Rights And Freedoms — Part I — Freedom of Speech

1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 15 December 1791


Throughout the centuries, very few limitations have been placed on the First Amendment even as people pushed the envelope using it as cover for everything from child pornography to outright threats of violence.  Let’s make something perfectly clear up front here, since today all I hear is people proclaiming their ‘rights’:  Your freedom, your ‘right’ stops where it crosses the line of another person’s freedom or rights.  Period.

You have a right to exercise your freedom of religion by holding a religious ceremony for whatever purpose you see fit, but you cannot hold it on my lawn.  You have a right to tell me what you think of me, but not to threaten me or my family with bodily harm.  And I have a right to set limits in my own home, such as you do NOT have a right to bring a gun into my home. 

Two of my overseas friends last week, David in the UK and Andrea in Australia, both made essentially the same comment, that the United States has too many of the wrong sort of freedoms.  I didn’t have to think about it long … about 15 seconds, I think … to realize that they are both right and that I fully agree.  Our Constitution gives us a number of rights, but we have abused them, for we seem not to remember that with rights come responsibilities.  You have a right to say what you think, but also a responsibility not to cause harm.  You have a right to worship as you please, but also a responsibility to recognize and honour the fact that others have the same right and may not share your same views.

I was a teen during the Vietnam War years when protesting was almost a career for some, and yet I never saw the same sort of hatred, the incitement for violence, the outright lies that I am seeing in our country today.  Sure, young people were angry in the 1960s that our government was sending our young men – brothers, boyfriends, husbands – to fight a war halfway across the world that we knew could not be won.  But we didn’t threaten to kill.  We knew better than to cross certain lines of decency.

Not long ago, the Republican Party issued an edict of sorts claiming that the seditious attempted coup on January 6th 2021 was “Legitimate Political Discourse”.  My jaw still drops when I hear that.  NO, IT WAS NOT!  Police officers died defending the Capitol and democracy on that day. Property belonging to We the People was damaged, there were threats to the lives of Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. And the goal was to overturn the will of the people, to deny our voices, to essentially overturn the United States government and the Constitution. It was not discourse, it was not civil, and it was NOT what the framers of the U.S. Constitution had in mind back in 1787. 

I cannot condone, nor should anyone condone, the use of foul language or threats of bodily harm … that is not ‘freedom of speech’, that is incitement of violence.  When people condemn or threaten those in the LGBTQ+ community, that is NOT freedom of speech … that is robbing someone else of the freedom to live in safety, being who they are.  Again … your freedom STOPS at the point where it infringes on mine or another person’s.  You do NOT have the right to dictate who a person should marry, whether a woman should have a child or not, what religion – if any – a person observes, where they live, or what they believe.

We are a nation of rights and freedoms, but we have historically abused them, never more so than in this, the 21st century.  If we continue to abuse them, we will lose them.  No, that is not hyperbole … at some point, we will lose the freedom to say what’s on our mind if we cannot do so within the confines or decency and respect.  Perhaps James Madison, the chief author of the First Amendment, gave people too much credit for humanity, compassion, and human decency.  Perhaps they did not realize that at some point, destruction and inciting violence would be classified as ‘free speech’, else they might have put some constraints on that ‘right’.  Or, perhaps people then were kinder, more deserving of a nearly unlimited freedom of speech.


We hear a lot these days about individual ‘freedoms’ and ‘rights’ but very little about the responsibilities that accompany those freedoms and rights.  Over the course of the next week or two, I plan to do another post or two on other of our rights such as freedom of the press and the 2nd Amendment, the ‘right’ to bear arms.  Please feel free to make suggestions if there are other ‘rights’ you would like to see discussed.

Thoughts On Nancy Pelosi

Love her or hate her, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dedicated much of her life in service to this nation and has been an effective leader.  Yesterday she, along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, announced that she is stepping down come January from her leadership position.  In his latest, Dan Rather takes a look back at some of Pelosi’s accomplishments …


Madam Speaker

A record of results

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

18 November 2022

Nancy Pelosi has been one of the more consequential politicians in American history. As she leaves her party’s House leadership after years in the spotlight, we should take this moment to recognize the scale of her accomplishments.

In the tumult of the present, it is sometimes challenging to see a bigger picture. As we look back at history, however, we can see that much of the cacophony that preoccupied those living through the eras of the past dissipates. This perspective allows us to understand broader trends and the people who shaped the course of events. One suspects that those in the future trying to make sense of our times will reserve a place of prominence for Pelosi.

We can start with her effectiveness in leading a caucus that has been notorious for its fractiousness. Both as speaker and House minority leader, Pelosi was able to balance the centrifugal forces that would have overwhelmed lesser politicians. She understood the breadth and limits of her power. And more often than not, she was able to play the hand the voters had given her to impressive effect.

Her tenure has been historic. In 2007, she became the first woman speaker of the House. And after the Democrats lost the chamber four years later, she managed her party in the minority until returning to speaker again in 2019. Her pioneering status was clearly a source of pride for Pelosi, but she didn’t stand around admiring her own role in history. For her, achieving the speaker’s gavel was about maximizing the legislation her party could pass with the votes she could wrangle

Most of the country had given up Obamacare for dead after the 2010 special election of Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat. But Pelosi found a way to keep the long-held Democratic dream of expanding health care alive. She willed it into law using every lever of power she could muster, even though she knew it would hurt her party at the ballot box in the subsequent midterms.

Pelosi believed being entrusted with power was more about what you did with it than about keeping it. In intensive legislative sessions in the first two years of the Obama presidency and later with President Biden, she was able to pass a slate of bills that will shape this nation for decades to come. At the end of the George W. Bush administration, she understood the gravity of the financial debacle and passed an unpopular bailout of the banks to keep our economy from complete collapse. During the Trump administration, she stood as a foil to a chief executive out of control.

Pelosi’s pragmatic leadership and eagerness to protect vulnerable members of her caucus, especially in more conservative districts, often led to criticism from the progressive wing of her party that she was too cautious. Many felt she could have pushed for more progressive measures and that the House could have provided greater oversight of the Trump White House. One wonders how future historians will evaluate her balancing acts.

Of course the greatest vitriol for Pelosi has come from the other side of the aisle. She has been consistently demonized by the political right, who have turned her into a caricature upon whom they rained down opprobrium with relentless glee. In fevered segments on Fox News and political attack ads, Pelosi has been depicted as a radical socialist from that modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, San Francisco.

She (and make no mistake — Pelosi’s gender underpinned the attacks she endured) became a useful shorthand for what her political enemies railed as the antithesis of “real America.” It is not surprising that the violent insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were hunting for her. Sadly, her husband was recently badly injured by an assailant who broke into their home after being influenced by this poisonous rhetoric.

That Pelosi was actually an unusually effective politician who occupied the political center of her party and whose actions belied the histrionic characterizations of her Republican opponents probably only fed the bullying. Just as the taunts on schoolyards are often fueled by insecurity, one has a sense that many Republicans were jealous of Pelosi’s political acumen. That she was able to so effectively push a broad Democratic agenda and stymie Republicans on multiple fronts could predictably propel a hatred born from their impotence and frustration.

While presidents sweep into office with a national vote, our system of government allows for individuals to rise to significant power in the legislative branch despite representing a relatively small sliver of our country’s geography. There are no term limits. And the sway of control in Congress means members can find themselves in both the majority and minority, sometimes multiple times, over the course of their tenure in office. And that was the case with Pelosi.

Few have understood the workings of Congress and how to maximize them for the benefit of their agenda more than Pelosi. Nobody outworked her, nobody out-toughed her, and few could match her intellect. Contrary to the claims of her critics, she also understood America well, especially the needs of the members of her caucus who hailed from a diversity of districts. She was able to balance the opportunity of the moment with the needs of the future.

Being the first woman to serve as speaker of the House would alone have made Pelosi a historic figure. But in the end, it is for all the reasons that Pelosi was vilified that she will be remembered as such a consequential leader who shaped her political era. Generations to come will live in the country she helped forge through the force of her will and transformative political skill.

Everything Is Not Alright

I was determined to either find another topic than Tuesday’s elections here in the U.S., else not write a post for this morning.  I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about the elections, especially those of you who live outside the U.S. as nearly half of my readers do, and frankly I’m tired of talking/writing about them.  So, I was going to write about … oh, maybe the COP27 taking place this week, or the ignominious Kanye West, or … something!  But then … as I was attempting to reduce the clutter in my email inbox, I came across a piece by Thomas Friedman that … well, it just begs to be shared.  And so, once again, I’d like to talk about this election … and things to come.  Some of what Mr. Friedman says is frightening, much of it is not what we hoped to hear, but I believe he is right and that his words carry a great deal of wisdom for what happens in the future, not only here in the U.S., but elsewhere.

Thomas Friedman knows of what he speaks.  A three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of seven books ranging from topics such as foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues, he is currently a weekly columnist for the New York Times.


America Dodged an Arrow

By Thomas Friedman

09 November 2022

You can hold off moving to Canada. You can forgo the call to the New Zealand Embassy on how to become a citizen there. Tuesday’s election really was the most important test since the Civil War of whether the engine of our constitutional system — our ability to peacefully and legitimately transfer power — remains intact. And it looks to have come through — a little dinged up, but OK.

I am still not even close to ready to sound the all-clear, to declare that running on a platform of election denialism will never tempt another American politician. But given the unprecedented degree to which election denialism was elevated in this midterm and the way several big-name Trump-imitating knuckleheads who made denialism central to their campaigns got their clocks cleaned —- we may have just dodged one of the biggest arrows ever aimed at the heart of our democracy.

To be sure, another arrow could target us at any moment, but the whole U.S. electoral system — in red states and blue — seemed to perform admirably, almost shrugging off the last two years of controversy, diminishing it to what it always was: the shameful fabrication of one man and his most shameless sycophants and imitators. Given the threat posed by Trump denialists to the acceptance and legitimacy of our elections, that is a big deal (and hopefully it will last through the Arizona count).

It could not come at a better time as the leaders of both Russia and China have manipulated their systems to entrench themselves in power beyond their previously established terms of office.

One of their arguments to their own people in doing so was to point to things like the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection in America and the seeming chaos of our elections to tell their citizens: “That’s what democracy looks like. Is that what you want here?”

Indeed, in May, during his commencement address to the U.S. Naval Academy’s graduating class, President Biden recalled when President Xi Jinping of China congratulated him in 2020 on his election: “He said democracies cannot be sustained in the 21st century; autocracies will run the world. Why? Things are changing so rapidly. Democracies require consensus, and it takes time, and you don’t have the time.”

For that reason, both Xi and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin — and the supreme leader in Iran now facing an uprising led by Iranian women — lost on Tuesday night, too. Because the more wild and unstable our politics, the less able we become to peacefully transfer power, the easier it is for them to justify never doing so.

But while election denialism took a thumping this week as a winning message, none of the things that are still eating away at the foundations of American democracy — and preventing us from actually getting big hard things done — have gone away.

I am talking about the way in which our primary system, gerrymandering and social networks have coalesced to steadily poison our national dialogue, steadily polarize our society into political tribes and steadily erode the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust.

Without being able to agree on what is true, we don’t know which way to go. And without being able to trust one another, we can’t head there together. And everything big and hard needs to be done together.

So, our enemies would be wise not to leave us for dead, but we would be even wiser not to conclude that, because we avoided the worst, we’ve locked in the best going forward.

Everything is not all right.

We are as divided coming out of this election as we were going into it. But to the extent that the red wave did not manifest itself — particularly in swing states like Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman won a Senate seat over the Trump-endorsed Dr. Oz, and in swing districts like one in central Virginia where Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger was re-elected by defeating another Trump-backed candidate — it was because enough independents and moderate Republicans and Democrats showed up to put Fetterman and Spanberger over the top.

“There is still a viable group of centrist voters out there, who, when given a valid choice — not everywhere, and not always, but in some key districts — asserted themselves,” Don Baer, who was a communications director in the Clinton White House, told me. “I think there are still a lot of voters saying: ‘We want a viable center, where we can figure out how to make things happen that can really help people, even if it isn’t perfect or all at once. We don’t want every election to be existential.’”

The challenge, added Baer, “is, how do you take that sentiment to scale and make it work in Washington on a regular basis?”

I don’t know, but, if this election is a sign that we are at least edging back from the brink, it’s because enough Americans still fall into this independent or centrist camp and do not want to keep dwelling on the grievances, lies and fantasies of Donald Trump, which they can see are making the G.O.P. crazy and roiling the whole country. They also don’t want to be shackled by the woke enforcers of the far left, and they are terrified by the spread of the kind of sick political violence that was just visited on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

We owe a huge debt for keeping this center alive to Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and Democratic Representative Elaine Luria. The three of them helped to spearhead the Jan. 6 investigation in Congress and ended up being forced out of office as a result. But the message that committee sent to enough voters — that we must never, ever, ever let something like this happen again — surely also contributed to the absence of a pro-Trump wave in this midterm election.

In sum, we did not get a clean bill of health. We got a diagnosis that our political white blood cells did OK in beating back the metastasizing infection that threatened to kill our whole electoral system. But that infection is still here, which is why the doctor advised, “Behave in healthy ways, build back your strength and return in 24 months for another scan.”

Oh Please, Merrick Garland, SOS!

Robert Reich’s first three sentences of his newsletter this morning echoes my own sentiments exactly.  I don’t want to write about him, don’t want to hear his name or see his ugly mug, and I will go one step further on the third point … I wish he didn’t exist.  Never in my 71 years has a single person disgusted and sickened me as much as the former guy.  But the reality is … we cannot afford to ignore him.


Trump Redux

He looms over the 2022 midterm elections. He cannot be ignored or wished away.

By Robert Reich

24 October 2022

I really don’t want to write about him any more. I’d rather not even think about him. Honestly, I’d rather forget he existed.

But he looms over the 2022 elections like a sword of Damocles. Trump continues to dominate all political coverage. In many respects, he is still the center of American politics — if anything, bigger and more dangerous than he was when he left the White House.

First, consider all the action in federal and state courts.

Just within the last two weeks, Trump has been subpoenaed to appear before the January 6 committee, his appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the FBI’s seizure at Mar-a-Lago of secret documents he stole from the White House was rejected, his former aide Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress, a federal appeals court denied a request by Sen. Lindsey Graham to be shielded from testifying in an investigation into Trump’s interference in the 2020 election in Georgia, other aides were observed after testifying before a grand jury in the criminal investigation of Jan. 6, his name was featured in text messages read aloud at the Oath Keepers trial, and his decision to form a new company (Trump Organization II) was criticized by the New York attorney general, who is suing him.

Never before in history has a former president, his aides, and supporters in Congress been as entangled in legal proceedings stretching years beyond his administration. Never have the legal maneuvers attracted more media attention.

Second is the continuing speculation about whether Merrick Garland will indict him.

The Jan 6 committee has done an outstanding job, but it has also helped Trump become a more historically significant. As Politico’s John Harris noted,  

“The usual journalistic crutch when assessing political legacies is ‘for better or worse,’ but in this case it is only for worse. Trump’s historic significance flows from how effectively he has made people doubt what was previously beyond doubt — that American democracy is on the level — and how brilliantly he has illuminated just how much this generation of Americans looks at one another with mutual contempt and mutual incomprehension.”

While the Jan. 6 committee has dismantled Trump’s deceptions and denialism surrounding the 2020 election, it has also helped build Trump into something larger than he appeared two years ago — a political force too serious to forget. That’s not a bad thing; we must not allow ourselves to forget what he has done to America. But it does cast his shadow over our future in ways few former presidents have ever managed.

Third is the groundwork for an undemocratic coup that Trump and his henchmen continue to lay.

That groundwork is being prepared step by step. A majority of Republican candidates for office in the 2020 midterms are election deniers, including several candidates for the crucial election jobs of secretaries of state and governors.  

The tactics they and their supporters used in primary elections force us to brace for a range of new challenges in the upcoming midterms and in 2024, including disruptive poll watchers and workers, aggressive litigation strategies, voter and ballot challenges and vigilante searches for fraud.

He will almost certainly declare his candidacy for president in 2024 within the next few months.

Just as menacingly for 2024 and beyond, the Supreme Court has taken up the “independent state legislature” doctrine. If upheld, this doctrine would allow state legislatures to do exactly what Trump tried to do in December 2020 — appoint their own slates of electors, regardless of the popular vote.

Finally, Twitter and Facebook are poised to allow Trump back on — to continue to spread his lies on the largest megaphones in the world.

Trump is not only a sociopath. He is also a masterful conman. Social media will soon allow him to continue to spread his lies and hate. (Elon Musk has virtually guaranteed it for Twitter if, as expected, Musk takes over that platform. Facebook has signaled it will do the same.)

A sociopathic conman on social media is terrifying.

It is our terrible misfortune that Trump came to power and continues to infect America and the world just as the tangled weave of other crises — near-record inequality, bigotry (racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia), the climate, the pandemic — have made many Americans vulnerable to his demagoguery.

I didn’t want to write about him today or even think about him. But none of us dares turn our eyes away in revulsion.

Rather than ignore him, we must demand that Trump be prosecuted. Instead of pretending the poison he released into the American system is behind us, we must acknowledge that it is spreading.

As opposed to dismissing him, we must deal with him and the lawmakers who are enabling him head-on — and stop him, and them, through every non-violent means possible.

Your Daily Dose of Snarklets

I decided that these mini-snippets of snark should be called ‘snarklets’, and today I have limited time, but a number of these little snarklets bouncing about in my head.


A nice little vacation?

Well, as you all know, Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned under duress yesterday morning after taking only 45 days to practically destroy the economy of the UK.  So now comes the big question:  who will replace Ms. Truss?  From what I’m reading, there are three main possibilities and guess who heads the list?  Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has only been out of office for the same 45 days that Ms. Truss occupied it.  So … what this looks like to me is Boris, not-so-affectionately known as BoJo, wanted a little vacation, so the Tories hired Ms. Truss to fill in for him so he could have a month-and-a-half to spend cruising about the Caribbean, catching some rays, eating good food and drinking fine wine.  Must be nice.  And if they think Boris will be any better leader after his little vacation … think again.


Bye Steve!

Well, it looks like a small bit of justice has been handed down and Steve Bannon is actually going to prison for defying a subpoena to appear before the January 6th committee.  He was convicted back in July on two charges of Contempt of Congress – one for failing to appear for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents requested by the committee.  This morning, Judge Carl Nichols handed down a four-month prison sentence – about four years less than he deserves, but at least it’s something.  Or is it?  The judge ‘paused’ the sentence until Bannon’s appeal can be heard.  Welcome to another episode of “Drag Our Feet”, for Bannon will likely be long dead before he sees the inside of a prison cell.


Boomerang LePage

Some politicians, usually the worst of the worst, just won’t go away … they keep coming back like a boomerang or more aptly, a bad penny.  Just one example is former Maine governor Paul LePage, a blatant racist who was voted out in 2016.  You can read some of LePage’s lunacy in my two 2016 posts about him:  Another Unsavory Politician … LePage  and Time For A Change In The Governor’s Mansion!.  Suffice it to say that the man is one brick short of a dozen, is a cruel and bigoted excuse for a man, and yet he has the unmitigated gall to run for his old position yet again?  Fortunately, it doesn’t look like he’s doing too well against incumbent Janet Mills.  Which of these two people would you want for governor …


Okay, folks, that’s all the snarking I’ve got time for today but you know there’ll be more soon!  Have a great weekend ahead!

The (Sort Of) Final Word …

Did you watch the televised hearings, probably the last one, on Thursday afternoon?  In case you missed it, you can still see it here.  Dan Rather’s assessment of the proceedings is well stated, so rather than attempt to re-invent the wheel (mine would no doubt turn out square), I turn you over to Dan & Elliot from their newsletter on Thursday evening following the hearings.


Breaking The Republic

January 6 wasn’t an accident

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

(Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

“That, my fellow citizens, breaks the republic.” 

This was the chilling conclusion of Liz Cheney today at the January 6 hearings over what would have happened if the guardrails of our democracy, exposed for their frailty in 2020, had buckled to an autocrat determined to hold onto power. And the danger remains. “Without accountability, it all becomes normal, and it will recur,” Cheney warned. 

Cheney’s statement is striking in its simplicity and its power. Her audience is her “fellow citizens,” the ones who will be going to the polls in less than a month to decide who should lead this nation going forward. Her fellow Republicans have cast Cheney as a pariah for having the courage to state the truth: that their leader wanted to destroy America as we know it. 

What the committee presented today shed a spotlight on the authorship of this historic tragedy. It is Trump who is the playwright, conjuring and casting the roles of those who would act out his destructive intentions. It was he who dreamt up and directed a frontal attack on American democracy. But he couldn’t have done it without his willing accomplices. 

Today, we saw footage of members of Congress grappling in real time with a deteriorating situation on January 6 that could have ended with more bloodshed and the decimation of governmental order. We could feel a visceral fear in their actions and words, not only for their own personal safety but for the safety of the nation they had sworn an oath to serve. Those who could have intervened, starting with the president but including his top aides inside the White House, were absent. And that is just as the president wanted it. We heard today evidence that Trump knew he had lost, and he didn’t care what it would take to retain power.

This man who shamelessly pounds his chest with protestations of patriotism, who literally wraps himself in the American flag, who demonizes his political opponents as haters of America is really the one who views our imperfect experiment in self-governance with disgust. Elections. The rule of law. Peaceful transfers of power. The will of the people. These are the pillars of our nation’s foundation. But for Trump, that’s all just for suckers. He had the presidency, and he didn’t plan on relinquishing it, no matter what the voters or the Constitution said. 

January 6 wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a rally that spun out of control. It was a dangerous and violent storm threatening our nation’s core principles and our whole system of representative democracy. Stop and ponder that. Then remember that it should have been no surprise. The committee has made clear that the plan had been on the radar for weeks. There was plenty of evidence in advance that Trump and his cronies were planning to disregard the verdict of the election if it went against him. 

But details and evidence uncovered since have been stunning, including documentary footage of longtime Trump loyalist Roger Stone played today. Here is what Stone had to say even before Election Day (excuse the language, please): “I say fuck the voting, let’s get right to the violence.” Was what we saw on January 6 a Plan B, or really a Plan A?

One of the great attributes of this committee is expert storytelling, laying out, with gripping detail, a narrative — a true story — about the attempted destruction of our democratic order. They have carefully traced the origins of this horror to before the election. They have shown the rising danger and threats of violence. They have identified villainy, led by the president. They have explained with breathtaking intimacy what took place on January 6. And they have made very clear that that day’s actions, while dramatic, were not a denouement. How this story ends is currently unknowable. We will have a better sense after the midterm elections and with the Department of Justice’s decision if, how, and whom to prosecute. 

There is a lot about what we heard today, and in the previous hearings, that is infuriating. It also is hard not to feel a deep sadness about the precariousness of our democracy. But we can find hope in the service of this committee. They are saying to all of us, “This happened. Let us not let it happen again. And let us hold those responsible, accountable.” 

They believe that most Americans cherish our self-governance, our stability, and our rule of law. They believe that if we know the truth, that we will do everything in our power, as a people, as a nation, to protect against its recurrence. 

Does that belief still hold? Or are we now so divided that we can no longer be sure? This is the overriding question as our beloved America evolves in the first quarter of the 21st century.

Party Of “Law & Order”??? 🤣

The Republican Party has long claimed to be the party of “law and order”.  I have a little problem with that claim, given their behaviour and rhetoric of late.  Let’s take a look at just a few of the reasons I think it is a joke that they still attempt to lay claim to that title.

  • The biggest threat to law and order today is posed by people toting guns, by guns in the hands of people who should never be within a mile of a firearm. And yet, Republicans steadfastly refuse to legislate any form of gun regulations.  They refuse to even talk about a ban on military-style assault weapons that can mow down 30-40 people within a minute.  They refuse to put common sense gun laws into effect that would ensure expanded background checks, keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers, make licensing and testing mandatory requirements, and more.  Most crimes … apart from white collar crimes … are committed with guns!  Doesn’t it make sense to regulate and limit them?  Apparently not to the party of ‘law and order’!
  • The unofficial ‘head’ of the Republican Party today is the former president Donald Trump who himself has a long history of breaking the law in the areas of tax evasion, civil rights violations, refusing to pay contractors for work done, employment violations, and more. And yet, the Republican Party bows to his will, supports him wholeheartedly, and plans to escort him back into the Oval Office in 2025.  And most recently, Republicans are outraged that the FBI executed a lawful search warrant in order to retrieve highly classified documents that Trump literally stole from the White House, stole from We the People.  How is that “tough on crime”?
  • After the January 6th insurrection/attempted coup which was extremely violent and resulted in multiple deaths and more than 100 injuries to the very law enforcement officers the Republicans supposedly support, the Party whitewashed the events of that day, even though the extreme violence had been recorded by many on video. Republican members of Congress referred to it as a “normal tourist visit”, and said the rioters were simply exercising their right to free speech.  Last February, the Republican Party officially passed a resolution declaring that the events of that day were “Legitimate Political Discourse”.  They refer to the rioters who have been charged as “political prisoners”.  Even the two minority leaders in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Kevin McCarthy, who spoke strongly against Trump and his role in the attempted coup initially, have now turned 180°, supporting Trump and echoing the ‘party line’.
  • Some in the party are calling for defunding or even abolishing the FBI, primarily because of the search of Trump’s home to retrieve the aforementioned documents. Others have called for abolishing all federal law agencies!
  • Certain Republican legislators have not-too-obscurely incited violence among the masses, with Lindsey Graham saying there would be “riots in the streets if Trump is prosecuted” and Trump himself saying that “Mitch McConnell has a death wish” for Mitch’s participation in an agreement to fund the government through December. Seems to me that the party of law and order would NOT be inciting … law-breaking and disorder!!!

So no, my friends, the Republican Party can no longer lay claim to being the “Law and Order Party” … in fact, they are so far from it that it would be a joke, except there is nothing funny about it.  Their claim to be “tough on crime” is convoluted and selective.  For example, an unarmed Black man having inadvertently attempted to pay for groceries with a counterfeit bill can be brutally murdered by white police officers and that is ‘law and order’ by the Republican’s definition.  But one of their own can do far worse … can incite a riot where lives are lost, and that’s naught more than ‘legitimate civil discourse’ and nobody should pay the price.

I’ve seen hypocrisy throughout my entire life, from small instances to large ones, but I have NEVER seen hypocrisy to the extent the Republican Party of the 21st century practices it.  The examples above are but a few of the many I could come up with, but they are the most glaring.  They don’t even bother to try to hide their hypocrisy any longer … it’s right out there for everyone to see.  Make no mistake … the are the party of Wealth and of Bigotry, but they are NOT the party of law and order!

January 6th Committee And More …

Yesterday I watched what I presume will be the final televised hearing of the January 6th Committee.  At a few points I felt tears welling up, at other points rage took over.  I must commend the committee for they have done an excellent and thorough job, despite the obstacles they have had to overcome.  As Ms. Cheney said in her opening remarks, their job is not to bring charges, but to investigate and make referrals.  It now falls to the Department of Justice to bring those charges and make them stick, to ensure that the name “Donald Trump” is not ever on a ballot in this nation again.

Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly states that no person who took an oath in a public office and then participated in any way in an insurrection against the nation can ever be allowed to hold public office again.  Bennie Thompson and his January 6th committee have clearly presented evidence of Trump’s involvement in the insurrection/attempted coup of January 6, 2021.  Now, it is up to Merrick Garland to stop pussyfooting around and bring those charges!


A couple of other thoughts from Filosofa’s bouncy mind …

A sentence for life may be worse

For the record, I do not believe in the death penalty.  Oh, I used to.  I once thought it was not right for taxpayers to have to provide food, shelter and clothing for decades for a convicted murderer who would never be an asset to society.  But, while I was doing post-graduate work many years ago, I took a course by The Innocence Project and my views changed.  I learned about the times that people have been proven innocent, sometimes decades after being found guilty by a jury, and … well, what if we had executed them?  It’s bad enough to think of an innocent man spending 20-30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, but if we executed him … there can be no remedy or reparations.

That said, I was momentarily taken aback last night when I read the jury’s decision in the case of Nikolas Cruz, the young man who murdered 17 people at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.  The jury was fully expected to hand down a death sentence, but instead went with life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Understandably, families of the victims were horrified and angry.  My first thought was that this might be the one time I would make an exception to being against the death penalty, for Cruz pleaded guilty on all 17 counts and there was no possibility that he would later be found innocent.  But then I thought a little bit about it and …

I think Cruz will come to the point of wishing he had received a death sentence.  Life in prison.  He is only 24 years of age, so he could quite reasonably spend 50 years or more behind bars.  And given his crime, the brutal murder of children, he will not be treated kindly by either fellow inmates or prison staff.  Imagine never taking a walk in the woods, cooking your own food, going to bed and getting up at your own will again.  Never.  For decades.  Oh yes, I think life in prison will end up being a much worse punishment than a quick execution would have been.  In many ways, he will already be dead, yet still feel the pain with none of the joy of being alive.  It is good enough for him.


And speaking of school shootings …

Another trial for Alex Jones, the man without a conscience, whose blatant lies and cooked up conspiracy theories led families of the murdered children in Sandy Hook Elementary School through a living hell.  Yesterday, a jury ordered Jones to pay just short of $1 billion to the families of the victims.  One lawyer called it “probably one of the largest defamation verdicts in U.S. history.” Deservedly so.

But do you think that for one minute Mr. Jones displayed grief or remorse for his actions?  Think again.  Jones pumped his fist in the air and said, “This is hilarious. Do these people actually think they’re getting any money?”  What a slap in the face to the twenty children and six teachers who were killed in the 2012 shooting.  What a knife to the heart of their surviving families.  But wait … there’s more!

In the hours after Wednesday’s verdict, Jones’ supporters collectively donated no less than $185,000 to Mr. Jones, claiming that “left wing radicals are attempting to destroy Alex via the court system.”  The people who donated even so much as one dollar to Jones need serious psychiatric counseling!  Mr. Jones is the definition of cruelty and not worthy of the air he sucks up on this planet.  There are far more worthy causes that I could find to donate money to than a man who attempted to make a mockery of the deaths of children!

Something To Think About

Yesterday I came across this OpEd in The Hill by William S. Becker, a U.S. Army combat correspondent in the Vietnam War who is currently executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, a nonpartisan think tank that develops recommendations on federal energy and climate policies.  Talk of a new civil war breaking out is the ‘in’ thing these days, and I find it a) disgusting, and b) irresponsible.  Mr. Becker examines the threat and what feeds it.


When civil war becomes all the rage

BY William S. Becker, Opinion Contributor – 10/07/22

There was a time when Americans had values. It seems those values have disappeared, and many things that used to be unacceptable, even unthinkable, became common.

When did it become acceptable to lie? Or to spread fake conspiracies? Or to govern with fear rather than ideas? When did it become okay to deny and reject what the majority of Americans decide? Is it now socially acceptable to send death threats to people with whom we disagree? Is it responsible for a sitting United States congresswoman to make outrageously false statements like “Democrats want Republicans dead, and they have already started the killings,” as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) recently did. However, all the automatic weapons and body armor that are now de rigueur under the GOP tent indicate the shoe is likely on the other foot.

When did we decide a president, current or former, is above the law — actually, above many laws in the case of Donald Trump — and law enforcement agents should be targeted for investigating? Where does free speech stop, and domestic terrorism begin? Don’t vile threats against individual Americans and their families cross the line?

When did it become acceptable for militants to lock, load and try to incite civil war in America? The New York Times, quoting data from media-tracking services, reports that mentions of civil war are no longer confined to radical groups. The threats have become common on social media. They jumped 3,000 percent in the hours after the FBI confiscated documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Largo home.

With no apparent regret about the 2021 insurrection, Trump predicts that if he’s indicted, “you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was more explicit, predicting “riots in the street.” These high-level provocateurs hide behind the First Amendment, but social media traffic shows that militant groups and individuals have received the actual message. Others get the message, too. As the New York Times notes, a survey in August found that 54 percent of “strong Republicans” believe a civil war of some kind is at least somewhat likely in the next decade.

As one of the millions of Americans who have experienced combat, I have few observations:

First, fantasies of violence against the government come too easily for the armchair soldiers who have never experienced war. The scenes from Ukraine are a hint. War not only destroys buildings; it also destroys emotional health, livelihoods, families and souls. Unless men in combat are exceptionally good at compartmentalizing the experience and dehumanizing the enemy, wars remake the soldiers who fight them. Many become addicted to the camaraderie, clarity of mission, adrenaline rush, as well as the gift and guilt of survival. Many learn the limits of their compassion, caring and resilience. Some discover an inner monster that is licensed in war but has no place in civilized society unless it finds or starts another war. I suspect that describes some of my brothers in today’s militant groups.

Second, Trump is a cult leader, not a national leader. He is not a patriot. He is not and never will be a savior. It makes no difference how immense his fortune is, how many lawyers he stiffs, or that he was president for a time. If we believe rich and powerful Americans should be held to the same standards of justice and social responsibility as we in the 99 percent, then we should not object to holding him accountable for his conduct as a businessman and politician.

Third, if militants want to take over the government, they should tell us what they plan to do with it. What is their agenda? Do they have a vision? Do they share one beyond killing democracy? Do most Americans agree with them, or do these groups plan to impose and enforce their version of America with a police state?

Trump, too, never really defined what he meant by “great” in the slogan he stole from Ronald Reagan to “make American great again.” If it meant draining the swamp, he didn’t. If it meant fanning the flames of racism, hate and domestic terrorism,he obviously succeeded. His ongoing legacy — a nation at war with itself — is the opposite of great. A county whose people don’t trust their democracy is not great, either. And a nation so vulnerable to blatant falsehoods and crazy conspiracy theories is ripe for totalitarianism.

After the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, the violent groups that participated reportedly went home and decided on a different type of uprising. They began running for public office, presumably to carry out their objectives by working within the system. That’s more difficult than pulling a trigger or scribbling a death threat but testing their ideas in the public square is the right way to do it. The Washington Post reports that 299 Republican candidates for Congress and important state offices deny that the 2020 election was valid.

The upcoming November elections are a test of whether voters will choose the candidates dedicated to the values that built and sustained our country, or to the minions Trump has chosen. As we approach the midterms, we must ask ourselves: Who should rule America? Will it be the majority of Americans and the president they chose two years ago? Or will it be the trolls who spread hate and the homegrown terrorists who vote with bullets and bombs?

What’s Wrong With The Right?

Most of the mid-term focus has centered on the Senate races, and with good reason.  The Senate is currently evenly divided at 50/50 and if Republicans can net just one new seat, they will take a majority and all bets for anything worthwhile coming out of Congress are off.  But we also shouldn’t ignore the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are up for grabs and most predictions are that the Republicans will gain a majority there.  That supposition might not be so discouraging if there were normal human beings, educated people with the best interests of the nation at heart, running for House seats, but as Dana Milbank shows us in his column today, that ain’t the case!


Think you already know crazy? Meet the House GOP Class of ’22.

By Dana Milbank

7 October 2022

Can we have order in the House?

Not if this crowd takes over.

Much of the public focus in the midterm elections has been on the, er, exotic nature of the Republic nominees in Senate and gubernatorial races, and understandably so. There’s Mehmet Oz’s crudite, Doug Mastriano’s white supremacists, and Herschel Walker’s … well, pretty much everything he says and does. But GOP nominees for the House are no less erratic — just less well known.

There’s the woman from North Carolina who was accused of hitting one husband with an alarm clock, trying to hit another with a car (and also menacing him with a frying pan) and punching her daughter. She denies that, though she also invoked a conspiracy belief that alien lizards control the government.

There’s the man from Ohio who lied about his military record, lavishly promoted QAnon themes, acknowledged bypassing police barriers at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and with 120 gallons of paint turned his entire lawn into a Trump banner.

There’s the man from Michigan who claimed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman participated in a satanic ritual, who once disparaged women’s suffrage, and who, though Black, raised concern about Democrats “eroding the white population.”

Then there are: the Texas woman accused by her estranged husband of cruelty toward his teenage daughter; the Colorado woman who backed an effort to secede from her state; the Virginia woman who speculated that rape victims wouldn’t get pregnant; and the Wisconsin man who used campaign funds from his failed 2020 race to come to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, where he apparently breached Capitol barricades.

What they all have in common is that they’re in competitive races, which means they could well be part of a Republican House majority in January. And that’s on top of a larger group of GOP nominees in deep-red congressional districts who are a motley assortment of election deniers, climate-change deniers, QAnon enthusiasts and Jan. 6 participants who propose to abolish the FBI and ban abortion with no exceptions, among other things. Some won nominations despite efforts by party leadership to stop them and continue without financial support from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Maybe this is why Kevin McCarthy, the man who as House speaker would have the task of leading this rogues’ gallery, calls his agenda a “Commitment to America.” Many members of his new majority might be good candidates for commitment.

J.R. Majewski, a Republican running to represent Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, at a campaign rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Sept. 17. (Tom E. Puskar/AP)

J.R. Majewski, the Trump-backed lawn painter from Ohio, has a different agenda: He wants to “abolish all unconstitutional three letter agencies,” including the CIA. He has said he’s willing to fight a civil war, and he made a campaign video in which he carried a rifle and said he would “do whatever it takes” to “bring this country back to its former glory.”

Sandy Smith, a Republican seeking to represent North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, speaks at a rally in Wilmington, N.C., on Sept. 23. (Chris Seward/AP)

In North Carolina, Sandy Smith is folding into her plans for the country the domestic-abuse allegations against her: “I never ran over anyone with a car and I never hit anyone in the head with a frying pan. … I am bringing a frying pan to DC, though,” she tweeted in May. (Disclosure: My wife, a pollster, is a consultant to Smith’s Democratic opponent.) Smith also wants “executions” of those who, she falsely claims, stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump.

Republican House candidate John Gibbs speaks with reporters in Byron Township, Mich., on Aug. 2. (Sarah Rice for The Washington Post)

Maybe this is what John Gibbs, the Michigan Republican who questioned women’s suffrage, had in mind when he wrote as a Stanford student that women don’t “posess [sic] the characteristics necessary to govern” because they rely on “emotional reasoning.”

McCarthy will surely have to put down many an uprising from what might be termed the Insurrection Caucus. Wisconsin nominee Derrick Van Orden, like Majewski and a few other GOP nominees, was outside the U.S. Capitol that day — and was photographed inside a restricted area, though he says he left when things turned violent. And Kelly Cooper, a nominee in Arizona, wants “the prisoners of January 6th … to be released on day one.”

George Santos, left, is a Republican running for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, while the GOP’s Zach Nunn is running to represent Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. (Bloomberg News; AP)

George Santos, a nominee in New York, claimed he was the victim of election fraud in his failed 2020 bid. Sam Peters, a nominee in Nevada who has used the “#QArmy” hashtag and embraced being called the “male” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, characterized those facing charges for the insurrection as “civically engaged American citizens exercising their constitutional freedoms.” And Iowa nominee Zach Nunn, who found it suspicious that Capitol Police couldn’t “stop a bunch of middle-aged individuals from walking onto the floor,” argued that “not a single one” of the defendants was charged with and convicted of insurrection. (That’s because the charge is “seditious conspiracy.”) Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, a nominee from Ohio, was precocious in her false claims of election fraud: She claimed in 2018 that a voting machine had switched her vote in the Ohio Senate race from Republican to Democrat.

GOP candidate Monica De La Cruz, left, is seeking to represent Texas’s 15th Congressional District, while Bo Hines, right, is running as a Republican in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District. (AP; Getty Images)

Overlapping with the Insurrection Caucus are those with qualifications that might, at best, be called unconventional. Monica De La Cruz, a Texas nominee and top GOP recruit, was accused in a court filing a year ago of “cruel and aggressive conduct” toward her then-husband’s 14-year-old daughter, including pinching the teen to stop her from crying; she denies the claim. In Colorado, nominee Barbara Kirkmeyer once led an attempt by 11 counties there to secede and become their own state. In North Carolina, nominee Bo Hines (who wants a 10-year moratorium on immigration) spoke of a “banana republic” as though the common term for flailing democracies was actually referring to the clothing store of the same name.

Of course, the People’s House has always attracted the eccentric, and even the shady, from both parties. But the would-be Republican Class of ’22 is extraordinary in the number of oddballs and extremists in its ranks. This is no accident: The trend in Republican primaries, accelerated by Trump, has favored those with the most eye-popping tapestry of conspiracy theories and unyielding positions. GOP primaries are dominated by a sliver of the electorate on the far right.

That’s why they produce figures such as Erik Aadland, a Colorado nominee who claims that the 2020 election was “absolutely rigged” and that the country is “on the brink of being taken over by a communist government” and who has followed various extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, on social media. In New Jersey, Frank Pallotta is again a Republican nominee, after declaring during his 2020 run for the same seat that he stands by the Oath Keepers, a group whose leaders are now on trial over Jan. 6.

Republican Karoline Leavitt, left, is seeking to represent New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, while Yesli Vega, right, is running as a Republican in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. (AP; The Washington Post)

Starting in January, a likely narrow Republican majority might have to find consensus among a freshman class that can’t agree on basic facts. Karoline Leavitt, a nominee in New Hampshire, claims that “the alleged ‘existential threat of climate change’ is a manufactured crisis by the Democrat Party.” In Virginia, nominee Yesli Vega argued that it was less likely for a rape victim to become pregnant because “it’s not something that’s happening organically.” Also in Virginia, nominee Hung Cao asserted that more “people get bludgeoned to death and stabbed to death than they get shot,” which is wrong by an order of magnitude.

Republican Robert Burns is running for Congress in New Hampshire. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

But these nominees have offered unique policy ideas! Robert Burns of New Hampshire said in 2018 that he would allow abortion only to protect the “life of the mother” — but “we would need a panel in this sort of situation” to decide whether the ailing woman can get the lifesaving procedure.

A real-life death panel! Challenged recently on this position, Burns replied last month: “In response to the death panels, I believe women of color and low economic status deserve second and third opinions before being forced into abortions.” Put another way, a woman would need a second and third opinion before she’s allowed to save her own life.

The House Republican Class of ’22 will be many things, but “boring” is not one of them.