Tag Archives: voting

What He’s Done

SWAT officers take Solomon Peña into custody in Albuquerque, New México. (Photo: Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Earlier this week New México police arrested a failed Republican congressional candidate and charged him with hiring some men to shoot up the homes of Democratic opponents. Solomon Peña allegedly was dissatisfied with the results of his race last year and decided to seek revenge in the worst possible way: through violence. Like his idol, former President Donald Trump, Peña is an election denier and claimed fraud in his own run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost to his Democratic opponent by more than 3,600 votes.

In the U.S. many elected officials – mostly Democrat and liberal – have been the targets of political violence over the past 5 or 6 years; which (not surprisingly) coincides with the rise of Trump.  The animosity reached a feverish crescendo on January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in a failed attempt to undermine the 2020 presidential election, as well as democracy itself.  I’m still angry at the sight of hundreds storming into the building and even angrier at those who continue to support Trump and dismiss the severity of that day.  Like most Americans, the rampage reminded me of images of developing countries in the throes of political chaos.  While various groups in the U.S. have threatened to inflict such carnage over previous decades, no one really thought it would happen.

We have Donald Trump to thank for that.

Threatening election officials and taking out opponents with bullets is what used to happen in places like Colombia and the Philippines.  Even as recently as 1995, Israel experienced political violence when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.  The act stunned the international community and roiled the only truly democratic state in the Middle East.

Americans have always had a love-hate relationship with their elected officials, whether or not they actually voted for them, or even voted at all.  But I’ve always believed the Watergate fiasco was a major turning point in our nation’s disillusionment with politicians overall.  That a sitting president would seek to gain an advantage over his adversaries by concocting a burglary scheme shocked most people.  They always sort of knew politicians weren’t necessarily the most moral of individuals, but an actual break-in?

A greater sense of partisanship began to take hold in the ensuing decade and became more pronounced in the 1990s, as Republicans did everything they could – and failed – to undermine Bill Clinton’s agenda.  The scandalous (and genuinely corrupt) 2000 presidential election widened the chasm of discontent.  The GOP’s blatant disrespect for President Barack Obama was even more egregious and appalling – but not really unexpected from conservatives, as far as I was concerned.

Then came Donald Trump, and the haters suddenly had a license to lash out with unabashed vigor.  All the social upheavals of the 1960s were the result of tensions that had been brewing for decades; people had grown tired of just waiting for change and hoping for the best.  In a similar, yet twisted manner, the right-wing extremism that exploded under Trump also had been fomenting in the souls of angry (mostly White male) conservatives for years; that is, since…well, since the 1960s.  Ronald Reagan once said he wanted to return America to the time before the 60s screwed up everything.  As a relic of his past, he naturally didn’t understand we can’t go backwards in time.  That’s science fiction.  But that’s why I call most conservatives preservatives – they want to preserve the old ways of life; ways that were good for them, of course, but not everyone else.

Trump revised that futile dream with his “Make America Great Again” mantra; claiming he wanted to “take America back”.  Back to where, those of us with more than half a brain asked, and how far?  Back to the Civil War?  Back to the Gilded Age?

Peña is just one cog in the wheel of America’s political vitriol.  Think of this for a few moments.  Acting like a drug cartel leader, Peña (who already had a felony criminal record) hired some thugs to fire gun shots into the homes of people he thought had snatched victory from him. At least one of those bullets ended up in a child’s bedroom.  Just as with drug cartels, Peña and his henchmen cared nothing about their intended victims and any collateral damage – i.e., innocent bystanders.  Drug lords only care about their profits; everyone and everything else be damned.  Peña only cared about exacting personal revenge over what he perceived to be a corrupt system.  We’re not supposed to do that in civilized societies.

But that is Trump’s legacy.  That is what he’s done to the overall concept of democracy.

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Total Madness

Children flee Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022.

They’re like recurring allergies – they just keep hitting over and over.  But we have a bevy of cures for allergies.  We don’t seem to have many for the sickening epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S.

As of this day, the U.S. has experienced over 250 mass shootings in 2022 – more than the number of days thus far in the year.  A mass shooting is defined as an event where four or more individuals are shot, not including the actual assailant.

Two recent massacres – 10 people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and 21 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas – have garnered considerable attention.  The Buffalo calamity was racially-motivated, and the Uvalde event was the worst school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, ConnecticutBetween the Buffalo and Uvalde episodes, the U.S. experienced 14 other mass shootings.  Let that sink into your brain for a few minutes.

The gun issue has always been sensitive and controversial.  Hardline gun rights advocates have consistently placed the value of their sacred firearms over the right of people to live peacefully and happily.  Even more aggravating is a recent survey where 44% of Republican voters say mass shootings are one price we have to pay for living in a free society.  Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.  Ironically, many of these people consider themselves pro-life.

On the other side, far left gun control proponents want to eliminate all firearms for private citizens; believing that – in this violent, imperfect world – we only need herbal tea and kind words to solve every crisis.  These are the same people who get so emotional it’s almost painfully embarrassing to watch them recount their ordeals.  I understand these are horrific events, but the time for tears and anguish has already passed.

And that’s what I want to communicate to liberals.  Stop crying!  It’s time to get mad, stand up and yell back at these idiotic gun nuts whose only resolution to firearm blood baths is another weapon and a few thoughts and prayers.  Thoughts and prayers serve as little more than toilet paper for the carnage.

In the immediate aftermath of both Buffalo and Uvalde, as more talk of gun violence and gun control arose, we heard the usual cadre of right-wing loudmouths more worried (as always) that the rights of “law-abiding gun owners” could be desecrated.

Spare me the narrow-minded anxiety!

People have more of a right to live than anyone has a right to own a gun.  And no, they aren’t equally significant.  But conservatives campaigning for public office consistently point out one characteristic: they are pro-Second Amendment.  I see these ads every election cycle, especially here in Texas.  They always skip over the First Amendment, which ensures free speech and peaceable assembly and guarantees the right to vote.  Again, the twisted priorities of the conservative mindset.

Last year, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed several pieces of legislation into law that declared the state to be a “Second Amendment sanctuary”, I wasn’t shocked.  But I was angry.  This is the same governor who oversaw blatant attacks on the right to vote by dismissing the reality of gerrymandering in the state and allowing for partisan poll watchers.  In older days, partisan poll watchers across the South carried guns and would deliberately intimidate (mostly non-White) voters.  Conservatives steadily bemoan the myth of rampant voter fraud, while ignoring the very real pandemic of gun violence.

For the first anniversary of the 1999 Columbine school massacre, a national news network interviewed several of those first responders.  One man stated that he was particularly upset that the perpetrators (two teenage boys) had included girls among their victims.  He said could understand them shooting boys, “but they shot girls, too.”  I literally stopped when I heard him say that.  Aside from the shock value of the verbiage, that he could differentiate between the genders of the victims and therefore categorize his horror level proved how complacent people in this country have become towards violence.  It certainly was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

The outrage continued in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, when the U.S. Senate held a hearing on gun violence in the nation and the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre sat with a scowl on his face and became defensively hostile with every question lobbed at him.  And, as usual, liberals wept, while conservatives grunted.  And then…nothing.  Nothing happened.  No new legislation to address gun violence; no new funding for mental health counseling…nothing.  With that, it seemed the gun violence debate in the United States ended.  We’d accepted the murder of helpless children and thus, nothing more could be done.

At this point, I really don’t hold out much hope for any kind of movement on the legislative front.  Politics has gotten in the way of public service.  So, what’s new?

I remain as tired of the crying from liberals as I am of the concern for gun owner rights from conservatives.  If only the latter group understood the extent of the damage caused by bullet wounds, then perhaps they’d rethink their commitment to ensuring gun rights over human rights.  It’s time for we progressives to get mad and shout down the right-wing extremists who proudly pose with their firearms for family holiday photos the way most normal-minded folks pose with their children and pets, armed with little more than smiles.  The saccharine responses from the horrified won’t result in any considerable change.  They’ll just fade into the morass of national traumas.

Then we’ll have another mass shooting – in a school or some public venue.  And the cycle of tears and excuses will begin all over again.

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Best Quotes of the Week – January 22, 2022

“The best thing to do when faced with voter suppression – and my friends, this is what voter suppression looks like – the best thing to defeat it is to go vote. The best thing to do is fight back.”

Dana DeBeauvoir, Travis County, Texas District Clerk, offering advice to voters

“Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump have all been closely involved in the transactions in question, so we won’t tolerate their attempts to evade testifying in this investigation.”

Letitia James, New York State Attorney General, in a statement released January 18 in which she alleges former President Donald Trump and his family inflated the value of his properties and misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders, insurance brokers and other players in his real estate empire

“History will not remember them kindly.”

Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, comparing Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to the White moderates his father wrote about during the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s – who declared support for the goals of Black voting rights but not the direct actions or demonstrations that ultimately led to passage of landmark legislation

“COVID is real; COVID is a threat. But even more serious than COVID, as real and scary as it is, is to see thousands and thousands of thousands of voters not being able to vote, and it was on our watch. We refuse to stop. We refuse to turn around.”

Rev. Adolphus Lacey, a pastor in New York’s Brooklyn borough, announcing ongoing voter registration efforts despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies.  I will not stand by silently as a State continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee.  I dissent.”

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Supreme Court Justice, condemning severe abortion restrictions established by the state of Texas

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Best Quotes of the Week – January 15, 2022

“A turning point in this nation’s history.”

President Joe Biden, describing the upcoming consideration of voting-rights bills in Congress

Biden added, “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadows, justice over injustice?”

“The last time we had a committee, [Senator Paul] was accusing me of being responsible for the death of four to five million people, which is really irresponsible. And I say, ‘Why is he doing that?’ There are two reasons that’s really bad. The first is it distracts from what we’re all trying to do here today, is get our arms around the epidemic and the pandemic that we’re dealing with, not something imaginary.  Number two — what happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden, that kindles the crazies out there and I have…threats upon my life, harassment of my family…with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me. Now I guess you could say, well, that’s the way it goes, I can take the hit. Well, it makes a difference, because as some of you may know, just about three or four weeks ago on December 21st, a person was arrested who was on their way from Sacramento to Washington, D.C., at a speed stop in Iowa…The police asked him where he was going, and he was going to Washington, D.C. to kill Dr. Fauci. And they found in his car an AR-15, and multiple magazines of ammunition, because he thinks that maybe I’m killing people.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, during a hostile exchange with Sen. Rand Paul at a U.S. Senate hearing on the ongoing battle over COVID-19 restrictions, mask mandates and vaccines

Fauci added (while holding up a printout of Paul’s website), “So I ask myself, ‘Why would Senator [Rand Paul] want to do this?’  So, go to Rand Paul’s website, and you see ‘Fire Dr. Fauci’ with a little box that says, ‘Contribute here.’  You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.”

“Somebody with the degree and the seriousness of the psychological disorders he has does not get better without any kind of therapeutic intervention.”

Mary Trump, about her infamous uncle, Donald Trump

Regarding his loss in the 2020 presidential election, Mary noted, “He probably suffered the greatest narcissistic injury of his life in 2020. And regardless of how many lies he tells himself or other people, he is a loser.  But it will certainly start to peel people away from him.  Not the cult. But the 74 million people who voted for him weren’t all in the cult. They just don’t pay attention.”

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Strained

On September 1, several new laws went into effect here in Texas – 666 to be exact; a number that surely makes evangelicals tremble.  Some, like Senate Bill 968, which bans “vaccine passports”, became law immediately when Gov. Greg Abbott signed them in June.  Others, such as House Bill 2730, which deals with eminent domain, go into effect January 1, 2022.

Overall, it appears that some of them are designed to oppress the basic human and constitutional rights of certain groups.  The Texas State Legislature meets every two years and, in 2019, their principal goal was to loosen gun restrictions even more than they already were.  Those of us who aren’t obsessed with firearms (meaning we don’t suffer from Pencil-Penis Syndrome) wondered how much more lax these rules could become.  Stupidity never ceases to amaze me, and conservatives in the Texas State House always deliver.

This year’s session, though, has raised eyebrows and tempers across the nation – and mainly because of two of those 666 laws in particular.  One deals with voting and the other with abortion.  Abortion has always been an open wound for social and religious conservatives.  To them it’s worse than the growing economic inequalities in the country, the prescription drug epidemic, or the fact that so many children in the U.S. live in poverty.  Pro-life conservatives are “pro-life” – up to the time that baby is born.  Once it pops out of the placental oven, it’s pretty much on its own.

Known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, it is the most ardent assault upon reproductive freedom since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  It bans abortions no matter the circumstance (including rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life) after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is usually before most women learn they’re pregnant.  It bears that moniker because an embryonic heartbeat allegedly can be detected at the sixth week.  In reality, the heart hasn’t developed by that point; only the muscles that eventually will become the heart have formed.  The term is misleading.  The sound of a heartbeat is generated by the opening and closing of the heart valves.  Those valves haven’t formed yet at 6 weeks.  When someone detects this so-called “fetal heartbeat”, it’s the sound generated by the ultrasound machine.  But self-righteous conservatives in the Texas State Legislature don’t see it that way.  It doesn’t conform to their narrow view of reality.  In other words, a group of (mostly male) politicians have decided they know more about human development and reproductive health care than actual medical professionals.

But the “fetal heartbeat” law goes even further – allowing anyone who assists in an abortion after that sixth week to be held liable as a criminal accessory and sued for up to $10,000.  This isn’t aimed strictly at those in the medical industry.  Giving a woman a ride to an abortion clinic, for example, opens them to criminal charges under this law; which means cab drivers are subject.  Perhaps comforting a woman after the abortion could be considered criminal.  Would a plumber who repairs water pipes in a women’s health clinic be deemed a criminal?  It’s not the state that would bring the charges; the $10,000 penalty is for any individual who files suit under the law.  Thus, if someone is upset (gets their feelings hurt) because of an abortion, they’re entitled for up to $10,000 compensation.

I’m upset there’s so much stupidity in the world.  Where’s my financial compensation?

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to abortion rights when it refused to take up the new Texas law for consideration.  Previously, it’s overturned similar laws passed by other states.  But for the past few years, conservatives have been pushing these draconian measures for the mere sake of having the High Court review the Roe v. Wade decision and ultimately overturn it.  The Court’s refusal to examine this Texas law is a blatant nod to right-wing extremists who feel divinely appointed to control other people’s lives.

The other new law gaining notoriety is Senate Bill 1, which targets the voting process.  SB 1 limits the early voting period and bans 24-hour and drive-through voting.  The drive-through voting idea was proposed last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections.  Perhaps the most alarming feature of this law is that it allows poll watchers greater access.  Voter intimidation is not just rude; it’s felonious.  But don’t tell that to Abbott and the rest of the Republican mafia in Texas who symbolize ongoing efforts by conservatives nationwide to undermine the right to vote – the very genesis of democratic societies.  It’s something we’ve tried to instill in other countries, such as…well, Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, just like the World War II generation moved Heaven and Earth to stop fascism in Europe, yet did nothing to end it here in the U.S., conservatives want people in developing nations to be able to vote in clean and fair elections – without putting the same amount of effort at home.

Like most of the nation, Texas is still in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic with a resurgence of infections and increasing hospitalizations.  This past February the Texas power grid system almost completely collapsed with the onset of Winter Storm Uri.  Scores of people died.  Much of the rest of the state’s infrastructure – mostly roads and bridges – are in dire need of repair or replacement.  And, of course, all those children in Texas and across the nation who are uninsured…doesn’t pro-life also mean taking care of them?

The new gaggle of laws has a few other gems – good and bad.  HB 1535 allows people to utilize marijuana for medicinal purposes.  SB 224 simplifies access to the Supplemental Assistance Program for older and disabled citizens; individuals can forgo the normally required interviews and have a shortened application process.  Now this measure is what I would deem pro-life!

On the other hand, we have HB 2497, which establishes an “1836 Project” committee produce educational materials dedicated to Texas history.  In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo launched Texas’ separation from México.  It’s in contrast to the “1619 Project”, which examines U.S. history from the arrival of enslaved Africans.

Moreover, HB 3979 limits teachers from discussing current events and systemic racism in class.  The bill also prevents students from receiving class credit for participating in civic engagement and – wait for it – bans teaching of the aforementioned “1619 Project”.

I attribute these social studies bills as efforts by White conservatives to undermine the true history of the United States; that Native Americans were more civilized and intellectual than many realize; that the “founding fathers” weren’t devout Christians; and that the Civil War really was about keeping an entire race of people enslaved and not states’ rights.  Like the presidency of Donald Trump, it’s a strike back against decades of progressive thought and ambition.

I never know what to think of these right-wing fools in elected office.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put up that sign on my front lawn offering free rides to abortion clinics.

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Most Delusional Quote of the Week – June 26, 2021

“I never admitted defeat.”

Donald Trump, during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network

He added, “No, I never, the word is ‘concede,’ [and] I have not conceded.”

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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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Best Quotes of the Week – June 26, 2021

“They’re trying to rig the system to stay in office as long as they can, try to suppress the vote to make it harder – especially for Black and brown communities to vote in Texas – and we’re not going to let them.  We’re going to fight back. We’re going to say no, and we’re going to show up.”

Julian Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, during a rally for federal voting rights legislation in front of the Texas Capitol

“Tucker Carlson didn’t serve.  His biggest achievement is having nine lives in the world of cable news.  Making a bowtie famous, and getting away with promoting conspiracy theories, night after night after night.”

Brianna Keilar, responding to Tucker Carlson’s criticism of Gen. Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and noting the FOX News host didn’t serve in the U.S. military

Keilar added, “That isn’t just a dog whistle.  It’s a white whistle…He is white rage!”

“I want to understand White rage, and I’m White.  What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?  What caused that?  I want to find out.”

Gen. Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the January 6 Capitol Hill riots and the U.S. military’s efforts to push for more diverse and inclusive standards

Conservative critics have painted the new military policies as Marxist and generally anti-American.

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Worst Quotes of the Week – June 19, 2021

“Strangely, some of the key people who participated on Jan. 6 have not been charged.  Look at the document. The government calls those people unindicted co-conspirators.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that in potentially every single case, they were FBI operatives.”

Tucker Carlson, insinuating the FBI was part of the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill

“But these people are running around saying, ‘There is no vote fraud because, well, there’s no prosecutions.’  Well, have you gotten the gist of how hard it is to get a stinkin’ prosecution?  Have you gotten that yet?  So, it’s really hard to get one.”

Jay DeLancy, a former U.S. Air Force colonel and executive director of North Carolina’s Voter Integrity Project, lamenting his failed efforts to highlight voter fraud in the state

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Best Quotes of the Week – June 19, 2021

President Joe Biden points to Opal Lee after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington.  Lee, a 94-year-old Texan, had campaigned for holiday.  From left, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., Opal Lee, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., Vice President Kamala Harris, House Majority Whip James Clyburn of S.C., Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, obscured, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“This day doesn’t just celebrate the past. It calls for action today.”

President Joe Biden, upon signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on June 17

“You are courageous leaders and American patriots.”

Vice-President Kamala Harris, praising a group of Texas Democrats for walking out on a state legislative session in protest of a strict new voting bill

“Without a national standard for voting rights and voting reform, states are going to just chip away at the rights of voters state by state. Hopefully, this might inform minds and shape opinions when folks are in that Senate cloakroom wrestling over how they’re going to proceed with HR1 and HR4.”

Texas State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, about the Texas Democratic walk-out

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