Justin Amash Speaks; The GOP Should Listen

While I was not familiar with Representative Justin Amash from Michigan until very recently when he, the lone GOP Congressman willing to stand for the nation instead of his own interests, called for the impeachment of Donald Trump.  Suddenly, all eyes were on Representative Amash.  He took flak from Trump & Co., and from his own fellow members of Congress on the right side of the partisan aisle, but he stood his ground, had the courage of his convictions.

The very first news story I saw today was an OpEd by Representative Amash … news that he is leaving the Republican Party, aka GOP.  Thumbs-up to Amash, and the GOP would do well to listen, for We the People are sick and damn tired of the republicans in Congress being naught more than a mouthpiece for the would-be dictator in the Oval Office.

Justin Amash: Our politics is in a partisan death spiral. That’s why I’m leaving the GOP.

Justin Amash

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan listens as he is introduced during a town hall event in Grand Rapids on May 28. (Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News)

By Justin Amash July 4 at 6:00 AM
Justin Amash, an independent, represents Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District in the House.

When my dad was 16, America welcomed him as a Palestinian refugee. It wasn’t easy moving to a new country, but it was the greatest blessing of his life.

Throughout my childhood, my dad would remind my brothers and me of the challenges he faced before coming here and how fortunate we were to be Americans. In this country, he told us, everyone has an opportunity to succeed regardless of background.

Growing up, I thought a lot about the brilliance of America. Our country’s founders established a constitutional republic uniquely dedicated to securing the rights of the people. In fact, they designed a political system so ordered around liberty that, in succeeding generations, the Constitution itself would strike back against the biases and blind spots of its authors.

My parents, both immigrants, were Republicans. I supported Republican candidates throughout my early adult life and then successfully ran for office as a Republican. The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family.

In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.

George Washington was so concerned as he watched political parties take shape in America that he dedicated much of his farewell address to warning that partisanship, although “inseparable from our nature,” was the people’s “worst enemy.” He observed that it was “the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

Washington said of partisanship, in one of America’s most prescient addresses: “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. …

“It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

True to Washington’s fears, Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order: separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law. The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy.

These are consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost. Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis.

In this hyperpartisan environment, congressional leaders use every tool to compel party members to stick with the team, dangling chairmanships, committee assignments, bill sponsorships, endorsements and campaign resources. As donors recognize the growing power of party leaders, they supply these officials with ever-increasing funds, which, in turn, further tightens their grip on power.

The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.

With little genuine debate on policy happening in Congress, party leaders distract and divide the public by exploiting wedge issues and waging pointless messaging wars. These strategies fuel mistrust and anger, leading millions of people to take to social media to express contempt for their political opponents, with the media magnifying the most extreme voices. This all combines to reinforce the us-vs.-them, party-first mind-set of government officials.

Modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral, but there is an escape.

Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well represented by either of the two major parties. In fact, the parties have become more partisan in part because they are catering to fewer people, as Americans are rejecting party affiliation in record numbers.

These same independent-minded Americans, however, tend to be less politically engaged than Red Team and Blue Team activists. Many avoid politics to focus on their own lives, while others don’t want to get into the muck with the radical partisans.

But we owe it to future generations to stand up for our constitutional republic so that Americans may continue to live free for centuries to come. Preserving liberty means telling the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that we’ll no longer let them play their partisan game at our expense.

Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.

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Note to Readers:

Apparently WordPress has mucked up again, for the very minute that this post was published, it showed 24 ‘likes’, and I know that is impossible.  Sigh.  Just thought I’d better let you know so that if you see your picture in the row of ‘likes’, and don’t remember reading or liking it before, you’ll know you aren’t losing your mind … WordPress is!

By Hook or By Crook …

There are a couple of ways to win an election.  One can work hard, put together a sincere platform that addresses the concerns of the people, talk to the people, make sure your name and platform are well advertised and hope for the best.  Or … you can spread lies and ‘disinformation’, pick and choose your audience, take money from special interest groups to bombard the airwaves and social media with your ads, and if all else fails, make sure those who wouldn’t vote for you don’t get to vote.  It is my opinion that if you have a viable platform and reasonable ideas for improving the welfare of the nation and its people, your best bet is the first method.  However, if you have no real platform for your plan is to profit from the office you seek, if you care not a whit about the ‘average Joe’, then you will likely choose the second path.

Throughout history, there have been crooked politicians in both parties, and that will likely never change.  However, in this, the 21st century, corruption runs rampant mostly in the Republican Party.  It is republicans who are in the pockets of the NRA.  It is republicans who deny climate change and instead support the fossil fuel industries, for that is where they get their large donations.  It is republicans who aim to cut social safety net programs and who fight against subsidized health care in any form or fashion. And it is mainly republicans who have redistricted their states in order to minimize the effect of the minority vote.  It was the republican candidate running for president in 2016 who encouraged the tapping into private information of his opponent and making it public.

There is an all-important election coming up in just over 17 months, and the republicans are already hard at work.  Not, mind you, developing strong ideologies and working on plans to help the poor and working classes be successful in their lives.  Not working on a plan to improve our failing education system.  Not working on plans to develop renewable energy sources or clean up the environment.  But rather, among other things, they are working on ways to keep ‘the other side’, the democrats, away from the polls.

Texas is one state that has a two-week ‘early voting’ period, and in the past, mobile polling stations have been used in areas where residents might not otherwise be able to access a polling place.  Elderly, poor, and college students are among those for whom access is often difficult, so these mobile polling stations would set up shop in places like assisted living communities, food banks, college campuses, and even office buildings.  However, this week, a bill has been passed by both chambers of the state legislature that would ban the mobile polling stations.  Initially, the bill would have exempted nursing homes and retirement homes from the ban, but the state senate blocked the exemption.  The bill is now on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s desk awaiting his signature.

The ‘justification’ for this bill … “Supporters of the bill say it keeps authorities from giving some people an easier way to vote, while excluding others from that opportunity.” Is that not the biggest crock of you-know-what???  The true reason can be none other than to keep the elderly, disabled, poor, and college-students from voting.  Those groups tend to be more likely to vote for a democrat, for their interests are more closely tied to humanitarian causes than republicans.  I call foul on this one.

I now turn from Texas to Florida …

In 2018, after years of the Republican-dominated state legislature’s resistance to the idea, Floridians included a referendum measure, Amendment 4, in the statewide midterm ballot that would automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons once their sentence has been served (except those convicted of murder and sexual offenses).  The people of Florida overwhelmingly approved the measure with a 65% majority.  In fact, Amendment 4 received more “yes” votes (5.1 million) than any single candidate in the state last November.

However, the state legislature has now passed a bill that is only awaiting Governor DeSantis’ signature, that would place an additional requirement on those returning to society … they must fully pay any and all restitution and court fees before being allowed to vote.  Think about this one … they’ve been in prison, so they have no job and it will be difficult for them to get one, but in order to restore their rights as a citizen, they must come up with sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.  First, it was likely their poverty that led them to whatever crime they committed, and now they are even poorer with no means to even rent an apartment or buy food, but they are expected to pay fees that they may not have even known existed.  Again, just like the Texas law, this law would disproportionately affect the poor and minorities.

Those are just two of the current attempts to disenfranchise the people who are most likely to vote for a democrat.  Restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering, closing or reducing the hours of polling places in poor and minority neighborhoods are happening all around the country.  I can only conclude that the Republican Party has no viable platform on which to run honest campaigns, thus they must resort to all manners of trickery.  GOP once stood for Grand Ol’ Party.  No longer is there anything ‘grand’ about them.

How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

On occasion, I share with you the work of Robert Reich.  Mr. Reich has served under three U.S. presidents of both parties and is a wise man who sees things as they are and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.  In the following essay, he analyzes the ways in which McConnell is changing not only the Senate, but the whole of the U.S. system.  I think his words are worth sharing …

 

Robert Reich-4How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

by Robert Reich

Congress has recessed for two weeks without passing a desperately-needed disaster relief bill. Why not? Because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t want to anger Donald Trump by adding money for Puerto Rico that Democrats have sought but Trump doesn’t want.

America used to have a Senate. But under McConnell, what was once known as the world’s greatest deliberative body has become a partisan lap dog.

Recently McConnell used his Republican majority to cut the time for debating Trump’s court appointees from 30 hours to two – thereby enabling Republicans to ram through even more Trump judges.

In truth, McConnell doesn’t give a fig about the Senate, or about democracy. He cares only about partisan wins.

On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections he famously declared that his top priority was for Barack Obama “to be a one-term president.”

Between 2009 and 2013, McConnell’s Senate Republicans blocked 79 Obama nominees. In the entire history of the United States until that point, only 68 presidential nominees had been blocked.

This unprecedented use of the filibuster finally led Senate Democrats in 2013 to change the rules on some presidential nominees (but not the Supreme Court) to require simple majorities.

In response, McConnell fumed that “breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American.” If so, McConnell is about as un-American as they come. Once back in control of the Senate he buried Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court by refusing even to hold hearings.

Then, in 2017, McConnell and his Republicans changed the rules again, ending the use of the filibuster even for Supreme Court nominees and clearing the way for Senate confirmation of Trump’s Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Step by step, McConnell has sacrificed the Senate as an institution to partisan political victories.

There is a vast difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms of our democracy, and winning by subverting those norms.

To Abraham Lincoln, democracy was a covenant linking past and future. Political institutions, in his view, were “the legacy bequeathed to us.”

On the eve of the Senate’s final vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act in July 2017, the late John McCain returned to Washington from his home in Arizona, where he was being treated for brain cancer, to cast the deciding vote against repeal.

Knowing he would be criticized by other Republicans, McCain noted that over his career he had known senators who seriously disagreed with each other but nonetheless understood “they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.”

In words that have even greater relevance today, McCain added that “it is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning’.”

In politics, success should never be measured solely by partisan victories. It must also be judged by the institutional legacy passed onward. The purpose of political leadership is not merely to win. It is to serve.

In any social or political system it’s always possible to extract benefits by being among the first to break widely accepted norms. In a small town where people don’t lock their doors or windows, the first thief can effortlessly get into anyone’s house. But once broken, the system is never the same. Everyone has to buy locks. Trust deteriorates.

Those, like Mitch McConnell, who break institutional norms for selfish or partisan gains are bequeathing future generations a weakened democracy.

The difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms and rules of our democracy, and winning by subverting them, could not be greater. Political victories that undermine the integrity of our system are net losses for society.

Great athletes play by the rules because the rules make the game. Unprincipled athletes cheat or change the rules in order to win. Their victories ultimately destroy the game.

In terms of shaping the federal courts, McConnell has played “the long game”, which, incidentally, is the title of his 2016 memoir. Decades from now, McConnell will still be shaping the nation through judges he rammed through the Senate.

But McConnell’s long game is destroying the Senate.

He is longest-serving leader of Senate Republicans in history but Mitch McConnell is no leader. He is the epitome of unprincipled power. History will not treat him kindly.

The Electoral College … Keep, Abolish, or Circumvent?

One of the big debates in Washington and around the nation is whether it is time to get rid of the electoral college.  It’s funny in retrospect, but after President Barack Obama won his second term of office, Donald Trump tweeted this …

trump-tweet

But, when the electoral college put him, against the majority vote, into the Oval Office, suddenly he didn’t mind it so much anymore.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

trump-tweet-2.png

One of Elizabeth Warren’s talking points as she campaigns for next year’s presidential election is the abolishment of the electoral college, and it seems a majority in this country are in agreement.  A Pew Research Center poll last year found that a 55% majority support picking presidents by popular vote, compared to 41% who prefer keeping the electoral college.  The usual 4% were asleep … again.

Most of the candidates from both political parties, a number of members of Congress, and others have opined on this issue in recent weeks, but I don’t really care about any of that right now.  I prefer to talk facts … you know, those pesky statements that are supported by hard data?  Let’s first take a look at the rationale behind the electoral college as it was first written into the U.S. Constitution.

There were two primary reasons for the electoral college.  The first was to ensure that only a qualified person becomes president (are you laughing yet?).  The framers of the Constitution believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped.  The founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others.

The second reason for the electoral college system was to mitigate the disadvantage of states with smaller populations.  That, however, is rather a myth, as I will show in a bit.

Now, the majority in this country believe the electoral college has outlived its usefulness.  I have to agree … it is obvious that in the 2016 election it did the exact opposite of what it was intended to do and put the candidate who actually lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, or 2.1%, in office.  This was the least qualified candidate imaginable, yet he now sits in the Oval Office.  It is time for a change.

However, the only means to repeal or abolish the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment, which is not even remotely likely to happen at this point.  But … there is another option.

Contrary to popular belief, the Constitution does not mandate that the winner take all in each state … that was the decision of the individual states over the course of the 19th century.  A state can decide, as 12 states plus the District of Columbia have recently done, to essentially bypass the electoral college.  The states that have signed onto this plan, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, are …

  • District of Columbia – 3 electoral votes
  • Colorado – 9 electoral votes
  • Connecticut – 7 electoral votes
  • Hawaii – 4 electoral votes
  • Illinois – 20 electoral votes
  • Maryland – 10 electoral votes
  • Massachusetts – 11 electoral votes
  • New Jersey – 14 electoral votes
  • Washington – 12 electoral votes
  • Vermont – 3 electoral votes
  • California – 55 electoral votes
  • Rhode Island – 4 electoral votes
  • New York – 29 electoral votes

If enough states pass the bill to account for 270 electoral votes, the bill will become law of the land and as a result, would ensure that every vote will be equal throughout the U.S. and that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.  Not only would this bypass the electoral college, but would also make gerrymandering* pointless.  There are 8 additional states, totaling 72 more electoral votes, where the bill has passed one chamber of the state legislature.  If all 8 pass the bill and the governors sign it into law, added to the 181 electoral votes above, that accounts for a total of 253, a mere 17 short of the magic number.

Under the compact, states pledge to allocate all their electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote in presidential elections.  While this would not abolish the electoral college, it would guarantee that the candidate with the most popular votes would win the election.  Seems to me there can be no logical argument about that … it is as it should be.  We the People are supposed to elect a president, not the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party … We The People!

The argument against this compact mainly comes from the Republican Party, and their argument is that a popular vote system would encourage candidates to only campaign in the larger (population) states, and the smaller states would suffer.  The reality is that in 2016, two-thirds of the visits by both Clinton and Trump took place in just six states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan), and 94 percent of the visits went to just 12 states. Twenty-four states plus the District of Columbia got zero campaign visits.  Kind of puts that argument to rest, don’t you think?

I’ve put together a chart showing each state’s population and electoral votes (electoral votes, by the way, are equal to a state’s representation in Congress).

State Electoral Population # of people represented by each elector
Number of Electoral Votes % of Total Population % of Total
Alabama 9 1.67% 4,874,747 1.50%          541,639
Alaska 3 0.56% 739,795 0.23%          246,598
Arizona 11 2.04% 7,016,270 2.15%          637,843
Arkansas 6 1.12% 3,004,279 0.92%          500,713
California 55 10.22% 39,536,653 12.14%          718,848
Colorado 9 1.67% 5,607,154 1.72%          623,017
Connecticut 7 1.30% 3,588,184 1.10%          512,598
Delaware 3 0.56% 961,939 0.30%          320,646
District of Columbia 3 0.56% 702455 0.22%          234,152
Florida 29 5.39% 20,984,400 6.44%          723,600
Georgia 16 2.97% 10,429,379 3.20%          651,836
Hawaii 4 0.74% 1,427,538 0.44%          356,885
Idaho 4 0.74% 1,716,943 0.53%          429,236
Illinois 20 3.72% 12,802,023 3.93%          640,101
Indiana 11 2.04% 6,666,818 2.05%          606,074
Iowa 6 1.12% 3,145,711 0.97%          524,285
Kansas 6 1.12% 2,913,123 0.89%          485,521
Kentucky 8 1.49% 4,454,189 1.37%          556,774
Louisiana 8 1.49% 4,684,333 1.44%          585,542
Maine 4 0.74% 1,335,907 0.41%          333,977
Maryland 10 1.86% 6,052,177 1.86%          605,218
Massachusetts 11 2.04% 6,859,819 2.11%          623,620
Michigan 16 2.97% 9,962,311 3.06%          622,644
Minnesota 10 1.86% 5,576,606 1.71%          557,661
Mississippi 6 1.12% 2,984,100 0.92%          497,350
Missouri 10 1.86% 6,113,532 1.88%          611,353
Montana 3 0.56% 1,050,493 0.32%          350,164
Nebraska 5 0.93% 1,920,076 0.59%          384,015
Nevada 6 1.12% 2,998,039 0.92%          499,673
New Hampshire 4 0.74% 1,342,795 0.41%          335,699
New Jersey 14 2.60% 9,005,644 2.76%          643,260
New Mexico 5 0.93% 2,088,070 0.64%          417,614
New York 29 5.39% 19,849,399 6.09%          684,462
North Carolina 15 2.79% 10,273,419 3.15%          684,895
North Dakota 3 0.56% 755,393 0.23%          251,798
Ohio 18 3.35% 11,658,609 3.58%          647,701
Oklahoma 7 1.30% 3,930,864 1.21%          561,552
Oregon 7 1.30% 4,142,776 1.27%          591,825
Pennsylvania 20 3.72% 12,805,537 3.93%          640,277
Rhode Island 4 0.74% 1,059,639 0.33%          264,910
South Carolina 9 1.67% 5,024,369 1.54%          558,263
South Dakota 3 0.56% 869,666 0.27%          289,889
Tennessee 11 2.04% 6,715,984 2.06%          610,544
Texas 38 7.06% 28,304,596 8.69%          744,858
Utah 6 1.12% 3,101,833 0.95%          516,972
Vermont 3 0.56% 623,657 0.19%          207,886
Virginia 13 2.42% 8,470,020 2.60%          651,540
Washington 12 2.23% 7,405,743 2.27%          617,145
West Virginia 5 0.93% 1,815,857 0.56%          363,171
Wisconsin 10 1.86% 5,795,483 1.78%          579,548
Wyoming 3 0.56% 579,315 0.18%          193,105
Totals 538 100.00% 325,727,661 100.00% ————–

As you can see, the smaller states are better represented in the electoral college than the more populous ones.  Take a look, for example, at California, the most populous state, that gets only 1 electoral vote for every 718,848 people, versus the least populous state, Wyoming, with 1 electoral vote for every 193,105 people.  Something doesn’t seem quite fair here, don’t you think?

It is my belief that the electoral college has been proven not only unnecessary, but a direct impediment to a fair and honest democratic election.  Since at this juncture it is virtually impossible to pass an amendment to repeal it, the next best thing is to pass legislation to make certain that every vote counts equally.  I also think this might go a long way in overcoming voter apathy, one of the biggest stumbling blocks we have.  Let us hope that enough state legislatures and governors will see this as the best way and choose to do the right thing.

* This small graphic explains the effects of gerrymandered districts as well as any I have seen.gerrymandering

An Open Letter From Adam Schiff

Yesterday, U.S. Representative Adam Schiff of California published an open letter in The Washington Post to his republican colleagues.  I am sharing this letter, for in it Mr. Schiff makes a number of very valid and valuable points that the republicans in Congress need to hear, and not just from Mr. Schiff, but also from We the People.  I have sent a copy of his letter with my own plea to the republicans who represent my state/district and with a rather stern warning that if they fail to step up to the plate, I will do everything in my power to unseat them next year.

Adam Schiff: An open letter to my Republican colleagues

By Adam B. Schiff February 21 at 6:06 PM
Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat, represents California’s 28th Congressional District in the House and is chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

This is a moment of great peril for our democracy. Our country is deeply divided. Our national discourse has become coarse, indeed, poisonous. Disunity and dysfunction have paralyzed Congress.

And while our attention is focused inward, the world spins on, new authoritarian regimes are born, old rivals spread their pernicious ideologies, and the space for freedom-loving peoples begins to contract violently. At last week’s Munich Security Conference, the prevailing sentiment among our closest allies is that the United States can no longer be counted on to champion liberal democracy or defend the world order we built.

For the past two years, we have examined Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and its attempts to influence the 2018 midterms. Moscow’s effort to undermine our democracy was spectacularly successful in inflaming racial, ethnic and other divides in our society and turning American against American.

But the attack on our democracy had its limits. Russian President Vladimir Putin could not lead us to distrust our own intelligence agencies or the FBI. He could not cause us to view our own free press as an enemy of the people. He could not undermine the independence of the Justice Department or denigrate judges. Only we could do that to ourselves. Although many forces have contributed to the decline in public confidence in our institutions, one force stands out as an accelerant, like gas on a fire. And try as some of us might to avoid invoking the arsonist’s name, we must say it.

I speak, of course, of our president, Donald Trump.

The president has just declared a national emergency to subvert the will of Congress and appropriate billions of dollars for a border wall that Congress has explicitly refused to fund. Whether you support the border wall or oppose it, you should be deeply troubled by the president’s intent to obtain it through a plainly unconstitutional abuse of power.

To my Republican colleagues: When the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he is implicated, you did not speak out. When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn’t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse.

Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private.

That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.

This will require courage. The president is popular among your base, which revels in his vindictive and personal attacks on members of his own party, even giants such as the late senator John McCain. Speaking up risks a primary challenge or accusations of disloyalty. But such acts of independence are the most profound demonstrations of loyalty to country.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III may soon conclude his investigation and report. Depending on what is in that report and what we find in our own investigations, our nation may face an even greater challenge. While I am alarmed at what we have already seen and found of the president’s conduct and that of his campaign, I continue to reserve judgment about what consequences should flow from our eventual findings. I ask you to do the same.

If we cannot rise to the defense of our democracy now, in the face of a plainly unconstitutional aggrandizement of presidential power, what hope can we have that we will do so with the far greater decisions that could be yet to come?

Although these times pose unprecedented challenges, we have been through worse. The divisions during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement were just as grave and far more deadly. The Depression and World War II were far more consequential. And nothing can compare to the searing experience of the Civil War.

If Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, could be hopeful that our bonds of affection would be strained but not broken by a war that pitted brother against brother, surely America can come together once more. But as long as we must endure the present trial, history compels us to speak, and act, our conscience, Republicans and Democrats alike.

So Long, Paul — It’s Been … Interesting

There was a time when I thought Paul Ryan was a man of conscience, a decent man.  I don’t judge people … or at least I used not to judge people … by their political party affiliation, so it didn’t matter to me that Paul was a republican, only that he act in the best interest of the nation.  One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, that I believed he had integrity came from a May 2016 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.  When Tapper asked whether he was supporting then-candidate Donald Trump, Mr. Ryan said …

“Well, to be perfectly candid with you, I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.  I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard-bearer that bears our standards. I think conservatives want to know, ‘Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?’ There are lots of questions that conservatives, I think, are gonna want answers to, myself included. I want to be a part of this unifying process. I want to help to unify this party.”

In August 2017, there was another moment when I believed perhaps he had a conscience and would finally stand firm against the abomination some call a president.  It was during the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Trump’s ignominious speech saying that some of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis were ‘very fine people’.  Ryan, again interviewing with Jake Tapper, said …

“I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity.”

Well, he talked a good talk, but when it came time to walk the walk, it was another story altogether.  Paul Ryan went on to become just as much a sycophant, a boot-licker, as his buddy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

And perhaps his perfidy had early beginnings that we just overlooked, for in a March 2017 interview with Rich Lowry of the National Review, Ryan said …

“So Medicaid, sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg. . . . I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.”

Taking health care from the poor … something he’s been thinking about since college.  And Wisconsinites elected him to the House of Representatives nine times!  But then, Wisconsinites are gluttons for punishment, for they elected asshole Scott Walker to the governorship three times.

Ryan has received some ‘fond’ farewells from the press …

In truth, he leaves Congress after his Republican brethren were drowned in the biggest blue wave since 1974. He leaves Congress with his conservative ideals in tatters. He leaves Congress having consoled himself, as he remarked on December 3, “that in a democracy, sometimes you fall short.” – The Atlantic

Ryan’s burden [was] the fact that he had to work with a president who was his opposite in every measure but party affiliation, and it’s easy to think Ryan’s speakership was doomed from the start. – Roll Call

But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump. – Ezra Klein, Vox

Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor? So how did such an obvious con artist get a reputation for seriousness and fiscal probity? Basically, he was the beneficiary of ideological affirmative action. – Paul Krugman, New York Times

And to these tributes, I would like to add a few words of my own.

Paul, you had an opportunity to stand against a madman, to stop the madness before it set this nation on a path of destruction, and frankly, you blew it.  You started out, maybe, with some values and even a bit of integrity, but you sold your soul downriver the day you threw your lot in with the Donald Trump gang.  You could have argued against a tax bill that provided huge amounts of cash to those who already dine on steak, and gave nothing to those of us who struggle to put a chicken leg on the table.  You had the unique opportunity to speak out against horrible policies that have enabled the fossil fuel and other industries to further damage our environment, our very planet. 

So many times, all you had to do was say, “No, Mr. Trump, I will not support you in ______________” (fill in the blank with any of hundreds of examples).  You were a huge disappointment to the people who looked to you to use your power, your office, to stop Donald Trump from killing us, and instead you smiled, looked into the camera with your sad-puppy eyes, and lied to us.  You fell on your knees before King Trump and when he said “Jump!”, you asked “How high, sir?”  You sold us downriver and I cannot say that I’m sorry to see you leave Washington.  I wish that I could wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, but the truth is that, as Melania might say, “I don’t really care”.

The GOP Ain’t Atticus Finch!!!

In the past weeks, and especially the past few days, I have seen some of the most asinine comments come from the mouths of men and women who are supposed to be well-educated, reasonable human beings. Men and women who are paid a sizable chunk of money by us to represent us.  That would be … us … all of us … as in, We The People.  It isn’t bad enough that they are not doing their job, that they are playing games with our lives, gambling away the future of this nation, but on top of that, we have to listen to them spout ugly and stupid rhetoric!

Tonight I focus on one such fool, John Cornyn III, a United States Senator from the State of Texas.  A brief bio …

John_Cornyn_(cropped)Cornyn is a graduate from Trinity University and St. Mary’s University School of Law, receiving his LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law. Cornyn was a Judge on Texas’ 37th District Court from 1985 to 1991, until he was elected an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, where he served 1991 to 1997. In 1998, Cornyn was elected Attorney General of Texas, serving one term until winning a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2002. He was re-elected to a second term in 2008 and to a third term in 2014.

Cornyn was the subject of a number of controversies during his single term as Attorney General of Texas, involving deals with the Koch brothers, injecting religion into schools, and others that I wish I had the time and space to delve into, but for tonight I shall stay the course.  What has set me off now is his inane comment about the republican senators who shoved Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation through, despite at least five valid reasons not to do so.  He had the unmitigated gall to compare these jerks to the fictional character Atticus Finch, from Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.

atticus-finch-qoeAtticus Finch, you may remember, played by Gregory Peck, was a lawyer in a small fictional southern town of Maycomb, Alabama.  Finch was representing a black man, Tom Robinson,  falsely accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell.  The character of Atticus Finch represents morality and reason.  He is soft-spoken, believes in fighting for justice and equality, and is a moral hero in every sense of the word.

John Cronyn and his bunch are definitely not Atticus Finch.

“Some commentators have called this our Atticus Finch moment. We all remember that Atticus Finch was a lawyer who did not believe that a mere accusation was synonymous with guilt. He represented an unpopular person who many people presumed was guilty of a heinous crime because of his race and his race alone. We could learn from Atticus Finch now.”

The comparison is 180° off base, for while Atticus Finch was defending a Black man from a white woman who had accused him of a rape he didn’t commit, in the Jim Crow South, the GOP are trying to ensure a privileged white judge gets an even more privileged position on the Supreme Court.

And while Cornyn’s is the most bombastic comment, others in the GOP, now that they have gotten their way and feel they have nothing to lose, have dropped the masks of decency and are showing their true colours.Mitch McConnell said that the allegations made against Kavanaugh were “uncorroborated mud” and that blocking his nomination would be a “fundamentally un-American precedent.”  Never mind, I suppose, that McConnell was the force behind blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland, a highly qualified candidate, under President Obama, for more than a year!

Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, has accused Democrats of spurring an “unethical sham”, and is insisting that democrat Amy Klobuchar apologize for the “smear campaign”.  Such nice language these so-called professional men use, eh?

It’s funny, isn’t it, that the republicans got their way, by hook or by crook … mostly crook, for the FBI investigation was not an investigation, but a farce, and many credible allegations were simply ignored … and yet they still feel a need to push conspiracy theories, lie, and denigrate innocent people.  At first I was confounded by this behaviour, but then I recalled that they are only talking to their own base, the minority, if you will, of the population of this nation.  Remember that, folks, when you are tempted to lose heart, when you feel like the guys in the black hats are winning the game.  They are only winning amongst about one-third of the country, for the rest of us are not buying their snake oil pitch.  The thing we must do is take away their rosy glow next month at the polls.  It’s our last, best hope … our only hope for a semblance of sanity, of decency to return to at least one branch of government.mlk quote

Blockbuster News: President’s Former Campaign Manager Cuts Cooperating Plea Deal With FBI

This is the news we have all been waiting to hear. I hope this is the beginning of the end of the Trumpian Reign of Absurdity. Many thanks, Gronda, for being on top of this and keeping us informed!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of manafort PAUL MANAFORT

I’ve been waiting to post on the news of the republican President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort until more information was available as to whether he was cutting a plea deal with cooperation or with non-co-operation with the FBI.

It is pretty much a consensus that Mr. Manafort is most likely counting on a presidential pardon sometime in the future which is a reasonable expectation as President Trump has hinted that he would be willing to do so.

It is my hope the the FBI’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, head of its Trump-Russia probe would not cut a plea deal without this reality being a consideration.

I suspect that Mr. Mueller would not consider a plea deal without co-operation unless he has determined that he doesn’t need Mr. Manafort’s assistance to build a strong case and without accounting for a possible future pardon.

It is…

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