How did we get here? Let me count the ways.

1) Education. Democracy requires an educated citizenry to function. Those of you who aren’t familiar with Mussolini’s rise to power in the 1920’s or Hitler’s rise in the 1930’s or the fact that Trump’s Big Lie had a predecessor, are uneducated. So you are one of the ways we got here.

But it’s not all your fault. The US educational system hasn’t taught history or civics well for decades. As a result, most US citizens could not pass the US citizenship test on a bet. (Don’t believe me? Take the test here

2. Politicians. They exist, theoretically, to represent their constituency. In the process they quickly learn to lie, obfuscate, mislead, and seek, not a better country, but increased personal power. As a result, most voters distrust them. Today, only around 20% of the country trusts Congress. 

3. Money. Since the Citizen’s United ruling by the Supreme Court, corporate and secret money has flooded elections, leaving the individual voter stranded. It takes millions to get elected to anything on a national or even state level now. So, the fundamental idea of democracy – that anyone can be elected and every vote matters – is gone.

4. Shared sacrifice. The last time this country shared sacrifice was in WWII – when items from food to gas were rationed in deference to military.  The citizens of this country haven’t sacrificed for a shared goal since then, leading to the “me first” culture.

5. The Draft. When you’re forced to work closely with “others” – people of different races, beliefs, and backgrounds – you quickly see the folly of racism, religious bigotry, and class. You learn to value the team and teammates, regardless of background, because that’s the only way you survive or win.

4. Capitalism. Capitalism, a brilliant concept initially is now out of control. Increasing shareholder profits trumps every other goal. Greed, once abhorred, is now almost revered. Teddy Roosevelt forbad monopolies because they killed jobs and innovation; today’s leaders wink at them.  

5. News/media. Where news once prided itself on unbiased reporting of facts, it now focuses on consumers’ adrenal glands.  “If it bleeds, it leads” has replaced “all the news thats fit to print”. 

7. Racism. It is the original sin of this country. It was reduced by the Civil War and forced into hiding by Martin Luther King. But it still decides who rides the bus.

8. Data. Where business, politics etc,  were once “relationship driven”, they are now “data-driven”. You see that with every phone call to a doctor’s office, every email from a politician, every  fast food purchase, every aspect of Amazon, every bank, every robot that tells you how important you are. It’s all about the data, dummy. People – you and I – don’t matter.

There are more ways of course, but these are good examples. 

How do they affect us? They’ve separated us from each other. They’ve decimated the shared morals that were the foundation of our culture: Truth is now fiction, honesty is for suckers, integrity for losers. 

Which has led to fear and helplessness in much of the population. Which historically has led people to seek out “strong men” as leaders, people like Mussolini, Hitler.

Which is where we started…or is it where we are headed?

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Thursday’s Committee Hearing: Truth or Carlson

I watched the first January 6 Committee Hearings all the way through. Which makes me one of 20 million, or just over 6% of the country. I’m either in the top 6% or the bottom 6%, depending on your politics.

That’s not bad considering the approval ratings for Congress are in the high teens or low 20’s, depending on which poll you follow. In other words, not many people follow Congress.

Now that, to quote a recent President, is “sad”. 

In his case, though, it’s especially sad. Because he was the unseen star. After all, the whole show was about him as the Insurrectionist-In-Chief.    

This first of seven hearings was organized by an ex-ABC maven. So the presentation was far tighter and easier to follow than most Congressional hearings. And because Congressman Jim “I-left-my-jacket-in-the-men’s-room” Jordan and his “lefty!-lefty!-lefty!” cohorts were kept off the panel, it was actually substantive. 

In fact, one of the most welcome aspects of the entire two hours was the lack of histrionics, the studied calm with which facts were presented. There were very few of the confusing or empty statements politicians like to make, just a lot of carefully worded fact interspersed with dramatic footage and measured, compelling witness statements.

It was a very “No Drama” drama.

Perhaps the most memorable part was Cheney’s last line: ”I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.” She said it without emotion, without expression. Which gave it lasting power.

The “other side”, starring Tucker “Everyone-knows-I-lie!” Carlson, took the opposite approach: lots of snark and sneering. Carlson and his hoodies spent the same two hours entertaining their 2.8 million fans by insulting the Committee and attacking anyone who links their hero to the insurrection. 

At 20 million to 2.8 million, a nearly 8:1 ratio of Truth to Carlson fans.

Or maybe I should call them “Truth or Consequences” fans. Because, hopefully, there will be consequences. Although if you compare 6% of the country today watching these hearings to 80% of the country watching the Watergate Hearings 50 years ago, I wouldn’t count on the same consequences.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Enough With Blaming Guns!

I’m so tired of all the media emphasis on mass shootings. Why can’t they cover something positive for a change, like the end of Roe v Wade, or the success of the NRA’s payoffs to politicians, or the great Republican strategy of blaming mental illness for gun slaughter?

Right?

Really. Can’t we all just get along …down the road to baseball and summer picnics and sunbathing? Instead of all the negative spin?

We all know it’s only crazy people with guns who kill people, especially little kids… and their parents and their grandparents, cousins, friends… everyone from neighbors to strangers on a subway. Besides. So what?  Second Amendment, right? If I have a right to use a rifle to kill a deer, why not an assault rifle to kill a 10 year old?

The Second Amendment is sacrosanct. Who cares if an amendment is an add-on to the Constitution? Who cares if Thomas Jefferson and other forefathers predicted the changing world require revisions to the Constitution, if not complete rewrites?

Right?

Who cares if Australia cut gun deaths by 2/3rds when it cut gun ownership in 1996? Hey! Americans kill more kids with guns than anything else, incuding Covid, smallpox, cancer,… sports,… mental illness…car accidents… anything!

Aussies are such pansies!

I am so sick of people blaming the NRA for doing something as American as apple pie: helping of all those gun and bullet manufacturers increase shareholder value. Why shouldn’t there be more guns than people in this country? Why shouldn’t we prepare for the next time the government sends the military against all of us John Q Citizens? Right?…

What? It would be the first time?  Oh… Even so!

Look at it this way: without guns, the crazies would have to use knives or rocks or – I dunno – fists, right? Or maybe just words! All of which are way less efficient than guns, especially AR-15’s. And without guns, what would normal people have to fight government with, votes?

And think of this: We haven’t had militias since the 1700-1800’s. We haven’t been controlled by a foreign power since the 1700’s. Which means you never know when it might happen again! 

Right?

The problem isn’t guns. It’s all those lefty, Democrat media-types politicizing an American original – mass shootings of kids – and spreading hateful comments about guns, bullets, the NRA, and patriotic gun loyalists. Forget kids. Let’s shoot the media!

Right?

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A Historical View On Abortion

The pros and cons of abortion are not easy. Both sides have strong, convincing arguments.

As well as some horse pucky. The whole notion or Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice is a PR game. “Pro-Life” is a euphemism for Anti-Abortion. “Pro-Choice” is a euphemism for Pro-Abortion. It’s like the Southern States saying the Civil War was fought over state’s rights, when it was really about slavery – as in the Southern States’ right to have slaves. 

The Anti-Abortion side says they’re saving the lives of babies. The Pro-Abortion side says they are saving the quality of lives of both babies and mothers.

The Anti-Abortion side bases their argument on religion, citing numerous references in the Bible about the sanctity of life. The Pro-Abortion side notes that abortion is never cited or even mentioned in the Bible.

Interestingly, abortion wasn’t an issue until around the time of the Civil War. It had been practiced forever, in this country by the Pilgrims and the indigenous people, and by peoples all over the rest of the world (“As long as women have been pregnant, there have been abortions”). 

Also interestingly, abortions were performed by mid-wives, the same people who helped bring babies into the world. The practice was limited by the “quickening”, the moment around four to six months into a pregnancy when a woman could first feel the baby moving. Men had little interest and less to say about it.  Perhaps that why it wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution, either.

With advances in science, the notion of “quickening” has been replaced by more precise measurements. So now the two sides are debating about when a life actually begins. The Anti-Abortionists believe life begins the moment the sperm says “Hi there egg!” Abortionists put it much later.

Now, hold that thought.

Let’s go back to the early years of the country and the 55 delegates at The Constitutional Convention. They decided that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Jefferson described it as a wall separating church and state. As a nation, we have subscribed to that metaphor ever since.

It follows that, if Church and State must be separate, then although a religious belief may influence an American’s lifestyle, not to mention the vote, it cannot be forced onto others who have different beliefs. We cannot be forced, for example, to follow Christian beliefs – or Buddhist beliefs, or Hindu beliefs or Agnostic beliefs or Atheist beliefs – although we can voluntarily follow them.

In other words, the Constitution was written to avoid the very quandary we’re in now – debating whether any church can dictate to those outside of that religion. 

Also interestingly, escaping religious dictates was a primary reason the first settlers came to this country.

OK, back to the debate.  

In the 158 years since the Civil War, Christian religious groups – the church- have slowly and inexorably taken the abortion debate to the state. In the last 50 years Jefferson’s wall has been breached – really obliterated – by Evangelicals and Catholics who have used the pulpit and lobbyists to make the state declare abortion illegal. Why? Because their religion tells them that abortion is wrong.

Thus the torturous reasoning in a draft opinion, from one of six out of nine Catholic Justices on The Supreme Court, decimating a woman’s right to abortion in this country.

In my opinion, if you could go back and ask them, the founding fathers would have been saddened, if not shocked, by any church’s attempt to impose its beliefs on the state. They would have welcomed an open debate, for sure, but a debate to be decided by each person individually, just as they decide which religion, if any, to follow.

In other words, it’s not just a matter of choice for women. It’s a matter of choice for each of us – everyone – who lives by the Constitution.

Or was.

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The Outhouse Leak

Hardly had the word that Roe v. Wade is dead leaked like sewage out of the outhouse when Republicans and Democrats, pro and con Abortionists, started yelling at each other.

Democrats attacked the ruling for its obvious assault on women’s rights to control their own bodies. Republicans attacked the ruling for… Oops!…they didn’t attack the ruling. They attacked the leakers.

“This lawless action should be investigated and punished,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, who has spent the last twenty years stacking the Supreme Court with judges – mostly Catholic, mostly white males – who, despite what they told the Senate and the American public, were against abortion. 

Reminds me of the line from Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

Of course, leaks of this sort are not illegal, as Mitch well knows. Leaking national security secrets is illegal; leaking drafts of Supreme Court rulings is not.  

Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were also shocked, shocked! After all, they had asked the Supreme Court aspirants about their position on 1973’s Roe v Wade during public hearings and were assured that…um,  it was established law, that they…um…weren’t sure of the circumstances…would study the law…but couldn’t, in good conscience say how they’d… um…vote. So, feeling well informed, Collins and Murkowski and the other Republicans, voted them onto the Court.

Reminds me of another Casablanca line, “Round up the usual suspects.”

How about Mitch McConnell and Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski  as a start?

As a country we are (supposedly) committed to separating church and state. Of course for the Christian Right and the Catholic Church, that’s always been a hollow commitment.  

The issue of abortion has never been easy. Who takes precedence, the unborn or the mother? Are there any good reasons to abort a fetus? When does life begin? Science says one thing, religion another. Of course religions made their decisions over 2000 years ago, well before medical science even started. Science is still discovering its truths while religions know all truths and always have since they first discovered the earth was square.

And, hey, women were never that important anyway, right? Pop out those babies, baby! We macho types will do the rest!

But, of course, those macho types were usually busy with other things, so women have always carried the burden of children far more than men. They’re the ones who get pregnant, not the men. And if there is no guy around to help, they raise the kid, even if that means in abject poverty. Men don’t even have to apologize. They can either stay and be fathers, or take off for the next round of baby-making. 

And wouldn’t it be cool if scientists could invent a pill that prevented pregnancy in women, or disabled all those little swimmers in men? Oh, right! They have! 

I suppose that’s next on the Supreme Court agenda.

Whatever happens, a bunch of men, mostly white, mostly religious, mostly liars wearing the robes of gravitas, just decided that women have to have babies, whether they want to or not. 

Or visit back alleys where they can have needles poked up their uteruses in hopes of killing the baby and not the woman.

The Supreme Court sure smells like an outhouse today.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)