The Buffalo shooter had plenty of co-conspirators: the Republican Party and Fox News stars

Commentary

By spewing “race replacement theory,” the right, politicians and pundits alike, are culpable in this massacre. As is GOP leadership for their criminal inaction for not reigning in the crackpots in their party or supporting gun control.

The mass shooting in Buffalo on Saturday was tragic. It was horrific. Average people out food shopping at one of the only supermarkets in this predominately Black neighborhood in Buffalo didn’t come home that day. The security guard at the store, a retired Buffalo police officer, tried to defend the shoppers by shooting at the perpetrator but his bullets were useless against the bullet-proof vest/body armor the shooter wore. Out gunned, this brave soul was murdered as well.

I’d say, “my thoughts and prayers” go out to the families of the victims, but I won’t. I won’t because that’s the knee jerk response of politicians, mostly Republican, and right-wing pundits, mostly on Fox, after a rampage, after an affront to our society, occurs. 

Do you ever wonder why these political charlatans can only offer “thoughts and prayers?” I know why: because in their minds, the victims are not “their society.” They’re interlopers out to get them and their way of life. The “white,” “Christian” way of life. These elected officials and wannabees know, deep in their souls, that they are the root cause of appalling massacres like the one in Buffalo. They are the root cause because of what they say and what they won’t do. 

The 18-year old Buffalo shooter will be tried. He will be convicted. Hopefully he will be sentenced to life in prison with no opportunity for parole. And his enablers? They’ll go scot-free. Even worse, given the nature of our political system with gerrymandered districts and voter suppression, not only will the politicians who informed the shooter’s hate not be punished, they’ll be rewarded. If polls are correct, most of them will be elected again by the people, who like the shooter, are followers of, as Max Boot of The Washington Post  opined in a column following the shooting, “two of the most appalling ideas that have taken root in America: the ‘great replacement’ theory and opposition to gun control.”

And the pundits? Their reward for their fear mongering? Ever higher ratings and ever bigger salaries. 

Boot goes on, based on the shooter’s ‘manifesto:’ “Like many of the right, he is enraged by what he imagines to be ‘mass migration’ and is convinced that it will ‘destroy our cultures, destroy our peoples,’” going on to write, “But his repugnant views are not confined to an obscure corner of the internet. They have become mainstream within the Republican Party.” (emphasis, mine)

Some examples:

  • Fox’s most popular star, Tucker Carlson, suggested last year that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting votes, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.” This idea was articulated by his Fox colleague, Laura Ingraham as well.   
  • Elected GOP officials including Rep Matt Gaetz (FL), Rep. Scott Perry (PA) and Sen. Ron Johnson (WI) have espoused “great replacement” theory. 
  • A GOP candidate for Senate in Arizona, Blake Masters, posted a video after the Buffalo shooting saying, “The Democrats want open borders so they can bring in and amnesty **tens of millions** of illegal aliens — that’s their electoral strategy.”
  • Ohio GOP senatorial candidate, J.D. Vance (whose views on key issues have flip-flopped almost as much as Dr. Oz’s) said that Democrats and their “plan” to open the borders are creating “a shift in the democratic makeup of this country,” and that President Biden is deliberating letting fentanyl into the country “to kill a bunch of MAGA voters in the middle of the heartland.”

The GOP electorate, not surprisingly, seems to buy into this garbage. A poll in December found that nearly half of all Republicans believe that there is a plot to “replace” native-born Americans with immigrants.

Regarding gun control, Boot writes, “The Buffalo terrorist, like so many other mass shooters, used an assault weapon. In his manifesto, he expressed concern that, after his attack, ‘gun control policies will be brought forth to the state and federal government,’ including ‘Calls to ban high-capacity magazines, assault weapons including AR-15’s, and even items such as body armor.’ He need not worry: Republicans will never permit these sensible reforms to pass.

On the same day in The Post, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Eugene Robinson, opined, “Do not dare write off the shooter as somehow uniquely ‘troubled.’ Those Black victims were murdered by white supremacy, which grows today in fertile soil nourished not just by fringe-dwelling racists but by politicians and other opportunists who call themselves mainstream.”

Michael Gerson, a Post columnist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, opined, “…the racist ideas closely associated with such killing are being granted impunity daily within the Republican Party. The problem is not just that a few loudmouths are saying racist things. It is the general refusal of Republican ‘leaders’ to excommunicate officials who embrace replacement theory. The refusal of Fox News to fire the smiling, public faces of a dangerous, racist ideology. This much needs to be communicated — by all politicians and commentators — with clarity: No belief that likens our fellow citizens to invaders and encourages racist dehumanization is an American belief.”

What will it take for GOP politicians to stand down from fear mongering for political gain? What will it take for “news” organizations like Fox to stop their stars from spewing lies and hate on air? 

It better take something. Because it can only get worse.

Witch hunt here, witch hunt there, is there a witch hunt everywhere?

Commentary

But, what is a “witch hunt” anyway?

With the news that the five GOP Congressmen who have been subpoenaed by the January 6th Committee characterizing the subpoenas as a “witch hunt,” I thought it appropriate to take a quick look at what a witch hunt is.

Oxford, which naturally uses the English spelling of the word, “witch-hunt,” defines it, historically as, “a search for and subsequent persecution of a supposed witch.” Collins, which agrees with Oxford on the English spelling, takes a somewhat more contemporary approach: “A witch-hunt is an attempt to find and punish a particular group of people who are being blamed for something, often simply because of their opinions and not because they have actually done anything wrong. And Merriam-Webster? They hedge the bet, using the American spelling, witch hunt, and both an historical and contemporary definition: ” 1) a searching out for persecution of persons accused of witchcraft; and 2) the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (such as political opponents) with unpopular views.

Whatever the definition, I can almost guarantee that the term has been uttered or written more often in the last several years than in all the time since it’s original use in the 19th century. (While “witch hunting” dates back to the 17th century, the use of the noun describing the act was documented significantly later, according to Merriam-Webster).

How often?

  • Trump used the term 84 times in describing the Mueller probe, according to The Atlantic. (Vox puts it at “more than 120…, but who’s counting?)
  • The Guardian reported that Trump used the term “…approximately once every three days on average during his presidency and not only in connection with his impeachment trial. He continued to use it later in the year to describe accusations that he mismanaged America’s Covid-19 response, inquiries into his tax returns, an investigation into alleged criminal conduct at the Trump Organization and other controversies.”
    • No mathematician I, but a quick calculation of “once every three days” resulted in 486 uses during his time in office. And, we all know he didn’t stop after that.

But it’s not just Trump. Just about every GOP politician who faces scrutiny has used the term. Even Trump’s favorite Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has invoked it. Of course he probably said it this way: צַיִד מְכַשֵׁפוֹת.

The term has been so overused even witches are up in arms! Back in 2018, The Daily Beast headlined a story, Witches to Trump: Stop Calling the Mueller Investigation a ‘Witch Hunt’ going on to report, “The witch community is tired of the president invoking the worst moment in their history to serve his political needs.”

With that witch hunting perspective, let’s get back to our most current witch hunt, using Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent summary as our guide.

Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas for testimony to five members of Congress: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representatives Scott Perry (R-PA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Mo Brooks (R-AL). The committee previously invited them to cooperate voluntarily, and they refused. The committee has evidence that these five, in particular, know crucial things about the events of January 6 and activities surrounding the attempt to overturn President Joe Biden’s election. 

McCarthy communicated with Trump before, during, and after the attack on January 6th. A recently released tape shows McCarthy claiming that Trump admitted some guilt over the attack.  

Perry tried to install Trump loyalist Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general to overturn the election. 

Jordan was part of meetings and discussions after the election to overturn its results. He also communicated with Trump on January 6th, including in the morning, before the attack took place.

Biggs was part of the planning for January 6, including the plan to bring protesters to Washington, D.C. He also worked to convince state officials that the election was stolen. Former White House officials say Biggs sought a presidential pardon in connection with the attempt to overturn the election results. 

Wearing body armor, Brooks spoke at the January 6 rally, where he told rioters to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Since then, he has said Trump tried to get him to help “rescind the election of 2020” and put Trump back in the White House.

Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said: “We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty, and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done.”

In my mind, these five elected officials, who, remember, took an Oath of Office in which they swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” are giving witches a bad name.

But, you be the judge. Is the Committee’s effort to receive testimony from five Congressmen who not only might have inside knowledge of the planning of the January 6 insurrection but. may in fact, been part of that planning and even, particularly in the case of Brooks, its execution, a witch hunt or a legitimate inquiry into the facts that led to the great number of “domestic enemies” who attempted to overturn an election and the legal and legitimate transfer of government from one president to another?

This, my friends is not a difficult question to answer.

(One definitional point before I sign off. Since almost all the GOP “witches” being hunted are men, isn’t the use of the term, “witch hunt,” not only an affront to their sense of “justice,” but also to their manhood? Given that, and if only for their self-esteem, I would hope that these Republicans who believe they are being unjustifiably “persecuted,” use the more appropriate term, “warlock hunt,” to describe future hunts.)

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

Commentary

Almost 164 years later, those words are truer than ever.

On June 16, 1858, in accepting the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as that state’s U.S. senator, Abraham Lincoln began his speech with these words:

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

At the time, the divide Lincoln was referring to was slavery. He went on:

“I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

164 years later, our house is once again gravely divided.

Lincoln’s divide caused 11 Southern states to secede from the Union he hoped would not dissolve. It precipitated a war between those 11 states and the 25 remaining Union states, the American Civil War, in which over 618,000 soldiers were killed, 360,000 Union and 258,00 Confederate. The Civil War is the conflict with the largest number of American military fatalities in history.

But, as Lincoln expected, ultimately, the house did not fall and, on the issue of slavery, it ceased to be divided and became all one thing.

And now? The American house is deeply divided on many, many issues. Do we believe that this government, this democracy, can endure half red and half blue? Particularly given that the red “half” is really less than half. And, given the convoluted rule of the minority I’ve written about in the last few posts, that less than half is driving what happens in this country. Unfortunately, if you believe the prognosticators, it is very likely that the minority red half will take over both houses of Congress in the 2022 elections and, very possibly the presidency in 2024. That’s right, our divided house will be run completely by the minority who will have complete control of every branch of government: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.

In 1858, Lincoln did not expect his house to fall. In 2022, two-thirds of the government is in the hands of the majority blue half. Despite that, our house is crumbling before our very eyes. Lincoln had to fight a horrific war to make his house all one thing, to cease to be divided. What kind of war do we have to fight? What kind of war can we win?

The systems are stacked against democracy: the Senate is inherently anti-democratic and the filibuster makes it more so; gerrymandering and red state voter suppression schemes will inevitably make the House of Representative un-democratic as well; the Electoral College has given us two minority presidents since 2000; two current seats on the Supreme Court were illegitimately (but apparently legally) stolen by the GOP while four of the nine sitting justices were nominated by minority presidents; unrestricted SCOTUS approved dark money (“corporations are people too”) has made of mockery of the idea that elections are decided by the people.

While reforming the Electoral Process is virtually impossible, there are ways to fix the Senate and the Supreme Court. Here are two:

Fix the Senate by starting the statehood process for the District of Columbia (a non-state with a population larger than Wyoming and Vermont), and Puerto Rico (a non-state with a population larger than 19 states). Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico is both fair and logical. Doing so would expand the Senate from 100 to 104. And, since DC and Puerto Rico are both deep blue, those additional four senators would be held by Democrats helping to level the playing field.

Expand the Supreme Court. As I wrote back in October 2020 in response to the Amy Coney Barrett debacle, it’s doable, as Adam Serwer of The Atlantic wrote back then in his piece. ‘The Supreme Court Is Helping Republicans Rig Elections – Adding more justices to the bench might be the only way to stop them. At the time I suggested that “while Serwer is focussing on elections and SCOTUS’ impact on the sanctity of the voting franchise, we all know their devious impact extends much, much further and will, negatively and frighteningly effect our entire way of life.” Given the most recent SCOTUS activity, wasn’t I prescient!

Here’s that October 2020 post, A Case for Packing The Court, which includes a link to Serwer’s article. (https://around-the-block.com/2020/10/27/a-case-for-packing-the-court/)

These are two of the wars we should fight and wars we can win. There are more. But, as I wrote back in 2020: It’s time to stop playing nice and do something!

One last thing: just as I was about to publish, this came across the AP newswire. I felt compelled to share it because apparently the situation in the Union, fueled by his Republican Party has become so dire, Lincoln was moved to speak one last time:

Minority rule in America is actually worse than you think

Commentary

In a recent state-by-state survey, only seven states, representing less than 9% of the population, are strongly against legal abortion while 26 states (59% of the population) are strongly for it!

I wanted to post a quick follow-up to yesterday’s column, “Is it ‘ennui’ or ‘depression?'” and more specifically to that column’s sub-headline, “Whatever it is, it’s driven by America’s convoluted rule of the minority!” (https://around-the-block.com/2022/05/04/is-it-ennui-or-depression/)

The New York Times published results of a survey that dug deeper into the majority/minority dichotomy I wrote about yesterday. This survey drilled down, beneath the national numbers that indicate a majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, to show how the pro-life/pro-choice numbers are reflected by state. The numbers are stunning!

The study, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, Pew Research Center and the Guttmacher Institute, ranks states on the basis of “Support for legal abortion” in which the difference between those who say abortion should be legal in most or all cases and those who say it should be illegal in most or all cases is calculated.

Here’s a map of the findings:

You only need a quick glance at the map to see where this is going. But, if you’re like me and are more comfortable with the data and stats than the pictures, allow me to flesh this out for you.

Of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, 26 strongly support legal abortion. Those 26 states represent a population of 199,200,905 or 59.3% of the U.S. population.

Seven states, representing 28,814,107 (8.6%) strongly oppose legal abortion.

The remaining 18 states, representing 108,075,291 (32.2%) either moderately support or are moderately against legal abortion.

Here’s the rankings detail:

Referring back to yesterday’s column, I’m not sure how more evidence we need to support the claim that “America is driven by the convoluted rule of the minority!”

Now the question is…what’s to be done?

Is it “ennui” or “depression?”

Commentary

Whatever it is, it’s driven by America’s convoluted rule of the minority!

In my last column, “Around the Block catches up on the not so good news” (https://around-the-block.com/2022/05/03/around-the-block-catches-up-on-the-not-so-good-news/), I speculated that one of the reasons I hadn’t posted anything in over a month was due to ennui…boredom, lethargy, weariness. A reader, and a good friend, commented that my lack of productivity wasn’t ennui, it was depression writing, “Not ennui, but depression. Any American who is not depressed is not paying attention.”

This reader and my friend is a physician, but not a psychiatrist or psychologist. But he’s correct, if only partially. Partially in that his diagnosis should probably have been, “Any American in the majority who is not depressed is not paying attention.” Because as far as I can see, Americans in the minority are in a state of ecstasy!

Let’s start with the big news of the week, the leaked draft Supreme Court majority opinion that, as written and if passed, will overturn Roe v. Wade. Now let’s be clear, this is the original draft opinion which, based on how SCOTUS works, will most probably be somewhat different in detail in its final form. And, there’s no guarantee that all the conservative justices will sign on to this view. But, if they do, it will become the law of the land.

But, whose land?

Apparently, based on the latest polling in The Washington Post, the minority’s land. In a poll conducted between April 24-28, “…the survey finds that 54 percent of Americans think the 1973 Roe decision should be upheld while 28 percent believe it should be overturned — a roughly 2-to-1 margin.

And remember, if the prognosticators are right, four of the five justices who might sign on to this opinion were nominated by presidents who were elected by a minority of voters.

There’s more to this depression/ecstasy dichotomy, however.

Today, in an article in The New Yorker entitled, “Justice Alito’s Draft Ruling on Abortion Shows the Need to Curb Minority Rule,” writer John Cassidy opines, “If the Justices who have made the Supreme Court an agent of conservative counter-revolution overturn Roe v. Wade, there is no reason to believe that they will stop there.”

Cassidy goes on, writing about one way to counter the tyranny of the minority is to eliminate the Senate filibuster. 

“…it’s difficult to see how Senate Democrats could get the sixty votes needed to end the filibuster…” going on to write, “Also, it is not as if the U.S. system doesn’t have other checks on the majority. The Electoral College and the Senate were both designed, at least in part, to avoid plebiscitary rule. In the current environment, the real danger is too little majority rule rather than too much of it.” (emphasis mine)  

The systems and procedures in place that have led to the ecstasy of the minority and the depression of the majority in this country include: the filibuster; indeed the Senate itself, in which the senators representing Wyoming (population, 585,501) have the same power and influence as those representing California (population, 38,959,247); and, the Electoral College, which has thrown the election to two presidents (Bush – 2000; Trump – 2016) since 2000 who received fewer popular votes than their rivals; are virtually impossible to change. 

Of course, there is a reasonable work-around that might level the Red/Blue playing field: statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 

Think about it. If there are two Dakotas, two Carolinas and two Virginias, isn’t it appropriate that at least one DC and one PR become states? Not only could that move level the playing, it might also help cure a major mental health issue affecting more than half the country.

Around the Block catches up on the not so good news

Commentary

April wasn’t a great news month for the country and the world. May is starting out just as bad!

It’s been a while since the last Around the Block. Over a month in fact since my last post on March 30. That post was called, “Cruising, Covid, and Trump being Trump.” (https://around-the-block.com/2022/03/30/cruising-covid-and-trump-being-trump/). I checked back and found I was particularly prolific in March:

And since then, silence, nothing, nada.

Continue reading “Around the Block catches up on the not so good news”

Cruising, Covid, and Trump being Trump

Commentary

What I learned about America and Covid from a cruise vacation and its aftermath

Today is Wednesday, March 30, 2022. After returning from an eight-day Caribbean cruise on Sunday I began to get flu-like symptoms. I took a rapid Covid-19 at home on Monday morning. It was positive. I don’t know if any of you have taken this test, but there are some very specific directions; one is to not read any results until the 15-minute requisite time frame is completed. For this particular test, the positive result is identified by a red bar on the test strip. Mine turned red almost immediately. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I waited, hoping that at 14:30 into the time frame, the red bar would start disappearing. No such luck. A PCR test I took yesterday will double confirm. Until then, I’m quarantining at home, coughing and NyQuilling away

I came out of the cruise with two take-aways: 1) Covid is still with us, so don’t let down your guard. I did, and am suffering the consequences; and 2) There are lots, and I mean lots, of Trump supporters out there. And they will not back down on their belief that their man is possibly not only the greatest president, but perhaps the greatest man of all time.

Needless to say, I listened when conversations veered into politics (“…boy, that DeSantis is doing a great job in Florida…”), or the Russian invasion of Ukraine (“…if Trump was president this wouldn’t have happened…”) or January 6 and the election (“…Trump won, the election was stolen, stop the steal…”) and didn’t engage.

I left my liberal bubble when I moved from Northern California in 2018. Palm Beach County is not deep blue, but it is blue. Most of my friends are like-minded on almost every issue of importance. Outside south Florida, the state, led by a “faux” right-wing, deceitful, presidential wanna-be governor is, if not deep red, red none-the-less. (I say “faux” because like many of his Ivy League educated youngish, Republican politicians, it is difficult to know whether he believes in the garbage he spews and the laws he signs or if he does it for only one purpose – his own political gain.)

My quarantine is allowing me to watch and read the news even more than usual, if that is actually possible. And, this morning I heard a news item that was so incredible, it actually stopped my coughing in its tracks.

As reported by CNN (and other news outlets)

In a new interview published Tuesday, former President Donald Trump called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release any damaging information he has about the Biden family, in a brazen request for domestic political assistance from America’s top adversary.

It’s the latest example of Trump’s willingness to solicit and embrace domestic political help from foreign powers – even from Putin, who is currently overseeing a bloody war against Ukraine.

In an interview with “JustTheNews,” [a far-right media news site] Trump pushed an unproven claim about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Russia, and asked Putin to release any information that he might have about the situation. It’s not clear that any material exists, or if the Kremlin has access to it.

Here’s the interview:

And here’s CNN’s fact-check on the issue:

CNN fact-check

Let’s unpack this.

Just weeks after praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “savvy,” and “genius” for his unprovoked attack on Ukraine, the FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, more specifically, the MOST RECENT FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, the FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES who, while president, attempted to extort Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelinsky to provide dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for the weaponry that Zelinsky needed to thwart a potential Russian attack, that FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES is pandering and reaching out to a man conducting an illegal, bloody, brutal war against a sovereign country and, in so doing is, along with his commanders and enablers, perpetrating what will unquestionably be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity when this war is over.

Oh, to be back on board that ship, if only to listen to what my Trump-loving shipmates are saying in defense of their hero. But why go back on the ship to find out since I know that they’ll simply be parroting what Tucker Carlson, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Marjorie Taylor Greene and their ilk say?

Kind of makes you want to…quarantine yourself until it’s over. I’m just not sure what “it” is, or how I will know if “it’s over.”

Can it get any worse? I’m talking about Ketanji Brown Jackson’s SCOTUS confirmation hearings!

Commentary

When you combine the reprehensible conduct of GOP senators, with the total deceit of the court Judge Jackson is striving to be on, one wonders, should SCOTUS stand for:

Shameful Court of the United States?

(Note: This is a longer than usual story. But it is also a more important than usual story. If you can, stay until the end; that’s where the shamefulness of the Court, as opposed to the shamefulness of the process, kicks in.)

We have just witnessed the ugliest, most despicable, disgraceful and frankly racist hearing for a Supreme Court nominee in our lifetime…or at least in our recent memory.

L-R, Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh

Yes, I know the Robert Bork hearings in 1987 gave birth to a new verb, “borked.” The 1991 hearings for Clarence Thomas made the news because both the term “Long Dong Silver” and the words, “’Who put pubic hair on my Coke?” were entered into the Congressional Record for the first, and hopefully, the last time. And of course, Lindsey Graham went apoplectic in 2018 when his favorite “frat boy cum judge, Brett Kavanaugh, was questioned about credible accusations of his past instances of sexual harassment. (Of course, it doesn’t take much to induce Graham’s apoplexy. More on both the senior senator from South Carolina and the now longest serving associate justice Thomas later in this story.)

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

No, the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson top them all.

Why?

Because the opposition to her by the Republicans on the Judicial Committee had nothing to do with the Judge herself. It had nothing to do with her character. And, it had nothing to do with her judicial credentials, which judged by an independent, non-partisan report of an American Bar Association panel, are impeccable. (Just to show how venal, pig-headed and just plain rude and discourteous the GOP members of the Committee are, not one of them attended the testimony from witnesses attesting to Judge Jackson’s qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court). It only had to do with the fact that she was nominated by a Democratic president, Joe Biden.

Let me just call out a few of the attacks from these senators.

Josh Hawley

Josh Hawley encouraging January 6 insurrectionists

The Stanford/Yale educated junior senator from Missouri did his best to “show me” and just about everyone else, why he could be in the top 10 of the most dangerous people in America. As Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post wrote,

How desperate can you get? This desperate: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is pushing the argument that Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is dangerously soft on sex offenders, child pornographers in particular. “I’ve noticed an alarming pattern when it comes to Judge Jackson’s treatment of sex offenders, especially those preying on children,” Hawley tweeted. “I’m concerned that this [is] a record that endangers our children.”

Fact-checkers quickly dismantled Hawley’s nonsense. The Associated Press said the senator’s claims “don’t stand up to scrutiny.” Fact-check reports from the Washington Post and CNN came to the same conclusion. Vox’s Ian Millhiser described Hawley’s attempted smear “genuinely nauseating.” In the National Review, a leading conservative publication, Andrew McCarthy concluded that Hawley’s allegation “appears meritless to the point of demagoguery.” And the Wall Street Journal report added that the senator’s tweets on the subject :were criticized by people across the ideological spectrum who said Mr. Hawley’s commentary lacked context, misconstrued Judge Jackson’s conduct and writings, and created a false dichotomy between protecting children and adhering to outdated sentencing guidelines that were unduly harsh.”

I guess with both the National Review and the Wall Street Journal jumping on the Josh Hawley is full of “**it” bandwagon, he and his allies can’t claim it’s the “lame-stream, radical left-wing media” taking him to task.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz holding a book while questioning Judge Jackson, “Do you agree with this book that is being taught to kids that babies are racist?” (I did not make this up!)

The most hated man in the Senate (a view shared by both his Republican and Democratic ‘colleagues’)* Texas’ junior senator was equally vile.

*To substantiate the most hated man in the Senate claim, this from GOP Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska referring to his fellow Republican committee member: “I think we should recognize that the jackassery we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities.” 

As the commentator Jeff Greenfield wrote in Politico

…his performance at the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings was fully in character: a demagogic, bad-faith effort on Tuesday to imply that she would bring a racially focused agenda to the Supreme Court, coupled with a “soft on child pornographers” assault today.

Cruz repeatedly asked her to explain her sentencing of child porn offenders, interrupting Jackson multiple times while she was responding to his questions.

“Why did you sentence someone who had child pornography … to 28 months — 64% below what the prosecutors asked for?” Cruz asked.

Judge Jackson responded by saying, that Cruz had picked a few cases out of her entire sentencing record to pursue his argument. 

The pushback on Cruz was quick. Fact-checkers have pointed out that at least two Federal appeals court judges, Trump appointees, had each previously sentenced defendants convicted of possessing child pornography to prison terms well below federal guidelines at the time they were confirmed.

And, Doug Berman, a leading expert on sentencing law and policy at the Ohio State University School of Law, opined, “If and when we properly contextualize Judge Jackson’s sentencing record in federal child porn cases, it looks pretty mainstream.” 

Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham – no comment necessary.

Lest you were worried I forgot, let me report on Lindsey Graham, the very red, very angry, “rhubarb” on the top of the GOP upside down cake. As the New York Times reported,

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson got into the most heated exchange of Wednesday morning after the senator revived a line of attack on the judge’s sentencing record in cases involving images of child sexual abuse.

Frequently interrupting Judge Jackson’s attempts to answer questions, Graham ended his angry tirade with this.

We are trying to get people to stop this crap [child pornography]. All I can say is that your view on how to deter child pornography is not my view. I think you are doing it wrong, and every judge who does what you are doing is making it easier for the children to be exploited.

Which prompted this response from Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the Senate’s most senior member who called Graham’s performance “beyond the pale,” telling reporters, “I’m just distressed to see this kind of a complete breakdown of what’s normally the way the Senate’s handled.”

Closing out his potentially Oscar-worthy performance, which The Daily Beast, called a “festivus” of grievance, Graham stormed out of the hearing, melting down after a line of questioning over his desire for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to remain open indefinitely.

To this point, everything I’ve written is simply the bizarre, unbecoming “circus car” the Senate, “the world’s most deliberative body,” has become. Fortunately, with Joe Manchin indicating his support for Judge Jackson this morning, unless “wild card” Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona goes off the rails (not totally out of the question), Judge Jackson will be confirmed by at least 50-50 + Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

There is, however, one SCOTUS issue that needs to be addressed and addressed seriously and immediately. 

One of Senator Cruz’s questions to Judge Jackson involved an upcoming case challenging the race-conscious admissions policy Harvard University uses to increase its number of Black and Hispanic students. Both Cruz and Jackson are Harvard Law School graduates and Jackson is also a current member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers.

“If you’re confirmed, do you intend to recuse from this lawsuit?” Cruz, who attended Harvard Law School at the same time as Jackson, asked

“That is my plan, senator,” Jackson responded.

Not an unreasonable question from Cruz; not an unreasonable response from Jackson.

Except for this.

The Washington Post reported this morning, 

Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly pressed White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News. 

The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and President Donald Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.

Here’s a link to the article where you can read the details of Virginia Thomas’ advanced “nut-case” symptoms. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/24/virginia-thomas-mark-meadows-texts/

What she and Meadows did, as horrible as it is, is not at issue here. That they are both right-wing crazies is what it is. 

But what’s at play here is the fact that Mark Meadows, White House Chief of Staff, and Ginni Thomas, THE WIFE OF A SITTING JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT were the players in this episode. 

And, if that isn’t bad enough, In February 2021, when the Supreme Court rejected election challenges filed by Trump and his allies, Thomas not only didn’t recuse himself, he wrote in a dissent that it was “baffling” and “inexplicable” that the majority had decided against hearing the cases because he believed the Supreme Court should provide states with guidance for future elections. THE VOTE WAS 8-1 WITH THOMAS THE ONLY DISSENTING VOTE!

Unlike all other federal judges, the justices of the Supreme Court are not subject to a code of ethical conduct. Recusal from a case is determined by the individual justice and no explanation to recuse or not is required. 

So, kudos to Judge Jackson for her honorable position. And a Bronx cheer to Justice Thomas for his refusal to recuse when he was in an obvious situation to do so.

With SCOTUS confirmation hearings more like a circus and the Justices themselves left to their own ethical standards, do you agree with me that from now on, SCOTUS should stand for, Shameful Court of the United States?

The “Party of Lincoln,” and the “not-so” Grand Old Party (aka, the GOP)

Commentary

Around the Block and Heather Cox Richardson unpack Republican amnesia and deceitfulness

Heather Cox Richardson is an American historian and professor of history at Boston College. She previously taught history at MIT and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In her spare time Professor Richardson publishes a daily email newsletter, Letters from an American. Her most recent column began, 

Right on cue, Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana today told a reporter that states not only should decide the issue of abortion but should also be able to decide the issues of whether interracial marriage should be legal and whether couples should have access to contraception. He told a reporter: ‘Well, you can list a whole host of issues, when it comes down to whatever they are, I’m going to say that they’re not going to all make you happy within a given state, but we’re better off having states manifest their points of view rather than homogenizing it across the country as Roe v. Wade did.’  

According Professor Richardson, Braun walked back what he had said after “extraordinary” backlash. 

The newsletter gave me pause for two reasons.

First, I was shocked, shocked that a Republican politician, after making what, for all intents and purposes, was an asinine statement, disavowed it, in this case because “he had misunderstood the question!” Yeah, right!

Second, and more importantly, Braun is a member of the so-called “Party of Lincoln.” The (not so) Grand Old Party is very proud of its Lincoln heritage. But do you think that Braun “thought*” for a minute whether the words, “but we’re better off having states manifest their points of view rather than homogenizing it across the country…” would have emanated from Lincoln’s mouth?

*(Is GOP think/thought a contradiction in terms?)

Lest Senator Braun and some of his like non-thinking Republican colleagues forgot, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” there was a man, Abraham Lincoln, who was President of a land in that galaxy, the United States of America. That man, in his first inaugural address warned that the Constitution required him to make sure “the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States.”

As Professor Richardson wrote recently, 

Their [the southern states] determination to promote their new philosophy [the Negro is not equal to the white man] meant that the southern states insisted on states’ rights. The majority of Americans, speaking through the federal government, insisted on reining enslavement in, restricting it to the southern states where it already existed, while southern enslavers wanted to expand their “peculiar institution” to the nation’s newly acquired western lands. In white southerners’ view, federal oversight was tyranny, and true democracy meant that state legislatures should be able to do as their voters wished. So long as a majority of voters in the southern states voted for human enslavement, democracy had been served [in the minds of the South].

The Republican Party had organized in the mid-1850s to stand against this version of American democracy. Their point of view was expressed by an Illinois lawyer named Abraham Lincoln who, in discussing the overriding issue of the day in 1858, said that the government could not “endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

By the time Lincoln became President, the South had indeed tried to dissolve the Union and had indeed attempted to make the house fall and for it to become divided. The attempt to put this Union back together only began after a horrific and bloody Civil War. 

Richardson: 

When it [the Civil War] ended…southern state legislatures again tried to circumscribe the lives of the Black Americans who lived within their state lines. The 1865 Black Codes said that Black people couldn’t own firearms, for example, or congregate. They had to treat their white neighbors with deference and were required to sign yearlong work contracts every January or be judged vagrants, punishable by arrest and imprisonment. White employers could get them out of jail by paying their fines, but then they would have to work off their debt.

This southern intransigence led to the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 which guaranteed that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So how does this relate to our not-so-good Senator Braun and current events?

Richardson:

Braun walked back what he had said, claiming he had misunderstood the question saying, “Earlier during a virtual press conference I misunderstood a line of questioning that ended up being about interracial marriage, let me be clear on that issue—there is no question the Constitution prohibits discrimination of any kind based on race, that is not something that is even up for debate, and I condemn racism in any form, at all levels and by any states, entities, or individuals.”

But he had stated his position quite clearly, and as he originally stated it, that position was intellectually consistent. 

After World War II, the Supreme Court used the Fourteenth Amendment to protect civil rights in the states, imposing the government’s interest in protecting equality to overrule discriminatory legislation by the states. 

Now, Republicans want to return power to the states, where those who are allowed to vote can impose discriminatory laws on minorities. 

It is, quite literally, the same argument that gave us the claimed right of states to enslave people within their borders before the Civil War, even as a majority of Americans objected to that system. More recently, it is the argument that made birth control illegal in many states, a restriction that endangered women’s lives and hampered their ability to participate in the workforce as unplanned pregnancies enabled employers to discriminate against them. It is the argument that prohibits abortion and gay marriage; in many states, laws with those restrictions are still on the books and will take effect just as soon as the Supreme Court decisions of Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges are overturned.

Think about this. If the Braun’s Party of Lincoln prevails in our upcoming “unlevel playing field” elections in 2022 and 2024, is this the country you want to live in?

I’m writing this at sea, after visiting the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire, a “special municipality” of the Netherlands proper, and subject to Netherlands law. It’s beautiful, accessible and outside the Caribbean “hurricane zone.” Maybe, just maybe, I’ve found my long sought “escape.” from Braun and his cohorts.

Vacation is coming at the exact right time

Commentary

I’m hoping that when I return from a week at sea the world (and my Apple devices) will be in a better place.

Thank goodness I’m leaving for a week’s vacation tomorrow. Beyond the unfathomable, multiple geopolitical crises and the country’s seemingly unstoppable drift (rush?) to the uninformed, misguided, ignorant right, the last few days have been especially troubling; I need a break.

So what, you ask, put me over the edge?

Apple!

The other day, in the middle of creating a multi-media presentation for a community theater club I belong to, I discovered that my Apple/iCloud ID had to be changed. Have you, or has anyone you know, had to change their iCloud ID? Hopefully not. But, in the unlucky event you have to, and if you, like I, have multiple Apple devices, be prepared for two days of entering and reentering your new password on every device, sometimes more than once, followed by having to deal with Apple’s unweildy two-step security verification, followed by arcane messages that something you’ve never heard of is disconnected due to an iCloud ID error.

And, if all this is not frustrating enough, Apple has not yet found the wisdom to put this little icon…

next to their password entry space so, in the likely event that you mis-type you password, you could at least see the error. I think not having that icon is why I had to change my password…too many unnoticed wrong entries.

But that’s just the beginning of my Apple saga. In the midst of my multi-media presentation project, I found that a key piece of Apple installed software I required, QuickTime, would not open, crashing within nanoseconds of my pressing open. Ever user friendly, I received the following message from Apple:

Needless to say, that didn’t solve my problem so I trudged down to the Apple store to speak to a “genius.”

The closest store to me is at the chic and very large Boca Raton Town Center. I didn’t remember where the Apple store was so I entered near Bloomingdales and discovered that this very fancy mall had no directory posters or help desks. (I guess the regular Town Center devotees know where every store is by heart). And the ceiling mounted directional “call-out” signs every 10 yards or so called out every store in the mall…except the APPLE STORE! Yes, even something called, “Rex Baron” showed up on at least three signs.

Ever ingenious, I turned to my Apple iPhone and opened the Apple map walking directions to guide me to the store. The first instruction was to head “north west.” I thought, am I the only person, standing in the middle of a gigantic mall, who is not aware of which direction “north west is?” I began walking and immediately discovered, not surprisingly, that I had guessed wrong and was going the opposite way, probably “south east.” But after changing directions, the map’s guidance became more and more difficult to follow. So, in a totally uncharacteristic move, I began asking “do you know where the Apple store is,” to every mall kiosk employee. Not very macho, I know, but sometimes you got to do what you got to do.

I finally arrived at the Apple store, sweating and out of breath. I checked and my Apple Watch indicated that I had achieved 6,676 steps on my Apple journey. I was close to “closing my exercise ring!” But I digress.

My “genius,” even after consulting three of four more senior geniuses, couldn’t figure out the problem. He did suggest a inelegant work-around (what would Steve Jobs think) and I headed home wondering, what didn’t I like about Windows?

Hopefully a week away will salve my Apple wounds. And, more importantly, bring an end to Putin’s madness. But then again, I’m bringing my Mac, my iPad, my iPhone and my Apple Watch. And I don’t think the ship I’m sailing on has an Apple store. But, even if it did, I’d never find it.