Let’s Upgrade The Job Requirements!

Back in 1787 when the Founders were drafting what would become the U.S. Constitution, the put in place very few requirements for the office of president and also for seats in the U.S. Congress.  This made sense in 1787 because few, if any, had formal college educations and given that this nation was in its infant stages, none had experience in our nascent government.  But that was 235 years ago and since that time much has changed.  As I look at some members of this, the 117th Congress, and as I look at the former president [sic], I firmly believe the time has come to update the requirements for these highest offices in the land!

Let’s take a look at those requirements.

President

Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 lays out the requirements for the office of President of the United States:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

That’s it … three qualifications … a natural born citizen, age 35 or older, and a resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years.

House of Representatives

Article I, Section 2 specifies the requirements for a member of the House of Representatives:

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Senate

Article I, Section 3 defines the requirements for a member of the Senate:

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

Again, this made a good bit of sense in 1787, but today?  Not so much.  The last person who occupied the Oval Office had never even read the U.S. Constitution, had no relevant college education, no prior government experience or legal experience, unless you count his thousands of lawsuits.  How could this happen?

So, what would I add to the qualifications listed in the first two Articles of the Constitution?  For starters, I would add an educational requirement, that candidates for the presidency, vice-presidency, or Congress must have, at a minimum, a Bachelor’s degree in either law, history, or political science.  Also, I would like to see them required to pass a test on their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution.  Do you know that immigrants to this nation, in order to qualify for citizenship, must pass a civics test to evaluate their knowledge of U.S. history and government?  In essence, it is harder to become a citizen than to become president!  The oath of office for the president states:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Now, just how can you swear to preserve, protect, and defend a document you’ve never read?  C’mon, folks, the Constitution in its entirety is just under 8,000 words long.  The original, before any amendments, is 4,400 words.  This isn’t exactly War and Peace, my friends!  I have read it more than a few times, often in a single sitting!

I would require a background check and any credible accusations of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, or financial improprieties would automatically disqualify that person.

And one last thing I would like to see is a wealth cap.  I don’t want either a president or senator or representative who was born with a silver spoon in his/her mouth and has no idea what it means to have to budget, to sometimes have to forego a purchase because money is tight.  I don’t want someone sitting in Washington with millions … or billions … of dollars to his name that allow him to live in an Ivory Tower so high up that he/she does not even see We the People.  And I don’t want a president or member of Congress who can buy his/her seat, nor do I want one so obsessed with money that they are willing to sell their future votes to the highest bidder for campaign donations. The Citizens United v FEC decision destroyed the integrity of politicians in this nation, and I would love to see it overturned, but we all know it won’t happen.

If my suggestions had been implemented some time ago, we would not have such corrupt and trashy people in our Congress today as Margie Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Elise Stefanik, Madison Cawthorn and more.  The Constitution was always intended to grow with the nation, to be a flexible and dynamic document that would meet the needs of today but also of tomorrow.  The framers of that document would be horrified to see today’s corruption in every branch and at every level, completely disregarding the needs of the people of this nation … the people who pay their salaries, benefits, travel, and other perks.

Don’t Burn it — FIX IT!

Yesterday, I shared George Will’s idea that the U.S. Constitution needs to be amended to prohibit members of the Senate from seeking the presidency.  But y’know … there are times that I think we should be seriously considering a major overhaul of the Constitution.  It is, after all, some 232 years old and the framers of that document could not possibly have foreseen what would happen, how life would change over the centuries.

But, in todays politically charged environment, I have trouble picturing any changes that could be agreed on.  Even the simplest things, such as verbiage …

Person #1:  Let’s change the word ‘He’ to ‘They’

Person #2:  Hell no!  That would open the door to women and we don’t want women to get the idea that they are somehow the equal of a man!

A few off-the-top-of-my-head things that I think need either alteration or clarification are found in the first 10 Amendments, the Bill of Rights.  As I’ve said many times before, the 1st Amendment right to ‘free speech’ needs to have ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ added.  The 2nd Amendment should either be ditched altogether, or have restrictions, such as no more than one gun per household, and no assault weapons at all, and limits on the type and amount of ammunition that can be purchased.

I would also like to see term limits established for members of Congress:  no more than three two-year terms for Representatives and no more than two four-year terms for Senators.  And, while I don’t fully agree with George Will that no senator present or past should ever be able to run for the office of president, I do think they should not be able to transition … in other words, there should be a full term between the end of their term in Congress and their presidential bid.  That way, they wouldn’t be spending all their time campaigning (on our tax dollar) while they are supposed to be doing the work of the Senate.

I would also like to see additional qualifications required to run for president or Congress.  At the time the Constitution was written, it made sense to place minimal requirements, for few people had the opportunity for higher education, and even fewer had government experience … this was, after all, a new nation.  But today, we find ourselves saddled with the likes of Donald Trump, Madison Cawthorn, Margie Greene, Lauren Boebert, and many others who had literally no prior government experience and no relevant education.  Those I just mentioned have never even read the Constitution that they have sworn to uphold!  We had a president [sic] for four years who had never read the document to which he swore an oath, and refused to listen to advisors who had!

I also wouldn’t mind requiring a test of constitutional law for candidates for any of the three branches of government.  Right now, even a clown in a circus act can run for – and win – the presidency, as was proven in 2016.  I want to know that the people running this show at least understand the foundation of our government!

And speaking of the Judiciary branch … I think that rather than the entirety of the Senate confirming nominees to the Supreme Court, a committee consisting of an equal number from both parties should have the responsibility of confirming or denying a nominee.  Partisanship has gone too far and has nearly destroyed the integrity of the Court today, with such inappropriate Justices as Kavanaugh and Barrett.

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I think the Electoral College system has long outlived its original purpose.  It has, in recent years, done the exact opposite of what it was intended to accomplish.  The Founders believed it would help stop a madman from being elected, that sane electors would override the popular vote if the people got too wild.  Instead, it put a madman into office despite the fact that he lost the people’s vote by nearly 3 million votes!

So yes, I think the Constitution is a sound and solid document that has been a reliable foundation for centuries, and I do not advocate trashing it and starting over.  However, times changes, situations change, and the Constitution was intended to be able to grow and change with the times.  That is precisely what the Founding Fathers expected!  Trial and error has shown us some ways that the Constitution is insufficient to maintain our democratic republic.  We are on the brink, it seems, of becoming an autocratic, fascist country and I don’t think that is what most of us want.

Your thoughts?

Close The Road From Senate To Oval Office?

There are a few conservative journalists who speak with a rational, intellectual voice and George Will is among them.  He left the Republican Party in 2016, for reasons that should be obvious to us all.  In his latest piece, he suggests we need a constitutional amendment to bar senators from ever running for president.  I’m not sure that I agree completely with him, for if our presidents don’t come from the Senate, then where?  But, he makes some valid and interesting points, and it does often seem that members of Congress spend more time campaigning for their next job than they spend doing their current job. Take a look and see what you think …


Amend the Constitution to bar senators from the presidency

By George F. Will, 27 April 2022

To conserve the reverence it needs and deserves, the Constitution should be amended rarely and reluctantly. There is, however, an amendment that would instantly improve the legislative and executive branches. It would read: “No senator or former senator shall be eligible to be president.”

Seventeen presidents were previously senators. Seven of them – Harding, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Obama, Biden — became senators after 1913, when the 17th Amendment took the selection of senators away from state legislatures. The federal government’s growth, and the national media’s focus on Washington, has increased the prominence of senators eager for prominence, although it often is the prominence of a ship’s figurehead — decorative, not functional. As president-centric government has waxed, the Senate has waned, becoming increasingly a theater of performative behaviors by senators who are decreasingly interested in legislating, and are increasingly preoccupied with using social media for self-promotion.

In Jonathan Haidt’s recent essay for the Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” the New York University social psychologist says social media users by the millions have become comfortable and adept at “putting on performances” for strangers. So have too many senators. Haidt says social media elicits “our most moralistic and least reflective selves,” fueling the “twitchy and explosive spread of anger.”

The Founders feared such incitements, long before social media arrived.

Politicians, and especially senators with presidential ambitions and time on their hands, use social media to practice what Alexander Hamilton deplored (in Federalist 68) as “the little arts of popularity.” Such senators, like millions of Americans, use social media to express and encourage anger about this and that. Anger, like other popular pleasures, can be addictive, particularly if it supplies the default vocabulary for social media.

Today, the gruesome possibility of a 2024 Biden-Trump rematch underscores a Hamilton misjudgment: He said in Federalist 68 there is a “constant probability” of presidents “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” Banning senators from the presidency would increase the probability of having senators who are interested in being senators, and would increase the probability of avoiding:

Presidents who have never run anything larger than a Senate office. Who have confused striking poses — in the Capitol, on Twitter — with governing. Who have delegated legislative powers to the executive — for example, who have passed sentiment-affirmations masquerading as laws: Hurray for education and the environment; the executive branch shall fill in the details.

And who have been comfortable running the government on continuing resolutions (at existing funding levels) because Congress is incapable of budgeting. There have been 128 CRs in the previous 25 fiscal years — 41 since 2012. Why look for presidents among senators, who have made irresponsibility routine?

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee debate on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court on April 4. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The 328 senators of the previous 50 years have illustrated the tyranny of the bell-shaped curve: a few of them dreadful, a few excellent, most mediocre. Although Josh Hawley, Missouri’s freshman Republican, might not be worse than all the other 327, he exemplifies the worst about would-be presidents incubated in the Senate. Arriving there in January 2019, he hit the ground running — away from the Senate. Twenty-four months later, he was the principal catalyst of the attempted nullification of the presidential election preceding the one that he hopes will elevate him. Nimbly clambering aboard every passing bandwagon that can carry him to the Fox News greenroom, he treats the Senate as a mere steppingstone for his ascent to an office commensurate with his estimate of his talents.

The constitutional equilibrium of checks and balances depends on a rivalrous relationship between the executive branch and houses of Congress that are mutually jealous of their powers. “The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place,” and government will be controlled by “this policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives” (James Madison, Federalist 51).

This institutional architecture has, however, been largely vitiated by party loyalties: Congressional members of the president’s party behave as his subservient teammates; members of the opposing party act as reflexive opposers. This changes the role of the House, whose members are generally not so telegenic and are more regimented, less than it does the role of the Senate, which degenerates into an arena of gestures, hence an incubator of would-be presidents.

One of today’s exemplary senators, Mitt Romney, surely is such partly because, his presidential ambitions retired, he nevertheless wants to be a senator. Were all persons with presidential ambitions deterred from becoming senators, this probably would improve the caliber of senators, and of presidents, and the equilibrium between the political branches.

Time To WAKE UP ⏰ Democrats!!!

Listen up, Democrats!  It’s past time to stop this “Oh woe, Oh woe, Oh thrice times woe” bullshit (thanks, Roger!)  The Republicans cannot be handed a majority in the House of Representatives or the Senate in November, but it seems that is exactly what the lily-livered wusses of the Democratic Party plan to do!  If you believe your party is destined to take a walloping in November, and if you keep wringing your hands and whining instead of doing something about it, then yeah … that is precisely what will happen!  Check out Blake Hounshell’s latest column.

If, on the other hand, we get off our fat arses and get out there, make our voices heard, campaign like the life of the nation depends on it (because it does!), and make sure the names of the contenders in November are heard so loudly and so often that they are burned into people’s minds, then we stand a chance of keeping a democracy.  In fact, we should stand a damn good chance of keeping the current majorities in both chambers of Congress, given that the Republican Party is so damn screwed up they can’t even keep their stories straight!  A few examples:

  • Margie Greene, a freshman House Representative from Georgia, played a role in the January 6th violent white nationalist insurrection and as such, should not be eligible to run for re-election in November. She testified at a hearing on Friday, and it seems that … ol’ Marge isn’t too bright, for her answer to everything was “I don’t remember” or some variation of that theme.  For me, the kicker was when she was asked whether she urged President Donald Trump to impose martial law as a way to remain in power.  Her response?  “I don’t recall.”  I really think something that damn important would not just … slip her mind.  She’s a liar, just like Kevin McCarthy …
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose dream is to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House after the mid-term elections, told people after the January 6th attempted coup/insurrection that Trump was responsible for what happened and should be held accountable. He went so far as to tell people that he was planning to ask Trump to step down, and he did some research to investigate whether Amendment 25 was an option for removing Trump.  But then, when that was made public, he denied it … vehemently!  But then, lo and behold, there was an irrefutable recording.  Apparently, Trump Republicans are now saying that McCarthy will never be Speaker of the House.
  • And then there’s Mark Meadows, who was once Trump’s Chief of Staff, and who, it was recently disclosed, was registered to vote in three states at once! And … who is it crying “voter fraud”???  But Meadows is in even deeper than that, for it was also recently discovered that he was warned that violence was part of the plan for the events of January 6th, and he … did nothing.
  • It’s almost too easy these days to pick on U.S. House Representative Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina. He has been the subject of much consternation and many jokes as he claimed his colleagues invited him to a drug party, but the latest … well, a picture speaks louder than words, yes?

Cawthorn did not deny that the pictures were real, but referred offhandedly to them as “goofy vacation photos during a game on a cruise (taken waaay before I ran for Congress)”.  Okaaaaaaayyyy, Maddy!

So look, Democrats … the Republican Party is truly a bloomin’ mess!  I cannot think of many in the upper echelons of the party who have not lied repeatedly and worse yet, been caught in their lies.  Yes, the maga crowd seems to still be rah-rah-rah-ing Trump and his boot-lickers, but I think the maga crowd is growing smaller in light of some of these more blatant transgressions, and some, at least, are beginning to realize that this sort of trickery is not the way to run a country. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but I think I have more enthusiasm for Democrats to hold, or even increase their majority in both chambers of Congress in November!  Where’s the spice, Democrats?

The only reason the pundits, even those who lean toward the left, are so pessimistic this year is that President Biden’s approval numbers are low.  They are low, in large part, because of things happening that were out of his control, and in part because the press seems determined to highlight his mistakes and ignore his many successes.  Historically, the midterms go in favour of whichever party does not sit in the Oval Office, and historically congressional elections will follow the approval ratings of the incumbent president.  But history has its exceptions, and this year could well be one of those exceptions.  We better work to make that happen!

President Biden is not perfect … he is human (which is much more than I can say for the former guy).  Sure, he has made mistakes … every president who has ever served has made mistakes.  But, Biden has done a heck of a lot of good that he gets far too little credit for in the press.  They prefer to focus on the economy, but what they leave out is the fact that the U.S. economy is in no worse shape than any other western nation and the causes are global issues, not unique to the United States!

So, let’s put some energy into this campaign!  Our friend rawgod suggested that the Democrats need a ‘fiery slogan’ … and maybe he’s right!  Something that speaks of determination, of democracy, of PEOPLE over profit!  Something that speaks to the average Joe, struggling to pay his bills and feed his family.  Just think how effective the Trump campaign’s slogan of “Make America Great Again” was – and still is!  MAGA is now synonymous with GOP!!!

And we need to start holding the press’ feet to the fire, calling them out on their lukewarm attitude toward the President, his Cabinet members, and Democrats in Congress.  Put a bumper sticker on your car showing your support for your local candidates!  Attend a rally or two by your preferred candidates if you can … show the world that the Democratic Party ain’t dead yet!  Because my friends … if the Democratic Party is dead, then the very basis of the nation is dead, the U.S. Constitution will be shredded.  If we leave the managing of the nation to the likes of Greene, Trump, McCarthy, Boebert, Cawthorn, Cruz, Vance, Oz and the like, then we can damn well kiss democracy, kiss the Constitution “good-bye”.

Thoughts On “Freedom Of Speech”

“The First Amendment exists to allow all of our voices to be heard, not to grant one voice the right to drown out all others” — columnist Allison Press

We hear a lot about ‘freedom of speech’ these days.  It seems that everyone has their own idea about what, exactly, constitutes ‘free speech’.  Perhaps, had the Founding Fathers realized how our society would devolve, realized to what depraved lows the human species could sink, they would have been a bit more specific, would have included some limitations and certainly would have made note of the fact that freedom … any and every freedom … is accompanied by responsibility.  But alas, they had just come out from under the heavy thumb of Great Britain and wanted to create a nation that encouraged people to think, to speak freely and open the floor for discussion, for a meeting of the minds that would, ultimately, make this a nation that would truly be “of the people, by the people, and for the people” as Lincoln would quote some 76 years later.

Freedom of speech was included in the 1st Amendment in order to ensure that people could have a voice, could be free to express ideas and share information without fear of government censorship.  Fast forward from the writing of the Constitution to present … the year 2022.  Today, people claim free speech gives them the right to put lives in danger by refusing to wear a mask or be vaccinated against a deadly virus that has already taken the lives of over 1 million people in this nation alone.  They insist that free speech gives them the right to spread lies that lead to violence and sometimes death.  Somehow, my friends, I don’t think this is what the framers of the Constitution intended when they said …

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

And yet today, a relatively small group of religious fanatics would impose their will on the rest of this nation, would see their own religious doctrine taught in schools … schools attended by children of all and no religions.  Those 45 words of the 1st Amendment have been so widely misinterpreted and expanded that people like James Madison, the chief author of the Bill of Rights that contains the 1st Amendment, would be horrified if he could see how his words have been twisted and skewed.

Out of necessity, some limitations on free speech have been quantified over the past 235 years:

  • Obscene material such as child pornography
  • Plagiarism of copyrighted material
  • Defamation (libel and slander)
  • True threats

But are those enough?  I want to ask you something … would we even need those few restrictions on free speech if everyone took seriously their responsibilities?

It is common sense … COMMON SENSE … that we should not terrorize children, should not abuse them in any way, certainly not sexually.  There could be no child pornography if all people had a conscience, if they stood by their responsibilities and respected the rights of children to simply enjoy those relatively few days of innocent childhood.  But NOOOOOO … some perverted individuals think it’s their ‘right’ to not only sexually abuse children, but then to take pictures and video of the act(s) and publish them!  What is WRONG with these people???  What is WRONG with the people who would pay money to buy this crap?

What people seem to forget, or not care about, is that words have consequences.  If you yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, the resulting mass exodus is likely to result in people being trampled and some will likely die.  And so, there is a law against doing so, since some people apparently don’t have enough sense of responsibility to think first.  In the same manner, on January 6, 2021, a number of people including the twice-impeached former president uttered words to the effect of “FIRE!” … words that stirred the masses to action, caused them to break & enter the U.S. Capitol, vandalize the building and contents, create murder & mayhem, and terrorize our lawmakers as they attempted to overthrow the government.  Inciting a riot, inciting a violent coup attempt, is not protected free speech … nor should it ever be.

Whatever happened to responsibility?  When did the people of this nation decide it is acceptable or forgivable to lie, cheat and steal?  I think about that line in that is often misattributed to the Hippocratic Oath: “First do no harm.”  Shouldn’t that be the maxim by which humans measure their behaviour?  We should indeed be able to speak, to offer our opinions, but not if it leads to harm, not if it creates violence.  When we fail to accept and uphold the responsibility that accompanies any freedom, then we are certain to ultimately lose that freedom.  The same is true of free speech … if you use it for harm, to incite violence, to perpetuate a lie, then you will not only lose your own right to speak freely, but you will cost all of us that right.

Revelations Of A SCOTUS Wife

It must be tough to have a wife who is a constant embarrassment – maybe even tough enough to send a man to the hospital.  Most men would not have stayed with such a woman for 35 years, but then … Justice Clarence Thomas is not most men.  He is a Black man sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court … one whose nomination in 1991 by then-President George H.W. Bush was fraught with conflict, in part because of his views on such things as affirmative action and women’s rights, and in part because of statements by lawyer Anita Hill claiming sexual harassment by Thomas.  Despite all this, Thomas was confirmed to the highest court in the nation.

Justice Thomas has often issued opinions I disagree with … he is one of the conservative justices on the Court, so that’s to be expected.  But it is only in the last 14 months that I’ve come to believe that Justice Thomas does not belong on the U.S. Supreme Court and that if he has anything resembling a conscience, he will step down … immediately!  Not necessarily because of any decision he has handed down, but because his wife’s antics have completely cost him his reputation, have made even the most astute legal minds question his integrity.

On Thursday, two well-respected journalists, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reported on Clarence Thomas’ wife, Virginia Thomas, and a set of emails that passed between her and former Chief of Staff under Trump, Mark Meadows between November 2020 and January 2021.  Some of the content of these emails is eye-popping.  The piece by Woodward and Costa is far too lengthy for me to post here, but I urge you to read it when you have a few minutes.

A few excerpts …

  • On Nov. 10, after news organizations had projected Joe Biden the winner based on state vote totals, Thomas wrote to Meadows: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

  • In the Nov. 5 message to Meadows, Thomas went on to quote a passage that had circulated on right-wing websites: “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”

  • On Nov. 13, she texted Meadows about her outreach to “Jared,” potentially a reference to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser. She wrote, “Just forwarded to yr gmail an email I sent Jared this am. Sidney Powell & improved coordination now will help the cavalry come and Fraud exposed and America saved.”

  • On Nov. 19, which would be a crucial day for Powell as she spoke at a news conference at the Republican National Committee, Thomas continued to bolster Powell’s standing in a text to Meadows. “Mark (don’t want to wake you)… ” Thomas wrote. “Sounds like Sidney and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down.”

Remember, my friends, that these are the words of the wife of a Supreme Court Justice.  Her words, her texts, were … what?  Treasonous?  Seditious?  Granted, they were not the words of Justice Thomas, nor is there any evidence that Justice Thomas supported her words and actions during that time.  But ask yourself this:  Do you think he was completely in the dark, unaware of the cages his wife was rattling, the shitstorm she was stirring?  Do you imagine they never discussed it, that she never gave him her opinions about which she felt so strongly?

I am highly offended that this woman, along with so many others — lawyers, activists, white supremacists and the like, attempted and nearly succeeded in overturning my vote, and more than 81 million others, in order to install a cruel, evil wanna-be dictator.  Had they succeeded, we might be living in a nation even worse than Russia today.  Thankfully they did not succeed, but no thanks are due to Virginia Thomas!

I think this will be a deep, dark stain on Justice Thomas for whatever time he remains on the bench.  Justices are expected to set aside their own political views and rule in the interest of the country with the Constitution as their guideline.  Justice Thomas has a built-in conflict of interest.  If he has a conscience, he must use it to tender his resignation.  If he does not do so, then we know we have one very corrupted Justice on the Supreme Court.

Thoughts On Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination

It was just over a week ago that President Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court being vacated by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.  I fully intended to write this post sooner, but the war in Ukraine distracted me and pulled my attention in another direction.  However, I do think it’s important that we take a look at Ms. Brown Jackson prior to her confirmation hearing that is scheduled to begin in just over two weeks on March 21st.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been around for 232 years, and during that time 115 justices have served on the Court.  Care to guess how many have been white males?  Go on … take a wild guess.  Let me give you a hint … only 7 … SEVEN … have been either female or Black, and none have been both female and Black.  It’s about damn time, don’t you think?

left to right: Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Elena Kagan (not shown is Amy Barrett)

left to right: Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas

However … I would not be applauding the nomination of a Black woman solely based on her gender and ethnicity, but she must also be well-qualified.  Ketanji Brown Jackson is very well-qualified to sit on the highest court in the nation and I support her nomination enthusiastically!

Jackson has a B.A. in Government, and a Juris Doctor, both from Harvard, both with honours.  She began her judicial career clerking for three federal jurists, including a district court judge in Massachusetts, an appellate judge in the 1st Circuit and Breyer himself.  Later she would serve as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., where she worked on appellate cases, and served as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission for several years.

President Barack Obama nominated Jackson for a district court judgeship in D.C. near the end of his first term as president, and she was confirmed in early 2013. He also interviewed her as a potential nominee after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.  President Biden nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in March 2021 as a replacement for Merrick Garland who became U.S. Attorney General and she has been serving in that position since last summer.

As you can see, her qualifications are equal to any other member of the Supreme Court including Chief Justice John Roberts.  It is widely believed that she will be confirmed by the Senate, but that doesn’t stop some on the right-hand side of the aisle.  Their complaints?  Well, let’s see …

  • Since she served as a public defender, she must be ‘soft on crime’
  • She refuses to commit to opposing the expansion of the Supreme Court
  • She is being promoted by so-called “dark money” groups

At least part of the real reason for the opposition, of course, is that she is a woman, and she is Black.  Let’s call a spade a spade here … we’ve ALL seen the prejudice among many Republicans … it’s nothing new, but rather old and tiresome.  Another bottom-line reason for Republican opposition to Jackson is that during her time on the District Court, she wrote a number of opinions that were not favourable to the whims of Donald Trump.  In one such ruling, she ordered Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a legislative subpoena, writing that “Simply put, the primary takeaway from 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.”.  Truer words were never spoken, but needless to say those who have clung to Trump’s coattails will consider that a strike against her.

At the end of the day, I believe that Ketanji Brown Jackson will be confirmed by the Senate in part because the Republican contingent has little to lose.  There are already five conservative judges on the Court – some would say six, counting Chief Justice Roberts, though I consider him to be more non-partisan than, say, Brett Kavanaugh or Amy Barrett.  The confirmation of Jackson would not change the overall balance … or rather, ‘unbalance’ … of the Court, and the senators know this.  Any objections to her confirmation would be for show, to be able to say to their constituents that they ‘tried to keep a Black woman off the Court’.

What I find more disturbing than the stated objections to Ms. Jackson’s nomination is the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has become just another partisan branch of the federal government, which is NOT what was intended when the framers wrote the Constitution.  Impartial justice – is it no longer important to the people of this country?  Are partisan politics, is “winning”, the only thing that matters anymore?

Guess Who Else Was There On January 6th?

Bill Press is one of my favourite author/commentator/journalists around today, and his most recent column is about one group of people who willfully attempted to overthrow our government just over a year ago.  Please note that Press is not talking about the majority of Christians in this nation who are decent people and use their religion for good, rather than evil, but rather about the minority who are using the term “Christianity” to justify their bigotry, their hatred of ‘other’, and their intention of turning this nation into something it was never meant to be.


January 6: Blame the Christians! 

It’s understandable, but regrettable: the media was so busy reporting on the possible invasion of Ukraine, it buried an astounding bit of news about the actual invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  

Watching the violence at the Capitol that day, you were probably as puzzled as I was to see members of the mob carrying signs that said: “Jesus Saves.” Well, now we know why. A 60-page report, just released by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, reveals the prominent role played leading up to and on January 6 by conservative Christians.  

It’s not just the Proud Boys, Three-Percenters, Oath Keepers, and Q-Anon responsible for planning and carrying out the insurrection, it’s also evangelicals marching under the banner of “Christian nationalism.” According to the report, belief in Christian nationalism was used to “bolster, justify, and intensify” the January 6 attack on the Capitol – and is still being used today to downplay what happened on January 6. 

Yes, you heard that right. A certain brand of “Christians” came to Washington, openly and proudly, to overthrow the government – all in the name of Jesus. Or at least in the name of the demented, upside-down brand of Jesus they’ve invented to justify their extreme right-wing politics.  

If you’re not familiar with “Christian nationalism,” you should be. I believe it’s one of the most serious threats to our democracy today. It’s especially serious because it cloaks itself in the guise of religion when, in fact, it’s nothing but an extreme-right political movement whose leaders, like evangelist Franklin Graham, pretend to worship Jesus while actually worshipping Donald Trump.  

Christian nationalism can be summed up in four major beliefs. One, America was founded as a Christian nation. Two, Christianity, therefore, is our official state religion and deserves special protection. Three, our founding documents were divinely inspired. Four, the only true Americans are Christian, culturally conservative, natural-born – and white. Christian nationalism is nothing but white nationalism with a smiley face. There’s no room in their narrow world (or small minds) for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or people of color.  

Christian nationalists used to operate below the radar, but they sure didn’t on January 6. It’s like they wanted the whole world to know they were there, even if they were operating in the most un-Christ-like fashion. People carried crosses and other Christian symbols. Outside and inside the building, T-shirts and caps proclaimed: “God, Guns, Trump.” One of the men who erected the gallows on the Capitol lawn wore a sweatshirt reading: “Faith, Family, Freedom.” Washington police officer Daniel Hodges told Congress how shocked he was, while being assaulted by the mob, to see one of his attackers holding a flag with the slogan: “Jesus is my Savior. Trump is my President.”  

On one level, it was like a religious revival. On another level, it was what it was: a lawless, seditious, blood-thirsty, armed mob, which did $30 million in damage to the Capitol, mauled approximately 1,000 police officers, threatened to murder the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, and the vice president of the United States, left four people in the crowd dead, and five police officers who died in the days and weeks following. And all this in the name of Jesus? God forbid!  

At the risk of stating the obvious: There is no action more un-Christ-like than the violent attack on police officers and members of Congress we experienced on January 6. And there is no one person on the planet more un-Christ-like than Donald J. Trump. In every way, as anybody who has read the Gospels knows, he’s the very antithesis of Jesus Christ. Donald Trump is the anti-Christ.  

Writing in Christianity Today the next morning, January 7, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren lamented: “The responsibility of yesterday’s violence must be in part laid at the feet of those evangelical leaders who ushered in and applauded Trump’s presidency.” Fortunately, there are other Christian leaders today who renounce Christian nationalism. In addition to Warren, they include Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign; Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; and Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United. Their message is simple: God is love. True Christians do not assault police officers, attempt to murder political leaders, or worship a congenital liar and serial adulterer.  

Meanwhile, I’m not sure what Jesus was doing on January 6, but I know one thing for sure: He wasn’t in front of the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”  

(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Whose Freedom — Yours Or Ours???

It’s puzzling to me … the variety of ways that people view ‘freedom.’  The United States is considered a relatively free nation, but that doesn’t mean that people living here can do as they damn well please.  The same is true of Canada … yes, the people are free in most every important way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules.  The rules in the U.S., Canada, and most every other western nation are put into place to protect people, the ‘greater good’ as we tend to think of it.  For example, there are speed limits on highways to keep people safe, and there are age requirements for such things as a driving license, drinking alcohol, etc., all intended to keep us safe. Childhood vaccines keep our children safe in schools and rules against smoking in public keep us all safe in public venues.  But some things are less clear, though common sense should rule but often fails to.

In early 2020, a global pandemic hit most nations including the United States, and safety measures were quickly put into place in an attempt to protect everyone from this deadly illness.  Many states closed all non-essential businesses and implemented travel restrictions, restrictions on gatherings, and mask mandates.  Most people respected and observed these measures – sure, we may have grumbled a bit, but we could plainly see, despite the lies told by then-president Trump, that this pandemic was serious and was taking people’s lives, so we did the right thing.  Most of us, anyway.

Quickly, in the grand scheme of things, a vaccine was developed, tested, and proven effective against the coronavirus.  The vaccine was rolled out at record speed, and everyone was happy to do their part and be vaccinated, yes?  Wishful thinking.  In fact now, a year or so after the first vaccines were administered, there is still some 30% of the population in the U.S. that are, by their own choice, unvaccinated.  They claim that they have the ‘freedom’ to choose whether to be vaccinated or not.  On the surface, this almost sounds reasonable except … these people walk among us.  They go to work and risk exposing their co-workers, their children go to school, often without masks, and take a chance on infecting their schoolmates.  They go into public venues such as grocery stores, libraries, restaurants, tobacco shops and more, again without masks, and risk the lives of any they come in contact with.  Why?  Because they claim it is an infringement on their ‘personal freedom’ to expect them to be vaccinated.  Some, like the ignominious Sarah Palin, have even said they would choose death over the vaccine.

In my book, these people have no understanding of what personal freedom is. You cannot live in and be a part of a society if you have no care for the other members of that society.  You cannot take without giving.  When, by exercising that which you mistakenly believe is your ‘right,’ you put other people at risk for serious disease and possibly even death, then you have effectively pointed a loaded gun at them.

Unfortunately, some members of one of the two main political parties in the U.S. appears to be on the side of people’s ‘personal freedom’ over other people’s lives.  Certain Republicans in Congress have voiced a desire to see a trucker’s convoy to protest mask mandates similar to the one that has disrupted life in Ottawa, Canada, happen in the U.S.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has expressed his ‘thoughts’ on the Canadian convoy …

“I’m all for it. Civil disobedience is a time-honored tradition in our country, from slavery to civil rights to you name it. Peaceful protest, clog things up, make people think about the mandates. I hope the truckers do come to America, and I hope they clog up cities.”

Specifically, he said he hoped they disrupted the Super Bowl that was played in Los Angeles yesterday (they didn’t) and that they would go to Washington D.C. on the day of President Biden’s State of the Union Address scheduled for March 1st.   Interestingly, Senator Paul’s idea of freedom apparently only applies to people with white skin, for he gave no such support to Black Lives Matter protests after the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others by police. He referred to those protestors as ‘thugs’ and a ‘crazed mob.’  They were protesting vicious murders by the very people we pay to keep us safe, and Rand Paul called them ‘thugs,’ yet he praises those who would disrupt the entire country both physically and economically because they are told to wear a mask in public and get a little vaccine that doesn’t even hurt!  Paul had the poor taste to joke about a potential trucker’s convoy, saying, “It’d be nice change. We’d actually have some traffic.”

The Department of Homeland Security distributed a bulletin to law enforcement agencies warning that a convoy of protesting truckers will potentially begin in California as early as mid-February and arrive in D.C. as late as mid-March.  And all of this because some people are so selfish that they consider it a burden to protect their own health as well as that of their friends, co-workers, and families.  This is not ‘freedom,’ my friends, this is greedy, arrogant ignorance.

NO — It Was NOT “Legitimate Discourse”!!!

The Republican Party is claiming that the events of January 6th were merely “legitimate political discourse.”  Naturally, I disagree … strongly disagree.  But it isn’t enough for me to say I disagree … if I have a point, I must prove my point.  First, let us dissect that phrase with a few short definitions …

Legitimate:  accepted by the law as rightful

Political:  relating to the government or the public affairs of a country; relating to the ideas or strategies of a particular party or group in politics

Discourse:  written or spoken communication or debate

The first word alone, ‘legitimate,’ is enough to render this entire phrase as applied to January 6th 2021 wrong.  On that day, in the U.S. Capitol, a violent mob entered the building unlawfully and then proceeded to destroy taxpayer’s property, to steal taxpayer’s property, to threaten a lynching, and to murder police officers who were attempting to restore order.  NONE of that is legal or rightful!!!

I’ll give the Republicans that second word, ‘political.’  The violent insurrection was indeed political for it was an attempt, encouraged and plotted by the former guy and his minions, to overthrow an election and thus to overthrow the government of the United States.  However, if this is what politics has come to, then I say it’s time for the two political parties to be disbanded and rebuilt from the ground up by people of conscience.

If ‘discourse’ is written or spoken communication, then I fail to see how the events of January 6th qualifies.  The guttural grunts and screamed threats of the perpetrators can in no way be considered discourse.  90% of the people who stormed the Capitol on that day couldn’t string a coherent sentence together if their lives depended on it.

Ronna McDaniel is the chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), so while I don’t know who drafted the actual document to censure Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, Ms. McDaniel bears responsibility, though there can be no doubt that a majority of the RNC supported the move.  She is the niece of Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, although obviously she did not inherit his basic decency.

McDaniel is complicit in the Big Lie, the claim that the election was not fair and honest and that there was so much “voter fraud” that Trump actually would have otherwise won.  C’mon, folks … think on this one for a minute.  In 2016, Trump LOST the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes to Hillary Clinton, but the machinations of the Electoral College allowed him to move into the White House anyway.  Did Ms. Clinton throw a juvenile temper tantrum and claim she had really won, that there was voter fraud involved?  No, she did not.  In fact, she called Mr. Trump to congratulate him in the wee hours that Wednesday morning.  THAT, my friends, is the proper way for a legitimate politician to behave.  And in 2020, Trump lost by nearly 8 million votes.  C’mon, folks, that would have to be one heck of a lot of voter fraud that simply didn’t happen.

To this day, Trump has neither conceded that he lost the 2020 election, nor has he congratulated President Biden.  Instead, he has done everything in his power to denigrate not only the President, but the very presidency itself and to prove to the public that he is not a man in any sense of the word, but a whiny, vicious toddler in an ugly man’s body.

Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger deserve a merit badge for courage, for having the cojones to stand for what is right, to uphold their oaths to the Constitution and to We the People, and for being basically honest people rather than slavishly dribbling over the former guy at every chance.  They know what might have become of this nation had Trump and his minions succeeded in their coup 13 months ago and they want more for this nation, they do not wish to allow one ‘man’ to destroy a nation, to burn the Constitution. And they understand, far better than most Republicans, that brutal murder, destruction of property, and theft do NOT qualify as legitimate discourse in any way, shape, or form.

If we allow the GOP to continue telling this blatant lie about the events of January 6th, if we don’t call them on the carpet for their lies, then we will be complicit in what happens after the 2024 election.  Currently, voters in the state of North Carolina have filed a legal challenge to disqualify Representative Madison Cawthorn from running for a second term based on his role in the attempted coup.  The lawsuit contends that Cawthorn’s comments in the speech shortly preceding the insurrection violate the 14th Amendment, which states in part that no person “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

If used properly, the 14th Amendment could and should be used to block others such as Josh Hawley, Lauren Boebert, Margie Greene, Mo Brooks, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and yes, Donald Trump from ever running for public office again!  These people all played a role in the events of that day and frankly, they have no conscience, no business making decisions that affect our lives!  Let them pump gas or sell sandwiches for a living for they DO NOT belong in our government!!!

Officer Michael Fanone who was brutally beaten on January 6, 2021

I end where I began … there was nothing … not a single thing … that was legitimate about the attempt to take over our government and throw our votes out the window.  Ask Officer Michael Fanone or any one of the officers who valiantly tried to protect the Capitol and Congress that day how ‘legitimate’ it seemed.  It was a violent, bloody coup attempt and no amount of whitewashing can change that fact.  It’s time we hold people accountable instead of pandering to them and re-arranging the dictionary to try to appease them.