Can I Get Some Justice?

From a Google Image Search –

Can I Get Some Justice?

I hear this in my head to the tune of ‘Can I Get a Witness? Have courts always been partisan and I just fell for the hype that courts were above parties and politics? OK, I was naïve. But have courts become even more partisan than ever. Is there less middle ground. Is there nothing between a liberal view and a conservative view? If all ideologies are polar opposites how can courts avoid being partisan? You either respect women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, or you consider abortion murder. You either agree that executive power has few limits or you agree that there are limits and checks and balances on the executive. Do Presidents and Vice Presidents have to show their taxes or not? Can social media muffle a President when remarks seem unpresidential or inappropriate? How many times can a decision made by one judge be overturned on appeal in another court? Can you just pick and choose a court that has a judge with an ideology that matches yours? Were these ever things we questioned before? Did we have these questions but the divide between courts is wider now?

Apparently, if you don’t like the decision of one court you can just appeal in another court that is the province of a more sympathetic judge. Look at how long Trump has been able to drag out the question of whether he needs to show us his taxes or not. What happened recently in the Flynn case where Judge Sullivan was overruled by Barr is another long story. The contretemps over the Southern District of New York with the turf war between Berman and Barr shows more of the battle of the judges.

George Bush (Rep.) appointed 2 Justices to the Supreme Court, 62 judges to the Court of Appeals (conservatives), 261 judges to the District Courts (conservatives). 

Obama (Dem.) in eight years appointed 2 Supreme Court Justices, 55 judges to the Court of Appeals (liberals) and 268 judges to the District Courts (liberals). He was blocked by Mitch McConnell from even nominating a third Justice to the Supreme Court although there was an opening.

The Trump administration in four years has appointed 2 Justices to the Supreme Court (conservatives), 53 judges to the Court of Appeals (conservatives) and 143 to the District Courts (conservatives). 44 nominations await Senate action and there are only 71 vacancies remaining on the US District Court benches. 

This gives us federal courts where conservatives have the edge they have been striving for: 

Court of Appeals – 115 Republican appointments. 55 Democratic appointment

US District Courts – 404 Republican appointments. 268 Democratic appointments

It is unclear if Bush or Obama made appointments by party, but we know that Trump has only nominated judges from a list drawn up by the Federalist Society, so we know that these appointments were made along the Republican party line.

Of course, only rich people usually get to play this ‘game of courts’ because appealing over and over is very expensive and many Americans cannot even make bail in one city or county court. But if you are wealthy you can apparently shop for the justice you want and even if you can’t pick your judge you might be able to pick the district in which you file and in which the case will be brought. If at first you don’t succeed keep trying. And if you are this President you have an entire Justice Department at your disposal to make your legal outcomes so. Bill Barr was exactly the AG Trump dreamed about. There has been quite enough dream fulfillment for this one man who always wants more. Will we ever trust our courts to be nonpartisan? Time to reform the justice system in America and not just because it is racist, it is also elitist and not the least bit blind.

Title IX, Betsy DeVos and Sexual Assault in Schools

From a Google Image Search

Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of the Department of Education under Donald Trump has written a new procedure to use in cases of sexual discrimination in our schools and especially in our colleges. Having these policies rewritten by a woman who never stepped foot in a public school, who champions private religious schools, and who, most likely, has never set foot on the campus of a State University is problematic for many people. This constitutes a new interpretation of the rights of women and girls as set forth in Title IX in a series of government programs that were designed to make schools fairer. For one thing Title IX becomes the rights of boys and girls, rather than the rights for girls, which takes some of the teeth out of Title IX.

Narrower definition – “Under the prior guidance, a single incident, if severe enough, might meet the definition of sexual harassment. The new rules state that sexual harassment must be unwelcome conduct that is so “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it effectively denies a person access to the school’s education programs or activities. 

The new rules also clarify the sexual harassment definition to specifically include sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, which need not satisfy the severe and pervasive standard.”

Might discourage reporting – “Under the new rules, colleges and universities must now conduct live hearings with cross-examination in connection with sexual misconduct complaints. Critics believe this will intimidate and cause further emotional harm to sexual assault survivors.

Before, schools could use a standard of “preponderance of the evidence” – which means more likely than not – to prove a Title IX policy violation. Now, schools may use a “clear and convincing” evidence standard.”

“Victim advocates are concerned that schools will utilize the higher standard of proof to reduce the number of lawsuits from accused perpetrators who are disciplined under the policy.

The rule changes arguably provide more due process protections for alleged perpetrators that many observers and some courts found were lacking in the past.”

“The final rules take effect Aug. 14, 2020, which is particularly challenging given the major demands on schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. If a college or university has not utilized live hearings, they must now coordinate and train staff and personnel to develop and implement the new investigation and hearing requirements, including virtual hearings if necessary.”

These facts are taken from an article in The Conversation and there are more specifics in the article if you want more detail.

This is a complex issue. It involves our children both female and male. And while it is true that males are more likely to be guilty of sexual assault; women may, for a number of emotional reasons, either falsely accuse someone or exaggerate a behavior that is negative and demeaning but may not rise to the level of sexual assault. Since many sexual assaults are verbal and have psychological effects that only the victim can experience first hand these situations are difficult to unravel. 

It has also been true that colleges tend to bury sexual assault complaints that may reflect on their school, therefore their reputation and their bottom line, and so they keep them “in the family” so to speak. How do we make sure women are protected and prevent men from being falsely accused? Well isn’t that the dilemma of the entire #metoo movement. 

For reasons of transparency I will tell you that I am a member of AAUW whose goals include protecting girls and women from discrimination, including but not limited to sexual discrimination. So this august group sees the new Betsy DeVos rules as being problematic in that they may further intimidate girls and young women who already feel threatened by a sexual aggression. 

Can you, by procedures, protect both girls and boys in this matter? Can you leave the adjudication of sexual assault as a campus matter when colleges can be negatively affected if details leak into the public domain? Will Betsy DeVos’s plan keep our daughters safe and our sons from false accusations? Should someone whose Evangelical roots advise that women should be submissive be considered the right person to lead the Department of Education when it is trying to offer fairness and enlightenment in these matter. Keep an eye on how this plays out. We may need to revisit it. Does it take all the teeth and all the protections out of Title IX? Again, pay attention next fall as these new rules come into use. Talk to your daughters, talk to your sons. This is a very tough issue and oversight from parents is extremely important. 

Why I Publish

Nancy Brisson, that’s me, but as an author I use N. L. Brisson. For the past decade I have been watching news, reading newspapers and books, with a focus on politics and writing on first one website, The Brissioni Blog at Blogspot, and then at Word Press on a site entitled The Armchair Observer and now at The Armchair Blog. Retirement gave me an opportunity to tune into politics at a very turbulent time, a time when people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and others seemed to delight in whipping some Middle-class Americans into a frenzy that led to a disavowal of compassion for those less fortunate than themselves. Factories sat empty and later homes sat empty as the Great Recession hit America and we forgot that selfishness never profits anyone; it only makes life meaner and divides a nation that prides itself on being united.

My family was a poor family and a big family. With a lot of help I was able to go to college. I earned my BA degree at SUNY Potsdam and eventually became an Assistant Professor at an EOC in SUNY. I earned an MEd at the University of Arizona at Tucson on a sabbatical leave. It was only after I retired that I became focused on what was happening in our nation, the United States of America. I sit in the cheap seats, not always the best close-up view, but an excellent overview position.What I observed is the subject of my series of books Loving America to Death. If we want to preserve the America values we treasure we all need to think about what we believe to be true about societies and governments. My articles also appear at and my books are available at IngramSpark in hardcover and on Amazon as ebooks and paperbacks. I have also read and reviewed many books and my reviews are on

America Do Be Crazy

From a Google Image Search –

Americans do not like to take good advice. If someone tells us to wear a mask we get all rebellious and say ‘make me.’ We demonstrate to open up the economy even if the health risks are pretty great. And yet we get all cultish about Donald Trump and are able to ignore an ever-growing heap of evidence which suggests that he is bad for America. Trying to prove that Trump is not benefitting his own followers meets with stubborn disbelief and does not shake the convictions of the Trumpers who say things like ‘but, our guns’ and ‘but, the economy.’

Trump’s followers seem able to ignore the damage that COVID19 has done to our economy and insist that all that is not Trump’s fault, and that if what happened did not happen the economy would still be booming. What if Trump had taken the coronavirus seriously in January or even February? What if he had taken the same precautions as other nations, especially stocking up on proper supplies so that people who were not in healthcare positions would feel that there were plenty of masks to go around. By failing to address the virus, Trump does have to take responsibility for the economy. But why can’t Trumpers see this?

Is our entire nation suffering from bipolar disorder? How can so many Americans hold these two opposing positions at the same time? Of course, because Trump telegraphs how his people are to behave they do not see their actions as contradictory. Because they do not accept that their lockstep love of a very tarnished man is unnatural, or that their unquestioning loyalty to a man who is destroying the way we govern seems like a form of mass hypnotism, they don’t understand why other Americans and citizens of nations around the globe are astonished to observe what is happening in America. It is too serious to dismiss with an affectionate and slightly annoyed thought like ‘those crazy Americans.’ I believe that global reactions are more in the form of shock and worry that America instability will spread, a very bad reaction given all of the issues the world is faced with in these fraught times. It was 100 degrees in Siberia yesterday! The entire world is at the mercy of a virus right now. An American politics teetering on the brink of fascism is not the cherry on the sundae, it is perhaps the last straw.

Trump, in his white supremacist state-of-denial, has noticed that this virus affects mostly seniors and minorities. Since these two groups are not ‘popular’ with his followers they do not need to be protected. Yes, Trump is a senior citizen, but he believes he is too important to die of a virus and he is too manly to adopt any protections against it. He also, as a narcissist, would never want his face covered. And because he does not wear a mask, he expects his followers to vote with their bare faces, to show their Trump-love, and that they even place this love above their self-love and the love of their families – besides they are mostly white and not in nursing homes and therefore are not at risk. It is looking like masks are our best protection against the spread of the virus so what are we to think of a President who tells his most loyal voters to defy this health directive? 

Clearly America, and the world, could not afford to shut down our economies forever. But we were learning some interesting things from this temporary virus fix. One is that shutting down, although it felt like an existential mistake, really worked to suppress the pandemic. Another lesson is that perhaps the world will keep ticking along even if it is not being forced into a state of perpetual economic boom. Another lesson says that more family time, less hamster wheel, frantic socializing, child activity scheduling might help us experience a better quality of life. I’m sure some families imploded, but most did not. Our fear and grief also generated a bonanza of sweetness. Our sense of community was enhanced even as social distancing made that goal seem less possible. Will any of these lessons stick? Not if we keep the gung-ho corporate power structure we have. Not if Trump keeps trashing regulations and turning the economy into our reason to be. Does the economy serve the people, or do the people serve the economy? 

All the bipolar behavior of the Trump set serves one goal – to keep Trump in office, to help him win the election by making his Trump Troops seem brave and special and free thinking; while all the while they are acting as if they are programmed Trump robots who cannot even perceive how contradictory their behaviors actually are. Why aren’t these Americans upset that Berman was fired by Trump (although now William Barr is taking the blame). (Aren’t toadies great?) It is almost pathological that this set of Americans can just blow off Trump’s unwillingness to allow any oversight as a ‘nothingburger’, similar to their reaction to wearing masks to protect themselves and their families. However bipolar their behavior I cannot accept that all of these Americans favor destroying our republic. How can they possibly still believe that Trump is making America great again? 

Goodbye to the Armchair Observer

I am sorry to say that if you go to visit me at The Armchair Observer you will find a message that the site is no longer secure. It was time to renew my hosting arrangement but I have decided that my blogging activities are too expensive and I did not renew with my host. Most of my posts since 2016 are available on this site and on my ‘books’ site, both of these sites are hosted by Word Press. All of the posts about politics that I valued and wanted to keep are available in books on Amazon.

I never had hundreds of readers but I do want to thank those who did take the time to read my posts. I write about books because reading has been important to me all of my life. I write about politics because I saw that Republicans had plans for America that I did not agree with and which did not honor the US Constitution. They said that they were interpreting our documents as they were intended to be read, but given the racism, elitism, and the cheating around voting and elections I could not accept their explanations. I had to say something and keep saying something, calling attention to the GOP’s undemocratic behaviors. That is what I have been doing on The Armchair Observer for the past ten years. Now many others have taken up the task of saving our republic and I have published my posts in a more permanent form. I am going to try my hand at writing some fiction. Once again thank you so much to my readers and I may occasionally add a new post to this blog until the bill comes due or the 2020 election is over, whichever comes first.

Here is a link to my author page on Amazon:

Atavistic Attitudes


Democrats have tried to tackle race inequality before and they were shut down by Conservatives in the Republican Party, some of whom are racists who never got over losing the Civil War and who nursed their racial myths, hated Northern liberals, and felt that the generals who lost the Civil War were heroes. There are Americans who seem to think that wiping out Americans of African Descent, brought here by their own ancestors into slavery, is justified; that they should be terrorized and killed, either separately or in groups until they leave. (America is their country; where would they go?) At least a campaign to decimate this population appears to be true if you keep track of black deaths at the hands of white folks and the police. In 2020 a law was just introduced by Kamala Harris and Cory Booker that would make lynching illegal. Do you know any white folks who were ever lynched?

In the 60’s the nation was made aware of the dissatisfaction of our fellow citizens with black and brown skin. The Black Panthers showed America what it could be like if black Americans decided to get really angry and militant. Citizen demonstrations by black Americans arose in a number of American cities and neighborhoods. Perhaps you heard about the demonstrations in Watts which turned destructive and were labeled as “riots.” Race “riots” were effective in that they scared legislators into thinking about laws that could be passed and actions that could be taken. Solutions split into two camps. One group, mostly composed of liberals, agreed that our treatment of our black neighbors had been appalling and that what was needed was an investment of time and money and opportunity focused on lifting up black folks in our inner cities for the most part. Of course, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so bigger cities got more resources. During the administration of LBJ programs to educate and offer good health care and encourage entrepreneurship in our cities proliferated. 

Republican legislators were frightened by the violence enough to try these lefty ideas although they hated them and never let Democrats forget that they felt this approach was wrong. Even then Republicans had no faith that the government could solve societal or economic problems. But what they really believed is that Black Americans were lazy and flawed and that they were incapable of adopting the behaviors of successful white folks. They were uneducable and had no work ethic. They were simply a bunch of drunks and criminals and any money spent on such programs would be wasted money. They sabotaged these programs with one hand while they voted for them with the other. They added rules and restrictions that made taking part in many of these programs embarrassing or difficult. The government built housing but only in certain neighborhoods where poverty practically guaranteed that the building would be substandard and overcrowded. There was optimism on the left and the self-fulfilling prophecy of predictions of failure on the right; in fact, Conservatives Republicans made sure that failure was built in so they could say ‘I told you so.’

Then the right came back in the 80’s and 90’s and claimed that these programs had been abject failures; that they had no effect on lifting up inner city black folks. The self-fulfilling prophecy ‘bombs’ built into the programs had muffled their effectiveness. But it was not true that no one was lifted up. The number of Americans of African Descent in the middle class grew. Head Start programs did help children do better in school. Small businesses did spring up, but without any nurturing from above they often failed and added to the burden of hopelessness. Home ownership improved for a few, but because of redlining many people were imprisoned in their inner city neighborhoods without the resources to find housing in diverse, upscale neighborhoods or they owned homes that were undervalued. Real estate is at the base of much generational wealth. Such wealth could only be found in the inner cities residents felt by becoming a professional athlete, a musician, or engaging in some form of criminal or gang activity. Imagine if these were the only choices white children had?

As the programs failed and some in the inner cities turned to gangs for power and family loyalty, criminal activity increased in our inner cities. Guns appeared on our city streets. Families in these neighborhoods who hoped for a better future for their children found that their children got sucked into gangs, each with a pitifully small turf of city territory that they had to protect and defend against intrusion by other gangs. Did anyone get rich? A few gang leaders flashed cash and fancy cars, but it did not trickle down to the regular troops. Gangs have ended up being a sort of pyramid scheme. Conservatives began to slip the words ‘law and order’ into every conversation. What they meant is that we need our police forces to declare war on these behaviors and put these criminals, big and small, young and old, but only black or brown or poor, into jail cells. Getting them off the streets will solve the problems. They were successful at busting gangs, using old mafia laws, like RICO laws to convict in the courts. “Being nice to them won’t work”, Republican said. “We told you so. Put the fear of the law in them. Let them live out their lives in prison.” It became a kind of exile right here in America. Racists avoided having to find a nation or an island to ship people of color off to. Did it work? Did our inner cities become oases of civil society, the arts and opportunities to advance economically. No ‘law and order’ did not work. No, although our cities contain many creative and positive elements we could not exactly grant them oasis status.

So, here we are once again, trying to find out how to rid ourselves of our racism and of the damage it does to black and brown Americans and to the ideals America was supposed to stand for. And we are divided in exactly the same ways we have always been. Democrats still say that opportunity, that welcoming Americans of African Descent into diverse communities with great schools and lots of adult mentoring for any children who struggle educationally is the only correct pathway out of racial discrimination and inequality. Once we recover from the economic setbacks of the coronavirus, reparations to make up for the lack of chances to build up generational wealth, for the land robbed from black folks, for the lives destroyed or ended, would definitely be in order.

But Democrats are not in control and the current administration, right down to the lowliest new Republican representative or senator believes that ‘law and order,’ the baton and the tear gas, the hoses and the rubber bullets, the dogs and the real bullets are the only language that black and brown Americans will understand. They see no injustice here. All they see is people flaunting the rule of law and the power brokers. They still refuse to accept that their own hatred and fear caused the tragic suppression of black and brown people in America. Until Republicans are voted out, and Conservatives are ignored to become a circular echo chamber pontificating only to each other, until then, we cannot do the things that need to be done; pass the laws that need to be passed, spend the resources that need to be spent and try, just try to humbly apologize for what has been done and what has not been done. And then we have other shortcomings to make up for as well. Do not let that ‘law and order’ cry win the day. Vote in the Democrats and since we are a big tent party  we will find ways to lose racism forever and to try, once again, to live up to the uncompromised ideals of the American republic/democracy. If the Democrats lose in 2020 you get Trump’s Troops and apparently the entire military might of the United States in our streets. Republicans cannot and will not change the way they think; their atavistic attitudes.


I Did It!

Omnibus Edition One

I did it! I fit an entire decade into two volumes. So you can buy my essays by the year or you can get the whole megillah all at once. 

Omnibus Edition 1 covers 2010-2016

These essays were all written in the administration of Barrack Obama. They show a Republic Party that had been radicalized by the Tea Party movement, the Federalists, the NRA, and a web of Conservative think tanks and policy groups. Fundamentalists had their own influential groups that also worked with the Conservative web. It became clear that there was a concerted effort to put forth an firm agenda for the way Conservatives planned to steer government into the future. We came to know these agenda items as ‘talking points’. It also became clear that Republicans were looking for members who would lead aggressively and who would not put too fine a point on civility. The groundwork for this agenda was laid out before Obama won, but the obstructionism and the racism, the voter suppression, and the reactionary attitudes towards women and immigrants became Republican strategy and this strategy is still in use today. Conservatives seem dedicated to winning a final battle with liberalism, once and for all. As you read these essays you can watch this campaign unfold.

Omnibus Edition 2 with bonus material covers 2017-2020

Donald J. Trump was elected to be America’s 45 th President in 2016. He was inaugurated in 2017 and joined an elite club of men who have led American through good times and bad. From the beginning he seemed to deliberately govern America as if he were a king or a mafia don. He does not ever worry about representing all Americans. He is, clearly, the “Red State” President with his own supporters, his own media and his own agenda, which also includes helping the Republicans and the Fundamentalists accomplish their agenda when doing so suits his purposes. 

What ensues in the first term of Trump is the subject of this book, which covers the essays I wrote during Trump’s first term in office. Since I would like to get these thoughts out in time to convince voters of how important it will be to replace the Republicans and Donald Trump with Democrats if we want our republic to survive, I had to publish before the end of 2020.

We are in the midst of trying to emerge from a pandemic and whether this virus is done with us or not remains to be seen. If there is a second wave of the virus we are unsure what will happen to the American economy. This administration does not value workers except as cogs in a Capitalist machine that drives the stock market. This is not an argument against Capitalism. It is an argument against a misguided ideology that divides people into winners and losers and plans to give the winners dominion over the losers.

I have an author page on Amazon: