Supreme Court + Hypocrisy = Religious Tyranny

Alan Zendell, June 25, 2022

No one was surprised when the Supreme Court issued its ruling overturning Roe v. Wade Friday. Despite all the hand wringing and despair on the part of three-fourths of our country, we knew this was coming and the opponents of the decision had been planning their responses for weeks, perhaps since Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed as a Justice. If you were surprised to learn that she and Trump’s other two nominees, Bret Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, lied about Roe during their confirmation hearings, I’d have to ask which planet you’ve been living on since Trump told us truth and facts are just irrelevant nuisances. Apparently, the three new Justices care as much about the integrity of the Court and whether Americans have confidence in it as much as Trump respects the Constitution.

But all that kind of misses the point. States whose majority populations haven’t been gerrymandered into impotent silence will pass new laws that codify a woman’s right to control her own body, and we need have no fear of the Supreme Court overturning them because the Court just told us it’s none of their business. Henceforth, abortion rights are to be determined by the states. And Democrats who were expecting to lose the House and possibly the Senate in November are now as happy as clams, as we say in Maryland, though I know no one who can tell when a clam is happy. They’re happy because nearly eighty percent of Americans are unhappy about the demise of Roe. That should be worth a couple dozen seats in Congress.

The real point is hypocrisy – of the Supreme Court, of the Evangelist movement, and of right-wing politicians in general. How many times have we heard that the United States is a Christian nation? That’s a crucial question, because the right-wing extremists, who with Mitch McConnell’s help have been stacking lower courts with judges who agree with them, would have every American live according to Christian orthodoxy, whatever that actually is.

The truth is, we’re not a Christian nation. Justice Alito, who wrote the decision killing Roe claimed that all decisions must be based on a literal reading of the Constitution. But the Constitution as it was originally drafted makes no mention of Christianity or any other religion. The First Amendment, however, guarantees every American the right to worship or not as he or she pleases. The Amendment also declares that there shall be a separation of church and state; that is, our laws shall not be governed by religious doctrine of any kind. Yet, today’s decision was clearly an attempt to set legal precedents based on the religious beliefs of the Justices and of the evangelist portion of the Republican Party. It’s pure hypocrisy.

Today’s decision is also about power. Mitch McConnell is as responsible for this travesty, this disastrously wrong reading of the Constitution as anyone. McConnell doesn’t give a damn about abortion rights or Christianity. His only interest is in power, and he’s known for decades that his key to power was pandering to the religious right. As a result, the Supreme Court now represents the tyranny of a religious minority over the vast majority of Americans.

It’s difficult to know people’s true feelings about religion. Some researchers believe that as many as seven out of every eight Americans, in the privacy of their own minds, do not believe in a supreme being or place any value in religion, though they would never admit that publicly – in other words, most people lie when asked about their religious beliefs. But even if we take them at face value, the number of people who claim to attend church services was pegged at about 47% in 2021. Assuming that number is accurate, it still tells us very little about their beliefs and practices.

As one example, how many Catholics do you know who attend church either regularly or occasionally who completely disregard church doctrine about birth control, abortion, or divorce? And what about other religions? According to the Pew Research Center, the positions on abortion of the major religions in 2016 were  (touch to expand):

I’m with the Democrats on this one. If the Court wants abortion rights to be legislated in unambiguous terms, it’s up to Democrats and everyone who believes in democracy to make their case to voters at election time. If Americans care about a woman’s right to control her own health and body, the solution is really simple. The tyranny of the Supreme Court’s decision has made it the most pressing issue of 2022, tied in its urgency with voting rights. Marching in the streets makes for nice videos on the evening news, but the way to fix this is to vote for people with their heads on straight to be state legislators and members of Congress.

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The Monday Night Massacre That Wasn’t

Alan Zendell, June 23, 2022

It might have happened on January 3, 2021. When Bret Kavanaugh was being vetted for his Supreme Court seat, it was widely reported that he believed Richard Nixon was improperly driven from office in 1974. Kavanaugh said Nixon should have fought on and the Supreme Court would have kept him in office. I have no idea whether that influenced Donald Trump, but given his total lack of respect for our Constitution and his frightening mixture of arrogance and ignorance, Trump didn’t need a nudge from Kavanaugh to attempt a coup.

In Nixon’s case there were a number of critical pivot points, but the “smoking gun” was the letter written by former CIA agent and Nixon campaign security chief, James McCord to Judge John Sirica. The letter blew the Watergate cover-up out of the water, but the thing that turned the tide in public opinion was the Saturday Night Massacre.

Nixon had been forced to appoint Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox to run the Watergate investigation, but when Cox’s rulings placed the president in jeopardy, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckleshaus, both resigned in protest a mere ten days before Nixon’s impeachment hearing was to begin. The Saturday Night Massacre was the final nail in Nixon’s political coffin.

Thursday’s hearing by the Special House Committee to Investigate the January 6, 2021 coup attempt made it crystal clear that Donald Trump faced a similar decision on January 3rd, three days before the assault on the Capitol. His Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former Deputy, Richard Donaghue, and former Assistant AG Steven Engel gave riveting testimony that Trump tried to replace Rosen with an incompetent stooge, Jeffrey Clark, whose only qualification was being willing to do anything Trump asked. If appointed, he intended to make the Justice Department a political tool of the president. As a result, Rosen, Donaghue, and Engel threatened to quit and take all of DOJ leadership with them. With Nixon’s ghost casting a shadow over the Oval Office, Trump knew a Monday Night Massacre would end his political career. Instead, he decided to overthrow the government of the United States. Because even among Trump’s supporters there were people of integrity, he failed, at least for now.

That Trump is guilty of felonies that would put you or me in prison for the rest of our lives is indisputable. And as Carl Bernstein said on CNN, Trump’s crimes were far worse than Nixon’s. Tuesday’s hearing featured sworn testimony from conservative Republican election officials in Arizona and Georgia, all of whom had supported Trump’s re-election. But when he tried to pressure and intimidate them into ignoring the will of their states’ voters, their commitment to their oaths to defend the Constitution won out. Trump’s demands, unsupported accusations, and threats were all delivered on live television or publicly monitored phone calls and social media posts. They were as blatant as his comment in 2015 that he could murder someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue in New York and still be elected.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffelsperger, and Georgia Election Chief Gabriel Sterling made a compelling case that Trump himself was the driver of the Big Lie and the illegal attempt to overturn to 2020 election. Combined with Thursday’s testimony, a clear picture of Trump’s complicity as well as that of his lawyer Rudy Guiliani and several extremist members of the House of Representatives was drawn. If Watergate looked like a parody of The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, what can we say about Trump’s coup?

In terms of facts and constitutional law, Trump never stood a chance. But except for the courage and integrity of a number of Republican state officials and DOJ lawyers, the coup might still might have succeeded. Americans should feel like they dodged a very deadly bullet. Regardless of the political consequences, Trump must be indicted and tried for his crimes, and his Congressional collaborators must be removed from the House and take up residence in prison cells.

Adam Kinzinger, (R-IL,) who conducted Thursday’s testimony, warned that the scariest part of all this is that while the hearings may end the careers of Trump and the worst of his crew, our country is still in crisis. Trumpism is a disease, and Trump was patient zero. But it took so long to get him, the disease has taken root in a number of red state assemblies. And that doesn’t even address the chilling nature of the Trump-dominated Supreme Court, which today took us back to the days of gunfights in the OK Corral.

It’s our country, not theirs. It’s up to all of us to take it back in November, which reminds me. Kinzinger sounded very tough about continuing the fight — I hope he’s giving up his seat in the House with his sights set on something bigger, like 2024.

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Thanks, Liz

Alan Zendell, June 15, 2022

The testimony, almost entirely from the mouths of Trump supporters and other prominent Republicans, has been damning. As one retired federal prosecutor said when asked if the Special January 6th House Committee was building a prosecutable criminal case against former President Trump, “If I were still a prosecutor I would be salivating over a case like this one.” Always skeptical about whether Congress had either the political courage or the competence to see something like the investigation of the attack on our Capitol through, I am amazed at what I saw in the first two Hearings.

Apparently, so were the executives at Fox News, who had vowed not to carry them live. Maybe it was the ratings – 20 million people viewed the first Hearing live in prime time, while 10 million viewed the second in the middle of a Monday workday morning. But these days, with DVRs, reruns on streaming channels, and dozens of online links to the proceedings, the total number of people who watched around the world can only be estimated. Or maybe it was the spectacle of former long-time Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, arguably the only real journalist in their fold, participating in CNN panels, sounding like a wise voice of reason, but even Fox decided to cover the remaining Hearings.

It was a great decision to turn the first two over to respected female members of the House. Liz Cheney (R, WY) and Zoe Lofgren (D, CA) were both eloquent and soft spoken. They were unemotional and to the point, presenting evidence like university professors teaching a history class about the insurrection. Cheney is one of only two Republicans on the Committee, but she represents every principled Conservative who accepts the label “Republican.” In a world in which the only defense against truth was an insane, twelve-page, lie-filled rant Trump released on his social media site, there is no better spokeperson for the truth than Liz Cheney.

Hearing people like Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, his Attorney General Bill Barr, and loyal aide Jason Miller testify that Trump, despite understanding full well that he had lost a fair, free election, continued to spread the Big Lie that it was rigged and stolen by Democrats; hearing them testify that they repeatedly told him all of his accusations and conspiracy theories were nonsense and bullshit, and that Trump deliberately defrauded his own supporters to the tune of a quarter billion dollars made the truth too compelling to turn away from. Yet, there’s a downside to that, since every former Trumper who testified had remained steadfast in their support of Trump until they were subpoenaed by the House Committee. It was a little like watching a vicious criminal turning on his boss in exchange for a plea deal – but alas, that’s how many of our most heinous criminals are put away.

Despite Chairman Bennie Thompson’s (D, MS) insistence that the Committee’s job is simply to present the findings of a year-long extensive investigation to the public, it’s clear that they are also building a strong criminal case that will be referred to the Justice Department. AG Merrick Garland will have to decide whether to charge the former President with any number of serious felonies: wire fraud, inciting insurrection, conspiracy to obstruct the Congress from performing its constitutional responsibility among them. I don’t believe Mr. Garland is intimidated by politics or threats. The only thing that might prevent him from prosecuting Trump is if he believes the evidence gathered by the Committee is insufficient to win at trial. Legal observers also believe prosecutors in Georgia are close to seeking an indictment. From a lay person’s point of view, it’s difficult to imagine a more self-incriminating scenario than insisting on live television that Georgia’s Secretary of State needed to “find” enough votes to enable Trump to reverse Biden’s victory in the state. But politics being what they are today, it’s tough to predict.

On the other hand, it’s easy to predict that either indictment would end Trump’s chances of ever holding office again. A federal or state felony indictment will cost him his standing with independent voters, and even if every member of his MAGA base stays with him, they’re not enough to carry the day for him. But no matter how much you might despise Trump, and few people feel that way more than I do, driving him from the political scene won’t change the fact that he has spent seven long years activating and energizing the worst elements of his base. Thus, we may finally be rid of Trump, but we’ll still have to watch every step. There are vipers everywhere.

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Trump’s Attempted Coup and the January Sixth Committee

Alan Zendell, June 9, 2022

Americans have a lot on their minds today. The nation is still reeling from the murders of nineteen more school children and their teachers. Those who swore to govern us and uphold the Constitution seem to not recognize gun violence and unrestricted access to high capacity killing machines as antithetical to that document’s opening sentence, which charges them to, “…establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, … promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Dead children and teachers are neither tranquil nor free.

Americans are still recovering from the loss of more than a million lives and countless businesses to COVID, and thousands more are infected every week because political opportunism continues to hold sway over common sense public health measures. We still face shortages of critical items due to our dependence on overseas manufacturing and shipping, and prices of food and anything that must be shipped by land, rail or sea continue to rise because of the aftereffects of the pandemic and the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

We’re facing the possibility of global war as we continue to escalate our efforts to help Ukraine fend off Russian aggression in a conflict that remains open-ended, driven by a paranoid dictator who will only cease when stopped by a more powerful force. Two major weapons in the fight are Russia’s oil and natural gas. The prices of gasoline and diesel fuels have nearly doubled, and it is becoming prohibitively expensive for many Americans to heat and air-condition their homes. Worse, these undeniable realities have also become domestic political weapons.

With so much already on our plates, it’s natural to want to put past problems out of our minds. Political leaders who continue to support former President Trump’s attempted coup will continue to capitalize on the chaos and confusion which are the hallmark of everything Trump touches. As the war on facts and truth remains his primary means of maintaining wealth and power, it’s understandable that so many of us have had enough. We don’t want to see and hear proof that things are even worse than we thought, and that is exactly what the people clinging to Trump’s coattails for their political lives are counting on.

Yet, if we value our future as a free nation, we must. Despite efforts by right-wing media to paint the January 6th House Committee as politically motivated and invalid, despite how weary we are of dealing with crisis after crisis, despite many Repuclicans suggesting that we ignore the upcoming hearings of the January 6th Committee, we cannot let political infighting distract us from the very real and dangerous crimes that were committed when armed mobs incited by Trump and his supporters attacked our Capitol. Everything associated with that insurrection was a result of lies and a months-long orchestrated effort to overturn a secure, free election and undermine the most critical part of our Constitution. Like, but more serious than the crimes committed by the Nixon White House fifty years ago, nothing less than the existence of the American republic as a free society is at stake.

If that matters to you, it’s essential to disentangle from the politics. If we cannot trust our elected leaders who intend to display their findings to the entire world with complete transparency; if we cannot have confidence in the rulings of more than sixty courts in which Trump’s false claims of election fraud were thrown out as completely baseless; if we cannot put aside rhetoric based on personal greed and ambition of people who do not have the interests of the nation at heart, we will have proved that we’ve fallen prey to the same decadence that destroyed every civilization that preceded ours.

We must all watch with open minds. The January 6th Committee has worked for fourteen months, interviewing thousands of witnesses including Trump’s family and supporters. Our entire system of justice depends on factual evidence, and the Committee has worked tirelessly to assemble a mountain of it. Let’s suspend our personal grievances and political ideologies and just pay attention. Let’s think for ourselves when the evidence is presented and ignore malicious individuals and robots who flood our social media. Watch, listen, and evaluate.

We have a solemn duty to maintain the integrity of our electoral process and to require the same from those we elected to govern us. If we do not, we will lose not only our liberty, but our standing in the world, because everyone else will recognize that our self-righteous preaching about freedom and democracy is completely disingenuous.

Donald Trump attempted to overthrow our rightfully elected government. At a minimum, that’s sedition. For anyone else it would mean twenty years in prison. If we let that go unaddressed, we might as well tear up the Constitution.

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A Legacy of Lies and Insurrection

Alan Zendell, June 8, 2022

Last January, the Department of Justice indicted Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the leader of the far-right extremist group, The Oath Keepers, charging him with seditious conspiracy. Two days ago, DOJ indicted Henry Tarrio, leader of another far-right extremist group, The Proud Boys, on the same charge. The indictments included several other charges, and netted fourteen other Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. The work of the Select House Committee on the January 6 Insurrection is providing a clear picture of how the two groups of all-male, anti-immigrant, heavily armed racists plotted to intimate Congress and prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Tomorrow, the Committee will begin presenting its findings based on evidence gathered over the past sixteen months. Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, Committee member and former constitutional law professor at American University, a man I admire greatly, told America that the televised hearings will blow the lid off the January 6th attack on the Capitol. The crimes committed that day are extremely serious, but they represent only the tip of the iceberg of Donald Trump’s legacy.

There will be bipartisan cheering when the conspirators are convicted. Democrats will beat their chests in vindication, while Republicans will try to blame the insurrection on the two extremist groups and claim that the Trump White House and its most rabid supporters were merely innocent bystanders, and any attempt to connect them with the attack on the Capitol is purely political. For the rest of us who are sick of divisive politics and fear for the future of our country, the outcome will be bittersweet at best.

The timing of the hearings has a political component, as they will take aim directly at several House Republicans up for re-election who openly spread Trump’s Big Lie and incited the crowd gathered at the White House that morning to march on the Capitol. America and the world saw and heard them on live television. The primary season has already given us an indication of what we may see five months from now in the midterm elections, as Missouri Republicans sent Josh Hawley, the loudest lie-spreading Trumper in the Senate, packing after one term.

We’ll have to wait and see what Congressman Raskin meant by blowing the lid off, but leaks from the Committee and the reactions of Trump associates taking the fifth in or refusing to cooperate with the investigation give us a clue. Two prominent Trump advisors, Stephen K. Bannon and Peter Navarro, have been indicted by federal grand juries for contempt of Congress. Refusing to testify or using the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating themselves is surely their right under the Constitution, but We the People also have rights, among them the right to ask what those who refuse to accept a valid congressional subpoena are hiding.

We have strong indications that the conspiracy to undermine the 2020 election and replace valid slates of electors from battleground states extended high into the Trump administration. Whether the facts prove that Trump himself was directly involved must wait for another day, but we have already seen considerable evidence that the former president ignored appeals from supporters and his own family to order the rioters to cease and desist, and testimony from some of the people closest to Trump that he thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle of his people attacking the Capitol.

The January 6th insurrection was an attempt to undermine our Constitution. Had it succeeded, and had Vice President Pence had not withstood pressure from Trump to refuse to certify the election results, our country would today be in the midst of a crisis from which we might not emerge whole. Perhaps more important, January 6th was merely the logical extension of everything Donald Trump stands for. From the day he announced his candidacy for president seven years ago, he relentlessly attacked our democratic institutions and traditions.

Trump demonstrated a complete lack of respect for truth, morality, and the most fundamental right of Americans to choose their own leaders in free elections. He brazenly let his personal greed and lust for power usurp every standard of fairness and decency. Politics is always ugly, but until Fox News founder Roger Ailes convinced Trump that lies and racism were the keys to victory, it managed to function when it had to. Trump replaced the natural divisiveness between Conservative and Progressive agendas with a war between truth and lies. His legacy, that facts don’t matter, autocracy is preferable to democracy, and moral leadership is irrelevant is the precise opposite of the principles on which our country was founded.

In the final analysis, the list of who is convicted and sent to prison is far less important than rooting out those would undermine our way of life for their own benefit and assuring that they never serve in a position of power again.

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Ukrainian Brinksmanship

Alan Zendell, June 5, 2022

If history has taught us anything, it is that civilizations rise and fall. The ancient Mesopotanians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Incas, Aztecs, were all-powerful in their day. In the post-Christ era, the united Caliphate, the Vikings, the British, Spanish, and Japanese Empires, and the Fascist and Communist regimes of the twentieth century all appeared unstoppable for a time, yet they all eventually collapsed under the weight of their own decadence when their ambitions outpaced their reach. Nothing on Earth is permanent, perhaps not even Earth itself if we believe in the inevitability of an astronomical extinction event.

One theme of history is that while humanity is infinitely innovative and capable of huge philosophical, moral, and intellectual leaps and growth, every civilization seems to reach a point at which it loses its viability. They all gestate in the ashes of their predecessors, reach an impressive level of enlightenment and technological advancement, only to lose their way. They either destroy themselves from within or fall to some powerful adversary.

In our modern era, possessed with weapons capable of destroying everything humanity has ever achieved in a single burst of madness, we live daily on the brink. With countries that possess these weapons led by people driven to ever expand their influence, there is an accelerating spiral of trigger points, any of which can lead to catastrophe. Just in my lifetime, the Axis Powers nearly destroyed Europe and Asia, the two Koreas and Vietnams nearly destroyed each other, radical Islam declared an unending Jihad against the Judeo-Christian world, and we survived the nuclear brinksmanship of the Cold War.

We like to believe that we’re better than our antecedents. We’re smarter, we possess unprecedented technology, and we’ve learned from the past. We’d better have, because in the last thirty years, the cycle of threat and conflict has accelerated. China is determined to bring Taiwan under its influence; Iran supports terrorists all over the world; the madman in North Korea rattles his nuclear sabers whenever his ego needs a lift; and a paranoid, evil genius controls Russia and the world’s largest storehouse of nuclear weapons. We’ve managed to avoid pushing the nuclear buttons until now, and most people assume we’ll always find a way to survive, but history suggests that may be a delusion.

Science fiction writer Walter M. Miller addressed the inevitable-seeming self-destructive cycle in his award-winning dystopian novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz. Miller painted a chilling picture of a world in which every post-Hiroshima civilization reaches the same awful end. No matter how devastating the lessons of the past, each new group of deadly antagonists is unable to resist the ultimate test of overcoming their differences peacefully, and the world continually experiences nuclear destruction every few centuries. I was sixteen when it was published in 1959, and to this day, it is the most convincingly terrifying book I ever read.

Like everyone else, I watch Russia’s war in Ukraine every day. What I see is two forces that seem more rigid and intactable as time goes on. Russia is being driven by a paranoid autocrat who believes rebuilding the Soviet Union is an existential necessity, while the United States and our NATO allies believe exactly the same thing about stopping Russia’s expansionist vision. We want to believe our leaders can continue to live on the brink without falling into the nuclear abyss. We need desperately to believe that. But Vladimir Putin seems determined to push on until an immovable object stops his irresistible force, and surprisingly, the West seems ever more united in its determination to stop him. Where will the gradual, weekly expansion of the war stop?

This week, President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed to supply Ukraine with NATO’s most advanced short and medium range missile systems. Putin responded immediately by threatening to greatly expand his military target list. Today, the risk of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spilling over into both Russia and the NATO countries on Ukraine’s western border is considerably higher than it was last week. As a result, Walter Miller’s apocalyptic vision is a dangerous step closer.

If Miller is correct, it doesn’t matter how smart or dedicated our leaders are to avoiding a holocaust. There seems to be an irresistible human need to fight to the finish. I hate the idea, but history has already proved that once tensions and disagreements reach a critical level, there’s no way out. Sixty years ago, we managed to pull back from the edge during the Cuban missile crisis, but Ukraine is beginning to look far more ominous, and Vladimir Putin seems far less rational than Nikita Khrushchev was.

Remember the Doomsday Clock? It’s been sitting at 100 seconds before midnight since 2021. I check it every day.

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Trump’s Waning Fortunes

Alan Zendell, June 1, 2022

After predicting that there was no way an ignorant, immoral narcissist like Donald Trump could win the presidency in America, I don’t make predictions anymore. I clearly misread what is obvious in retrospect. Barack Obama’s two terms in office did not represent the maturation of the American electorate as I believed – it merely drove those motivated by bigotry, hate, and xenophobia underground to await the coming of their prophet.

Veni, vidi, vici! Like Caesar, he came, he saw, and he conquered, but while Caesar led a victorious army, Trump lied, did his utmost to undermine law and order, and pandered to anyone who would vote for him. Caesar was a self-appointed autocrat who wielded as much power as any leader ever did, yet he ultimately fell. Trump is only a wannabe dictator struggling to remain relevant in the party he shanghaied, in a nation with a deeply entrenched legal system and respect for law and the Constitution.

Sometimes we infer conclusions from exhaustive research and analysis. Others, we go with our guts, and mine has been telling me since January 6, 2021 that Trump’s influence is waning despite all the noise he makes. It’s a weird irony that while the McConnell wing of the Republican Party is engaged in a fight to the death with Trump’s faction, most of McConnell’s noise is an attempt to obstruct and defame everything President Biden attempts to do.

The result is that all their approval numbers suck. That tells me three things: Americans need to spend more time learning the truth instead of marching in lockstep to Facebook bots; America is susceptible to being swept off its feet by the next charismatic hero who pops up; and all three leaders are one bad incident away from becoming irrelevant. That’s especially true of Trump. His supporters are loud but far fewer in number than they used to be – after all, it takes quite a level of adrenaline-based anger and stupidity to continue to support someone who attempted to stage a coup on national (actually world-wide) television.

The question has always been whether Trump, who throughout his life has been able get others to do his dirty work and keep his own hands clean, stepped in it this time. New York City has dropped its investigation of his business practices, falling victim to what most of Trump’s opponents have – it costs a fortune to defeat someone like Trump, and the Manhattan District Attorney doesn’t have one. The State of New York is continuing with its investigation, but even if it succeeds, its findings will likely produce civil liability rather than felony indictments. And the Justice Department? I believe Merrick Garland will act with dispatch and integrity, but if his actions depend on support from Congress, all we’re likely to see is useless theater in the mold of Trump’s two impeachments.

I have long believed that all it will take to finally derail Trump is one felony indictment. He may never spend a minute in prison, but either a plea bargain or a successful prosecution should convince all but Trump’s most diehard, racist supporters that he has no business ever holding office again. I have also believed, since the 2020 election, that the jurisdiction most likely to indict Trump was the State of Georgia, and that now appears to be the case. Assuming the recently convened grand jury recommends a criminal indictment against Trump, and the case actually goes to trial, I’d buy a ticket to watch the testimony of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Remember him? A staunch Republican deeply embedded in the administration of a red state, he was mercilessly attacked by Trump and his minions for failing to illegally overturn the presidential vote in Georgia. We all saw and heard him stand up to Trump’s attacks in defense of the most sacred part of our Constitution – the right to free and fair elections. The integrity Raffensperger demonstrated repeatedly in open, uncensored, television interviews and addresses was courageous and impressive. It’s not clear whether he was a party to the extreme gerrymandereing of Georgia’s electorate, but there’s no doubt that there’s a red line he won’t cross for political gain, much like John McCain casting the deciding vote to save Obamacare.

Georgia’s investigation into Trump’s overt attempts to steal the election results from Georgia voters was Round 1. Round 2 will be the grand jury deliberations. Since grand juries usually deliver whatever prosecutors ask for, and this one never would have been convened if investigators weren’t convinced Trump committed a felony, I am eagerly looking forward to Round 3.

Just when the future of democracy looks darkest, there may be enough good guys in white hats to save us.

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The Murder of Children

Alan Zendell, May 31, 2022

When I was a chld, my father bought me a fish tank. He taught me how to keep it clean and how the filter worked, how to feed the fish, and how to recognize when a fish was about to spawn babies. “That’s really important,” he impressed on me, “because you have to net the babies and get them out of the main tank before their parents eat them.”

Eat their own babies? I didn’t believe it until I saw it happening, and then I was horrified, my first lesson in how cruel the world could be. But as frightened and disgusted as I was at the idea of babies being eaten by their parents, that was nothing compared to my reaction to the murder of ten students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colotado.

That was twenty-three years ago, and the Washington Post reported that since then, more than 311,000 children have directly experienced gun violence in 331 schools in the United States. There were 42 such incidents in 2021 and 24 so far in 2022. Overall, “at least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured.”

They were all horrific, but the two we most recalled until last week’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, were the Valentine’s Day, 2018 murders at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in which 17 students were killed and the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 in which tweny children between six and seven years old were killed along with six adults. After each one, there was a flurry of gun control activism, but in every case, Republicans in the Senate, threatened with losing millions in contributions from the National Rifle Association and other right wing organizations blocked every attempt at reasonable reform, even taking a step backward when they allowed a ban on sales of assault weapons to expire in 2004.

It’s happening again in the wake of the Uvalde shooting. Two days ago, we heard Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX) address the NRA convention and rail against all attempts to require unversal background checks and re-institute the ban on assault weapons. There’s a sense of inevitably born of experience that Congress will again do nothing, yet we, the people, continue to try to pressure them.

The Sandy Hook Foundation is dedicated to the Sandy Hook Promise that the fight against gun violence will never end until it is stopped. To that end, the foundation is circulating a petition around the internet. The objective is to get as many people as possible to sign on and register their support for sensible gun policies. Of course, it’s also a solicitation for donations, because the fight for gun control is essentially a battle of who has more money to buy the votes of Republican Senators, especial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s. I signed it and donated, as did many of my family and friends. I urge you to click on the link and do likewise.

There’s another piece circulating on the internet that puts Republican resistance to gun control in perspective, compared to those same Senators’ undying efforts to prevent women from choosing to end pregnancies. Oddly, the same lawmakers who are unwilling to protect children from being murdered in schools, and who equate such murders with a woman’s right to end a pregnancy before a fetus matures, are willing to use police state tactics to restrict women’s ability to control their own bodies, although in both cases, large majorities of American voters oppose their actions.

I haven’t been able to identify the author, but it’s so right on, I will re-publish it here with an anonymous attribution:

How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion – mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel huindreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.

It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?

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Of the People, By the People, For the People

Alan Zendell, May 27, 2022,

Abraham Lincoln thus defined democratic government. The concept and the images it evoked were the central ideas of his political philosophy, to which he often returned, most notably in closing his Gettysburg Address: “we here highly resolve that these dead [referring to the carnage of the Civil War] shall not have died in vain…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The address was possibly the most powerful ever given by an American president. Only 278 words long, it asked whether a nation “conceived in Liberty” could endure, which became the mission statement of the fledgling Republican Party. In school, we were taught that the Civil War was fought over the right to own slaves. But slavery was merely a reflection of the battle between states’ rights (federalism) and governance by a central government which began in the 1770s and has reared its ugly head again with the appointment of Trump’s three reactionary Supreme Court Justices.

Brilliant writers like Friedrich Nietzsche and George Orwell have long warned how government leaders and politicians manipulate the meanings of words to subvert the will of the people. That kind of deception, supplemented by outright lies masquerading as facts, has become a serious weapon in the arsenal of today’s Republican Party. Despite the internecine war between the Trumpers and the McConnell wing of the party, make no mistake – when it comes to government by decree versus democracy, the two factions march in lockstep.

Republicans have launched a fight-to-the-death battle to reverse two centuries of court rulings that interpreted the Constitution on the side of uniform federal laws that applied to every state. In addition to reversing decisions they hate, Republicans, wherever they control state legislatures, are attempting to rig future elections to assure that once victorious in the states’ rights battle, they retain power to lock in those victories permanently.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is one of the central battlefields of the states’ rights war. The amendment itself, a mere two sentences intended to assure that local citizens owned firearms in the event their state government needed to raise a militia, has become the victim of politicians’ wordsmanship. To right-wing extremists, its original intent has been distorted to mean every citizen may own as many firearms of any kind he or she desires, from dueling pistols to military assault weapons whose only purpose is to kill people in larger numbers.

At the forefront of this fight is Texas, led by its governor, Greg Abbott. My go-to historian, Heather Richardson noted in her Letters From an American newsletter this morning that when the bipartisan ban on assault weapons passed in 1994 by the Clinton administration expired in 2004, there were about 400,000 AR-15 style assault weapons in private hands in America. A shocking number in itself, that means there were twice as many privately owned military assault weapons in America in 2004 as there were military personnel in the Ukrainian army at the time Russia invaded. Today, there are fifty times more; twenty million assault weapons are privately owned in the United States.

As Professor Richarson pointed out, the post-Lincoln Republican Party was built in the idealized image of the American cowboy, who was white, (in reality, about a third weren’t,) self-reliant, resourceful, and fearless, living in a lawless frontier. That image is still championed by Texas Governor Abbott, who would have us believe every Texan has a responsibility to own a gun so he can protect his family.

The massacre of schoolchildren and teachers in Uvalde, Texas put the lie to that image. While much of what has been reported is yet to be verified, it seems clear that the local police, including their SWAT team, did little or nothing to stop or minimize the damage wrought by the shooter. A few police entered the school to rescue their own children, but fled when they came under fire by the single shooter. Unarmed parents also entered the school and exited with their kids, shooter or not.

But when a decision to breach the classroom in which the carnage was taking place had to be made, police decided to wait for a U.S. Border Patrol tactical squad to risk taking out the shooter. Where were those gun-toting Texans protecting their children against all threats? In Uvalde, the only effect of Texas laws that allow almost anyone over eighteen to own virtually any firearm(s), was a shooter murdering twenty-one children and teachers, while their armed protectors held back in fear of their own lives. Of course, Governor Abbott today said that gun control laws are not the solution.

Today, more than 80% of Americans want universal background checks on all gun sales, and two-thirds of Americans want the assault weapon ban restored. Yet, Republicans, whether those led by Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell will not even allow the Senate to debate those issues. So much for governing of the people, by the people, for the people.

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War (and other) Crimes

Alan Zendell, May 25, 2022,

Most of the civilized world is appalled by the unprovoked violence Russian soldiers have rained on Ukraine. The nonstop shelling of once beautiful, productive cities which Valdimir Putin considers legitimate targets has continued for three months. Whole cities have been virtually reduced to rubble, and civilians are being killed by the hundreds and thousands. President Biden was the first major leader to address these actions for what they are: war crimes.

Ukraine has already conducted one war crimes trial, the defendant being a Russian soldier who confessed to the wanton murder of an unarmed Ukrainian man. Twenty-one-year old Vadim Shishimarin apologized to the victim’s family, asking their forgiveness before being sentenced to life in prison. Whether it was genuine contrition or a legal ploy to influence the court, the admission of guilt and regret stands in stark contrast to the statements of his superiors, right up to Mr. Putin, who insists that Russian troops are behaving in accord with establish norms, which presumably, in his mind includes the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation.

Western countries have been nearly unanimous in condemning the targeting of civilians. Innocent people walking down the streets of cities under attack are being shot to death for no reason other than the Slavic equivalent of tribal hatred, although it’s not clear the great majority of Russian conscripts have any idea why they’re in Ukraine or what they’re fighting for. The issue of Russian war crimes has become a serious tool in our bag of diplomatic and propaganda tricks.

Considering that Congress has been unable to get past its own self-imposed gridlock since passing the emergency COVID stimulus package, isn’t it remarkable that they nearly approved $100 billion in military aid to Ukraine by acclamation? While I’m certain much of the righteous anger expressed by our leaders, including many in Congress is genuine, I wonder if the constant reminders of how Russians conduct war had the secondary purpose of rallying the support of the American people for an all-out commitment to defending Ukraine that includes risking a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

If you think I’m reaching, consider the reaction of many of the same Congress people who jumped in with both feet on Ukraine to the mass shootings of innocent Americans in Buffalo, New York, and a tiny town in Texas. A Russian soldier, likely an ignorant, poorly trained yokel from eight time zones away from the scene of the crime was convicted of what amounts to a hate crime, and almost everyone cheered and vowed to punish the entire Russian military who ordered or condoned it. Presumably, the theatrical chest-beating is also an attempt to influence future Russian decisions. Moral unity a beautiful thing to behold, isn’t it?

Except that it’s mostly BS. If we’re sufficiently horrified by the murder of innocent Ukrainians to risk nuclear war, why do we not direct the same level of anger and moral indignation to those in Congress who would rather pander to gun lobbies to assure their re-election than prevent further massacres of innocent school children and people whose only crime was not being born white? Where did all the righteous noise go when the same Congress people were asked to assess their own culpability in domestic terrorism?

Fully aware of the upcoming midterm elections, President Biden addressed our domestic war crimes with the same outrage and vigor he directed against Russia. Whichever party you’re aligned with, isn’t it most important to cast your vote for someone who values the lives of eight-year-old American children as much as those of Ukrainian children? The NRA and the rest of the drum-beating anti-gun control activists have no moral justification for placing their lust for power over the health and safety of ordinary Americans. Those who think furthering movement conservatism and the racist, isolationist MAGA agenda to stay in power is more important than standing up for their own citizens are simply craven cowards.

While most of them are just sheep bowing to their caucus’ political dictates, the bulk of the blame lies at the feet of one man. While loudly championing the bravery of Ukrainians and even putting on a show of visiting cities (kind of) under siege, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is totally silent today about the children and teachers murdered in Texas, yesterday. McConnell can change things overnight simply by allowing several gun control bills already passed by the House to be debated in the Senate. But he forces them to lie dormant, because his puppet masters decree it to be so.

Think about that. Is the murder of innocent Americans by lunatics with military grade weapons any less important an issue than protecting Ukraine? It’s up to us, the voters to explain that to the people we elect to represent us.

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