Letter to Members of Congress

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


Dear Senator/Representative ___________________,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Jill E Dennison, voter & taxpayer

The Solution Is NOT Guns!

Back in 1787, the Founding Fathers drafted a brilliant document that would become known as the Constitution of the United States.  Unfortunately, they also made some mistakes, one that has cost hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of lives, unnecessarily.  You see, the nation was a fledgling, only a few years past gaining their independence from England after a bloody war that they damn near lost, so the framers of the document were leery that a foreign power might see the nation as vulnerable and try to take it while it was still learning to stand on its own.  So, after ratifying the original document, they added a “Bill of Rights”, the 2nd Amendment of which gave citizens the “right to bear arms”.  This, my friends, was a lethal mistake, one that every one of us have paid for in one way or another.

Now, the Founders figured the best way to protect the nation from foreign interference was to maintain a militia … everyday men … farmers, shopkeepers, etc., who could grab their rifle or musket and march off to defend and protect the nation if the need arose.  Thus they wrote the Second Amendment:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

That’s it, folks, the entire text, all 27 words of it.  Sadly, though, the Founders only familiarity with ‘arms’ were muskets and such … never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined AR-15s and AK-47s, weapons that can mow down hundreds of people in less time than it took me to write this sentence.  And because of that lack of foresight, the U.S. Supreme Court has been trying ever since to define just what ‘arms’ are to be protected and to what extent.

Unfortunately, long ago common sense flew out the door of the Supreme Court and Congress when the word ‘gun’ is mentioned, and the elements that have determined the ‘law’, such as it is, are those with a vested interest in the weapons industry.  Public safety is entirely overlooked in the debate over guns.  The only consideration is … $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.  I won’t bore you with the lengthy list of cases that have first teetered, then tottered, back and forth, regarding what, if any, regulations should be placed on who can own a gun, how many, what type, etc., but suffice it to say that the U.S. is the only nation on the globe where a person’s right to own a gun is more protected than his right to drive a car.

And as a result …

One week ago yesterday, on May 9th, a sunny afternoon in the small town of Griffin, Georgia, a 12-year-old boy was killed … shot dead by his 5-year-old brother who found a gun that had been tossed into the bushes the day before by three men eluding the police during a chase.  According to neighbor Tom Whitehead …

“The little one found a gun, had to be right here… somewhere in these bushes he walked over here, found a gun. Turns around. Thinks he’s playing, says ‘bang bang’. It was loaded and killed him.  Think about that mother. The next day, Mother’s Day, and one boy is dead by the hand of his younger brother.”

And as a result …

The total number of deaths by gun violence in the U.S. as of May 16th is 14,815 … a number that is sure to have already increased by the time you read this.  84 of that number were children under the age of 11, and 322 teens under the age of 18 are also included in the number. gun-violence-5-2020

And as a result …

In March 2017, a mother and her two-year-old toddler were sitting on the bed, while the nine-year-old was sitting on the floor, playing a video game.  The mother had a loaded gun in her hand, but couldn’t find her holster, so she placed the gun (loaded with a round chambered) on the bed next to the two-year-old while she got up to look for her holster.  The two-year-old then picked up the gun, pulled the trigger, shot and killed his nine-year-old brother.  The mother had, in the past, allowed the toddler to pull the trigger on the gun when it was unloaded.

I could go on, but you get the picture … this is happening every day in the United States. Look at the chart above … already this year, not even five months into the year, we are on track to tie or beat previous years.

The gun culture in the U.S. is beyond crazy.  This is not in any way, shape, or form what James Madison meant in 1791 when he proposed the Second Amendment as a way to empower state militias.  Today, there are no state militias.  None.  There are juveniles in grown men’s bodies who believe that they must own a firearm in order to feel like a ‘man’, but these men do not belong to militias and they are doing not one damn thing to keep this country safe, but instead are making it the most dangerous nation in the industrialized world.  People in other nations are aghast … “What are you Americans thinking???”, they ask.  What are we thinking, indeed?

The wealthy arms manufacturers fund the National Rifle Association who in turn *buys our legislators, thereby ensuring that guns will continue to be a part of what they call “The American Way of Life”.  What a joke!  “The American Way of Death” would be more apt.  And thus it happened that in March, while people were beginning to die by the thousands from the coronavirus, it was the single biggest month for gun sales.  WHY???  WTF are people thinking?  In April, gun lobbyists convinced the federal government to list gun shops as “essential services” so that while people in some states could not purchase a bottle of wine, or a pack of toilet paper, they could go out and buy a gun.  Five states’ governors had the cojones to order gun shops closed anyway, but April’s total was still the fourth highest ever. In three of the five states where gun stores were supposed to be closed, the numbers were higher than they were in April of 2019.

The United States is facing more problems of a greater magnitude today than since the end of World War II, the coronavirus pandemic obviously being at the top of the immediate list.  I would rank numbers two and three as racism and gun violence … problems that far outweigh even the sinking economy.  And yet, Donald Trump wastes every waking minute ranting, calling out his imagined enemies, denigrating the press, dreaming up conspiracy theories, and patting himself on the back for successes that exist only in his own mind.  We’re in trouble, people, and guns are not going to solve the problem, for they ARE a big part of the problem.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken NRA donations of $1,267,139 during his congressional career, but the leader of the pack is Mitt Romney, who has taken $13,647,676 during his time in Congress.  Interestingly, the 2nd highest in NRA donations is Senator Richard Burr, who is currently under investigation for insider trading violations.  Senator Burr has collected a handy $6,987,380 in his twenty-five years in Congress.  Source:  Brady United Organization

Saturday’s Snarky Snippets

As I sit at the kitchen table, looking out on the cloudy day and the one lone dandelion that remains in the yard, I ponder a few things.  Our nation supposedly has a government ‘Of the people, By the people, and For the people’, and yet those words ring hollow today.  The majority of the people in this nation would not choose, did not choose, the person at the top of the chain, and are horrified by what he has done and is doing to this nation, to US.  And yet, where is our voice?  We can, and do, write to our representatives and senators, sometimes even to Trump himself, but … what response do we get?  Typically a “Thank you for reaching out … blah blah blah”.  Our only voice, it would seem, is at the voting booth, where more and more it is diluted by the games played by political parties, mainly the Republican Party.  I do not approve of Trump or his many wrongful actions such as bullying those who don’t agree with him, filling our government with those whose only qualification for their job is that they promise to lick Trump’s boots.  Yet … my opinion goes unheard and unheeded.  Democracy?  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  I feel much like that one lone dandelion … alone, unprotected, waiting.  And thus, I am once again driven by angst to write another Snarky Snippets post.


The purge continues …

Nixon had his Saturday Night Massacre, but Trump has a series of Friday Night Firings that, when added up, are just as bad.  Last night was yet another …

On Friday night, Trump fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, the latest in a series of dismissals of independent government watchdogs that have come in the wake of the President’s acquittal on articles of impeachment earlier this year.  Trump has long been fixated on ridding his administration of government watchdogs he views as Obama loyalists, and his purge began in earnest on February 5th when the Senate shirked their duty and handed Trump the keys to the kingdom, near authoritarian power.

So, why was Steve Linick fired?  One theory is because he had opened an investigation into the actions of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who may have been misusing the time of staff at the State Department to run personal errands for himself and his wife.  In other words, Linick was doing his job, for which he was fired, just like so many others in recent months.  Unless you are completely without conscience, like Kellyanne Conway, Kayleigh McEnany and so many others, it must be sheer hell to work in this administration, knowing that if you serve the people as you are tasked with doing, your head may be on the chopping block any Friday night.

The Washington Post refers to it as “Trump’s slow-motion Friday night massacre of inspectors general”.  Soon there will be nobody left in our government to look out for the interests of the people of this nation.  Remember the poem …

first-they-came-for-the-jews


Stern speaks …

howard-sternI am not a fan of media personality Howard Stern, I think he is an attention-seeker and a bit of a voyeur, so throughout the years I have almost completely ignored him … harmless, but rather disgusting.  Knowing that he is a longtime personal friend of Donald Trump’s does nothing, in my book, to improve his image.  However, while presumably he still likes Trump, he doesn’t much admire Trump nor his supporters.  On Tuesday, he mentioned Trump and those who slavishly follow him on his radio show …

“The oddity in all of this is the people Trump despises most, love him the most. The people who are voting for Trump, for the most part … He wouldn’t even let them in a f*cking hotel. He’d be disgusted by them. Go to Mar-a-Lago, see if there’s any people who look like you. I’m talking to you in the audience.  One thing Donald loves is celebrities, he loves the famous. He loves it. He loves to be in the mix.  I do think it would be extremely patriotic of Donald to say, ‘I’m in over my head, and I don’t want to be president anymore.’  It’d be so patriotic that I’d hug him, and then I’d go back to Mar-a-Lago and have a meal with him and feel good about him because it would be such an easy thing to do.”

Listen up, Trump supporters … you’re being played like a fiddle by a ‘man’ who doesn’t care whether you live or die.


Daddy Dearest …

Three of Donald Trump’s four grown children are arrogant, nasty samples of the human species, just like their sire.  If you ever wondered how they got to be that way, consider these snippets from a 2004 article in New York magazine … Trump-kids-2004

“We were sort of bred to be competitive. Dad encourages it. I remember skiing with him, and we were racing. I was ahead, and he reached his ski pole out and pulled me back.” – Ivanka

“He would try to push me over, just so he could beat his 10-year-old son down the mountain.” – Eric

What a wonderful example he set for his kids, eh?  No wonder they have all turned out to be just like him, with the exception of daughter Tiffany, who has had far less contact, is largely (thankfully) ignored by Trump, and is nearing completion of a law degree.  Wouldn’t the irony be delightful if someday she were hired by someone to file a lawsuit against her own sire?


Well, thanks for letting me share some of my snarkiness with you this afternoon.  I hope the rest of your weekend is spent doing something you enjoy …

Snarky Snippets Is Baaaaack …

A few things are on my radar this afternoon … several actually, but three that are jumping up and down screaming, “Pick me!  Pick ME!”  And so, the choice has been made for me, it would seem.


Who could’a seen it coming?

This in this morning’s The Guardian

Despite Donald Trump’s claims that the spread of coronavirus is dropping around the US, new infection hotspots are cropping up across Republican heartlands, including in Texas and Alabama. Many of the new hotspots are in states where governors refused to instruct residents to stay at home, or are following Trump’s advice to relax lockdown restrictions.

These figures could be seen as the realisation of a warning from Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the president’s long-suffering right-hand man on coronavirus, on Tuesday.

In his latest contradiction of the president, Fauci warned the virus would not go away on its own, and that reopening the country too quickly could result in a surge in “little spikes that might turn into outbreaks”.

I wonder how those gun-totin’ fools who stormed statehouses brandishing their big guns and displaying their Nazi insignia feel now that they’ve gotten their way?  I wonder how many more have to die because of fools like them?


Will justice prevail?

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments from Trump’s lawyers concerning the release of his tax and other financial records, as subpoenaed by Congress.  Trump’s lawyers contend that he should not be so constrained by Congress and cannot be prosecuted while in office.  However, at least four on the Supreme Court feel differently …

  • “There is a long, long history of Congress seeking records and getting them” from occupants of the Oval Office. – Justice Sonia Sotomayor
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer brought up requests for documents during the Watergate and Whitewater scandals, which occurred under Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton and were decided unanimously against the president concerned.
  • Elena Kagan told Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow a “fundamental precept of our constitutional order is that the president is not above the law”.

The case in a nutshell:

Every president since Nixon, who was elected in 1968, had released tax information. But there is no legal compunction to do so.

Democrats in Congress are attempting to establish whether Trump is breaking ethics laws and constitutional safeguards against profiting from the presidency.

The New York prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr wants to find out if hush money payments to women who claimed affairs with Trump involved illegal business practices.

Trump is asking the justices to put an end to subpoenas for tax, bank and other financial records which seek information from Deutsche Bank, Capital One and the Mazars USA accounting firm.

Trump’s lawyers, supported by the justice department, contend that he should not be so constrained by Congress and cannot be prosecuted while in office.

Opponents of the president say he is simply not above the law.

Appellate courts in Washington and New York have ruled that the documents should be turned over. Those courts brushed aside the president’s broad arguments, focusing on the fact that the subpoenas were addressed to third parties asking for records of Trump’s business and financial dealings as a private citizen, not as president.

Chief Justice John Roberts asked Trump lawyer Patrick Strawbridge: “Do you concede any power in the House to subpoena personal papers of the president?”

The Trump attorney said it was “difficult to imagine” a situation in which that would be justified.

However, in 1974 the justices acted unanimously in requiring Nixon to turn over White House tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor. And in 1997, another unanimous decision allowed a sexual harassment lawsuit to proceed against Clinton.

What makes Trump different than Nixon or Clinton?  What is it that makes Attorney General Barr proclaim him to be ‘above the law’ in all things?  Trump is only a flawed human, just as were Nixon and Clinton.  He has already been proven to be more corrupt than even Nixon.  Per the U.S. Constitution, Congress is tasked with the oversight of the Executive Branch of government.  So why … why should he be given carte blanche to hide his possible misdeeds, to keep his dirty secrets from the people of this nation?  If he had nothing to hide, he wouldn’t be hiding behind Bill Barr’s very wide coat, now would he?

I hope that Chief Justice Roberts finds that he still has a conscience when it comes time for a vote on this case.  There is far more at stake here than whether Trump is allowed to keep his dirty little secrets, for this case will set a precedent for all future presidents.  A ruling is expected within a matter of weeks.


Not so fast, Billy Barr …

Remember last week when the Department of Justice under William Barr announced that it would be dropping the charges against Michael Flynn?  Most non-trumpies were incensed, as was I.

Bill Barr auditioned for the role of Attorney General by writing a lengthy memo arguing in favor of a fringe legal theory that a President could not obstruct justice, no matter what he did. From the very beginning, Barr has made it clear that he would be Trump’s man in the Department of Justice, and that his loyalty would always be to the President — not the rule of law, not the people of this nation.

But this time Barr may have to answer to a higher authority … the federal courts.  Judge Emmet Sullivan has put the Justice Department’s decision on hold – opening the door for legal experts and other outside parties to oppose the administration’s motion to exonerate Flynn of lying to the FBI.

Critics, including Barack Obama and hundreds of former FBI and justice department officials, have questioned whether William Barr was orchestrating favors for Trump. Flynn, guilty of far greater crimes, pleaded guilty to the single charge of lying to the FBI as part of a plea deal arranged in exchange for testimony to Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russia’s interference on behalf of Trump in 2016.  Conspiracy theorists will tell you that Flynn did nothing wrong, that he was set up, but the hard evidence says differently and in fact, had he not agreed to the plea deal, he would have been charged with far more crimes, possibly up to and including treason.

It is interesting to note that within the Justice Department, only Barr argued in favour of dropping the charges against Flynn.  None of the line prosecutors supervising the case signed the motion and one withdrew from the case.  That, to me, speaks volumes.

When Flynn was forced from the White House, Vice-President Mike Pence said he was disappointed the national security adviser had misled him about his talks with the Russian ambassador. Donald Trump called the deception unacceptable.

Now Pence says he would welcome Flynn back to the administration, calling him a “patriot”, as Trump pronounces him exonerated.  Ask yourself … ‘Why?’  There’s a reason, and I suspect it pertains to the role Flynn could play as a liaison between Trump and Russia in the upcoming election.  Just an educated guess on my part, of course.

I cannot begin to guess at this point how this will end, but it’s good to know the judge isn’t taking his responsibility to truth and justice lightly.  This one will keep me on the edge of my seat!

Above The Law???

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court has one final chance to do the right thing, to stand for truth and justice instead of simply pandering to Donald Trump. On Tuesday, the Court is scheduled to hear one of the most consequential cases ever considered on executive privilege. Trump v Vance concerns a subpoena issued by the Manhattan district attorney to President Trump’s accountants demanding the release of tax returns and other financial documents to a grand jury. What is at stake is no less than the accountability of a president to the rule of law.

Attorney General William Barr has said that Trump, so long as he remains in office, is above the law.  We the People disagree.  This case may be the deciding factor.  That Trump has fought so hard to keep his tax returns a big secret when every other president since 1968 has released multiple years’ tax returns, and even Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, has released 10 years’ worth of returns.  So, what is he hiding?  Some say only the fact that he is far less wealthy than he claims, but I personally think he is hiding something far more important.

Kellyanne’s husband, and co-founder of The Lincoln Project, George Conway, has written an OpEd for The Washington Post that sums it up quite well …

George Conway: No one in this country is above the law. The Supreme Court is about to teach that lesson.

ConwayBy George T. Conway III 

Contributing columnist

May 8, 2020 at 6:50 p.m. EDT

Twenty-six years ago, I published my first op-ed. Entitled “‘No Man in This Country … Is Above the Law,’” it addressed news reports that President Bill Clinton planned to claim an immunity from having to respond to Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit. “In a case involving his private conduct,” I wrote, “a President should be treated like any private citizen. The rule of law requires no more — and no less.”

The piece led to my ghostwriting briefs for Jones, including a Supreme Court brief two years later. The Supreme Court agreed unanimously that Jones could proceed, and, like the op-ed, quoted from the Founders’ debates about the status of the president: “Far from being above the laws, he is amenable to them in his private character as a citizen, and in his public character by impeachment.” Which meant that while a president could be impeached for official misconduct, he “is otherwise subject to the laws” — and therefore could be sued — “for his purely private acts.”

I couldn’t have imagined then that another president would challenge that proposition. Then again, I couldn’t have imagined President Donald Trump.

But here we are. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear telephonic arguments in three cases addressing whether Trump can keep his tax and financial information from being disclosed, whether from Congress or criminal prosecutors. In Trump v. Vance, which involves a New York state grand jury investigation, Trump’s lawyers argue that, even when it comes to purely private conduct, the presidency insulates him from the legal process.

The case arises from a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization, and it seems there’s plenty worth examining: whether, as suggested by extensive reporting in this newspaper and other outlets, Trump’s businesses may have dodged taxes. And whether Trump’s hush-money payments, made through his lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, violated state law. (Cohen pleaded guilty to federal crimes arising from those payments, which the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said were made “at the direction of Individual-1” — Trump.)

The state grand jury subpoenaed the Trump Organization and Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, seeking tax returns and financial records. Trump sued to block the subpoena to Mazars — on the ground that he’s president. The lower federal courts rejected his pleas, and now he’s in the Supreme Court. Where he will lose — or should.

To say Trump’s argument is frivolous demeans frivolity. Clinton v. Jones dictates the result: The subpoenaed documents have nothing to do with Trump’s presidential duties — zip. That alone does it.

But Trump’s case is even weaker than Clinton’s. At least Clinton was being sued personally. He ultimately had to give evidence himself, which he did (infamously) at a deposition. But because the suit had nothing to do with presidential duties, the Supreme Court said it could proceed.

Here, Trump hasn’t been charged with or sued for anything. He’s not being required to do anything. The subpoenas have been directed at his company and his accountants. They don’t require his time or attention.

Trump’s position stupefies. In essence: Authorities can’t investigate anything touching his personal affairs — including, ahem, payments to pornographic actresses — because he’s president. Think of the logic: Not only does the president enjoy a personal constitutional immunity — his businesses do, too.

It doesn’t matter that Trump challenges a criminal inquiry, while Jones involved a civil suit. Whether a sitting president can be indicted remains unsettled, but Trump hasn’t been charged. In fact, presidents have given evidence in criminal matters many times — including ones touching them personally. Chief Justice John Marshall ordered President Thomas Jefferson to produce documents in Aaron Burr’s treason case. A unanimous Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, and rejected a claim of presidential privilege — in a case in which Nixon was named an unindicted co-conspirator. Clinton provided grand jury and criminal trial testimony in the Whitewater and Lewinsky investigations — matters in which he was potentially a target.

Trump complains nonetheless that letting 50 states conduct investigations involving presidents would endanger the presidency, as well as federal supremacy. A short answer is one the court gave in Jones, where Clinton raised the specter of countless private plaintiffs bringing meritless suits: Courts can address vexatious litigation case by case, and if that doesn’t suffice, Congress can legislate a fix.

A more fundamental answer, though, may be found in an amicus curiae brief in the Vance case, a brief submitted by the Protect Democracy Project and joined by me and 36 other conservatives: “The Constitution is concerned with the supremacy of federal law, not the supremacy of federal officials.”

Likewise, the Constitution is concerned with protecting the presidency, not the person who happens to be the president. That’s because no one in this country is above the law. The Supreme Court is now called upon to teach that lesson once again — even if Trump will likely never learn it.

When this case is decided, we will know two things once and for all:  1) Do we still have an independent, non-partisan Supreme Court that decides cases on merit?  2) Do we have a president, or have William Barr, Mitch McConnell, and now the Supreme Court turned the presidency into an autocracy?  Stay tuned …

America’s Gun Culture On Display

Look at the picture below …

US-HEALTH-VIRUS-PROTESTThose are not National Guardsmen, nor are they law enforcement nor military.  They are armed … heavily armed … protestors at a rally in Michigan.  Would you be comfortable anywhere near this group of rabblerousers with guns?  I certainly would not!  I have planned for several days to write about this very ominous situation that was repeated in cities around the nation last week, but today I came across an OpEd by a contributor for The Washington Post that summed it up nicely.


We cannot allow the normalization of firearms at protests to continue

Michele-NorrisBy Michele L. Norris 

Opinions contributor and consultant

May 6, 2020 at 5:23 p.m. EDT

This we know: Black or brown people gathering in the streets or at the statehouse with rifles and body armor would not be tolerated.

They would not be allowed to yell in the face of police officers.

They would not be referred to as “very good people” by a sitting president.

There would be no debate about First or Second Amendment rights.

There would be arrests. Lots of them.

Let’s just admit that.

And let’s admit this, too: We’ve gotten far too accustomed to the image of white protesters carrying paramilitary-level firearms in public spaces. The presence of guns — often really large guns — at protests has become alarmingly normalized. It is time to take stock of what that means.

Accepting and even expecting to see firearms at protest rallies means that we somehow embrace the threat of chaos and violence. While those who carry say they have no intention of using their weapons, the firepower alone creates a wordless threat, and something far more calamitous if even just one person discharges a round.

If someone were to go rogue, it would be difficult for police to identify a shooter while facing a phalanx of protesters who all have rifles strapped to their shoulders. Distinguishing law enforcement from people dressed as “enforcers” could be tough. During the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, the Virginia National Guard tweeted that its troops were wearing “MP” patches on their uniforms so people could sort the military police from the rifle-wielding paramilitary groups that showed up wearing helmets, camouflage and tactical vests.

Accepting the open display of firearms at protests means we can expect an increased militarization of state and local law enforcement agencies seeking to protect their troops.

Accepting the open display of firearms at rallies means we must also admit this confirms a significant cultural shift that collides with norms and current laws. The protesters that stormed the statehouse in Michigan were within their right to carry guns inside the state Capitol under open-carry laws. But their actions were far outside of the comfort zone for many people who work in that building and who dedicate their lives to finding civil solutions to disagreements.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey is a Republican and Second Amendment champion who initially supported challenges to the state’s shutdown order. But in a statement last week, he condemned the use of “intimidation and the threat of physical harm to stir up fear and feed rancor.” There are now discussions about reviewing the laws that allow citizens to carry and display guns inside the Michigan statehouse.

Almost every state has legal tools to crack down on armed militias under laws that prevent the formation of private paramilitaries that are not answerable to civil authorities. Such groups cannot falsely assume police or military roles and are not allowed to provide military training to prepare members for civil disorders. But when heavily armed protesters show up in formation at rallies, they certainly flout these laws.

Is this brazen display of force about the right to own firearms or the right to make armed threats for political purposes? Just asking, because the latter is not a “right” that can be equally asserted. The protests are purportedly about reopening America. A parallel goal is realignment — using the Second Amendment to conduct regular and routine shows of force to intimidate elected officials into enacting a political agenda.

Accepting the display of firearms at protests by some and not others means that we must also accept that some are rewarded with a kind of special citizenship that allows them to be seen as patriotic instead of threatening, and aggrieved instead of aggressive.

If we accept this as normal, it means the country collectively is shrugging its shoulders and co-signing a skewed social contract, in which white-nationalist groups grow in size and influence, as threats against politicians and journalists escalate, and as gun violence and mass shootings continue to rise.

Accepting this increasingly brazen display of guns as normal means an armed political movement is flourishing outside the guardrails of our political system.

This didn’t happen overnight. Advocates for open-carry have been carrying handguns and rifles to department stores, Starbucks and state capitols since 2013 in an effort to normalize firearms in public. The movement is coincidentally aligned with an entertainment trend in which paramilitary forces take center stage in popular video games and TV shows such as HBO’s “Watchmen” and Showtime’s “Homeland.”

Polls show that most Americans prefer a go-slow approach to reopening most businesses. The armed protesters in places such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina represent a tiny minority. Some surveys put the most insistent open-now crowd at less than 10 percent. But the weapons make their influence seem larger — and they know that. We see protests punctuated by guns almost every day. It has become routine. We have normalized something that should be shocking.

Discord & Dissension-A Pause

Jeff and I are taking a little break from our project … I’ll let Jeff explain …

On The Fence Voters

At the beginning of the year, Jill Dennison and I decided to collaborate on a project that we hoped would focus our collective attention on the upcoming presidential election. Both of us felt then, and now that this election is the most consequential of our lives.

We told you how we got to the present hyperventilating partisanship in Washington, D.C. We reminded you how one political party was doing its level best to keep as many people from voting via unprecedented suppression tactics and gerrymandering.

We told you about the current administration’s unprecedented corruption, their total denial of climate change, and their attempt to destroy the administrative state. We alluded to how important the courts were to our future, as well as showcasing the myriad of issues that will confront voters in this election.

We also touched upon the growing dispute going on at the time between Bernie Sanders and…

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Filosofa Is Ranting … AGAIN!

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

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

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

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

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

He ended his little tirade with …

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

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

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


And in other news …

Well isn’t that convenient?

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

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

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

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


Profit over people

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

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

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

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

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


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

An Update And An Opinion

In a minute, I will share a piece by Robert Reich, but first I have an update on this morning’s post, King Donnie.  You may remember that I wrote about Trump claiming “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” and saying that it would be entirely up to him, not the states’ governors, when the country would re-open for business.  Well, it seems that mine were not the only feathers he ruffled with his rhetoric …

“I don’t know what the president is talking about, frankly. We have a constitution … we don’t have a king … the president doesn’t have total authority.” – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

“I am not running for office to be King of America. I respect the constitution. I’ve read the constitution. I’ve sworn an oath to it many times. I respect the great job so many of this country’s governors – Democratic and Republican – are doing under these horrific circumstances.” – Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden

“Nope. That would be the literal definition of a totalitarian government – which our traditions, our constitution, and our values all rightly and decisively reject.” – Steve Vladeck, Professor of Law at the University of Texas

“How & when to modify physical distancing orders should & will be made by Governors. But the Constitution & common sense dictates these decisions be made at the state level.” – Republican Senator Marco Rubio

I’m thinking maybe it’s about time for Trump to listen to the people who have actually read and understand the U.S. Constitution.  And now, I bring you Robert Reich on an entirely different topic and one of my own pet peeves …


America’s billionaires are giving to charity – but much of it is self-serving rubbish

Well-publicized philanthropy shows how afraid the super-rich are of a larger social safety net – and higher taxes

Robert Reich-4As millions of jobless Americans line up for food or risk their lives delivering essential services, the nation’s billionaires are making conspicuous donations – $100m from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for food banks, billions from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for a coronavirus vaccine, thousands of ventilators and N95 masks from Elon Musk, $25m from the Walton family and its Walmart foundation. The list goes on.

On Wednesday, Forbes released its annual billionaires list, happily noting that “the planet’s wealthiest are helping the global effort to combat the Covid-19 outbreak”.

I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but much of this is self-serving rubbish.

First off, the amounts involved are tiny relative to the fortunes behind them. Bezos’s $100m, for example, amounts to about 11 days of his income.

Well-publicized philanthropy also conveniently distracts attention from how several of these billionaires are endangering their workers and, by extension, the public.

With online sales surging, Amazon is on a hiring binge. But Bezos still doesn’t provide sick leave for workers unless they test positive for Covid-19, in which case they get just two weeks. On 20 March, four senators sent him a letter expressing concern that the company wasn’t doing enough to protect its warehouse workers.

Walmart’s booming sales have caused it to hire more than 100,000 workers over the past three weeks. But the firm failed to implement social distancing for two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced guidelines on 16 March. Several workers have died. Most still don’t have access to gloves, masks or hand sanitizer. They don’t get paid sick leave, not even at stores where employees have contracted the virus.

Musk initially dismissed sheltering as “dumb” and defied a sheriff’s order to shelter-in-place by keeping open Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, telling employees the factory was an “essential” business.

The third way conspicuous philanthropy is self-serving is by suggesting that government shouldn’t demand more from the super-rich, even in a national emergency. As Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal editorial page put it, if we had a wealth tax like Elizabeth Warren proposed, “it’s unlikely [Bill Gates] would have the capacity to act this boldly.”

That’s absurd. Warren’s tax would have cost Gates about $6bn a year, roughly his annual income from his $100bn.

Besides, all the billionaire charity combined is a tiny fraction of the trillions the government has already spent on the coronavirus crisis. How does the Journal believe we’re going to pay down this added national debt if the wealthiest among us don’t pay more taxes? Even when this nightmare is over, most Americans will be hard pressed.

And why should we believe that Gates or any other billionaire’s “boldness” necessarily reflects society’s values and needs? Oligarchies aren’t the same as democracies.

The worst fear of the billionaire class is that the government’s response to the pandemic will lead to a permanently larger social safety net.

“Once the virus is conquered – and it will be – the biggest risk will be the political campaign to expand government control over far more of American economic life,” warns Murdoch’s Journal.

After all, the Great Depression of the 1930s spawned social security and the minimum wage, as well as a widespread conviction that government should guarantee a minimum standard of living. The second world war yielded the GI Bill and then the National Defense Education Act, enshrining the government’s role as a financier of higher education.

Even programs that don’t enjoy wide popularity when first introduced, such as the Affordable Care Act, enlarge the nation’s sense of what is reasonable for the government to do for its citizens. The ACA lives on, more popular than ever, notwithstanding the GOP’s determination to repeal it and Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine it.

As the pandemic challenges the security and safety of all Americans, some conservative politicians are proposing things that would have been unthinkable – certainly unspeakable – only months ago.

The Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley is calling for the federal government to “cover 80% of wages for workers at any US business, up to the national median wage” until the crisis is over.

“Workers will benefit from the steady paycheck and the knowledge their jobs are safe,” he says.

Indeed. Hawley’s logic would as easily justify national paid sick leave and universal basic income, permanently.

If the pandemic has revealed anything, it’s that America’s current social safety net and healthcare system does not protect the majority of Americans in a national emergency. We are the outlier among the world’s advanced nations in subjecting our citizens to perpetual insecurity.

We are also the outlier in possessing a billionaire class that, in controlling much of our politics, has kept such proposals off the public agenda.

At least until now.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now.

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

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

Political⚡Charge

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

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

Why is the Post Office in trouble?

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

The Post…

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