Fair and Square

Fair and Square

Ohio Senator Rob Portman appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this morning. Portman, a “moderate Republican” has been a disappointment. I don’t expect a “moderate Republican” to agree with me on many issues. But what I keep waiting for is Portman to act like the decent man he seems to be. Unfortunately, each time Portman has had the chance to show that decency; on the health care vote, on the current tax legislation, and most importantly, on the conduct of the President of the United States; Portman has folded to the pressure of the Trump gang.

Today was no exception. Portman, in trying to dodge the obvious questions about the Russia Investigation and Trump, said the following: “Trump won the election, fair and square.” He stated this as an accepted fact.

Clearly the ultimate issue of the Russia Investigation is that exact question: did Trump win the Presidency “fair and square?” The absolute threat that the Mueller and Senate intelligence committee’s investigations represent is to the legitimacy of the Trump Administration.

In what ways could Trump’s actions have made the election less than “fair and square?” Keeping in mind that the election was not determined by the more than two million more votes that Hillary Clinton earned, but came down to 77,744 Trump votes spread over three states. Wisconsin (22,748) Michigan (10,704) and Pennsylvania (44,292) were narrowly won by Trump, giving him the electoral college margin of victory.

We know that Russian intelligence was targeting social media in these states. We know that they were using “micro-targeting” of Facebook, Twitter, and other media sites to zoom in on the marginal areas within those states, targeting that showed they had an intimate knowledge of American politics. Political experts here in the United States are agreed that it is unlikely the Russians were able to produce those results without American advice. If the Trump campaign is linked to that “advice,” that’s not “fair and square.”

While state election authorities continue to deny it, there are ongoing questions about the security and validity of the actual voting processes, particularly in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida and Michigan. “Unhack the Vote,” a private organization investigating the integrity of the electoral process has found evidence which raises questions about whether Russian incursions went beyond “tests” to see if the data could be breeched. This, combined with the across the board discrepancies between exit polling and voting outcomes increases the concern that the vote count itself might be flawed or manipulated. If Russian Intelligence hacked and changed votes, that’s not “fair and square.”

There are now questions raised regarding Cambridge Analytica, a data company financed and owned by the Mercer Family. The Mercer’s are also the money behind Bretibart, Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, and ultimately the support of the Trump campaign. Computer code inadvertently posted by a Cambridge employee seems to show a program to hack and manipulate voter registration data. There are also connections between Cambridge and Wikileaks (Cambridge offered to organize the hacked Clinton emails into a searchable database for Wikileaks.) If Cambridge Analytics, representing the Trump campaign, worked with Wikileaks and/or Russian Intelligence, that’s not “fair and square.”

We have accepted the phrase: “all fair in love and war – and politics!” We anticipate that there might be “dirty campaigning,” that candidates will exaggerate and even lie about both their opponents and themselves, and that in this new day of technology; every campaign will try to take advantage of the latest advancements.

What we haven’t, and shouldn’t accept, is that the actual vote counting mechanism might be altered, and that a third party, in this case Russian Intelligence, may play a huge part in the outcome of our elections. And while today this is a Democrat versus Republican issue, Republicans should look a little farther down the road. If Russian Intelligence’s goal is to disrupt the political process, not necessarily support one party or the other, than the 2018 Congressional elections are just at much at risk, and the Republicans have just as much to lose.

So no, Senator Portman, it’s not an “accepted fact.” Not only is the legitimacy of the current President in question, but also the future of American elections. In fact, as a United States Senator, it is incumbent upon you to assure a thorough investigation so that the American electoral process IS “Fair and Square.”




Let It Begin…

Let It Begin…

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Winston Churchill

Last night the news broke that Special Counsel Mueller has the first sealed grand jury indictment of the Russia investigation. Who was indicted is still unknown (Saturday, October 28), but Trump supporters signaled this was coming by their increased activity.

Here are the headlines:

Trey Gowdy targeting James Comey in new Clinton probe – Washington Examiner,

 Rep. Devin Nunes opens investigation into uranium deal under Obama – ABC News,

 It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC! – Trump Tweet.

 As this phase of the Russia Investigation begins the Trump effort to distract, divert and disconcert will continue to grow. The White House firing Robert Mueller is inevitable if he has direct evidence of Trump’s collusion and/or knowledge of collusion. Realistically Trump would have  to fire him, if only to obstruct the investigation.

Dana Boente, US Attorney for Eastern Virginia and temporary Assistant Attorney General has announced his retirement. After his long service to both Democratic and Republican administrations, it doesn’t seem too farfetched to believe that he is getting out of the way.

Procedurally, there are two ways to remove Mueller. The most direct would be for the President to order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire him (Attorney General Sessions is removed from the process due to his recusal.) Should Rosenstein refuse, Trump could fire him, and find an Acting Deputy Attorney General to do the dirty work. Currently that person would likely be Boente, who already has served as Acting Attorney General and Acting Deputy Attorney General this year.

This is similar to the “Saturday Night Massacre” of Watergate, when President Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus refused, and was fired. Next up (at that time) was Solicitor General William Bork, who complied with the Presidential order, and fired Cox. The result of the “Massacre” was that Congress appointed a new Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, who ultimately forced Nixon to release the tapes that proved his guilt in the Watergate coverup.

Special Counsel Mueller’s office exists because of Department of Justice regulation (rather than by law, as was the case with Cox and Jaworski.) The second way that President Trump could remove Mueller would be to simply re-write the regulation so that the Special Counsel office no longer exists. While Attorney General Sessions would still be recused, and Rosenstein would be unlikely to go along, there would be another option for the President. He could move Sessions from the Attorney General’s office to, say, Secretary of Homeland Security. He could then move another Cabinet officer (already approved by the Senate) into the Attorney General’s seat, and then order that person to either fire Mueller directly, or cancel the regulation.

The question remains, how will the Republicans in the House and Senate react to that action. Would, as the Congress did in 1973, they react by putting an even more protected prosecutor in, or will they, as they have demonstrated so far, go along with the Trump Administration’s continuing effort to divert?

If ultimately the Republicans in Congress are more worried about their reelection than what’s right, it will take an act of the American electorate to gain justice.   That act would be to elect Democratic majorities in 2018, who could then directly pursue impeachment. That puts us into 2019. So this may well be only; “…the end of the beginning.”

On the Right!!

On the Right!

Steve Bannon left the White House staff on August 18th.[1] For liberal/progressive types it was a great victory: Bannon, author of the “new nationalism” and seen as the origin of many of the authoritarian ideas of the Trump Presidency had finally gotten his due.

Two month out it seems the celebration was premature. Bannon himself said that he was leaving not in failure, but to take up a new role as “Trump’s wingman.”[2] At the time it looked more like a face-saving gesture, but over the last sixty days the strategy has become clear.

Bannon is now engaged in a battle to keep Republican Senators in line with the Trump “program,” and more significantly, keep them from any thought of Trump’s removal. The battle plan is simple: should a Republican Senator get out of line, Bannon will attack them through the primary system in their state with a more “suitable” Trump supporter.

It’s math. The Republican party currently represents about 29% of the voting population.[3] The “Trump Wing” of the Republican party represents about 45% of the 29%. In a primary election (in every state but California) ONLY the members of the party get to choose who gets to run for the Senate seat in the general election. That means that less than three out of ten voters will choose who the Republican Senate candidate will be. Less than half of them would be considered Trump supporters, but, as primary elections have lower voter turnouts, it’s the more motivated voters that show up.

Enter Bannon, and the 45%. Bannon has made it his role, along with the strength of Breitbart’s online presence and the fortune of the Mercer family, to make sure the 45% exerts its strength in the voting process. He can “primary” more moderate Republicans, who may be able to easily win a general election, but can’t get past the highly polarized primary process.

Just to be clear, 45% of 29% is 13% of the total voting population. So when Bannon claims that the “Trump Voters” represent America’s views, he speaks of a relatively small group. But that group has tremendous influence over the Republican party.

Here’s a couple of recent examples. In the Alabama Senatorial primary, Luther Strange was the “establishment” party candidate, versus Roy Moore the “Bannon” candidate. While there was a lot of nonsense in this particular race, essentially the scandals of both candidates cancelled each other out. Bannon backed Moore, and the “establishment” of the party (including a very wishy-washy Trump) backed Strange. Both could claim to be “Trumpian,” with Bannon stating that his candidate represented Trump’s ideas even more than Trump’s candidate did. The outcome was clear: Moore won by several points, and Bannon could crow about “protecting” Trump from the “old Republicans.”

This is the same situation that incumbent Arizona Senator Jeff Flake faced. In order to run for re-election in 2018 he would be forced to “run to the right” to fend off a challenge from a Bannon/Brietbart backed opponent. Flake, who is very conservative in overall terms, determined that he was unwilling to change his principles to win election, and withdrew from the campaign. This allowed him to speak his mind about President Trump, but it also placed the Arizona Republican Senate candidacy in the hands of a “Bannonite.”

Flake and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee have both decided not to run for reelection, and been out-spoken in their criticism of President Trump. Arizona’s other Senator, John McCain is facing terminal brain cancer, and he too is speaking up about the President. But the rest of the Republican Senate remains quiet, afraid of facing the Bannon challenge at home.

Senate and House leadership stick with their “party line:” don’t worry about what the President says or does, let’s pass the “agenda.” Whether it’s the tax reform package (a revamp of Ronald Reagan’s trickle down policies) or immigration “reform” (building a wall) they clearly want to get the most out of Trump before his walls come crashing down. They are willing to risk the Trump’s warmongering “diplomacy” in hopes of getting their legislative package through. In this, Bannon serves them as well.

There is one hope in all of this. “Bannonite” candidates for Senate are extreme, they leave much of the middle political spectrum up for grabs. Extremist candidates put states that should be solidly Republican in play for Democrats (currently in the Alabama Senate race, Republican Moore is only up 6% on Democrat Jones.) But that of course depends on the Democratic Party getting itself together for the challenge, something that it hasn’t shown itself capable of, yet.

A quick note:

New News is No News

While Trump, Bannon and Fox News will make huge noises about it, the fact that GPS Fusion (the Steele Dossier) was paid by Democrats for the later portion of the 2016 election has been known since the Dossier itself surfaced in October of 2016. That a Clinton lawyer actually was the Democrat who paid for it is no surprise, there was no other Democratic candidate interested. It also will NOT be a surprise that a Republican primary candidate began payments for the opposition research on Trump. The “fake news” is that this is “new” news.

The “spin” from Republicans, particularly House Intelligence Chair Nunes and Senate Chair Grassley, will be that since the Democrats paid for it, the Steele Dossier is “tainted” and any information that comes from it should be discarded. This is a mis-application of the legal premise, “the fruit of the poisonous tree.” That doctrine states that should police gain evidence illegally (for example, through an illegal search) that any information gained from that evidence cannot be used in court. This applies to the government in government cases and it doesn’t apply to the Steele Dossier. First, the Dossier was compiled by a private individual, and paid for by private individuals. Second, the Dossier is NOT being used as evidence, though it IS being used as a “roadmap” to find evidence.

Ultimately this is just another “shiny object” to distract from the real issues of the Trump campaign.



[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-decides-to-get-rid-of-white-house-chief-strategist-stephen-bannon/2017/08/18/98cd5c40-8430-11e7-902a-2a9f2d808496_story.html?utm_term=.86e64b0fb9f7

[2] http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/12/politics/steve-bannon-hong-kong-white-house-donald-trump/index.html

[3] http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/how-many-registered-voters-are-in-america-2016-229993



I lost a friend. My walking companion, my workmate, my backseat driver for the past nine years: I lost Dash. He was a big yellow Labrador, a dog with a smile and a nudge. He was powerful, but most gentle, especially around small children.

Three weeks ago Dash, Buddy (our Collie mix) and I went on a hike at Salt Fork Lake. We “got lost” then “got found,” my favorite kind of walk. Up hills and down, through mud and into brambles, the three of us powering through on a surprisingly hot fall day. Everyone was strong, though when this old man needed a break, Dash and Buddy were happy to wait.

It happened so fast. Dash lost so much muscle, but his belly grew bigger. The diagnosis was nothing but cancer and awfulness, future months of sickness, no recovery possible. Dash had already lost twenty pounds, and was looking at us, wondering why this was happening, snuggling, looking for a reassuring rub and word. We couldn’t put him through all of that, for nothing. Jenn and I did our best for Dash.

It’s our time in the morning now – 6 am, before Jenn and Buddy get up. Dash should wander down the hall, a smile on his face, sleepy eyes, and flop on the floor by my desk. We should have our morning “talk,” about what the day will bring, where we could walk, what else was in store. I vacuumed the carpet yesterday, but there’s still blonde hair around. And there’s a hole where Dash should be.

I’m a sixty-one year old man, and you’d think that hole wouldn’t be so large now. I mean there was Princess, Louie 1, Louie 2, Rory, Paige, and Sierra: lots of friends over the years. But Dash was special.

Jenn and I were just dating when she called and said we were going to go “look at” a dog. Some friends of hers had a farm down in Somerset, a dog had wandered onto their property and settled in with their two Labs. They had searched for the owner with no luck.

I got in Jenn’s car: there was a bowl, a collar, a leash in the back seat. We weren’t looking at a dog; we were getting a dog. When we arrived at the farm, two chocolate Labs came out to greet us – “Poop” and “Stink.” In between them, a skinny yellow Lab, the “Dash” between Poop and Stink. The name stuck, appropriate for a track coach’s dog.

Dash and Sierra went through our courtship, they moved into our house, and they watched two major construction projects and a wedding. Dash even got a “hall walk” at the high school. Dave, our contractor, pegged Dash. Even as a young dog, Dave said Dash had “an old soul.” He was a polite, appropriate dog: unless there was a “new” dog around. Then Dash would quickly become a “humper”. Sierra, a rescue Cockapoo wouldn’t take any crap from Dash: she was the “alpha” in the house. And when Buddy came into our lives, he looked to Dash to teach him right and wrong.

Buddy was a scared little guy. Dash helped Buddy learn that every stranger wasn’t an enemy, and even though Buddy would do all the barking, Dash was the one who went to the front door to see who was there. Buddy waited to see what Dash would do, then would make his move. When Buddy was being treated for lymphoma, Dash gently helped him to recover. Buddy went to Dash’s spot on the couch last night: he knows that his friend is gone. He’s a sad little guy.

So are we.

I know it will get better. And though Jenn says no now, I know we will have more dogs. Buddy is lonely, he needs more than just us as his friends. But it will be a little while, and even then, it still won’t be Dash.


Honorable Men, Dishonorable Decisions

Honorable Men, Dishonorable Decisions

Senator Bob Corker is crying out: “the emperor has no clothes!!” He is calling out the President of the United States, questioning his fitness for office, and even going so far as to call the White House, “adult day-care.” Corker, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, has already declared that he is not running for re-election in 2018. He, in his own words, “freed” to say what he is really thinking.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of events designed to distract from the failures of the Trump Administration continues. Devin Nunes, the Republican Congressman who recused himself from his chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee in regards to the Russian investigation, has now announced an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s actions in 2010 regarding Russian influence in the mining of uranium.[1] This old story, falsely declaring that Russia controls twenty percent of US uranium mining, has been debunked over and over again, but is still a “big hit” in the alt-right media.[2]

President Trump is looking to recall retired Air Force B-52 bomber pilots in order to place the strategic bomber fleet back on “ready alert” for the first time since 1991. “Ready Alert” status would place nuclear armed bombers within minutes of takeoff, an action that was important during the Cold War.[3] While North Korea does not represent the threat to our nuclear weapons that the Soviets did, placing the bombers (most far older than the crew flying them) on alert status raises the tension not just with North Korea, but with Russia and other nuclear powers. And of course, it raises the tension within Americans as well.

For the second week, the President is embroiled in the “condolence call” controversy, a “crisis” created by the President himself with his comments on Monday, October 16th, comparing his actions to other Presidents. He did this to dodge a much more significant question: what was the goal of the US Special Forces in the African nation of Niger. In the midst of this, White House Chief of Staff Kelly has been forced to re-live the military death of his own son in order to “cover” the President, and forced into more controversy with his attack on a Democratic Congresswoman who was a friend of the bereaved family.

And of course, Trump has ordered the release of the redacted Kennedy assassination files. It’s not that he’s interested in the history of the event, or that Ted Cruz’s father might be involved. He’s found a way to embarrass the intelligence community, even if it’s fifty-five year old information.[4]

Distract, divert, disconcert: the Trump plan is clear. Keep the American politic in turmoil, prevent focus on two issues: the danger his continued Presidency represents, and the illegitimacy that may soon be proved.

The Mueller investigation moves on, reaching higher into the Trump administration, with interviews of Spicer, Preibus, and others. The Senate committee is also continuing, where at least one other Republican (Senator Richard Burr) making a sincere effort towards impartiality.

And in areas that are less well known, there are continued investigations into whether the actual vote itself was tampered with in key states: particularly Wisconsin and Michigan.[5] An independent group “Unhack the Vote,” raises questions about the legitimacy of the voting process itself [6], even though Mike Pompeo, Director of Central Intelligence, still proclaims that “the election outcome was unaffected by Russian interference.”[7]

The Republican leadership, despite the constant barrage of tweeted insults, continuing to try to focus on their “agenda.” Their actions smack of desperation, trying to get something done before the Presidential crisis becomes overwhelming. There should come a time when Republicans start acting as Americans rather than politicians who are so worried about their own next election. Corker, and McCain have freed themselves from the shackles of politics, and are showing that Profile in Courage. There are other honorable Republicans who need to do the same.


Two items to keep an eye on:

The Puerto Rican power grid is now in the hands of a three-person company operating out of the Montana hometown of Interior Secretary Zinke.  Does it smell like a corrupt deal?  Maybe..


After John McCain’s comment about President Trump’s draft avoidance do to “bone spurs” this was good for a laugh:




[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/house-leaders-launch-new-probe-into-obama-era-uranium-deal/2017/10/24/2d7e0c5c-b8d6-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.208beafec3c0

[2] http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/10/23/7-uranium-one-facts-every-american-should-know/

[3] http://www.newsweek.com/nuclear-bombers-poised-return-24-hour-alert-after-trump-recalls-retired-pilots-690403

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trump-plans-to-release-of-jfk-assassination-documents-despite-concerns-from-federal-agencies/2017/10/21/d036cf36-b65d-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?tid=pm_pop&utm_term=.a1c9fb3299eb

[5] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/did-russia-hack-the-2016-vote-tally-this-senator-says-we-dont-know-for-sure/

[6] https://www.unhackthevote.com/tag/wi/

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-director-distorts-intelligence-communitys-findings-on-russian-interference/2017/10/19/d7f8e05e-b4ed-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.5e11bffe563a

Take Increased Devotion

Take Increased Devotion

There are, or should be, actions and symbols in America that are beyond the crassness of politics. The sacrifice of those who died in battle, the loss felt by their loved ones, the suffering of captivity and of injury: all are too important to make part of the common rhetoric. Yes, politicians have “waved the bloody shirt” (thus the phrase), but they have usually done so in a way which maintained the honor of those lost. Until this recent campaign cycle, when we met Donald Trump.

It started when then-candidate Trump decided that he “didn’t like” pilots who got captured, he wanted his heroes to be those who didn’t get captured. He was specifically talking about Senator John McCain, who spent many years as a captive of the North Vietnamese.   McCain, his aircraft shot down, captured, tortured; offered early release (a gesture by the enemy to his father the commander of the US Pacific fleet.) He refused, waiting his turn to be released as the prisoners slowly began their flights home. He is the DEFINITION of a hero.

But Trump, a man who gained five draft deferments to avoid Vietnam, the last for heel spurs; needed to somehow put McCain down in order to raise his own candidacy. It wasn’t about Trump’s service or lack of it, it was about lack of respect for those who did serve. He attacked McCain’s heroism, and he got away with it.

Thus emboldened, Trump went farther. When Khzir Khan, the father of Army Captain Humayun Khan killed in Iraq, dared to criticize Trump in a speech at the Democratic convention, Trump attacked both Khan and his family. Up until then, “gold star” families had been sacred, their loss and grief insuring their protection: no longer.

As President, Trump now has the obligation of representing our nation to those families. Over the past couple of weeks, he has failed to publically acknowledge the loss of four Green Berets in the African nation of Niger. He tried to claim that he did more than President Obama, and that he would eventually make the calls, dragging General Kelly’s personal loss (his son was killed in Afghanistan) into the discussion. When he finally did call, the families received cold comfort from Trump’s phrase, “he knew what he signed up for.” They know.

Or is it more likely that the White House staff didn’t want the President to talk about Niger (pronounced Nee-jeer) because they were afraid he would mispronounce it, making the obvious error that every seventh grader in geography giggled about. He’s already proven that he’s not familiar with Africa; ask the leaders of “Naam-bia” (that’s Na-mi-bia.)

And he now goes after McCain again, even as the Senator faces a malignant brain tumor. McCain, receiving the Liberty Medal, “dared” to criticize the brand of nationalism that Trump represents. “At some point I’ll fight back, and it won’t be pretty,” threatened the President. McCain responded that he only reacts to the President’s actions not words, and besides, he had faced far tougher opponents in his life

Trump is a President who has wrapped himself in the American Flag. He demands that the protests of NFL players against police discrimination stop. They are “taking a knee” during the National Anthem, and, according to him, they are dishonoring American veterans in doing so. Trump claims that the Flag and the Anthem represent those that defend America who fought and died for those symbols.

It’s hard to imagine a man who could be more disrespectful to veterans than the President. But past that, he is co-opting the flag for his own political uses. Much as the Confederate Battle Flag, once representing the armies of the South, was taken over and used by the purveyors of fear and racism; so President Trump is trying to define the Stars and Stripes for his own uses. To him the Flag doesn’t represent freedom of speech, it doesn’t represent equality in America. He has taken it for his own nationalistic cause.

The “cause” Trump refers to, is the narrow, nationalist, exclusive ideal of the United States proclaimed by Steve Bannon and the alt-right. It is difficult to imagine that this is the same “cause” that Abraham Lincoln referred to in the Gettysburg Address:

“…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”

“…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.”

It is not about whether the NFL players are right or wrong to kneel, it is about their right to do so. It is not about paying lip service to veterans and their families. It is about truly respecting their service and their sacrifice. They, and the flag, should not be pawns in this political game.

This Ain’t our First Rodeo

This Ain’t our First Rodeo

There are times I revert back to the history teacher I used to be!!!!

It was a tumultuous time. The United States, after years of struggle, finally made huge advances in the rights of minorities. When it seemed like that struggle was finally won, the President of the United States seemed to undo all of the victories. That President, whose legitimacy in office was questioned, was in a death struggle with the Congress for the power to govern the country. In the middle was the military; the Generals who were the only figures that the nation could trust.

It sounds like Trump, the Congressional Committees, and Mattis-Kelly-McMasters. It sounds like the kind of struggle we are fighting, a struggle seeming to threaten the very core of our Republic. It sounds like the loss of rights for minorities, women, immigrants, the LGBTQ. It sounds like today.

It was 1866. That violent struggle was America’s Civil War, where one out of thirty Americans was killed. The minorities were not only the freed slaves, but also native Americans and women. After all of the bloodletting culminating with the murder of Abraham Lincoln, the war was finally over, the nation re-united. The “Freedmen” looked to become full citizens, and the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution seemed to guarantee that outcome.

Andrew Johnson was the Vice President who replaced Lincoln. In school we were taught that Johnson was a failure; showed up to his inauguration drunk, and was suitably impeached by the Congress. In reality, Johnson was a self-made man, who took minimal education and turned in into a successful political career. He courageously was the only US Senator from a Confederate state to remain with the Union, he became the military governor of recaptured Tennessee, and he joined the “unity” ticket with Lincoln in the election of 1864.

With Congress in recess, Johnson was the sole power in the months after the end of the Civil War. His view, like Lincoln’s, was that the rebellious states should return as soon as possible. But as a Southerner he believed that the freed slaves represented a danger that needed to be controlled. As the former Confederate states began to enact the infamous “black codes” to keep Freedmen “in their place, ” Johnson encouraged their return to the nation.

Standing in the way was another figure maligned by history. Ulysses S. Grant was the commanding general of the US Army, then in occupation of the rebellious states. Grant, described by our school history as a drunk who was willing to “waste” his men in battle, was actually neither. As he rose in rank during the war, he also matured in attitude. He recognized the value of the Freedmen through their valor on the battlefield. He understood the world altering results of the Civil War, and he was unwilling to allow those gains to be lost. He saw himself as the protector of the sacrifice.

But Grant also understood the American tradition of civilian control of the military. He tread a thin line as the General in Chief, ordering his occupying generals to protect the Freedmen, while staying within the orders of his Commander in Chief.

To the nation, Grant was a hero behind only Washington and Lincoln. As the Johnson Administration slowly dissolved, surviving removal from office by a single vote in the Senate, Grant became the obvious choice for President. Here was the General, who would try to stand up for the Freedmen and the Native Americans as well as the poor “dirt farmer,” where Grant himself began.

And he did, or at least he tried. As President, Grant used the power of the Federal government to put down the powerful Ku Klux Klan and he reorganized the reservation system with the goal of bringing the tribes into the mainstream culture. And while his Administration ultimately became bogged down in financial scandal, Grant remained clear of the stain.

This story does not really have a happy ending. When Grant left office, the Hayes/Tilden deal was struck, ending reconstruction and beginning the “Jim Crow Era” of segregation. The “Gilded Age” of America of the late 1800’s was the age of industrialism and “robber barons,” when millions of dollars were made by the Carnegie’s and Mellon’s and Morgan’s; and the working class struggled in our newly crowded cities. It would be another sixty years before workers rights were recognized, and eighty years before the civil rights that Grant hoped for would start to become real.

But America survived.   As the Constitution set forth, we continued to become “more perfect.” In our present: with a President who has no understanding of compassion, where we face crisis throughout the world with a gaping hole in place of strong leadership, where we are faced with the ugly twins of racism and nationalism; we need to understand that we have been in crisis before. We have been through the crucible of disaster, and we have emerged stronger. This ain’t our first rodeo.

Clouds of Hate

Clouds of Hate

As a self-described member of the “Resistance,” I am still holding my breath for the results of the Mueller Investigation and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The fact that Mueller and the Senate are trying to follow up on the Steele Dossier gives even more credence to the possibility that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian Government to win the election. The investigations and their inevitable results in the Courts and the Congress are still to come. We have a long way to go.

But it has become more apparent that the Trump Administration is doing damage every day: damage to America, to the rights of all citizens, and to a nation “…dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Today the White House announced that women’s birth control is no longer guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act. If a woman works for an employer who has religious or moral (there’s a vague term if there every was one) objections, the employer can get exempted from providing birth control. This could have dramatic impact on particular areas of employment: hospitals, many managed by Catholic Church agencies, may claim the exemption, leaving their women employees without insured birth control. (I’m sure the insurance will continue to cover Viagra.)

This is part of the ongoing war the Trump Administration is waging on women’s health rights. Many of the proposals for changes to health insurance would allow insurers to charge women higher rates than men since they have the “pre-existing condition” of being a woman. Add this to the attacks on women’s right to choose (the House passed a bill this week criminalizing abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy) and it’s clear that the goal of the Administration and the Republican majority is to “de-equalize” women.

Yesterday Attorney General Sessions issued a statement that the Justice Department does not consider discrimination against trans-gendered people as discrimination based on sex, and therefore they are not protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This continues to roll back  LGBTQ rights gained over the past two decades, as the Department now claims that the legal definition of gender is “biological” only. Taken to its logical conclusion, discrimination based on “gender-identification,” and potentially sexual preference as well, will no longer be considered a “civil right” by the US Government.

This week the Justice Department also filed a brief supporting the right of a business to deny service to folks who do meet their approved sexual preference. This was the case of the baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding, but it isn’t too far a reach to see this legal precedent rolling into all sorts of public life. This is the kind of discrimination that Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s “sat in” to end: Attorney General (Jefferson Beauregard) Session has allowed its return.

And finally, the President himself clearly demonstrated his own prejudices this week in his “disaster” appearances. In Puerto Rico, the President complained about the cost of rebuilding, he questioned the willingness of Puerto Ricans to work, and he did little more than congratulate the Federal employees on their efforts. He failed to show empathy, and even made light of the shortages (tossing a few rolls of paper towels out.)

In contrast, in Las Vegas he went to the hospitals, he talked to the survivors and the first responders: he was clearly more comfortable among “his” people.  The difference: a President who is ill at ease among Hispanics, but “just fine” in the remains of a Vegas “country concert.” One wonders whether he would have been so quick to sympathize if the concert had been “Life is Beautiful” or “Lallapalooza” (not so much his base.)

So while we wait for the answers about the legitimacy of the Trump Presidency, remember that the work of the Alt-Right goes on, making Americans less equal. It is the tremendous price we pay for the results of last year: we are surrounded by “clouds of hate.”

Guns and Sadness

Guns and Sadness

I live in Pataskala.  It’s twenty miles east of Columbus, Ohio, and when I moved here forty years ago it was a little farming community, with a grain elevator and two small restaurants “downtown.”  Today, it’s a suburb; the grain elevator is left to equipment storage and rodents, and the restaurants downtown have been replaced by McDonalds, Wendys, Taco Bell and Subway, all lined up on the main highway.  Oh, and there’s a new “coffee house” trying to make it “downtown.”

And while rural Pataskala went away many years ago, there still remains the political views of folks who actually knew the difference between a John Deere and a Massey-Ferguson (for my “city” friends, those are two brands of tractors, like Chevy and Ford.)  The NRA (National Rifle Association) doesn’t publish statistics by community, but I’d bet Pataskala has a large group of card-carrying members.  Our friends and neighbors enjoy hunting and shooting, and don’t have far to go to get to the nearest gun shop (downtown) or shooting range (up the street.)

So I live in “gun country.”  And while I am often uncomfortable with the truly “open carry” guys with pistols on their hips, I don’t criticize their desire to go have “some fun” shooting.  They are responsible, and they are more aware than most about the dangers their guns represent.

I also believe in the Second Amendment.  That will surprise many, but my rationale stems from my hardcore belief in the First, Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments (and the others.)  How can I demand respect for those, when I discount and disdain the Second?  It might be different if someday we reached a point where the Second itself was in question, but we aren’t there, and you ignore it at the peril of the rest.

I write this two days after the carnage in Las Vegas, where a man with multiple firearms was able to kill and maim hundreds at a concert.  This wasn’t Al Qaeda or Isis, it doesn’t even seem to be politically inspired, a Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City) moment.  No, this was truly the crazy guy with a gun.

Or more exactly, the crazy guy on the 32nd floor, with twenty-three weapons, including two modified semi-automatic rifles.[1]  They were modified, legally, for rapid fire, so that each time the trigger was pulled the “kick” of the bullet leaving the gun would trigger the next pull.  This “bump stock” is a perfectly legal modification, even though fully automatic rifles (machine guns) have been outlawed to the public for many years.

He also had “high capacity” magazines, to reduce the number of times he would have to stop and reload.[2]  And he was firing bullets with an effective range of over 1000 yards, so the 500 to 600 yards to the stage with easy.  So at least fifty-nine were killed, and hundreds injured.  Undoubtedly some were trampled, but the crazy guy on the 32nd floor was able to maintain a rain of fire for over ten minutes.  From the stories told by survivors, he was aiming at those who got up and ran.

And, for those who say how did a guy walk through the lobby of the Mandalay Bay hotel with that many firearms, keep in mind that there is a gun show is Las Vegas every week, and all of these firearms were legal.

So while I respect the Second Amendment, and I respect my friends and neighbors, can’t we draw some conclusions from what happened?  I know the excuses; “no one can stop a madman,” and “it takes a human to pull the trigger,” but can’t we do better than this?

Can’t we say, without infringing on the Second Amendment, that folks shouldn’t be able to go to the local store and buy a gun that can be converted to an automatic weapon?  Can’t we say that other than “it’s fun to do,” we don’t really have a use for high capacity magazines?  Can’t we look at what kind of bullets are being sold, and say that ones that resemble what the Army fires from their rifles shouldn’t be for public use?  Can’t we do these things, without threatening the deer hunter, and the target shooter, or the gun collector?

And can’t we say that a gun, like a car, should require licensing?  While my car can be a lethal weapon, that isn’t what it was designed for, and we still regulate every aspect of it. I can’t drive a race car on the streets.  We control who can, and who can’t drive.  Why can’t we do that for guns, assuming that we respect that it remains a Constitutional right?

Just raising these questions is a dangerous business.  In politics (at least in Ohio) stating what seems to be obvious will lose the state in a heartbeat.  But, unless you need assault weapons for when the “black helicopters” come to take away your freedom, is there any other use for these weapons of war? (And I need to point out, the “black helicopter” people are going be so outgunned if that really happens, they don’t stand a chance.)

I know it must be fun to fire a machine gun.  But is my ability to “have fun” enough to keep these weapons out there?  And for those who say: “it’s too late, there’s too many;” you have to begin.  Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or next year, but ten or twenty years from now we would have a safer country. It worked in Australia.[3] Crazy guys on the 32nd floor could still get pistols, and knives, and axes.  And all of that is a hell of a lot better than what they can get now.

Listening to Tom Petty as I write.  His words are a part of many great memories in my life.  RIP


[1] http://www.tmz.com/2017/10/03/las-vegas-massacre-shooter-stephen-paddock-hotel-room-bullets-guns/

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/10/02/video-from-las-vegas-suggests-automatic-gunfire-heres-what-makes-machine-guns-different/?utm_term=.0e9ab6f867e4

[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/10/australia-gun-control/541710/