Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today marks the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

January 27 marks the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The day was designed by way of a UN General Assembly resolution adopted on November 1, 2005. The date designated for this Holocaust Remembrance Day is no coincidence. On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the biggest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau in the then occupied Poland. At that concentration camp, over a million men, women and children were killed in the most heinous of ways.

The official theme for 2021 is “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust.” As the UN notes, this year’s commemoration “focuses on the measures taken in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust to begin the process of recovery and reconstitution of individuals, community, and systems of justice. Integral to the process of reconstitution was the accurate recording of the historical account of what happened before and during the Holocaust. Challenging the denial and distortion of the historical events was interwoven in the processes of recovery and reconstitution. The theme examines the contribution of the responses to the victims of the Holocaust, and of the survivors, to addressing the needs of the contemporary world, and to the historical record of the Holocaust.”

It is especially important to remember the Holocaust now because the seeds of what led to the camps are still being planted and nourished. White supremacy, systemic racism, and supporters of those policies are still a part of our lives all over the world. It’s not stretching things too far to say that a good deal of the number of those who attacked the Capitol on January 6 harbor at least some tendencies towards Fascism, as did the man who they say inspired them: the guy who wore the “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirt did it on purpose, and the Proud Boys, today’s version of Hitler’s brownshirts, march under the banner of “Six Million Was Not Enough.” And yet it is problematic whether or not their Dear Leader will be held accountable, much less barred from trying to run again.

We shouldn’t just remember the Holocaust. We need to make sure that “Never Again” is not just a reminder, but a reality.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Turning The Tea Tables On Them

Ooh, Trump doesn’t like it that people are showing up at Republican town halls and voicing their opinion.

Our Cable News Consumer-In-Chief apparently has nothing better to do than sit around the White House in his jammies watching the likes of Jim DeMint complain about town hall attendees on the teevee machine, rather than doing his damn job.

At 6:11 PM Eastern time, Jim DeMint made the claim that the folks at town halls around the nation were “well financed and bused around to these town halls,” as if somehow liberals had the means and ability to do what DeMint’s group did in 2009. Despite the fact that many of these town hall attendees have actually resorted to wearing their zip codes as a badge to prove they’re constituents, DeMint persisted.

Then the Man Who Never Had An Original Thought sent out a tweet 12 minutes later. To be fair, he may have wanted to wait until the DeMint segment was over. It ended at approximately 6:20 PM or so, and Trump’s tweet went out at 6:23.

Apparently his takeaway was the town halls.

In case you’ve forgotten, the Tea Party was organized and funded by groups such as The Heritage Foundation — the group Mr. DeMint left the Senate for.

So what’s really got him and Trump upset about is that they took their idea and ran with it.  The difference, however, is that there are no billionaires funding it.  It really is organic.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Let’s Get Vertebrate

Charles Blow in the New York Times: Democrats need to grow a spine.

Democrats must oppose Gorsuch on principle. Democrats have grown too soft. They are still trying to fight a gentleman’s war in the middle of a guerrilla war. Their efforts to reach across the aisle keep being met by hands wielding machetes; their overwhelming impulse to take the high road ignores the fact that Republicans have already blown up the bridge on the high road.

Democrats want to point to the civility and decorum with which government is supposed to work, but this ignores the fact that government is broken and completely overtaken by the people who broke it.

Some people worry that if the Democrats filibuster this nomination in the Senate, it will only force the Republicans’ hand to employ the “nuclear option” — change the rules so that the nominee would need only a simple majority to be confirmed. The logic goes that this would mean Trump would have an easy route to confirmation should another vacancy arise on the court during his tenure, a vacancy that could shift the balance of the court, unlike this one.

I say let them. In fact, make them. They are likely to confirm this nominee anyway. What liberals don’t want is to have Democratic fingerprints on this political crime scene. Make the asterisk president’s nominee become an asterisk jurist, the only one confirmed under an altered set of rules.

Ask yourself: how did the Republicans get back into power after the election of 2008 when Barack Obama won the White House and the Democrats held the Senate?  They fought back with organization and a determination that you had to admire for its power even if you hated what they stood for.  We all laughed at the Tea Party folks — and they deserved much of the derision — but they channeled it into a mid-term election in 2010 that they went for as if their lives depended on it.

It can work both ways, and it has for the Democrats in the past.  And unless they want to spend the next four, eight, or twenty years shaking their heads and complaining about how hard-core the right wing is, they need to be just as hard-core.  So it might get them yelled at by Trump and his minions.  Good.  That means they’re getting to them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Save Us A Seat

Mother Jones has the background on Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

An Oxford and Harvard grad, Gorsuch, 49, is also one of the youngest sitting federal judges on Trump’s list—a selling point for a president looking to leave a lasting legacy on the court. He is a conservative in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia and is considered an “originalist” who tries to interpret the law as the Founders would have. Also in his column: As one of the 10th Circuit judges who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby against the Obama administration—exempting the company from federal requirements to provide employees with insurance plans that included free contraceptive coverage—his religious-right bona fides are solid.

But hard-core anti-abortion activists have been lobbying against Gorsuch and recently asked Trump to consider judges with a more proven record of anti-abortion advocacy from the bench. Andrew Schlafly, son of the late conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, recently sent out an alert to supporters arguing that Gorsuch is “NOT pro-life” because he wrote an opinion noting his obligation to follow court precedent. Schlafly sees adherence to precedent as a deal-breaker and a sign that a judge won’t overturn Roe.

All that is very nice and I’m sure he’s probably very qualified, at least as far as his legal training and background, but I suggest that Senate Democrats give him the same due consideration that the last Senate gave President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy.

We have about 1,300 days until the next presidential election, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t wait until America chooses a president to fill the seat, and any Democrat who votes to confirm Mr. Gorsuch should be have his ass primaried by a real Democrat next time he or she comes up for election.

And every time Mitch McConnell or John McCain or some other whiny or harrumphing obstructionist takes to the airwaves to complain about the Democrats playing politics with the Court or disrupting America’s business, we laugh in his face and reply “Merrick Garland.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Out Of Order

As the Republicans were fond of reminding us during the Obama administration, executive orders don’t carry a whole lot of weight without legislation to implement them or fund them.  They can be rescinded by the next president or even the president that implemented them in the first place.  Some do have permanent impact if they are an element in the legislation, but by and large they are mostly symbolic in nature.

So when Trump signed an executive order to build the wall along the Mexican border, it doesn’t mean that it will go up.  When he signed an executive order to ban funding to sanctuary cities, there are ways around them, the same way that family planning agencies in Africa have found ways around the reproductive rights restrictions put in place by Reagan, rescinded by Clinton, reinstated by Bush, rescinded by Obama, and reinstated by Trump.

Believe it or not — and the last eight years or so make it seem like it’s not true — but in order for most things to happen in this country, Congress has to pass a law or provide funding.  And while Trump may be in office for four years, the House of Representatives is up for re-election next year, as is one-third of the Senate.  It would help them to make a decision if they were consistently reminded of that.  Find out who your representative is and establish a connection.  And while you’re at it, find out who your state representative is in your state legislature.  Remind them too that they are up for re-election soon and that you’ve got your eye on them.

Also, I agree with Adam L. Silverman over at Balloon Juice who basically says don’t become like Trump: don’t let every little thing set you off.  There will be a million little things about this president and this Congress that make your blood boil, but as we have seen, easily distracting him brings chaos and consternation, and we can’t be like that.  Calm and steady but implacable resistance works better than going off every time he sends out a 3 a.m. tweet.

Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.