A disgusting lack of leadership

The following are the views of a former Republican and now Independent voter. I did not vote for the former president either time and remain puzzled why people would vote for such a well-documented untruthful, egomaniacal bully.

On Friday, I read that Senator Mitch McConnell would support the seditious former president if he were the 2024 presidential nominee. Note, this is after McConnell denounced the former president for his role in the insurrection against a branch of government, which of course, put McConnell and his colleagues in danger. And, unsurprisingly, Mr. McConnell chose not to vote to convict the former president before he admitted said person was guilty.

This is a disgusting lack of leadership in a country that needs this party to help offer some form leadership. But, as of this writing, people who voted as leaders to impeach or convict the seditious former president, have been vilified, censured and threatened. Yet, these seventeen folks knew this going in and voted to impeach or convict anyway. That is leadership. What Messers. McConnell, Graham, Hawley, Paul, Cruz, McCarthy, Scalise, Gaetz, Gohmert, et al have done is cowardice and sycophancy to someone who almost caused their deaths.

Reading McConnell’s statement in support of a traitor is seditious in its own right, in my view. This former president planned and staged a big lie about rampant election fraud. And, too many Republican so-called leaders were silent. The former president set the stage for the insurrection through his lies, that even his Attorney General labeled as “bulls**t” before he was fired for so saying. Republican election officials and judges even pushed back on the former president’s lies, yet they also got death threats.

Our country needs two viable political parties or more. Yet, we need the people in leadership positions in these parties to be leaders and not sycophants. The seditious former president is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime including Richard Nixon. I have been pleading with Republican Senators for three years asking what will it take to hold this former president accountable. Apparently, even traitorism does not qualify.

The former president was right when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and it would not matter. What he did not say is he would hand the gun to McConnell and blame him. Our country deserves better than this.

Freedom Summer Project – those who braved Mississippi burning (a reprise)

The following post is a reprise of one I wrote in the summer of 2014. I felt the story needed a new telling during Black History Month.

Fifty years ago this summer, over 700 students from across the country, joined in the Civil Rights battle in Mississippi, where African-Americans had been demonstratively and, at times, violently denied their basic civil rights, especially the right to vote. These students joined together with the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNNC) under the guidance of Bob Moses, who had been slowly organizing SNNC since 1960. These students, were predominantly white, but included all races and ethnic groups.

The fact that many were white helped bring further attention to the ongoing tragedy going on Mississippi, perpetuated by those in power as the young students lived within the African-American community, taught through Freedom Schools young students about African-American history, literature and rights, items that had been absent from their curriculum. The Freedom Summer project can be viewed up close with an excellent documentary being shown on the PBS American Experience. A link is provided below.* I would encourage you to watch the two-hour film as it can tell a story that requires footages of violence, overt racism, and brave people who spoke up, like Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rita Schwerner and countless others.

Hamer is the face of the effort as evidenced by her speaking passionately in front of the 1964 Democratic Convention committee about how she was arrested, beaten, and tormented when she and others tried to register vote. Schwerner is the widow of one the three Civil Rights workers, Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, were abducted and killed by the KKK who came to abet the efforts of those in power in Mississippi. The widow rightfully pointed out the fact that two of the abducted (at the time) were white, was the only reason people in America started paying attention. She noted it is a shame that many African-Americans had died or were injured merely trying to exercise their right as citizens. Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, less than 7% of African-Americans in Mississippi were allowed to register due to ostracization, intimidation, and complex constitutional literacy tests.

Since I cannot begin to do justice to this subject, I encourage you to watch the documentary. It will make you ashamed that this could happen in America, while at the same time making you applaud the magnificent courage of all involved, especially those African-Americans who had lived and would continue to live in this Apartheid like state once the freedom summer students went home. Yet, it took the deaths of these three young folks to galvanize and empower people.

It also took the organization of a more representative Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of whites and blacks that went to the national convention to unseat the representatives sent by the state party, who were all white. Since morality was on their side, they almost succeeded, but they ran into the politics of Lyndon B. Johnson, who used his power to squelch the effort for a greater good – he could not help in matters if he did not get elected and he saw this as a means to interfere with that mission, no matter how noble the cause. LBJ accomplished great things for African-Americans, but politics is an ugly thing to watch up close and he looks manipulative in the process.

While their efforts fell short at the convention, their efforts were huge contributors to the passage of the Voting Rights Act the next year. But, one of the young folks who went to the Freedom Schools and is now a PhD., noted that learning about their African-American culture and civil rights that had been denied them, may have been the greatest achievement. I applaud their efforts and bravery. We still have a way to go and are seeing some battles having to be refought with several states passing restrictive Voter ID Laws. Three states have had their new laws ruled unconstitutional, while others are in court now. Yet, just because our President is multi-racial does not mean we are there yet. So, let’s keep in mind the battles these brave folks fought and not let their civil rights be stepped on again, no matter how cleverly masked those efforts.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/

Martin Luther King’s advice on avoiding violence – a reprise

The following post was written about nine years ago, but still resonates today.

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. To many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.

http://georgedowdell.org/2014/06/10/no-more-us-and-them/

** http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/06/09/the-perfect-book-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

Censuring Republicans who voted to impeach or convict – a sample letter to the editor

I sent the following letter to my local newspaper after seeing that the North Carolina state Republican Party may censure Senator Richard Burr for voting to convict the seditious former president. This follows on similar votes executed or planned in other states to censure the likes of Representative Liz Cheney, Senator Ben Sasse, Senator Pat Toomey and Senator Bill Cassidy and maybe the others. Please feel free to adapt and use. I hope they print it.

Two thoughts pop into my head about the state Republican parties that are censuring Republicans who voted to impeach or convict the seditious former president. Each time they take aim at one of them, it gives them the chance to repeat their resolve into why the former president is a traitor. Which leads me to my second thought. Being a traitor and causing the death of now seven people by consistently lying and inciting an insurrection is not worth censuring, but telling said traitor they do not approve of that behavior is. There is something terribly wrong with this picture. Burr, Cheney, Murkowski, et al are the real heroes who knew beforehand they would get backlash, yet did it anyway.

Seven heroes with political courage was not enough

The former president was not convicted of high crimes and misdemeanors by the Senate with the votes falling short of the needed two-thirds. But, please note that 57 Senators voted for conviction of the former president, with only 43 voting no. That means seven Republican Senators voted on the right side of history in this independent and former Republican voter’s view.

Those seven deserve high praise for their courage as they will get push back and even death threats for voting their conscience. And, they knew that beforehand.

These seven members of the Republican caucus are as follows:

Richard Burr of North Carolina

Bill Cassidy of Louisiana

Susan Collins of Maine

Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

Mitt Romney of Utah

Ben Sasse of Nebraska

Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

Whether you agree with their policy decisions, please acknowledge their political courage. Representative Liz Cheney from Wyoming almost lost a key leadership role in the House Republican caucus because she was one of ten Republicans to vote to impeach the former president. And, as evidence of her grit, she told Chris Wallace on Fox this past Sunday, that the former president has been lying to Republicans.

I have sent thank you notes to these ten Republican representatives and now seven senators for their courage. I encourage you to do the same, as they will certainly hear from the vindictive former president and his sycophants.

It should be noted the former president’s legal troubles will continue as he is being investigated for trying to coerce an official in Georgia to alter the outcome of that election. Note, this is after two recounts proved he lost. And, he has some financial issues he is dealing with in courts in New York.

In the view of this former Republican and independent, just because the former president did not get convicted, does not mean he is innocent. What is sad, some of those who voted to acquit know this and told reporters off the record they are glad this footage is getting out.

Former ambassador under Trump says the former president has no future in the GOP

Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador appointed by the former president, rebukes her former boss in a very public manner. To me, the number of folks who are realizing it is more than OK to call out the deceitful former president is starting to pick up steam, irrespective of what happens in the impeachment trial.

Here are a few paragraphs from a piece called “Nikki Haley criticizes Trump and says he has no future in the GOP” by Veronica Stracqualursi of CNN. The full article can be linked to below.

“Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley directly criticized former President Donald Trump for his involvement stoking the US Capitol riot in a new interview, a notable condemnation from someone who is widely viewed as harboring presidential hopes in a party that is still in thrall to Trump.

‘We need to acknowledge he let us down,’ she told Politico magazine in an interview published Friday. ‘He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.’

Haley has often attempted to walk a fine line between allying herself with Trump — who remains a hugely popular figure within the party — while distancing herself enough to appeal to his Republican and moderate critics. She notably left his administration in 2018 on good terms with Trump, a contrast to many other officials who have publicly fallen out with their former boss.

In the Politico piece, Haley expressed anger over Trump’s treatment of former Vice President Mike Pence on January 6 and said she hasn’t spoken with Trump since then. Trump attacked Pence on Twitter that day for doing his duty of presiding over Congress’ counting of the Electoral College votes, as the mob of supporters broke into the Capitol hoping to stop the certification, some of whom chanted death threats against Pence.

‘When I tell you I’m angry, it’s an understatement,’ Haley told Politico. ‘Mike has been nothing but loyal to that man. He’s been nothing but a good friend of that man. … I am so disappointed in the fact that [despite] the loyalty and friendship he had with Mike Pence, that he would do that to him. Like, I’m disgusted by it.'”

To me, these words are relevant, but tardy. I feel there has been a calculation weighing the efficacy of finally condemning the former president. I think it follows on the courage of folks like Representatives.Liz Cheney, Adam KInzinger and the other eight Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, as well as Senators like Ben Sasse, Mitt Romney and a few others who voted to hear the impeachment trial.

Nonetheless, what Haley is saying is powerful. It also reveals we are beyond the tipping point on the former president. It is OK to speak the truth and call him on the carpet for his deceit and sedition. Stick a fork in him, he is done.

Nikki Haley criticizes Trump and says he has no future in the GOP (msn.com)

Quite simply the attack on the Capitol building would not have happened if Trump were not president

Sometimes, the simplest comment can say so much. Yesterday, on the talk show “The View,” attorney Sunny Hostin said the above title. The attack on the Capitol building on January 6 would not have happened had the president not been Donald J. Trump. And, now seven people are dead and others might have been, except for the bravery of those to escort legislators out of harm’s way.

Two major comments needs to be stated clearly. First, the argument that Republican Senators are using to prevent a vote from occurring that the trial is unconstitutional does not hold water. In essence, it says a president can commit the most vile crime against the country as long as he does it right before he or she leaves office.

Second, the fact is the former president did commit a vile act two weeks before leaving office, staging and inciting an insurrection on another branch of government. Words matter. Lies matter. The former president’s egomaniacal nature prevents him from accepting he lost the election. He staged this action for many months before the election, so what he did following it was predictable and predicted.

What happened was shameful for our country. What happened could have been even worse. And, what happened was provoked and incited by the enfant terrible acting former president. In your best toddler’s voice, say out loud the words of the president. “I didn’t lose. I won by a lot. It was stolen from me.”

The former president needs to be convicted because he is guilty as charged. This would not have happened if he was not in the equation. This would not have happened if the former president was not a big baby who cannot take losing. Seven people are dead because of Trump. His VP Mike Pence could have been. The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi could have been. And, anyone in business attire could have been.

A final thought for Republican Senators is a vote to acquit does not serve the former Republican, now Trump party well. It puts those Senators and the Trump party on the wrong side of history. The vote to acquit is not defensible as Senator Rand Paul found out when Fox News host Chris Wallace grilled him on it.

There is a truism I have observed over the years about the former president. If you fly to close to Donald Trump, you will get burned.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night – a reprise

I wrote the following post six years ago after watching an old interview with Paul McCartney. Its lyrics and context still resonate today.

The title is from a line of The Beatles song “Blackbird” which is a tribute to the struggle for African-Americans for their civil rights. The song was sung by Paul McCartney with writing credits to both him and John Lennon, although McCartney was the lead.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Here is what McCartney said about the origin of the song in an interview in 2002.

“I’ve got a poetry book out called Blackbird Singing…..I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of ‘you were only waiting for this moment to arise’ was about, you know, the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic.”

I added McCartney’s quote as I wanted the clarity around what the song means. African-Americans are still fighting an uphill struggle for their civil rights. What has happened in Ferguson, Cleveland, New Jersey, Charleston, Charlotte and Baltimore is tragic, but evidence of the disenfranchisement of African-Americans. The lack of opportunity, the malaise, the maltreatment, the deterioration of the neighborhood, the lack of respect given to people of color in our country continues.

I have noted before that Warren Buffett has said he was born lucky. He was born a white male in America. All three components of that phrase are important – white, male and America. Yes, he worked hard, but he was afforded opportunities that African-Americans do not get.  Not only do many whites like me have a hard time knowing the challenges of being black, but we also do not fully realize the advantages of being white. As I wrote recently, as a white man, there are not too many places I cannot go no matter how I am dressed. But, there are far too many stories of how a black man can be dressed in his Sunday best, yet still be stopped by the police and think “be careful as this may be the last thing I do on earth.”

I would encourage three things. First, please do not look at those committing violence and rioting as indicative of the African-American community. The community knows this is not the path forward. Second, people who look like me need to do our best to understand the challenges we have in America for people of color, but also for all people in poverty. Third, as always, talk is cheap. These issues are complex and solutions have to address many underlying concerns. There are no sound byte answers as some politicians have espoused.

I mention this last point as we must address the wide disparity in American between the “haves” and “have-nots.” This is not just an African-American issue. It is an American issue, as most people on food stamps are white. Please re-read this previous sentence. Poverty exists in urban areas, in rural areas and even in the suburbs. We have to stop the “war on poor people” and make this a “war on poverty.”

We must invest in our infrastructure and deteriorated assets repurposing them. This will spawn jobs as well in places where it is needed. We must revise our minimum wage to be consistent with a living wage for one person, which varies, but is just over $10 an hour. We must invest in education at all levels. We must embrace the Affordable Care Act as it is helping so many people and fully implement it through Medicaid expansion in the remaining 20 odd states. For some politicians to say we have a poverty problem and be against the ACA is hypocritical and shortsighted, especially when it is working pretty well.

Remember McCartney’s words and lets help these folks with broken wings learn to fly. To do otherwise, goes against what our country is all about and any of the teachings found in religious texts.

Three former Republican Senators say the former president should face accountability

The following opinion was written by three former Republican Senators, David Durenberger, Larry Pressler and Gordon Humphrey as reported by CNN called “3 former GOP senators: Trump should not escape accountability on a technicality” Most of the opinion can be found below, but a link follows at the bottom.

“Former president Donald Trump incited an insurrection and has faced little consequence for it so far. As such, senators must take on their constitutional duty to sit as impartial jurors in the impeachment trial, regardless of any lingering concerns — unfounded we believe — that the process is unconstitutional.

When the House of Representatives voted to impeach then-President Trump on January 13, by a bipartisan vote of 232 to 197, those voting to impeach knew it was unlikely that the Senate would be able to hold a full trial before Trump left office. However, both Democratic and Republican members of Congress understood that no president, regardless of political party, should be let off the hook for inciting an insurrection against a coequal branch of government, especially as it was convening to conduct its constitutional duty in certifying the Electoral College count.

These members recognized that both Trump’s urgings to protesters to “fight like hell” before the Capitol was breached, and his lack of meaningful action during the six hours it took to restore order, were unacceptable — and that he needed to be held accountable. House members rose to the occasion, honoring their oath and respecting the process despite the unfavorable calendar. It’s time for the Senate to do the same.

The consequence of not holding a trial because a president has left office would send the message that any official in government could escape accountability simply by committing impeachable offenses just before the end of their term.

An impeachment trial isn’t just about removal from office — which in this case we acknowledge is moot. Rather, the trial offers Congress the ability to hold a president accountable for his actions and can lead to a vote on the disqualification from holding federal office again. To put it simply, the impeachment process could signal that officials cannot repeat Trump’s misdeeds in the future without facing serious consequences.

This is why, as former Republican senators, we were disappointed and worried by the 45 Republican senators who voted in favor of a point of order challenging the trial’s constitutionality after being sworn in to “do impartial justice.” Congress should not shirk its duty to act as a check on abuse of power from the executive branch.

And we aren’t alone. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service writes that, ‘most scholars who have closely examined the question have concluded that Congress has authority to extend the impeachment process to officials who are no longer in office.’ Moreover, more than 150 legal scholars across the political spectrum recently signed an open letter concluding, ‘that the Constitution permits the impeachment, conviction, and disqualification of former officers, including presidents.’ The letter included the co-founder and other members of the conservative legal group, the Federalist Society.”

There is truly not much to add to this. I concur with its conclusions and reasons therefor.

3 former GOP senators: Trump should not escape accountability on a technicality (Opinion) (msn.com)

Argue facts or process

This week will be the second impeachment trial in the Senate for the now former president. And, it will the second trial with a pre-ordained outcome. Sixty-seven Senators need to vote to convict the former president, but with forty-five Republicans voting that the trial should not be held, the outcome is already known. The former president will likely get 55 or so votes to convict him, but short of the necessary total, so he will be acquitted.

Yet, as with the first trial, being acquitted does not mean he is innocent. In fact, based on the testimony from the first House impeachment case, in the view of many, he is guilty of extorting Ukraine for personal gain. But, the Senate trial called no witnesses with Republican leadership calling it a sham, a witch hunt. To be frank, many honorable diplomats and staff testified at great risk over their concerns knowing the inevitable – they would lose their jobs. But, they did it anyway. Why?

Now, since the case is overwhelming against the former president, the forty-five Republican Senators are arguing process, saying that you should not try a person out of office. Many experts disagree with this statement and it should be noted, the former president was impeached by the House while being president. But, this is an age old legal tactic. If the facts favor your case, argue the facts; if the facts do not favor your case, argue against the process. If neither do, then game the system. In the first trial, no witnesses were called.

The former president continues to harp on a planned and staged fraudulent claim of voter fraud going back six months before the election. He defamed the mail-in process, hobbled the post office, he pushed Republican led state legislators to restrict the mail-in process, his campaign hired 1,000 attorneys around the country and he told his voters to vote in person knowing those votes would be counted first. And, with pockets of minor fraud examples, real or contrived by conspiracy-minded sources, he now believes his own BS, which is not unusual for him. Yet, 59 out of 60 judges do not, nor do election officials or the US AG.

So, he fueled the idea of voter fraud and the election was stolen from him, an action which was predicted four years ago by his five biographers. I am not prescient, but after reading about the 1,000 attorneys, I wrote in September that the former president will sue to avoid losing. The now former president invited zealous fans to Washington on January 6 to disrupt the electoral college confirmation. He then revved the groups up with a speech (with others) and pointed them at the capitol building. To say, as he and his sycophants have, that he had no hand in the violence is just untrue. As his niece Mary wrote, her uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing.

The facts played out right in front of us. This former president acted in a seditious manner inciting an insurrection. Yes, he will be acquitted, but he is by no means innocent.