Chilling

Michael A. Bolton is the Inspector General for the Capitol Police.  On Tuesday, Mr. Bolton released a 104-page report about the horrific attack by domestic terrorists on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, and this report is … jaw-dropping.  We were told, shortly after the attack, that there had been forewarning of what was to come, that calls for help were largely ignored, but the details are far worse than even I imagined. 

Three key takeaways from this report are:

  • There was evidence of what was to come, but the Capitol Police leadership ignored or disregarded the intelligence warnings.
  • Department leaders ordered a special crowd-control unit not to use its most powerful nonlethal weapons to stop the protestors.
  • The protective equipment Capitol officers were given that day was defective, and additional equipment such as shields were under lock and key, could not be accessed.

All three of these points are, in my book, criminal.  If I were Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence, who damn near lost their lives to the deranged mob that day, I would be mad as hell.  If I were any one of the 140 Capitol Police officers who were injured that day, I’d be fighting mad.  If I were the family of Officer Brian Sicknick who was murdered that day, I’d be out for blood.  Here are a few tidbits from the report that I think you’ll find interesting …

  • The Department of Homeland Security warned the Capitol Police on December 21st, more than two weeks before that fateful day, of comments on a pro-Trump website promoting attacks on members of Congress with a map of the tunnel system. “Several comments promote confronting members of Congress and carrying firearms during the protest,” wrote a Capitol Police analyst.  Among the comments reported to the Capitol Police: “Bring guns. It’s now or never,” and, “We can’t give them a choice. Overwhelming armed numbers is our only chance.”
  • On January 5th, the FBI’s Norfolk field office, in Virginia, relayed another threat from an anonymous social media thread that warned of a looming war at the Capitol. “Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent … stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”
  • The January 5th threat assessment said, “Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th. Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

Are you chilled yet?  Are you angry yet?  But wait … there’s more.

On January 5th, after receiving the aforementioned assessments, the agency wrote in a plan for the protest that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.” And the former chief of the Capitol Police has testified that the force had determined that the likelihood of violence was “improbable.”  SAY WHAT???  Any fool reading the FBI threat assessment would consider the likelihood of violence to be an almost absolute certainty! 

Civil Disturbance Unit (CDU), which specializes in handling large groups of protesters, was not allowed to use some of its most powerful tools and techniques against the crowd, on the orders of supervisors.  “Heavier, less-lethal weapons,” including stun grenades, “were not used that day because of orders from leadership,” Mr. Bolton wrote. Officials on duty on Jan. 6 told him that such equipment could have helped the police to “push back the rioters.”

Some of the shields that officers were equipped with during the riot “shattered upon impact” because they had been improperly stored in a trailer that was not climate-controlled, Mr. Bolton found. Others could not be used by officers in desperate need of protection because the shields were locked on a bus.

“When the crowd became unruly, the C.D.U. platoon attempted to access the bus to distribute the shields but were unable because the door was locked.  The platoon ‘was consequently required to respond to the crowd without the protection of their riot shields.’”

In light of this and more, it is a thousand wonders that more people did not die on that day.  It is nothing short of a miracle that no member of Congress was even injured.  Apparently, we have to be thankful that the attackers weren’t all that bright or well-organized, else we might be living in an entirely different country today. 

Two thoughts are at the forefront of my mind after reading about this:

  • I wonder when evidence will be found that inextricably links the former ‘president’ to the orders to lock up equipment, to downplay the threat, and to order the police not to use crowd control equipment. You’ll note I said I wonder “when”, not I wonder “if”, for there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that the former guy had a heavy hand in trying to make it easier for the attackers to do maximum damage. 
  • There have been reports that certain groups are planning another attack on the Capitol on the day that President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress for the first time. He is scheduled to do so in less than two weeks, on April 28th.  I damn sure hope the Capitol Police and every federal law enforcement agency are on hand to protect Congress and our President. The joint session will be designated a National Special Security Event and there will be a limit on the number of lawmakers in the chamber. Lawmakers will also be seated in the upstairs gallery in addition to the House floor and guests will not be permitted.

This afternoon, Inspector General Bolton will present his report to Congress at a hearing on Capitol Hill.  His full report is classified and not available to the public, but if you’re interested, you can access his prepared remarks for the hearing. 

An International Embarrassment

Most people reading this blog likely drive a car.  In order to do so, you must have a license issued by your state, and in order to obtain said license, you had to pass a written test to prove that you understand the laws that govern all drivers in order to make the roadways as safe as possible.  You also had to pass a road test to prove that you have the skills needed to drive safely.  And after doing all that, you want to know that the other drivers out there are also competent.  Even under the best of circumstances, accidents will sometimes happen, but we all … well, most of us anyway … do our best to avoid them.   A car or truck can be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands.

So, why is it that there is no testing required to own a firearm, another lethal weapon?   Why is there such an uproar among gun owners (likely prodded by the NRA) whenever any form of regulation on guns is proposed?  They don’t want a person stoned on drugs or drunk behind the wheel of a car, yet they are happy for that same person to be behind the trigger of an AR-15?  I’m sorry, folks, but I honestly just don’t get this!

I know that to some I sound like a broken record, but … are we no longer horrified by mass shootings?  Do we no longer care that it’s as safe to walk across an eight-lane expressway as it is to enter a bar or restaurant where somebody almost certainly has a gun in his possession?

This is the 11th day in April, and already there have been 16 mass shootings that caused the deaths of 21 people and injured another 64.  But the mass shootings aren’t even the worst of it.  Thus far this year, 101 days into 2021, there have been 11,671 people killed by guns in the U.S.  Do gun owners, NRA members and congressional Republicans honestly think this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote the 2nd Amendment into the U.S. Constitution?

On Thursday, President Biden announced a series of executive actions to curb gun violence, and he pledged to push for sweeping change to the country’s firearms laws — his first substantive response to a pair of mass shootings last month that left 18 dead.  He was spot on when he said …

“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment.  The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as nation.”

Unfortunately, there is very little that the president can do on his own in this case, but here are the four measures his executive orders call for:

  • Serial numbers for guns made at home from kits. Biden called the homemade weapons “ghost guns” because they’re hard to trace and because kit buyers don’t have to submit to a background check.
  • A new annual report from the Justice Department about gun trafficking. There had previously been a report done by Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, which dated back to 2000.
  • Stricter treatment of handgun stabilizing braces, like the one used recently in a mass shooting at a Colorado grocery store. The change would require the modification be reported to the Justice Department, just like a silencer. There would be a $200 reporting fee.
  • Finally, Biden said he wanted to make it easier for states to enact “red flag laws,” allowing the police or family members to petition for the temporary removal weapons when a person in crisis is a danger to himself or others.

These are a start, but much more is needed and only Congress has the power to enact legislation such as a ban on assault weapons, expanded background checks, competency & skills testing – all things that the NRA and those lovers of their 2nd Amendment “rights” will fight tooth and nail.  And because they fight it, Congress won’t pass it and thousands more people will die needlessly this year … and the next … and the next.

What does it take?  Will Mitch McConnell change his tune when his own grandchild is killed by a man with a gun?  Will Lauren Boebert suddenly become an advocate for gun laws when the life of one of her own children is taken at gunpoint?  I doubt it, for remember Representative Steve Scalise, who was shot and nearly died in 2017 during a congressional baseball practice?  A year later he said …

“I was a strong supporter of the second amendment before the shooting, and frankly, as ardent as ever after the shooting …”

What a guy, eh?

Every year, the number of guns in the hands of civilians increases and predictably, every year the number of people in this country killed by guns also increases.  Even the smallest steps taken toward reducing the number of guns that will, potentially, be used to kill is met with rage and indignation from those who believe their ‘right’ to own a gun is more important than your ‘right’ to live.  President Biden is right … we are an international embarrassment.

Mitch McConnell Likes Falling Bridges!

Throughout President Obama’s eight year tenure, one man stood out as the biggest hurdle to anything and everything Obama and his team proposed.  That man, of course, is the ignoble Mitch McConnell … the poster boy for why we need term limits.  McConnell’s power is far greater than it should be and when he pledges obstruction, you can count on him destroying everything in his path … even our lives.

Most recently, McConnell has pledged to do everything in his power to keep the infrastructure bill from seeing the light of day in the Senate.  Frank Bruni, writing for the New York Times, addresses the infrastructure bill and McConnell’s self-serving intended obstruction in his latest newsletter …


Mitch McConnell, Fickle Fiscal Prude

By Frank Bruni

Opinion Columnist

The numbers stagger me too.

President Biden is promoting more than $2 trillion for infrastructure (loosely defined). He signed legislation for $1.9 trillion for pandemic relief, economic stimulus and anti-poverty initiatives.

All of this comes after the Trump administration’s mammoth relief-and-stimulus spending in 2020, and all of this precedes what will almost certainly be yet more requests for additional trillions from the Biden administration.

We’re in uncharted waters. Experts offering assurances that all will be well — or even better than well — are giving us their best educated guesses. No one — not the cheerleaders, not the naysayers — truly knows how this will all turn out.

But here’s the thing: At some point you have to pick a path, choose a side, place your bet. In many instances the potential price of a flawed wager is almost certainly less steep than the cost of inaction. This instance, I think, is one of those. Maybe America will go too big in the end. But too small hasn’t worked for us.

Too small led to the economic dispossession and pessimism exploited by a junior-league demagogue and would-be despot who hurt this country gravely. Too small factored into our shameful and unsustainable degree of income inequality.

Too small was a culprit in America’s world-leading number of coronavirus infections and Covid-related deaths last year. By contrast, too big — or rather, big — was a partner in the speedy development and distribution of vaccines.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, has pledged to fight Biden’s infrastructure package “every step of the way,” as a sudden defender of fiscal discipline. I say “sudden” because his attachment to it over the past few years, before Biden took office, was as steady as a Slinky.

He was perfectly happy to run up the federal debt to stay in good with President Donald Trump, who wanted tax cuts and more gleaming military hardware. Now? We mustn’t leave crippling bills to our children and grandchildren! How horridly gluttonous! How downright immoral!

How utterly laughable. The truth about most politicians and spending is that they’re for it if the outlays bolster their electoral fortunes and against it if the other side may have more to gain. They’re not in thrall to some fixed economic ideology. They’re bound to partisan rivalries and enamored of ideological fashions of the moment.

Remember all of those fiscally principled Tea Party candidates who rocked the Republican Party and swarmed to Washington in 2010? That didn’t turn out to be any kind of revolution. Many of those candidates, along with most other Republicans, exiled their thriftiness when President Barack Obama exited the White House, then embraced Trump in all of his profligacy.

But back to infrastructure and Biden’s big-ticket legislation. Over recent decades of congressional sclerosis, America has fallen behind and imperiled its future prosperity. We’ve no choice but to catch up, and catching up, I believe, will cost more than McConnell is willing to agree to. It may cost even more than Biden is pitching.

Or not. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the choice is between overdoing and underdoing. That it’s that clear, that stark. I’d vote for overdoing. We haven’t tried that in a while.

And my read of the American mood right now is that people are frustrated with the status quo and the timidity of politicians too focused on one another to focus on everyone else. There’s a hankering for movement of some kind — of any kind. There’s an appetite for boldness. Let’s feed it.

A Day Late

On October 26th, 1966, the UN General Assembly passed resolution 2142 (XXI), proclaiming March 21st as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966 which signifies the struggle to end the policy of apartheid in South Africa, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

unesco-1I am late with this post, for yesterday was March 21st, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s a day late, for every day should be a day for eliminating racial discrimination.  Recent events here in the U.S. – the brutal murder of George Floyd and countless others by police, and more recently the hate crimes against Asian-Americans – have shown us that we have much to do to end racism.

While it is crucial to end racial prejudice in public agencies such as police, social services, and even at the highest levels of government, the problem starts on a more basic level – with us.  We haven’t been listening for the past 50, 100 years.  Oh sure … we protested in Civil Rights marches in the 1960s, and that led to laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and more, but then we clapped our hands, dusted off our knees, went home and said, “Well done!” and moved on without a backward glance.  And now look … 43 states are busily writing laws that would invalidate the Voting Rights Act.

I cannot speak for other countries, but I do know that racism is alive and well today around the globe, more than it was, say, two decades ago.  In part, this is as a result of a surge in migration due to the Arab Spring, nations were unprepared, and it has led to a new level of racial discrimination around the globe.  But more specifically here in the U.S., I have not seen this much blatant racism in the past 50 years.  But it’s been there all along.  Our Black friends knew it, for they lived it.  They tried to tell us, but we weren’t listening.  And now, the racism has spread to Asian-Americans, largely as a result of public figures blaming China for the coronavirus, calling it “China flu” and worse.  Since 11 September 2001, there has been an expansion of racism here against people from Middle Eastern countries … even though the attacks on that day were carried out by only 19 people and directed by one man, not the entire Muslim world.

I don’t have answers to the question of how we end this, but I do know that each one of us has got to look inside ourselves and understand that we are not superior in any way to anybody else … not Blacks, not Muslims, not Asians, not LGBT people … NOBODY!

Here is the text of President Joe Biden’s statement released yesterday (I may be a day late, but Joe was on time!):

One of the core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans is standing against hate and racism, even as we acknowledge that systemic racism and white supremacy are ugly poisons that have long plagued the United States. We must change the laws that enable discrimination in our country, and we must change our hearts.

Racism, xenophobia, nativism, and other forms of intolerance are not problems unique to the United States. They are global problems. They are human problems that we all need to recognize, name, and dismantle. Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, all nations and people should recommit to the fundamental truth that every human being has inherent dignity and deserves to be treated with fairness. We must recognize the ways that racism, gender discrimination, and other forms of marginalization intersect with and compound one another. And, we must all strive to eliminate inequities in our policies, remove barriers to full participation in our societies, and push for open and inclusive processes that respect all people everywhere.

Under my Administration, the United States will lead the conversation on these painful issues—at home, in international institutions, and around the world. That is why, on my first day in office, I signed an Order establishing a whole of government approach to equity and racial justice. We will not shy away from engaging in the hard work to take on the damaging legacy of slavery and our treatment of Native Americans, or from doing the daily work of addressing systemic racism and violence against Black, Native, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color. Neither will we fail to speak out against the horrific mistreatment of the Rohingya in Burma, the Uyghurs in China, or any racial discrimination we see in the world.

Hate can have no safe harbor in America. It should have no safe harbor anywhere in the world. We must join together to make it stop.

Tidbits From A Snarky Mind

As I said in yesterday’s Snarky Snippets post, it is getting easier to find positive things to snark about, but today I’ve got a bit of snark rolling out of my ears in the form of steam, so … I shall share it all with you!


Has Grassley’s time come?

Grassley-1Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa is still debating whether to run again in 2022 for another 6-year term.  Grassley is 87 years old and has been in the U.S. Senate for 41 years.  He is currently serving his 7th term.  While he may not have made up his mind, it seems that the people of Iowa have decided it’s time for him to retire.

According to the latest Des Moines Register poll, 55% of Iowans want Grassley to end his political career next year as compared to just 28% who said they would like to see him run for another term. More than one-third of Iowa republicans say the time has come for him to retire.  I would agree. He, like Mitch McConnell, is a poster boy for term limits.

At 87, he is the second-oldest member of the chamber — only California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is older — and if he did run and win an 8th term, Grassley would be 95 by the time it ended.  Grassley has consistently been popular among Iowans, and it is widely believed that he is the best bet for the Republican Party to hold on to that senate seat, but it seems the people aren’t too keen on voting for a man 89 years old, as he will be by election day.

If Grassley decides not to run, he will be the 6th Republican senator to decide not to seek re-election in 2022.  Let us hope there aren’t even worse ones waiting in the wings.


Lunacy in Ohio

I am sickened and disgusted that two Ohio state legislators, Jon Cross and Reggie Stoltzfus, have proposed legislation to make June 14th a state holiday in honour of the former guy.  To date there are 11 cosponsors for the bill.  People have lost their bloomin’ marbles!!!  If they succeed, I will do everything in my power to move myself and my family out of this state of numpties!  But wait … there’s more!

In North Eastern Ohio there is a park named Mosquito Lake State Park.  Another Ohio state representative, Mike Loychik, wants to rename the park after the former guy!  I swear I don’t know why I live in this state with this bunch of loons!


Filibuster mania

President Biden has been quiet on the subject of the filibuster, but yesterday during an interview with ABC News he opined …

“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster; you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days. You had to stand up and command the floor, and you had to keep talking. It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.”

And that is the truth, my friends.  For years now more bills have failed in the senate largely because of the filibuster than I can count.  There are some critical bills coming up in the Senate, covering voting rights, gun laws, police reform, etc.  To have them all fail simply because the Republicans in the Senate are determined to play games with our lives is unconscionable.  Mitch McConnell, however, is throwing threats around, should the rules for the filibuster be changed to make it more difficult to obstruct legislation.

“Everything that Democratic Senates did to Presidents Bush and Trump, everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama, would be child’s play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if — if — they break the Senate. Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues. Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin — to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like — none. None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity, and this is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon.”

As I said before, McConnell is a poster boy for why we need term limits … his power has gone straight to his head and he no longer believes that good governance is important or that he has a responsibility to the people of this nation!  Sadly, McConnell’s term doesn’t end until 2026, so there are only two ways he will be leaving the senate:  voluntary retirement or death.  He’s just stubborn enough to refuse to do either.

**Note to readers:  It is now 1:00 a.m., and I put this post on the schedule two hours ago.  Just this minute did I realize that … OH SHOOT … this is Wednesday … Good People Doing Good Things day!!!  My sincerest apologies … this is the result of a cluttered and aging mind.  Good People will be on Thursday morning this week … thank you for your understanding and patience!

A Real President Speaks

Last night, President Joe Biden gave a televised speech marking the one-year anniversary of the week the pandemic brought much of the United States to a screeching halt.   Rarely do I watch presidential speeches, typically preferring to read the transcript later, but I made an exception last night, for I wanted to see this one for myself.  I’m glad I did.

It was so wonderful to see a president who both spoke and acted like a President, who articulated and spoke in whole sentences without rancor.  His message was positive, but cautiously so.  There was no braggadocio, no ranting, no finger pointing or facial contortions, no hateful rhetoric, no self-promotion … just a man with a message of hope.

I don’t wish to dwell on the comparisons of the former guy’s speeches to Biden’s speech last night, but the contrast was so stark that one cannot help but note a few differences.  Biden’s tone was even, but not without passion.  Not once did he point a finger of blame at any person or group, not once did he raise his voice or make a Nazi-style fist.  And, perhaps most importantly, he did not say that he alone could fix this, but instead he said …

“I will not relent until we beat this virus. But I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part.”

This, my friends, is how a real president acts and speaks.  This is what we have missed so badly for the past four years.

Midway through his first 100 days in office, Biden might have been tempted to use his first nationally televised speech merely to take a modest victory lap over the passage of the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that he signed into law earlier on Thursday, but he did not.  Instead, mixing empathy with hard realities, he provided a blueprint for returning the country to some sense of normalcy by summer, while appealing to all Americans to help him make it happen.  He did not sugar-coat our situation, but his message was one of hope.

President Biden’s approval rating stands today at 53.1% … one that eluded the former guy for his entire four years during which he never once even reached a 50% approval.  We now have a president … let’s hope Congress can find a way to work with him for the sake of this nation and We the People.

In case you missed the speech, The Washington Post has provided a full transcript.

“United” States??? What A Joke!

Are you as sick and damn tired as I am of the constant criticism of members of the Republican Party toward anything and everything that wasn’t their own idea, of anything that promotes common sense and racial equality?  They claim to want unity, but then they act as if they are the only ones whose opinions or ideas have a shred of value.  Frankly, I’m sick of it, sick of the blatant racism, homophobia, and utter stupidity.  On Tuesday, Texas Governor Abbot announced that there would be no more mask mandate and that businesses in Texas could now re-open.  On Wednesday, Mississippi followed suit, eliminating all pandemic-related restrictions.

Both states will pay a heavy price for these decisions, for the pandemic is far from over, not even under control.  Abbott claimed he had consulted with doctors about his decision, but the doctors deny his claim and say it was the wrong decision.  There isn’t a shred of doubt that these two states will see a rise in the number of cases and deaths before the end of the month.  President Biden responded …

“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. The last thing — the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it.  It’s critical — critical, critical, critical — that they follow the science: Wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently. Wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

What he said was a hell of a lot nicer than what I said when I heard about Texas and Mississippi, but of course the damn fools on the right had to jump on what he said.  Senator Marco Rubio from Florida claimed Biden should seek “training on unconscious bias”WHAT BIAS, Marco?  Facts are facts!  It was neanderthal thinking … worse yet, it was lunacy.  And picking a fight over this is … or should be … beneath the dignity of elected lawmakers who have a job to do and don’t need to be wasting their time and our money nitpicking every word out of the president’s mouth!  Especially given that they supported the former guy who never uttered a sincere or kind word in 4 years!

But, there is an even more serious issue on which congressional republicans are determined to fight.  The issue is HR1, aka For the People Act, a bill that primarily deals with anti-corruption and voting reform.  The bill passed on Wednesday night in the House and now moves on to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle, especially among … yep, you got it, Republicans.

HR1 is not actually a new bill … it was passed by the House in 2019, but like most every other bill during the reign of Mitch McConnell, it sat gathering dust as he refused to even open it for discussion.  A few of the key components of the bill are …

  • Instituting nonpartisan redistricting commissions to end partisan gerrymandering
  • Creating a national system for automatic voter registration
  • Putting in transparency requirements for political advertising

When the bill was first introduced back in 2019, it had broad public support.  It might have even passed in the Senate, had Mr. McConnell allowed it to see the light of day.  Today, the criticisms of the bill are infuriatingly false.  For example, a recent Facebook post claims the Act will “permanently destroy voting in America.”  My my my … what drama queens they are!  Actually, the Act would make it easier for people to vote by mail, which would benefit us all, but especially the poor and minorities who often have difficulty getting to the polling places in time.  It would require states to implement automatic and same-day voter registration.  In short … it would allow every eligible voter to vote!!!  What the Sam Hell is so hard to understand.

The Facebook post makes alarmist claims, such as that murderers will be allowed to vote, and broad generalizations suggesting that the bill will lead to regulation of freedom of speech. While the post doesn’t use the phrase “voter fraud”, it leaves readers with the misleading impression that the bill aims to weaken election security. The bill actually includes provisions to increase security through grants and cybersecurity improvements.

43 states currently have some 250+ bills on their dockets that would restrict voting rights, make it far more difficult for people, especially those who happen to not have white skin, to vote.  WHAT the hell is fair about that?  Oh, Black people are supposed to work hard, pay their taxes, but not be allowed a voice in how those taxes are spent?  And you call this liberty???

The crux of the matter is this:  The Republican Party is in the minority, is not particularly popular with people who use their brains to think instead of playing silly putty with them, and the only damn way they can win in some areas is if they can repress the vote.  So, they criticize, they lie, they cheat, and they steal!

Mike Pence, for whom I actually had a bit of empathy after his life was nearly taken and still he proceeded to do the right thing, certifying the electoral vote on January 6th, has written an opinion piece in The Signal, a far right-wing publication, where he claims …

“After an election marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election.”

WHOA … let’s stop right there for a minute!  After 60+ lawsuits where not a shred of evidence was provided to support the former guy’s claim of election fraud, this statement by Pence should have caused his nose to grow by at least an inch!

“Congressional districts would be redrawn by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. Illegal immigrants and law-abiding American citizens would receive equal representation in Congress. Felons would be able to vote the moment they set foot out of prison.”

Yeah … so … your point, Mikey, is what???  I don’t want elected bureaucrats drawing district maps … I want independent, non-partisan people drawing them so we don’t see maps that make no sense other than to cram minorities into as few districts as possible.  There is no such thing as an “illegal” immigrant!  If an immigrant is working and paying taxes in this country he/she ought to be able to have a voice.  And why do you think released felons ought not to be allowed to vote?  They are citizens.  They work and pay taxes once they are released.  WHY the hell do you think they ought not to have a say???  BIGOT!  Next, you can look for Pence, who is a blatant homophobe, to try to take away the LGBT community’s right to vote!

Okay, enough about what Mike Pence and the rest of the bigots in the Republican Party have to say, for my blood pressure is already somewhere up in the stratosphere. Does HR1 stand a snowball’s chance in hell of passing in the Senate?  The short answer is ‘no’, for in order to avoid a filibuster it would require a 60-vote majority … and it’s already obvious that not more than maybe one republican will vote for it.  There is a path … a very narrow path … if the senate democrats are committed enough to it, then they can partially amend Senate filibuster rules to allow democracy reform legislation like HR1 to advance on a simple majority vote and therefore potentially be able to pass on a party-line vote. That would be different from fully blowing up the filibuster, but it still could get pushback from Senate institutionalists even in the Democratic Party like Senator Joe Manchin, a staunch advocate of keeping the filibuster in place, though I have no idea why.

If HR1 fails, then the 43 states who are trying so hard to rob us of our voice in the government we support financially will likely succeed and this will no longer be a nation I can bear to live in.  If every single person, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, gender identification, or religion cannot vote, then what’s the point in even holding elections?  Perhaps it’s time to admit that this is by no stretch of the imagination the “United” States?

Justice Must Be Done For Jamal Khashoggi

Yesterday, the U.S. Intelligence report on the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was made public.  The bottom line, as I said from day #1, is that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) ordered the hit on Khashoggi.  No surprise there … the former guy remained buddy-buddy with MbS and claimed he had nothing to do with it, but those of us capable of adding 2+2 and coming up with an answer of 4, knew better.  So, what comes next?  Apparently nothing.

The Biden administration has concluded that it could not risk a full rupture of its relationship with the kingdom, relied on by the United States to help contain Iran, to counter terrorist groups and to broker peaceful relations with Israel. Cutting off Saudi Arabia could also push its leaders toward China.  I understand the reasons … I really do.  However, I think there comes a point when we must take a stand.  If we don’t, then how can we claim to be a nation of justice, of human rights and humanitarian values?  I share with you Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times that goes into a bit more detail than I am able to do.


President Biden Lets a Saudi Murderer Walk

The crown prince killed my friend Jamal Khashoggi, and we do next to nothing.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeNicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

The United States government publicly identified Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia as the murderer of an American resident, and then President Biden choked.

Instead of imposing sanctions on M.B.S., Biden appears ready to let the murderer walk. The weak message to other thuggish dictators considering such a murder is: Please don’t do it, but we’ll still work with you if we have to. The message to Saudi Arabia is: Go ahead and elevate M.B.S. to be the country’s next king if you must.

All this is a betrayal of my friend Jamal Khashoggi and of his values and ours. But even through the lens of realpolitik it’s a missed opportunity to help Saudi Arabia understand that its own interest lies in finding a new crown prince who isn’t reckless and doesn’t kill and dismember journalists.

What should Biden have done?

As a matter of consistency he should have imposed the same sanctions on M.B.S., including asset freezes and travel bans, that the United States imposed in 2018 on lower-level figures who carried out the murder of Khashoggi. These sanctions should also apply to the stooges and front companies that M.B.S. has used to accumulate assets around the world.

“The key message that should be sent not only to M.B.S., and others in the Saudi Court and government, but also to other would-be killers of journalists around the world, is that there is a heavy price to pay for such crimes and nowhere to hide,” Agnes Callamard, who as a United Nations official investigated Jamal’s killing, told me.

The United States should also have suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia. United States law bars military assistance to security units involved in gross human rights abuses, and that is true of security forces under M.B.S., who also serves as defense minister.

Biden reportedly feared that sanctions on M.B.S. would poison relations with Saudi Arabia. Yes, that’s a legitimate concern, and I agree that it’s often necessary to engage even rulers with blood on their hands. But in this great balancing of values and interests, the towering risk is that M.B.S., who is just 35, will become king upon the death of his aging father and rule recklessly for many years, creating chaos in the Gulf and a rupture in Saudi-American relations that would last decades.

In other words, it’s precisely because Saudi Arabia is so important that Biden should stand strong and send signals — now, while there is a window for change — that the kingdom is better off with a new crown prince who doesn’t dismember journalists.

M.B.S. is the sixth crown prince Saudi Arabia has had over the last decade, and only one of them (King Salman) rose to become king. Two died, and two were deposed. If it becomes clear that Saudi Arabia will not have a workable relationship with the West if M.B.S. becomes king, perhaps we’ll see a seventh crown prince. That’s not the U.S. dictating to Saudi Arabia, but pointing out reality.

“King Salman and any independent advisers he may still have would be well-advised to consider how unsustainable it will be for the kingdom to retain M.B.S. as crown prince,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now. “M.B.S. has proven time and again to be a liability and a danger for the kingdom, reviled and avoided by the international community.”

American officials sometimes say that if we don’t sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, then France or Russia will. But what Saudi Arabia gets from America is not only high-tech weaponry but, far more important, an implicit promise of defense from Iran or other countries. France and Russia can’t provide that.

Some Saudis tell me that it’s a foregone conclusion that M.B.S. will become king. Maybe. But the fact that M.B.S. has detained rivals, like Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz (who is broadly admired in Saudi society) and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, suggests that he doesn’t think it’s a done deal.

“It’s not a given that if you’re crown prince, you’re going to become king,” noted Dr. Khalid Aljabri, who is currently in the United States but has close ties to senior Saudi royals, and whose father was allegedly targeted for murder by M.B.S. “Just apply the law. Sanction MBS! If they sanction MBS, the whole country would come to a standstill, and King Salman would have no choice but to remove his son, even if he doesn’t want to.”

Perhaps I’m biased because I knew Jamal. Some may think: It’s too bad about the murder, but other leaders have killed people, too. True, but M.B.S. poisons everything he touches. He kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister. He oversaw a feud with Qatar. He caused the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. He imprisoned women’s rights activists. He has tarnished his country’s reputation far more effectively than Iran ever could.

So, Mr. Biden, it’s not a human rights “gesture” to sanction M.B.S. Jamal was a practical man who didn’t believe in mushy gestures — but he did dream of a more democratic Arab world that would benefit Arabs and Americans alike. And by letting a murderer walk, you betray that vision.

Your thoughts?

Mostly Positive With Just A Bit Of Snark

One of the most devastating things we lost under the previous administration was our standing in the global community.  We lost much ground, lost the respect of the world, became first the laughingstock of the world, and later the least trusted nation among our allies.  President Biden said he would make it one of his top priorities to rejoin agreements we had let lapse, and to work with our allies to become a team player once again, rather than a nation that isolates itself from the rest of the world.  After 30 days in office, progress is already being made.


Coming back into the world …

Today is a red-letter day for the United States, hopefully only the first of many.  The U.S. has officially re-joined the Paris Climate Accord!  Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement saying …

“The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented framework for global action. We know because we helped design it and make it a reality. Its purpose is both simple and expansive: to help us all avoid catastrophic planetary warming and to build resilience around the world to the impacts from climate change we already see.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. promised to reduce its carbon emissions by about 25% by 2025 compared with 2005 levels. But according to analysts, the country is only on track to achieve about a 17% reduction, largely due to the rollback of numerous environmental regulations that took place under the previous administration.  Can we catch up?  Well, the lives of future generations around the globe depend on it, so we damn well better.

No other country has emitted more cumulative carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the industrial era began in the mid-1800s than the United States. And even though U.S. emissions are falling, the rate of the reduction is far too slow to avoid catastrophic warming, according to climate scientists.

President Biden has also assured world leaders, during a virtual address to the Munich Security Conference this morning, of the U.S. commitment to NATO.

“The United States is fully committed to our NATO alliance, and I welcome your growing investment in the military capabilities that enable our shared defenses. An attack on one is an attack on all. That is our unshakeable vow.”

And earlier, during a virtual G7 meeting, Biden also sought to assure world leaders that he and his administration are committed to once again being an ally, rather than an enemy …

“I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined – determined – to re-engage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.”

Now, I know that these words must be followed up with actions that prove the intent.  I also know that the damage done over the past four years will not be undone overnight.  There will long be a mistrust among our allies, and for a long time, they will wonder if the people of this nation will be so foolish as to bring back another administration such as the previous one.  It may take decades before the trust is fully restored, but we are on the right path.


And just a bit of snark …

And lest you think that today I have only positive news without a bit of snark …

I strongly suspect that two new members of Congress will be single-term congresswomen, for they are more suited to a position in the circus than in Congress.  The two, of course, are Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.  The latest?

During a virtual House committee hearing yesterday, Ms. Boebert logged in remotely with an arsenal as her backdrop.

boebert

The freshman lawmaker and gun-rights advocate, who owns a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, had two AR-15-style rifles arranged like an X on a shelf behind her head and another large firearm lying across books on the shelf below. There was also a handgun.

Representative Jared Huffman of California rightly took umbrage, saying …

“If somebody wants to have a shrine to their gun fetish as a Zoom backdrop in their private life, they can do that. But this is our hearing room, and at some point we will get past the covid epidemic and we’ll all start showing up in person. It’s necessary that we lay down these ground rules that whatever your fetishes or feelings are about guns, you’re not going to bring them into our committee room.”

Boebert whined that he was infringing on her ‘constitutional rights’.

There has been an ongoing debate recently about whether guns should be allowed into committee rooms.  My question is:  WHY???  Why should guns be brought into committee rooms or anywhere else in Congress?  Don’t we have enough violence in this world?  Ms. Boebert herself further proved my point when she said …

“Who says this is storage? These are ready for use.”

Has sanity left the room?

The Former Guy

I took a brief hiatus yesterday … my sanity depended on it.  But today I return … renewed, refreshed, and …. Oh heck, it’s all a lie. Who do I think I’m kidding?  I am neither renewed nor refreshed … I am, rather, exhausted and depressed, but for better or for worse, I am back with my usual … um … bit of ‘tude.


Trump is now “the former guy”

Remember January 20th, 2017 when President Obama left the White House, attended the inauguration of Donald Trump, and then was rarely in the news?  His time in the limelight was over, it was time to pass the baton, and move on with his life.  That is as it should be, folks.  So why the Sam Hell is Donald Trump’s face continually splattered over every media site, and his every word published ad nauseam?

It is time to step away from Donald Trump, my friends.  It is time for the media to focus on today’s reality, not yesterday’s lies.  I call on the press to stop … cease and desist … before they make the same mistake they made in 2016 of giving him so much free airtime that ultimately he was seen as something he wasn’t:  human.  A few days ago, Biden chose not to refer to Trump by name, and called him ‘the former guy’.  I suggest that become his new moniker … it suggests his current irrelevance, and that is what is needed right now if this nation stands a chance of healing.  He has no meaning to us, is naught but a private citizen like you and I.  I hope to be writing about the charges, both federal and state, against him over the coming year, but that’s about all I care about regarding him or his activities or rhetoric.

I and other bloggers have focused on the attacks of January 6th, incited and financed by the former guy, and the related impeachment trial, in hopes he would be held accountable for his actions for once.  The impeachment is over, the Republican Party is forever stained for their refusal to hold him accountable, and no, we won’t forget … ever.  However, it’s time now to realize that the former guy is no longer relevant to our lives, and focus on what is happening in our government, in the world today.  The former guy is history, he is boring for he is a broken record with only 5 phrases on his track.  A recent survey, taken 3 days after the pathetic impeachment vote, claims that 54% of republicans plan to back Trump as a presidential candidate in 2024.  Okay, fine, wonderful, but the election is not for another three-and-a-half years, some 45 months from now. There is work being done by the Biden administration that is far more important than what the former guy does or says.  And frankly, I think the squirrel on my back porch has as much chance of winning in 2024 as Trump.  So, let’s put the ugly man aside, leave him to languish in his fancy digs or rot in prison, and let us focus more on the things that matter in our lives.

Joe Biden brings to our government fresh blood, people who are intelligent, educated, and knowledgeable in their fields, and he brings policies that will make positive contributions to our lives, our health, and our environment.


The Biden cabinet

To date, seven of President Biden’s nominations for cabinet positions have been confirmed, most by a significant majority:

  • Tony Blinken, Secretary of State, was confirmed on January 26th by a vote of 78-22
  • Janet Yellen, Secretary of Treasury, was confirmed on January 25th by a vote of 84-15
  • Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, was confirmed on January 22nd by a vote of 93-2
  • Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, was confirmed on February 2nd by a vote of 86-13
  • Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, was confirmed on January 27th by a vote of 87-7
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, was confirmed on February 2nd by a vote of 56-43
  • Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, was confirmed on January 20th by a vote of 84-10

Next week, confirmation hearings are scheduled for …

  • Merrick Garland, Attorney General, February 22-23
  • Debra Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, February 23
  • Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, February 23

The Biden cabinet is coming together nicely, and I’m pleased that there has been no significant disruption in the process, apart from the time spent in the impeachment trial.  Every one of these people have the background, education and experience to handle the job, unlike their counterparts in the previous administration.  I don’t foresee a problem with the confirmations of Garland, Haaland, or Becerra, though I could always be overlooking something.  After all, it was me who declared 5 years ago that the former guy didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the presidency.  Sigh.  Sooner of later I’ve got to be right … right?