None of the GOP Senators Deserve Their Jobs

He knew, yet he said nothing, did nothing. He claims to ‘love’ veterans, yet he knew that his buddy Putin was paying to have U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered. He knew … and he didn’t care. And now, the republicans in Congress don’t care, either. Our friend TokyoSand has written a fine piece about this and included two hard-hitting ads. Please take a few moments to read … this should be the final straw for the likes of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and the other 51 republicans in the Senate, but they have largely only shrugged their shoulders. Thank you, TS, for an excellent post.

Political⚡Charge

Detail of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” (1989) by Keith Haring

We keep waiting to see when the Republican Senators might stand up for something. Some value they have that they won’t let Trump cross.

And after the horrifying news of this weekend, we find that we’re still waiting.

On Friday, news broke that Russian Intelligence was secretly offering bounties to militants who killed American and allied forces in Afghanistan. Quickly, other media outlets confirmed the story, including Fox News. Then, we learned that American intelligence had known about this for months, and anger spilled over at Trump as he had very clearly not done anything about it.

Of course, Trump claimed he, nor VP Pence, nor his Chief of Staff, had been briefed about it. Which former national security officials said strained credulity. Furthermore, even if they had not been told (which would…

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The Trump Presidency Is Over …

You have heard me say more than once that the United States has no president.  Turns out, I’m not alone in my thinking, but am in fact in very good company.  Nobody says it better than Robert Reich, so I shall turn the platform over to him …


Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over

Robert Reich-4 Robert Reich

You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed. His verbal bombshells are louder than ever, but Donald J Trump is no longer president of the United States.

By having no constructive response to any of the monumental crises now convulsing America, Trump has abdicated his office. 

He is not governing. He’s golfing, watching cable TV and tweeting.

How has Trump responded to the widespread unrest following the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for minutes as he was handcuffed on the ground?

Trump called the protesters “thugs” and threatened to have them shot. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted, parroting a former Miami police chief whose words spurred race riots in the late 1960s.

On Saturday, he gloated about “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” awaiting protesters outside the White House, should they ever break through Secret Service lines. 

Trump’s response to the last three ghastly months of mounting disease and death has been just as heedless. Since claiming Covid-19 was a “Democratic hoax” and muzzling public health officials, he has punted management of the coronavirus to the states.

Governors have had to find ventilators to keep patients alive and protective equipment for hospital and other essential workers who lack it, often bidding against each other. They have had to decide how, when and where to reopen their economies.

Trump has claimed “no responsibility at all” for testing and contact-tracing – the keys to containing the virus. His new “plan” places responsibility on states to do their own testing and contact-tracing.

Trump is also awol in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

More than 41 million Americans are jobless. In the coming weeks temporary eviction moratoriums are set to end in half of the states. One-fifth of Americans missed rent payments this month. Extra unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of July.

What is Trump’s response? Like Herbert Hoover, who in 1930 said “the worst is behind us” as thousands starved, Trump says the economy will improve and does nothing about the growing hardship. The Democratic-led House passed a $3tn relief package on 15 May. Mitch McConnell has recessed the Senate without taking action and Trump calls the bill dead on arrival. 

What about other pressing issues a real president would be addressing? The House has passed nearly 400 bills this term, including measures to reduce climate change, enhance election security, require background checks on gun sales, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and reform campaign finance. All are languishing in McConnell’s inbox. Trump doesn’t seem to be aware of any of them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with golfing, watching television and tweeting. But if that’s pretty much all that a president does when the nation is engulfed in crises, he is not a president.

Trump’s tweets are no substitute for governing. They are mostly about getting even.

When he’s not fomenting violence against black protesters, he’s accusing a media personality of committing murder, retweeting slurs about a black female politician’s weight and the House speaker’s looks, conjuring up conspiracies against himself supposedly organized by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and encouraging his followers to “liberate” their states from lockdown restrictions.

He tweets bogus threats that he has no power to carry out – withholding funds from states that expand absentee voting, “overruling” governors who don’t allow places of worship to reopen “right away”, and punishing Twitter for factchecking him.

And he lies incessantly.

In reality, Donald Trump doesn’t run the government of the United States. He doesn’t manage anything. He doesn’t organize anyone. He doesn’t administer or oversee or supervise. He doesn’t read memos. He hates meetings. He has no patience for briefings. His White House is in perpetual chaos. 

His advisers aren’t truth-tellers. They’re toadies, lackeys, sycophants and relatives.

Since moving into the Oval Office in January 2017, Trump hasn’t shown an ounce of interest in governing. He obsesses only about himself.

But it has taken the present set of crises to reveal the depths of his self-absorbed abdication – his utter contempt for his job, his total repudiation of his office.

Trump’s nonfeasance goes far beyond an absence of leadership or inattention to traditional norms and roles. In a time of national trauma, he has relinquished the core duties and responsibilities of the presidency.

He is no longer president. The sooner we stop treating him as if he were, the better.

Letter to Members of Congress

This is the letter I wrote yesterday to my two senators, Senator Rob Portman, a republican and Senator Sherrod Brown, a democrat, and my single useless Representative, Warren Davidson, a republican and member of the ignoble House Freedom Caucus.  I sent the letter via regular USPS mail, as I did not wish it to become lost in the tens of thousands of emails they receive daily.  I am angry with the entire lot of them, democrats and republicans, members of the House and Senate.  They are wasting time when there is important work to be done and they are allowing Donald Trump free rein to do exactly as he pleases … quite often abusing the limitations on the power of his office.


Dear Senator/Representative ___________________,

As a taxpayer, a voter, and a citizen of this country, I am beyond disappointed in the job Congress has done and is doing.  It matters not to me if you are a Republican or a Democrat … you are an elected official who swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, to do your job with the best interests of the country and its people as your goal.  Congress as a whole has let We the People down in so many ways that I’ve lost count.

Per the aforementioned Constitution, it is the duty of Congress to oversee the executive branch, ie the president, and in this, you are failing miserably.  By ‘you’, I mean the body as a whole, but each member must share responsibility for allowing the many atrocities that are being forced upon the people of this nation.  I have a few questions I would like answered:

    • Why is Donald Trump being allowed to fire the Inspectors General who are tasked with overseeing the various departments and agencies within the federal government? It is rather like allowing a child to fire its nanny!
    • Why is he being allowed to continue his false accusations against such honourable people as President Barack Obama, Vice President and candidate Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and others? These are merely a smoke screen intended to distract the public, and Congress, from the real issues at hand.
    • Why is he being allowed to threaten to cut off federal funding to states that adopt absentee and mail-in voting this year in order to make voting safe for everyone?  This is not within the bounds of his authority, yet who will stop him, if not Congress?
    • Why is Congress so divided along party lines that literally nothing of value is being accomplished, yet you are all taking your monthly pay?  Can you not set aside your differences to act in the best interest of the nation at this, a time of genuine crisis?  Is the power of your position more important to you than our lives?
    • Why did you so easily give up your oversight function regarding the last stimulus bill, such that the money was grossly misspent?  Small businesses received little, and corporations with ties to Trump and his cronies received money to which they had no right.

Today I read that Donald Trump is threatening states that are planning to use absentee and mail-in ballots in the upcoming November election.  This is an obvious ploy to disenfranchise many voters of both parties.  Do you plan to continue sitting on your haunches and allow him to get by with this?  He claims he will withhold federal funding from those states that plan to allow mail-in ballots … you CAN stop him from doing this, but will you?

Thus far, he has pulled this country out of critical international agreements, such as the Paris Accords and the Iran nuclear deal, and now he has ceased critical funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), which he is threatening to make a permanent cessation.  Will you truly allow this?  It is not within his power to do so, unless you simply sit back and do nothing to stop it.

As I said, I do not care what your party affiliation is … I myself am an independent who has voted at various times for people in both parties.  But, I DO care whether our elected officials, people whose salaries we pay with our hard-earned tax dollars, are doing their jobs, and it appears today that most of them are not.  Most seem to be more concerned with collecting their campaign donations from the NRA and corporations, rather than protecting the people of this nation.

I write this letter in hopes of opening your eyes to the fact that things need to change, and they need to change NOW.  You need to understand that the madman in the Oval Office is NOT your employer … We the People are!  You need to open your eyes and engage your brain and see what is in front of those eyes … a corrupt and evil person who has aspirations far beyond what the office of president allows.  I hope that you will take my concerns to the floor of Congress, allow me to have a voice, and that you and your peers will act to stop this runaway train before it dooms us all to life under a dictatorship.

Sincerely,

Jill E Dennison, voter & taxpayer

Filosofa Is Ranting … AGAIN!

Last evening, Donald Trump crossed a line in my book.  He’s crossed many before, but this, taken in conjunction with his statement a few days ago that he had “total authority”, is the final straw.  I hold every person who voted for, and still approves of Donald Trump responsible for handing the ‘keys to the kingdom’ to a cruel and evil tyrant determined to have his way at all costs, determined to destroy the United States.

Why am I ranting, you ask?  Believe me, I toned it down a lot from my first draft!  Let me tell you …

According to the U.S. Constitution, we have three equal branches of government, but yesterday … Donald Trump threatened to trash the Constitution in order to have his way.  Oh sure, he’s been trashing it, shredding it, trampling it and burning it for over three years now, but this is beyond any of his previous abominable moves.

Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened to shut down both chambers of Congress to allow him to fill vacancies in his administration without Senate approval.  This is unconscionable … this is the action of a strongarm dictator, determined to get his way … or else!  This is the exact sort of tyrant the Founding Fathers worried about, the reason they built checks and balances into the Constitution so that no one person could hijack the democratic principles on which this nation was founded.

He spent much of his daily campaign rally (disguised as a coronavirus briefing), railing against democrats for blocking his nominations when in fact, the nominations are awaiting Senate approval and the Senate is controlled by the republicans … his own bootlickers!

He ended his little tirade with …

“They know they’ve been warned and they’ve been warned right now. If they don’t approve it, then we’re going to go this route and we’ll probably be challenged in court and we’ll see who wins.”

The Constitution grants the president the authority to adjourn Congress if leaders of the House and Senate can’t agree on whether to adjourn.  However, in 233 years of governance under the Constitution, that authority has never once been exercised.  And furthermore, there is currently no disagreement between the two chambers — they have already agreed to adjourn on Jan. 3, 2021.

In 2014, republican senators challenged some of President Obama’s recess appointments in the Supreme Court and won their case.  The Supreme Court ruled that only the Senate — not the president — can decide when it is in session.  Seems cut and dried to me, but this is the era of Trump, when nothing follows any logical pattern, when he can browbeat and bully to get his way, when children are thrown into cages by order of Trump, and when justice as we once knew it no longer exists.


And in other news …

Well isn’t that convenient?

The criminal trial for several associates of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been postponed until well after the November election.  How very convenient!

parnas-frugmanA federal judge in New York on Wednesday ordered that the trial of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and two other men on campaign-finance-related charges be postponed from this October to February of next year.

Parnas and Fruman worked closely with Giuliani on several efforts related to Ukraine, including a successful drive to oust the U.S. ambassador to that country, Marie Yovanovitch. She was removed from her post last May. An indictment returned against the businessmen last year charged them with violating U.S. campaign finance laws by funneling funds from abroad and hiding their source. In the indictment, Yovanovitch’s ouster is discussed as one of the goals the conspirators were allegedly seeking to achieve.

The reason cited for the delay was logistical problems related to the pandemic … my guess is that money or favours changed hands to push it to after the election so that it wouldn’t be ongoing, or fresh in people’s minds on election day.  Amazing how this pandemic that is killing the rest of us has played right into Trump’s hands in a number of ways, isn’t it?


Profit over people

In a 24-hour period ending on Wednesday everning, the U.S. recorded more than 4,500 deaths as a result of the coronavirus, an all-time daily high.  And yet Trump stands firm that he is re-opening the country, possibly even before May 1st.  Later today, he plans to “unveil” his plan for opening the economy.  Likely his plan will be disregarded by most, except the republican governors who care far more for the wealthy industrialists in their states than the working people.  We, the poor and middle class, are expendable, you know.

Turns out that yesterday Trump attempted a conference call with bankers from such institutions as Goldman-Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America and others.  First, it was a fiasco, as he didn’t give much advance notice and most of the CEOs he planned to touch base with already had other commitments for the time he specified.  One of the executives involved in the call referred to it as a ‘shit show’, if that tells you anything.

Trump’s intent was to talk with the bankers about how to re-start the economy, and apparently he expected them to be eager to get back to ‘business as usual’, but he was in for a bit of a surprise.  One of the CEOs complained …

“I really don’t understand how they are communicating on this. He’s got to stop talking about turning the economy back on and start talking about making people feel safe, things that are happening around testing and the health care system. That’s the only way you will really get the economy reopened over a period of time.”

Now, as a rule I have little or no respect for bankers, considering them to be a greedy lot concerned more about their own investment portfolios than our lives, but this is one case where I will give them a thumbs up for saying just what the rest of the nation is saying (except money-grubbing industrialists and the politicians in their pockets).


I would like to remind the people of this country that we did not elect Donald Trump to lead this nation.  We elected Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes more than Donald Trump.  Through corrupt machinations primarily by the republicans in certain states, he was placed into the Oval Office and has been destroying this nation since the first day he took office.  But today, in a crisis of astronomical proportions, we are stuck with a person at the helm who does not have a clue what he is doing and does not care, but is determined to claim absolute power, to lead not as a president representing the people, but as an authoritarian who puts his own interests first.  Remember all these abominations on November 3rd, please, or we may very well find ourselves in the same situation the German people found themselves in 1933.  Think about it.

The Post Office is in Trouble. Here’s How to Help.

The United States Postal Service is one of those things we use every single day, but we rarely give it much thought, taking for granted that we will receive our daily mail and be able to send letters, cards and packages for a (mostly) reasonable price. Many of us receive life-saving medications by mail, we order necessities or even food, we receive our bills by mail. But today, the fool on the hill is threatening to allow the USPS to go broke, in part because he fears what will happen in November if we can all cast our vote by mail. Our friend TokyoSand has written an excellent post summarizing the situation and with a few suggestions for what we can do to help … please read!

Political⚡Charge

usps-logo.gif

Is the U.S. Post Office, enshrined in the Constitution, really about to go bust?

The Post Office is in financial dire straits, yes. It is also true that they’ve been under tremendous financial strain before and received help from Congress. So what’s happening now? Let’s go through a quick rundown.

Why is the Post Office in trouble?

The Post Office is in trouble because the coronavirus has sharply curtailed how much mail is being sent by businesses. Late last week Postmaster General Megan Brennan informed Congress of the dire situation. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Post Office said this after their briefing, “[T]he pandemic has completely changed the environment here. The mail volume drop is catastrophic.” Just last week, the drop in mail volume was around 30%, and it is expected to get as high as 50% as the pandemic wears on.

The Post…

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Absolute Authority …

In yesterday’s press briefing, when asked about his plan to “reopen” the nation on or before May 1st, he had this to say …

“I have great authority to use it … I have absolute authority to use it …”

Yesterday, I read a great many news stories that riled me, raised my hackles, and one even caused me to shout an expletive.  But none … not a single one … chilled me in the way this single sentence chills me.  It’s that one word: absolute.  No president has ‘absolute’ authority.  Absolute is a word used by dictators and other authoritarians … it is not a word I expect to hear used by an elected official who has sworn an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.

The framers of the Constitution, fully understanding the nature of men, wrote the document in such a way as to ensure that no president could become a king.  Power is shared among the three equal branches of government, and both the legislative branch and the judicial branch are tasked with overseeing the executive branch.

That said, in 2016 the Republican Party, now largely bought and paid for by large corporations such as the fossil fuel, logging and weapons industries, sold the country downriver and through not-quite-honest means, put a person in the White House who has absolutely zero political experience, absolutely zero relevant education, and absolutely zero conscience.  What he has an abundance of, however, are arrogance and ego.

It is that arrogance, that megalomania, that gives him the idea that he has absolute powers, and unfortunately neither Congress nor the Supreme Court seem willing to do their job and provide oversight, but rather feed his ego by essentially telling him that he is above the law, that they will uphold whatever he does.  This sets up a very dangerous scenario that should never have been allowed to get to this point.

Ever since that day, February 5th 2020, when the republicans in the Senate one by one said “nay” to convicting Trump of the proven crimes for which he was (and remains) impeached, Trump has been taking upon himself more and more power, and both Congress and the Supreme Court have continued to give him carte blanche to do so.  In so doing, it may be the case that they have signed the death warrant for the U.S. Constitution.  They may have turned the presidency, an elected position answerable to the people of this nation, into a dictatorship, a position with “absolute authority”.

Two hundred and thirty-three years ago, the U.S. Constitution was written and ratified.  Though it has undergone a number of amendments, and some controversial interpretations, for the most part the foundation has held firm for those 233 years.  And today?  Today we are on a precipice, on the very brink of burning the Constitution.  Why?  Because we have allowed politicians to be bought and paid for by wealthy industrialists seeking to become even wealthier.

We have one final opportunity to stop this in November.  The Republican Party and all its minions will do everything in their power to prevent us from voting them out of office.  If we succumb, if we don’t all vote, then we will have handed over the keys to the kingdom to the wealthy and I doubt we will get another chance to stop the Titanic before it hits the iceberg.  Remember those words, “I have absolute authority”, think of all the things that could mean.

Discord & Dissension – Part XII – Fight For The Senate

So far, Jeff and I have focused solely on the presidential election in November, and granted, that is the single most important of the many elections coming up in November, but it is not the only crucial one.  We will come back to the presidential election soon, but for today I want to talk about the Senate races.

There are 35 senate seats up for grabs on November 3rd, 23 of which are currently held by republicans.  The current demographics of the Senate are 53 republicans, 45 democrats, and 2 independents who caucus with the democrats.  So, the democrats, in order to gain a simple majority, will need to flip at least a net 4 of the 23 republican-held seats.  Can they do it?  I think there is a better-than-average chance that they can and will, but as we saw in 2016, it doesn’t pay to take anything for granted.

But before I get into the specific races that I think will be integral to re-gaining a democratic majority, let’s talk for just a minute about the down ballot, also known as the coattail effect.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, it is the tendency for a popular political party leader to attract votes for other candidates of the same party in an election. For example, in the United States, the party of a victorious presidential candidate will often win many seats in Congress as well; these members of Congress are voted into office “on the coattails” of the president, as happened in 2016, giving Congress a republican majority in both chambers.

However, it also works in the opposite direction, and that may be to the democrats’ advantage this year, as Trump is almost certain to lose popularity the longer the pandemic crisis goes on, the more lives are lost due to his ineptitude, egomania, and continued disregard for the lives of the people of this country.  Those republican senators like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham who have almost slavishly cast their lot in with Trump, are almost certain to suffer if Trump is falling in the polls, as I expect to see happen (fingers crossed).

Twelve of the twenty-three republican seats up for grabs are considered to be safe for the republican party, so at this time there isn’t much point talking about flipping those seats, so I will focus on the other eleven.  They are …

  • Martha McSally – Arizona
  • Cory Gardner – Colorado
  • Kelly Loeffler – Georgia
  • David Perdue – Georgia
  • Joni Ernst – Iowa
  • Pat Roberts – Kansas *
  • Mitch McConnell – Kentucky
  • Susan Collins – Maine
  • Steve Daines – Montana
  • Thom Tillis – North Carolina
  • John Cornyn – Texas

Martha McSally and Kelly Loeffler were never elected to their senate seats, but rather were appointed by their state’s governors to fill seats on the death of Arizona Senator John McCain and the poor health of Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson.  Neither are particularly popular in their states, and both have been the source of some controversies, the latest involving Kelly Loeffler and insider trading when after a briefing by top government scientists about the coronavirus in January, she immediately sold stocks that later tanked. She then turned around and re-invested in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and whose share price is one of the few that has risen since the crisis began.

For now, in the interest of both time and space, I will focus only on the four races where democrats stand the best chance to take over a republican seat, and I will come back to the others in a future post.

McSallyIn nearly every poll, McSally trails behind her democratic opponent, former astronaut Mark Kelly by a margin of between 5 and 12 points.  Mark Kelly is very popular, and I personally don’t foresee McSally being able to pull a rabbit out of her hat.  McSally is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, but she uses that almost as a weapon sometimes, a bit too much to suit most people.  She lost the 2018 election to democrat Kyrsten Sinema but gained her senate seat later that year after the death of John McCain.  I do think this is one the democrats can flip with relative ease.

gardnerTurning our sights now to Colorado where Senator Cory Gardner has become so unpopular that his approval rating is a mere 37%.  His democratic opponent is almost certain to be former Colorado governor and former presidential candidate, John Hickenlooper.  There are few Colorado polls out at this time, but the most reliable one puts Hickenlooper 12 points ahead of Gardner.  Another I think can be won by democrats, for even Trump has lost a good bit of his popularity in the state.

Susan-CollinsBy all rights, Susan Collins should be a pariah, an outcast in her home state of Maine.  Her democratic opponent, Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon, is in fact leading in the polls, but by a small margin.  Ms. Collins has been in the Senate since 1997 and like some of her fellow senators, namely Mitch McConnell, is the perfect example of the need for term limits.  She lost some of her popularity when she referred to then-nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, as “an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father”, despite credible accusations of sexual misconduct.  She then added: “I will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”  Then she plunged a bit further during the impeachment trial when, after having said a few months prior that Trump had made “a big mistake” in asking foreign countries for political favours, she turned around and voted not to convict Trump.  She claimed she believed that Trump “has learned from this case”.  Within days, it became obvious that he hadn’t, and Ms. Collins became the butt of many jokes.  Currently, she is polling between 2.5 and 4 points behind Ms. Gideon and given that there are still some 200 days until the election, it is likely that she will say something else that proves her unfitness for her senate seat.  We can hope, at any rate.

thom-tillisIn North Carolina, the race between republican incumbent Thom Tillis and democrat Cal Cunningham is considered to be a toss-up at this point.  Only two polls have rung in, one putting Tillis ahead with a two-point lead, the other in favour of Cunningham by 5 points.  One thing that may help Cunningham is that North Carolina’s approval rating for Trump is only in the 43% range, and this may be where the down-ballot comes into play.  I’m less certain of this one than I am Arizona, Colorado and Maine, but it is definitely one where anything could happen.  Remember, there are 6+ months left …

Those are the four senate seats most likely to be flipped.  Two others, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Moscow Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, bear watching and, by some accounts, may be easily switched, and we’ll talk a bit more about those, as well as others at another time.  Meanwhile, though, remember I said that to gain a majority in the Senate the democrats would need to gain a net 4 seats.  So, if the democrats are able to persevere only in the above four states, they must also hold all their current seats for a majority.  There is, fortunately, only one seat held by democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, that is in jeopardy, but it is a serious jeopardy.

doug-jonesSenator Jones earned his seat in a special election in 2017 to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat after Sessions became the Attorney General.  At that time, Jones ran against the scandal-ridden infamous Roy Moore, racist extraordinaire.  While at this time, there are three contenders for the republican nominee, and the primary has been postponed until July, most surveys are showing that any of the three, one being Jeff Sessions himself, could easily beat Jones.  I think, realistically, this is one that the democrats will lose, giving them a net 3 new seats, and tying the Senate 50-50.

Now, one last thing.  If, as most reading this are hoping, Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump for the office of president, a net 3 gain will suffice, for the vice president is the one who would break any ties.  However, if Donald Trump should win his bid for re-election, and there is a tie in the Senate, the republicans would prevail, as they have for the past three years.  One way or another, we must make sure this doesn’t happen.

Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents

Words Of Wisdom

This OpEd by Noah Bookbinder in the New York Times is an important … nay, a critical read.  The fear that is overtaking this nation as a result of the pandemic cannot blind us to what is being done to our very structure of government, for that is exactly what Trump is hoping for.  Please take a minute to read Mr. Bookbinder’s very important words.

Trump Is Gutting Our Democracy While We’re Dealing with Coronavirus

The president’s firing of the intelligence watchdog who validated the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint is his latest threat to the rule of law.

By Noah Bookbinder

Mr. Bookbinder is the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

When President Trump announced late Friday that he would fire the government watchdog who told Congress about the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint, which ultimately led to his impeachment, it touched off one of the most acute threats yet to our democracy. But it didn’t even make the front page of most papers.

That’s understandable. Thousands of Americans are dying every day from the terrifying coronavirus pandemic. People are worried about their own safety and that of their families, as well as about their jobs and livelihood. Questions abound about how the crisis got to this point, whether the Trump administration took appropriate steps to address it, and what steps are needed to minimize the devastation going forward; there is little bandwidth for anything else.

But we can’t afford to ignore the anti-democratic steps the president is taking while the American people are appropriately preoccupied with this outbreak. If we don’t respond to these outrageous abuses now, the damage may be done by the time anyone is the wiser.

The worst of the president’s latest round of steps to undermine checks and balances came not just in this time of crisis, but on a Friday night, the classic black hole for sweeping problematic actions in Washington under the rug.

First, the president announced that he would be firing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community. Mr. Trump said in a required letter to Congress that he no longer had “the fullest confidence” in Atkinson; there was not even an effort to disguise the fact that what caused the president to lose that confidence was Atkinson following the law and allowing the truth to come out about Mr. Trump’s lawless attempt to pressure a foreign power to announce politically helpful investigations. Mr. Atkinson will be fired 30 days after the letter went to Congress, the soonest he can be under law, but the president undercut even that law by putting Mr. Atkinson on immediate administrative leave.

Michael Horowitz, the respected inspector general of the Department of Justice and chairman of a council that coordinates inspectors general, went out on a limb to vouch for Mr. Atkinson, praising his integrity and his handling of the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint. Mr. Horowitz is right, and his affirmation that the inspector general community “will continue to conduct aggressive, independent oversight” is heartening.

But President Trump’s further action makes that claim questionable at best. The president compounded the Atkinson announcement on Friday night with his intention to nominate White House lawyer Brian Miller to be special inspector general for pandemic recovery, a key position for oversight of the just-passed $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, which is ripe for fraud and corruption without aggressive review. The position demands ironclad independence, particularly with the risk that the president’s company, relatives, customers and donors could seek to benefit from the stimulus package. Mr. Miller, who served for nearly 10 years as inspector general at the General Services Administration, but more recently played a role in the White House’s response to the impeachment inquiry, is precisely the wrong person to ensure independence. A former senior Senate staff member praised Miller’s “loyalty to the administration” in explaining why he’ll make a good choice, even though loyalty is the exact opposite of what is needed.

The one-two punch of Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Miller is, unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg of the president’s dangerous attacks on the independence of inspectors general. Mr. Trump will likely fire additional inspectors general because he and his allies view them as “deep state” operatives who undermine him. Indeed, the president seems to view any independence within the government and certainly any checks on him as intolerable disloyalty; that notion, of course, runs counter to our entire system of checks and balances.

Friday night’s actions came at the end of a week of scary departures from democratic practices. Reporting indicates that more and more power has gone to the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, whose coronavirus “shadow task force” of government allies and private sector connections may run afoul of federal law. Mr. Kushner is meanwhile also reportedly playing a significant role in the Trump re-election campaign from the White House, which may also violate federal law. Nepotism and disregard for the law have characterized this administration from day one, but the volume and brazenness of these anti-democratic tendencies is increasing.

Indeed, earlier Friday, the government changed its description on a federal website of the strategic national stockpile to correspond to Mr. Kushner’s description of it as being for the benefit of the federal government, not the states. Also last week, the Navy fired a captain who blew the whistle on the scope of a Covid-19 outbreak on his ship, another example of apparent payback for truthtelling, and the president reportedly wants to have his own signature on stimulus checks to Americans, which may also run afoul of law. All of these autocratic steps come on top of the president’s February purges of officials who testified in the impeachment trial and attempts to meddle in the sentencing of friends and allies convicted of crimes.

Here’s why this matters: times of crisis are when democracies are in the gravest danger of crumbling. We are seeing that play out in the world right now. Hungary, which has watched its hard won post-Cold War democratic reforms slipping away for some time, this week saw its Parliament give Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom Mr. Trump has praised, unlimited authority, effectively turning the country into a dictatorship. Dictators around the world are using the pandemic to tighten their control.

We’re not there yet. But the president’s attempts to rid the government of those who would provide appropriate oversight and accountability for abuses and speak truth to power, to put in place loyalists who will look out for him rather than providing independent checks, and to empower relatives and disregard laws sets us on a dangerous trajectory. Firing inspectors general and replacing them with loyalists is a serious threat to our democracy. The American people must register our outrage; Congress must investigate the firings aggressively and rigorously vet nominees. If we ignore the erosion of checks and balances because we are preoccupied with more immediate concerns, we may find that our democracy — when we need the institutions of this country the most — is disappearing. Just ask Hungary.

The Good, The Bad, And … The Fun!

I was writing a somewhat in-depth post that I had planned for this morning, but ‘things’ kept distracting me – a small family crisis, a catfight, and the flotsam & jetsam of news stories that kept floating across my screen.  So, I finally set it aside and decided to write about a bit of that flotsam & jetsam, for my snark-o-meter is quivering somewhere around the high end.


The Good …

maxine-waters-1Let’s start on a positive note:  Maxine Waters.  Ms. Waters has served in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Southern California, including much of Los Angeles, since 1991.  She is the most senior of the twelve black women currently serving in Congress, and she chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 1997 to 1999. She is currently the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.  What I most like about Ms. Waters is that she does not pull any punches … she “calls ‘em like she sees ‘em”.

Donald Trump managed to get on her wrong side early on, and in the early days of his term, she referred to him as “a bully, an egotistical maniac, a liar and someone who did not need to be President”, and “the most deplorable person I’ve ever met in my life”.  On Monday, when Trump was once again congratulating himself for his “perfect” response to the pandemic crisis, Ms. Waters let loose with both barrels on … where else but Twitter …

  • Trump, since you destroyed the WH unit designed to plan for pandemics like #COVID19, you need to stop being duplicitous about the DPA & get more corps to develop masks, respirators, & everything needed to protect hospital workers trying to save lives. Get your act together!
  • Trump, weren’t you taught at an early age that self congratulations are improper? When you’re doing a good job, you will be commended. When you have to congratulate yourself it’s b/c of incompetence & insecurity. No one values hubris. A lesson you should’ve learned long ago.
  • Trump, stop congratulating yourself! You’re a failure & you’ve mishandled this #COVID19 disaster! You’re not knowledgeable & you don’t know more than experts & generals. Your ignorance & incompetence are appalling & you continue to demonstrate that every time you open your mouth!
  • Trump, Gov Whitmer, the governor you called “that woman”, is what you think of ALL women, period! We women are all “that woman”! We are mothers & working professionals; we’re doctors & lawyers; & we’re elected officials, even governors, & you will show us the respect we deserve!
  • Trump, you incompetent idiot! You sent 18 tons of PPE to China early but ignored warnings & called COVID19 concerns a hoax. You’ve endangered doctors, nurses, aids, orderlies, & janitors – all risking their lives to save ours. Pray 4 forgiveness for the harm that you’re causing!

maxine-waters-2A woman after my own heart!  Now THAT is what I call “telling it like it is”!  Every word is true, and every word deserved.


The Bad …

Howard-BrownePastor Rodney Howard-Browne runs Revival Ministries International and serves as resident pastor of Alex Jones’ Infowars, which should tell you something in itself.  Browne is also the pastor at River at Tampa Bay Church in Tampa, Florida.  At this time when all non-essential businesses are shuttered and schools nationwide are closed, most not expected to re-open until the beginning of next school year, most all churches have also shut down.  Florida was, unconscionably, among the last states to issue a statewide “shelter-in-place” order, but Hillsborough Country, where Howard-Browne’s church is located, has had such an order for “social-distancing” guidelines since last Friday.

However, Mr. Howard-Browne knows better than all the experts, and he was not about to close his church!  He insisted that his church was an essential business (say WHAT???), and that such things as ‘social distancing’ was “for pansies”.  So, when he spoke to a packed church last Sunday, he told the crowd that he had purchased a $100,000 ‘air purification system’ …

“The Lord has helped us secure our congregation. We have brought in 13 machines that basically kill every virus in the place. If someone walks through the door, it kills everything on them. If they sneeze it shoots it down at a 100 mph. It’ll neutralize it in split-seconds. So we have the most sterile building, I don’t know, in all of North America.”

I try very hard to be respectful of people’s religions, though I follow none myself, but this guy … seriously???

So, on Sunday, despite a warning from the Sheriff’s Department, he held not one, but two church services, both filled with hundreds of people, some of whom Howard-Browne had bused in.  And, by the end of the day on Sunday, Mr. Howard-Browne had been arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and violating quarantine orders during a public health emergency.

Howard-Browne has rather a history of being a conspiracy theorist (remember, he is the ‘resident pastor’ of Infowars), and as recently as March 22 said that the coronavirus was a “phantom plague” created by the Chinese but also somehow planned at a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation event.

His attorney, the notorious Mat Staver of anti-LGBTQ fame, claims …

“Contrary to Sheriff Chronister’s allegation that Pastor Howard-Browne was ‘reckless,’ the actions of Hillsborough Country and the Hernando County Sheriff are discriminatory against religion and church gatherings.”

And these are the people who try to tell the world that their values are so superior to the rest of us, that they and only they know that such things as same-sex marriage and abortion are so wrong?  Freakin’ nutcases!!!!


And The Fun …

Today is {drumroll 🥁} … National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day!!! PB-JDid you know that the average American will have eaten over 2000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they graduate from high school?  A bit of trivia …

Peanut butter was considered a delicacy in the early 1900s and was only served in New York City’s finest tea rooms. In a May 1896 article published in the Good Housekeeping magazine, a recipe “urged homemakers to use a meat grinder to make peanut butter and spread the result on bread.”  That same year, in June, the culinary magazine Table Talk, published a “peanut butter sandwich recipe.”

It is thought that Julia Davis Chandler issued the first reference to peanut butter (or paste) paired with jelly on bread in the United States in 1901. Her article is found in the Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics. In the late 1920s, the price of peanut butter declined, and the sandwich became very popular with children.

According to the Peanut Board, during World War II, both peanut butter and jelly were part of the United States soldiers’ military ration list.

In 1968, The J.M. Smucker Co. introduced Goober, a jarred product that combined alternating vertical stripes of peanut butter and jelly.

What’s your favourite PB&J sandwich?  Mine is, I think, Jif Peanut Butter with Blackberry jam.  However, I wouldn’t turn down one with Strawberry jam or Wimberry either!  Now, you’ve put up with enough of Filosofa’s snark for this morning … get thee to the kitchen and have a PB&J sandwich … go on … you know you want to!

Coronavirus Kills Its 1st Democracy

Want to take your mind off the coronavirus, shortages of food and cleaning supplies, being imprisoned in your home and isolated from your friends & family?  Well, I’ve got just the thing for you … here’s something even bigger to worry about …

On Monday, Hungary’s parliament passed a controversial bill that gave Orbán sweeping emergency powers for an indefinite period of time. Parliament is closed, future elections were called off, existing laws can be suspended and the prime minister is now entitled to rule by decree. Opposition lawmakers had tried to set a time limit on the legislation but failed. Orbán’s commanding two-thirds parliamentary majority made his new powers a fait accompli. – Ishaan Tharoor, The Washington Post

Granted, Hungary isn’t the U.S. and Viktor Orbán isn’t Donald Trump.  Orbán had already corroded the state’s checks and balances, cowed the judiciary, encroached on civil society and the free press … much as Donald Trump has done to the United States.

Orbán has his supporters, too. He has been lionized as a nationalist hero for the West’s anti-immigrant populists and welcomed to the White House by Trump.orban-trump-2It should be noted that congressional democrats initially included election reforms such as vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting in the $2.2 trillion ‘stimulus bill’ … measures that were struck down by their republican colleagues.  Now, make sure you’re sitting down when you read what Trump had to say about those stricken measures that would have ensured we could all vote in the November 3rd election …

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again. They had things in there about election days and what you do and all sorts of clawbacks. They had things that were just totally crazy and had nothing to do with workers that lost their jobs and companies that we have to save.”

And now, my friends, I suggest you start to do some serious worrying about the November elections, for it becomes obvious that Trump and the republicans have little or no concern for our right to elect new leadership in November, and that they see voter suppression as their only path to power.  I’ve been concerned all along that Trump would find some way to cancel or postpone indefinitely our elections, and nothing I’m seeing is alleviating those concerns.  I believe that Mr. Trump is seeing the coronavirus pandemic as a very fortuitous event for him and his cronies.

In 1980, Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative activist, said …

“I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Chilling.

We are running out of time to put in place policies and processes that would enable every eligible voter to cast a ballot, even in the event that the coronavirus remains a threat into November.  The republicans are playing a game … a game with our lives, with our freedoms, with our rights to participate in our government.

Look again at what the Hungarian Parliament has handed to Viktor Orbán.  The only thing stopping our own Congress from doing the same is the democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

orban-parliament

It must also be noted that the emergency law also stipulates five-year prison sentences for Hungarians found to be spreading “false” information.  Think on that one a minute.  Who determines what is “false” information?  Think how many times Trump has declared stories published by The Washington Post or the New York Times to be “fake news”.  Or what about us bloggers?  In such circumstances, historically information is considered ‘false’ if it contradicts what the dictator says.  Facts and reality become secondary and eventually are suppressed.

orban-trumpThere are checks and balances to keep what has happened in Hungary from happening in the U.S.  But, many of those have been destroyed in the last three years.  The Supreme Court tends to rule in favour of Trump, even when that ruling is in blatant disregard of the U.S. Constitution.  The Attorney General has decreed that Trump is ‘above the law’ and can operate in whatever manner he sees fit.  And the U.S. Senate basically affirmed Barr’s opinion when they refused to do their job and convict Trump of what were obvious abuses of power and obstruction of justice.

The U.S. Constitution, or any set of laws for that matter, is only as good as the people who enforce it.  This is why the most important thing this year in the U.S. is that we have fair and honest elections on November 3rd as scheduled, no matter what.