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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Some Historical Perspective for H.R. 1

Important Announcement:   Between now and the next full posting on this blog, new items will continue to come up.  Rather than wait for the blog's next full posting, they will be added ... with the date they are added shown ... at the tail end of this posting.  Scroll down right now to read the ones already added to this particular posting, if any.  (And see recent prior postings as well.)  Come back and check out what's new on this blog every day!

History, Slavery, Three Amendments and H.R.1.

I’ve read a few reports indicating that some conservatives now feel that Fox is not conservative enough for them.  They seem to dislike that Fox does not attack the legitimacy of President Biden and reported his victory in November. They are now turning to Newsmax and OANN (One America News Network). The positions voiced on these two news sources, however, often perpetuate the “big lie” that Trump really won the election and President Biden “stole” the election.  This reinforces those who actually believe these lies. 

These outlets also minimize the severity of some of the acts of insurrection carried out by right wing extremists at the Capitol on January 6. Such seditious acts did not even take place in the nation’s capital after the Civil war, but they did occur in the South in some of the States which were being brought back into the Union with “reconstructionist” governments and where the defenders of slavery, the losers in the Civil War, did not accept them.  It’s still the same battle going on today, but never before had it been brought to the nation’s capital, as it was on January 6 when the flag of those seceding States, the Confederacy, was taken into the Capitol.  That was an abominable act which should be punished.  

Andrew Johnson,
17th President,
was no foe of slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment (Emancipation), the Fourteenth Amendment (Defining citizenship) and the Fifteenth Amendment (Voting rights) were designed to protect the rights of the newly freed Black population after the Civil War.  Since their passage in the late 1860s, the losers in the Civil war have been attempting to bypass them through the loopholes in them which, of necessity, were included to help their passage in Congress and by three fourths of the States.  

Over the years, they have been aided by a President who really favored slavery, a Democratic Party which until 1964, catered to the States of the former Confederacy in order to get their votes in Congress, the withdrawal of troops from the defeated South in 1877 and a usually compliant Supreme Court.  An observer from another planet as the Nineteenth Century came to an end might think that the Confederacy had actually won the Civil War, not the Union, 35 years earlier.

Currently, the passage of H.R. 1 would continue to do the job that these three Amendments were intended to do.  The battle over H.R. 1 in Congress is merely an extension of the struggle to bring Afro-Americans, and other minorities, fully into our society which has been going on since the Civil War.  The legislation just passed by the Georgia legislature and similar legislation pending in other States where the Republicans control State government are simply more attempts to get around these three Amendments.  These legislators are un-American. 

We are living in a historical process which started in 1619 when slavery was brought to these shores and which continues today, as we try to rid the nation of the misery it has caused the enslaved, their descendants and the country.


Item added on April 2

Basketball Jerseys

When I see some college basketball players in the NCAA tournament wearing jerseys with the word “Equality” emblazoned on them, I am reminded of Michael Bellesiles’ 2020 book, “Inventing Equality … Reconstructing the Constitution in the Aftermath of the Civil War” which I just finished.  In it, the author deals with:

·         the lack of equality in our country prior to the Civil War,

·         the failure of the Constitution to live up to the promises of the Declaration of Independence and

·         the efforts to bring about equality after that war through the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, abolishing slavery, defining citizenship and establishing the right to vote.

He goes on to point out how the Supreme Court, in effect, eventually negated these Amendments without objection from a nation which did not seem to mourn the ending of Reconstruction’s promises of equality. While Americans might have been outwardly proud of the patriotic words of these Amendments, they often showed a preference for “inequality” when it affected them personally.  In the courtroom, we are beyond that point today, but too many Americans still prefer a degree, however reduced, of what is still "inequality."

“Equality” should be more than an aim affixed to a basketball jersey.  Passage of H.R. 1 and successful enforcement of its provisions would be steps in the right direction toward “Equality.” We still have a long, long way to go.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Muscle Behind H.R. 1

Important Announcement:   Between now and the next full posting on this blog, new items will continue to come up.  Rather than wait for the blog's next full posting, they will be added ... with the date they are added shown ... at the tail end of this posting.  Scroll down right now to read the ones already added to this particular posting, if any.  (And see recent prior postings as well.)  Come back and check out what's new on this blog every day!


For the People

The “For the People Act” (H.R.1) is a bill in the United States Congress to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal office holders.  

If passed by the Senate (It already passed in the House with a party-line vote), it will counteract the many voter suppression laws being passed by Republican controlled State legislatures.  In Constitutional terms, it would impose a Federal government leash on such reckless State legislation.

Playing Hardball

I see it as
a softball approach to preserving democracy in the face of voter suppression. If it fails in the Senate, I see the Democrats going to a hardball approach which might include the admission of the D. of C. and Puerto Rico into the Union and an expansion of the Supreme Court.

Republicans know and fear that and this just might bring sanity to a few of them, enough to bring an end of the filibuster and at last, start an honest discussion of the issues H.R.1 addresses and also, of the the gross misinterpretation of the Second Amendment as well which, besides being the refuge of those who see the government as an enemy, also opens the door to gun violence as illustrated by our weekly mass killings.


Item added late on March 23

Ten days before the Boulder, Colorado, supermarket shooting, a judge overruled Boulder's ban on assault weapons.  Like Lady Macbeth, there is blood on his hands which cannot be washed off.  He reasoned that cities couldn't institute such bans. The killer's weapon was purchased six days before the shooting. (I don't know if it was purchased in Boulder, but does that really matter?  Weapons are available at gun shows and if against the law, by crossing a State or muicipal borderline.)   

I think we should repeal the Second Amendment and replace it with one which permits licensed weapons for law enforcement, hunting, target shooting and self-protection in one's home or business.  Period.

There is no reason for civilians to have a weapon ready if called to serve in a state "militia" these days.  That was the real intention of the Second Amendment, despite misinterpretations by the SCOTUS. The Amendment's authors feared the Federal government would crack down militarily on those States where slavery was legal. They would have to be prepared to fight back. That finally happened in 1861, when they saw that history was not on their side. That need is gone today.  Putting politics aside, Supreme Court justices should know that, even the late Justice Scalia, who in this instance put politics ahead of history.

Item added on March 24

How Republicans gain control of State legislatures:  They know that if voters cast ballots based on what is in their best interests, they would always lose.  That is because they do not recognize government’s role as being “of, by and for the people.” They view it as pathway to getting re-elected.  And to do this they need money and votes ... which have nothing to do with benefiting “the people.”

To get money, they support legislation favorable to businesses, to real estate developers and to the wealthy and which reduces the tax burdens on these folks and results in generous donations to their campaigns.

To get votes, they support popular positions which override the best interests of the voters.  Two illustrations: First, there are enough people who oppose abortion rights for religious reasons (many Roman Catholics, evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews) who give that issue priority over all other issues.  Secondly, there are enough people who believe laws which limit their access to personal weapons are bad because they feel a gun is better protection than the law provides, despite the gun violence and deaths which accompany the proliferation of guns in our society.

So, even if a Republican candidate really doesn’t give a hoot about the availability of abortion to a woman who wants or needs one and recognizes that the availability of weapons repeatedly causes all too many needless deaths in our country, they will still be strongly anti-abortion and pro-gun.  That will guarantee them re-election by catering to these groups which see no further than one, or both, of these issues.  And that is all that matters.

When HR 1 passes, this year or sometime in the future, protecting the right to vote of millions, a right which Republicans attack on a daily basis, that will be the end of the Republican Party.   Good riddance.

Item added on March 30

It's all very simple. 

The Union won the Civil War. The Confederacy lost the Civil War. Its real reason for rebelling was to preserve slavery and allow its spread. After that war, Reconstruction was to remedy this. It worked until 1877 when it was politically betrayed. We must now resume the validation of the Union victiory in the Civil War, and pick up where we left off in 1877. It is too late to send the troops back in for that purpose (as was done to enforce Brown vs. Board of Education), but the same thing can be accomplished by laws such as HR 1 for which we should fight so that those who died in the Civil War "shall not have died in vain." That's what the 16th President said, and much more. It's all very simple. 

(And there is no role in validating the Union victory for today's Republican Party which is the successor to those who betrayed the Union in 1877, when the troops were withdrawn from the defeated Confederacy. If there is a enemy today, it is not the South. It is the Republican Party.)

Monday, March 15, 2021

A Flaw in Democracy and What a Good Lawyer can do for You

Important Announcement:   Between now and the next full posting on this blog, new items will continue to come up.  Rather than wait for the blog's next full posting, they will be added ... with the date they are added shown ... at the tail end of this posting.  Scroll down right now to read the ones already added to this particular posting, if any.  (And see recent prior postings as well.)  Come back and check out what's new on this blog every day!

Legal Advice

Here's an item I intended to mail in to the Palm Beach Post, but decided against doing so.  They have been ignoring my letters lately.  It pertains to local matters but really is true elsewhere as well.

“Sure, it’s probably against the law, but go ahead and do it anyway. Once it’s done, they’ll come after you but then, it’ll be too late and we can figure out some way of making it legal afterwards. Probably a lot cheaper than fighting it out in court beforehand, because what is done, is done.” That’s the kind of legal advice that results in a big lake being built out in western Boynton for waterskiing and a landmark house being demolished in Delray Beach, not to speak of a permanent resident being allowed to live in a Palm Beach mansion “as an employee,” where such residency was otherwise not allowed as one of the conditions for turning the place into a private club some years ago. Good lawyers know how to break laws with impunity."

A Bit of History

Back in 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which said that residents of new States coming into the Union could decide by voting whether they wanted to allow slavery or not to allow slavery.  This passed a democratically elected Congress. 

Against the Expansion of Slavery and Finally, Against Slavery

Ultimately, it caused the demise of the Whig Party which was progressive on everything except slavery, about which it was fatally ambiguous, and the birth of the Republican Party leading to the election of Abraham Lincoln six years later ... and the Civil War.

On this key issue, the Republicans were merely against expansion of slavery into new States, not its abolition, but that was enough to prompt secession by the Southern States.  (Those who wanted to abolish slavery entirely were far to the left of the Republicans and were a scorned minority in Congress.)  What we must understand is that all of this took place as the result of actions by democratically elected legislators. 

Today, we have a Republican Party that recognizes that it cannot win elections in a nation where the majority of voters vote for Democrats.  Hence, its efforts on the State level, through democratically elected legislatures and Governors, which it controls in a majority of States, is to suppress voting and get as few people to vote as possible.  That is the only way they can get elected.  But this suppression is done by those elected through democratic processes.  (The gerrymandering which often makes this possible in some States is done by democratically elected State governments.)

The point I want to hammer home is that the actions which led to the Civil War and those engaged in voter suppression today were and are the result of democratically elected governments on the State level.  

Thomas Jefferson, who believed that people would ultimately do the "right" thing, was aware of this flaw in the democratic process and thought education would remedy it.  It has not.  Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand believed that people were likely to do the "wrong" thing and wanted a strong central government, not leaving these decisions to democratically elected State governments.  Well, the Federalists, led by Hamilton, lost out and our flawed democracy survived with the States calling the shots.  It was true in 1854, in 1877, when post-Civil War reconstruction ended, and today as State mandated voter suppression remains the platform of the Republican Party.

American Democracy is a work in progress.

(Republicans, when they have an agenda, have a backward-looking one, viewing the nation as it was 50 to 70 years ago as a goal to recapture.  (MAGA??)  Voters will reject this so that is why voter suppression is such a major G.O.P. program in the States it controls.  An exception to this is a State like Florida, where there are millions of older age retirees to which such "rear view mirror" images still appeal.  They will never change.)


Item Added - March 16, 2021

Republican Quandry

There’s a big disconnect between what Republicans say and what they do.  Senate minority leader McConnell strongly criticized the former president for inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol but did not vote to impeach him.  Senator Wicker supported the American Rescue Plan, providing relief for damage done by the Covid19 pandemic as well as improving the lot of those harmed by it, when he praised its economic benefits but refused to vote to pass it.  

These scoundrels want to have their cake and eat it, and actually believe that Republican voters are ignorant or gullible enough to believe that all Biden is doing is taking credit for things actually achieved by the former president.  Republican voters, especially those who still have immense loyalty to the former president, still favor an agenda, knowingly or not, sympathetic to the wealthy, to business and the white supremacists who attacked the Capitol and which does little or nothing for them.

Despite Republic legislation at the State level to suppress voting which is the only way they can win elections (except in Florida where the voters are so dumb that suppression isn’t even necessary to assure Republican victories), I don’t believe their efforts will be enough for them in 2022.  Because of the benefits of Democratic sponsored programs, the growing popularity of President Biden, the prosecution of the January 6 insurrectionists and the stench which will arise as legal actions involving the former president occur, an overwhelming outpouring of Democratic voters nationwide ought to suffice to end the G.O.P.’s reactionary dreams, perhaps forever, and despite voter suppression.  

(That the former president is cutting off Republicans who refuse to pledge loyalty to him from using his name and picture in fund raising should further widen the split which is destroying the Republican Party and accrue to the benefit of the Democrats. This split will ultimately extend to the State and local level where a choice will be faced: Either give up trying to get support from more centrist voters or go broke. The few G.O.P. Senators who voted to impeach, for example, face this choice.  In future history textbooks, the Republicans will get about as much space as the Whigs do today.)

Item Added - March 17, 2021

If you read one book this year, it should be "Caste" by Isabel Wilkerson, with heavy documentation of how "caste" existed or still exists in India and the United States, and came to fruition in Nazi Germany.  Example:  Did it ever occur to you that we had concentration camps in the United States, even before the internment of Americans of Japanese heritage during World War Two?  We called them "plantations," a much more picturesque and polite designation.

Items Added - March 18, 2021

Hold your breath!  Here comes a favorable comment about the former president!  He is to be credited with fast-tracking the development and production of vaccines with which to fight Covid19 (Operation 'Warp Speed'). He did this despite a year of his minimizing the threat the virus posed to America, his dismantling of the existing estblished structure to battle epidemics and his failure to give a thought to how the fast-tracked vaccine would be distributed.  Many died because of this. Today, not departing from his career of hypocrisy and lies, he is not encouraging those who listen to him to become vaccinated. That might lose him support from the nut jobs who believe the lies about vaccination prevalent in right wing media.  Anyhow, here's credit, however minimal it might be, where it is due, Donald.

The Russians' "Useful Idiots" Among Us

Many Trumpublicans continue to be ignorant and gullible, and support racist policies as well as far-right conspiracy theories in an effort to undo everything good the United States has accomplished since FDR and create dissent among Americans. They even attacked the Capitol on January 6.

This saves the Russians the job of convincing the world that American democracy is a failure and their autocratic system is better. So long as the Republican Party does that job for them, they don't even need "Manchurian" candidates. Acclimated by the former president to accept lies, Republicans can't even identify Russian lies when they repeat them themselves. Yes, there are many idiots among us and the Russians are not reluctant to use them for their purposes. Their intelligence people refer to them as "useful idiots."  They are many in our Congress.

Item Added - March 20, 2021

Murder in Atlanta

The Atlanta murders should direct our thoughts in three directions: (1) the need for gun control legislation, (2) the growing need to identify and help the mentally ill and (3) more attention being paid to the “deeply religious,” as the Atlanta murderer was described, when their beliefs are transferred from a relationship to a Creator toward actions directed elsewhere, fueled by an ignorance and gullibility such as that which legitimatized our former president's words.

And speaking of gun control, For the past few years I have had a homemade sign visible through the rear window of my car reading "Want an Assault Rifle? Join the Army!" At first I was a little cautious, but thus far, nobody slashed my tires, possibly because I also have a veterans' cap visible back there too.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Two Massive Challenges and a Column by Mona Charen

Important Announcement:   Between now and the next full posting on this blog, new items will continue to come up.  Rather than wait for the blog's next full posting, they will be added ... with the date they are added shown ... at the tail end of this posting.  Scroll down right now to read the ones already added to this particular posting, if any.  (And see recent prior postings as well.)  Come back and check out what's new on this blog every day!

Here's a recent column by Mona Charen, a conservative who recognized where many of her political faith have gone wrong.  Lee is a Republican Senator from Utah. 

How Mike Lee ditched Constitution for Trump 

If Lee is genuinely concerned about the constitutional order, his highest priority should be the authoritarian turn that the Republican Party has taken under Trump.

Mona Charen

I didn’t watch much of this year’s CPAC. My digestion is sound, but there’s no point in taking unnecessary risks. Still, I did note the presence of Sen. Mike Lee, a legislator who styles himself a 'constitutional conservative.'

Lee is the son of a distinguished former solicitor general of the United States, a graduate of Brigham Young University and its law school, and the author of three books on the Founding era: 'Our Lost Constitution,' 'Our Lost Declaration' and 'Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government.' That’s a lot of losing and forgetting.

But it seems that Lee is the one who has forgotten what the founding was about.

Less than two months have elapsed since Donald Trump committed the most monstrous attack on the constitutional order in 150 years by siccing a violent mob on the Congress as it was attempting to certify the election of the man who defeated him. That came on the heels of attempts to strong-arm the secretary of state of Georgia to 'find' enough votes to alter the results, efforts to persuade state legislators to defy the voters and replace their states’ electoral college slates in his favor and a protracted effort to discredit the election process itself as fraudulent.

CPAC was the first gathering of Republicans and conservatives since those events. And yet, the 'constitutional conservative' Lee did not see fit to mention any of that in his address.

He spoke of 'leftists who hate the Bill of Rights' and he argued that 'faith in government is tyranny.' He denounced Democratic governors, who had imposed what he regarded as overly restrictive COVID-19 rules, as tyrants and stressed that 'we' (meaning Republicans) 'trust the people.'

Lee may be sincere in his desire to restore some equilibrium to the separation of powers. He has introduced several bills that would curtail executive authority, and when Trump usurped legislative powers and arguably broke the law by declaring a spurious border emergency, Lee was among a small number of senators who opposed him.

But that burst of independence must have exhausted the senator, because at the time of Trump’s first impeachment trial, less than a year later, Lee was among Trump’s firmest defenders.

'What he did was not impeachable,' Lee told Politico. 'It was not criminal. And I don’t think what he did was even wrong.'

CPAC was, according to The Bulwark’s Tim Miller, a festival of forgetting. If the Capitol insurrection was mentioned at all, it was only to blame it on judges who ruled against Trump’s risible lawsuits. Mostly though, the speakers stuck to antifa and imaginary late-night ballot dumps.

If Lee is genuinely concerned about the constitutional order, his highest priority should be the authoritarian turn that the Republican Party has taken under Trump.

He might begin with these facts: Nearly two-thirds of the Republican House caucus, along with eight senators, voted not to certify President Joe Biden’s election. Seventeen Republican state attorneys general signed onto Texas’s preposterous lawsuit challenging the results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin. (The Supreme Court tossed it.)

The MAGA crowd stormed the Capitol and erected a gallows, but elected Republicans helped prepare the ground.

Any 'constitutional conservative' surveying the wreckage of the post-Trump GOP must be concerned about the state of the people they are so ready to 'trust.' Can self-government succeed when a plurality of one of the two major political parties no longer even believes in democracy?

A survey of Trump supporters, who number about half the Republican Party, found that not only do they nearly universally believe the fraudulent election lie, but 70% want Trump to serve another term and remain in office — after his second term is complete.

Among Republicans more broadly, 86% opposed conviction and disqualification in the second impeachment trial, and 83% thought the trial itself should never have happened.

In other words, not even attempting to subvert the election through improper influence, pressure and, eventually, violence was enough to break their cult-like devotion.

Lee waxed indignant about some regulations instituted legally by Democratic governors to deal with a 100-year emergency.

Did some go overboard? Maybe. Is that a threat to the Republic? Good God, no.

On the other hand, a significant portion of the electorate is slavishly loyal to a person rather than a party, philosophy or country. A huge number of Americans have had their faith in democracy significantly eroded. A large minority of the population believes pernicious falsehoods and cannot be disabused.

And leaders who hold advanced degrees and write books about the founding cannot bring themselves to confront that reality. That seems like a bigger challenge.   

And speaking of challenges ...... (scroll down if necessary) 



The two massive challenges the nation faces, voter suppression and the existence of armed militias, both originate in the States, rather than the Federal Government.  Voting laws are State laws.  Law banning private armed militias are State laws.  Local Republicans control enough State legislatures to make a mockery of democracy in both of these areas, permitting militias to exist and voter suppression to continue.  Nevertheless, these remain national problems, seeking national solutions.   (Please scroll down here if necessary.)  

Our 19th President, Rutherford B. Hayes

In 1877, during the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes, the last Federal troops were withdrawn from the States which had seceded, forming the Confederacy.  At that point, the North in effect conceded victory in the Civil War to the South.  Although slavery had been abolished and voting rights granted to the former slaves, the reconstituted Southern State governments saw to it that nothing really was changed.  The newly established Department of Justice was impotent.  The KKK was not.  Attempts to remedy this by the 1964 Civil Rights bill have since been watered down and passage of H.R. 1 by the Senate is unlikely in view of the existence of the filibuster.

Whatever legislation and administrative acts permitted this to happen after the Civil War must somehow be reversed.  (Hayes was elected in 1876 only with the electoral votes of Southern States which were bought with the unspoken promise that the troops would be withdrawn.)  Somehow, the post-Civil War failed ‘Reconstruction’ must be redone and done right this time.  H.R. 1, if passed, would correct some existing wrongs dating back to the failed ‘Reconstruction.’

Not permanently leaving military force in the South after the Civil War was a mistake proven when the Armed Forces had to be brought into Alabama to enforce the Supreme Court’s desegregation decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.  Voting suppression cannot be similarly enforced at gunpoint, but appropriate legislation can do the job.

Slavery is a stain on American history, just as it is on purportedly enlightened 'Western' civilization. That it existed in Biblical times and in ancient civilizations is no excuse.  The new nation was established to bring about freedoms not present in Europe and the rest of the world.  But eliminating human bondage was not one of these freedoms.  We belatedly made it illegal in 1865, but the job remains unfinished.


Item Added - March 10, 2021

Remember that the Repubican-controlled State legislatures which are busy passing laws to suppress voting were legitimately elected through democratic processes. 

Their actual mission seems to be "to exploit the methods of democracy to destroy democracy." (That quote, referring to Germany in 1934, is from Isabel Wilkerson's book, "Caste.")

Item Added - March 12, 2021

Here's the text of a letter I sent to the Palm Beach Post yesterday.  Although, editorially, they agree with me, they probably won't print it.

I see where Florida’s Republican legislative majority is now going after ballot drop boxes as well as getting rid of signing up to vote by mail for more than one year at a time (Senate Bill 90).  Such voter suppression tactics are only further evidence that the GOP does not believe that government of the people, by the people and for the people apply to the Sunshine State.  Even though this didn’t happen in Florida in 2020, they know that ultimately, when more people vote, Republicans lose ... and they are fearful about losing a Senate seat and the Governorship in 2022.

I am pretty much fed up with the State government in Florida.  Putting it mildly, it sucks.  Retirees who choose to come here because of the climate, the low taxes and the recreational, cultural and social opportunities must be willing to live in a State where the shots are called by a Republican legislature and Governor elected by Neanderthals.  That won't change.  Too bad that most State governments are no better, except in the Northeast, or Illinois, places which aren't very attractive to retirees.  (California is too expensive.)  Those about to retire should consider Virginia and New Mexico.  If I had it to do over, that is where I would look and consider, rather than the political cesspool known as Floriduh, which won't be changing.