Only Slightly Snarky Snippets …

As I sit here, looking out at the cold snow, watching Oliver watch the birdies outside the window, wishing for a sign that spring is near, and pondering the meaning of life, I decided today was a snippet sort of day.  I considered building a nice fire to ward off the chill, but the management here doesn’t allow it … just because we don’t have fireplaces.  Silly, I know, but there you have it.  So, wrapped up in a blankie with a purring creature in my lap, it’s either fall asleep or write.


No, Mr. Watson, you are NOT correct!

James Dewey Watson, age 90, is a nasty little man.  In 1962, he won the Nobel Prize for outlining the double-helix structure of DNA.  Okay, an achievement that has provided useful information for medical science.  Sorry, James, but that doesn’t exonerate you from being a racist.

james-watsonIn 2007 Watson, a molecular biologist, geneticist and zoologist, claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that “equal powers of reason” were shared across racial groups was a delusion.  In response, he was suspended from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where he had served as the laboratory’s director and president for about 35 years, and later he assumed the role of chancellor and then Chancellor Emeritus.

It wasn’t only people of African lineage that he disparaged, however.  He had little respect for women or obese people. A couple of quotes …

“Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you’re not going to hire them.”

“If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease. The lower 10 per cent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what’s the cause of it? A lot of people would like to say, ‘Well, poverty, things like that.’ It probably isn’t. So, I’d like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 per cent.”

And then, two weeks ago, he iced the cake.  Appearing on a PBS Documentary “American Masters: Decoding Watson”, he revealed that his scientifically unsupported views on race and genetics have not changed “at all” since 2007.  To their credit, the Cold Spring Harbor Lab has revoked his honorary titles.

“Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics during the PBS documentary ‘American Masters: Decoding Watson’ that aired January 2, 2019.”

I repeat … James Watson, brilliant though his work may have been, is a nasty little man.


Let the courts decide …

Section One of the thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads …

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Last week a group of federal employees working without pay during the partial government shutdown filed a lawsuit accusing Trump and their bosses of violating the 13th Amendment.  The lawsuit is one of several that have been filed by groups of federal employees who are being forced to work without pay as Trump continues his childish temper tantrum that has kept parts of the government shut down for nearly a month now.  But this one differs in that it is the first such lawsuit to invoke the 13th Amendment.

The group’s lawyer, Michael Kator, said …

“If this is not resolved soon, affected employees may find that beginning February 1 they will no longer have health insurance. And, if this lasts ‘months or even years’ as [Trump] has suggested, there will be defaults, foreclosures and even bankruptcies. A promise to pay back pay will not forestall those consequences.”

Sadly, legal minds aren’t offering much hope that the lawsuit will succeed, but my hat is off to the group for trying.  It is, I think, unconscionable to expect people to keep working for no pay, especially given that there are a couple of very simple solutions to this problem:  Trump could come down off his high horse and sign the damn spending bill, or the Senate could find their cojones and pass a veto-proof bill.

If the approximately 420,000 federal workers who are expected to work with naught but a ‘promise’ of back pay decide to walk off the job, this nation will be plunged into chaos … planes will not fly, trade between the U.S. and Mexico will cease, Secret Service protection to the current and former presidents will cease, U.S. embassies will close, food inspections will be halted, weather forecasts will cease, and more.

Trump claims that the wall is “essential” for national security, but this shutdown is putting national security at risk in ways that immigrants never have, never could.


Canadians have heart …

Let’s finish this post on a positive note, shall we?  A Canadian friend sent me this on Facebook this morning …natca-pizza-new-englandAir traffic controllers from Atlantic Canada directed a fleet of special arrivals into the New York Air Traffic Control Center on Friday night, as a gesture of solidarity and respect.

And each was covered in a layer of gooey melted cheese.

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association units in Gander, N.L., and Moncton, N.B., ordered pizzas for all of their colleagues at the control center on Long Island, who have been working without pay since the partial U.S. government shutdown began on Dec. 22.pizza!According to Doug Church, deputy director of public affairs with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in the U.S., there are currently 14,000 controllers working without pay.

And they’re thrilled about the pizzas.

“It’s just a really good shot in the arm of positive energy and positive emotion to know that, ‘Hey they’ve got our back,’  On behalf of the entire NATCA and air traffic control around this country, we extend our thanks and our gratitude.”


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What Is A Government For?

When reading yesterday about Trump’s threat to cut off emergency aid to the state of California to assist in its efforts to recover and rebuild after the recent deadly fires, I had to ask … what is a government for, then?  It is highly questionable whether food stamp recipients will receive their food stamps next month.  Farmers are not receiving the subsidies they were promised to help ease the cost of the tariffs that have cut deeply into their revenues.  TSA workers who inspect people and luggage at airports to detect bombs are calling off the job, for they cannot afford to keep working without pay.  Inspections of the food we buy at the grocery store are curtailed.  And the list of services that we pay for, but are being denied, goes on … and on … and on … ad infinitum.

So what is a government for, then?  What is its purpose?  For starters, let’s take a look at the Preamble of the United States Constitution:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

First off, note that it is “We the People” who established the government.  We the People give the government its legitimacy.  So, when the government no longer does those things … no longer promotes the general welfare, but rather only the welfare of a few wealthy people … then what purpose does it serve?  Is it truly a government of, by and for the people?

Look at that first point in the Preamble … “in order to form a more perfect union”.  This nation is divided as it has never before been.  I’m not sure that even the Civil War era was as divisive as the current environment is.  What’s worse, though, is that the ‘leader’ of this government is the very one who is causing the divisiveness!  The government is doing not one single thing to try to help bring people together, to “form a more perfect union”.

The second point … “establish justice”.  Justice?  The person in the Oval Office has declared himself to be above the law.  Time and time again.  So, think about this for a minute.  If the head of the government is above the law, if most of his political appointees are considered above the law … can there be justice in this nation?  I think not.

The third point … “ensure domestic tranquility”.  Can you even say that phrase without either laughing or crying?  Domestic tranquility?  What the Sam Heck is that???

Fourth point … “provide for the common defense”.  Let’s ponder for a minute … does constant and unwarranted criticism of our allies, denigration of such peacekeeping organizations as the United Nations and NATO make us safer?  Does the pandering to strong-arm dictators like Putin, Erdoğan, Kim, and Duterte make us safer?  Better yet, does the domestic hotbed that exists in this nation make us safer?  I think not.

Fifth point … “promote the general welfare”.  This is another that would be laughable, if only the laughter didn’t turn to tears.  General welfare???  800,000+ people not getting paid?  Food stamps reduced or eliminated?  Trash overflowing in national parks?  People losing their homes?  Food growers unable to meet their mortgage payments?  A nation in chaos does not … I repeat, NOT … promote the general welfare.

And finally, the sixth point … “secure liberty and posterity”.  Liberty?  From what?  Liberty from tyranny comes to mind, but we have the most tyrannical leader in the history of the nation, so that can’t be right.  Liberty to … go to work without pay?  To watch our infrastructure crumble beneath our feet?  To listen to the self-promoting lies of a madman?  And posterity … defined as “all future generations of people”.  Given the government’s stance on climate change and the devastating effects, there aren’t likely to be too many future generations of people.

I return to my original question:  What is government for?  Whatever it was intended to be for, it no longer fulfills those responsibilities.  What do we do about this?

Think about it.

A Letter To Senators

The following is a letter that I have sent to the two senators from my own state, as well as a number of other republican senators including Mitch McConnell, and every other who will face re-election in 2020*.  In truth, I question whether our letters are ever seen by the intended recipient, but we have to try.  And keep trying.  The stakes are too high to give up.


Dear Senator _________________,

Tonight is a sad night for this nation, for it is crystal clear that we do not have a president, but we have a dictator.  Further, it is equally clear that said dictator is highly irresponsible with the reins of our government, proving time and again that to him the people of this nation are naught but pawns, tools to be used to expand his own power and wealth.

I write to you tonight, not asking, not hoping, but insisting that the Senate, starting with you, step away from Mr. Trump and become the independent law-making body that the Article I of the U.S. Constitution defines.  You often seem to forget that you are not beholden to Mr. Trump in any fashion, but rather are tasked with doing what is in the best interests of this nation and the approximately 328 million people who live here.

Mr. Trump has said that he would be proud to shut down the government, which he did.  Now he says he will keep it shut down for months, or even years, and further that he is considering declaring a national state of emergency where there is none.  More than 800,000 federal workers are going without pay.  Three people have died in accidents in our national parks that might have been avoided if the park rangers had been on duty.  The lines outside social security offices are reminiscent of the lines of concert-goers waiting for tickets.

This is the single most irresponsible act that I can recall by any president in my 67 years on this earth.  Some federal workers stand to lose their homes.  Food stamp offices are essentially closed, with only a skeleton staff.  People are going to die, Senator ______________, and those deaths will be on Trump’s shoulders, certainly, but also on yours as long as you continue to support his ignominious demands that the government stay shut down until he is awarded initial funding for what will in all likelihood turn out to be a $70 billion white elephant.  The wall is not needed, for immigrants are not our major problem.  A president with no conscience is our major problem.  Unregulated guns are our major problem.  And a boot-licking Senate that puts their own well-being ahead of that of the nation are our major problem.

The problem of the government shutdown is easily enough solved if the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate get off their collective asses and determine that they will work for the good of the nation, pass a veto-proof spending bill in conjunction with the House, and open the government.  If you fail in this, I and many others will make a concerted effort to see that you are not re-elected when your current term comes to an end.  Please, for a change, do your job!

Sincerely,

Jill E Dennison, taxpayer and voter


*List of all Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020

  • Dan Sullivan – Alaska
  • Martha McSally – Arizona
  • Tom Cotton – Arkansas
  • Cory Gardner – Colorado
  • David Perdue – Georgia
  • Jim Risch – Idaho
  • Joni Ernst – Iowa
  • Mitch McConnell – Kentucky
  • Bill Cassidy – Louisiana
  • Susan Collins – Maine
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith – Mississippi
  • Steve Daines – Montana
  • Ben Sasse – Nebraska
  • Thom Tillis – North Carolina
  • Jim Inhofe – Oklahoma
  • Lindsey Graham – South Carolina
  • Mike Rounds – South Dakota
  • John Cornyn – Texas
  • Shelley Moore Capito – West Virginia
  • Mike Enzi – Wyoming

Executive Power …

More than a few times over the past year or so, people have tried to assure me that there are limits to what Trump can do, that the Constitution, Congress, and the Courts will stop him from going too far, and all will be well.  It is true that the Constitution defines and limits the power of the office of president … except in certain circumstances.  And Congress has a large degree of control … if they can agree to agree on anything and if the issue at hand cannot be done by executive order.  And the Courts can intervene … but there are levels within the court system leading up to the Supreme Court – the one that Trump is stacking with his and the Federalist Society’s hand-picked justices.

On a Friday afternoon in July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt allegedly aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.  Although Turkey is considered a democracy and Erdoğan was democratically elected, he was and is clearly a threat to Turkish democracy and secularism.  As leader of the AKP Islamist party, Erdoğan had ‘reformed’ Turkish schools along Islamist lines, cracked down on freedom of the press, and pushed constitutional changes that would consolidate dangerous amounts of power in the president’s hands.

It has been my belief since the beginning that Erdoğan himself played a leading role in staging the coup.  If so, to what end?  To give him the justification to declare a ‘state of emergency’ that would increase the powers of his office.  As part of the state of emergency, Turkey temporarily suspended part of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The initial state of emergency was for three months, but in October 2016, it was extended to be for a year, and the following year it was again extended, and was only lifted in July 2018, after new elections that gave Erdoğan greatly expanded powers.  During that time, there was an extensive purge of the Turkish civil service employees, with more than 45,000 military officials, police officers, judges, governors, and civil servants arrested or suspended, including 2,700 judges, 15,000 teachers, and every university dean in the country.  Turkish authorities said the crackdown was meant to “suppress dissent”.  journalists-TurkeyAccording to Amnesty International, detainees in Turkey have been denied access to legal counsel, have been beaten and tortured, and have not been provided with adequate food, water, or medical care.

Now tuck into the back of your mind for a bit the fact that Donald Trump made the decision, without consulting Congress, without consulting his military and foreign affairs advisors, without consulting our allies, to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria based on a telephone conversation with Erdoğan.  Consider how much Trump admires those ‘strong-arm’ leaders such as Erdoğan, Putin, and even the Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte.  Ever since he took office, Trump has chafed against the constraints of the office, believing that as president his powers ought to be unlimited.

Fast forward … it is rumoured that Robert Mueller will complete his investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and the Trump family/campaign role in such interference around mid-February.  While that is strictly rumour at this point, the timing makes sense.  What do you think will happen if, as I firmly believe, Mueller has evidence that Trump’s family with Trump’s knowledge, and perhaps even Trump himself were involved in underhanded dealings to influence the outcome of the election? Trump-angry What if it is proven that Trump broke the trust of his office?  No doubt impeachment proceedings would begin in the democratic-majority House of Representatives.  Given what we know about Trump and his erratic temperament, what is your best guess about his reaction?  Think he’ll just sit down and shut up?  Yeah, right.  If you believe that, please contact me, for I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you dirt-cheap.

Fast forward even more … the year is 2020 and the election for which Trump has been campaigning for four years is rapidly approaching.  And yet … Trump is not winning any popularity contests … his temper tantrums are no longer playing well among his masses, in light of the financial recession caused largely by his tariffs and by the chaos he wrought at the end of 2018 by shutting the government down needlessly while demanding billions of dollars for his ignominious border wall.  Trump is not being supported by the majority of the GOP in Congress, and the Republican Party is lukewarm about his re-election bid, at best.  trump-tantrumThink he’s going to just put his nose to the grindstone, do the best job he can while trying to win over the masses with his honesty and integrity?  Again … see above comment about my bridge.

Not quite two years into his term of office, Donald Trump has signed …

  • 86 Executive orders
  • 42 Presidential memoranda
  • 12 Presidential determinations
  • 01 Administrative order
  • 22 Presidential notices
  • 01 Presidential sequestration order
  • 07 National security presidential memoranda
Trump-sign-bill

Can’t you just hear him saying, “nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah”?

None of these required the advice and consent of Congress.  Many were to overturn regulations that were in place to safeguard our health and safety.  Others were simply to exert his power.  None, as far as I can tell, were in our collective best interest.

Back now to 2019 when impeachment is looming, or 2020 when an election looms large.  What does Trump do?  Does he follow the example of his buddy Erdoğan and create a diversion that will allow him to declare a ‘state of emergency’?  Oh yes, he most certainly can do that, and with little or no reason.  The decision to declare a ‘state of emergency’ is entirely within his discretion, and it makes more than 100 ‘special provisions’ available to him.  The framers of the Constitution never in their wildest dreams imagined a Donald Trump, never believed the nation would need to be protected from its own leader.

What, then, could happen if, say to detract from impeachment proceedings, Trump declared a state of emergency?  Worst case scenario, he could shut down electronic communications.  He could freeze the bank accounts of those he believed to be subversive.  He could disperse troops within the country to subdue domestic unrest, ie., legitimate protests.  And the list goes on.state-of-emergencyIt is not my intent to fear-monger … I don’t play Trump’s games.  It is, however, my intent to proclaim that the time is now to rein in this president.  Now, before it becomes impossible, is the time to set limits on the ‘executive authority’ that the Founding Fathers never thought would be necessary.  When the 116th Congress is seated next Thursday, one of the first orders of business, besides getting the government open without giving in on “the wall”, should be to set limits on what the president can and cannot do without the consent of Congress.

Personally, I would like to see strict guidelines for declaring a state of emergency, and a very narrow interpretation of what he can or cannot do under such a state.  He must not be allowed to shut down the internet, the only means many of us have of getting news of national and world events.  He must not be allowed to stifle the freedom of the press or our First Amendment rights of free speech.

There have been situations before where a president overstepped the reasonable limits of his power and Congress or the Courts stepped in, such as the Youngstown Steel case in 1952 where President Truman attempted to take over the steel plants, but the Supreme Court said, “no”.  But with Donald Trump the bully in office, I don’t think we can assume that he would be easily stopped from assuming far greater power than he should have, and it would behoove us to put restraints in place before they are needed rather than wait until it is too late.

Bits ‘n Pieces of …

I’m not sure if this post can legitimately be called one of my Snarky Snippets pieces, for there really isn’t any snark involved, just anger and disgust.  So, we’ll consider it to be just a Bits ‘n Pieces post, for lack of a better name.  I’m suffering mind bounce and exhaustion, so I was working on a longer piece but kept losing focus, and all these little things were weighing on my mind, so how could I not share them with you, my friends!


Poetic Justice …

David-BerryDavid Berry, Jr. along with his father and brother are the most despicable of all people.  What did they do?  They are murderers.  They are serial poachers, convicted of killing not one, not two, but hundreds of deer, taking the deer’s heads, and leaving their bodies in the woods to rot.    DeerThe case is reportedly one of the biggest poaching cases in Missouri’s history.  So far Berry’s father and brother have not been sentenced, although both have lost their hunting and fishing licenses for life.  But last week, David Jr. was sentenced by Judge Robert George.  His sentence was only one year in prison, along with another 120 days for firearms violations.  Not nearly enough … but there was a caveat that I rather liked.  Berry Jr. is to watch the Disney animated movie Bambi prior to December 23rd, and again once every month for the rest of his one-year sentence. BambiThe judge likely thinks that seeing the scene where Bambi’s mother is shot and killed by a hunter will induce some empathy, perhaps even instill a conscience.  I sincerely doubt it, but I rather liked the sentence.  I would like it better if it accompanied a 35-year prison sentence.


Above the law???

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 of the United States Constitution reads …

“No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no person holding any office or profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

This short clause is known as the Nobility Clause, or the Emoluments Clause.  In short, the clause prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives.  The intent at the time the framers were drafting the Constitution was to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be improperly influenced, even unconsciously, through gift giving, then a common and generally corrupt practice among European rulers and diplomats.

That seems laughable in this, the Reign of Trump, for it is obvious he has no qualms about making profit from foreign entities.  Today, there is a lawsuit against Donald Trump, brought by the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. The suit alleges that Trump has violated the emoluments clause, in part by accepting payments from foreign governments that patronize the Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House.

A trial court judge has ruled that the case may proceed and has authorized some 38 subpoenas for Trump’s financial records, including tax returns.  Needless to say, Trump is fighting against providing the information.  He claimed, erroneously, that ‘emoluments’ referred only to outright bribes.  Wrong.

And so yesterday, the Department of Justice asked a federal appeals court to throw out or at least temporarily halt the lawsuit.  Don’t you just love it when they say “The Justice Department asked …” or “The administration says …”  The Justice Department is comprised of a number of humans, as is the administration, and likely one specific individual is responsible for that request, but we are not told who … only that the department requested.  I could make a good guess, and I’m sure you can too … the ‘acting Attorney General’ Matthew Whitaker who is naught but a boot-licker planted in the position for this very reason.

In asking that the case be thrown out or delayed, Trump is, via the voice of the Department of Justice, claiming that he is above the law.  He is claiming that he is superior to you, to me, to any other individual in this nation.  If, in fact, the rule of law does not apply to Donald Trump, then he is no longer the president, but rather the dictator.  Let us hope that the courts have more of a conscience, more concern for the laws of this nation than the boot-lickers at the Justice Department.  Stay tuned …


Freedom of Speech vs Donald Trump

You’ll remember long ago when Trump said …

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.”

Instead, he decided early in his tenure to simply discredit the media by calling them “fake news” and worse, “the enemy of the people”.  Unfortunately, the 40% or so of people who actually think Trump has legitimacy, believed him and turned, instead, to state media outlet Fox News. But Trump never tires of finding ways to heckle the press.  It was just last month that he pulled the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta when Acosta repeatedly asked Trump a tough question that he didn’t want to answer.  The court overruled him and Jim now has his press creds back.

However, this week the thin-skinned ‘man’ in the Oval Office is taking up the issue once again, for he was offended by a Saturday Night Live sketch depicting what life might be like had Donald Trump never been elected, in the style of the 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life.  (Sounds like a winning scenario, don’t you think?)  Take a look … I promise it is worth the few minutes …

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted …

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?”

trump tantrumIn response, a number of people took to Twitter to remind Trump of that little part of the Constitution that we refer to lovingly as the First Amendment, that thing that separates a democratic republic from a dictatorship.  Yes, he’s blowing hot air … again … and no, he isn’t going to be successful in taking Saturday Night Live or CNN or The Washington Post to court.  But it’s the fact that he keeps doing this that is wearing thin, grating on our nerves.

After the horrendous murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Trump’s nonchalant response, I think most thinking people in this nation, most people possessed of a conscience, are sick and tired of Trump’s juvenile rantings against the press. His attacks against the media are dangerous and it’s time to put a stop to them.  Words have consequences, even for the ‘man’ who considers himself to be above the law.


And on that note, I bid you ‘adieu’.

ACA Is NOT Unconstitutional!!!

I would really like to know just how much Donald Trump paid to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas.  Or perhaps it wasn’t money, but the promise of a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Whatever the enticement, Judge Reed O’Connor has just thrown the citizens of the United States under the proverbial bus.  What, you ask, did he do?  Last night, Judge O’Connor ruled that ACA in its totality is unconstitutional.  Not just part of ACA … the entire bloomin’ Affordable Care Act!Judge O'ConnorJudge O’Connor isn’t new to controversial rulings.  Let’s take a look at just a few he’s made in the past decade …

  • Halted implementation of ACA Section 1557 that prohibited discrimination against transgender people by federally funded health programs. Why?  Because the judge felt it violated religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. – December 2016
  • Ruled against the Title IX law that required that schools receiving federal funding not discriminate against students on the basis of sex or gender identification – October 2016
  • Ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act was unconstitutional. The act halted the forcible removal of as many as 25% – 30% of Native American children from their homes for no reason other than their heritage, and then being put up for adoption, placed in non-Indian homes with a deliberate absence of American Indian cultures – October 2018

So, we have here a judge in the southern state of Texas who is a proven bigot and racist, and he has decided that the entirety of ACA, the program that was intended to ensure that every man, woman and child in the U.S. would have at least basic healthcare insurance, goes against the Constitution.  And Trump’s own ‘surprised’ reaction?

“Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!”

No, you fat, pimple-faced, fake-hair jerk!  It is the worst possible news for America!  Only wait … that’s right, you don’t give a damn about America, do you, for your allegiance lies elsewhere … in Russia … in Saudi Arabia.

And later …

“As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.”

Yeah, sure, right … and I believe that the Easter Bunny lays chocolate eggs, too …

Judge O’Connor has been sitting on the case that prompted his ruling for several months now, but it was decided to wait until the end of the open enrollment period and, more importantly, after the mid-term elections, where health care was a major deciding factor for many voters.  Clever, aren’t these damn republicans?

The judge’s ruling will no doubt be appealed all the way up the line until finally it lands on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court, so for the time being, nothing changes.  What happens when it reaches the Supreme Court?  Good question.  Remember how just this week, Kavanaugh sided with liberal and moderate judges in a refusal to hear a case that could have ended in defunding Planned Parenthood?  People were scratching their heads, wondering if perhaps Kavanaugh was a decent guy after all.  I said he was biding his time, picking his battles.  What do you want to bet this is one of those battles he was saving up for?

The basic difference in ideologies between democrats and republicans boils down to whether the government’s focus should be on people or industry.  Prior to ACA, health insurance was so expensive that a large portion of Americans took their chances without insurance.  ACA sought to remedy that, sought to ensure that no child would have to die because his parents could not afford to take him to the doctor.  But the republicans believed that their tax dollars should not be wasted on the lives of those of us they view as second-class citizens because we haven’t had the same opportunities for enrichment they have had.

And now a bigoted judge in Texas has decided all by himself that healthcare should only be accessible to those who earn over a certain amount of money.  ACA is not unconstitutional.  ACA is about helping people live their lives.  Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that people should not be allowed to live if they are poor.  Unlike Donald Trump, I have actually read the Constitution … many times.  We The People are sick and tired of having to fight battle after battle to be treated with a bit of respect in our own country, the country that our hard-earned tax dollars support.  We are paying a high price for the follies of the current administration and it is past time for people to realize it.

As for Judge Reed O’Connor … I’m betting that next time Trump has an opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, O’Connor’s name will be on the short list.

Dear Senators …

For quite some time now, even for years before the current administration invaded the White House, we have seen a Congress so divided that it almost makes a mockery of the words “democratic process”.  We have seen a Congress that pays little, if any, heed to the will of the people, the betterment of the nation, but rather are acting in their own best interests.  It speaks volumes when even former members of Congress are speaking out against the uber-partisanship and asking Congress to step up to the plate and do what they were elected to do.

A group of 44 former senators has penned a letter to the current and future senators, asking them to set aside their partisanship and self-interest for the sake of guarding our democratic principles.  Will they listen?

Dear Senate colleagues,

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)

A Thumb-Up For The Chief Justice

In the past week, since the November 6th mid-term elections, we have seen the very worst of Donald Trump.  He has acted alternately like a madman and a two-year-old, determined, it would seem to do as much damage to the nation, the government, and the Constitution as he possibly can before the 116th Congress is seated on January 3rd.  It has been, frankly, de-moralizing and we have had a forewarning of the tyranny Trump might yet inflict upon this nation.  But just in the past couple of days, a few people have slowly begun waking up … people in power are beginning to push back against Trump, to say, “No, sir, you cannot do that”.

One such person is Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who has finally had enough.  I have had concerns that Roberts was letting the Supreme Court be turned into a partisan arm of the government, that he was turning out to be yet another of Trump’s boot-lickers.  But, yesterday he seems to have found his cojones and spoke out after Trump denigrated yet another federal judge.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar of San Francisco issued a nationwide restraining order barring enforcement of the policy Trump announced Nov. 8.  Trump’s policy would have allowed only people who cross at legal checkpoints to request asylum, a transformation of long-established asylum procedures, codified both at the international level and by Congress.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” ruled Judge Tigar. The ruling is in effect until December 19th, at which point it will be argued before the courts.

And predictably, Trump threw one of his tiresome tirades …

“That’s not law. Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit we get beaten. It’s a disgrace. This was an Obama judge. Everybody that wants to sue the United States, they file their case in the Ninth Circuit, and it means an automatic loss no matter what you do, no matter how good your case is. I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore. The Ninth Circuit is really something we have to take a look at because it’s not fair. People should not be allowed to immediately run to this very friendly circuit and file their case.”

It was the part where he called Judge Tigar an “Obama judge” that raised the hackles of Justice Roberts …

Chief Justice John Roberts“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

I have not always been pleased with Justice Robert’s decisions, especially in the last two years, but I give him a thumbs up on this, for it is important for all to remember that the courts do not answer to either Congress or the president but are indeed intended to be a fully independent branch.  Trump appears not to understand that, and in truth, now that Brett Kavanaugh holds a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court, I am seriously concerned about the independence of the judiciary.

But then, of course, the fool on the hill had to hit back …

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an ‘independent judiciary,’ but if it is why are so many opposing view cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security — these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”

There seems to be, among some of Trump’s loyalists, a prevailing notion that if he is the president, he can say and do anything he wants.  Funny, but when Obama was president, these same people took the opposite view, that if Obama did virtually anything, he was overstepping his bounds.  At least as of today, 22 November 2018, Trump is only a president, not a dictator, and no, he cannot do whatever he pleases.  He does not have the right to change the law to suit his whims, he does not have the right to do as he has already done and send troops on a costly fool’s mission to the southern border to “defend the nation” against old men, women and children!  Donald Trump is not, at least at this time, above the law and his position gives him only limited privileges.  It’s time that he and his loyalists realize and accept that, for the rest of us are sick and tired of his mouth.

Score One For The Freedom Of The Press …

I awoke yesterday morning to the little blue light flashing on my phone … breaking news from both The Washington Post and the New York Times.  Jim Acosta and CNN had won round #1.  I did a gleeful cackle.  Earlier in the week, after Acosta’s press credentials were revoked by the White House for no real reason other than that Acosta held Trump’s feet to the fire, asked a damn uncomfortable question, CNN filed suit against the White House. 

The case, CNN v. Donald J. Trump, has come to symbolize the dysfunctional dynamic between the White House press corps and a president who denigrates its work as “fake news” and refers to it as “the enemy of the people”.

Yesterday morning, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of United States District Court in Washington ruled that the White House had behaved inappropriately in stripping Mr. Acosta of his press badge and ordered that his credentials be restored.  It is a small victory and a temporary one, for it is pending the outcome of the trial which could drag on for months, or even years.  BUT … the part that gave me cause for glee was that Judge Kelly was appointed by none other than Donald Trump! There may be some Trump appointees who are so grateful to Trump that they will sacrifice justice to please him (think Brett Kavanaugh), but obviously there are some who still believe in the letter of the law and in upholding the Constitution.

Judge Kelly criticized the administration for its false claim that Mr. Acosta had placed his hands on a White House intern during the news conference. The judge called it “likely untrue and at least partly based on evidence of questionable accuracy.”  He also said that the White House’s decision-making was “so shrouded in mystery that the government could not tell me … who made the decision.”

Acosta has had widespread support among the media.  More than a dozen news outlets — from the Associated Press to USA Today, The Washington Post and Politico, and even Trump’s own Fox News have filed friend-of-the-court briefs to support CNN and Jim Acosta’s lawsuit against President Trump and several top aides.  Fox went further than most other media companies on Wednesday, issuing a statement that said, “Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized.”  CNN and Fox have been rivals, sometimes bitterly so, for two decades — but Jim Wallace, president of Fox News, said this case is about the free press.

And you might ask how the White House responded to the news …

“We will end up back in court, and we will win.” – Donald Trump

“We support a free press, but freedom of the press doesn’t mean freedom to be disruptive, freedom to be rude, freedom to interrupt and impede the ability of colleagues from actually being able to do their jobs, as well as White House staff being able to do theirs.” – Sarah Huckabee Boot-Licker Sanders

Sarah’s daddy, Mike Huckabee, a once-respected politician (governor of Arkansas), was asked to fill in for Sean Hannity on the Sean Hannity show on Friday.  His guest?  None other than his own daughter, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  Take a look …

Now, I have no problem with expecting a certain level of civility and ‘decorum’ if you will, but … I’m scratching my head here, for it seems to me that the person who has been most bombastic, most disrespectful and uncivil, most … horrifyingly cruel and vicious … is none other than Donald Trump himself!  I have thrice watched the segment of the press conference that cost Jim Acosta his credentials, and have not found a single sentence of disrespect from Acosta.  Trump, on the other hand, was crass and rude.  So … who should have his access to the White House revoked?

Every president in history has, from time-to-time had difficulties with the press.  It is nothing new or unusual.  Other presidents, however, have always understood that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the press the right to do their job, to inform the citizens of the U.S. about the actions of their government.  Trump forgets … or plain doesn’t care … that we have a right to know.  Trump once, long ago, promised to ‘drain the swamp’, and to make government more transparent.  Instead, he has brought in a new, especially virulent breed of swamp critter and instead of transparency, he is attempting to put up black-out shutters on the White House.  He has threatened to revoke the credentials of any reporter who isn’t nice to him.  He and Sarah speak of ‘respect’ and ‘decorum’, but neither of them treat the press or the public with respect or decorum.  

The first round in what may be a long and ugly battle has gone to CNN, and I hope they persevere, but there isn’t a doubt Trump will fight to the bitter end, because he believes he has the right to control what the people of this nation can know.  Foreign Policy magazine recently published an article titled “10 Ways to Tell if Your President Is a Dictator”.  Number one on the list, the very first thing, was “Systematic efforts to intimidate the media”.  Let us hope that Judge Kelly continues to rule with the Constitution in mind and does not bend under pressure from Trump & Sarah.  We have a right … both moral and legal … to know what our government is doing and why, and our only avenue to gain such knowledge is a free press.  We must keep the press free … free from being stifled, free from being harassed, free to tell us what our government is doing.  Keep your eye on the ball, folks, for this was only round #1.

Let’s Raise the Bar …

I have an idea that I would like to propose: Any candidate running for federal office – either Congress or President/Vice President – should have to take and pass the U.S. Citizenship test.  It should be requisite.  If it were, I can guarantee you that Donald Trump would not be in the Oval Office today, for much of the citizenship test pertains to history and the U.S. Constitution, and Donald Trump is relatively illiterate in both areas.  A few examples of his grasp on historical details:

  • Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president [Macron], so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.
  • “I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.’ People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”  (Jackson died 16 years before the beginning of the Civil War)
  • “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”   

And those are but a few examples of Trump’s grasp of history.  Nada.  I knew more by 4th grade than he knows at age 72.  Why?  Did they not teach history in that fancy military school his daddy sent him to?  Or was he simply not smart enough to learn?  Sad.

Back in May 2016, I wrote a piece titled Why Goats Can’t Vote, about the U.S. Citizenship test and how only 62% of U.S.-born citizens can pass the test.  One of the comments on that initial post was from my UK friend Bushka:

“Always been amazed by this phenomenon…Even Presidents are known to lack such simple knowledge…..No Names!!!”

Fitting, don’t you think?  I was thinking about this tonight and I thought it might be interesting to see just how Trump would fare.  Let’s give him a few questions and see how he does, shall we?  The following are actual questions from previous citizenship tests. Trump’s answers are in his favourite colour, red.

What is the supreme law of the land?
the Supreme Court 
the Bill of Rights
the Declaration of Independence
the Constitution

The correct answer is “the Constitution”.

The idea of self-government in in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
We the Government
The President is
We the People
The Founding Fathers

The correct answer is “We the People”.

Citizenship Study Questions 1-20
What is an amendment?
a change (to the Constitution)
an addition (to the Constitution)
both a and b
none of the above

The correct answer is “both a and b”.

What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
The Bill of Rights
The Ten Commandments
The Bill of Laws
The Preamble to the Constitution

The correct answer is “The Bill of Rights”.

What is freedom of religion?
Religion has power over the government
You can force anyone to participate in your religion
You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion
Religion should not exist, and all citizen should be free from it

The correct answer is “You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion”.

What is the “rule of law”?
Everyone must follow the law, except the leaders
Everyone must follow the law, except the government
Only Congress is above the law
Everyone must follow the law, leaders and government must obey the law, and no one is above the law.

The correct answer is “Everyone must follow the law, leaders and government must obey the law, and no one is above the law”.

Well, well, well … looks like Bushka was right, eh?  To his credit, Trump got #3 half right, so I can give him a half point, which brings his score up to 8%.  This ‘man’ could not even become a citizen of the nation he is in charge of! I was pleased that I got them all right … I actually took 20 of them and got them right … so even I am more qualified to be president than Donald Trump!  Hmmmm …

Seriously though, folks … I understand why the framers of the Constitution set very few eligibility requirements for president:  one must be 35 years of age, a resident “within the United States” for 14 years, and a “natural born Citizen”.  That was in 1787, and the framers already knew they were writing the rules for George Washington to become the first president. Looking to the future, they set the age requirement in order to ensure a mature man (women weren’t even allowed to vote or own property back then, so they didn’t count) would be elected.  The citizenship requirement was simply to keep Alexander Hamilton, who was born in the West Indies, from becoming president.  Our constitution is an 18th century one developed for a newly independent British colony.  And it worked well for a number of years.  But this is the 21st century and times have changed.  Just as we amended the Constitution to allow women to vote and to abolish slavery, it is time we amend it to set a higher standard for the presidency.

Until the Trump presidency, we didn’t question the eligibility requirements, for we had men who were well qualified, who had studied not only law, but also English grammar and history.  But today that is not the case.  Take a look at a few recent presidents:

  • Bill Clinton had a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University, a Juris Doctorate (JD) from Yale Law School, and was a Rhodes Scholar. In addition, he had experience in government, having served as Governor of Arkansas for 11 years.
  • George W. Bush had a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in history from Yale University, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School, and he had served as Governor of Texas from 1995-2000.
  • Barack Obama double-majored in college, earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and English Literature from Columbia University, graduated magna cum laude with a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School, served as an Illinois State Senator from 1997-2004, and as a U.S. Senator from 2005-2008.

Compare to Donald Trump who has a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Wharton School of Business, four draft deferments, nearly 6,000 lawsuits, numerous sexual misconduct allegations, and six bankruptcies to add to his résumé.  No relevant education, no relevant experience.  What were people thinking when they voted for him?

There are portions of the U.S. Constitution that need to be updated.  The electoral college is one, and I will cover that in a future post, but the qualifications for the head of the government, the man with the most power, seriously need to be upgraded and brought into the 21st century, preferably before the 2020 election.  At the very least I would expect degrees in political science and/or international relations, and at least four years relevant experience.  This nation cannot afford another Donald Trump, or even another four years of this one.  Let’s raise the bar.