Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Roe Back

“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Abortion-rights and anti-abortion demonstrators gather outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

It has been one dream of conservatives for decades: overturning Roe vs. Wade.  The landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteed women the right to abortion, in accordance with the 9th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Now that goal has been achieved: earlier today, June 24, the Court has overturned Roe; thus gutting nearly a half century of reproductive freedom for women in the U.S.

It’s a stunning move and it’s left abortion supporters shell-shocked.  It doesn’t seem to matter that the majority of Americans support abortion to some extent.  Six justices on the Supreme Court have decided they don’t like the concept of abortion, so no woman should have access to it and no one should help a woman burdened with a crisis pregnancy.  It is the first time in U.S. history that a constitutional right has been granted and then rescinded.

Social and religious conservatives are ecstatic about this decision.  Although the Roe decision startled many people in 1973, the ruling didn’t really become an issue until the 1980s; when the evangelical Christian movement started to make its intrusive presence known.  They saw the election of Ronald Reagan as assurance that abortion would be outlawed in the U.S.

At least 26 states were ready to outlaw abortion under most circumstances, should Roe be overturned.  Now that it has, they are moving towards the annihilation.  Last year the legislature in my home state of Texas passed the so-called “Heartbeat Act”, which bans abortion after 6 weeks (before many women know they’re pregnant) and only allows it in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.  That means rape and incest victims will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term.  Any woman (or girl) who obtains an abortion and/or anyone who assists in that procedure could face up to $10,000 in statutory damages and face prison time.  Noticeably it doesn’t say anything about prosecuting men who rape women or girls.

The overturning of Roe perhaps will be one of Donald Trump’s greatest legacies, aside from his dismal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.  But it won’t so much be his legacy as it will be that of right-wing extremists – the people who loudly proclaim to cherish personal liberty and freedom, but in practice, mean it only for themselves.  Everyone else’s personal liberty – that is, people who aren’t exactly like them – is somehow subjective.

Abortion opponents are now presenting – as they always have – what they consider viable solutions to the dilemma of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies; quick fixes that are ridiculously quaint and utopian.  They recommend creating a society where every child comes into the world loved and respected; that women always have a safe and effective way to carry out their undesired pregnancies.  It’s tantamount to beauty pageant contestants expressing their wish for the blind to see and the lame to walk.  It’s wonderfully idealistic, yet extraordinarily delusional.  Such answers to some of life’s most complex issues are typical of the conservative mindset: simple and unencumbered.  That’s why I always say my brain is too big to be conservative.

In the 49 years since Roe was passed, it’s estimated that some 60 million abortions have taken place in the United States.  Abortion adversaries groan that it means some 60 million children never got a chance to grow up and have fulfilling lives.  But millions of children have come into the world under the best of circumstances and have never lived fulfilling lives.  The future is always uncertain, and occasionally things go awry in families.

It’s also possible that those estimated 60 million children could have been subjected to abuse and neglect.  Children who come into the world unwanted often end up being unloved.  I have to wonder if abortion opponents are going to dish out any additional cash to help support all those children.  It’s easy for them to lounge in their ivory towers – the way religious leaders often do – and bestow well wishes upon troubled souls.  Good intentions don’t pay diaper and formula bills; they don’t provide housing and education; they don’t deal with the daily angst of raising children.  They’re glossy words that lack substance, unless solid and concrete action is taken to make those lives better.

Liberals and moderates are already concerned that other Supreme Court decisions are at risk, such as Griswold and Lawrence.  Even Brown and Loving may come under similar attack.  As part of his decision to overturn Roe, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” referring to decisions on contraception, sodomy and same-sex marriage respectively.

Remember, the original Roe decision developed under the auspices of the right to privacy and equal protection under the law.  Those are essential and undeniable features of a truly democratic society.  Stripping any particular group of basic human rights isn’t a sign of a moral culture, as many social conservatives would have us believe.  It’s more emblematic of a totalitarian world; a universe where a handful of people have blessed themselves with the power to decide what is and what is not appropriate for everyone else.

If abortion opponents think this Dobbs decision will end abortion in the United States once and forever, they are mistaken.  After the initial shock has worn off (which is already happening), people will begin to fight back and find ways around it.  Whether right-wing extremists like it or not, abortion will happen.  There will always be women who find themselves in very difficult situations and feel they must end a pregnancy.  It’s been happening for centuries and it will continue happening, even though a band of self-righteous elitists demand otherwise.

Just wait for it.  They’ve awoken a giant.

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Right to Control

Many of the cases that arrive before the U.S. Supreme Court begin with individuals either trying right a wrong or make their own lives better.  They rarely expect to launch a national movement.  That was pretty much the case when Norma McCorvey found herself pregnant with her third child in 1969.  An unemployed carnival worker living outside Dallas at the time, McCorvey apparently had led a rough life and had given up her first two children for adoption.  She didn’t need – and couldn’t afford – to bring another child into the world.  However, the state of Texas didn’t allow for abortions except to save the life of the mother.  Even rape and incest victims couldn’t end their unwanted pregnancies.  Like so many women in her situation, McCorvey was too poor to travel to another state where abortions were safe and legal.  She even tried to obtain an illegal abortion, but again the cost was prohibitive.  She sought legal help and ended up under the guidance of attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington.

In 1970, after McCorvey had given birth and given up the baby, Coffee and Weddington filed paper work challenging the Texas law and bestowed the name “Jane Roe” upon their client.  They targeted then-Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade.  Wade had entered the national spotlight nearly a decade earlier when he prosecuted Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald who had been accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy.  (Wade would later come to light as a ruthless prosecutor who engaged in unscrupulous legal maneuvers to ensure criminal prosecutions, no matter the cost and despite evidence to the contrary.)

After McCorvey’s suit was filed, a Texas district court ruled the state’s abortion ban violated the constitutional right to privacy under the 14th Amendment.  Wade persisted, however, and vowed to prosecute any doctor who performed what he deemed unnecessary abortions in the state.  The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a 7-2 ruling on January 22, 1973, abortion was fully legalized in the United States.

That was pretty much the end of the issue until the 1980s, when right-wing religious leaders began stoking the fires of anti-abortion rhetoric.  It accompanied the presidency of Ronald Reagan who openly stated he wished for a return to an America before the 1960s.  That should say enough about his bigoted state of mind, but it aligned with a growing hostility towards progressive ideology and civil rights legislation.

Earlier this week the unexpected news arrived that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe vs. Wade by the end of its current term in June.  We wouldn’t know anything about this if it wasn’t for the leak of a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito who declares the Roe decision “egregiously wrong” in terms of constitutional practicality.  Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the veracity of the statement, but has joined many others in condemning the leak.

For many of us the leak isn’t the main concern.  It’s what it says.  There is now a very real possibility that nearly a half century of protection for that part of women’s overall health care could end because a handful of conservative extremists on the High Court want to inject their personal views into it.

For their like-minded ilk in the American public, the overturning of Roe marks the end of a long-fought battle in their alleged “pro-life” agenda; a perverted early Mother’s Day gift.  It doesn’t matter that a majority of Americans don’t want to see a complete ban on abortion.  They’ve been working for this moment over the past four decades.

For liberals, though, this is a much more dire situation.  While the current case that brought Roe back into the forefront is limited to just abortion, progressives see other seminal SCOTUS decisions in the judicial crosshairs.  It really isn’t extraordinary to see such cases as Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, reversed.  Along with abortion, queer rights have been a target of far-right conservatives.  But, if the Court sees fit to outlaw abortion at the national level (and leave it up to individual states), it could also reasonably overturn Griswold vs. Connecticut, which ruled that states could not deny birth control to married couples.  Before that decision, married residents of Connecticut (and a few other states) couldn’t legally purchase birth control.

To some conservatives, abortion has become another form of birth control, which is not what contemporary feminists who jump-started the modern women’s movement desired.  The latter group had always declared that abortion should be a woman’s last choice.  But, with the overall concept of birth control in mind, is it possible a woman who has a tubal ligation could be criminally prosecuted?  For that matter, could men who have vasectomies be subject to criminal jurisprudence?  How about condoms or IUDs?  Could those be outlawed?

Why stop with Roe?  Aside from Obergefell and Griswold, could the Court target Loving vs. Virginia, the case that struck laws against interracial marriage?  How about Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which outlaws racial desegregation in schools?

Remember that, when Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Republicans in the Senate displayed their usual contempt and disdain for President Obama by refusing to hold hearings on his nominee to the Court, until after Donald Trump got into office.  They stated that, since Scalia’s death occurred during an election year, the incoming president should select his replacement.  Yet, upon the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, they rammed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – a character straight out of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

That social and religious conservatives want to dictate what women can and cannot do with their own bodies conflicts with the long-held American vision of individual freedom.  Many of these people screamed at the thought mandatory mask-wearing or forced vaccinations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; crying they should have autonomy over their own bodies.  Really?  What an original concept.

Conservatives herald the beauty of life, but a life costs hard dollars in the very real world of child-rearing.  Since 2019, for example, the state of Texas has experienced a 1,100% rise in children placed into foster care.  Love and compassion alone won’t pay those bills, no matter how much prayer one puts forth.  Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once emphasized that pro-life means the entire life cycle – not just up to the moment the fetus is born.

The reasons why an individual woman wants to end a pregnancy are myriad, but it is no one else’s business.  As painful a decision as it may be, I’d rather see a woman end a pregnancy she doesn’t want than give birth to a child she doesn’t want.  Children who come into the world unwanted are often unloved.  That’s an awful fate for someone.

Regardless, pregnancy and birth are individual choices.  No one – not the Supreme Court and not a politician – has the right to interfere with that.

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Worst Quotes of the Week – June 26, 2021

“You know after they said penetration in the end zone they lost me.”

Joy Behar, regarding Carl Nassib becoming the first openly gay active player in the NFL, on “The View”

In all fairness, Behar has apologized for her comment.

“If he’s gonna tie them together, he can forget it!  I’m not doing that.  That’s extortion!  I’m not going to do that.  The Dems are being told you can’t get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I’m not playing that game.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, on President Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan

“President Donald Trump is also one of a kind.  He too disrupted the status quo, he challenged the establishment… and now, as then, there is no going back.”

Former Vice-President Mike Pence, comparing Donald Trump Ronald Reagan

Pence went on to say, “Under President Trump’s leadership we were able to achieve things Republicans have been talking about since the days of Barry Goldwater.  It’s true.”

For the record, Goldwater lost the 1964 U.S. presidential election to Lyndon B. Johnson in the largest landslide in U.S. election history.

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Hypocrisy in Action

I’ve often noted that conservatives can be incredible hypocrites.  For years they said no divorcee would be elected to the presidency.  Then they got Ronald Reagan, the nation’s first divorced Chief Executive, whose wife was the nation’s first divorced First Lady.  They dubbed Bill Clinton a draft dodger and condemned him for protesting against the Vietnam War while he was in college.  Then they elected George W. Bush who earned a comfortable spot in the Texas National Guard in 1968 and failed to complete his tenure.  They also elected Dick Cheney who claimed he had “other priorities” during the 1960s.

Conservative hypocrisy has reared its bigoted head once again – this time in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.  Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Rick Scott and Tommy Tuberville submitted the correspondence to Garland complaining about what they perceive to be a double standard in punishment by the U.S. Department of Justice against the January 6 Capitol Hill rioters.  In contrast, they declare, many of the various protestors to the George Floyd killing who became violent haven’t met the same degree of discipline.

In part, the letter states:

“DOJ’s (U.S. Department of Justice) apparent unwillingness to punish these individuals who allegedly committed crimes during the spring and summer 2020 protests stands in stark contrast to the harsher treatment of the individuals charged in connection with the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. To date, DOJ has charged 510 individuals stemming from Capitol breach.  DOJ maintains and updates a webpage that lists the defendants charged with crimes committed at the Capitol. This database includes information such as the defendant’s name, charge(s), case number, case documents, location of arrest, case status, and informs readers when the entry was last updated.  No such database exists for alleged perpetrators of crimes associated with the spring and summer 2020 protests.  It is unclear whether any defendants charged with crimes in connection with the Capitol breach have received deferred resolution agreements.”

Please.  Spare me the anxiety.

The five angry White male senators don’t seem to understand the difference in the two events.  While some of the Floyd protestors devolved into rioting and vandalism, the original intent was to demonstrate against police violence; a recurring dilemma in the U.S.  The intent of the Capitol Hill rioters, however, was to disrupt congressional business and kill someone – most notably Vice-President Mike Pence.

Conservatives have warned about threats to national security posed by Islamic vigilantes and illegal immigrants for as long as I can remember.  But, these weren’t the people who stormed Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021, as Pence oversaw certification of the 2020 presidential election.  The rioters were mostly White people – many of them former military and/or law enforcement – from across the country who felt their dear leader, Donald Trump, had been cheated out of a second term by a corrupt electoral system.  I can almost hear Al Gore and Hillary Clinton laughing.

But I don’t recall bands of angry liberals storming Capitol Hill in January 2001, demanding Al Gore be lynched.  I also don’t remember seeing similar renegades bursting into Capitol Hill in January 2017, calling for Joe Biden’s head.  And it’s obvious to most of us with more than half a brain that the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections were fraudulent.  Yet conservatives denounced anyone voicing their disdain to those two events as whiners and sore losers.  We were justified, though, in protesting.  But we never got violent.  No one smashed windows, kicked in doors and hollered for blood to be spilled.  Neither Al Gore nor Hillary Clinton stood before angry supporters, urging for violent retribution against Congress.

It’s ironic, however, that Merrick Garland is in a leadership position.  Five years ago President Obama nominated him to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Republicans – who held a majority in the Senate – refused to grant Garland the decency of a fair hearing.  Yet, they rushed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett last year, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Again – hypocrisy in action.

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Creepiest Quote of the Week – March 13, 2021

“What I’m trying to do is just harness the magic.  To me, Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and P.T. Barnum.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, on Axios

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”
P.T. Barnum

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Don’t You Understand? They’re Victims!

“The Devil made me do it!”

Flip Wilson

You have to understand something about the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  They’re not entirely responsible for their actions.  They had merely responded to the words of their newly-formed deity, Donald Trump.  In the hours leading up to the siege, Trump had infused them with idea that he had been wronged by the voting process; that the 2020 elections had been manipulated by covert gangs of leftist forces determined to enforce abortions and gun confiscations upon helpless, red-blooded, bible-carrying Christian American citizens to ensure his loss.  He was a victim, Trump maintained, and vicariously so were his minions.

CHARGE!!!!!!!!!

Thus, the Trumpians had been victimized by the same queer-loving renegades and they were justified in storming the Capitol, tearing through offices, screaming like children told to come in for dinner, threatening others because they got their feelings hurt – all while dressed like ghosts of the Civil War and refugees from a Comic-Con conference gone wrong.

Please!

The Capitol Hill warriors are no more victims of enraged rhetoric than porn stars are of poor script-writing.  For years conservatives have proclaimed the tenets of individual freedom and personal responsibility.  They declared such values in reactive angst to a welfare society and relentless victimhood proclamations.

They loathed when non-White people bemoaned centuries of Euro-colonial oppression and systemic racism.  They rolled their eyes at the thought of women hollering about sexual harassment in the workplace and on college campuses.  They snickered at queer folks complaining of innate homophobia on the job and in school.

Then the U.S. Congress met on January 6, 2021 to certify Joe Biden as the winner of last year’s presidential contest, and – as Dante Alighieri once wrote – all hell broke loose.

The Trumpian crowd became maddened by the process and felt they had no other recourse but to subvert that constitutional mechanism in the most violent manner possible.  Their voices and votes had been ignored and they had to stop the madness.

So, in the name of Ronald Reagan, where the hell was all that talk of personal responsibility?  Where were the people to take ownership of themselves and their actions?  In other words, why do the Capitol Hill rioters suddenly see themselves as victims of…well, anything?!

They all sound like a bunch of – oh, God!  A bunch of minorities, women and queers!  Pass the rifle and heaven forbid!  Now these “victims” have placed themselves in the same category as tree-loving, pot-smoking, Muslim-loving liberals!

What’s going to happen next?  The magnetic poles will switch sides – like communist traitors – and life as we know will extinguish itself?

Again – please!

I personally don’t care to hear the anguished state of mind of these mentally- challenged pencil-dick and cavern-cunt imps.  What happened with last year’s presidential elections is something known as democracy.  It’s the sustenance upon which civilized societies survive.  We cannot exist without it.  The goons who stormed the Capitol three weeks ago didn’t fall victim to the verbiage of Donald Trump; they were victims of their own damned stupidity.  If they truly were swayed by Trumpian oratory, they are as gullible as a child believing in Santa Claus.  They roared into that building because what was left of their brain cells had perished in the swamp of their own hysteria.

It’s just so incredibly interesting that these right-wing extremists who wrap themselves in the American flag and cry freedom – while waving the loser traitorous Confederate flag – are suddenly helpless and violated.  They couldn’t help themselves.  Their faux president told them to do it.

The reality is quite simple: they’re violent and they’re stupid.  But they aren’t victims.

Flip Wilson on “The Ed Sullivan Show” January 11, 1970

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Melting

President Trump walks to Marine One Friday, October 2, on his way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“Kennedy deserved to be shot because he was a Catholic!”

My father looked at the old man with the hottest level of anger he could muster in a split second.  All of 30 with a newborn son, my father blurted back at his coworker, “He was our president, you son-of-a-bitch!  No one deserves to get shot!”

It was November 22, 1963, and the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination had just spread around the print shop in downtown Dallas where my father worked.  Emotions were already raw, and my father didn’t care that he – a young Hispanic man – was yelling and cursing at a much older White male; in Texas; in 1963.

The antagonism towards Kennedy and the Democratic Party in Dallas and Texas – and throughout much of the Southeastern U.S., for that matter – couldn’t be more palpable on that tragic day.  Even decades later I’ve heard some conservatives say November 22, 1963 was one of the best days in modern American history.  One was a former friend – an openly-gay Jewish man – in 2003.  The rest of us seated with him at a restaurant table after a Toastmasters meeting were stunned.

“Yeah,” I casually responded.  “Just like the day Hitler escorted the first rabbi into a gas oven.”

No one in their right mind celebrates the death or illness of a national leader.  Even as much as I dislike Donald Trump, I’m not happy to know that he’s come down with the dreaded COVID-19 virus.  Late on Thursday night, October 1, news broke here in the U.S. that Trump and his wife have tested positive with the virus.  Earlier this evening, Friday, the 2nd, Trump was escorted to the hospital.  While I’m sure some leftist extremists are thrilled with this development, I see it for the national implication it has.  This poses a serious threat to our national security.

In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson was concerned with the “Great War” (now known as World War I), which was consuming Europe and now involved the U.S., when a mysterious influenza began rampaging across the globe.  Now known simply as the “Spanish flu”, the scourge afflicted some 500 million people and killed an estimated 50 million.  Understand this occurred long before the jet age.  According to historians, Wilson ignored the severity of the health crisis, even as it began taking lives here in the U.S., and vigorously pursued the end of the war.  In April of 1919, he arrived in Paris for peace talks – and left sick with the very flu he never publicly acknowledged.

Once back home, Wilson was quickly sequestered, and White House press reports simply indicated that overworking had caused the president to come down with a cold and a fever.  The Associated Press emphasized Wilson was “not stricken with influenza.”  In the aftermath of the greatest conflict the world had known, the mere thought of the president contracting the dreaded flu surely would have sent the nation into a panic.  So the true nature of his illness was stifled.

Six months later matters worsened for Wilson when he suffered a debilitating stroke.  It’s plausible the flu exacerbated the onset of the stroke.  Wilson never really recovered and would die in 1924.  During the 18 months he had left in his presidential tenure, Vice-President Thomas Marshall should have taken his place.  But, at the time, the vice-president was little more than a figurehead.  In fact, throughout Wilson’s presidency, Marshall later claimed he performed “nameless, unremembered jobs” that had been created solely to prevent him from doing any harm to the nation as a whole.  But, as history eventually revealed, First Lady Edith Wilson served as de facto Commander-in-Chief.  She literally presided over cabinet meetings and other presidential duties; all while hiding her husband’s grave condition.

After Woodrow Wilson’s debilitating stroke in October 1919, First Lady Edith Wilson practically took over his White House duties.

Just less than four years after Wilson endured his stroke, President Warren Harding suffered a similar event – but with fatal consequences.  Harding and his wife, Florence, had just arrived in San Francisco after touring the Alaskan territory when he experienced a heart attack.  Vice-President Calvin Coolidge was at his father’s home in Vermont; a dwelling without electricity or a telephone – not uncommon in rural abodes even by the 1920s.  When word reached Washington of Harding’s death, two Secret Service agents got in a car and drove all night to Vermont to rouse Coolidge.

It’s difficult to imagine that now: a house with no phone and Secret Service agents having to drive to scoop up a sleeping vice-president.  It’s equally unimaginable what allegedly happened in the days following Harding’s demise.  First Lady Florence Harding charged into the Oval Office upon returning to the White House and cleaned out her husband’s desk; apparently removing a number of documents along with personal effects.

Secrecy has always been a part of any presidential administration.  It has to be.  And sometimes it’s mixed with basic respect for an individual’s privacy.  Not until after Franklin D. Roosevelt died, for example, did many Americans learn he had been stricken with polio in the 1920s and was all but bound to a wheelchair.  At the 1940 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Roosevelt fell as walked to the podium.  Film footage of the event wasn’t released until a few years ago, and most convention-goers remained quiet about the incident.  Footage of Roosevelt being wheeled onto the deck of a military vessel almost remained hidden for decades.

Most Americans weren’t aware of the severity of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s heart attack in the fall of 1955; the White House press initially disguised it as a cardiac event.  As with Roosevelt, the American public bestowed respect for medical privacy upon the president.  But when Eisenhower experienced a mild stroke two years later, some questioned his fitness for office.  By the time he left the White House, he truly looked like the 70-year-old man he was.

Therefore, most Americans were thrilled when John F. Kennedy – the first president born in the 20th century – arrived.  He wasn’t just handsome and charming; he was vibrant and energetic.  Yet not until long after his death did the public learn that Kennedy had become addicted to a variety of pain pills to help him cope with both a back injury he’d suffered in World War II and the effects of Addison’s disease.

Kennedy’s assassination was the first since William McKinley in 1901 and his death the first in nearly 20 years.  It had been a given that the vice-president would succeed the president, if something detrimental happened to the latter.  But, what if something happens to the vice-president?  McKinley’s first vice-president, Garret Hobart, died of heart disease in November 1899.  McKinley didn’t replace him, even though he selected Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate during his 1900 reelection campaign.

The question of succession became urgently relevant on November 22, 1963.  Many people forget that Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was in the same motorcade as Kennedy; a few cars away.  When shots rang out, a Secret Service agent shoved Johnson to the floorboard where the vice-president began complaining of chest pains.  That was kept secret from the public, as a horrified nation needed no further bad news.

Thus, the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was created.  It established a definite line of succession to the office of the president, beyond just the vice-president.  And it received its first real test on March 30, 1981 when President Ronald Reagan was shot just outside a hotel in Washington, D.C.  Vice-President George H.W. Bush was aboard Air Force Two, returning to the nation’s capital, when a Secret Service agent informed him of the shooting.  Back in Washington chaos rocked the White House, as the country felt the nightmarish echoes of Kennedy’s death.

On March 30, 1981, Vice-President George H.W. Bush sat aboard Air Force Two watching news reports about the shooting of Ronald Reagan.

A junior in high school at the time, I vividly remember the confusion.  While most of my classmates seemed oblivious to the fact the president of the United States had just been shot, I was worried.  The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan more than a year earlier and were poised to invade Poland to squelch a labor uprising.  As with rumors about the Kennedy assassination, was this a Soviet plot?  I knew Bush was vice-president, but I didn’t know he’d been in Texas.

I remember Secretary of State Alexander Haig stepping into the White House Press room and announcing, “I’m in control here.”  Haig was criticized later for inserting himself as the interim authoritarian.  But, in a morass of hysteria, someone had to take command!

I also recall my mother sitting before the TV upon returning home from work that evening – and tearing up as news of the shooting spilled out.  It took her back to that tragic autumn day in 1963, as she sat down to watch “As the World Turns” while nursing me, and Walter Cronkite suddenly interrupted to tell of Kennedy’s shooting.

The magnitude of the Reagan shooting didn’t come into full view immediately as news figures couldn’t determine if Reagan had, indeed, been shot.  (It turned out a fragment of a bullet that had hit a car had struck Reagan.)  The White House later concealed the seriousness of Reagan’s health in the aftermath.  Days after the incident, Reagan posed for a photograph; clad in his robe and smiling.  No one knew at the time he was running a high fever and almost collapsed once the picture was taken.

Reports of Donald Trump’s condition continue to flood our news feeds.  We’re now learning that several people within the President’s inner circle have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and that the outdoor ceremony on Saturday, September 26, announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, may have been the “super spreader” event.

Trump is now in isolation and being treated for the ailment.  I don’t bemoan that he’s being treated with the most potent medicines available and has a complete medical staff around him.  Whether anyone likes it or not, he IS president of the United States, and his health is extremely important.  I don’t care much for Donald Trump, but I don’t want to see him get sick and die.  I only wish the best for him in this crisis.

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The New World Order According to Pat Robertson: Drugs Are Vegetables

With age often comes wisdom; sometimes strangeness.  With the indefatigable Pat Robertson… well, who knows what the hell the old bastard is going to say!  In a recent radio interview with conservative commentator Sean Hannity, Robertson declared that marijuana and cocaine are essentially – vegetables!  Yes, the verbose curmudgeon who once said America was going to Hell because of feminists and queers stated:

“All this drug addiction, can you imagine somebody made in the image of God is a slave to a bunch of weeds? I mean, you know, they’re plants and vegetables.  Cocaine, marijuana, all these things are vegetables, and we’re supposed to be in charge.  He said I’m going to give you dominion over the whole Earth, and yet we’re slaves to vegetables.  I mean, this is so humiliating.”

If one contemplates – before using any intoxicants – marijuana and cocaine are, indeed, the products of plants.  Humans have been using them for thousands of years.  Long before monolithic pharmaceutical companies hijacked health care, old people in huts would dispense Earth’s natural remedies with love and prayer.  No child-resistant caps!  No tamper-proof packaging!  And no warnings about addiction!

I keep thinking this is akin to the time Ronald Reagan allegedly wanted to declare ketchup a vegetable because it’s tomato-based.  That’s what happens when you let right-wing conservatives manage education AND economics at the same time.

But I also cogitate that, if ketchup, marijuana and cocaine are technically vegetables because they’re plant-based, then so are vodka and wine.  They’re grain- and grape-based, respectably, so my reasoning is valid.  Damn!  I’ve been a vegetarian since age 14 and never knew it until now!

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100,000 Dead and Still a Circus

“When the final bulb pops alight, and the smoke and sparks dissipate, it is finally legible, this elaborate incandescent sign. Leaning to your left to gain a better view, you can see that it reads: Le Cirque des Rêves. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.”

– “The Night Circus”, Erin Morgenstern, © 2011

On Wednesday, May 27, the COVID-19 death toll here in the United States achieved a brutal milestone: 100,000Globally, some 5.6 million infections have been confirmed, with more than 353,000 fatalities.  Bearing only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has roughly one-third of deaths directly related to the COVID-19 scourge and about 1.7 million infections.  Sometimes being first isn’t such a good thing.

About 300 municipalities in the U.S. boast populations of about 100,000.  We have sports arenas that can seat 100,000 people.  Despite the viral carnage, many cities across the U.S. are moving towards a re-opening; albeit with a few restrictions.  The limitations appear subjective.  Some restaurants, for example, remain delivery or curbside pick-up only, while others allow a small number of patrons indoors, with tables kept at least six feet apart.  Most demand employees wear masks and latex gloves at all times, but don’t require the same of guests.  Then again, it’s sort of difficult to imbibe in food and beverages with one’s mouth ensconced in a piece of cloth – no matter how fashionable it might be.

Is this the new normal?  And who designates what is or is not normal?

For me social distancing and frequent hand-washing have been normal since color television was still a novelty.  Yes, I am that…mature and I was that precocious!  But, for some people, washing their hands after they pick up dirty laundry or take out the trash is a catastrophic lifestyle change.  Hence, my social distancing predilection.

Such habitual alterations aside, I can only shake my head at the blatant disregard some people have for their neighbors – what I also call downright stupidity.  Am I sadistic in chuckling at the thought of moronic infidels perishing in the morass of their viral incompetence?  I view it merely as being practical – in a Darwinian frame of mind.  Among lower mammals, those that cannot maintain pace with the herd are sacrificed to the course of nature.  Among humans – at least in democratic societies – even the stupid are afforded some level of sympathy.

However, it’s tough for me to sympathize with many of our elected leaders, including the psychotic, discombobulated clown the United States calls its president – Donald J. Trump.  The alleged liberal media has noted the president’s distortion of facts regarding the COVID-19 pandemic – from his pronouncement that April heat will kill off the virus to his suggestion that injecting basic household cleaning chemicals into one’s corpus is good preventative medicine.

One hundred thousand is not just a number – it represents human beings; lives lost to a disease that, oddly enough, has a low fatality rate.  The U.S. death toll to COVID-19 is equal to the number of fatalities in this country to the 1968 Hong Kong flu, which killed roughly 1 million people globally.  One would think a nation as developed and affluent as the United States would be able to confront any scourge as influenza.  But looks are often deceiving.  The U.S. has been good at developing weapons of destruction.  Our military is the most highly-trained and well-prepared fighting force in the world.  Yet health care issues always seem to be relegated to a Neanderthal-style the fittest shall survive type of mentality.

And it goes back to what political structure is in place at the time of the crisis.  Forty years ago, when AIDS arrived on the world stage, the U.S. was beset by the ultra-conservative Ronald Reagan – a half-ass actor cum political assailant.  While contemporary conservatives deify Reagan and tumble into near-orgasmic frenzies at the mere mention of his name, the rest of us clear-headed folks understand what an incompetent dolt he was.  And not just because he turned his back on the working folks of America!  As a social conservative, he and his minions felt justified in categorizing people into those who deserve to live and those who don’t.  With his banshee of a wife beside his feeble body and mind and an attorney general who thought waging war on the adult film industry was a noble cause, the Reagan Administration ignored the very real calamities of a growing crack-cocaine epidemic and the burgeoning AIDS crisis.  Thus, thousands died, while Reagan uttered a few quaint phrases that cemented his aw-shucks persona as adorable to his legions of blind disciples.

I see much of the same happening now with COVID-19.  As thousands fall ill and the economy sinks, Donald Trump is more engaged with his Twitter account and continues propagating the myth of rampant voter fraud.  Now we have 100,000 dead from this novel coronavirus – and growing – with more than 1 million infected.  And despite that low morbidity rate, just recovering from the ailment seems to be a slow ride through the fires of Hell wearing tissue paper-thin clothing soaked in lighter fluid.  Moreover, scientists still aren’t certain of the long-term effects of COVID-19.  Most people recover, yes, but at what cost?  How will the disease impact their health years from now?  What of their cardiovascular system?  Respiratory system, metabolism, digestive tract, immunity?  Like AIDS forty years ago, COVID-19 is fresh off the virological boat.  We just don’t know.

I do know, however, that a conservative ideology is bad for health care.  Like the schematics for the Titanic, everything looks great on paper – until it slams into something, and we see what happens.  No one knows what the hell to do!  Except pass judgment and make light of the matter.

That’s what Reagan and his ilk did during the AIDS mess: toss around cruel jokes and tap-dance on the graves of the fallen.  And it’s pretty much what Trump is doing now.  He’s not exactly making jokes – his presidency and leadership have taken the top awards on that.  But he’s not providing any true direction.  He did order some manufacturers to being producing much-needed medical supplies.  But even that came with some arm-twisting!

Think about that number, however: 100,000.  What number of dead do we have to see before everyone takes it seriously?  When is it no longer just a very bad day?  What price is a life?

Images: Alejandro De La Garza

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Gang of Imbeciles

Woodall Rodgers Freeway, heading into downtown Dallas, sat nearly empty at 7:26 am on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 – the first morning after Dallas County’s “shelter in place”. This stretch of highway is normally packed with vehicles during morning rush hour. Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez, Dallas Morning News).

“Greatness in the last analysis is largely bravery – courage in escaping from old ideas and old standards and respectable ways of doing things.”

James Robinson

Crises can make or break a leader.  The 1979-81 Iran Hostage fiasco decimated Jimmy Carter’s final year in office and assuredly caused him to lose his 1980 reelection bid.  The 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing helped secure Bill Clinton’s image as a stalwart president.  The Hurricane Katrina debacle, on the other hand, proved George W. Bush was incompetent and ineffective as Commander-in-Chief.

The current COVID-19 scourge is Donald Trump’s national crisis.  It could be the savior of his presidency; the one element that ensures his place in the pantheon of great world leaders.  Or it could be his death knell; the catastrophic event which will equate him with failure, except his most devoted followers.  As things appear now, it’s turning into the latter.

Yesterday, March 26, Trump signed a roughly USD 2.2 trillion stimulus package unanimously passed by the U.S. Congress.  Because the COVID-19 mess has created a new set of “social distancing” protocols aimed at subverting the virus’ spread, a large number of Americans have suddenly found themselves jobless.  Restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, and tattoo parlors have been forced to shut down.  History will determine if that achieved its intended goals.  But, as of March 26, the number of jobless claims set a record at 3.3 million.  Who would’ve thought an invisible microbe could wreak such havoc?

Amidst this cataclysm, our dear leader, Donald Trump, has openly considered easing restrictions to the practices of social distancing.  Earlier this week, he suggested the U.S. could return to normal by Easter.  “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said.  That’s akin to the captain of the Titanic shouting, “Pool party!”

It’s almost painful to watch Trump and his band of clueless minions pretend this crisis will obey a presidential command.  Many conservatives tried to explain George W. Bush’s pathetic handling of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco by claiming his adversaries wanted him to stop the storm from terrorizing the Gulf Coast.  I heard a few actually say that aloud!  And I had the pleasure of telling them, ‘No.  The issue was RESPONDING to the hurricane!’  Bush and the Republican Party were quick to declare war on Iraq in 2003.  But, when a REAL threat emerges, they failed miserably.

If anything, the start of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. some forty years ago proved how dangerous social conservatism can be to a health crisis.  Admittedly, thousands of people didn’t come down with HIV in a matter of days, as with the COVID-19 virus.  But the reality is that national policy should never be based on individual predilections or religious ideology.  Every time people make health-based decisions on their own personal religious beliefs, people die.  Every single time!

But the AIDS epidemic showed that a slow federal response to a health concern can be lethal.  I’m watching the COVID-19 pandemic unfold here in the U.S. in stark realism.  As of March 27, the U.S. has achieved the dubious distinction of the most number of COVID-19 cases in the world.  Meaning we’ve now surpassed China and Italy.  Trump always declared America is #1 – and what do you know?!  The old bastard has finally been proven right!

I really don’t want to see Donald Trump fail in this entire imbroglio.  It’s not good to wish your national leader stumble and falter as a national crisis of any kind grips the nation.  But, thus far, Trump has shown no real leadership, with the exception of the aforementioned stimulus package.

It doesn’t need to be this way for him – or for anyone.  This could be his golden moment to prove he’s an authentic leader, not the failed businessman / tax cheat others claim he really is.  Every country’s leader is forced to confront a national emergency of some kind or another.  It just comes with the territory.  The U.S. presidency, in this case, is not school a crossing guard-type of position.  It requires more fortitude and clarity than most jobs, when in fact, the presidency is not a standard job.  It’s more of a calling – kind of like human rights work, or teaching.

As I view it in this moment of national surrealism, Donald Trump is not listening to the tragic sounds of that call.

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