Category Archives: Politics

Hope

Last night, president Biden gave his first speech before a joint session of Congress, even if it was a smaller crowd than usual. Since Biden became the nominee, I have seen hope in him. While I still wish Pete Buttigieg had been the nominee and was now president, I fully support President Biden. I believe in him. He’s not a perfect man and he admits that, but I do believe he is a genuinely good man. I’ve never felt this way about a president before in my 43 years on this earth. I think there have been presidents who were good men, but I’ve never felt a real hope in a president before Biden. I often find myself getting emotional when I hear him speak. He is what we need in this moment. I hope that parts of this speech will go down in history. I found it one of the most inspirational speeches I’ve heard in American political history. It was a speech of hope, unity, and progress.

The only faltering in my hope is members of the Republican Party. They know what needs to be done, but because it’s not their idea nor their administration, they oppose nearly all of Biden’s agenda. Most Republicans also have no issue with lying, which Senator Tim Scott did numerous times during his rebuttal. Scott claimed America is not racist, that Democrats blocked justice reform, and that Republicans have made voting easier in Georgia. These are so untrue, and it continues to show that Republicans have divorced themselves from truth and reality. It bothers me how much they want to block progress and freedom. In contrast to Biden’s speech, Scott’s speech was one of lies, division, and regression.

In other more personal news, today I am fully vaccinated. It has been two weeks since my second COVID vaccine. I will continue to wear my mask and social distance, but it feels like we are nearing the end of this horrible year. We are still at least several months away from something resembling a return to normalcy. I think it will be at least 2022 before we see real normalcy. If Biden’s opponent had won the election, I don’t think we’d be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. With Biden, we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Also, I am having times of relatively no pain. I’m not totally pain-free yet, but I am seeing some improvement. For most of the day yesterday, I was feeling pretty good (even though I woke with a headache, it did get better), but by the evening, I was in pain again. I have hope that I am getting better. There is still some swelling that is still aggravating my trigeminal nerve, but the tooth socket is not hurting nearly as much. As I’ve said before, time will tell, but I am hopeful.

My virtual program for the museum yesterday seemed to go as well as could be expected. There was a bit of fumbling with the technology, but it was quickly fixed and things went smoothly. We did run over by about twenty minutes, but people seemed to have enjoyed it. Some even asked for more programs similar to what was presented yesterday, and I do have two in the works for fall. Hopefully, they will be hybrid virtual/in-person programs. Again, time will tell.


Coincidence, I Think NOT!

Images of the CPAC stage went viral this weekend as many noted a resemblance to the Odal or Othala rune, a symbol emblazoned on some Nazi uniforms. The main stage’s floor layout resembled the Odal rune with wings/feet, which led to speculation on social media that CPAC deliberately chose this particular design. The Anti-Defamation League classified the insignia as a hate symbol adopted by modern-day white supremacists. As someone who organizes public programs as part of my job, I can tell you that no aspect of an event is unintentional, especially designing a stage for such a venue. I have no doubt that CPAC organizers chose this shape for a particular purpose. They were sending a message of support for the extreme right. The Odal Rune is a well-known symbol of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In November 2016, the American National Socialist Movement’s leadership announced their intention to replace the Nazi-pattern swastika with the Odal rune on their uniforms and party regalia in an attempt to enter mainstream politics. This symbol was purposely chosen by National Socialist Movement’s leadership because it is a lesser-known symbol of Neo-Nazism. I find it hard to believe that the design of the CPAC stage was coincidentally shaped like the symbol of the National Socialist Movement when the Right is well-known for subtle nods to the most extreme of their ideology.

A Uniform Patch for the SS (top picture)
The CPAC Stage (bottom picture)

Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, the organizer of CPAC, said on Saturday in a tweet that comparisons were “outrageous and slanderous.” This is a typical response of the right when they are caught using symbols or statements as coded messaging for their more extreme elements. Schlapp continued saying, “We have a long-standing commitment to the Jewish community. Cancel culture extremists must address antisemitism within their own ranks. CPAC proudly stands with our Jewish allies, including those speaking from this stage.” This is the equivalent of, “I can’t be racist, I have black friends” or “I’m not homophobic, I know gay people.” Conservatives use this type of language all the time. The former president similar tactics all the time when he would voice his support of groups like QAnon or the Proud Boys and then claim he didn’t really know anything about such groups. Coded messages to extremists have been used by Republicans for decades to hide in plain sight their support of the discrimination of various groups.

This year’s CPAC theme was “America Uncanceled,” reflecting their obsessive use of the term “cancel culture.” Conservative media like Fox News use “cancel culture” as an attack on progressives by accusing them of silencing and banishing anyone with whom they disagree to a politically correct Hell. The Right fails to perceive the irony and hypocrisy (something they seem immune to) of arguing that Democrats invented “cancel culture,” when in reality, the Right perpetuated this political tactic to its radical extreme. Republicans live in a culture that cancels anyone and everyone who does not look like them, believe like them, think like them, walk like them, talk like them, love like them, present themselves like them, lie like them, invent and promote conspiracy theories like them, and rejects the Constitution like them. “Cancel culture” is a term the Right coined to organize its minions against progressive policies and actions. It is a term that is meant to justify continuing its oppression and dominance against those of us and our movement(s) attempting to end the forms of oppression and provide more equality and equity. In other words, “Cancel culture” is meant to give the Right justification in its continuing promotion of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, patriarchal Christian white supremacy, and all other forms of oppression. It is a term of intimidation and resistance to progressive social change.

CPAC’s goals of oppression was never more evident than in its use of the Odal rune for the design of the CPAC stage, but it’s not just that they used something similar to the Odal rune, it’s that they used the Nazi interpretation of that symbol. The rendition of the rune used for the CPAC stage with wings/feet was the badge of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office, which was responsible for maintaining the racial purity of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS). It was also the emblem of ethnic Germans of the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen operating during World War II in the Nazi Germany-sponsored Independent State of Croatia. In addition to the National Socialist Movement in the United States, this rendition is used by Neo-Nazis in Germany and South Africa and by Italian neo-fascists. This particular rendition has no historical significance outside of Nazi Germany. Because of its Nazi associations, Germany’s Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) 86a bans any usage of the Odal rune as with most other symbols if used in a Neo-Nazi context.

We have to be vigilant in calling out the coded messages to extremists that are constantly used by the Right. Sometimes, the Right does not code their hatred, and other times they do. We cannot let them get away with this extremism and their support of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, patriarchal Christian white supremacy, and all other forms of oppression. The problem must be rooted out, and we need to work to vote out all those who even marginally support such behavior.


Political Rant of the Week

I have said this numerous times, but Republican politicians are some of the most repugnant Americans. As the Biden administration continues to support LGBTQ+ rights, Republican homophobia and transphobia are becoming very apparent. Republicans have been using transgender women as the scapegoat for their opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. They have repeatedly denigrated trans kids and student-athletes and accused the parents of trans people of being neglectful or abusive. First, thirteen Republican Senators voted against Pete Buttigieg’s confirmation as Secretary of Transportation. None, as far as I know, gave a reason, and when I wrote to my former senator Richard Shelby, who I have always been told has a gay son, to ask why he voted against Pete, I was given a non-answer about how he carefully considers all nominees he votes on. I believe that most of these thirteen senators, including Shelby, voted against Pete because of his sexuality. While silent homophobia is bad enough, the outspoken homophobia and transphobia of some Republicans in Congress are beyond abhorrent.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a joint hearing to confirm Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Vivek Murphy and Dr. Rachel Levine, who is transgender and is the current surgeon general for Pennsylvania. Most questions focused on the government’s response to COVID-19. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) decided to go on an anti-transgender tirade when questioning Dr. Levine, ranting about how Congress should ban gender-affirming health care for transgender kids instead of left up to families and doctors. Paul started by saying, “Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned. Genital mutilation has been condemned by the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund.” He went on to say that genital mutilation is egregious because “it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.” If he wanted to compare bottom surgery to genital mutilation, he was badly mistaken. It’s almost unheard of for minors to get bottom surgery. 

In fact, everyone talks about puberty blockers being used so that trans youth can have more time to understand themselves before puberty permanently affects their bodies. Paul then turned to the subject of puberty blockers and cited the American College of Pediatricians, an SPLC designated hate group that promotes anti-LGBTQ+ bias. It is often confused with the American Pediatric Association, the real professional association for pediatricians that urges parents of trans kids to “listen, respect and support their child’s self-expressed identity.” Paul remarked that “80 to 90 percent” of children with gender dysphoria “will experience resolution,” a euphemism for stopping being transgender. This statistic is fake, but Paul said it anyway at a Senate hearing. Paul continually attacked Dr. Levine in the hearing.

If Paul wants to rant about genital mutilation in children, he should support the campaign against infant circumcision. I will not say that circumcision should be prohibitive for those of the Jewish faith; after all, Republicans are always claiming to believe in religious freedom. Circumcision took hold in the United States in the late 19th century, spread through the “modernization” of medicine. A few prominent doctors, including John Harvey Kellogg, advocated the surgery as a cure for paralysis, epilepsy, venereal disease, even mental illness. Throughout the Victorian era, it was extolled for its virtue of cleanliness and as a cure for masturbation. Circumcision is the only common genital mutilation in the United States. Most of the rest of the world has quit following the practice or never advocated it in the first place. If circumcision should continue, it should be reserved for cases of medical necessity.

Then there is the always “pleasant” Marjorie Taylor Greene, who held up all of Congress’s business in a destined-to-fail attempt to stop the LGBTQ+ Equality Act from passing the House. Greene called the Equality Act “DISGUSTING, IMMORAL, AND EVIL.” One of her colleagues found an excellent way to show her contempt for Greene’s opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) put up a transgender flag across the hall from Greene’s office so that she’d have to see it every day. Newman tweeted, “Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.” 

Greene, who the House voted to strip her of her committee assignments due to her support of violence against other House members, put up a hateful sign in response that said: “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust The Science!’” In a tweet, Greene noted that the Equality Act would “destroy women’s rights and religious freedoms.” She posted a video of herself smirking at the camera while slapping it on the wall. Making Greene’s sign even more insensitive is the fact that Newman’s daughter is transgender. On the House floor, she called her daughter the “strongest, bravest person I know.”

The Biden administration stated support of the Equality Act, a landmark piece of legislation that would establish LGBTQ+ civil rights protections in federal law. The measure passed the House yesterday. However, the Equality Act faces an obstacle in the Senate as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) refused to co-sponsor the bill and won’t say why. She has previously co-sponsored it but apparently is pouting because the Human Rights Campaign endorsed her Democratic challenger in the last election. Collins claims to be “a strong believer in LGBTQ rights,” yet, she doesn’t want to give us the federal protections we deserve. 

Our community often continues to face discrimination, harassment, and violence at work, at school, and in public accommodations. H.R. 5 would amend existing federal civil rights laws to expressly include nondiscrimination protection based on sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), providing security and equality to LGBTQ+ Americans in accessing housing, employment, education, public accommodations, healthcare, and other federally funded services, credit, and more. The Supreme Court has already ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that employees are protected from discrimination based on sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equality Act confirms the implications of Bostock for other discrimination laws, consistent with the President’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, issued January 20, 2021, and further builds on Bostock, thereby securing such protections once and for all for LGBTQ+ Americans across Federal civil rights laws. Women also currently lack protection against sex discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs; the Equality Act would fill that gap in the law.

Finally, we have another reprehensible MAGAt in Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who recently used anti-gay stereotypes to explain her plan to vote against LGBTQ civil rights. Like Greene, Boebert is viciously – and proudly – anti-LGBTQ. During an unhinged rant full of fake claims about transgender pre-teens, Boebert managed to bring her transphobic comments around full circle to loop in an anti-gay stereotype that all gay men are feminine. She said she is raising her four sons “to be men,” and she is “proud of that.” The implication is that if you don’t meet her standard of masculinity, then you are not a man. I pity her sons to be raised in such a way. I was raised in much the same way and am still dealing with the psychological issues it caused.

It infuriates me that Paul, Greene, Boebert, or any other Congress member can make such hateful and discriminatory comments without any repercussions. Any member of Congress who uses such harmful language should be universally renounced and reprimanded for their derogatory and detrimental language concerning someone’s sexuality, race, or religion. We should hold our politicians to a higher standard. Minorities in this country have fought long and hard for equality and respect, yet lawmakers can make insensitive and disgusting comments like those mentioned above and face no consequences. Greene at least got removed from her committee assignments for previous conduct and remarks, but I doubt they will ever expel her for what she has done.  


Betrayed

Once again, Republicans have betrayed our country. Only seven Republicans voted guilty in the impeachment trial of the former president. The other 43 Republican Senators betrayed their oath of office to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Forty-nine abdicated their sworn oath a year ago when the former president tried to bribe a foreign president to interfere in the elections of the United States. They supported a president who for four years acted as if there was no limit on his authority. Then, they supported him when he tried to overturn an election by inciting a violent insurrection against the United States Congress. 

Worst of all, the defense for the former president put up no defense. The defense presented red herrings, slurs, and outright lies in their lack of understanding of the procedures of a Senate impeachment trial. They did not care to ask their client simple questions that could have provided evidence, which they did not because there was no evidence that the former president was not guilty. It should have been apparent to all Senators that the former president was so indefensible that all he could get to defend him were a group of ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyers who did not have the slightest understanding of impeachment proceedings or the U.S. Constitution. Their malpractice should be a disgrace to any lawyer in America.

Once again, we have been betrayed by the majority of Republicans in our federal government. How long will they be allowed to continue to betray us?


The Republican Problem

Republicans have a chance to take back their Party, but I doubt they will do that. The Republican Party leaders could take back the Party and get back to the traditional values of the Republican Party (even though I see much of their beliefs about social welfare and the economy as misguided). Republicans have been mostly reprehensible to me in the last 20 years, but at one time, they did believe in a platform and a set of standards. The fringe elements of the GOP date back much farther. In the 1950s, Republicans led by Senator Joseph McCarthy incited the Red Scare claiming there were communists everywhere and going on a witch hunt throughout the United States. We know now that Sen. McCarthy’s infamous “list,” which supposedly named communists who had infiltrated the heart of the United States government, was completely fabricated. On February 9, 1950, McCarthy told a crowd of 275 at the Ohio County Republican Women’s Club that the U.S. State Department was “thoroughly infested with communists” and brandished papers he claimed were a list of 57 such subversives. No such list ever existed. The Red Scare eventually ended when Republican Senators stood up to McCarthy. The Senate censured him but not before he had ruined thousands of lives with his accusations of communism.

McCarthy is just the most famous of the examples of Republican extremism gone too far. Another example happened on July 14, 1964, supporters of Barry Goldwater, who was about to accept the Republican nomination for president, unleashed a torrent of boos against New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller as he spoke at the Party’s national convention in San Francisco. Some might remember this event, but what is usually forgotten is why Rockefeller, who had lost the nomination to Goldwater, was standing behind the lectern in the first place. He was there to speak in support of an amendment to the party platform that would condemn political extremism. The resolution repudiated “the efforts of irresponsible extremist organizations,” including the Communist Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birch Society (JBS), a rapidly growing far-right grassroots group obsessed with the alleged communist infiltration of America.

The resolution failed, which testifies to the GOP’s long-standing reluctance to separate themselves from the extremists who congregate at its fringes. But the fact that such a resolution was debated at all—in such a visible venue, with such high-profile advocates—also says something about Republicans today. In the past, the GOP had a stronger core of resistance to extremism than it’s had in the era of the former president, QAnon, the Proud Boys, and the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene. The history of JBS shows us that this radical element has been a part of the Republican Party since the middle of the last century. In case you aren’t familiar with the John Birch Society, it is a radical right and far-right American political advocacy group supporting anti-communism and limited government. Canadian author Jeet Heer argued in The New Republic that while its influence peaked in the 1970s, “Bircherism” and its legacy of conspiracy theories have become the dominant strain in the conservative movement. Politico has asserted that the JBS began making a resurgence in the mid-2010s, and JBS itself has argued that it shaped the modern conservative movement, especially the former president’s administration.

The question of how Republicans deal with the extremists in their ranks is now more urgent than perhaps at any other point since the Birch Society’s heyday in the 1960s. So far, little has been done to uproot these fringe elements. Representative Kevin McCarthy and other GOP leaders have shown no interest in acting against House members who promoted or spoke at the rally ahead of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. And while GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have criticized Greene—a relatively easy target—almost all have signaled that they will not vote in the impeachment trial to impose any consequences on the former president for his role in inciting the attack. McConnell sees himself in a desperate position to preserve the Republican Party and has warned Republican colleagues in private conference meetings the GOP faces a new “John Birch Society” problem that the Party must aggressively purge.

Those who care about the traditional values of the Republican Party could jointly stand together and denounce the previous president, his supporters in the Senate and the House, and the fringe extremists who have devoted themselves to perpetuating the previous president’s lies at any cost. If they voted to convict in the impeachment, denounce extremism, then they could have a chance to take back the Party. If they do not stand up for what is the right thing to do and convict the previous president, the fringe extremists that have plagued the Party since the middle of the last century will overtake the Party and drive it further to the right. The problem I see is that McConnell and others in the Republican Party have allowed the extremists to grow like a cancerous tumor. McConnell said himself that the “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.” The problem is that his analogy is too apt, and I think the cancerous tumor has been left untreated for so long until it is terminal. That was evident in Greene’s response. On Twitter, Greene wrote, “The real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully. This is why we are losing our country.”

The Republicans could take a stand during this impeachment trial. They could turn against the extremists in their Party. I realize that they will not eject any Congress members for their extremism, but they could ostracize the extremists for their actions. They could censure them, though I think that too is unlikely. What they can do is to give them so little influence in Congress that opponents can use it against them in their next election. Maybe once they do this and take back the Republican Party along more traditional lines without the extremism, they can finally come into the twenty-first century and possibly become decent human beings. Either way, I’d rather have the traditional business Republicans than the fringe elements who seem to control the Party today.


What Is Wrong with These People?

Are Republicans stupid, or have they used deception and lies for so long, they can no longer see reality? Senator Kevin Cramer was on MSNBC yesterday morning discussing the impeachment trial. He made numerous blatantly false claims, and when the anchors tried to correct him, he stuck to his guns, claiming they were incorrect. One of his lies (or just stupidity) was that Nancy Pelosi withheld the articles of impeachment until after the former president left office. As Stephanie Ruel pointed out, Pelosi was ready to send over the articles of impeachment on January 14 but was told by the Senate Parliamentarian that since the Senate had been dismissed, she could not send over the articles until the Senate reconvened. McConnell purposely delayed the trial of the former president so that he could make the argument that a former president cannot be tried after he left office. Cramer claimed that it would have taken unanimous consent to reconvene the Senate when anyone who was paying attention knows that the Senate could have bypassed this with the consent of the Senate Majority Leader (McConnell, at the time) and Senate Minority Leader (Schumer, at the time). Though Schumer agreed to reconvene the Senate, McConnell refused. Contrary to Cramer’s claim and that of the former president’s defense team, Pelosi was not responsible for the trial taking place after the former president left office. McConnell is entirely and wholly responsible for this and purposely held up the impeachment trial.

There is no doubt that the former president’s defense lawyers presented an unorganized and deceptive argument filled with lies, subterfuge, and fringe legal theories. Just about the only thing that they said truthfully was that Joe Biden won the election, fair and square and that the House Managers presented an excellent case for the constitutionality of an impeachment trial of a former president. The former president’s defense started on a strange note, with one of his lawyers, Bruce Castor, giving a meandering defense of the former president. He rarely referenced the former president or his behavior on January 6. At times, he appeared to be arguing for the former president’s free speech rights and against a partisan cycle of impeachments. The other defense lawyer, David Schoen, delivered a more forceful speech, accusing Democrats of trying to “disenfranchise” the former president’s supporters. It was a strange defense because the former president had spent the previous 77 days trying to disenfranchise millions of voters in states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Schoen also described the trial as an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of a “private citizen.” Schoen argued that the House had violated the former president’s due process rights by pursuing impeachment so quickly and that if the Senate went ahead with the trial, it would set a precedent under which the House could impeach any public official at any time after leaving office if control of Congress changed hands. In his argument, he suggested lawmakers had impeached the former president too soon and too late. The defense team’s arguments were often contradictory of one another, and even of their own arguments at times. Castor even argued for the criminal prosecution of the former president by the Justice Department, and Cramer repeated this argument on MSNBC. Of course, if the Justice Department did file charges against the former president for inciting an insurrection, the Republicans would go crazy calling it a Democratic witch hunt, even after they had argued for that exact thing to happen.

Numerous Republican Senators derided the defense presented by the former president’s lawyers. Ted Cruz said, “I don’t think the lawyers did the most effective job.” Cruz added that the lead House impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin, was “impressive.” Sen. John Cornyn, who is among Trump’s defenders on Capitol Hill, said that he has seen “a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments” and that Castor’s “was not one of the finest I’ve seen.” Sen. Lindsay Graham said, “Well, I think I — I thought I — I really didn’t know — I thought I knew where he was going. And I really didn’t know where he was going.” Graham added that “nobody’s mind was changed one way or the other.” However, the House Managers changed one Republican Senator’s mind. Sen. Bill Cassidy was the only Republican Senator to switch his vote to support moving forward with the impeachment trial. Cassidy said after the first day of arguments, “The issue at hand, is it constitutional to impeach a president who’s left office? And the House managers made a compelling, cogent case, and the president’s team did not.” He said that the former president’s defense lawyers gave meandering opening statements that were incoherent and ineffective.

In yesterday’s presentation by the House Managers, a case was methodically made using the former president’s own words and tweets. I had several things I had to do yesterday afternoon, so I did not get to watch the House Managers’ complete presentation, but what I saw was so overwhelmingly convincing that I cannot understand how anyone can vote for acquittal. However, the sad thing is that most of the Republican Senators, if not all, recognize that what happened on January 6 was horrible, indefensible, and the fault of months of rhetoric by the former president culminating in his call for his supporters to march to the Capitol and present a show of strength. Yet, I do not expect the former president to be convicted. On Twitter, Senator Lindsey Graham called the yesterday’s presentation “offensive and absurd.” The only thing offensive about the presentation was the former president’s actions. There was nothing absurd about the evidence presented. It was terrifying. As Dave R commented yesterday, “They won’t convict because that makes them complicit. They would rather let the American voters fire their asses than grow a spine.” Just like the first impeachment trial, the vast majority of Republicans are not only making a mockery of the judicial/legislative process of impeachment, but they are making a mockery of the United States. Their inaction makes them just as culpable as the former president.


Emotional Day

Yesterday was an emotional day for me. I woke up once again with more head and neck pain. My neurologist sent me a message asking, “How are you doing? Has the pain improved?” I messaged her back to tell her that I had seen improvement through much of Saturday, but the pain began to return by Saturday evening and has continued to worsen since then. She ordered an MRI, which I will have done next week. I pray that if they find something, it won’t be anything terrible. Honestly, it scares me that they are having such a difficult time controlling this headache. The pain of the last week and a half has caused me to be depressed. I have had headaches worse than this years ago, but I have never had one that was this intense for this long. I went years with a constant headache, but it came in waves. While I was never without pain during those years, I had days when the pain was not all encompassing, followed by periods of debilitating pain. This current headache has been close to being debilitating all the time. It has hindered my ability to concentrate. So, the pain is making me very emotional.

Also, I watched the impeachment trial. The video that the House managers played was very disturbing and upsetting. I cannot see how anyone could not be moved by it. I believe that the video’s editing could have been better because I think it would have been more effective with time stamps throughout, as much as possible, to show a better timeline of events. That aside, I think it was very effective. On MSNBC, Claire McCaskill reported that friends of hers in the Senate chamber saw some of the Republican Senators (Rubio, Cruz, Cotton, and others) refusing to watch the video and busied themselves with papers on their desks. She also said that some Democratic Senators turned away because they could not watch the videos and relive that day all over again. It was a brutal video to watch, but I think that no matter what political party you belong to, you should be paying close attention during the trial. Seeing Rep. Jamie Raskin choke up talking about his family being in the Capitol that day was also difficult to watch. It’s upsetting that it is unlikely that enough Republicans will vote to convict the former president of inciting an insurrection, but I know that most Republicans want to put their heads in the sand and ignore what happened. The former president’s lawyers made rambling and ridiculous arguments that contradicted each other. Nothing they said was convincing or based on reality. Castor did admit that the former president lost the election, but that’s been clear to most of us for months. Schoen just looked like a raging nutcase, but considering his client list, I expected no less.

Hopefully, today will be a more mentally stable day for me today, and there will be less pain physically.


The Problem with Congress

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has been in the news a lot this last week as more and more evidence of her support for terror and extremism mounts. CNN reported that Greene “liked” a social media post that suggested “a bullet to the head” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and seemed to approve of a suggestion that other prominent Democrats should be hanged, not to mention similar calls for the death of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Greene has supported QAnon conspiracy theories about a global pedophilia cabal, approved of suggestions that mass shootings were staged, and made various racist comments. Furthermore, a video emerged of Greene harassing David Hogg, who survived the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day 2018. The video shows Greene following Hogg down the street in Washington, D.C., in March 2019, and badgering him, calling him a crisis actor paid by George Soros, telling him she was armed, demanding he talk to her, and calling him a coward. Hogg walked on without engaging her.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday in a press conference that, “Assigning her to the Education Committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school — what could they be thinking? Or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing? It’s absolutely appalling, and I think the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard they have for the death of those children.” Pelosi knows that Republicans have known for a while that they had trouble brewing with Marjorie Taylor Greene back in the summer of 2020 when she was running for Congress. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the QAnon supporter’s comments about Black people and Muslims “disgusting,” while a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called them “appalling.” Scalise backed her primary opponent.

So, I am sure a lot of people have questions about how this woman could be elected. I have some thoughts on that because I have always lived in rural congressional districts. In most congressional races in rural districts, especially in the South, candidates often don’t get many campaign contributions. Many don’t even have websites, and if they do, they are sparse with their information. If multiple people are in a primary, I believe most people just pick the name they like best. Voters don’t really care who they are voting for in these primaries. When the general election comes around, they either vote for the one with the R after their name or the D after their name. As a general rule, I do vote for Democrats almost exclusively. Still, I’ve known a few Democrats I won’t vote for, and on rare occasions, I find someone in the Republican Party or a third party that I want to vote for, but I do my research on candidates. Most voters don’t research candidates. Ignorance by the voting public is especially problematic in rural areas where school systems are often the poorest. People are often uneducated or undereducated. Internet access is difficult to come by without paying exorbitant prices, making it difficult to research candidates. If they have a smartphone, they probably get most of their information from Facebook, which is misleading at best but is most often completely inaccurate.

While Greene was covered in the news as a QAnon candidate, Green and other Republicans tried to distance her from her QAnon conspiracy theories during the general election. Now the crazy is coming out in full force. She should have never been elected, but our previous president and his followers pushed for her election. To top that off, northwest Georgia, which Greene represents, is extremely conservative and backwoods and is over 84 percent white and nearly 57 percent blue-collar. The district leans heavily Republican. Donald Trump carried the district with over 75 percent of the vote in 2016, his eighth-best showing in the nation. Among Georgia’s congressional districts, only the neighboring 9th district is more Republican. Since its creation, no Democrat has managed as much as 30 percent of the vote. 

When I lived in Alabama, I lived at times in the 2nd Congressional and the 7th Congressional districts. The 7th Congressional district is the “Black Belt” district. The shape of the current district was largely established in 1992 when it was reconstituted as a majority-minority district under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended in 1982 to encourage greater representation for minorities in Congress. Since its creation in 1843, a Republican has only represented the district once and for just one term from 1965-1967. In contrast, Alabama’s 2nd congressional district is majority white, and only one Democrat has represented the district since 1965. That one Democrat, former Montgomery mayor Bobby Bright, only served one term, and most recently switched parties and ran again and lost as a Republican candidate. The current representative from the 2nd congressional district is Barry Moore, who was elected for the first time in 2020. Moore is crooked to the core and has been under near-constant investigation for using his office as a legislator to get preferential contracts and for committing perjury in another corruption case. Moore’s opponent, a black woman named Phyllis Harvey-Hall, worked as an elementary school teacher for 25 years before her retirement. Her credentials and clean history of no criminal charges made no difference. She only received 34.7 percent of the vote (the minority population of the district is just 37 percent).

The House of Representatives tends to be more radical than the Senate because of the smaller and more localized districts. While there are moderates in the House, there are more members who are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. There are also more members who are highly unqualified to be in Congress. The Senate has its bad eggs too. Alabama’s new Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville could very well make history as the most unqualified and incompetent, at least in recent memory. There are some awful people in the Senate, such as McConnell, Graham, Hawley, Cruz, etc., but they at least have some brains, even if they continuously make stupid, hateful, and often contradictory statements. Tuberville, however, takes the cake. He was a football coach known for being extremely lazy. Every time it appeared that his job would become challenging, he left the coaching position.

Furthermore, he’s a crook who defrauded investors of millions during his ownership of an investment company. His partner in the venture was convicted of fraud and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Tuberville turned on him during the trial and escaped being indicted. The Tommy Tuberville Foundation has also been found to mismanage the funds and lining the pockets of Tuberville. He was only elected because he somehow gained our previous president’s support, probably because he sucked up to the former president the most. Voters did not care that he had zero experience that showed he would make a good politician. They cared nothing about his inability to understand the most basic of civic lessons. They cared that he ran as a Republican, was hateful, and had the support of a Republican president. One of his first acts as a Senator was to cast a treasonous vote to overturn a legitimate election.

The point I want to make is that the American electorate is composed of millions of uneducated individuals who are easily swayed by propaganda and hate. Politicians feed on their fears when they actually do tell constituents what their policies are. When NBC News asked Greene’s constituents about the awful things she has said and supported, they simply did not care. One woman talked about how Greene was bold and spoke her mind; we heard Trump supporters say the same thing. Another woman said she didn’t care what Greene had said or done; she still supported the congresswoman. These attitudes and the radicalization and encouragement of extremists led to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. A lack of education is a dangerous thing because it makes people too impressionable and gullible.


The Filibuster: An Accidental and Archaic Rule

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., speaks to reporters outside the Senate chamber just after being sworn-in by Vice President Kamala Harris, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the federal government is the arcane Senate rule known as the filibuster. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued against the filibuster, according to whether it is useful to them or not. Considering how little the contemporary version of the U.S. Senate accomplishes, that may be reason enough to kill the filibuster — a tool used by the minority party to keep the Senate in a state of near-perpetual obstruction. There’s another reason. Despite an enormous amount of work to be done now at the start of a new Congress, the Senate can’t accomplish tasks as basic as picking committee chairs because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is using the threat of a filibuster to hold up the rules organizing the new Senate, which is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote giving Democrats a razor-thin majority. Why? Because McConnell wants a guarantee that Democrats won’t bend the rules to eliminate the filibuster. 

At this point in this post, I am going to give all of you a choice. You can watch a 20-minute video of John Oliver explaining in an irreverent but often humorous way the history and structure of the filibuster, or you can read my more detailed and analysis of the filibuster. If you choose the video, then you can skip to the section below the dividing line.

For a little history, the filibuster, contrary to popular belief, is not in the Constitution and the founding fathers never even mentioned it at the Constitutional Convention or in The Federalist Papers, which argued against supermajority required votes in Federalist No. 58 written by James Madison and Federalist No. 22 by Alexander Hamilton. While the Constitution does not mandate it, the framers clearly envisioned that simple majority voting would be used to conduct business. It took seventeen years for the simple majority rule to be changed. In 1789, the first U.S. Senate adopted rules allowing senators to move forward to vote on a bill by a simple majority vote. However, Vice President Aaron Burr argued that voting on whether or not to vote on a bill was redundant, and the Senate had only exercised the procedure once in the preceding four years. He believed the rule should be eliminated, which was done in 1806 after he left office. The Senate agreed and modified its rules; however, filibusters became theoretically possible because it created no means for ending debate. Just an aside, Burr, who accidentally created the filibuster, was later tried multiple times for treason for attempting to establish an independent country in the Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. This was after he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, and Burr ended up fleeing to Europe to get away from the charges of treason. Treason, by the way, is very difficult to prove by the standards set by the Constitution.

Though the option of the filibuster had been created, it remained only theoretical until the 1830s. The first Senate filibuster occurred in 1837. In 1841, a defining moment came at the hands of Alabama senator and future vice president William Rufus King (who I wrote about several weeks ago as being the possible lover of James Buchanan). During debate on a bill to charter a new national bank, Senator Henry Clay tried to end the debate through a majority vote. King threatened a filibuster, saying that Clay “may make his arrangements at his boarding house for the winter.” Other senators sided with King, and Clay backed down. At the time, both the Senate and the House of Representatives allowed filibusters as a way to prevent a vote from taking place. Subsequent revisions to House rules limited filibuster privileges in that chamber, but the Senate continued to allow the tactic. 

Eight decades passed before a rule was created to end a filibuster. In 1917, during World War I, a rule allowing cloture (a motion to end debate through a vote) was adopted by the Senate on a 76–3 roll call vote at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, after a group of 12 anti-war senators managed to kill a bill that would have allowed Wilson to arm merchant vessels in the face of unrestricted German submarine warfare. From 1917 to 1949, the requirement for cloture was two-thirds of senators voting. During the 1930s, Senator Huey Long of Louisiana used the filibuster to promote his populist policies and ushered in the politics of strange speeches that mocked the dignity of the Senate. Long recited Shakespeare and read out recipes for “pot-likkers” during his filibusters, which occupied 15 hours of debate. Senator Ted Cruz more recently read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess, even though the need to continually speak is no longer necessary. The threat of filibuster suffices these days. In 1949, the Senate made invoking cloture more difficult by requiring two-thirds of the entire Senate membership had to vote in favor of a cloture motion. However, that lasted a mere ten years. In 1959, then-Majority Leader and future president Lyndon Johnson anticipated a flurry of civil rights legislation and restored the cloture threshold to two-thirds of those voting to keep Southern Democrats from hijacking the Senate. As presiding officer, Vice President Richard Nixon supported the move and stated his opinion that the Senate “has a constitutional right at the beginning of each new Congress to determine rules it desires to follow,” which is the reason the Senate is currently debating the rules governing the Democratic majority in the Senate.

After a series of filibusters in the 1960s over civil rights legislation, the Senate put a “two-track system” into place in 1970. Before this system was introduced, a filibuster would stop the Senate from moving on to any other legislative activity. Tracking allows the majority leader—with unanimous consent or the agreement of the minority leader—to have more than one main motion pending on the floor as unfinished business. Under the two-track system, the Senate can have two or more pieces of legislation or nominations pending on the floor simultaneously by designating specific periods during the day when each one will be considered. (This might be a possible way for the Senate to move ahead with the current impeachment trial that is expected to come forward sometime today.) This change’s side effect was that by no longer bringing Senate business to a complete halt, filibusters on particular motions became politically easier for the minority to sustain, leading to the number of filibusters increasing rapidly. In 1975, the Senate revised its cloture rule so that three-fifths of sworn senators (60 votes out of 100) could limit debate, with only a few exceptions to the rule.

Whoever was the minority party at the time began to use the filibuster as a way to hold up judicial appointments. In 2005, a group of Republican senators proposed having the presiding officer, Vice President Dick Cheney, rule that a filibuster on judicial nominees was unconstitutional, as it was inconsistent with the President’s power to name judges with the advice and consent of a simple majority of senators. On November 21, 2013, Senate Democrats used the so-called “nuclear option,” voting 52–48 — with all Republicans and three Democrats opposed — to eliminate the filibuster’s use on executive branch nominees and judicial nominees, except to the Supreme Court. In 2015, Republicans took control of the Senate and kept the 2013 rules in place. On April 6, 2017, Senate Republicans eliminated the sole remaining exception to the 2013 change by invoking the “nuclear option” for Supreme Court nominees. This was done to allow a simple majority to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The vote to change the rules was 52 to 48 along party lines.

The supermajority rule has made it very difficult, often impossible, for Congress to pass any but the most non-controversial legislation in recent decades. During times of unified party control, majorities have attempted (with varying levels of success) to enact their major policy priorities through the budget reconciliation process, resulting in legislation constrained by budget rules. Meanwhile, public approval for Congress as an institution has fallen to its lowest levels ever, with large segments of the public seeing the institution as ineffective, which brings us to the current situation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer cannot organize the Senate under his majority rule because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insists that the Democrats commit to leaving the filibuster intact. The Democrats have no plans at this time to kill the filibuster altogether. Quite frankly, they do not have the votes, since Democratic Senator Joe Manchin openly opposes the idea and others are cautious; however, they want to keep the threat of killing the filibuster to prevent McConnell and the Republicans from abusing it and stopping all Democratic legislation.

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The stakes here are interesting because the issues are deeper than just the filibuster. While the new Senate is split evenly, the 50 Democrats in the Senate represent over 41.5 million more people than the 50 Republicans represent. The filibuster means that no legislation can pass Congress without the support of 10 Republicans. What that means is that the fight over the filibuster is a fight not just about the ability of the Democrats to get laws passed, but about whether McConnell and the Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, can kill legislation endorsed by lawmakers who represent quite a large majority. We are in an uncomfortable period in our history in which the mechanics of our democracy are functionally anti-democratic. The fight over the filibuster might seem dull, but it’s a pretty significant struggle as our lawmakers try to make the rules of our system fit our changing nation.

One of the biggest problems with the filibuster is that it’s held as a hallowed tradition of the Senate, when it was not originally part of the rules of the Senate. Furthermore, it allows for just forty-one people out of the 328.2 million Americans to stop legislation from even being considered. The other major problem is that the Senate, contrary to popular belief, is filled with racists, homophobes, misogynists, and/or stupid people. The stupidity may be the worst of them all because they cause the other three. I will not give the obvious example of the election of a football coach who doesn’t even know the three branches of the government or who the Allies fought in World War II because no one is claiming Tommy Tuberville is a genius. Instead, I want to bring to your attention the stupidity of a man many in the Senate often claim to be a genius, Ted Cruz. The Senator tweeted the following statement on Tuesday:

Many senators, including Democrats and Republicans, have stated that Cruz is a very intelligent man. Yet, he is too stupid to understand that the Paris Climate Accord is named as such because it was signed in Paris, not because it represents the views of Parisians. While he probably does realize this, he is more likely playing to his constituents’ stupidity and the supporters of the previous administration. This kind of stupidity is the reason Chuck Schumer and the Democrats must end the filibuster. If they don’t, they might as well just go back to letting Mitch McConnell be Majority Leader and allow the Senate to continue to prevent any legislation from moving on through the Senate.

In other news: President Biden is expected to sign an executive order today that will lift the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. The controversial ban was announced by the previous president in 2017 and reversed the Obama administration’s policy to allow open service by transgender people.


Fighting for LGBTQ+ on Day One

In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The previous administration refused to enforce the ruling. Whether the last president was smart enough to know this little fact, he emulated his “hero,” Andrew Jackson. In 1832, the Supreme Court issued a decision on Worcester v. Georgia in which Chief Justice John Marshall laid out in the opinion that the relationship between the Indian Nations and the United States is that of nations and built the foundations of the doctrine of tribal sovereignty in the United States. Jackson disagreed with the decision and backed Georgia’s attempts to discriminate against and encroach on the Cherokee Nation’s lands. In what was probably a bit of apocryphal history, Jackson reportedly responded: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” While our 45th president neither praised nor criticized the ruling, he stated in response to the decision that “some people were surprised” and said that the court had “ruled and we live with their decision.” Yet, he did nothing to enforce it. In fact, his administration actively interpreted the decision very narrowly to decrease its effectiveness.

The inaction of the previous administration changed on Wednesday. On his first day, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden issued an executive order implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County and repealing guidance from the previous administration related to nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. The Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement emphasizing the importance of Biden’s Executive Order:

Biden’s Executive Order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president. Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.

By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life. While detailed implementation across the federal government will take time, this Executive Order will begin to immediately change the lives of the millions of LGBTQ people seeking to be treated equally under the law.

When I was a teacher at a private school in Alabama, I feared for my job every day of those five years. If my sexuality had become public while I was teaching there, I would have lost my job on the spot. I will always believe that suspicion about my sexuality was why after five years, my contract was suddenly not renewed. At the time, the headmaster was trying to decide between not renewing my contract or another teacher’s contract. (The other teacher was a married heterosexual woman.) The school had hired a new coach, and he needed to be assigned classes to teach. While I had overt problems with the headmaster, it became more and more apparent to me that he did not like me for some reason. He refused to support our drama club, which I served as advisor and was generating money for the school. He refused to attend any of the productions, though he was at every sporting event. I can only assume that he had a problem with my closeted sexuality though he could not prove it. I know it wasn’t my teaching that he had a problem with. Parents (and most of my students) praised my teaching and constantly remarked on how much their children learned in my class. I was told numerous times when I was teaching that students were often excited to come to my class. Many parents contacted me after discovering that I would no longer be teaching there that I would be greatly missed. In the years since, I have heard many lament that the coach they replaced me with never taught anything and only gave worksheets. He also never won a football game. He last only a year or so. With that being said, I know that some students and parents, and apparently the headmaster, were not comfortable with my unspoken sexuality.

Had Bostock been decided while I was there, they may have thought more about the repercussions of not renewing my contract. Luckily, I found my current job in a state whose political climate could not be more different from that of Alabama. The university I work for has a stringent nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual and gender identity. We even had a major donor and transgender woman on the Board of Trustees. However, before Bostock, this could have easily changed as a new college administration took over and new board members took their seats. It was unlikely, but without Bostock, I had no clear protections. The millions of other LGBQ+ Americans also had the same fear of losing their job because of their sexuality, especially teachers in more conservative areas of the country. Yes, some organizations and businesses had protections for LGBTQ+ individuals written in their nondiscrimination policy, but as I said, that could have easily been changed. Now, we have the Supreme Court’s protections and the full protection of the federal government to enforce nondiscrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace.

Biden’s executive order is significant as it extends nondiscrimination protections to millions of LGBTQ+ people concerning housing, education, immigration, credit, health care, military service, Peace Corps service, family and medical leave, welfare, criminal justice, law enforcement, transportation, federal grants, and so much more. While a president’s executive orders are always vulnerable to court challenges, this one is essentially bulletproof. It merely implements the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock, something the previous administration refused to do. Technically, Bostock involved only one statute, Title VII, but, as Justice Samuel Alito pointed out in his dissent, more than 100 other federal statutes also forbid “sex discrimination” in language nearly identical to Title VII. He was attempting to point out that those were not included in Bostock. However, under the court’s reasoning in Bostock, each of these statutes should now be read to protect LGBTQ+ people.

I don’t think I can stress enough how important and groundbreaking this executive order is. Biden’s order directs agencies across the federal government to bring their rules and regulations in line with Bostock. It instructs agency heads to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” that involve statutes prohibiting sex discrimination. And it compels these officials to revise each rule and regulation in light of Bostockby extending existing protections to LGBTQ+ individuals. In some instances, this process will simply entail updating language to note that anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination is unlawful. In others, it will require the agency to write a new rule expressly disallowing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One landmark law does not forbid sex discrimination: Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination in public accommodations—but only on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” So businesses will not be compelled to serve LGBTQ+ people. However, states and municipalities retain the authority to fill in this gap. Furthermore, Democrats are expected to pass the Equality Act, which would not only preserve Bostock in federal statute but amend Title II to bar anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in public accommodations.

Biden showed us on day one of his administration that he will fight for LGBTQ+ individuals. It is a vital step in the right direction.