Kids Like Me Book Drive

Today, the nation and the world acknowledge and celebrate the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As part of that worthy effort, and in support of the Presidential Inaugural Committee MLK Day of Service, my wife started the “Kids Like Me Book Drive.” Here is her message:
“When I was a child, reading was such an important part of my life. It was a way to make sense of the world, find a temporary escape from reality, and a chance to learn about other people, places and things. I wish every child had the chance to own and love books like I did.
That’s why in honor of MLK Day of Service, I am hosting a virtual book drive to benefit Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). The event, titled “Kids Like Me Book Drive,” is centered around donating books celebrating diversity.
Here’s how you can help. Use this link https://tinyurl.com/kidslikemebookdrive to select the book/s you wish to donate directly to RIF.
A few things to note:
  • If you are already signed up for Amazon Smile, the link will take you directly to the RIF book list.
  • If you are not signed up for Amazon Smile, you will need to search the Charity List for Reading Is Fundamental.
  • After you add the book/books to your cart and go to checkout, be sure to select Reading Is Fundamental as the shipping address so that they go directly to RIF and not your home.
The site provides plenty of books to choose from, starting at less than $7.00. Some of the titles people have selected include,
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice
I Am Every Good Thing
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
Ada Twist, Scientist
Too Shy for Show and Tell
One is a Pinata
You Matter
Windows
Lend a Hand
Hair Love
If you do decide to participate, I would love for you to post the title(s) you select in the Reply section below. Also, please feel free to share the link on your social media pages.
With children continuing to learn at home, I would be very grateful if you would join me in helping RIF provide needed books and resources to assist children and families as they navigate the challenges this pandemic presents.
Thank you for your generosity!”
Note: Over 90 people have already signed up. There can never be too many books.

The Republican Unity Smokescreen

In an astonishing but not surprising exercise in false-equivalency and what-about-ism, Republican Gary Abernathy argues in WAPO, https://wapo.st/3oT6n8t, that the price of unity going forward is to pretend Donald Trump is really Mother Theresa in a suit and that nothing serious happened in Washington on January 6. President Biden, Abernathy argues, should let bygones be “boys will be boys.” In effect, Biden should validate the “concerns” of right-wing/conservative conspiracy-meisters and extend an olive branch.

Abernathy begins his sanctimony by objecting to Biden’s comparing the election-fraud lie campaign of Trump-Hawley-Cruz (the-list-goes-on), to Nazi propaganda techniques. Why? Because, Abernathy says, marketers exaggerate and Democrats lie too, and let’s not forget the violence “instigated by left-leaning agitators” (read that as, “those violent Black people and antifa”), so what’s the problem? If Biden wants to unify the country, he should just flip the Trump Charlottesville playbook and go with “bad people on both sides.” Abernathy says Biden should “acknowledge that there’s plenty of blame to go around for a nation more on edge than at any time since the 1960s.”

In short, Abernathy, likely speaking for most of the Republican establishment now, argues, in effect, that the Trump-directed assault on the Capitol that was intended to stop the Congress from completing the election process to confirm Joe Biden, and thereby retain the defeated Donald Trump as a dictator/president, was equivalent to the resistance to the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He grudgingly admits that the second Trump impeachment is “admittedly more justifiable than the first one” but in referring to it as a “melodrama,” Abernathy uses sleight of words to take away what he purports to concede. Most thinking adults are now aware that the government itself was lying to the people about Vietnam, from the beginning and throughout. Does Abernathy really want to equate the two situations: Trump and Vietnam?

The ultimate effect of Abernathy’s “reasoning” is that the burden falls to President Biden to extend an olive branch to the gang of insurrectionists and traitors who tried to topple the government in the service of a corrupt and incompetent grifter. In short, Abernathy seems to believe that the burden for the insurrection falls on the shoulders of those who did not engage in insurrection. Remarkable.

The real beef here is obscured by that opening line, but Abernathy soon reveals his real grievance: that, finally, after four years of helping spread Trump/Republican disinformation and outright lies about our government and our country, the social media platforms decided it was time, with a few weeks left, to suspend the president’s access to a free megaphone for amplifying his mendacity to the public and his attempts to overthrow the government.

Abernathy’s real gripe thus seems to be the decision to cut off Trump from his endless broadcast of falsehoods through serial tweeting:

In the current environment, conservatives are rightfully alarmed at the prospect of crucial digital platforms being pulled out from under them in response to the support they express for a particular politician or idea. The tech giants are private entities claiming to be following their guidelines, not government agencies violating the First Amendment, but a president can use his bully pulpit to influence their actions.

There are those who say that Trump abused social media to incite violence. Others read the same tweets and disagree. More disturbing than anything Trump could tweet, though, is the fact that the highest elected officeholder in the land could have his voice virtually silenced by the whims of a handful of unelected Silicon Valley bullies. [boldface added by me]

This part of the diatribe is so disingenuous, it’s laughable. Digital platforms were not pulled out from conservatives merely because they supported a particular politician or “idea.” Trump expressed very few “ideas” in his constant tweeting [when did he actually work at the job of being president?]. It was not even the constant lying that fact-checkers found, without refutation, set a world record in outright false messages.

Those were “concerns” and the subjects of many complaints, but the digital media folks stuck with Trump/Republicans despite all that lying. It was when Trump decided to send a mob of violent supporters to interfere with, and threaten the physical safety of, the Congress that the platforms finally said, “too much is too much.” This was no “whim.” To call it that is to minimize the most serious assault on American democracy since the Civil War threatened to literally break the country.

Silliest of all is the argument that Trump has actually been silenced. The media still hangs on his every word, though he’s not talking so much these days as he sulks and prepares for the political anonymity and legal adversities that await him beginning in a few days. That’s on him. He has plenty of supportive media (FOX, OAN, Breitbart and others) ready to repeat and amplify every false message he still wants to convey.

Maybe the reality is that Trump finally realizes that the game is over, and he can’t win. He has finally, after a lifetime of being the boss, been told “no, and no means no. You lost. It’s over.” We’ll see about that. The nation’s capital city and the capitals of all 50 states are on high alert for days to come to the threat of violence by Trump’s deranged supporters who still claim, with no factual support whatsoever, that the election was stolen.

Abernathy’s grievances against the tech platforms are so profound that he has undertaken to write parts of President Biden’s inaugural address for him. For example, he proposes Biden say,

What we should not fall prey to is the temptation to silence the voices of millions of peaceful and patriotic Americans by eliminating their preferred platforms because of a few bad actors. That’s not who we are as Americans.

But “who we are as Americans,” if it has any meaning now, is certainly not the thousands of people who, at the direction of the president, refused to accept reality and instead used violence to try to change the outcome of an election and thereby disenfranchise more than 81 milli0n voters who elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The “few bad actors” excuse went down Trump’s golden toilet with the videos of the Capitol assault and the deaths of five people, including a police officer, at the hands of screaming traitors to American values, acting on lies promoted by the president and multiple Republican members of Congress.

The “few bad actors” is just another variant of “fine people on both sides” and it’s not good enough, not even close. The voices of “millions of peaceful and patriotic Americans,” who were not present or represented by the insurrectionists at the Capitol, have not been silenced. They have full access to Twitter, Facebook and the rest to make such conservative arguments as they wish. Indeed, many of them continue to spew hate and conspiracy nonsense to this day. It’s actually quite difficult to be censured by the platforms, but, as we learned, even they have limits. As for Trump, well, just too bad about him. He made his choice and, finally, there were consequences. And, of course, there are other platforms where he can continue to spew lies, crazy conspiracy theories and grievances against anything and everything he and they believe is oppressing them.

The truth that Abernathy and the politicians he continues to support refuse to accept is that the election was not stolen. Continuing to argue otherwise based on fantasies lacking any basis in reality is not an American value that the incoming president should be focusing on right now.

Biden understands that he must immediately try to overcome the triple threat/shambles left behind by the Trump administration and its enablers: the pandemic, the crushed economy and the collapsing climate on which our very survival depends. Abernathy doesn’t want to face the horrible truth that Donald Trump’s reign as president has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, wrecked the economy and set back our attempts to combat climate catastrophe perhaps beyond repair. THOSE are the priorities, not the continued whining and grievance of Trump’s political base.

Abernathy’s preferred version of Biden’s address also would contain this:

Biden could further make conservative Americans sit up and take notice by speaking their language, saying, “In the United States, we don’t ‘cancel’ people because their opinions and ideas diverge from what many of us might prefer. We don’t exile people for criticizing or questioning their government or even our democratic processes — both of which can be constantly fortified by our willingness to consider the voices of all Americans, not just those with whom we agree.

That is wrong on virtually every level. Abernathy is laying claim to the idea that everything is equal: lies, insane conspiracies, calls for violence – all are entitled to equal credit with the truth and reality. That is simply wrong. We cannot and should not use the government to suppress the expression of non-violent ideas, but, to use a time-worn but valid analogy, one may not cry “fire” in a darkened theatre when there is no fire and you’re just afraid of the dark. The First Amendment does not protect such speech, nor should it. And it doesn’t matter a wit that your fear of the dark is genuine.

Private communication platforms are not obligated to give equal voice to boldfaced lies and fantasies which are not the same or equivalent to positions/arguments about political philosophy. QAnon is not entitled to equal space on Twitter or Facebook. In the end, conservatives can choose to believe whatever they want to believe, including rejecting science and scientific method as valid means of determining what is true, but they don’t have the right to control privately-owned space for the purpose of undermining truth as a concept and dis-establishing the government.

A final point: Abernathy’s call for Biden to “embrace Americans across the political spectrum” was addressed repeatedly during the campaign. Biden said many times he would be president for all people, not just those who voted for him. That pledge stands, as Mr. Abernathy surely knows, but it is incredibly disingenuous, in my opinion, to try to wedge into that commitment an acceptance of the right-wing orthodoxy that truth and falsity as just two equal versions of one thing. They are opposites, not equivalents, and Joe Biden knows it. Someday, maybe, Republicans will awaken from their dreamworld and accept that truth as well.

 

Quo Vadis, Republican Party?

You may recognize the Latin phrase, or not. It derives from “Domine, quo vadis? meaning Lord, where are you going?” and was assertedly spoken by Saint Peter who, fleeing persecution in Jerusalem, came upon the resurrected Jesus and made the inquiry, leading Jesus to tell Peter that he was returning to be crucified again. [source: e­­ncyclopedia.com https://bit.ly/38OcLIG] [Also a 1951 movie title]

I was reminded of this by a, typically, erudite and lengthy essay by Yale historian Timothy Snyder in today’s New York Times Magazine, entitled The American Abyss: Trump, the mob and what comes next. Snyder also wrote On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, a book that should be required reading for every American interested in the survival of our democracy.

A major premise of Snyder’s Times essay is that the Republican Party’s political establishment has two main branches. One, the gamers,

is concerned above all with gaming the system to maintain power, taking full advantage of constitutional obscurities, gerrymandering and dark money to win elections with a minority of motivated voters. They have no interest in the collapse of the peculiar form of representation that allows their minority party disproportionate control of government.

The main exponent of this group’s point of view is the former Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, of the failed state of Kentucky.

The other, even more craven group (my view, not necessarily Snyder’s) are the “breakers,” who “might actually break the system and have power without democracy.” That group is now led by Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Snyder then begins the analysis, noting that to some Republicans the hopeless quest to overturn the election was just political theater, but

for Congress to traduce its basic functions had a price. An elected institution that opposes elections is inviting its own overthrow. Members of Congress who sustained the president’s lie, despite the available and unambiguous evidence, betrayed their constitutional mission. Making his fictions the basis of congressional action gave them flesh. Now Trump could demand that senators and congressmen bow to his will. He could place personal responsibility upon Mike Pence ….

If that doesn’t lead you to immediately buy a Times subscription and also Snyder’s book, I don’t know about you….{I get no royalties; just trying to be helpful]

As noted, Snyder’s treatment is erudite and complex. My own view is more simplistic.

The principal distinguishing feature of our mish-mash American democratic republic with its squirrelly Constitution and three “co-equal” branches of government intended to mutually restrain each other, is that the people elect their leaders. If the leaders fail to perform as the voters think they expected, the voters can elect new leaders on the immutable schedule of elections. AND — this is critical — assuming a fair process, the loser accepts the loss and waits for the next election in the immutable schedule for another try. ALWAYS. The loser accepts the loss, moves on, reorganizes and so on.

If the acceptance of loss, a/k/a the peaceful transfer of power, were to be lost, the entire system, Constitution notwithstanding, would collapse and American democracy would be finished.

As noted, the essential premise of this scheme is “fair process,” and everyone knows that politics can be “rough and tumble,” “dirty,” and other unpleasantries, often in direct proportion to how much power is at stake. But “rough and tumble” or not, the process by which voting occurs must be accepted as fair, meaning each voter has a fair and equal opportunity to vote and to have her vote honestly counted.

Obviously, that goal is aspirational. We have, for example, gerrymandering which alters the “equal opportunity” element by rearranging the electorate to favor one party over another. Since both parties, in a floating tit-for-tat combat try to tilt the system in their favor when they can, the electoral system begins to resemble an exercise in mutually-assured-destruction, a/k/a MAD. And that doesn’t even account for the way in which the Electoral College system enhances the votes of smaller states or the way in which the allocation of legislative seats dilutes the votes of high-population states.

But those are features of the imperfect system that have been present for a very long time. At bottom, there remains, at least until now, the fundamental core principle that the loser will accept the loss and move on.

But, what if the process is not fair, in that the voting or the vote-counting is rigged in some way that favors one side? Why would the loser be expected to just accept defeat, an ill-gotten gain by an adversary with no recompense? Isn’t that exactly what Trump and his supporters have claimed?

No, it is not. The entire system by which the “truth” is determined in our society is based on arrangements provided in the Constitution. Thus, the taking of an oath to support the Constitution is an oath to accept those arrangements. The determination of “truth,” as close as we frail humans can come to its ascertainment, is made by a system of challenge-response-decision by independent courts which in turn have elaborate appeal arrangements so that erroneous decisions may be corrected before doing lasting harm. Like all human systems, the legal system is not perfect, but it is the closest we have come and is far better than a system in which appointed autocrats make all the decisions. And our systems have published “rules of engagement” that all parties must follow, so that the fight in a legal environment is as fair as it can be, assuming both sides have access to adequate representation.

Thus, our system includes the legal system as a fail-safe against faulty electoral process, as regards problems like obstruction of access to the polls, corrupt vote counting and the like.

Turning then to the 2020 presidential election, we first should recognize that the president began complaining of election rigging even before issue was joined with a chosen Democratic opponent. Moreover, through direct manipulation of the U.S. Postal Service, he tried to rig the election in his own favor, all the while complaining about what the opposition was up to. Aided by Republican governors, access to the ballot box was restricted by closing polling stations and other techniques of voter suppression.

Whatever one may say about social media and their manipulation by Trump and other politicians, those media also enabled the Democrats to call out the voter suppression as it was happening. So, it came to pass that the president, in sharply declining popularity as he downplayed the deadly coronavirus and was caught trying to pressure foreign governments to help undermine his opponent, lost the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, lost the key battleground states and lost the Electoral College vote. Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Trump fought back, screeching that the election had been stolen due to massive voter fraud, but only in the key battleground states he lost and, inexplicably, only regarding the presidential election but not the down-ballot races for supremely important seats such as that held by Majority Leader McConnell of Kentucky, who survived a challenge despite having done little or nothing for his constituents. Trump sent a team of lawyers into the field, filing lawsuit after lawsuit, more than 60 cases, many to be decided by judges he had appointed. Not knowing and not caring how the legal system worked, Trump apparently expected his appointees to simply award him victories. He, and his crack legal team, could not, however, overcome the lack of evidence, defined as credible information of specific facts supporting a legal claim. Such evidence simply did not exist. Trump’s case was actually damaged by trotting out “witnesses” who did not understand how vote counting worked in their precincts. Trump lost ALL but one insignificant decision, more than 60 defeats. Even his “house lawyer,” William Barr, putative Attorney General of the United States, concluded that Trump had lost the election fairly.

And still Trump cried “foul,” arguing that he had won the election by a landslide, that the fix was in.  His mendacity was exposed yet again by a tape of his attempt to induce the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” a collection of votes just one more than Trump needed to reverse Biden’s win in Georgia. Never mind that for his claims to be true, tens of thousands of people would have had to conspire to tilt the vote count, a vast conspiracy that both theory and practice informs us could not happen without someone spilling the beans. There were no beans to spill.

And still Trump cried “foul.” And still his Republican enablers in Congress remained silent or engaged in full-throated support not only of Trump’s right to test the legal waters, but in support of the proposition that the election had been “stolen.” Stolen by means and persons unknown, but stolen nonetheless.

That “situation,” created by Trump’s own irrational insistence and domination of his political party, led to the January 6 assault on the Capitol Building in which a violent mob of Trump supporters tried to prevent the final certification of the Electoral College vote count. Trump watched on TV, apparently quite happy with his handiwork. He was a hero to his fans and within arms’ reach of getting the second term he claimed to deserve.

The attack failed, a perfect metaphor for Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s term ends at noon on January 20, just three days away. The nation’s capital city is an armed military camp awaiting a predicted resumption of the January 6 attack in an attempt to overthrow the government and install Trump as dictator.

Time will tell. But what is clear to me at least is that Donald Trump has violated the fundamental and central premise of democratic government. He has rejected his electoral loss and is trying to force himself on the country for a second term.

This then is the root of the tree of ultimate political evil. Unwillingness to accept the loss and move on after being heard more than 60 times in court, and despite multiple audits and recounts, is a  bridge too far, an undoing of norms, conventions and legal/Constitutional principles from which there is no recovery for forgiveness. In this effort, Trump is supported by multiple elected representatives of the people in the national legislature.

For those reasons alone, though there are many others, Trump should not only be convicted in his second impeachment, but he must also be prevented from holding public office again. If you don’t play by the rules, you must not be allowed on the field. The same is true for the other politicians who continue to falsify, fabricate and bloviate regarding the election result. They — Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and the others who voted to reject the final count even after the January 6 coup attempt —  must be removed from office and banned from holding another.

A Bright Spot in the Darkness

Much of what I write about here is dark and ominous. The past four years have brought the country low. We are on the verge, I believe, of beginning the long process of recovery, as I have indicated in earlier posts. But the darkness is tenacious. As we approach the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, on whom the hopes of the nation depend, the city of Washington is shrouded in massive defensive preparations – not against a foreign enemy, but against a segment of the American people who threaten to disrupt the inauguration to overturn the election.

As fate would have it, I am scheduled for some surgery in Bethesda, Maryland (a Washington suburb for those not familiar with the area) on February 19 and a follow-up exam in Rockville, MD on the 20th, Inauguration Day. Poor planning on my part, but I took what was available and could not predict that the capital city would be under siege by our own citizens.

Some days before, I had signed up for AlertDC, a messaging service about various disruptions one might want to know in traveling around the area. Last night (Friday at 8:22 pm) we received an alert including a message from the Virginia Department of Transportation about bridge closures, further raising our concerns  about our travel plans for my surgery. In the VDOT message were the standard “Contact” email addresses of people from VDOT and Virginia State Police.

Feeling increasingly concerned about the obstacles we might face making two roundtrips from downtown DC to the Maryland suburbs, I sent an email inquiry to all three. It was now 8:52 pm on Friday night. It would, I thought, be a miracle if we ever heard from anyone because they likely were being bombarded with messages and preoccupation with the brewing crisis across the area.

Eighteen minutes later, 9:10 on a Friday night, a reply email arrived with additional information about bridge closures and a specific suggestion to help reduce our risk of getting stuck. The message was from Ellen Kamilakis, Senior Public Affairs Officer at VDOT. Not a form message but a personal response with useful information that addressed my reason for reaching out. A  quick check of her LinkedIn revealed a multi-award-winning communicator. No wonder. I decided this person needs some additional recognition. Late on a Friday night, in an environment that must be fraught with pressure and uncertainty, Ms. Kamilakis took a moment to respond to a citizen with a problem.

As I noted in an earlier post, the next time someone makes a crack about “those government employees,” recall this message. Be thankful, as I am, that people like Ellen Kamilakis work for all of us.

Experience Keeps a Dear School – Time to Call the Question

Ben Franklin famously said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.” He was all too prescient.

I have noted before that religion and other beliefs are a choice. We are not born to believe one religion or indeed any religion. Similarly, we do not inherently believe science or mathematics. We learn the content of these things by various means, come to understand that some have options (religion) and some don’t (science and mathematics, though many questions remain open in each domain). We choose what to believe. Our choices are heavily influenced by parents, social circles, schooling and other forces, but in the end we each decide what to believe and how to act. That’s what I believe. And thus, I choose to believe the following:

A. On January 6, 2021, following months of unsupported and false claims of voting fraud and stolen election, an unprecedented and intolerable series of events occurred.

B. The President of the United States summoned his most volatile supporters to Washington and directed them to attack the Capitol Building where the Congress was completing the constitutionally mandated task of validating, counting and accepting the Electoral College votes that would officially and finally end the election in which Trump was soundly defeated.

C. The attack was orchestrated and planned beforehand by various means, including social media, encrypted websites and chat rooms frequented by people who have chosen to believe that,

    1. Donald Trump is an honest, hardworking, dedicated public servant trying to do the right thing for all Americans;
    2. Trump’s decision to downplay the coronavirus as another Democratic hoax was correct, despite the ensuing deaths of more than 375,000 Americans;
    3. QAnon is real – the government is run by a secret “deep state” cabal of pedophiles and other miscreants, possibly including lizard-people, trying to destroy America;
    4. The election Trump lost was rigged and rife with fraud, despite the bringing of more than 60 failed lawsuits, despite the absence of actual evidence of fraud, despite the opposite conclusion of many of Trump’s staunchest allies (Attorney General Barr, for example) and despite the fact that to rig the election on the claimed scale would have to have involved many thousands of cooperating individuals in multiple states, including many Republican election officials.
    5. Despite numerous sources warning of the impending assault, multiple government security authorities concluded that a small force of Capitol Police, with limited equipment and unclear instructions/chain of command, could handle whatever might occur. When the attack quickly overwhelmed the limited opposing force, some of whom actively cooperated with the attackers, urgent appeals for additional help from nearby National Guard and other forces were either denied, delayed or simply ignored.
    6. While FBI and other law enforcement agencies are now arresting hundreds of riot participants, little meaningful light was been shed on how such a massive, widespread failure of security could have occurred, jeopardizing the lives of government officials high in the chain of presidential succession and numerous members of Congress who had publicly stated they intended to accept the Electoral College votes and declare Joe Biden, once and for all, the election winner.
    7. Republican members of Congress who voted against accepting the Electoral College results continue to resist accountability by Trump for the attack on the Capitol.
    8. Republican members of Congress who refused to accept the results participated through speeches and likely other means in inducing the attack on the Capitol.
    9. Those same Republican members refused to comply with House requirements to wear masks, likely resulting in COVID infection of multiple members who congregated with those Republicans in safe holding areas while police and reinforcements pushed the invaders out of the building.
    10. Those same Republican members of Congress have refused to cooperate with new House security measures intended to assure safety of Congress and staff, such as passing through magnetometers at entry doors.
    11. Most of those same Republicans voted “no” to the House resolution impeaching Trump for the unprecedented second time for inciting an insurrection against the government of the United States (see details at https://bit.ly/3nJK2cd)
  1. D. As a result of the foregoing, the nation’s capital city, preparing for the inauguration of Joe Biden & Kamala Harris, is a state of major defensive lockdown arising from well-founded fear that the insurrectionists inspired by Trump will return and use violence to try to prevent the inauguration from being completed.
  2. E. The sealed-off perimeter for the already limited inaugural activities has been vastly expanded and public transportation has already begun to be shut down in a wide area.
  3. F. National Guard presence is evident at multiple government buildings.
  4. G. Reports indicate a vast law enforcement mobilization in anticipation that it may be necessary to repel additional attacks by Trump’s supporters against the U.S. government.

That is where we are. The nation’s capital is under threat from an army of thousands of American citizens supported by multiple members of the Republican Party who have learned nothing from the recent experience and continue to align themselves with utterly discredited claims of election fraud and phantasmagorical claims that are suggestive of the most far-out science-fiction.

The claims of adequate preparation for the possible attacks is, of course, comforting. But, in my opinion, it is not enough. I believe the following:

  1. The Speaker of the House should immediately announce that any member of the House who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol or who refuses to pass through magnetometers to assure they are unarmed will not be recognized to speak in the House chamber until they comply. If those members continue to disrupt the House through demands to be heard and other means, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House should forcibly remove such members from the building.
  2. The federal government law enforcement leadership should publicly announce and, where possible, directly communicate to the putative leaders and participants of those threatening to renew the January 6 attack that they will be met with extreme physical deterrence. This means a warning that deadly force will be authorized – not tear gas and rubber bullets, but the full force of the police and military forces charged with protecting the city and the government from further insurrectionist actions.
  3. It is time to stop treating the Republican and Trump supporter insurrectionists like spoiled over-privileged children. They are adults making the most serious decisions to attempt to overthrow the government through force and violence. The fastest solution, with the least likelihood of mass casualties and destruction of the fabric of our democratic republic, is to employ force that will end the fight swiftly and definitively. As horrifying as that scene will be, it will far worse, I suggest, to engage in a repeat in the nation’s capital of the prolonged street conflicts that ensued during the conflicts in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police and related cases.
  4. The U.S. government has not only the right but the obligation to defend itself and now is the time to make clear unequivocally that such defense will be mounted with full force against any who choose to challenge it through violence.

If you are horrified by this prospect, you should be. So am I. But think of what happens, or could happen, if the defense of the Capitol City and the government is insufficient to stop the insurrection before it can work its full destructive force. I chose to believe we have no other reasonable option.

America Under Siege

Take a long look at the image above. This is the Capitol of the United States four days after the siege of Trump supporters on January 6. The entire area around the Capitol, like that surrounding the White House and the Executive Office Building, is cordoned off by 7-foot high fencing. No one is permitted to enter Lafayette Park across from the White House, The closest you can get now is on foot and you are still at an extreme distance. The White House is all but invisible. The images below were taken with a long lens and do not accurately reflect how far away we were kept by the police stationed around the perimeter.

By now everyone is aware that the sitting president of the United States, having overwhelmingly lost the 2020 election, has, along with his Republican co-conspirators in Congress and at the White House, undertaken a campaign of false claims that the election was “stolen” by a country-wide cabal of liberal Democrats aided by certain Republicans in battleground states. Unwilling to accept the overwhelming evidence, including the judgment of some of his closest enablers like the just-former Attorney General William Barr, Trump decided to force the issue by disrupting the final Congressional process of counting, verifying and accepting the states’ certification of their Electoral College votes. He summoned his supporters to Washington on January 6, the day Congress would meet, gave an incendiary speech and directed the throng of screaming Trumpists to go to the Capitol where the Congress was meeting “to steal the election” from him. He said he would be with them, but that, of course, was just another Trump lie. The rest is history, labeled by many as one of the darkest days the country has ever seen.

Trump’s “army” assaulted the Capitol, inadequately defended by the Capitol Police, many of whom appeared on video to welcome the intruders. The attack was responsible for the death of one police officer, led to the death of one mob member on the verge of forcing her way into the room immediately outside the House chamber, and came close to reaching the members of Congress deliberating there. Three mob members died of medical problems in the heat of the attack.

So it has come to pass that the nation’s Capitol resembles a country being attacked by foreign armies. Members of the National Guard are stationed at various locations around the Capitol to guard the congressional office buildings. Trump has encouraged the mob to return and disrupt the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The various chat boards favored by right-wing conspiracy nuts are alive with phantasmagorical claims and assertions of intention to effectively take over the government on Trump’s behalf.

This may seem comical and absurd to some, but I assure you it is deadly serious. The mob that assaulted the Capitol were laughing and high-fiving each other after what they regarded as an easy and overwhelming victory. Man of them are now being arrested around the country and face serious federal criminal charges. Like some gang members, the prospect of “doing time” in support of Trump is seen as a badge of honor in their delusional imaginations.

Trump’s claims are preposterous — unsupported by evidence, rejected by multiple courts — yet, right after the Capitol invasion Republican Party officials had a party at Amelia Island to celebrate Trump and their accomplishments. There is no reason to think Trump is ready to face reality. He believes he is immune from accountability, as he has been throughout his life. Trump has turned the national capital into a dark place, fencing off the People’s House and now the citadel of freedom that the Capitol Building signifies to the world. The time to put a stop to Donald Trump’s presidency is at hand, It would be a grave mistake to underestimate his willingness to destroy the country to avoid the reckoning he rightly fears.

These images illustrate the extent and appearance of the fencing that seals off the White House, Supreme Court, Executive Office Building and Capitol.

Black Lives Matter Plaza is one of the closest approaches that can now be made to the White House. It is the site of a peace vigil and other elements.

The National Guard on the job and it is likely that many more are stationed close by but out of sight; I am not prepared to believe that the federal government will let itself be surprised and understaffed a second time:

Finally, do not despair. The republic will survive this challenge as it has others led by more serious foes than Donald Trump. These still fly outside the fencing:

Long may it wave.

Some Things You Just Don’t Do

We should not be surprised that Donald Trump actively incited an angry and delusional mob of his supporters to attack the national Capitol Building on January 6. Among the hundreds or perhaps thousands of laws and norms of conduct that Trump has rejected, undermined or simply disregarded, we should never forget his declaration that “under Article II, I can do whatever I want.” Trump actually believes that and has acted accordingly since he won the Republican nomination. Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol is just the latest, and likely not the last, Trump anti-democratic, anti-American action.

The population appears to accept a certain amount of chicanery as “just politics” and “that’s how things are done,” and other such cliches. Such things have been going on in plain view since well before the beginning of the republic. It seems odd in some ways that evolution led homo sapiens to this state of affairs. I suspect it’s mainly a product of two forces: humanity’s advance (based on larger brains in key parts, opposed thumbs, etc.) reduced the influence of natural selection on humans in ways different than other animals and the recognition that unrelenting “tooth and claw” competition was less appealing and successful than cooperation. Such cooperation led to what we call “politics.” Politics involved a variation of the pushing and shoving competition but without the violence (although assassinations have played an important role to this day). You didn’t kill and eat your opponent, you outsmarted him, often with the help of allies whom you enlisted. Thus, coalitions and on and on. Argument, debates, voting.

Over the decades the temptations of power and money led to periodic excesses of chicanery. We evolved legal systems to address some of that, but the chicanery is so ubiquitous that the legal resistance has proved weak. Americans thought that their system was special, exceptional if you will, and the structures and processes established by the Constitution and laws were, in big-picture terms, sufficient to stem the tide of gross corruption at the highest levels of government. Until Trump.

From the dark recesses of America’s fraught past re-emerged a breed of people who seemed not only ignorant of how things were supposed to work, but who didn’t care. Although Trump was an over-entitled rich man, these people felt a kinship with his braggadocio, his seeming indifference and fearlessness when it came to breaking down historical norms. When asked to explain themselves, many Trump supporters say, “he tells it like it is – he doesn’t take anyone’s guff because he doesn’t have to.” They saw Trump’s apparent hostility to the “establishment in Washington and state houses across the country” as the way to rid America of the “swamp,” the “deep state,” the do-gooders who cared more about immigrants than “true patriotic Americans.”

Trump relished the attention paid to his histrionics to a pathological level. As noted at the top of this article, he came quickly to believe that his election vested him with powers beyond anything the world had seen. His followers came to declare that he had been sent by God to straighten things out, to resolve their grievances, to Make America Great Again. Trump’s buffoonery and incompetence were exposed time and again by the media that he also loved to attack, calling them the “enemy of the people.” The media couldn’t get enough of him and obsessed over every outrage while giving unprecedented exposure to Trump’s messages. He savored insane conspiracy theories, fictional characters and routinely called his adversaries by schoolyard names.

When Trump won the Republican nomination, his Republican allies bent the knee before him, recognizing the pathological attachment of his political base they dared not offend. The intra-party resistance melted away. Senior politicians who had publicly labeled him a “kook,” a “pathological liar,” an “unhinged nutcase,” all begged for positions in his administration and became leaders of the popular Trump Movement, a force within, but above and independent of, the Republican Party. In this world, you showed abject loyalty to Trump or you were “out.”

Members of the Democratic Party and other resistance groups warned of the dangers inherent in this situation, warned of what might happen if an unexpected disaster occurred that would make manifest Trump’s incompetence as a leader of substance. The Republicans were unmoved. The prospect of stacking the Supreme Court and federal judiciary with “conservative judges” and of reversing policies that supported women’s’ right to abortion, gay and transgender rights and all the rest were such strong enticements that the leadership of the GOP decided to look the other way and hope for the best.

The dreaded event occurred, not in the form of a war or nuclear accident but a plague. Trump instinctively recognized the threat that it presented to his re-election and decided to downplay the risk. His enabler went along. The result of the virus that was supposed to “just disappear one day” is US deaths over 370,000 and growing at about 4,000 a day. The economy tanked and allegiance to Trump weakened somewhat while many Americans still capable of independent reasoning came to see the threat that Trump represented. They believed that the remedy lay in the 2020 election. Impeachment had been tried and failed because Trump’s enablers in the Senate refused to consider the evidence of his corruption and acquitted him.

Trump lost the 2020 election by a margin of 7,060,140 votes, and the Electoral College count by 74 (306 to 232). Biden “flipped” five key states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the “battlegrounds” that became the focus of the post-election charade that led to the January 6 attack.

Trump, facing rejection for perhaps the first time in a major way, decided he would not accept the results. He had foretold this during the prior election when he said he would accept the results “if I win.” Well before Election Day 2020, he was vocal that the election was being “rigged” against him. He espoused that position despite openly using his control of the US Postal Service and the cooperation of Republican governors to stack the deck in his favor. When he lost, he claimed he actually won and that his concerns about voter fraud had proved correct. Sixty lawsuits later, he was 1 insignificant win for 59 losses, including rejection by the Supreme Court. All 50 states certified their results, in some cases after multiple recounts and audits. The just-former Attorney General who had generally served more as Trump’s private attorney than as chief legal officer of the national government announced that there was no meaningful case of fraud to be made. One by one, Trump’s allies abandoned his claims. Trump became more and more isolated.

Finally, on January 6, the damn burst. Trump gave an incendiary speech to a throng of supporters who came to Washington to protest his loss. They completely bought his claim of having been cheated. He urged them to go to the Capitol where the Congress was completing the final constitutionally mandated step of accepting the Electoral College vote count. Many members of the Republican Party in Congress had said they would vote against accepting the count because … Trump said he’d been cheated. No other basis existed to reject the count. They would put loyalty to him over loyalty to the Constitution or compliance with the oaths of office they took upon entering Congress.

Trump said he would go to the Capitol with the mass of supporters but, of course, that was just another lie. He stayed in the White House and watched on television what appeared to be thousands of his supporters assault the thin blue line of unprepared, undermanned and overmatched Capitol Police officers. [I will have more to say/ask about this extraordinary circumstance in a future post] They broke through the outer barricades, smashed their way into the Capitol and wandered around stealing objects, smashing windows and doors while preening for the cameras. There are extensive videos of the events outside and inside and they raise many serious questions.

I want to suggest that this was, at long last, a bridge too far. Trump overestimated how much power he could get away with throwing in the face of the country. His “anything I want” approach to government apparently led him to believe it was perfectly fine to send a throng of angry and delusional supporters to try to prevent the Congress, by force, from completing the final step in cementing Trump’s defeat.

It was always going to be by force because there was simply no other way the group could expect to gain entry to the building. If they thought about it at all, they apparently believed Trump’s “immunity” covered them as well, a judgment that is proving to be a catastrophic error of judgment. The arrests have begun and the process of identification of the perpetrators is being aided by large number of people with technical and other relevant skills using social media. The extent of the delusion driving the throng was so great that many wore no face covering and some displayed on their clothing nameplates and badges that identified their employers or conveyed other identity-related information.

The federal government has vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice and a number of them have already been arrested back in their home towns. A variety of federal criminal charges will lie against them. I imagine their excitement and enthusiasm for their “achievement” in Washington is rapidly dimming as the reality of criminal charges and possible long-term imprisonment dawns. Jobs are being lost and families upended. For a delusional dream of some vague power to protect Donald Trump from the electorate, from himself.

One of the attackers was a young woman, a veteran possessed of overwhelming anger and irrationality displayed in social media postings, a devotee of QAnon conspiracy theory and a pure Trump loyalist. For that, she was shot and killed heading an assault on the doors leading to the Speaker’s Lobby in the Capitol. The Speaker’s Lobby is directly outside the House Chamber where the House of Representatives was in joint session with the Senate to complete the Electoral College count. The shooting was captured on video. Other videos show a Capitol Police officer screaming in pain as he is crushed in a doorway by the mob. Another officer died being assaulted and, apparently, maced by the mob. Three other perpetrators died from medical emergencies.

Five dead. The crowd high-fiving as they left, satisfied that they had achieved something. Trump – well, he has had nothing to say about the deaths for which he bears direct responsibility. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, among other social media, have suspended Trump’s accounts. At long last, a bridge too far even for them.

Meanwhile, the Republican leadership gathered at Amelia Island, Florida for a retreat to discuss the Party’s future. https://wapo.st/3nupioS The Trump-loyalist leadership was re-elected, praising Trump the Almighty as if nothing had happened on January 6, no assault on one of the great temples of American democracy. Repeating insane claims still circulating on social media,

“Some members argued falsely that it was really “antifa” or other leftist groups responsible for the violence in the U.S. Capitol, people present said, and did not believe he had done anything wrong….

Attendees passed resolutions criticizing the news media and calling for attention to voter fraud, two of the president’s favored topics. One North Carolina official called for the reelection of the GOP’s officials partly so the news media could not say the party was in discord. A statement from a committeeman for the officer killed in the Capitol did not mention the president’s role in inciting the violence but said the Republican Party was the party of law and order.

New day, same old story. Read it at the cite above if you have the stomach for it.

So, maybe I am wrong in believing that this was a bridge too far. Maybe the Republican Party’s delusional obeisance to  a criminally-corrupt and possibly mentally unstable president will override all the evidence as it has for the throng that invaded the Capitol Building. The president and the Republican Party that, with very few exceptions, continues to support him appear utterly indifferent to the world-record number of COVID-19 deaths, to the failed vaccine distribution program that was to begin restoring order and health to the economy and to the assault on the citadel of democracy. They appear only to be concerned with maintaining their political power.

In light of that, I contend, yet again, that Trump should be removed from power by whatever means are available. If that fails, with less than two weeks left in his term, he should be arrested as soon as President Biden is sworn-in and charged with multiple crimes against the United States and against humanity itself. His acolytes are beyond reason, it seems, so the only way to deal with them and him is the full force of the legal system. No future leader, of whatever party, must ever get the idea that repeating Trump’s conduct will be accepted as just more political chicanery. If we fail in preventing that, we will have doomed the great American experiment in democracy, ultimate rule by the people, to its death.

Congressional Hall of Dishonor

Members of the Sedition Caucus, you were warned. You ignored the warning. Your presence on the list below will follow you all the days of your public life, however long, or short, that may be. You are named here because you voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election by rejecting the vote of the Electoral College on January 6, 2021, in violation of your oath of office and the Constitution.

Some of you backed out at the last moment after the man whose election loss you sought to overturn inspired a mob of angry, violent supporters to attack the Capitol. You embraced the Trump con game until expediency drove you to either vote to support the Electoral College results or to abstain from voting. The same is true for those who said they would vote to uphold the results “unless strong/overwhelming or whatever evidence is presented during the debate.” You are just as complicit as those who stood their ground, however ill-conceived it was. So, you are included here under Dishonorable Mention.

This list will be republished periodically until the next elections, and perhaps beyond, in many places. It will serve as a reminder to voters everywhere that you violated your solemn oaths of office and placed the desires of a deranged aspiring dictator ahead of the will of the people as expressed by their votes. This action to undermine American democracy will not be forgotten or forgiven.

Senators

  • Ted Cruz –Texas
  • Josh Hawley – Missouri
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith – Mississippi
  • John Kennedy – Louisiana
  • Cynthia Lummis – Wyoming
  • Roger Marshall – Kansas
  • Rick Scott – Florida
  • Tommy Tuberville – Alabama

Representatives

  • Robert B. Aderholt AL
  • Rick Allen GA
  • Jodey Arrington TX
  • Brian Babin TX
  • Jim Baird IN
  • Jim Banks IN
  • Cliff Bentz OR
  • Jack Bergman MI
  • Stephanie Bice OK
  • Andy Biggs AZ
  • Dan Bishop NC
  • Lauren Boebert CO
  • Mike Bost IL
  • Mo Brooks –AL
  • Ted Budd NC
  • Tim Burchett TN
  • Michael C. Burgess TX
  • Ken Calvert CA
  • Kat Cammack FL
  • Jerry Carl AL
  • Earl L. “Buddy” Carter GA
  • John Carter TX
  • Madison Cawthorn NC
  • Steve Chabot OH
  • Ben Cline VA
  • Michael Cloud TX
  • Andrew Clyde GA
  • Tom Cole OK
  • Eric A. “Rick” Crawford AR
  • Warren Davidson OH
  • Scott DesJarlais TN
  • Mario Diaz-Balart FL
  • Byron Donalds FL
  • Jeff Duncan SC
  • Neal Dunn FL
  • Ron Estes KS
  • Pat Fallon TX
  • Michelle Fischbach MN
  • Scott Fitzgerald WI
  • Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann TN
  • Virginia Foxx NC
  • Scott Franklin FL
  • Russ Fulcher ID
  • Matt Gaetz FL
  • Mike Garcia CA
  • Bob Gibbs OH
  • Carlos Gimenez FL
  • Louie Gohmert TX
  • Bob Good VA
  • Lance Gooden TX
  • Paul A. Gosar AZ
  • Garret Graves LA
  • Sam Graves MO
  • Mark Green TN
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene GA
  • Andy Harris MD
  • Diana Harshbarger TN
  • Vicky Hartzler MO
  • Kevin Hern OK
  • Yvette Herrell NM
  • Jody Hice GA
  • Clay Higgins LA
  • Richard Hudson NC
  • Darrell Issa CA
  • Ronny Jackson T
  • Chris Jacobs NY
  • Mike Johnson LA
  • Bill Johnson OH
  • Jim Jordan OH
  • John Joyce PA
  • Fred Keller PA
  • Trent Kelly MS
  • Mike Kelly PA
  • David Kustoff TN
  • Doug LaMalfa CA
  • Doug Lamborn CO
  • Jake LaTurner KS
  • Debbie Lesko AZ
  • Billy Long MO
  • Barry Loudermilk GA
  • Frank D. Lucas OK
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer MO
  • Nicole Malliotakis NY
  • Tracey Mann KS
  • Brian Mast FL
  • Kevin McCarthy CA
  • Lisa McClain MI
  • Dan Meuser PA
  • Mary Miller IL
  • Carol Miller WV
  • Alex Mooney WV
  • Barry Moore AL
  • Markwayne Mullin OK
  • Gregory Murphy NC
  • Troy Nehls TX
  • Ralph Norman SC
  • Devin Nunes CA
  • Jay Obernolte CA
  • Burgess Owens UT
  • Steven M. Palazzo MS
  • Gary Palmer AL
  • Greg Pence IN
  • Scott Perry PA
  • August Pfluger TX
  • Bill Posey FL
  • Guy Reschenthaler PA
  • Tom Rice SC
  • Mike D. Rogers AL
  • Harold Rogers KY
  • John Rose TN
  • Matt Rosendale MT
  • David Rouzer NC
  • John Rutherford FL
  • Steve Scalise LA
  • David Schweikert AZ
  • Pete Sessions TX
  • Jason T. Smith MO
  • Adrian Smith NE
  • Lloyd Smucker PA
  • Elise Stefanik NY
  • Greg Steube FL
  • Chris Stewart UT
  • Glenn Thompson PA
  • Tom Tiffany WI
  • William Timmons SC
  • Jeff Van Drew NJ
  • Beth Van Duyne TX
  • Tim Walberg MI
  • Jackie Walorski IN
  • Randy Weber TX
  • Daniel Webster FL
  • Roger Williams TX
  • Joe Wilson SC
  • Rob Wittman VA
  • Ron Wright TX
  • Lee Zeldin NY

Dishonorable Mention  

Sen. Marsha Blackburn TN

Sen. Mike Braun IN

Sen. Kevin Cramer ND

Sen. Steve Daines MT

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham SC

Sen. Charles E. Grassley IA

Sen. Bill Hagerty TN

Sen. Ron Johnson WI

Sen. James Lankford– OK

Sen. Kelly Loeffler GA

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers WA

Sen. Marco Rubio FL

Rep. Michael Waltz FL

 

 

 

Trump Supporters Breach Capitol

Thousands of Trump supporters have breached the Capitol while both houses of Congress were in session to count the Electoral College votes. The “debate,” as phony as it was, has apparently been suspended. Legislators are in lockdown in their offices while Trumpers roam the halls at will. Are they planting bombs inside? The President of the United States is spending the day tweeting attacks at Vice President Trump for refusing to stop the counting of electors and simply declaring Trump re-elected. He has apparently done nothing to restore order among his supporters.

Several things are clear. One is that the Capitol Police were unprepared for this situation. The President is actively encouraging this attack on American democracy. The Mayor of the District of Columbia has declared a 6 pm curfew, more than three hours from now. Meanwhile, the assault on the Capitol continues unabated. Protesters are in the Rotunda

This is the treasonous work of Donald Trump. It will not be forgotten.

Congressional Hall of Dishonor

This space will be filled in tomorrow with a complete list of members of the United States Congress who vote to overturn the 2020 presidential election by rejecting the vote of the Electoral College. The plan is to republish this list periodically until the next elections, and perhaps beyond, in many places. The hope is that it serves as a reminder to voters everywhere that these elected representatives violated their solemn oaths of office and placed the desires of a deranged aspiring dictator ahead of the will of the people as expressed by their votes. This action to undermine American democracy will not be forgotten or forgiven.