentee voting, whereby voters may request an absentee ballot and return it either by mail or in person, with or without an excuse. Presently, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow absentee voting without needing an excuse, 20 others require an excuse.
  • All-mail voting, where a ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary). Three states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado currently use all-mail voting.  Funny story about this … I periodically make comments to my girls about projects I am working on, usually unsolicited and out of the blue.  As I was working on this one, I asked the girls if they were aware that 3 states actually had all-mail voting.  Daughter Chris’ jaw dropped to the ground, thinking I meant “all-male” voting!

early voting map

Voter Apathy

Those who are simply either too lazy, don’t care, don’t like the candidates, or believe that it is a lost cause, may be the most challenging to get to the polls.  To do so will require a plethora of different things, starting with voter education, and involving large amounts of motivating and inspiring techniques.  Unfortunately, these constitute the largest group, some 65% of all the non-voters.  This translates into roughly 58.2 million people!

While I personally believed … still believe … that Hillary Clinton would have been a good president, I admit that she came with some baggage, and was not a particularly ‘lovable’ candidate, did not run an inspired campaign.  Thus, in 2016, it is understandable that many did not like either candidate.  But how to convince these people that it is better to vote for the lesser of two evils than to simply shrug their shoulders and stay at home watching television?

I think the starting point must be in education.  According to Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York City, it is up to parents and teachers to stress just how important it is.  Common sense, yes?

I don’t know the answers, but somehow we must find ways to convince these 58.2 million people that their vote counts, that they make a difference, but not sitting home on their patooties.  Talk to friends who say they don’t care.  Join a volunteer group that is going door-to-door talking to people.  Sport a t-shirt with your favourite candidate (I still wear my Obama t-shirt!!!), put a bumper sticker on your car.  Help people to better understand the issues, the candidates.

A recent quote I saw in the New York Times seems apropos:

To many African-American voters in Alabama, Cecil said, “Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the idea that voting doesn’t matter.” Trump is profoundly unfit to be a president — a congenital liar and racist who lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes. And yet president he is.

This is, I think, one of the biggest hurdles, and while I disagree with the thought process, I understand it.

Conclusion

Given our current system, we will not likely achieve 90% turnout, but I think we can damn well do better than 56%, especially given that those who voted in 2016 were a majority of wealthy, white people, leaving behind a large portion of the citizens, equally important citizens, of this nation.  Because of the results, we have all but lost our voice in our government.  Sure, you can write and call your members of Congress, but I haven’t had a personalized response yet, and I’m never even sure if they hear, but I’m sure they don’t care.  Until November 3rd, and then they will care.  We must send a message, but in order to do so, we all need to speak.  Let’s help make sure more people vote this year.  Let’s all do a few things within our own circle of friends, family & neighbors:

  • Make sure they are registered. If they aren’t offer to help with filling out forms, taking them to register if they cannot do so online.
  • Help them understand the issues and what each candidate stands for.
  • Keep talking about how very important it is that everyone get out and vote, without necessarily pushing a specific candidate.
  • Volunteer to drive people to the polling stations on November 3rd.

It is up to We The People, for we cannot rely on the government to work toward increasing voter turnout.  We need some new blood … let’s make it happen, folks!

America’s Wake-Up Call — Table of Contents

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Good People Doing Good Things – Rob & Reece Scheer

This is only the second time I have replayed a ‘good people’ post.  Admittedly, I am short on the resources of time & energy tonight, but there is good reason for this repost from June 2018.  First, these two guys will warm your heart, and this remains today one of my most popular good people posts.  And second,  I only today found that Rob Scheer wrote a book … it was actually published in late 2018, but only came to my attention today.  The book is titled A Forever Family: Fostering Change One Child at a Time and is “an inspirational memoir by the founder of Comfort Cases about his turbulent childhood in the foster care system and the countless obstacles and discrimination he endured in adopting his four children.”
Forever-FamilyI hope you don’t mind too much that I am reposting … I promise all new good people next week!


This week, good people have been dropping into my lap!  No, not literally … that is actually Princess Nala you see on my lap.  But several times in the past week I have come across stories about good people.  This morning, I would like to introduce you to two of those good people:  Rob Scheer, and his husband Reece. Rob and Reece ScheeerRob Scheer was raised in an abusive household where his parents, both alcoholics and drug addicts, thought it was great fun to hold guns to their children’s heads from time to time.  When he was ten-years-old, his parents died and Rob was placed in foster care, carrying all his worldly belongings in a trash bag.  Rob was determined to rise above his beginnings, to define his own path in life.

At age 18, as typically happens with foster kids, Rob found himself homeless.  Not knowing what else to do, he joined the military.  When he got out, he took an office job and over the next decade and a half, successfully climbed the corporate ladder.  When he and Reece were married, they both knew they wanted to be dads … and they planned to adopt a child … one child … through the foster care system.  Well, you all know that saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”?  The first child available was actually two children, a sister and brother, Amaya and Makai.  And then before long, there were two more, Tristan and Greyson!  Even though Rob and Reece had planned to adopt only one child, they adopted all four, all but Amaya being under the age of two! Scheer-2One of the children, Makai, was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and had special needs.  Reece came across an article that said children with FAS seemed to recover when they were raised around animals and in fresh air.  So what did Rob & Reece do?  Why, they bought a farm, of course!  But not just a farm … they also bought goats and chickens and ducks!  They are an amazing family, each child knowing beyond a doubt that he or she is loved and wanted.Scheer-1And while adopting those four gorgeous children, buying a farm, and loving them so much would be enough to qualify them as ‘good people’ in my book, the story doesn’t end there!  Rob was disturbed when, some 30 years after his own horrific experience of his first foster home and that garbage bag with his belongings, all four of his kids came to them in the exact same way … with their meager belongings in a garbage bag.  This weighed heavily on Rob’s mind, and he decided to take the bull by the horns, to do something to change it, and he started a non-profit called Comfort Cases.

“I couldn’t believe it. The trash bag that I had carried so many years prior to that had found its way back into my life. It’s just not acceptable that any child should carry their belongings in something that we all throw our trash in and dispose of.”

At this point, I want to let Rob tell you a bit about himself, the family, and Comfort Cases …

Part of the mission statement of Comfort Cases reads …

“At Comfort Cases we believe that every child deserves to feel a sense of dignity.  Every child deserves to pack their belongings in a special bag that they can call their own.  It is our mission as a charity to provide a proper bag, filled with comfort and essential items, to these brave youth in foster care on their journey to find their forever home.”Scheer clan on Ellen

Recently Rob & Reece were featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  I cannot embed the clip, but here is a link and I will tell you … you won’t regret seeing this and there won’t likely be a dry eye in the house!   At the end  of the segment, Ellen surprised the men with a check for $10,000 and $40,000 worth of luggage cases donated by Samsonite.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Rob and Reece through these two video clips … I think they are awesome men!  Meanwhile, two-thumbs up to Rob and Reece Scheer, two men who have done and continue to do good things for foster children!

Republicans Have Lost Their Way

Michael Gerson is a ‘neo-conservative’ Republican.  He served as the White House Director of Speechwriting and a senior policy advisor for nearly six years under President George W. Bush and is now a columnist for The Washington Post.  Like other Republicans and former Republicans, Gerson is no fan of Donald Trump and he makes no bones about it.  In his latest column, he takes on the Republican Party of which he is a member, and his assessment is spot-on.


The GOP’s agenda under Trump: Voter suppression, pandemic denial and a personality cult

Opinion by 

michael-gersonMichael Gerson

Columnist

Oct. 19, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. EDT

One of the most symbolic moments of campaign 2020 was when the apparatus of the Republican Party strained and groaned to produce a platform reading, “RESOLVED, That the Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”

It was, in its own content-free, witless way, an assertion of power. The party that had produced a platform every four years since 1856 had become, well, anything President Trump wished at the moment. It was a declaration and recognition of personal rule.

After nearly four years, it is fair to ask: With the GOP as putty in Trump’s hand, what form has it taken? What are the large, organizing commitments of the GOP during the Trump captivity?

One would have to be voter suppression. What began, for some, as an effort to ensure ballot security has become a campaign to control the content of the electorate by limiting its size.

Not long ago, I would have regarded this as conspiracy thinking. At some point, however, a pattern becomes a plot. There have been Republican efforts to make voting more difficult in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma. These have included: complicated absentee ballot processes, strict voter ID rules, obstacles for voters returning from prison, objections to the broad distribution of ballots and logistical obstacles to early voting. The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, set the example of shamelessness by limiting vast counties to a single ballot drop box. The president has attempted to destroy trust in the whole electoral enterprise in preparation for legal challenges to mail-in votes.

Again and again, Republicans have used, or attempted to use, the power they gained from voters to undermine democracy. This has a political intention but (for some) it also has an ideological explanation. It is the logical electoral implication of nativism. If too much diversity is the cause of our national problems, it can be fought by restricting immigration or by restricting the democratic participation of minorities. In either case, these are actions motivated by Republican fears of being swamped by people they can’t relate to and voted into obsolescence. So the GOP seems to expend more energy and creativity on discouraging minority voting than it does on doing minority outreach.

The second characteristic of the new GOP is denial of a pandemic in the midst of a surging pandemic. Trump and many other Republicans think they can win only if American voters forget about more than 219,000 deaths* from covid-19 and the utterly incompetent federal response to the crisis. It is hard to recall any American presidential campaign that depended so directly on the outbreak of mass amnesia.

Trump’s recent campaign visit to Wisconsin was remarkable for its brazenness. On a day Wisconsin saw its highest level of new infections during the pandemic, Trump told a crowd that had to be screened for coughs and fevers that the country was “rounding the corner” on covid-19 and that their state was insufficiently open. This is denial pressed to the point of lunacy. It is the elephant urging people to ignore the elephant in the room.

The third organizing commitment of the GOP under Trump is loyalty to his person. At the beginning of his term, there was a Republican attempt to understand the populism that elected Trump and draw its policy implications. That ended quickly. The president made clear that the only thing that really mattered about populism was its end product: himself.

Populist causes — such as discrediting the media and “owning the libs” — are instruments to protect Trump from attack and project his own power. His whole term has been the chaotic and brutish attempt to find the people who would take his whims as law. And elected Republicans (except the admirable Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah) have been ruled by the fear of Trump’s tweeted tantrums. As Trump seems headed toward electoral failure, a few Republicans are recovering their own voices. But it won’t be easy to escape this taint. Years of complicity with Trump’s assault on American institutions is less like a bad haircut than an infected tattoo.

Some would add a conservative judiciary to this list of GOP commitments, and there is a case to be made. But this is no longer advocated in the context of moral conservatism, as it was in the Reagan era. The goal now is to secure conservative judges from a morally anarchic administration. A cause has been reduced to a transaction.

What should we make of this GOP agenda: voter suppression, disease denial and a personality cult dedicated to a con man? It is the weakest appeal to the public of any modern presidential candidate. The Republican Party may win or lose. But it deserves to lose.

*Note that as of this writing, the death toll in the U.S. from coronavirus is at least 225,570.

A Lot Can Happen In Three Months …

The official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is currently at 225,222 (as of 11:04 p.m. on 10/19/2020).  There are over 2.7 million active cases of the coronavirus in the nation at this time.  The most recent unemployment data, from September, shows 12.58 million people are unemployed in the U.S.  And yet, Trump & Co were planning a cut to the food stamp program that would have cut off food stamps to some 700,000 people.

It has long been obvious that neither Trump nor any of his cronies have that thing we call a conscience, that they do not care about anyone but themselves, or anything but wealth.  But, fortunately for the people of this country, despite Trump’s efforts to pack the courts with partisan judges, some fair and honest judges remain on the bench.  One such is U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who on Sunday struck down the Trumpian plan to restrict the federal food safety net.

According to The Washington Post

Beryl-HowellIn a scathing 67-page opinion, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of D.C. condemned the Agriculture Department for failing to justify or even address the impact of the sweeping change on states, saying its shortcomings had been placed in stark relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, during which unemployment has quadrupled and rosters of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have grown by more than 17 percent, with more than 6 million new enrollees.

The rule “at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans,” Howell wrote, adding that the Agriculture Department “has been icily silent about how many [adults] would have been denied SNAP benefits had the changes sought . . . been in effect while the pandemic rapidly spread across the country.” The judge concluded that the department’s “utter failure to address the issue renders the agency action arbitrary and capricious.”

Funny, isn’t it, that the federal government, comprised of uber-wealthy men … and a few equally wealthy women … is quick to make cuts in funding to programs like food stamps, quick to say “no” when California asks for assistance fighting the worst wildfires in history, but they can seem to find the money to fly Trump, his grown children, his assistants, and a Secret Service crew all over the country … to golf courses, his Mar-a-Lago resort, and his inane rallies where few wear masks and care not a whit about the well-being of their families and friends!  Oh yes, and let us not forget that We the People paid an estimated $40,000+ for him to take a helicopter for the 8.5 mile trip from the White House to Walter Reed hospital earlier this month.   And then, there was the cost of his care for the three-day stay at Walter Reed.  You or I … well, suffice it to say we would have stayed home, drank hot tea, rested, and hoped for the best.

So, we can afford the extravagances of Trump, his family, and his minions, but we cannot afford to feed people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.  In addition, Trump & Co have plans for two more measures that would cap deductions for utility allowance and limit access to food stamps for working poor families.  It is my hope that those, too, will either languish incomplete until Trump leaves office on January 20th, or that they, too, will be struck down in the courts.

Where, I would ask, is the humanity in our federal government?  It damn sure isn’t in the White House or any of the federal agencies tasked with a variety of things from the health and safety of the nation to protecting the environment to the education of our youth!

In recent days, federal agencies have been rushing to enact regulatory changes affecting millions of people in this country, as they are seeing the very real possibility that their time to do so is likely to be limited to another three months.  Some of their rushed proposals include easing limits on how many hours some truckers can spend behind the wheel, giving the government more freedom to collect biometric data and setting federal standards for when workers can be classified as independent contractors rather than employees.  There is also a proposed rule to allow railroads to move highly flammable liquefied natural gas on freight trains … just what we need!

Trump’s team is limiting or sidestepping requirements for public comment on some of the changes and swatting aside critics who say the administration has failed to carry out sufficiently rigorous analysis.  The Trumpites are also working to fill key vacancies on scientific advisory boards with members who will hold their seats far into the next presidential term, committees that play an important role in shaping federal rule making.  Given that, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, Trump selected a man, Scott Atlas, who has absolutely zero experience or knowledge of public health or infectious diseases to lead his coronavirus task force, it’s almost a given that the people who are selected for the scientific advisory boards will be equally unqualified.  A climate change denier in a key position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?  Oh wait … we already have that in the form of one Andrew Wheeler, head of the EPA and a former lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry.  Until 2017, Wheeler represented Murray Energy, one of the dirtiest, most crooked coal companies in the nation, but a big donor to the 2016 campaign of one Donald Trump.

There are exactly two weeks until election day, but we won’t likely have final results for a week or longer thereafter.  Then another two months until inauguration day when, hopefully, we can say “Goodbye and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out” to Donald Trump.  But in the interim … there is so much damage that could potentially be done.  Let us hope the courts keep on doing their jobs and striking him down, because if they don’t, we will pay the price in spades.

To Hold Trump Accountable — Or Not?

I apologize in advance for the lengthiness of this post, but I thought it was one worth consideration.  I have mixed feelings on this issue of whether Trump should be held to account for his actions such as obstruction of justice, bribery, conspiracy to defraud, and campaign finance violations once he leaves office.  On the one hand, I do want to see him treated just as any of the rest of us would be for harming the people of this nation, but on the other hand … can we truly begin to heal the Great Divide in this nation if Trump remains headline news for the next two years or longer?  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Sam Tanenhaus’ OpEd from The Washington Post last Friday


The reckoning

The country can’t recover from Trump’s presidency unless he’s held accountable

tannenhaus-samBy Sam Tanenhaus

October 16, 2020

Some Americans entertain a fantasy that goes like this: President Trump is voted out of office, finally faces justice for his serial misconduct and shuffles off to prison. A wearier, probably larger population looks forward to scrubbing the nation’s memory of these past four years and returning to pre-Trump life. A third sizable group shows unwavering loyalty to Trump.

One lesson of American history is that the country’s worst injuries are those we’ve caused ourselves. This history is not uplifting, but it is edifying, and it haunts. Failing to perform the necessary diagnostic surgery after a time of collective wrongdoing has costs. The steepest is this: Subsequent generations inherit a weakened democracy. Today it is imperative to confront the facts of the Trump era. We elected as president a homegrown insurrectionist. He rose to the highest position in our democracy and damaged it. Even now, he continues to assault our laws and institutions, our independent judiciary, our national security, our health, and our constitutional system of checks and balances. It’s unimaginable, ludicrous even, to contemplate doing nothing about Donald Trump.

No single course for a post-Trump reckoning will satisfy, let alone reconcile, the country’s divergent constituencies. And some damage can’t easily be undone — harm to America’s standing in the world, for example, and the fatally negligent response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in the search for accountability there are middle-path options that fall between prosecuting this singular president and prosecuting his broader legacy. One is to begin with a problem that Americans across the ideological spectrum agree needs fixing: our elections.

Elections are the place to start because so much of Trump’s misconduct relates to them. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election resulted in three dozen indictments or guilty pleas and five prison sentences, all related to Trump campaign actions during that election and afterward, when the president and others tried to cover up what they had done. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, have both done time. The Senate Intelligence Committee — led by Republicans — produced a nearly 1,000-page report detailing the Trump team’s misdeeds, most pertaining to the 2016 election. Prosecutors in New York, meanwhile, are digging further into Trump’s payment of hush money to a porn star ahead of the vote. And of course, in his impeachment, Trump was charged with misusing his office to try to get help from Ukraine in his reelection campaign — in violation of election law and of the framers’ fear that a president might, in James Madison’s words, “betray his trust to foreign powers.”

In at least one thing Trump has been proved right. Joe Biden is a strong opponent. If he is elected (increasingly likely), and if Democrats hold on to their majority in the House (it seems probable) and achieve one in the Senate (distinctly possible), they will be in a position to mount the kind of full-scale investigation they have been kept from doing while Trump is president.

But will the next administration hold the Trump crew truly accountable for past crimes, such as those uncovered by Mueller, the House impeachment committees and the Senate, to say nothing of the Trump family’s financial dealings? Should it? Yes, some will say, because of Trump’s long trail of malfeasance and mis-governance, which also involves top administration figures such as Attorney General William Barr. But the price of such an inquiry would be considerable. It could rebound against Democrats and undermine public confidence in their fairness and sense of proportion.

We are a fiercely divided country. As the historian Garry Wills remarked to me recently, the true crisis of our moment consists “of Trump showing us not about Trump but about us.” Republicans continue to support Trump as faithfully as any president in modern memory. It is true that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he won 30 states. No matter the result in November, the tribal feelings that now define American politics will not change. They might intensify.

This is partly an outgrowth of Trump’s approach to the presidency — his unapologetic conception of the office as explicitly serving him and those on his side, even as he wages war against those who oppose or even question him. The formula, as Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine, is blunt and direct: “If Trump’s opponents are doing something, it’s a crime; if Trump and his allies are doing it, it isn’t.”

The president’s supporters have a grievance of their own. They can say that Trump’s enemies tried to delegitimize him from the moment he took office. His detractors spoke early and excitedly about impeachment, as though the removal of a president was sport. This was why cooler heads, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urged caution after Democrats regained a majority in the House.

With Ukraine, everything changed. The facts were clear. Trump’s plea to the Ukrainian president that he “do us a favor” by announcing that he would investigate Biden was a textbook case of abuse of power. It hardly mattered. Republicans mounted a counteroffensive, echoing Trump’s cry of “witch hunt.” The rest was an elaborate performance in which the only verdict that seemed to matter was public opinion. Yet the most significant poll showed that two-thirds of Americans, regardless of the outcome, would not change their minds.

Attacks on Trump, no matter how justified, have dependably aroused his base. There is no reason to think his post-presidency will be different. What’s to stop Citizen Trump from continuing to operate at the margins of the law, but without the cover of the White House and in the knowledge that there would be a reluctance to prosecute a former president? A fresh investigation, broadcast over the “lying” media, could play right into Trump’s program of self-glorification.

And yet, America is not just a political carnival with gladiators in the arena and spectators in the stands. It is also a democratic republic — a nation of laws, procedures, history and tradition. A good, or rather ghastly, example of history failing to hold its chief actors accountable is the first president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, in 1868. For many years schoolchildren were taught, with the aid of the book “Profiles in Courage” by John F. Kennedy, that Johnson’s escape from removal was an act of high statesmanship. Supposedly Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas, a Republican who went against his party and voted to acquit, “may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity constitutional government in the United States.” The real villains, in Kennedy’s view (shared by many at the time), were the “Radical Republicans,” who arrogantly treated the defeated Confederate states as “conquered provinces” and wanted to “crush their despised foe” and voted to convict.

Today the episode is judged very differently. Johnson, most agree, was one of the worst presidents in history and a danger to the republic. Taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he flagrantly violated the principles of post-Civil War Reconstruction. He sided with “all-white Southern state governments full of ex-Confederates, stood by when they enacted ‘black codes’ that oppressed ex-slaves, and took no action when racist mobs began to murder black Southerners,” according to a history in The Washington Post. Johnson’s removal would have sent a powerful message about the nation’s new, post-slavery course; his acquittal instead reinforced pro-Confederate sympathies, which have lingered for generations.

So, too, with the case of the next president to face impeachment, Richard Nixon. He resigned in 1974 when it became clear that he faced removal for his Watergate crimes. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him. For years, the thinking was that Ford’s action was statesmanlike, and the nation gratefully heard his soothing assurances that “our long national nightmare is over.” But the pardon helped plant the seeds of a counter-history of Watergate, promulgated by Nixon and his defenders, that Nixon was not the perpetrator but the victim, hounded by the liberal media, and that the investigations and impeachment were an  example of “the criminalization of politics.”

What happened afterward may suggest a sensible approach to holding Trump accountable. In 1975, after the New York Times published a sensational report by Seymour Hersh under the headline “Huge C.I.A. operation reported in U.S. against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years,” the Senate organized a committee to examine the long history of Cold War intelligence. The chairman was Sen. Frank Church of Idaho. Respected legislators from both parties, giants of the period, also were on the panel. Their inquest looked hard at the Nixon administration but also pressed further and turned up patterns of wrongdoing by three predecessors, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Not everyone was happy with the result. The intelligence community felt under siege. But no one could accuse the committee of being partisan.

Here is a possible road map, then, for a public accounting of the Trump years. Instead of mounting an investigation of all his excesses and corruptions, the Biden administration could reach out to Trump’s supporters with a statement acknowledging their concerns, and Trump’s, that our elections are “rigged.” Why not take him at his word? To some extent, many are — in both parties. Each has assembled teams of lawyers and operatives for state-by-state legal battles, in the expectation that if Trump loses, he will challenge the results.

At that point, rightly or wrongly, a substantial portion of the country will question the validity of our elections. This has happened before, in 2000. Biden, as president, might address these concerns, respectfully announcing that he will set up an Election Commission, a formal investigation on the scale of the Warren Commission, which tried to uncover the facts of the Kennedy assassination, or the commission formed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A more immediate example is the panel convened after the 2000 election. Chaired by former presidents Ford and Jimmy Carter, it presented recommendations. One was that there be a ceiling of 2 percent on the share of votes thrown out because of errors. Another was to have a federal agency create national standards for voting machines. A third was to restore voting rights in all 50 states to felons who had served their sentences. President George W. Bush supported the “key principles” stated by the panel and urged Congress to act on them. But the operative word was “recommendations.” The report did not say the government should require these changes. And so almost 20 years later, the defects remain.

But the circumstances are different now; the crisis has grown. Trump has sown doubts about our elections for the whole of his presidency. As soon as he took office, he declared that the 2016 election was “rigged” because the popular vote had gone against him. He organized a “commission” of his own on voter fraud, with Vice President Pence in charge. It quietly disbanded eight months later, having met a total of two times and without filing a report. The material it did produce was “glaringly empty,” in the words of one member. A commission set up by Biden could take up the work of Trump’s panel, only push much further.

And this is where the Church Committee could be a good model. Just as it pursued the trail of intelligence wrongdoing back to the early years of the Cold War, so Biden’s blue-ribbon panel would start with the 2000 election and the recommendations made afterward, this time pointing out what was lost because those recommendations were not adopted. From this premise, the commission could range widely and hear testimony on many important matters — for instance, efforts to suppress African American and Hispanic votes in battleground states. Every Republican who has affirmed or suggested that the 2020 elections are rigged, beginning with Trump himself, would be given a chance to testify with immunity and in a closed session, their words recorded. The findings would be released with ample transcripts.

Such a proceeding will be vulnerable to accusations of bias. But the facts would be on the record, and perhaps we would learn more about how democracy works, and doesn’t work, and what we can do to repair it.

Trump Will Take White Evangelicals Down With Him

It would seem, based on the evidence, that evangelical Christianity produces some of the world’s most gullible fools. Sigh. Our friend Jerry takes a look at some of the lunacy and hypocrisy.  Good post, Jerry … thanks!

On The Fence Voters

Ralph Reed, president of the conservative evangelical Faith and Freedom Coalition,recently stated, “I think the 81 percent of the evangelical vote that Trump received four years ago is the floor. I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that he could end up in the mid-80s.”

No Moving the Truly Faithful

While polls have found every other demographic class leaping from the disaster-bound Trump train—and that includes white menin general—most white evangelicals are determined to hang on for the wild ride to the last stop—Obliteration Station.

While polls have found every other demographic class leaping from the disaster-bound Trump train—and that includes white menin general—most white evangelicals are determined to hang on for the wild ride to the last stop—Obliteration Station.

Yes, even many of Trump’s basest Congressional grovelers have finally deciphered the writing on the doomed king’s wall and havebegun to…

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Tell me why I ask some more?

Our friend Keith asks a lot of questions … questions we should ALL be asking … and more. Thank you, Keith, for homing in on some of the most relevant questions we must all be asking in the course of the next two weeks.

musingsofanoldfart

I am puzzled with inconsistencies. Using The Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” once again, allow me to ask a few more questions.

Why should we believe someone who said two months ago he did not know who QAnon is, tweeted more QAnon based inane conspiracies. applauded a Georgia Republican Congressional candidate who touts such inanity and then repeats on national TV he still did not know who QAnon is?

Why should we believe the same person whose modus operandi is to create fear, say he did not want to tell Americans the truth about the coronavirus as he did not want to create a panic? Panic is his currency. It seemed OK for him to relay the inane QAnon tweet about Osama Bin Laden.

Why should we believe someone who repeatedly says and does racist things and endorses groups that want to diminish the rights of non-whites, then claims he…

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