Monthly Archives: December 2020

Gullibles Travels


The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

~Edmund Burke

On any given day over the past five and a half years, there were multiple candidates to which the above quote might apply.  Hypocritical Republican members of Congress who claim to be the guardians of law and order yet remained silent as the presidential equivalent of a VegaMatic sliced and diced the Constitution and the U.S. Code.  Evangelicals who thump their Bibles but bury their heads in the sand for a leader who views the ten commandments and the gospel as optional.  And of course voters who claim to despise everything Donald Trump did except for the one thing from which they personally benefit, be it tax cuts, deregulation, conservative judges or affirmation of their most base prejudices.

But today the target is the media, and local news outlets in particular.  And to make the point, I am going to use examples from the two platforms in my home town, the twice-weekly paper Fernandina Beach News Leader and the on-line Fernandina Observer.  I will start with excerpts from two “letters to the editor” in the News Leader.  Ironically, the first appeared on Wednesday under the headline, “Corruption wins when good people do nothing.”

We may be fortunate in Florida to have a fairly solid election system, but our votes are diminished, diluted and canceled out by the fraudulent votes of dead people, noncitizens, mail-in ballots, Xeroxed ballots, electronic vote-switching and all sorts of other cheating in other states. (Jesse Duke)

Why isn’t Mr. Duke on Trump’s crack legal team?  He seems to have evidence of a litany of fraud and election malfeasance unavailable to Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Lin Wood and Sydney Powell.  And he makes fraud claims that the above legal “dream team” have made in front of a landscaping company, but as yet, have never voiced in court, knowing such hogwash could make them subject to charges of contempt, sanctions and even possible disbarment.

The second appeared in this morning’s Christmas edition under the headline, “Biden is an ‘illegitimate president’.”

I have never written to a newspaper, but after reading many comments indicating the recent presidential election was fair, I felt I needed to comment.

Much of the logic was that the courts generally rejected the lawsuits, thus it must have been a fair election. The courts rejected the lawsuits based on “procedure or technical,” issues not because there was lack of  evidence. (Charles L. Warren)

Without going into detail, it is clear Mr. Warren is getting his information somewhere other than the attorney filings or court opinions.  One need look no farther than judge Brett H. Ludwig of the U.S. District Court in Wisconsin, nominated in 2017 by none other than (drum roll) Donald J. Trump.  Dismissing the case, Judge Ludwig was quite specific this was NOT due to a technicality, stating, “This court allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits. In his reply brief, plaintiff ‘asks that the Rule of Law be followed.’ It has been.”  In 55 other cases, state and federal judges delivered the same verdict.

Giving Mr. Warren the benefit of the doubt, he may be referring to the two cases that were considered by the Supreme Court.  In the Pennsylvania case, the Court unanimously found the state supreme court and the U.S. circuit and appeals courts had made no errors in their consideration and dismissal of Trump’s claim.  And in the case of Texas challenging outcomes in other states, even the two justices who felt the case should be heard–Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas–dissented only on the technicality of standing.  In his dissenting opinion, Alito did not recommend any other judicial relief.  One can only imagine Mr. Warren’s ire if the state of California had challenged Florida’s electoral process or the outcome in our state.

Which brings me to the comment by one Ben Martin in response to a story in the Fernandina Observer titled “Jobless Floridians could receive federal assistance by year’s end” by free lance writer John Haughey.  Setting aside the need for Mr. Haughey to update his report based on Trump’s “indie video” blowing up COVID relief agreement, Mr. Martin felt the need to add, “Most Americans who will receive $600 in assistance should be more aware about “under the radar” provisions in this most recent stimulus bill.”  He pointed to items “reportedly” (his word) including:

  • $1.3 billion would go to Egypt, $700 million to Sudan and $500 million to Israel.
  • An extension of a tax credit for racehorse owners
  •  The Smithsonian, the National Art Gallery, and others will receive tremendous grants.

If Mr. Martin had done his homework, he would know the 5,500 page bill sent to the White House for signature combined the $900 billion COVID relief act and the budget resolution which authorizes the funding for the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year.  In other words, none of the items which seem to make Mr. Martin’s neck hairs stand on end are covered under the $900 billion dollars for stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment, personal protective equipment, vaccine distribution, etc.

So the question is, “Where could Mr. Martin have possibly obtained this incorrect information?”  You guessed it.  Donald J. Trump.  In the Trump/Meadows production aired Tuesday night, Trump made the same mistake, referring to “$1.3 billion for Egypt” as part of the COVID Relief Bill.  To make the same point Mr. Martin echoed, Trump complained, “Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it.” (To demonstrate to Mr. Duke and Mr. Warren what evidence looks like, this statement appears at the 03:18 mark in the video.)  What Trump did not tell Mr. Martin or anyone else was all of the items he criticized were recommended in his own FY2021 budget submitted to Congress on February 10, 2020.  Oops!

But that’s not what I came here to talk about.  Any expectations members of Cult 45 will pay attention to the facts before spouting their nonsense and bile have long since vanished into the ether.  Nor do I expect the GOP “psychophants” who have excused the 25,000+ lies and misstatements to accept their role in this half-decade war on truth.  However, I did hope the fourth estate might honor its tradition of holding all of us to a certain level of honesty.

And to some extent it has.  Reporters and broadcast journalist have exposed numerous instances of deceit, corruption and illegal acts by this administration.  Even in the “new frontier” of social media, we see the beginnings of a movement to separate opinion from fact.  Facebook would have tagged any one of the above examples as contrary to the truth and pointed users to more reliable sources.

But not our two local news outlets.  To their credit, the editors of both have published my factual/sourced responses to previous undocumented opinion pieces which promoted debunked conspiracy theories or lies.  But this is not my, or any other reader’s responsibility.  So, for the record, let me remind those responsible for the content in these communication platforms, 74 percent of your readership base voted for Donald Trump, and many still question the legitimacy of Biden’s victory.  Fanning that flame over time raises the possibility of turning disappointment and anger into questionable actions.

If and when someone presents solid evidence that contradicts the courts, local election officials of both parties, and Trump’s own attorney general and director of the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (both since removed), feel free to let them share that information with your readers.  Until then, you have a choice how you “monitor” the traffic on the virtual highways you provide for these “gullibles” to travel.  You can either create checkpoints to ensure opinions are supported by facts not hearsay or rumor.  Or you can continue to create “on-ramps” by which you increase the unregulated flow of misinformation and undocumented conspiracy theories until the traffic interspersed with speeders and lane jumpers becomes dangerous.

Or as Burke warns, you can do nothing and bet he is wrong about that evil triumphing thing.  Is this a risk you are willing to take?

For what it’s worth.


How Donald Trump Saved America


I have been wrong about a lot of things over the last five years.  I believed Donald Trump would eventually cross a line over which other elected Republican officials would not sacrifice their own futures.  WRONG!  I thought Democrats would maintain their huge majority in the House of Representatives and retake the Senate with at least 52 Democratic seats this year.  WRONG!

However, on one thing I was right.  Every time someone told me they were worried voter suppression would result in a second Trump term, I replied, “People will walk through fire to vote this year.  If nothing else, 2016 proved elections matter.”  And vote they did, for both candidates.  2020 was just one more example of the adage, “People do not realize how precious something is until it is taken away.”  In this case, they only needed someone to try and take it away.

And without meaning to, the first president of the United States who openly advocated a coup d’etat saved American democracy by intervening in the natural order of things.  As mentioned in previous blog entries, the United States is living on borrowed time according to Alexis de Tocqueville, who, based on history, theorized the average life of a great civilization was 200 years.  Pushing 244 years since declaring its independence, America is playing with house money.

But closer examination suggests de Tocqueville’s prediction, though delayed, was still highly probable, if not already underway.  The fact our national downfall was happening at a slower than average pace also meant it was more incremental and not as apparent.  America had become the proverbial frog in a kettle of water rising in temperature little by little, not realizing it would soon die having boiled to death.

Alexander Fraser Tyler, Cycle Of Democracy (1770) | CITIZENS MAGAZINEScottish philosopher Alexander Fraser Tyler developed the paradigm by which the destructive heat which dooms civilizations rises incrementally over time.  His description of the rise and fall of geopolitical societies consists of the following eight stages.

From bondage to spiritual growth.
From spiritual growth to great courage.
From great courage to liberty.
From liberty to abundance.
From abundance to complacency.
From complacency to apathy.
From apathy to dependence.
From dependence back to bondage.

By no means is the time period between each stage to the next equal in length.  In the case of the United States, one can argue the first four stages lasted three and a half centuries spanning from the arrival of the Mayflower to the post-World War II era, ending in the mid-1960s at the juncture of the Great Society and the Vietnam War.  The only argument I might have with Tyler is the description of stage five, substituting “arrogance” for “complacency.”  Was it not a feeling of infallibility which seeded missteps in international events such as Vietnam, 9/11 and the second Iraq war?

This period of complacency/arrogance quickly led to apathy, characterized by the decline in interest in government and politics most evident in the constant decrease in percentage of Americans who exercised their right to vote.  Until finally, in 2016, enough voters to carry the electoral college, turned to a candidate who claimed, “Only I can fix it.”  The very definition of dependency revolves around the notion of reliance on others who tell you to stand down.  They will handle everything for you.

Which brings me back to the title of this post.  Donald Trump, by turning up the temperate so high, so abruptly, alerted the frogs in the kettle to what was happening.  They recognized the danger they were in and committed to do whatever it required to change the all but certain outcome.  Trump may brag about the 74 million voters who cast ballots for him, but more importantly, he awakened more than 81 million American who declared, “America is not ready to give up on democracy.  Not on our watch.”

The only remaining question?  Having come so close to stage eight of the cycle, from dependence to bondage, has America been given a second chance to start over at stage one, advancing from near-bondage to spiritual growth? Based on the 2020 outcome, when Americans turned to a candidate who made the centerpiece of his campaign “a fight for the soul of the Nation,” a spiritual mantra even an agnostic can believe in, perhaps there is a chance.  And for that, we owe Donald Trump.  Without him, politics in America over the last five years would have been business as usual, most likely in an incrementally advancing direction which, in time, would have proved the validity of both de Tocqueville’s and Tyler’s predictions about the path the United States otherwise might have taken.

The media keep referring to America as more divided than any time since the War Between the States.  To continue the analogy, the structure on the West Capitol steps will become the modern equivalent of Appomattox on January 20th.  And the Biden administration will be responsible for the next Reconstruction.  To avoid the mistakes and lingering animosity of bringing a nation back together for the second time will take spiritual growth and courage by both sides.

For what it’s worth.


Stupid Is…

A plague o’ both your houses!

~Mercutio/Romeo & Juliet/Act III, Scene 1

Like the coronavirus pandemic, stupidity does not care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.  This sad fact of life was never more evident based on the actions this week by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Let’s start with Governor Cuomo, who on Wednesday signed a bill into law banning the sale or display of Confederal battle flags on state property despite the fact the legislation may violate First Amendment protection of free speech and expression.  Cuomo acknowledged this saying, “…certain technical changes are necessary to balance the State’s interests in preventing the use of hate symbols on state land with free speech protections…”  For the record, the bill also applied to other “symbols of hate” such as swastikas.

The Great Bits: Roy Wood Jr.'s 'Black Patriotism?'I suspect one person who might file an amicus brief when the constitutionality of the ban comes before a judge will be Roy Wood, Jr.  Some of you may recognize Wood as “the senior black correspondent” on “The Daily with Trevor Noah.”  However, his rationale against banning the Confederate flag was first voiced during his “Father Figure” comedy special on Comedy Central during which his opening after taking the stage before a largely African-American audience was:

But if we get rid of the Confederate flag…

Then, following nervous laughter and a few gasps from those in attendance, he explained:

How am I going to know who the dangerous white people are? I’m just saying, the flag had a couple upsides. Let’s just be real about it. I ain’t saying keep it around, but I grew up in the South. I can’t tell you how many times the Confederate flag came in handy. Stopping for gas at a strange place at 2 in the morning, you see that flag hanging from the window, you know this is not the place to get gas…

Makes sense.  Which would you prefer?  That white supremacists and anti-Semites travel among us unidentified?  Or that they proudly wear their bigotry on their sleeve so we can just as proudly avoid them?  One can only hope this new form of “concealed carry” does not become a movement in which red states start issuing licenses by which citizens can pack miniature Confederate flags.  Or that Wayne LaPierre does not declare, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a ‘black lives matter’ banner is a good old guy with a Confederate flag.”

Pin on CaricaturesWhich brings me to Mitch McConnell.  You remember Mitch, the guy who spent hundreds of millions of dollars during the 2020 campaign backing “law and order” Senate candidates, warning Americans that calls to “defund the police” would lead to lawlessness and chaos in the streets.  Well, Mitch was right.  However, what he did not tell you is that he would be the one to “defund the police.”

Despite bi-partisan pleas from governors and mayors that lost revenues, a result of the economic impact of the pandemic, would force layoffs of  essential first responders including firefighters and police, the Republican Senate continues to exclude any public sector support in the next COVID-19 relief package.  As recently as December 10, the majority leader criticized what he calls “controversial state bailouts,” but continues to push for blanket employer liability protection.  Once again, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, a not-so-free-market “corporate bailout” in defense of capitalism is no vice.

In July, a Brookings Institute study reported state and local governments had already laid off more than 1.5 million workers including teachers, firefighters and police.  The report goes on to predict “deep budget and job cuts in state and local government will likely grow in the next few months and fester for years to come.”

President-elect Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have all distanced themselves from the “defund the police” movement.  Miser Mitch, maybe it’s time you do the same.

It just goes to prove, stupid is as stupid does, no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.

For what it’s worth.


A Temporary Democracy


In defense of her decision to move forward with impeachment last December, House Speaker quoted Benjamin Franklin who replied to an inquiry about the nature of government laid out in the newly adopted Constitution,  “A republic, if we can keep it.”  On a day when the electoral college will affirm the selection of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, I think there is an even more appropriate message from a less well known figure.

Eisenhower Executive Office Building : washingtondcThe year was 1991.  Among my responsibilities as a policy director at the National Governors Association was helping states implement the Americans with Disabilities Act which passed the previous year.  In that role, I was often invited to meetings of the National Council on Disabilities, established by President George H. W. Bush.  My introduction to the group was a session in the Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (then known simply as the Old Executive Office Building).  The chairwoman was the1982 Ms. Wheelchair America  from Maryland Marian Schooling-Vessels.

The topic that day was accelerating compliance, especially accessibility.  There was general agreement among the Council members this was among the thornier issues because it involved money, the cost of adding ramps, elevators and, in some cases, total reconstruction of public facilities to accommodate those who could not maneuver in narrow corridors or around sharp corners.  While the 1990 act included fines for non-compliance, the Council felt persuasion was a better path to follow.  Get public officials to make the necessary changes, not because they had to, but because it was the right thing to do.

But how?  What was the message?  It was then Ms. Schooling-Vessels presented an argument which has stuck with me for 30 years which I can only paraphrase here.

MWA Titleholders | Ms. Wheelchair AmericaIn the past, we have asked people, “Imagine you were disabled.  Put yourself in our shoes.”  But the truth is they WILL be in our shoes.  They look at us and see a disabled person.  We need to remind them we look at them and see a “temporarily abled” person.

On this day, when the electors cast their votes for the next president we must remember America has been and always will be a “temporary democracy.”  The time has come for Americans to stop referring to autocracies  as though they were politically and morally disabled.  Or that they are entities we need to accommodate so that we can co-exist.  Instead, we need to prepare for a time when other democracies might look at the United States and say, “Who could imagine such a healthy republic would become so politically disabled?  How do we restructure alliances (as though they were non-accessible facilities) to accommodate this new reality?”

Some believe the last four years were that time and today’s electoral conclave is the beginning of political and moral rehabilitation.  But unlike the COVID-19 vaccine which is also in the news on this historic day, there is no permanent antidote for disability.  One can go from temporarily abled to disabled and back on multiple occasions over a lifetime.  The same is true for nations.

So the next time you hear a family member, friend or colleague suggest American democracy dodged a bullet in 2020, just add, “This time.”

For what it’s worth.


Vanity Unfair


Mnuchin says he will talk to lawmakers about PPP disclosureAmong the issues holding up passage of a second federal COVID-19 relief package is whether additional financial assistance to individuals should come in the form of extended unemployment benefits to approximately 13.5 million displaced workers or a second round of stimulus checks similar to the $1,200 per adult and child in round one.  On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin laid out the administration’s preference.

  • Extend supplemental unemployment at a reduced amount of $300 per week versus the $600 per week in round one.
  • Another round of stimulus checks at $600 per adult and child.

In contrast, a proposal drafted by a bi-partisan, ad hoc group of nine senators, now supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, prioritizes unemployment benefits and does not include additional stimulus payments.  A third framework supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also favors help for the unemployed in lieu of stimulus checks.

My question is, “Why would the T**** administration prefer stimulus checks over unemployment benefits?”  Here are three potential economic arguments.

  • The reduced unemployment payments in Mnuchin’s proposal would have less impact on spending and the deficit, reducing the cost to $40 billion compared to the provisions in the bi-partisan plan totaling $130 billion.
  • Stimulus checks will put more money into the economy more quickly.
  • More Americans would benefit from the stimulus program.  As of August 31, 2020, the IRS had issued over 153 million direct payments compared to the 13.5 million long-term unemployment recipients.

Makes sense until you look at the other side of the ledger.  Let’s take each of the above rationales for the administration’s preference for stimulus checks one at a time.

Yes, taxpayer costs for the reduced unemployment benefits would save $90 billion.  However, the first round of stimulus payments total $269 billion.  Even when you halve it, as Mnuchin proposed, the cost would be an additional $135 billion, a net increase in the deficit of $45 billion over the bi-partisan unemployment provisions.

A large percentage of the April 2020 stimulus checks did NOT contribute to consumer spending.  Why?  Because many Americans, myself included, received a payment they did not need.  My evidence? The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported, following distribution of the first stimulus checks in early-April , the personal savings rate soared to a historic high of 33 percent compared to 12.7 percent a month earlier.  In other words, for a large share of the stimulus recipients, it made no difference in their spending habits.

Finally, when it comes to the impact of federal transfer payments, sometimes the key is not how many, but who.  For example, individuals invested in the stock market got richer during the pandemic.  Older Americans whose expenditures were based on pensions and Social Security saw little if any change in net income.  The unemployed have taken the brunt of the economic downturn and are facing immediate consequences as mortgages, rent or other household expenses come due.

But let’s be honest.  Neither relieving hardship and suffering nor empirical evidence have been a motivating factor for the current administration.  What excites T****?  Seeing his signature in print (except on checks to porn stars).  Therefore, we should not be surprised the administration is more interested in stimulus checks with a facsimile of the Sharpie-in-chief’s John Hancock than unemployment checks which are distributed through state employment agencies.  Just one more example of VANITY UNFAIR which will fortunately be history in 40 days, 1 hour, 32 minutes and 43 seconds or sooner, depending when you read this entry.

For what it’s worth.