Two great talents, two big hearts pass away

Rightfully so, the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a huge loss for our country. Her diminutive stature belied the large intellect and courage to fight battles, first for herself, and then for women and the disenfranchised.

There are several stories whose theme is around the only woman in the room, be it the first female rocket scientist, Mary Sherman Morgan, or the first black female NASA mathematician, Katherine G. Johnson. Ginsburg was often one of only a scant few women in the room, be it Harvard or Columbia law schools or when she first joined the Supreme Court following Sandra Day O’Connor. Being told you do not belong, either directly or implicitly, requires a courageous heart.

Ginsburg was unable to get a job with a law firm since she was a female and a mother. Her husband, Marty was quickly able to gain employment as a tax attorney, but his very learned wife could not. So, she taught law. So, when she finally tried an appellate case regarding gender discrimination, very few knew the constitutional law as well as she. She knew the documented discrimination that existed in the law and what had to be changed. And, her track record on gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court was excellent, losing only one case. The movie “On the basis of sex,” starring Felicity Jones, is an excellent drama telling her story.

Yesterday, another person passed away, who will not be as known to non-football fans, but his supreme talent was only exceeded by his heart. His name was Gale Sayers and for seven years, was one of the most exciting football players to watch as his ability to stop, start, change direction and run kept defenses at bay. He was the youngest player to be inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame at the time. Yet, his heart may be what people will remember most.

When he joined the Chicago Bears in the mid-1960s, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act had only recently been passed. The African-American Sayers befriended a white ball player named Brian Piccolo. They became friends, teasing each other often while competing for the same position. They both made the team and were roommates on the road.

But, the story unfolds later that Piccolo gets cancer and is dying. Sayers and his wife were by the Piccolos’ side the whole way. When Sayers was given an award for a courageous comeback after an injury, in his speech, he told the audience of the courage of his friend Brian Piccolo. He said “I love Brian Piccolo. And, I hope you will love him, too.” He then asked for their prayers for God to love Brian as well.

The story is captured in the excellent movie “Brian’s Song,” starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams. I wrote a post a while back which I will link to below, which said “Brian’s Song” was the first movie where a man was allowed to openly cry. Truth be told, I am tearing up as a type this.

Let’s remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gale Sayers. Both are national treasures

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/brians-song-the-first-movie-where-men-could-watch-and-cry/

Well, what do you plan to do about it? – you must VOTE

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a hero to many, especially women and the disenfranchised. Her career must be celebrated. Like Thurgood Marshall before her, her record of success in arguing cases before the Supreme Court, justified her inclusion in this institution. She served America well.

As for the indicting language directed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over holding a vetting process and vote of a new SCOTUS nominee before the election, this is the normative process. Yet, we must also understand when McConnell conducted his treachery. It was in 2016 when he chose to not follow normal process to vet and vote on a pretty well respected candidate named Merrick Garland, who won near unanimous consent for his current position. When a politician does not follow normal process, take it to the bank it is political. And, McConnell cannot go to the bathroom without it being political.

Now, we are faced with his pushing the process he is supposed to follow, but it is in direct contradiction to what he did in 2016. Yes, McConnell is a hypocrite. Where I get mad is those crying foul today, who chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 – she had flaws, they were unfair to Bernie, and she ran a poor campaign. She also was one of he best prepared candidates for the office we have ever had.

Trump won because he got folks to stay home, vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or even vote for him. Now, this unsavory, deceitful and corrupt person (who was all of those things before the election), will pick one third of the Supreme Court in four years. If you did not vote, remedy it by voting in 2020.

Of course it would be respectful to wait and McConnell deserves every bit of criticism he got in 2016 and his hypocrisy now. What bugs me is I want good jurists on the Supreme Court. We could have had a Garland, who Obama knew would also appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats. Yet, he did not get a fair (or any) hearing and that McConnell let the country down.

So, we can bitch all we want, but people need to get out and vote. And, vote for a decent and good public servant in Joe Biden. Climate change, women’s rights, healthcare, civil rights, the environment and our global standing are on the ballot. Plus, the incumbent’s modus operandi is self-serving, untruthful, bullying, and authoritarian in nature. As conservative David Brooks noted, the president has “no sense of decency or empathy.” Yet, Michael Cohen, Trump’s long time attorney/ fixer said it well under oath, “Donald Trump is a racist, his con-artist and his a cheat.”

It is sad the president lies to defend that he is not lying

Per a story by Amanda Marcotte of Salon, as reported in Raw Story called “Why Trump’s denials of his contempt for the military are likely just more lies — and why it matters,” please read the first two paragraphs. The whole story can be linked to below.

“Donald Trump is likely lying, of course, in denying a new report by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic that accuses the president of calling the fallen American soldiers of World War I ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’

We know this because of Trump’s pathological pattern of telling lies, first of all. But also because in his tweeted denials, Trump now claims he never called the Sen. John McCain a ‘loser’ for being captured during the Vietnam War, even though there’s a recording of him doing so, in the same rant during which he declared, ‘I like people who weren’t captured.’ Trump was so proud of this smear of the late Arizona Republican that he tweeted it out at the time.”

We should not forget Trump’s active role in trying to avoid the lowering of the flags for John McCain’s funeral, which he was famously uninvited. He denied this in his tweets as well, but several folks in the know have corrected him. But, we should not forget that he also denigrated a Gold Star family who had the temerity to criticize him.

There are a number of folks who have come out to say they did not hear Trump say these things. That does not mean they were not said. Conservative pundit David Brooks noted Jeffrey Goldberg has an excellent reputation for accuracy and his reporting was corroborated by four sources. One of those sources was the national security correspondent for Fox News, Jennifer Griffin, who Trump is trying to get fired.

Trump supporters complain that these folks are anonymous, yet what they fail to consider the vindictive nature of the tempestuous president. We should not forget how honorable people who testified under oath about concerns over Ukraine have all been handled. We should not forget that Inspectors General who raised concerns have all been handled. We should not forget how Trump sycophants in Congress beat up on Michael Cohen who called Trump a racist, con man and a cheat under oath.

Trump wants blood. Critics must be identified and fired. He must know names, so he can discredit them as “losers.” Is it so hard to believe that Donald Trump would call a group of people losers or suckers, given his nature? And, take it to the bank – Goldberg, Marcotte and Griffin will each be called “losers” and their publication is in “trouble.”

Why Trump’s denials of his contempt for the military are likely just more lies — and why it matters

Saturday sense and sensibilities

It is going to be another hot one today, maybe too hot for “Saturday in the Park,” which was my first title. Instead, allow me to borrow from Jane Austen to summarizing a few sense and sensibilities.

The president has denied calling fallen soldiers “losers and suckers,” even though it has been corroborated by four news agencies, including Fox News. A few additional reasons to believe the comments were made are his on-the-record comments about Senator John McCain only being a hero because he was captured, plus calling him a “loser” and not wanting to lower flags to half-staff when he died. He took on a Gold Star family who had the temerity to criticize him. And, his favorite name calling word for critics is “losers.” Apparently, he has used such expressions on more than one occasion, saying soldiers who fought in Vietnam were “suckers” per a Fox News report. I guess he is forgetting that “draft” thing and how he avoided going.

PBS Newshour had an excellent report on the Australia, UK and Switzerland response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have each handled it better than the US, with the UK having to wait some on its Prime Minister’s initial cavalier attitude to change (until he was infected). The keys are telling folks the truth, leaders not doubting the science, and central management of the problem. Having national healthcare, helped as it took the issue off the table who will pay for things. Sadly, the US crossed 187,000 COVID-19 deaths yesterday. Trump gets good marks for funding the vaccine research and this new simplified testing release, but overall his mishandling and misinformation has contributed to our poor results. Too many Americans do not take this seriously enough, starting with the president.

On the good news side, 1.4 million people went back to work in August, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.4%. Economists are pleased, but cautious as the number includes 238,000 temporary Census workers and the numbers are expected to fall off again. One economist from Grant Thornton noted, the unemployment rate is actually closer to 10%. And, many economists worry about that cavalier COVID-19 attitude above, where some think reopening things means returning to normal. It does not.

Finally, we saw two visits to Kenosha by the presidential candidates. One stood in front of a burnt building, while the other visited with the victim, his family and community. The latter sat down with members of the community and listened. As Jonathan Capeheart and David Brooks said in the weekly review on PBS Newshour, one candidate’s visit was political, while the other was presidential. The presidential one was done by the one who is not president. Brooks noted it is good that Biden is condemning violence and looting saying they are not protesting. That needs to be said, as protecting people, their homes and their businesses is important, as well. It is not an either/ or paradigm as the president points out. We need better and fair policing that supports all in the community.

Two years ago, these Republicans condemned Trump for siding with Putin over US intelligence people

Ted Miller wrote “After Putin Summit, It’s Time We Start Seriously Calling Trump A Traitor,” that was written on July 16, 2018 following the Helsinki summit between the US president and Vladimir Putin. Our Australian friend David, who lives in Tasmania inspired this piece after sending me the picture of the US president hugging the American flag with a “look at me, I’m hugging the flag expression” on his face.

Here are some excerpts. The entire article can be linked to below.

“At an over two-hour joint press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump criticized the American intelligence community that overwhelming confirms Russian interference to get him elected.

Trump said:

‘They [American intelligence] said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.’

Predictably, Trump then meandered into a red-herring deflection about Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Democratic National Committee’s email server.

No one other than Trump’s most stubborn supporters are buying it anymore.

Former CIA director, John Brennan, tweeted:

‘Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.’

Calling out fellow Republicans, Brennan added:

‘Republican Patriots: Where are you???’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stated:

‘Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivety, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are – a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.’

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, not known to openly condemn the president as often as he should, said:

‘The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.’

Senate Minority Leader, Charles Schmer (D-NY), concurred:

‘In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin. For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defense officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous, and weak. The president is putting himself over our country.’

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) echoed his colleagues’ sentiments, tweeting:

‘I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.’

And from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.):

‘This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.’

But lawmakers and intelligence officials are not the only ones accusing Trump of being weak in front of Vladimir Putin. Even members of Trump’s own staff thought that as well.

The Daily Beast quotes a Trump political appointee:

‘I honestly had little to no good expectations for this. [The event] went about as well as I expected. Trump looked incredibly weak up there. Putin looks like a champion. I’d like to say I’m shocked but this is the world in which we live now.’

Yes, even Fox News turned on the president.

During an interview, with host Neil Cavuto, Former Dep. Asst. Attorney General Tom Dupree, said on Fox Business:

‘All well and good for the president to talk about the Strzok and server and Hillary Clinton and all of that. But this wasn’t the time and the place this is the time and place for the president to look Putin squarely in the eye and said you will be punished for what you did in 2016, don’t ever think about doing that again.’

Cavuto said:

‘But he didn’t. That made it disgusting. That made his performance disgusting. Only way I feel. Not a right or left thing to me. It is wrong. U.S. President foreign soil talking to our biggest enemy or adversary or competitor, I don’t know how we define them away, essentially letting the guy get away with this, not even, offering a mild, a mild criticism. That sets us back a lot.’

Fox and Friends Weekend host Abby Huntsman tweeted:

‘No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus. For Trump, apparently it’s Russia first.'”

It should be noted, just last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee not only confirmed the findings in the Mueller report, they said there was a formal tie between the Trump campaign and Russia. Paul Manafort, Trump campaign manager for over four months had communications with a Russian agent. It should be noted Manafort was indicted for fraud and lying and went to jail for other actions, uncovered by the Mueller report. Note, during Manafort’s time, the Republican platform softened some wording toward Russia. Why?

Also, last Friday over 70 former intelligence officials who worked for Republican presidents have cited the security risk which is Donald Trump in a full page piece in the Wall Street Journal. They are supporting Joe Biden. And, last week, Miles Taylor, a former Dept. of Homeland Security Chief of Staff under Trump noted the same conclusion and support of Biden, adding we are less secure under Trump because our allied relationships are weaker and our enemies are stronger.

I want Trump supporters to tell me why this is not a concern to them and not just cite the president’s wont to name call critics. When people say Trump is dangerous, it is people in the know who are saying it. It is not fake news. These are real people with real concerns.

Here is the link: https://liberalamerica.life/2018/07/16/tm-after-putin-summit-its-time-we-start-seriously-calling-trump-a-traitor/

Lucy Worsley and spotlighting myths

On PBS, a delightful British show is aired called “Lucy Worsley’s Royal Myths and Secrets.” It is fascinating for two primary reasons – Worsley focuses on exposing the real truths beneath the myths and she exudes a passion as she invests in each episode.

Each show includes actors portraying smalls skits in the show, in which Worsley will play a sidebar role, as well as scholars who share context and researched observations. The skits add the human side to the scholar’s research and context.

Yesterday, Worsley focused on the French revolution and Marie Antoinette’s role, which is overstated, but still present. A few vignettes that offer context are truly enlightening.

– Antoinette is used as a scapegoat for the financial problems of the country, but the real cause is the French spent 1.5 billion francs to support the American independence effort, which is 2 1/2 times their annual budget of 600 million francs.

– Antoinette liked very extravagat things, but there is no record of her saying “let them eat cake,” which was referenced 50 years later. The saying may have come from an earlier queen.

– Antoinette was Austrian, so the French people did not like her to begin with; she also was more politically shrewd than her husband, Louis XVI and saw the danger of the revolution. This runs counter to the noted saying above which implies ignorance.

– Robespierre is scapegoated for the violence of the revolution, but while he was an idealist, he initially did not favor capital punishment. He argued it did not stop crime. He later said for France to change, the King must be executed, but this was after a power sharing agreement seemed to not be working. Robespierre was executed about two years after Louis XVI.

– While Bastille Day is celebrated for freeing political prisoners, it freed only seven prisoners, all common criminals. Four of these criminals were even rearrested. Yet, the storming of the bastille is an iconic event.

– What should not be forgotten, the first revolution did not free France from autocratic rule. War hero Napolean was made emperor about ten years later. And, after Napolean, a Bourbon king was reinstalled for fifteen more years. So, later change was needed.

This show was particular fascinating. It also showed fake news was alive and well back then. Antoinette cartoons were particulary viscious. And, the revolutionaries downplayed the executions, while loyalists played that up.

A fascinating sidebar is the French revolution inspired others. It was noted Lenin had a statue raised in Russia for Robespierre and, of course, violently ended the lives of the tsar and his family. This was over 120 years later.

We have seen a few shows and, if you love history, you will find these interesting. Even if you don’t, Worsley will make you wish she was your teacher with her enthusiasm.

Let’s follow the example John Lewis lived

The following is necessarily short, as my local newspaper was kind enough to print it in its “Letters to the Editor” section this morning.

Watching the memorial service for Congressman John Lewis, I noticed the words kind, caring and courageous were used often. A staff member noted he was a great boss with several people working with him for over 10 years (a few over 20).

Lewis embodied the words spoken about him. Civil and nonviolent protest will be his lasting legacy. His example is followed by a significant majority who participate in the multiracial Black Lives Matter protests.

Those few who choose violence may make the news, but they dilute the message. Steadfast resolve is a much greater weapon. It galvanizes people.

Let’s honor Lewis for the person he was and how he conducted himself. Black lives do matter.

A speech never given

The following is a speech that would have been given by a real leader back in January, 2020. This speech would have both galvanized America and saved lives. What puzzles is the person who could have given it craves so badly to be viewed as a great leader. This was truly a missed opportunity.

My fellow Americans,

At this moment, our country has not been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Yet, I have been briefed by our intelligence and CDC folks that we must be ever-vigilant, as pandemics like this know no boundaries. Sadly, it is only a matter of time before this pandemic hits our shores. I do not wish to alarm, only to prepare ourselves.

So, I am authorizing the CDC to work with hospital systems and medical suppliers to ascertain our readiness for the pandemic. What do we need that is not in sufficient supply? How can we best remedy those shortfalls? I am asking Congress and our Governors to set aside their differences and think of solutions that will protect Americans, but keep our jobs and livelihoods from falling prey to the pandemic. With that said, safety must be the foundation of any strategy.

I will also restrict travel from China, and will see if we should consider such from other countries, as well. Travel might still occur, but we must think of identifying and quarantining folks that come from locations where the pandemic is present. We must think of ways to accomplish this and not stymie travel altogether. We must be smart, but we must be safe.

Finally, I will set up a pandemic task team of CDC and other epidemiologists who can help guide us. This is unknown territory, so my commitment to you is to shoot straight with you as we learn more. As we convene and assess this problem further, we will advise you on various strategies to mitigate the pandemic.

Thank you for your support and understanding.
The President of the United States

That is what a real leader might have said.

Some wealthy Republicans who benefit under Trump want him gone

Reuters News published an article called “The wealthy Republicans who want to oust Trump in November’s election” by Tim Reid that might be of interest. Here are a few excerpts, but the entire article can be accessed below:

“Jimmy Tosh, who runs a multi-million dollar hog and grain farm in Tennessee, is a lifelong Republican. He is pro-gun, supports lower taxes and agrees with most of Republican President Donald Trump’s agenda. He is also spending his money to help defeat Trump in November’s election.

‘I agree with 80% of the things he does; I just cannot stand a liar,’ Tosh, 70, said of Trump.

Tosh is one of a growing number of wealthy conservative Americans who say Trump is a threat to democracy and the long-term health of the Republican Party. They are actively supporting his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 vote, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Several billionaire and millionaire donors to The Lincoln Project, the most prominent of Republican-backed groups opposing Trump’s re-election, told Reuters that elected Republicans should also be punished for enabling him. Some even support the ouster of vulnerable Republican senators to hand control of the chamber to Democrats.

Their money has fueled an unprecedented campaign from members of a sitting president’s own party to oust him from office. This is a sign that Trump has alienated some Republicans, most recently with his response to the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests over police brutality against Black Americans.”

What is ironic about Tosh’s statement is he agrees with 80% of what Trump does, but still does not want to vote for him. What Trump has been able to do has helped wealthy people like Tosh through deregulation and a tax law change that favored the wealthy and corporations. Yet, Trump’s deceit, corruptive nature, racist bent and lack of decency are still major stumbling blocks. And, many of his economic changes have actually been detrimental to his fervent base – adding tariffs on trading partners, hindering health care, mishandling COVID-19 and allowing environmental degradation by larger companies, eg.

This voter group helping fund Trump’s opposition should be another alarm bell for Republicans. Trump is becoming an increasingly heavy anchor. It is not just Democrats and the media, who he paints as the enemy. It is not just an isolated Republican who Trump likes to dismiss as “a loser” to mask the message he or she is saying. In essence, Trump is attempting to tell his followers, don’t listen to these losers, rather debate the points they are making.

I encourage Republicans and conservative leaning Independents to pay attention to these groups (The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law and Republican Voters against Trump) and what they are saying. Pay attention to long-time historical conservative pundits like George Will, David Brooks, Michael Gerson, Erick Erickson, etc. who support Trump’s defeat. Pay attention to former staff like General James Mattis and John Bolton who have raised legitimate concerns.

But, most of all pay attention the the array of Inspectors General, whistleblowers, testifiers under oath who have been critical of the job the president is doing who got fired, reassigned or pushed out. Why? What were their concerns? These are important questions. Should a president be able to fire someone without due process from oversight committees in Congress? To me, the answer is a clear no. So, we should band together and push out this president in November.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-republicans-donors/the-wealthy-republicans-who-want-to-oust-trump-in-novembers-election-idUSKCN24P12Q

A few thoughts from the 1st Homeland Security Director

Former Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Ridge was asked by President George W. Bush to be the first Director of Homeland Security. Witnessing the president’s sending in unrequested and unmarked federal agents to Portland and Chicago, Ridge had some comments worth noting.

Here a few exceprts from an editorial analysis called “Trump’s Portland crackdown is controversial. The man spearheading it might be doing so illegally” by Aaron Blake of The Washington Post. The editorial can be accessed below.

“In Portland, Washington and other U.S. cities shaken by protests in recent months, the Trump administration has leaned on the considerable authority and assets of the Department of Homeland Security — an agency formed to prevent another Sept. 11, 2001, attack — to spearhead the federal response.

Images of militarized Border Patrol agents clubbing protesters and stuffing them into unmarked vehicles have alarmed civil liberties advocates and administration critics, and the displays of government power echo tactics long associated with authoritarian rule.
Legal analysts say that while the department has broad authority to enforce federal laws, officers’ actions — especially in Portland, Ore. — seemed to be pushing the boundaries and pulling DHS into a domestic policing role.

Tom Ridge, who served as the first Homeland Security secretary under George W. Bush, said Tuesday that DHS ‘was not established to be the president’s personal militia,’ and added, ‘It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention into one of my cities.’ Former DHS official Paul Rosenzweig called the operation, which has come to be known as Operation Legend, ‘lawful but awful.’

On PBS Newshour the other night, Ridge was interviewed. He noted several key points – he worked in “partnership” with the cities and states to solve problems after they were “invited in to help.” He also noted what happened in Portland was a “reality show” exercise to garner votes. That action will not solve anything, as it was not designed to.

On Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano noted in Portland, actions of federal agents are unlawful, unconstitutional and harmful. To unpack this, he noted the federal agents are permitted to protect federal assets and travel to and from the asset. They are not permitted to do what local police does and arrest people without probable cause or warrant. And, they cannot wear clothing that does not identify who are they are and what they represent. A person being accosted has to know who is so doing.

Getting back to the issue at hand, civil protest is more than fine in our country. Yet, people who have taken a violent approach to protest are diluting their message and, are feeding into a narrative that allows a corrupt president to break the law and squelch them. Let me say this clearly – both the violent protestors and the president are in the wrong. Civil protest does not make the news like the violent ones, so the violent ones are overreported and the civil ones are underreported.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/07/22/trumps-actions-portland-are-controversial-man-spearheading-them-might-be-doing-so-illegally/