Friday, April 30, 2021

Posting Started April 30, 2021, and Subsequent Additions to It

This is the first "Jackspotpourri" posting using the new format.  Subsequent additions to it will be added at the posting's beginning, the most current one leading the way headlined by the date it was added.  When the capacity for add-ons is reached, a fresh new posting will be started, the earlier one remaining accessible to PC users via the Archive links off to the right, if it does not appear at the bottom of the screen.  Also, there is a link at the very bottom of the blog for getting to "older posts."

The material "off to the right," which includes ability to do a quick 'Wikipedia' search and an easier way to send a comment to me is available if you are accessing the blog via a PC. On most other devices, that "off to the right" column is omitted.  This should not be a problem, however, because the 'gadgets' enabling a comment to be sent to the blog and to access Wikipedia may also be reached by scrolling down almost to the bottom of your screen on other devices where they should appear along with that link to  "older posts" mentioned above.

 JL 

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Posted on June 1

Two Books and the Bill of Rights

Two interesting books were discussed in the May 31 New Yorker magazine. In one, “Firepower,” Matthew Lacombe “shows how the National Rifle Association succeeded by embracing its subcultural identity, teaching its people to think of themselves as a persecuted minority under attack.“   In another, “How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession with Rights is Tearing America Apart,” Jamal Greene worries that the endless search for supposedly fundamental rights inevitably makes some disputes more difficult to resolve. He cites the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay marriage as an imposition on his First Amendment religious rights as an example.

Which leads us to the Bill of Rights.  While each of the original ten was written to protect someone’s rights from being trampled upon by the government in a specific manner, many have been sometimes stretched and twisted far beyond their original intent, making the fair administration of justice difficult, as mentioned above.  A few examples come to mind.

Let’s start with  the First Amendment which reads as follows: 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Happily, the government is not going to force you to go to a particular church or follow its tenets … but what if such a religion’s beliefs include violent actions against non-believers, or a refusal to perform civil acts it doesn’t accept, like participating in a gay wedding by baking a cake for it?  Or endorsing a woman’s right to have an abortion? Some evangelical religions involve the handling of venomous snakes, supposedly safe according to those whose beliefs are sufficiently strong.  Is a law against doing that, which can be fatal, a violation of the First Amendment? And do laws which provide humane rules for animal slaughter prohibit animal slaughter practices common to Judaism and Islamic religious beliefs?  Is such prohibition permitted by the First Amendment?

And let’s get to abridging free speech or the press.  Does this prohibit the publication of downright, proven, lies?  There is a thin line between opinion, which should be allowed, and intentional falsehoods intended to misinform. And where does peaceful assembly, even in support of lies, end and violent protest begin?  The invaders of the Capitol on January 6 believed their actions were justified and even endorsed by the President of the United States.  And the millions who witnessed the police murder of George Floyd felt fully justified in demonstrations which sometimes crossed the line into violence.

Let’s jump to the Second Amendment.  It was there to enable States to form armed militias composed of citizens who brought their own weapons when enlisted to oppose the Federal government which might use troops to force unwilling States to follow its dictates ... and also to put down potential rebellions by slaves.  It was not written to give weapons 'carte blanche' to hunters, sportsmen and to individuals who wanted to be able to  protect themselves from criminal attacks.  Nor was it intended to prevent interference with the sellers of weapons or even those who wanted to use their weapons to overthrow the government!  That all came later when courts proceeded to ignore the first thirteen words of the Second Amendment, which reads as follows:  A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

Bottom Line: The Bill of Rights, protecting the rights of legitimate minorities in this country, can be used to protect the rights of “illegitimate” minorities as well as described above.  It protects the rights of peddlers of automatic weapons to crazy people who become mass murderers and it protects the rights of fascists whose aim is to destroy our democracy.  They are supposedly minorities just as are LGBTQ Americans and non-Whites etc., groups whom we usually think of as beneficiaries of the Bill of Rights.  Remember that when Neo-Nazis demonstrated a few years back in Skokie, Illinois, it was the ACLU which came to their defense.


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It's Hard to be "Well Informed"

Being well informed is necessary in order to counter the ideas based upon ignorance, gullibility and an hour of Fox which is the diet of too many Americans.  But to do so, one must traverse numerous print and internet sources, spread out over a wide spectrum.  If I clicked on every reference contained in the link-laden websites of the big national newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post and numerous magazines and media outposts, I would have to give up the rest of my day's activities, with no time left to even eat, sleep or shower.  It used to be that sitting down with the morning newspaper over coffee (which I still do) and reading an occasional magazine sufficed to keep you informed. (Abe Lincoln, while Postmaster in Springfield, Illinois, read every newspaper which came in the mail before he delivered them.) It’s no longer that simple today. (A question occurs to me: Why do we object to advertisements on the internet but take ads in our newspapers for granted and just skip over them?)  Anyhow, staying well informed takes efforts which in my humble opinion (I could have said IMHO, but I didn’t) otherwise might be used, as Candide suggested, 'to make our garden grow.'

JL

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On the 100th Anniversary of the Pogrom Destroying Much of the Black community in Tulsa

What amazes me most is that during four years in a first class highly rated high school in New Jersey and four years at Rutgers University, where I majored in history, the 1921 Tulsa massacre was never mentioned and did not appear in any textbooks or research material that I recall.  I even took courses there in "American Civilization" at Rutgers which ignored it. At a minimum, all high school textbooks which omit this sad bit of history must be recalled so that it might be added, and it must be made part of college courses dealing with 20th Century American history.  What other episodes of American history have been swept under the rug?  We know about the treatment Blacks and Native Americans received, but what else has been kept from us?.

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Posted on May 31

On this Memorial Day, one of the contributors to "Letters from an American" (Heather Cox Richardson's daily newsletter) commented that we were remembering those that died for our country in the midst of a "slow burning coup d'etat."  To his comment, I added

"Our nation will be able to survive this “slow burning coup d’etat” through which we are living because down deep, enough Americans will remember, even beyond this Memorial Day, those who fought and died to preserve our freedoms, which never did include the freedom to tear apart the nation nor destroy democracy."

More on those freedoms, later.

JL

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Memorial Day and the Gettysburg Address

On Memorial Day, we honor those who died defending our country.  Its observance started after the Civil War.  Abraham Lincoln's 1863 remarks at the dedication of a military cemetery at the site of the battle of Gettysburg (read them below!) are often quoted on this holiday, but they have added significance beyond that.

Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address specifically quoted the words of the Declaration of Independence when he said that the new nation established "four score and seven years ago" had been “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  Many in the middle of the nineteenth century preferred a nation based on the bundle of compromises which went into the Constitution thirteen years later which satisfied those Americans who firmly believed that all men were NOT created equal.  

It was at this moment that the President's words finally acknowledged that the Civil War had become a struggle for an equality which included ending slavery rather than merely a struggle to preserve the Union which was the way it started. Some who died in the Civil War did not agree with Lincoln, but we still honor them on Memorial Day.

Full Gettysburg Address text: 

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

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Posted on May 29  

G.O.P Senate Minority Kills Bi-Partisan Jan. 6 Insurrection  Commission                                     

Forget about bi-partisanship.  It takes two to tango.  Here is what amounts to a eulogy to a dead political party, the Republicans.  Read what Tom Nichols wrote in the current issue of the Atlantic magazine by CLICKING HERE.   You might want to pass it on.  That's what I am doing.

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Some peaceful tourists on an unguided and unauthorized tour of the Capitol which they invaded on January 6 .  I wonder who paid for the flag the insurrectionist off to the right is carrying.  It wasn't cheap. See if you can spot the only insurrectionist in the picture with half a brain.


Posted on May 28

The DOJ Should Go After Trump for Treason

Members of the Democratic Party who opposed the Civil War and wanted to cut a pro-slavery deal with the Confederacy became known by the nickname of “Copperheads,” a venomous snake. Most of the Republican Senators who seemed to forget that they were among the targets being attacked on January 6 in the Capitol and who voted against a commission to investigate that invasion of the Capitol by insurrectionists also deserve a descriptive nickname which will follow them down through history.  How about “Whores“?  They did indeed lay down for the Trumpublican base for the price of their votes in 2022.  And Senator McConnell, who set up the deal between these “whores” and the Trumpublican base in the Senate, would of course be their pimp.

But do we really need a commission? Why does Congress even have to be involved? Why cannot the DOJ move directly to act on violations of the Constitution? There is sufficient video evidence of "levying war" to confirm a violation of Art. 3, Sec. 3 of the Constitution by Donald John Trump.

(Art. 3, Sec. 3, of the Constitution reads: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.)

In 1807, the courts did not convict former vice-president Aaron Burr of treason because he could not be closely connected to the acts in question (gathering troops). Chief Justice John Marshall did write, however, in ex parte Bollman and in ex parte Swartout, both of whom were convicted of treason for those acts …

That to constitute a levying of war, there must be an assemblage of persons for the purpose of effecting by force a treasonable purpose. Enlistments of men to serve against government is not sufficient. When war is levied, all those who perform any part, however minute or however remote from the scene of action, and who are actually leagued in the general conspiracy, are traitors. Any assemblage of men for the purpose of revolutionizing by force the government established by the United States in any of its territories, although as a step to or the means of executing some greater projects, amounts to levying war."

This "ex parte" opinion by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1807 would seem to suffice as precedent for ruling in favor of trying Donald John Trump for treason. The underlined words say it all. (JL)

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Posted on May 27

Israel and Palestinians - My Opinion

World opinion, including the opinions of many in the United States, are turning toward support of the Palestinians in Israel.  It has been 73 years since Holocaust survivors, with the world’s sympathy, populated Israel.  That's a long time.  Generations. Today, similar sympathy is directed toward Palestinians. 

It does not help the Palestinian cause, however, that extremist Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah still advocate eliminating Israel entirely as a state and replacing it with a theocratic Islamic state.  That’s what it says in Hamas’ charter.  That’s what enables Israeli conservatives such as Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain the support of groups who want a one-state solution, with Israel occupying all of the territory they did in biblical times, and remaining Palestinians there as second class citizens.

That will not work.  The only solution is a two-state solution with a Palestinian state existing peacefully along with Israel.  To accomplish this, Israel must work with The Palestinian Authority, which used to be Arafat’s PLO, and not those still bent on destroying Israel.  Militarily, they cannot do that.  Morally, they have a better chance so long as Israel continues to confuse its opposition to Hamas and Hezbollah with giving a share of Jerusalem to a new Palestinian state, limiting “settler” expansion into what would form part of that state, and getting rid of the apartheid aspects of what looks like a single-state solution by default.

Unless Israel pursues such a course of action, achieving a two-state solution, this festering problem can fuel anti-Semitism outside of Israel, where for almost 2,000 years, bigots have found reasons to persecute Jews.  

JL

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Posted on May 24

Step on the Train

Heather Cox Richardson’s daily newsletter (A Letter from an American) today memorialized Frederick Douglass’ “stepping on a train” in 1838, a key move in achieving his freedom from slavery and urged us all not to sit still, but to take the risks “stepping on a train” entails and move forward toward accomplishments not only in our own lives, but in the society in which we live.  I added the following to the hundreds of comments which appeared on the newsletter:

Grand Central Station in New York

Yes, there are a lot of trains in the station for you to step onto, all going to different places, some of which you might never even have heard of. Buy your ticket, get on the train, but never forget about those still milling around the station who never get on any train at all.

JL

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Posted on May 21


Pillow Talk

Did it ever occur to you that the pillows peddled by Mike Lindell, a heavy duty Trump supporter, just might contain a  microchip with a subliminal message being pumped into the sleeper's head, containing pro-Trump, anti-democratic messages? I am sure that many Trump supporters purchase these pillows out of a sense of loyalty to a man loyal to the former president, but do they also serve to reinforce their belief in the anti-democratic principles which Trump and Lindell hold dear?  Ignorance and gullibility have their limits. Microchips might  not.

JL

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Posted on May 20

Why Israel Bombed Gaza 

Two historic facts: (1) After WW1, the Balfour Declaration offered Palestine as a national home for Jews, which came to fruition with the establishment of the State of Israel 73 years ago in 1948. After WW1, Palestine had become a British "mandate" following 400 years of Ottoman (Turkish) rule over the area, and (2) that in November of 1941, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem met with Adolf Hitler discussing spreading his anti-Jewish programs to Palestine, since they both were for getting rid of Jews. At that point, before the United States entry into the war, a German victory in WW2 was not out of the question.

The Grand Mufti's 1941 position was not unlike that of Hamas today, as laid out in that organization's Charter, where it advocates the elimination of Jews from Palestine, replacing Israel with an Islamic state, and dismisses any compromise.  This is why Israel, in response to the rocket attacks initiated by Hamas, takes every opportunity to destroy Hamas.  (The United States, Canada, Israel, the European Union and Japan consider Hamas to be a terrorist group.) And the Palestinians there suffer because they are being used by Hamas, financed and armed by Iran.

In my opinion, without Hamas there probably would be a successful, independent, Palestinian state alongside of Israel by now including agreements solving problems involving Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israeli settlers. Aside from opposing Hamas, Israeli support of Netanyahu is far from universal.  But on that count, he is unopposed, because no nation can tolerate a weaponized group dedicated to its destruction.

Hitler and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1941


JL

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The Palm Beach Post published a letter from me today which reads as follows:

"Politics first, people last"

"I don’t know what the letter writer in Friday’s Post who wrote that Senators Scott and Rubio “must do whatever it takes to get the For the People Act (HR1/S1) passed” was smoking.

These two will never support the bill because, as do most Republicans, they put party ahead of country, and the bill’s becoming law would mean a decline in GOP votes nationwide."  

(Just noticed that the letter's last sentence is wrong, but they published it anyway. It should conclude with the words "... would mean an increase in Democratic votes nationwide" instead of what I wrote.  JL 5/24)

This letter well illustrates the best ways of getting a letter to any newspaper published, being brief and referring to something they already carried in their paper.

                           

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Posted on May 19

Recommended Reading



I've just competed reading all 935 pages of "Abe," David Reynolds'  biography of Abraham Lincoln(subtitled 'Abraham Lincoln in His Times) - (2020, Penguin).  It is totally pertinent to the United States in which we live today.  It's a lot to ask of you to read this monumental book which encompasses the historic, political and cultural milieu which surrounds our sixteenth and greatest President, Abraham Lincoln.  But give it a try. 


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Posted on May 17

Beware of Unsolicited Dishonest Emails

Some of you may have started to receive unsolicited emails from UnitedVoice.com.  Although they try to give the appearance of objectivity, they include much deceitful right wing misinformation. Often they contain advertisements, and it is the ones with ads which give you the opportunity, if you wish, to unsubscribe from all of their emails, including the political ones.  (The 'unsubscribe' opportunity is only on the parts of the emails which contain ads, but it gets rid of all of them.)

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Posted on May 15

Stupidity Rules the G.O.P. Roost

Some observers cannot understand why Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Lindsay Graham, House G.O.P. Leader Kevin McCarthy and most other Republican legislators who initially blamed former President Trump for inciting the January 6 invasion of the Capitol eventually changed their tune, minimizing the seriousness of what happened that day, no longer blaming Trump for it and even supporting his “Big Lie” claiming that the election was stolen from him.

Their behavior is easy to explain.  Trump’s actions clearly came close to the definition of treason covered in Article Three, Sec. 3, of the Constitution as explained by Chief Justice John Marshall in 1807 in an opinion related to the trial of former Vice President Aaron Burr for treason.  McConnell, McCarthy, Graham and others believed the former President’s actions were inexcusable.  Then, what made them change their minds?

They had forgotten how ignorant and gullible the base which supported, and still supports, Donald John Trump actually is.  For a brief moment, they thought that base had a minimum of intelligence.  They were wrong.  Once they saw that continuing to blame Trump and not swallow his “Big Lie” would just lose them the votes of his base and possibly result In primary challenges, they quickly changed their opinions.   It’s as simple as that.

McConnell, McCarthy and Graham underestimated the ignorance and gullibility of Trump’s base.  (Democrats often do that, but here we have the G.O.P. leadership doing that.)  I do not know how they will react when the news clips of their putting the blame for the January 6 insurrection directly on the former president appear in Democratic TV spots during the 2022 elections.  Will they claim that they are “fake news” invented by the media?

(As much as one might disagree with the position of Representative Liz Chaney on many issues, she is to be admired for having the spine or guts or whatever to enable her not to buckle under to G.O.P. stupidity as the sniveling worms mentioned above, and most Republicans, have done.)

  

G.O.P. Senate Caucus Meeting

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Posted on May 15

Your Role in the 2022 Election Cycle

How to hold Congress in 2022

Are you an activist?  No?  Then become one.  You are needed to defend democracy in the United States.

When the time comes to start sending postal cards out to potential voters in key states where crucial elections for Senate seats will be taking place, here's the way to participate.  You can purchase pre-stamped postal cards at a post office, write them out yourself and drop them in a mail box.  

Carefully targeted address lists in these key states are available from https://www.activateamerica.vote/.  (You need not live in those States.) Activate America also provides suggested messages for you to write on the cards at no charge.  I used them in 2020 (they were then called "Win the West") and I personally believe this is how Senators Ossoff and Warnock won in Georgia in 2020.  CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE SITE and to learn more.

Become an activist.



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Posted on May 13

Quoting Michael Cohen

This has appeared on the blog before, but it bears repeating. When books are written about this period in American history, Michael Cohen (Trump's 'fixer') will be quoted.  Here is a quote (page 337) from his 2020 book, "Disloyal."  It says it all:

“Over the years, I had become fluent in the language Trump used to communicate his desires and demands.  He used inferences, nods, silences, euphemisms, signals.  It was similar to how Trump never used email, for the simple reasons that it created a digital fingerprint that would permanently record his words – and thus potentially ensnare him.  Like a crime boss, Trump wanted no evidence that could connect him to any of his deeds, or deeds that he indirectly or directly ordered others to do.  The same applied with conversations.  If the President explicitly said what he wanted, or needed, it could potentially be used against him.  Better to say nothing that could be held against you, but surround yourself with people who can translate your intentions.  Trump’s mind was so permeated with deception and delusion – of others, but also of himself – that I had to be prepared to literally depart from reality and enter a kind of fantasyland when I spoke with the President.”

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Posted on May 12

Seniors:  Is Your Doctor a "Top" Doctor?

We are not talking about anyone who repairs these things

The current AARP Bulletin (that’s the publication that looks like a newspaper, not the magazine) carries a frontpage headline reading “Live Stronger, Better, Longer” and touts an article within offering “Best Advice from Top Doctors and Health Experts.”  This title seems to acknowledge that there are “top” doctors which leads to the conclusion that there also must be “bottom” ones and “middling” ones as well.

Which brings us to the question of Medicare.  Most Medicare Supplement plans (Medigap) filling out what Medicare doesn’t cover do not limit the insured’s choice of physicians, so long as they participate in Medicare.  Most do, including “top” doctors.   

When it comes to Medicare Advantage plans, however, the choice of physicians might be more limited.  Most PPO’s have pretty broad doctor choices, including “top” doctors, but many HMO’s do not.  And that’s where the difference between top, middling and bottom doctors comes in.  It is something one must be aware of when making Medicare choices. The choices are yours.  Stay in control.

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Posted on May 10

Canossa Equals Mar-a-Lago

Pope Gregory VII, ultimately sainted

Some of you may have heard the expression, "going to Canossa."  It comes from the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV's visit to Pope Gregory VII's Winter palace there in 1077.  He went there, and some say he prostrated himself in the snow there, to beg the Pope to lift his excommunication.  No one likes to go to Hell. 


The hilltop castle in Canossa, midway between
Bologna and Parma, where this all took place
 
Hence, going somewhere to ask forgiveness, to make oneself humble or seek absolution for some wrong is known today as "going to Canossa."  The Emperor and the Pope had been involved in an ongoing argument which dealt with the role of the Emperor in electing a Pope.  Gregory said that only the Cardinals could do that and the temporal government, the Emperor, had no role in it.  In effect, Henry declared that to be a "Big Lie" and had been excommunicated for declaring that.  Contesting election procedures is nothing new.

Sound familiar.  The 45th president, who lost re-election in 2020, a fact confirmed by all of the States and in about 60 often frivolous lawsuits, persists in claiming that he actually won, without any substantiated evidence of that.  That is his "Big Lie."  Initially, some Republicans disagreed with him, but he threatened them with primary challenges and other "get-even" tactics which amounted to political "excommunication."  Ask Liz Chaney about that.

This has prompted some of them (not Chaney) to "go to Canossa" to get their Republican credentials back in order.  Ask Kevin McCarthy about that. Today's Canossa is on road A1A in Palm Beach, Florida, and has changed its name to (you figure that out.)

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 Posted on May 7

Down toward the end of this recent Thomas Friedman New York Times column appear the words, "Things are not OK."  If I were putting a title on this column, that is what it would be.  Believe these words!  Read the column.

Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracy

May 4, 2021

By Thomas L. Friedman


Opinion Columnist

President Biden’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated, pushing out stimulus checks and generally calming the surface of American life has been a blessing for the country. But it’s also lulled many into thinking that Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, which propelled the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t.

We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war — more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

Because, instead of Trump’s Big Lie fading away, just the opposite is happening — first slowly and now quickly.

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie — that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost — has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members — local, state and national.

“Denying the legitimacy of our last election is becoming a prerequisite for being elected as a Republican in 2022,” observed Gautam Mukunda, host of Nasdaq’s “World Reimagined” podcast and author of the book “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Mattered.”

“This is creating a filter that over time will block out anyone willing to tell the truth about the election.” It will leave us with “a Republican Party where you cannot rise without declaring that the sun sets in the East, a Republican Party where being willing to help steal an election is literally a job requirement.”

This is not an exaggeration. Here is what Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, told The Hill about the campaign within the party to oust Representative Liz Cheney from her House G.O.P. leadership position, because of her refusal to go along with the Big Lie:

“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. … She’s going to stand on principle.”

Think about that for a second. To be a leader in today’s G.O.P. you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election — without a shred of evidence — and ignore everything his own attorney general, F.B.I. director and election security director said — based on the evidence — that there was no substantive fraud.

What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

There is simply nothing more dangerous for a two-party democracy than to have one party declare that no election where it loses is legitimate, and, therefore, if it loses it will just lie about the results and change the rules.

That’s exactly what’s playing out now. And the more one G.O.P. lawmaker after another signs on to Trump’s Big Lie, the more it gives the party license at the state level to promote voter suppression laws that ensure that it cannot lose ever again.

Kimberly Wehle, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and author of the book “How to Read the Constitution — and Why,” writing in The Hill on Monday, noted that “as of late March, state legislators have introduced 361 bills in 47 states this year that contain limitations around voting, a 43 percent increase from just a month earlier.

“The measures include things like enhanced power for poll ‘monitors,’ fewer voting drop-boxes, restrictions on voting by mail, penalties for election officials who fail to purge voters from the rolls, and enhanced power in politicians over election procedures.”

Although G.O.P. supporters of these bills insist that they are about election integrity and security, Wehle added, “the lack of actual evidence of fraud and mismanagement in the American electoral system totally belies those cynical claims.”

This is the equivalent of lighting a fuse to a bomb planted beneath the foundations of our democracy.

Imagine if all or many of these measures are passed — and in 2022 and 2024 Republicans manage to retake the House, Senate and White House with, say, only 42 percent of the popular vote, effectively establishing minority rule. Do you know what will happen? Let me tell you what will happen. Disenfranchised Democratic voters will not sit idly by. They may refuse to pay their taxes. Many will take to the streets. Some might become violent, and our whole political system could become paralyzed and start to unravel.

Yet, this is precisely the path that Trump’s G.O.P. is setting us on.

Personally, I have reservations about where the left of the Democratic Party is pulling Biden on some economic, immigration, foreign policy and education issues. But Biden and his party are putting forth real ideas to try to address the real challenges that an increasingly diverse 21st-century America needs to address to become a more perfect union. The best tool for keeping the Democratic Party close to the center-left on more issues is a healthy Republican Party that hews to the center-right.

We don’t have that. We have, instead, a G.O.P. trying to cling to power by leveraging a Big Lie into voter suppression laws that leverage the party back to power by appealing solely to a largely white 20th-century America. Trump’s G.O.P. is making no effort to offer conservative alternatives to the issues of the day. Its whole focus is on how to win without doing that.

Which is why it is incumbent on every American to support in every way possible the few principled Republican legislators fighting this trend from the inside — like Liz Cheney, Representative Adam Kinzinger and Senator Mitt Romney.

What I learned covering the struggle for the future of the Arab-Muslim world post-9/11 is that the war of ideas inside is everything. Sure, it is important for outsiders to condemn bad behavior, but their voices have limited impact. Real change happens only when the war of ideas is won by insiders, working from the roots upward.

On Monday, CNN quoted Cheney as telling Republican donors and scholars at a retreat for the American Enterprise Institute in Sea Island, Ga.: “We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy. … We can’t whitewash what happened on Jan. 6 or perpetuate Trump’s Big Lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on Jan. 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.” A “peaceful transfer of power must be defended.”

She could not be more right. And without a war of ideas inside the party, one that is won by principled Republicans, we run the real risk of a political civil war in America over the next election.

Things are not OK.

Unless more principled Republicans stand up for the truth about our last election, we’re going to see exactly how a democracy dies.

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I contribute to the “comment section” of Professor Heather Cox Richardson’s daily postings, “Letters from an American.”  In response to a comment made about the strong pro-slavery feeling still present in the country in the 1850’s, I posted the following comment which I would like to share with you.

“Yes, Lincoln knew this and in order to get elected, in order to oppose secession, in order to mobilize the country to prevent it, in order to get to the point where emancipation was possible, had to walk the same tightrope that Senators Manchin and Sinema walk. And his success was short lived since within a dozen years, the lies which nourished the Democratic Party of that day had spread to the Republicans as well. We only started to get over it in 1964 and are in danger of slipping back again. Democrats! The ignorance and gullibility of Americans cannot be underestimated. Some even believe that the benefits of the Biden agenda, already appearing, were made possible by Republicans who of course voted against them. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb!”

JL

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Posted on May 6    

Here's a vital column from the May 3 Washington Post by Michael Gerson, a conservative Republican with some intelligence.

Elected Republicans are lying with open eyes. 

Their excuses are disgraceful.


"For the activist base of the Republican Party, affirming that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential contest has become a qualification for membership in good standing. For the party’s elected leaders, accepting the clear result of a fair election is to be a rogue Republican like the indomitable Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) — a target for Trump’s anger, public censure and primary threats.

Nothing about this is normal. The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs, but by its shared delusions. To be a loyal Republican, one must be either a sucker or a liar. And because this defining falsehood is so obviously and laughably false, we can safely assume that most Republican leaders who embrace it fall into the second category. Knowingly repeating a lie — an act of immorality — is now the evidence of Republican fidelity.





This kind of determined mendacity requires rolling out the big guns. Said the prophet Isaiah: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.”



Moral clarity against lying is sometimes made harder by our loose application of the term. When public figures disagree with you in their analyses of tax policy, or welfare spending or Social Security reform, they’re generally not lying. They’re disagreeing. When it’s revealed that someone was previously wrong about an issue — even on a grave matter of national security — it doesn’t mean he or she was lying all along. It means that person was wrong.



“To preserve the meaning of words,” said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), “is the first responsibility of liberalism.” Precisely because principled disagreement is essential in a democracy, we can’t attribute every difference to deception. This form of false witness is a tool of polarization and a method of dehumanization.



It’s important to keep perspective about the stakes of any given lie. There is reason the English language has so many words to describe the shades of culpability in a deception. You can equivocate, or dissemble, or palter, or mislead, or prevaricate, or fib, or perjure. There are mortal lies and venial lies, cruel lies and merciful lies. Context matters.



Speaking of perjury, almost any GOP response to charges of deception will eventually include the words “Bill Clinton.” In a time of rampant whataboutism, Republicans often point out that Clinton was a spectacular liar defended by his party. What they fail to acknowledge is that many elected Democrats criticized his lying under oath, even as they opposed his impeachment. Clinton was not insisting his supporters share in his immorality to show their loyalty (though that might have had some appeal when it came to other human failures).



The context for Trump’s lies has been particularly damning. When Trump falsely asserted that Barack Obama was born in Africa and thus illegitimate as president, it was permission for racism. When he claimed he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on Sept. 11, 2001, it was a vicious lie to feed a prejudice. But the lie of a stolen election is the foundational falsehood of a political worldview. Believing it requires Trump’s followers to affirm the existence of a nationwide plot against him and his supporters — a plot led by ruthless Democrats and traitorous Republicans, and ignored or endorsed by useless courts and a complicit media. The claim’s plausibility is not the point. Does it really make sense that Attorney General William P. Barr, who found no evidence of election fraud that could have changed the result, was in on the plot? Were the conservative judges Trump appointed who dismissed his rubbish lawsuits really out to get him?



Such considerations don’t seem to matter. In the 1930s and ’40s, was it plausible that the democratic leaders of Weimar Germany had stabbed their own country in the back and betrayed its people? Or that an international conspiracy of powerful Jews was controlling world events?

Trump’s lie is not the moral equivalent of fascist propaganda. But it serves the same political function. A founding lie is intended to remove followers from the messy world of facts and evidence. It is designed to replace critical judgment with personal loyalty. It is supposed to encourage distrust of every source of social authority opposed to the leader’s shifting will.



The people who accepted this political mythology and stormed the Capitol were not lying about their views. They seemed quite sincere. And who knows what Trump really thinks? When a congenital liar surrounds himself with sycophantic liars, he can easily lose radio contact with reality.



No, it is the elected Republicans who are lying with open eyes, out of fear or cynicism, who have the most to atone for. With the health of U.S. democracy at stake, their excuses are disgraceful."



Image without a caption
Michael Gerson

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Posted on May 3      

Movement Conservatives

Writer Ayn Rand, worshipped by libertarians

When I first encountered the expression "movement conservatism," it was new to me, although journalists and political scientists have been using it for years.  It originated in the 1930’s and included libertarians, traditionalists 
and anti-Communists.  By the time of Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the Republican Party had adopted this philosophy of government, opposing big government, traditionally a libertarian approach. Reagan famously said that “government is not the solution, it is the problem.” 

Subsequently, “neo-conservatives” (disillusioned former liberals who turned rightward) and the religious right were added to those in this “movement.” 

Not all Republicans are “movement conservatives.”  Those who favor the G.O.P. primarily because of its low tax positions, its aversion to debt and its support of  legislation which favored businesses and large corporations, including reduced regulation, did not necessarily adopt the rest of the “movement conservative’ agenda.  These Republicans, sometimes called “business conservatives” are traditionally a large source of funding for the Republican Party.  

JL    

                                     

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Posted on May 2

"Know-nothing-ism" Finds an Heir

Back in the 1840’s and 1850’s, there was a movement eventually known as the “Know Nothing” party.  They were called this because when members were asked about the party’s program or its structure, they always claimed to “know nothing.” If one tried to place them politically, many of their supporters might have identified with the conservative wing of the Whig Party. (The Whigs grew from those who opposed the strong presidency Andrew Jackson initiated.)  The nation’s big issue in the middle of the Nineteenth Century was the expansion of slavery westward, which most, but not all, Whigs opposed.  

The Whigs elected two presidents, William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1848, both of whom died in office.  Their successors, James Polk and Millard Fillmore turned out to be more like pro-slavery Democrats than Whigs, bringing about the disintegration of the Whig Party.  But its liberal wing was reborn as the Republican Party, which not only opposed the expansion of slavery, but seemed to be moving toward abolishing it entirely.  Their first presidential candidate, John Fremont in 1856, lost primarily because the “Know Nothings” ran their own candidate, former president Millard Fillmore, who received the votes of enough former Whig voters to give the presidency to Democrat James Buchanan. 

The new Republican Party had no appeal to the “Know Nothings,” who while tolerated by the now dead Whig Party, were virulently nativist and pro-American to the extent that they voiced hatred toward all immigrants, foreigners, Irish, Catholics and Jews. To "count," one had to have been born here, i.e., a "native." They were the first and original "America Firsters."  Meanwhile, the Republicans were generally supported by these groups whom the "Know Nothings" attacked, besides workers’ groups and women’s groups (although they did not have the vote) in addition to opposing the expansion of slavery.  Their task was to maintain this support but not too vociferously, which might result in their losing too many conservative voters to the “Know Nothings.”  It required walking a tightrope.  Abraham Lincoln succeeded in doing exactly that and was elected the first Republican president in 1860. 

Parallel to the failure of “Reconstruction” after the Civil War was the continuance of the ideas of the “Know Nothing” movement in American politics.  It might have been dead as a party, but In the South, it merged with the Jim Crow attitude of the Democrats and in the North, it seeped into the programs of the Republican Party, where it remains a moving force today.  The "America First" fascists of the 1930's were Republicans and the anti-immigrant 45th president preached its ideas as well.  Today's Republican Party, with some modification of those its "nativism" excludes, is as close as one can come to resembling the legitimate heir to the "Know Nothing" movement.

JL

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Posted on April 30

Terrible News for Floridians

Restrictions on getting ballots for voting by mail, restrictions on delivery to the Board of Elections of vote-by-mail ballots and restrictions on availability of “drop boxes” for that purpose:  They're all part of the realization by Florida’s Republican Party that unless they restrict the number of people who can vote, they will become permanent losers in the Sunslime State. 

All of this has been perpetrated by legally elected legislators and will shortly be signed into law by the legally elected Trumpublican governor who still believes the big lie about the results of the November 2020 presidential election. Of course, this travesty on democracy will be challenged in the courts, but with uncertain results. As I have said before, its benign climate, excellent recreational opportunities and appealing cultural offerings make Florida a nice place to live or to retire to, but politically, it’s a pile of crap made possible by some of the most ignorant and gullible voters in the world. Nothing will change them unless one puts great faith in the Department of Justice and its enforcement arm, the FBI.  We'll see.

I used to think this was because of the number of retirees here who view everything through a rear view mirror going back forty or fifty years, but its more than that.  It's what motivates those drivers of pick-up trucks with big American flags (or Confederate flags) and who also blindly support the Second Amendment, ignoring its first thirteen words, as the Supreme Court also has chosen to do.  It might take a few dozen more mass shootings to bring about change in that area, but it will happen.

JL


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