Evict Congressional Seditionists

From a Google Image Search – Republicans say 2020 election is fraudulent

Representatives and Senators who were complicit in seditious acts committed to overturn a free and fair election and install a candidate who lost that election are sitting in Congress right now gloating over the weakness of a system that cannot expel them from the US government. These legislators, who should be bearing the censure of the nation, are letting us know that they hold Democrats in contempt. These Republican lawmakers are empowered by their successful attempts to skirt our Constitution without formal proceedings against them. As we watch this Congress disrespect a duly elected President who is seeking to protect voting in America against an entire right-wing establishment, including the US Supreme Court that has passed laws to make voting in America more difficult and to end our trust in our elections, these law makers are defiantly encouraging states to pass more laws to make us doubt the outcomes of US elections while the Supremes refuse to take cases about restrictive voting laws.

President Biden must bear the embarrassments of a stalemate in the Senate while these Senators who committed seditious acts get to vote as if they are not guilty of crimes against our republic. Democrats must resort to begging two Democratic Senators to protect voting rights in America. If the states, empowered by the right-wing states’ rights agenda, get to replace local electors who have worked for years on local election boards and at polling places with right-wing extremists, our democracy will die. If free and fair elections go away, authoritarianism is already here. Evict the legislators who voted to overturn the free and fair election in 2021, even as insurrectionists attacked the US Capitol and terrorized our elected legislators. The right to evict these lawmakers is stated in Section Three of the 14 th Amendment to the US Constitution.

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or
elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil
or military, under the United States, or under any State, who,
having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or
as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an
executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the
United States, shall have engaged
in insurrection or rebellion against the same . . .”

ACS is the American Constitution Society

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) was seen raising his fist in solidarity with insurrectionists outside the east wing of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Ted Cruz tried to create an election committee to investigate bogus claims of voter fraud. He was unsuccessful in this endeavor but here is a list of Senators who agreed to join the committee:

Senator Ron Johnson, former Senator Kelly Loeffler (lost to Warnock), Senator James Lankford, former Senator David Perdue, Senator Steve Daines, Senator John Kennedy, Senator Marsha Blackburn, Senator Mike Braun, Senator Cynthia Lummis, Senator Roger Marshall, Senator Bill Hagerty, Senator Tommy Tuberville

These Senators had to have known that Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election yet fear of their own party or ideology or both led them to sign up to commit a seditious act against the Constitution by lying about the results of a free and fair election and using taxpayer dollars to set up a committee to investigate a lie to make it seem like truth.

https://gen.medium.com/a-list-of-everyone-complicit-in-this-coup-attempt-1fb54331f76b

Even after the insurrection, after everyone hiding in seats and ushered off to safe rooms, hiding in closets while enraged and misinformed citizens threatened to kill them and hang the Vice President, even then Republican Senators stuck to their purpose which was to stop the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win. Arizona led the movement to stop the certification process and there was a vote. 

The Senate rejected the Arizona challenge 93-6. The House rejected it 303-121.

The six Senators who voted for the Arizona challenge to acceptance of the Electoral College certifications were:

Josh Hawley-Missouri, Ted Cruz-Texas, Cindy Hyde Smith-Mississippi, Tommy Tuberville-Alabama, John Kennedy-Louisiana

Here are the 121 House members who supported the objection:

You will have to go to the article from npr to get this list as my blog provider would not list it.

https://www.npr.org/sections/insurrection-at-the-capitol/2021/01/07/954380156/here-are-the-republicans-who-objected-to-the-electoral-college-count

Legislators don’t generally get evicted from Congress for how they vote, and it is usually a necessary protection. However, in this case where these Senators and Representatives, fully aware of an insurrection that falsely supported the outgoing President’s attempt to take over the United States government, still voted to overturn a free and fair American election, we must evict them from our government or accept the consequences of our weakness, our inability to enforce our own documents. How we will evict them when it takes a 2/3 vote in the affected body of the legislature will take some ingenuity. We may have to rely on our less than enthusiastic Justice Department.

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson – Book

From a Google Image Search – Chicago Review of Books

Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson – Book

How does a well-adjusted Queen of the Netherlands meet a half Comanche mourning Texas father on the autism spectrum who spends his days hunting for the wild hog that snatched his baby and ate it, and who still manages to be one of the sanest people in any room? What is the Queen of the Netherlands doing in Texas? These two unlikely characters meet as the Neal Stephenson novel, Termination Shock begins with a crash.

Neal Stephenson has been a favorite author of mine since I read The Quicksilver Trilogy, also a tale with keys scenes in Dutch cities. Stephenson writes unique science fiction, often long and complex, teaching me things that ignite my mind and entertain me. He mixes the plausible and implausible, always making running commentary on the human condition, buried in all that complexity somewhere.

Perhaps after seeing Kim Stanley Robinson publish The Ministry of the Future and Bill Gates publish How to Avoid a Climate Disaster the time seemed right to weigh in with a plot Stephenson had already been working on.

TR Schmidt (one of many names), a wealthy Texan, is the real reason Frederika Mathilde Louisa Saskia, the Queen of the Netherlands (familiar name Saskia) is in Texas. She has been invited to a Conference/Demonstration/Extravaganza. Apparently, in this not-so-distant future, America is the laughingstock of the world, but a wealthy Texan who owns an enormous tract of land can do just about what he likes. It turns out that TR is tired of the world’s inaction on climate change. The world is getting hotter, the ice at the poles is melting faster and the seas are rising higher. TR’s land is outside Houston. What he has in common with the Queen of the Netherlands is that they both live in low places along coastlines, as is true of all the other leaders invited to the conference (Singapore, Venice, certain island nations in the South Pacific). 

TR is a man of action. This conference is not about forming a think tank. He already has a plan based on one summer when Mount Pinatubo erupted and the whole world cooled off. TR has a way to use that model to cool the earth for a few years while more permanent solutions can be put into effect. His Pina2bo structure is finished. These people are here to witness activation of the apparatus. 

One problem with his new process is that it is a geoengineering approach, opposed by those who favor green solutions. Another problem is that this process has certain “knock-on” effects that some nations won’t like – namely China and India, two very large and powerful nations. China and India are rivals. China is trying to swallow India at the Line of Actual Control one gulp at a time. This parallel story line of a young Sikh man named Laks who comes to be known as Big Fish connects with the TR and Queen Frederika story line eventually.

TR is trying to cover countries that will be left out of his original cooling scheme because of things like prevailing winds, and is using isolated locations perfect for building and employing his apparatus. Internet rumors say that if Pina2bo continues to function the Punjab, the breadbasket of India, could lose its monsoons making farming impossible. No one on the internet is showing the maps that describe TR’s plans to cover all areas on the planet with cooler temperatures, thus slowing the melting of the ice caps and the rising seas. TR knows that if he stops now there will be an equal and opposite reaction called termination shock.

This is not a climate change textbook lesson, but, as usual, Stephenson teaches us many things, including some exoteric geography and some ancient martial arts. Kim Stanley Robinson talked about geoengineering. He mentioned but did not stress using particles in clouds to reflect more of the sun’s cooling back into space. Neal Stephenson concentrates almost entirely on geoengineering. Stephenson is a great describer and explainer. You will get the picture. 

Sad Times for Voters in America

From a Google Image Search – LA Times

Next week you will most likely hear a lot about voting rights, unless there is a new crisis that turns all heads in another direction. Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader of the Senate with a tiny Democratic majority and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House with only a slightly larger majority know that Republicans have the states who are loyal to them trying to rig voting in favor of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, Republicans had control during a census year, so they get to draw the new voting districts. Some states have appointed supposedly bipartisan oversight committees in their counties to try to prevent extreme gerrymandering, other states have done no such thing. 

Nineteen states have passed over 200 laws to restrict voting procedures backed by Democrats to make it easier for people to vote. None of the voting easements passed by Democrats are intended to rig voting in any way. Expanding absentee voting during a pandemic allowed people to vote without facing infection, and in some cases possible death. Drop boxes also helped with the physical distancing required and the difficulties public transportations options were experiencing. More polling places and early voting made crowds and wait times in line smaller helping reduce the possibility of passing along infections. These worked so well that it seems sensible to continue them, except in the case of more absentee voting where those votes are often not counted until days after election day to give time for postal delivery of votes mailed by the proper deadline. Absentee voting laws need some work.

Republicans, who still claim that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen, say that now that there is a vaccine for COVID the new methods for voting are not necessary, even as they refuse to wear masks or get shots. They say these alternative ways to vote offer too many opportunities to cheat. But Democrats say that there was little to no cheating in the last election and even private and partisan Republican audits did not find the illegal votes they hoped to find. The stories were wild, votes being brought in by taco trucks in bundles and unloaded in precincts, with no evidence other than impossible to decipher photos by Republican poll watchers who were avid Trump fans. All evidence, and studies have been comprehensive, tells us that there was a free and fair election in 2020 even though it was easier to vote.

All attempts to make it more difficult for working people, families with children, people without reliable transportation, older people to vote are unnecessary. New voting options did not make the election invalid or politicized, beyond the brainwashing already done by right-wing media and Donald Trump.

One new attempt by the Republicans is problematic, however. In case the campaign to stop new ways to vote is not enough to ensure a Republican victory, then people like Raffensperger, Secretary of State in Georgia and Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shayne Moss also in Georgia must be replaced by election workers who support Trump or who are strong partisan Republicans. These current election workers have been threatened and harassed, their personal data such as their addresses exposed, and shouting demonstrators have appeared outside their homes making it difficult for them to leave.

Replacing poll workers who take a pledge not to be partisan with clearly partisan right-wing poll workers could do more damage to our ability to trust that our elections are free and fair than all the other measures combined. Republicans watch national reactions, and they delight in taking their state laws at least one step too far, then they sit back and watch the rise in temperature in the Democratic Party. Then they “own the libs” again because they know Democrats will not be able to find enough votes to undo these rigged state laws.

I always say that the Republicans can obstruct in Congress and stuff the courts because they did their homework. I don’t always say, but often imply, that the homework they did was nefarious, that it involved figuring out ways to keep a minority party in power. Republicans were beloved by big business and the wealthy for the party’s economic policies, and by evangelicals for Republican conservatives now tarnished reputation as a watchdog over morality, a party of Americans who still went to church and were ostensibly believers.

Republicans formed secret webs of organizations full of rich oil, gas and coal industry leaders and wooed state governments, even writing laws that were passed in state legislatures. They formed an alliance with Evangelicals who violated their 501c status as tax-exempt entities to learn and digitally organize everything about Republican voters and then to use that information in pamphlets and from pulpits and over radio and later TV stations to put the information they collected to use for their own purposes, which were all about keeping Republicans in power. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act shows how successful this Republican campaign to own government has been, and the preponderance of facts shows that it was an organized campaign.

So, when I try to decide if the numbers in Congress look the way they do, with such tight margins between the two parties, if they look like that by accident or by design, I am not talking about short term strategies like one rigged election. I am taking into consideration the undemocratic and yet very effective long-term plan of a party that saw itself on the verge of being out of power for a very long time and refused to accept the idea that in a democracy the majority rules. Interesting that when Georgia managed to elect two Democratic Party Senators to Congress, two other Democrats turned against their own party to allow the Senate to continue to obstruct every Democratic attempt to fix voting or bring about a better economic balance in America, especially for workers. The pandemic pointed out the societal weaknesses that affected working Americans most and the Democrats wrote bills to try to fix this.

But 2-2=0 is interesting math. Do Republicans pay Manchin and Sinema to obstruct, do they promise money for their states? Does the Democratic Party unfortunately just happen to include two Senators who think like Republicans and who now have the deciding vote that will either obstruct Democrats from proceeding or allow Democrats to take the lead? Whether by accident or design, there does not seem to be a way forward for Democrats on a Voting Rights law. We can only hope some really creative thinking that stays within the parameters of the Constitution will give us a miracle, because weaponizing poll work is one step too far. We will not be able to trust our elections.

Republicans have been pulling America to the right for at least a decade and probably more like three or four. They don’t want to give up any ground. They don’t want to take any steps back. They can smell total victory. They will own the liberals and America will be governed as Republicans see fit. But we will not be a democracy if they achieve their ends in this way. The Republicans cannot allow Democrats to pass federal voting laws, especially now that the right-wing has found ways, beyond swaying voters opinions, to reach down into local voting procedures and make sure America never has free and fair voting again. They suspect that if elections are free and fair they will lose. Their behavior suggests they should lose. For Republicans even an insurrection was not too far. 

Star Wars in Washington DC

From a Google Image Search – ITV

Star Wars in Washington

The government of Star Wars was, at the beginning, a bloated and corrupt democracy, which was intended to offer representative government not just to a collection of nations on one planet, but to nations scattered over galaxies. The Galactic Republic was a body of elected Senators protected by the Jedi Order of Knights. Sounds familiar, except that our Republic is protected only by laws, intentions, Capitol police, and we the people. We were all so taken with the idea of the Force because we could really use some knights right now with access to a universal force to help defend us from evil. Of course, then we learned that the Force could also be used for evil and that it was often stronger than when it was used for good. There must always be conflict in any good story.

The same dual nature of humans was at work in the universe that we see in our world. Right now, we have Joe Manchin starring as Kylo Ren (he’s a bit old for the role). He has not decided whether to work for the dark side or the light. He is a professed acolyte of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Joe Biden) but is tempted by the power of Darth Sidious aka Emperor Palpatine (Mitch McConnell) to ally with those on the dark side. Manchin (Kylo Ren) is back from the government’s holiday break with a new way to foil the Galactic Republic, well on its way to being the First Galactic Empire. Perhaps the January 6 insurrection wasn’t quite big enough to be equated with the Clone Wars, but it could be a precursor to a bigger battle.

Kylo Ren already convinced Congress to break up the deal made in the House to keep the Infrastructure Bill in train with the Build Back Better bill. Now that the Infrastructure Bill is law, Kylo Ren is trying to separate the Climate funding parts of the BBB bill from the social programs. This would probably be a death knell for any social programs that might assist American workers. We need money for addressing changes in our climate, like global warming, too much carbon in our atmosphere and rising sea levels, just to name a few. Climate change needs are pressing and large-scale actions are called for. 

But splitting the bills will place a burden on women, a very undemocratic burden on women who work, given how the pandemic has affected women’s lives in more lasting ways than it has affected men’s lives, unless they are single fathers. Until in-school learning is stabilized, and it is anything but stable with omicron spiking, women with children are torn between work and home once again. Will their employers understand that children bouncing between in-school and at-home learning will require a flexible approach to in-office work and WFH? What if women could be certain their children were taken care of whether in or out of school during working hours?

Star Wars is not informative in this regard since we don’t see many women who are not leaders or warriors in Star Wars, and these women do not seem to have families. Look what happens to the movie-generated child of Han Solo and Leia (Kylo Ren) when he is caught up between the forces of good and evil – good for movie sequels, a nightmare in real life. Look what happens to Leia and Luke the orphaned (sort of) children of Anakin Skywalker and Padme. Star Wars could have used some social supports to help keep these children from going off on their own or being torn between the light and the dark.

Darth Sidious (Mitch McConnell) has an entire Senate and a segment of the House full of dark lords. Which one is Darth Bane, or Armitage Hux or Vitiate or Prince Xizor, Darth Krayt, Darth Malak, Count Dooku? Take your pick, which one is Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Matthew Cawthorn, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the other cast of dark characters. Biden has many people in both bodies who are on the side of the light, who use the Force for good, but they are outnumbered, as the good guys are in all the most heroic battles. 

Perhaps Joe Manchin is not Kylo Ren, perhaps he is Anakin Skywalker before he becomes Darth Vader, whose tortured inner battle between the light and the dark sent the Galactic Republic into a tailspin that left it in the clutches of Emperor Palantine and into an epic war between good and evil. Trump is, of course, Darth Vader, the empire’s worst parent ever, and the worst leader ever.

Should we allow ourselves to give in to the temptation to take care of Climate Change funding and leave women workers to fend for themselves? Should we keep the sections of the bill together because it is the only way to help lift more Americans out of poverty and to give children in our inner cities a chance to get a head start up the ladder of opportunity? These choices should convince us to embrace the light side of the force, which could eventually push back the forces of darkness that seem to be dominating America. Joe Manchin (Kylo or Anakin) must decide to either support his party and his party’s President because these are the forces for good, or go over to the dark side for real. We feel the anger roiling in our guts once again both because here is Anakin Skywalker/Kylo Ren once again holding back change, and it is just one day before the anniversary of the first attack of the Death Star, Darth Vader’s insurrection against the Galactic Republic as represented by the Rebel Alliance. It’s difficult to make politics fun, but a writer must try.

American Elegy

From a Google Image Search – Billings Gazette

Sometimes it feels like there are huge clouds gathering above the US and although those clouds don’t affect our lives every day, when they do, they zap us and we feel the events that the clouds symbolize in very visceral ways, as body blows, as deep sorrows that could weigh down all our days if we let them. There was the day JFK was assassinated (shock) and the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated (disbelief) and then Bobby Kennedy (why is this happening). There were the fire hoses, the dogs, the mirrored glasses as the civil rights struggle played out on our TVs (anger). There were the students killed at Kent State (is this America) and the day John Lennon was murdered (loss). There was the day I was watching the Today show when the first plane hit one of the World Trade Towers and then a second plane hit the twin tower next to it. (Shock, disbelief, despair) Even the bravery of the passengers aboard the plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania was a test of courage that we hope never to have to personally face. (sobs) The day the Challenger fell from the sky killing everyone onboard. (Pow) The day of the Columbine shootings (Bam), the day that 26 children, teachers and staff were killed at Sandy Hook when we heard that the children were only 5 and 6-years-old (Oh no). 

Then, there was the day unsuspecting Black people went to a Bible Study group at their church, probably as familiar and comfortable as their living rooms, and Dylan Roof sat among them and then killed them in cold blood (oh my soul). After that we had so many mass shootings that we now have to ask the internet to list them for us. (Not again? Not again? Not again?) There was Katrina (we are all alone) and tornadoes (my life lies splintered on the ground) and fires (apocalyptic). We have had to watch the police kill young black men and women for minor offenses when fear or prejudice or both allowed an arrest to escalate into a murder (pray for us now in the hour of our need). The world outside of the US had some spectacular tragedies like tsunamis in Bali and Fukushima, Japan (primal), that gave me that same feeling of being punched in the gut and unsettled in my days. Millions are dead from a pandemic. Measuring mega-losses as personal setbacks puts me off center, until absorbed by whatever part of our psyche absorbs these blows. These mega-losses put us all off center and leave us with the sense that America has become a dystopian space, and the rest of the world is either there before us, or on the way.

We came out of World War II exhausted, empowered, and elated. We were winners. Surely, after watching Hitler and Stalin, the whole world must be convinced that democracy is better than any other system of government. But Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Iraq, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and several smaller interventions have left us feeling weaker and far less pumped. Finding out that the world saw us as pushy and imperialistic, as occupiers and as clueless was an enormous blow to the American ego. We were less surprised that other nations liked capitalism better than democracy since many of these nations had no tradition of democracy. In fact, we are worried that these nations might have made us question our own democracy.

Oddly enough, birth control pills sent American men into a tizzy and Roe v Wade tipped them over the edge. Women saw this as progress and freedom; men saw this as moral slippage, or perhaps the end of male dominance. What would a world where men were not dominant be like? They decided that was a world they didn’t want, and they redoubled efforts to keep men in control of America. This very brief sketch of history brings us almost to where we are right now. It’s as if we had the optimism of youth until the body blows that followed World War II and then we went into therapy and discovered we are having an “Adult Adjustment Reaction.”

But capitalism was still working, even if it wasn’t exactly the industrialism we had become accustomed to. There were a few setbacks; however, for the most part, economic progress was steady and trended upwards. But the middle class was starting to feel the pinch of fewer factory jobs and we saw the beginnings of the anger of displaced workers whose jobs did not support the lifestyle they had expected. Entrepreneurship and the technology sector were the newest ways to thrive if you had the disposition, the skills, or the training but not everyone did. We felt that the world was ending but perhaps it was just forcing us to change.

Now America is like a post adolescent who can’t find her/his identity and longs to just rip-off the past; who can’t separate from the parental generation. But we have the sins of our youth to deal with. We never got over 1865. We cannot wrap our minds around not being successful at everything we try. We cannot accept that changes are already here that have shifted our equation for the American economy from ‘ever upward’ to ‘sustainability’. We suddenly seem surprised to learn that everyone in America isn’t white, or Christian. Perhaps this is the feeling you get when the world starts to feel too crowded, when there doesn’t seem to be enough of everything to be open and generous. Our long pandemic is making this worse. With everything about American society feeling like it is in flux, adding more people who won’t be able to support themselves for a while seems scary. We are irate about “illegal immigrants” even though we can’t possibly deport them all as they are firmly imbedded in American life. 

We are being asked to examine the roots of our continuing racism, and Black Americans are demanding that we finally deal with them as the valuable citizens they are, that we stop ghettoizing them and accept them as equals, and perhaps replace the generational wealth we have stolen from them. It’s a tough sell in an economy that already feels tight, but it is the right thing to do. We know it, but many Americans will not accept it. 

Some Americans, very educated Americans, feel that the demand for “political correctness” is America’s worst problem. This is part of our identity dilemma. Are we still a melting pot? Or must we fight to be a White Christian nation? Should we agree to demands students make for respecting their need to be addressed correctly according to their identities, or should we describe these young people as rude and impossible to please. Clearly with several different groups demanding individual considerations of their feelings it can get quite confusing for a group of men who are used to rapt attention from those they address. It’s fairly easy to understand why older academics object to all this seemingly incomprehensible behavior and just want to exert top-down authority. Knowing that the most extreme demands will get toned down with time and the vicissitudes of life, doesn’t soothe many feelings while the heat is on.

A conversation that began on Linkedin over the Christmas weekend and spilled into weekdays was about “self-sovereignty.” The post was from a man who said he had several passports, could live anywhere, and could keep his money in safe havens to avoid paying taxes in America. (Mine, that’s mine) (Didn’t he learn to share in pre-K?) Commentors suggested that other nations may require payments resembling taxes and dual citizenship would not necessarily get him out of paying taxes in America. It’s unclear how living abroad qualifies as “self-sovereignty” since you are depending on the existing governmental order of another country which you do not govern.  Actually, “self-sovereignty” seems to be all about hoarding money and not letting your money pay for any deadbeats. Obviously if you are trying to escape climate change or cultural transitions, there is no safe place on earth to run to. Climate change may make money obsolete and change stock market offerings beyond recognition, especially if all money becomes digital. Whatever happens to make life on earth sustainable, it is clear that greed, that collecting wealth and making sure no one but you can touch your wealth, is a trend that is still a passionately felt “right” of many Americans. 

We had an insurrection. There have been rebellions, demonstrations that turned violent, but never an attack of this size on the seat of our government. Did that represent the low point for America? Will we move uphill from here? Did this release the pressure that has been building in America? It doesn’t seem so. We let a man who should never have led our nation into our most powerful space, and now that he has had a taste of that kind of power he doesn’t want to let it go.

This is where our road divides as in the Robert Frost poem. There is a danger that we could go down the road of authoritarianism. Even though the only happy person in a dictatorship is the dictator (who may not be happy either) we might choose to give up our republic for absolutism. The other road leads to mitigation of factors affecting climate change and rising sea levels and we are not sure where that road leads. Will we still have rapid economic progress, or will we have to accept a more languorous pace of living? Will the earth try to save itself by spawning disasters (like COVID, like storms, like fires, like floods) that bring the population down to sustainable levels?

It will require every bit of ingenuity and flexibility humans can muster to build a sustainable future on this planet, but will we ever have everyone on board? If this is not a cooperative human endeavor, it is hard to imagine that we can make such a huge transition gracefully. Despite all of this it is possible to imagine that we save our democracy/republic and build a sustainable future because when humans are called on to bring their best, at the last moment they often effect outcomes that seem inspired. 

Almost 2022

From a Google Image Search – Mashable

So here we are at the end of another year – a pandemic year spent on the coronavirus roller coaster, and the economic Ferris wheel, and the political bumper cars. It was a year that should have found the US set free of Trump since he lost the pet rooster contest, the cow, sheep, and pig competitions. The man has no shame, though. Before the entire world he tried to steal an election from the legitimate winner, Joe Biden, and install himself in the Oval Office as our first outlaw President.

What would the world have done? Here is a twisted leader who purposely mislead Americans into worshipping and committing violence on behalf of a shambolic loser so enamored of his own pseudo-genius that he is willing to destroy a nation that has lasted for 240+ years. Would foreign leaders have accepted him, would they have sanctioned him, would he start a brotherhood of dictators who hugged and slapped each other on the backs at the annual anti-NATO meetings? What would America look like after four more years of Trump. We already fell on lists that rate nations around the world. Where would we have tumbled to if the January 6 th insurrection succeeded in destroying faith in American elections and turned us into a nation that used to be a democracy.

So, the pandemic happened, and millions of Americans died, and that Trump stuff happened, and instead of planning what his library would look like, Trump kept collecting campaign donations and holding rallies, even as his low-life band of warriors (they defecated in the halls of Congress) were captured, arrested, and facing prison time. When Trump commits crimes, he makes sure that he is never the one who gets punished.

Democrats won the Presidency and the majorities in Congress, but the President’s margins in Congress were wafer-thin. Democrats had already lost the Supreme Court and many Federal district courts. Merrick Garland proved that he was not the President’s puppet, or even beholden to the American people. America’s Democrats are not best pleased by the Attorney General who they see as practically comatose.

Not only did Biden and the Dem majority have to legislate despite Republican obstruction, but Biden and the Democrats have had to deal with two DINOs. The Republicans, Conservatives without a party home right now, and our DINOs all believe that when government subsidizes American citizens, even when they’re excluded from expensive services by economic imbalance, that America’s rugged individualism or ability to innovate or some nonsense will be destroyed, because “necessity is the mother of invention,” because they listened to too much Frank Zappa or they read too much Ayn Rand. They argue that it will destroy both the people it is supposed to help and the American economy. Once people get something for free, the government will have to provide that service forever and the people will become lazy, uneducated, unfit parasites waiting for their next handout. Helping workers is a waste, only helping corporations, businesses, keeps the economy afloat. Republicans tell their base that the government will put them in a data base and know every move they make which will eventually lead to controlling every move they make. This assures that their base will vote against their own self-interests. 

These people, Republicans and Conservatives, have persisted in these beliefs ever since LBJ’s War on Poverty, actually, probably since FDR’s work’s progress programs (an opinion passed down in Republican families). These programs always accomplished the things they set out to do even though conservatives insisted they be made as stigmatizing as possible. They may not have lifted everyone up, but they changed the lives of many people. So, Republicans demonize any programs that benefit workers, ordinary citizens, by calling them Socialism, which is hardly the bugaboo it used to be, and which is not even the correct descriptor to use.

This year we did pass an Infrastructure Bill at last. It was cut until it was deliberately too small, but it’s a start. Voting Rights and the Build Back Better Bill are unlikely to get done in 2021 (as of today the BBB bill is unlikely to get done at all since Manchin finally gave a definitive answer saying he cannot support the bill even though it was rewritten to please him) and in a midterm election year with two sworn enemies in the Party, they will most likely get short shrift in 2022 unless someone (Joe Manchin or Krysten Sinema or perhaps a few Republicans) need help with reelection.

We left Afghanistan in 2021. It wasn’t pretty and many Americans felt that we left the people who helped us in the lurch (which we did), but the troops we trained left America in the lurch also. We are left watching the people of Afghanistan starve, watching women and girls lose their rights once again. We are left feeling guilty and sad, and glad that our young men and women in the military are safely home. If we give aid to Afghanistan, we will be propping up a government that fought to reassert control and obviously believed it would be able to make Afghanistan prosperous. Except it also looks like the Taliban believed the foreign aid would continue. If we give aid and allow the Taliban to put on a prosperous front, we fear we will encourage other terrorist groups to have similar ambitions and expectations. This was a win-lose, and it is unfinished business.

This year, 2021, proved more than ever that climate is changing so fast that it is difficult for the climate deniers to be heard. The fierce fires on the west coast (and in Australia), the hurricanes that keep hitting near cities on the Gulf of Mexico, the strongest ever tornadoes, the hot spots around the globe, flooding in Europe, the disaster of a fallen Miami high rise full of people (possibly aided by salt water that now frequently floods Miami streets). The bird census that came up three billion birds short may be an anomaly, but it may be a harbinger of species extinction. The permafrost is melting, releasing goo gobs of CO2. Cutting and burning peat turns out to be a big carbon contributor also. COP26 had the nations of the world meeting to hash out an agreement on what will be done to address climate change, but the steps are more easily stated on paper than carried out at home. We are not comforted.

At least our billionaires have been entertaining this year, going off to space and taking paying customers. They are only dipping into space, but everyone loves space stories, and it’s hard to top a space vehicle shaped like a giant penis. We mined an asteroid this year and got back some info about water on Mars and a new telescope is headed to space soon, a telescope so powerful it can see back to the beginning of the universe (the Big Bang). A few billionaires have decided to help with developing methodologies to combat climate change. Bill Gates wrote a useful book about how to get to “zero” and set up a Breakthrough think tank and action group. 

Women’s rights took a hit in the Supreme Court and next year we may see the demise of Roe v Wade or a law that allows individual states to decide on their own abortion laws. This is the denouement of a bitter fight over decades and most of us believe that this will be something like Prohibition. The right to an abortion may be taken away, but women will still abort babies they can’t care for, and Roe v Wade will eventually have to become codified as a national law (much like reinstating the legality of alcohol consumption after Prohibition). Sometimes America does stupid stuff. It’s the human condition.

After a quick taste of life with vaccines and without masks we end the year back on the pandemic roller coaster with a mutation named Omicron. 

Despite all our ups and downs, this year seemed peaceful and somewhat normal without “you know who” in charge. Happy New Year everyone. Even though years are a human time construct, whenever we celebrate a new year it feels like we get another chance to do better.

What Democrats Can’t Do and Republicans Won’t Do

From a Google Image Search – Salon.com

Michael Moore has a newsletter on Substack.com to which you can subscribe. Because yesterday was the ninth year since twenty five and six-year-old children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a troubled young shooter whose mother, probably unable to deal with her teenaged son, decided that they could bond if she bought him the gun, the gun that he had probably been demanding in what became an increasingly escalating tone intended to intimidate his mother, so, because it was November 14, Michael Moore wrote to remind us of our sorrowful memories and moved us all to think once more about our national shame. Michael Moore discussed both Sandy Hook and our national shame, but he did not discuss Adam Lanza and his mother. However, he did discuss the recent 15-year-old shooter whose parents bought him a gun for Christmas and were probably intimidated into giving it to him early. Perhaps it was a bribe to moderate his behavior, or a reward because he had seemed to moderate his behavior. The mother’s affect was strange, however. It was almost as if she was thrilled that her son had arrived at this “rite of passage.” Michael Moore, in his newsletter, reminds us that America is the only country where mass shooters regularly stop citizens from completing their journey through life. Other countries don’t make gun ownership as easy as we do. 

Clearly many Americans want gun regulation or reform, but the gun lobby is strong and keeps accusing the reformers of violating the Constitution. They contend that the Second Amendment gives everyone the right to own as many guns as s/he wishes to own, and they insist this is so even though we all know that the Second Amendment is not easy to interpret and can be read in several ways. There is a strange emotional “wall” built by gun lovers that stops us in our tracks. And of course, right now we don’t have the votes to make gun laws or rewrite the Second Amendment.

This exact same emotional wall is operating in almost every area that Democrats would like to legislate in. We are watching the erosion of voting rights as states compete to be awarded kudos from the Republican Party and their overlord, Trump. Republicans delight in going that one step further that will put them beyond the pale. They did the gerrymandering and made it as extreme as possible, but both parties have done that. It is time to outlaw gerrymandering. They did the purges of voter rolls, sometimes legitimate, sometimes not. They have taken away polling places in districts where minorities vote, forcing them to find public transportation if they can to inconvenient polling places. They have demonized paper ballots, and now ballots counted by computers. They have demonized absentee voting and mail-in voting although there has been little evidence of abuse in either case. They don’t like drop boxes because of possible tampering. The only voters tempted to tamper with voting drop boxes are their own Republican activists. The rest of us just vote, because the system always worked until this disinformation campaign about voting made people have doubts. Now Republicans have made laws in several “Red States” that allow partisan Republicans, extremists, into the vote counting process at local boards of election where counts are tabulated. We know that if these laws stand, we can never trust another American election. We will be an illiberal democracy, we will be, for all intents and purposes, no longer a democracy. 

Despite these attacks on voting, we no longer have a Congress that will combat the forces against free and fair elections. Democrats have the thinnest of majorities in the Senate. Republicans will not vote with Democrats because their party is the one corrupting voting in America. Even though a few Republicans see the damage that this will cause; they feel unable to vote freely because they will lose their seat in Congress, or they fear their family will face threats of violence. They fear the next step after threats of violence is actual violence.

Democrats could “carve out” another exception to the filibuster as they did for raising the debt ceiling, but this will not be allowed by Republicans, not for voting rights which they are in the process of dismantling. Democrats could vote to end the filibuster, but this takes sixty votes, and they do not have sixty votes. In fact, Joe Manchin loves the filibuster and wants to keep it, so Democrats do not even have 50 votes. Democrats around the country are telling Biden that they want Voting Rights handled before the Build Back Better Bill and Biden is listening. I am waiting to see if anyone in the Democratic Party has any tricks up their sleeve, any tools left in the toolbox that haven’t been used. The use of such a strategy would insure a more trustworthy result to the 2022 elections. If we don’t pass a law protecting voting rights it will be the first election in America which may not be a free and fair election.

That’s two seemingly impossible things to do that are favored by a vast majority of Americans, but not by Republicans. Michael Moore’s numbers about gun owners are quite interesting. I did not save the “url”, but I’m thinking michaelmoore/substack.com might get you there. As for polls on how many Americans feel that we need to pass a law to protect voting rights there are charts available at google.com/images if you search for the right terms. Asking ourselves, as we do, why Republicans don’t want to see if some gun laws help stop mass shootings; asking ourselves, as we do, why Republicans want to “fix” voting to favor their party even though they know that it will destroy our democracy – these questions don’t help us. Even though these policies are being pursued right in front of our eyes, the forces against the Democrats have too much power and money, they have stacked the deck out in the states and with some Americans through their own media so well that we can’t seem to stop negative politics even though it is done in totally transparent, in-your-face, ways.

We can’t protect women’s right to an abortion right now either. I hear pundits asking why we aren’t fighting. Two years of a pandemic that won’t go away might explain our reluctance to leave our homes. Or it may be that we have decided to let Republicans have their way with us hoping that when people see how bad things will get, they will fight together and fight harder to get back to what we once had, however flawed that may have been.  Of course, it may be too late then. I keep thinking that nations will have to become representatives in a global government like the UN on steroids (although this certainly did not work out well in Star Wars) in order to solve the existential problems that are going to keep arising from climate change. See the stunning article in the Washington Post today about how we will all be affected by peat-cutting operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/interactive/2021/congo-peatlands-carbon-emissions/

A suggestion like this could be so hateful that it might unite Republicans and Democrats against it, but that is just chauvinism, and it will solve nothing. We are fighting in a war against physics, against universal laws and rules, against science with only pitchforks and pride. We will lose if we don’t agree to some significant changes very soon. The world’s nations must do this together because some are too poor to help, and some are too rich to want to.

Here’s the Michael Moore url:

https://www.michaelmoore.com/p/gunanddone

Will Republicans Say Merry Christmas to America

From a Google Image Search – NYT

https://www.washingtonpost.com/2021/10/28/biden-spending-plan-what-is-it-it

This is the most recent summary of what is in the Build Back Better Bill. This bill has passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate where it will most likely be amended by Senators who don’t even intend to bring it up for a vote. The bill will probably have to be passed by “Reconciliation” with “yes” votes from only Democrats. Even then Joe Manchin, all by himself, could block this bill from passing into law. 

It is a good law, designed to help Americans who work and Americans who need help adapting homes and vehicles to zero carbon standards thus halting climate change (we hope). We once solved acid rain that was destroying the Adirondacks in NYS, so we know it is possible to turn environmental damage around by regulating toxic pollutants. It seems likely we could do the same thing with our broader climate challenges. This law also makes the Affordable Care Plan friendlier to Americans who did not fare well in the original law. 

This plan, this Build Back Better Plan, addresses many areas where America has fallen behind other wealthy nations and it includes ways to pay for the programs found in the plan. But pushback against this bill is very strong and not always for the best of reasons. Manchin picks out a small segment of the bill and says that if that remains he will not vote for it. He does this even though he made promises to let this bill come up for a vote if progressives in the House would let the Infrastructure Bill go ahead. Now that the Infrastructure Bill is safe Manchin is again holding the bill hostage until all the best bits are removed. Republicans insist that this bill be paid for but they will never raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Krysten Sinema, another Democrat who is blocking this bill, says she also will not vote to raise corporate taxes.

The media, especially the print media liked that the bill was closer to being “centrist” than to being truly “progressive”, according to a headline that was emailed to just about everyone by the NYT. The Washington Post waffles on the bill. Now that we are seeing inflation, alarms are being raised on all media except the very most left-wing sources. “We can’t afford this.”  (This could help the economy, not hurt it by getting people, especially women, back to work.) “This will explode the debt and the deficit.” (Republicans only worry about the debt and deficits when Democrats have the conn.) 

It was suggested that the corporate tax rate go up to 15% and the right-wing went wild. First of all, they all signed a pledge to the Americans for Tax Reform that they would never raise taxes. However, we ask, is putting taxes back a bit towards previously higher levels really raising taxes? Second of all, they say that corporations won’t pay and we have no way to enforce these rates. Don’t we still have jails? What happens to you and me if we don’t pay our taxes?

If we read the predictions in the print media daily that tell us that passing this bill will destroy an already reeling economy; if news and news-like media figures insist that America cannot afford these programs right now (or ever), then it seems only patriotic to suppress the excitement you might have felt on anticipating this assistance and agree that the bill should not pass. However, there has never been a pandemic that lasted this long, at least not that most of us have experienced. We have never shut down big sections of the economy except when we converted factories to war work. The predictions these folks are making about the future are based on the past. 

Since there is no real precedent for these times what if the negative predictions are wrong? What if the negative predictions are based on the political policies that people hold on the right rather than on economic realities? What if this is still about the belief on the right that supporting workers will turn workers into lazy deadbeats? Aren’t you at all insulted by this line of reasoning? Wouldn’t you love some financial help with childcare, with caring for your parents? What if universal pre-K made such a difference in the skills of young people in our poorest neighborhoods that it gave them confidence to succeed throughout their schooling and beyond. The benefits of this bill go beyond the money it costs. Passing this bill speaks to the value our elected officials place in us, working Americans, and the hopes they have for lifting poor Americans out of poverty.  

Feeling positive and feeling valued might actually affect our economy in positive ways that can’t be calculated by the CBO yet. We should tell our elected representatives to take a chance on us. Find them on the internet. Send them an email. 

Tears on Thanksgiving

From a Google Image Search – Hello Magazine

Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a holiday tradition that finds us either cooking and watching or putting off the frantic last-minute finishing touches on Thanksgiving dinner until after the parade is over. If you must get dinner done in time for football you then you may watch and eat. Sometimes we don’t miss things until we can’t have them. Perhaps you had started skipping the parade altogether because it was hokey or too commercial or you just wanted to sleep in. But then, in 2020 we saw a parade stripped of spectators, lonely giant balloons floating over empty streets, shortened versions of Broadway numbers performed for no live audience, no bands from American high schools colleges or police forces or the armed services to fill hotel rooms and eat in restaurants, to make parents proud, and to entertain us with well-practiced routines. That virtual 2020 parade was a sad parade, but it was a reminder that things were improving.

From a Google Image Search – The New York Times

This year the whole parade experience was back in living color with crowds of New Yorkers lining city streets, masked or not, but looking happy to be there. It made me cry, not sob, just leak a few tears that formed at the corners of my eyes. I couldn’t help but compare these crowded streets with the photographs from the height of the pandemic in New York City with the eerily empty city streets and the shock of refrigerated trucks backed up to hospitals for their sad task. Sorrow was in the air and in our hearts. 

From a Google Image Search – Evening Standard
From a Google Image Search – Tech Times

The sorrow is still there except that the return of the parade seemed so hopeful that I went ahead and watched the National Dog Show. I should have turned off my TV after the Dog Show because after this whole emotional roller coaster of remembering sad and empty NYC and feeling relieved to see NYC back to something resembling normality, after the meditative peacefulness of watching dog owners put their well-cared for pets through their paces, we learned about omicron, a new and mutated form of COVID found in South Africa about which little was known. We were slightly comforted to hear that it seemed to infect people with a less severe form of the virus, and we were frustrated to learn that our vaccines may not be as effective against omicron as they are against delta. We are depressed (one more emotion) that we are still learning or relearning the Greek alphabet and that uncertainty is still abroad in the world. That was a lot of feelings to pack into one Thanksgiving Day when it was easy to be grateful that families could gather for a big feast. We don’t seem quite as freaked out by omicron. We seem more willing to wait for the science. Fingers crossed.

Supremes Hear Roe Arguments

From a Google Image Search – WGHP Fox8

Listening to Stewart, the lawyer arguing in front of the Supreme Court for Mississippi brought back so many rallies and demonstrations where women have tried to protect their liberty and ownership of their own bodies. Stewart offered an originalist argument that the right to an abortion is not protected by the Constitution. And that is true – because as we know women’s rights are not protected anywhere in the original document. Women’s right to vote is only 100 years old. And the definition of man as also meaning woman is even more recent than that. 

It was almost an out of body experience to hear this Mississippi man answer the questions of various members of the Supreme Court. At least this time there are women on the court, but not all the women are even old enough to remember a time before Roe v Wade became law. Amy Coney Barrett is not old enough. She did not take part in the women’s liberation movement that was a celebration of the birth control pill and of women’s new sense of freedom. She is a rather radical Catholic who testified that she would not be influenced by her religion, only by her politics. Her politics, however, are, I would argue, informed by her religious beliefs. 

Scott Stewart, Solicitor General of Mississippi, did not want to make the intent of the Mississippi law to set back the date of viability for a child to 15 weeks a matter of religion. He claims that this is about science. He claims studies have proven that fetuses feel pain at 15 weeks. He claims that as our scientific methods improve, we will most likely learn that the date when human life begins is even sooner. Some rallying outside of the court want to set the date for the beginning of life at conception. Studies about fetal pain are not yet accepted science, though, since the only scientists who have observed this reaction are doing it to prove a pro-life argument, and because there is no way to know if there is an emotional response to a poke, or if it is simply a reflex. The cerebral cortex is not yet present at 15 weeks. 

This case was brought by the Attorney General of Mississippi who explains that she is doing this for women also according to an article in The Washington Post . Since the world has changed and women are accepted as equals, women don’t have to give up their “beautiful babies” to “have it all.” They don’t have to commit murder in order to use their intelligence. Of course, the woman is a well-to-do white woman, but because she got divorced and had to raise three children on her own and hold various public offices, the conclusion she drew is that if she could do it anyone can. Apparently, we are going to vacate Roe v Wade, a law for 50 years, because of one governor’s anecdotal experience. Elizabeth Preloger, US Solicitor General, said, also according to The Washington Post, “the court has never revoked a right as ‘fundamental’ as abortion.”

Affluent women can travel to get an abortion outside of Mississippi. The women who will be hurt most by a revocation of Roe v Wade are women who are poor, women who work for low wages, women who may be in abusive relationships, women who are victims of rape or incest. The Attorney General of Mississippi may be a woman, but her life is very different from the women who will be most hurt by any changes to Roe.

The court is also contemplating letting each state decide about the point at which a fetus becomes viable whether it is when it can experience pain or when it can live outside of the womb. Although the case will not be decided today, given the composition of the court, women’s rights may take several steps or one big giant step backwards fairly soon. In fact, some Americans argue that since feelings on each side are so fraught, we really should not be tackling this with a Court that is considered to have political leanings. That seems like a very sensible observation. This Mississippi case is not the case on which the Court should be basing any decisions of such significance.

Here are some things that have been said about these issues by politicians and others in the not so distant past:

“Rape and incest are ‘minor problems’ when compared to abortion.’ GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak mansplained.

“Women who have abortions should be hanged,” according to conservative columnist Kevin Williamson.

“No doesn’t always mean no, if the man decides it doesn’t,” says aging right-wing slob Rush Limbaugh. (deceased).

“Emergency rooms erase rape,” claimed Texas Rep., Jodie Laudenberg in 2013.

“Women who use contraceptives are sluts and prostitutes.” Rush Limbaugh said in response to Sandra Fluke.

“Legitimate rape.” This oxymoron comes to us courtesy of Todd Akin. “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that doesn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment should be on the rapist.”

“On this contraceptive thing, my Gosh, it’s such [sic] inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” said Foster Freiss a donor for Rick Santorum in 2012.

There are many more of these sadly uninformed male statements about crimes against women and about pregnancy in general. You can do an internet search if you want to be shocked some more.

If we take these backward steps, we will most likely find that we regret it and will have to protect women’s right to liberty once again. Abortion is not something a woman decides to do without anguish and careful consideration, but it is a woman’s issue and each woman who makes the decision takes on the consequences, whatever they may be.