The Case for Impeachment

“Oh, Then as of this moment, they’re on double secret probation!” — Dean Wormer

It seems futile. There are only 11 more days of the Trump presidency. Half of his cabinet is either gone or led by an acting secretary. So, a 25th amendment remedy is a longshot at best. We’ve already done the impeachment thing and we saw how that worked out. So, why in the world would the House of Representatives do it again?

I can think of three valid reasons to go through the process again. I will build to the best reason in a kind of creshendo. So, we start with the symbolic reason for doing it. Obviously, only three presidents have been impeached. No one has ever been impeached twice. That would put Trump clearly in the history books for all eternity.

Why does that matter? A famous person once said that all it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good people to do nothing. Yes, you can sit back and stew for a week and a half. You can accept the fact that the clock will run out on the Trump presidency. You can accept the fact that almost all of his political allies have abandoned him. What does that say to future generations?

Susan Collins infamously said that she did not vote for conviction during the last impeachment preceedings because she felt “he had learned his lesson.” He sure did. He learned that no one was ever going to hold responsible for anything. At least, the Republicans weren’t going to hold him responsible.

That dovetails us into our second point. The Democrats can accomplish two things just by passing the articles of impeachment. They get to stand up and be counted as saying that what Trump did was unforgiveable. It’s far past time to soft-pedal what we have witnessed over the past four years. Trump committed sedition. Trump committed treason. We can’t use euphemisms anymore. We can’t excuse it and say it will go away. It isn’t an abberration. He isn’t misundertood. He isn’t going to pivot. There’s nowhere to pivot to.

Impeachment says we saw what you did and we want to hold you to account. Naturally, it will take Republicans to finally hold him to account. That’s the second point. This would force them once and for all to go on the record. Are you for America or are you for Trump? There is no third way. There is no middle ground. There is no yeah…but. You have to choose and you have to choose now.

It would produce a watershed moment for each Republican individually and the Republican party as a whole as a national party. If you vote for Trump you are dead politically. Sure, there will always be individual districts that go conservative. Maybe a new conservative party can emerge to take control of those districts. As a national party they will be dead if they fail to do the right thing in this moment. There are no more excuses.

Finally, we get to the real ramifications of voting to convict. Trump can’t be removed from an office that he no longer inhabits and it is likely that Senate proceedings would last beyond January 20th. However, a part of that impeachment and removal would bar him from ever holding public office ever again.

A large part of Trump’s power and his graft has been the threat of running again in 2024. That allows him to continue fund raising. That allows him to act as the de facto head of the Republican party. He isn’t likely to run again no matter what, but he can continue to bilk the masses out of their hard earned money by making them think he will.

It would be more likely that Donald Jr. or Ivanka would think they could take up the mantle. A Senate vote to convict would almost certainly be the precursor to more legal problems for the whole family. They might all be wearing orange before those elections come about.

The hard part is what to do with the rest of us. Senator Hawley saw a Simon-Schuster book deal go up in smoke because of his support for the president. He complained about cancel culture. His first amendment rights were violated. Bullshit. The first amendment doesn’t protect you from personal blowback of your speech.

It is time to freeze out those that still support the president. They need to have whatever power and influence effectively neutered. I’m looking at Hawley. I’m looking at Ted Cruz. I’m looking at Lindsay Graham. I’m looking at Ken Paxton. I’m looking at Dan Patrick. They all need to suffer horrible political deaths. It will be the best thing that can possibly happen. Let it be said from this point forth that if you supported this president after he got the ball rolling on this attempted insurrection that you will have your political balls cut off in front of God and everyone.

What that means for us in our daily lives is obviously more challenging and more tricky. This isn’t about liberal vs. conservative. My conservative friends were wholeheartedly against all of this. This is America vs. Trump. If you stand with Trump I don’t want to know you anymore.

The Party of Denial

“What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself; who gives your arguments a fair hearing and simply persists in his lunacy?”George Orwell

We watched in horror as domestic terrorists stormed the capital. They went at the behest of their dear leader, who urged them on just minutes before. One of his goons talked of a trial by battle. Of course, none of them said to storm the capital outright. They are much too smart for that. Yet, anyone paying attention knew exactly what he wanted them to do.

As overwhelmingly angry as most us are at the events themselves and the president’s behavior surrounding it, it is the behavior by conservatives after the fact that is the most exasperating. Conservatives have gone from the party of personal responsibility to the party of denial.

It was impossible to deny that the event occurred. We saw it on national television with our very eyes. Again, we couldn’t deny how bad it was or how bad it looked. We saw it. So, a number of people (including conservative media) went to the only place they felt they could. They blamed it on Antifa. Yup, you heard me correctly. Antifa.

They were apparently bused in in order to cause disruptions and make you think it was conservative jackasses that did what they did. Earlier on in his presidency, Trump told us we could not believe what we see and we could not believe what we hear. It was a statement ripped almost directly out of George Orwell’s 1984.

Those are mere facts and facts and reality have a liberal bias. So, we didn’t see the rally just hours before. We didn’t hear the president urge them to action. We didn’t see all of the people we knew to be MAGA nuts and Q enthusiasts. None of that really happened. Got it.

On a certain level I get it. Shame is a dreadful feeling. It is particularly dreadful when you feel it for things you did not directly do. No one I know stormed the capital. No one I know has hit a cop in protest. No one I know has cheered at watching a cop go to the hospital or die. No one would brazenly declare that blue lives matter and then act in a way to prove that they don’t. No one I know did any of those things.

Yet, people I know have somehow found a way to say it was Antifa. People I know somehow found a way to talk about violence in protests in the summer as a way to change the subject. People I know tried to distance themselves from this as a way to detach. This is your shame. It is right here and it isn’t going away. You’ll have to deal with it just like the rest of us.

Webster’s dictionary defines conserve as “protect (something, especially an environmentally or culturally important place or thing) from harm or destruction.” We know the environment is not important to most conservatives. So, obviously they are preserving something cultural. They feel it slipping away. What is it exactly that they feel slipping away? What is it that Donald Trump was able to tap into so effectively?

Eventually, all of us have to come to grips with what that is precisely. We all know what it is, but we dare not speak its name. The party of personal responsibility is really the party of denial. They denied science first. Then, they denied facts. Now, they are denying the very shame we all feel. Most importantly, they are denying what is at the heart of it all.

The irony is overwhelming. A party that says they are for personal responsibility has told people that others are responsible for their lot in life. Immigrants in caravans are coming to take away the lifestyle that is rightfully there’s. Socialists in government want to give racial minorities free stuff to buy their vote. Your life is going to hell in a handbasket and you aren’t responsible for one damn bit of it.

So, when a majority of people rejected that narrative they denied that too. Trump couldn’t possibly have lost. Nearly 400,000 people have not died. If they did die they died from something else. He isn’t just lining his own pockets. He really cares about us. Dear Leader loves us. Dear Leader is fighting for us. Dear Leader is preserving the way of life some of us are clinging to in not so quiet desperation.

This is your shame. This is your life. It is all right here and there is no one you can blame for it. There is no one else responsible for it. There is no mysterious group we can pin it on. Whether you want to call them Antifa, the Deep State, Socialists, or any other bogeyman the right wing media talking heads want to call it. They aren’t responsible. We are. Real Americans stormed the capital on Wednesday.

The good news is that unless you were physically there you are not literally responsible. We are only responsible for how we choose to react. Do we hold those that pushed for this ultimately responsible? Do we shun the ideas that begat something like this? That’s the only way we wash away the shame. We can’t just waive a magic wand and pretend it didn’t happen or blame it on a mysterious group like Antifa. That crap won’t fly anymore.

The Hate you take

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” — Paul McCartney

I make my living in English classes. Sure, I’ve taught every social studies class on the books, but I’ve actually spent as many years teaching English as I did social studies. In English classes we analyze speech, books, poems, and short stories. A large part of the course is the ability to read and understand fiction and nonfiction work.

So, we are going to do that today. I am going to take the president’s video remarks to “protesters” in their entirety. They won’t be edited. They won’t be truncated. They won’t be paraphrased. You will see them exactly as they were delivered. Often seeing the spoken word in written form is enlightening.

“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side.

But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt. It’s a very tough period of time.

There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened where they could take it away from all of us — from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election.

But we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated — that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace.”

Of course, to completely appreciate these comments we have to backtrack and go over the events of the day and the events leading up to that day. Trump hosted a rally in Washington that morning. He played all the usual hits. The election was stolen. There was obvious fraud. You know the stuff. He then told them that we will take them out together. I’ll be with you.

What makes the first stanza so infuriating is that we all know these claims are false. He knows it. Those carrying his water in Congress know it. His lawyers know it. Most of the media pundits on the right know it. He is willing to play on the fears and emotions of a bunch of idiots and didn’t particularly care what they did. Some of them even know its false and don’t care. They just want to burn it all down. Even if the statements were true or possibly true you still don’t tell an angry mob that has already caused tons of damage that they are justified in their anger.

The second stanza seems fine on its own and wouldn’t be so horrible if we didn’t know that he sent out the crowd in a rage earlier that day. Imagine shaking up a bottle of coke and then expressing shock and dismay when it spews coke everywhere. Given his comments earlier in the day this whole stanza rings hollow.

In the third stanza we double down on the lie that the election was stolen. Of course, now that Congress has certified the results the president has no leg to stand on. He’s assured us there will be a smooth transition of power. He hasn’t conceded of course. He stills says he won in a landslide and that everything was stolen. Repeating the same lie twice in the same statement is just beyond comprehension.

The last stanza requires a whole new level of Zen to get through. Some folks call it gaslighting. Psychologists call it projection. Essentially you just take everything you’ve done and accuse the other side of doing it. It is whataboutism. The Antifa and black lives matter protesters are the evil ones. You know the ones protesting racial injustice and budding authoritarianism. You know the ones that didn’t bring guns and didn’t destroy government buildings. Those are the evil ones. You, the folks that threatened government officials, destroyed government property, and did it all at gunpoint. You are the good people in all of this.

The only word I can use to describe the way I feel after hearing that is rage. Imagine having a speech that is supposed to calm people down inducing rage. Of course, my rage is directed at him. For anyone inclined to agree with him it would ratchet up the rage towards those in Congress, the capital police, and anyone else trying to keep order. It’s hard to imagine him not knowing that. It is hard to imagine him thinking this speech was really going to calm anything down.

Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media weren’t buying it either. They shut him down for at least twelve hours. In light of yesterday’s events, that seems extremely light. Supposedly, the cabinet was considering invoking the 25th amendment and removing him from office. Some of his staff were considering resignation. Wow, with 13 days left. We will have to be satisfied with hearing that some people are considering the minimum level of moral courage just for a fleeting moment.

In terms of the Beatles chronology, the line referenced above was actually the last line McCartney wrote as a Beatle. The album “Let it Be” was actually recorded before “Abbey Road” even though it was released later, and they jumbled the order of the songs in “Abbey Road”. “In the end” was supposed to be the last song. The line is short, sweet, and to the point. It is the most brilliant thing McCartney has ever written lyrically. It has the added bonus of being true even in reverse. The hate you take is equal to the hate you make. McCartney would go on to have a long and distinguished solo career, but he would never equal the power of that one lyric. Nothing Trump says or does will top this or erase this. This will be his lasting legacy. May God have mercy on his soul because I’m not sure anyone else should.

Exhaustion

“Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.” — Steve Winwood

Years ago, my wife and I went to the Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood concert at Toyata Center. It was ridiculously expensive, but well worth it. Clapton is a personal favorite of ours. We ran into my uncle. He is a big Steve Winwood fan and this song is his personal favorite. Admittedly, most of the time, the lyrics I post are carefully selected to weave a theme throughout the entire piece.

I’m not sure we can say that today, but they do reveal a more general theme or feeling. Most of us are exhausted. It has been an ongoing battle over the virus, over the presidential election, over the Georgia Senate races, and all of the shenanigans related to all of that.

Our campus and district is inviting back 200 students from virtual learning today. Inviting back is a euphemism for being compelled to return. We have a total of between 1400 and 1500 students. Approximately half were learning from home. So, you can do the math in terms of percentage increase.

Meanwhile, the city of Houston and Harris county prepare to scale back openings. So, you have one government entity doing one thing and another doing the opposite. It used to be that we generally agreed to put politics aside on issues of public health. For years, Democrats and Republicans successfully worked together locally during and following storms. Now, what you do and who you listen to depends on whether you are a donkey or an elephant.

Of course, today sees the intersection of final battle over whether Biden will be inaugurated and they continue to count the ballots in Georgia from last night’s runoff election. Biden’s inauguration is a foregone conclusion and in any other year his ascendance to the presidency would have been decided and done with two months ago.

As of this moment, the networks have called the election for Rapheal Warnock and Jon Ossoff has a slim lead with 98 percent of the precincts reporting. Experts say that the stereotypically Democratic areas are the last to report. So, their slim leads (around or less than a percentage point) could grow slightly to a whopping two points.

Both stories will collide with the same undertones in both. Opponents of the president elect will debate on the floors of Congress and allege fraud and illegal activity that doesn’t exist. Once the Georgia races are decided they will do the same. They are already making calls of losing to the “Socialists.” Apparently, a 50/50 Senate will somehow descend into the pits of the Bolshevik revolution.

Meanwhile, in the last week we saw four states eclipse 1000 deaths alone. One of those is Texas where I live. We have a national and state government that seems to just hope that people will magically be vaccinated. They don’t seem to understand that they have to actually do something to ramp up production, set up distribution networks, and make hard decisions in prioritizing who gets it and who doesn’t.

The exhaustion comes not from dealing with these issues. These issues are a part of everyday life. The exhaustion comes in watching an administration fail so miserably that it lost an election by the widest margin of any incumbent since Herbert Hoover in 1932. It’s watching the Democrats take control of the Senate even after overwhelming voter suppression. It’s seeing all of this only to watch them fight the results themselves.

Sports fans know defeat probably more than they know victory. Only one team can win the title every year, so by sheer definition most teams go away disappointed. Many fans leave the stadium or the arena feeling like they were cheated from victory. A referee or umpire blew a call. A manager/coach made a tactical mistake. A player choked. This is normal.

What isn’t normal is to be making these same pleas two months later. Eventually you have to accept the fact that your team wasn’t good enough to win. You go back to the locker room or clubhouse, regroup, and start planning for the next season or next game.

There will always be disagreements over how to move forward. There will be strategy changes and personnel changes along the way. Yet, there have to be changes and people have to move forward. Claiming victory when the scoreboard clearly says you lost is just pathetic and exasperating. The referees didn’t conspire against you. There was no fraud. You are wasted and it’s time to find your way home.

The light at the end of the tunnel

“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away.” — Don McLean

One of those life moments happened yesterday and it has the feeling of being anti-climatic now. I was able to get one of the first runs of the vaccine. In this case, I got the Moderna version, but it really doesn’t make a difference because they have the same protocols. You have to take two rounds before they become fully effective.

My second dose is scheduled for the beginning of February, so I’m obviously not really protected until at least then. Still, we have heard reports of health care workers testing positive even after getting the vaccine. Most experts assert that it will take at least several weeks for the antibodies to build up enough to protect you.

So, this is a dangerous time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel finally after a seemingly unending winter that has lasted nearly a year. The question is whether that light is the sun or an oncoming train. I suspect that will largely depend on how we collectively handle the next few months as we wait for most people to get vaccinated.

This is where the story of how I got vaccinated becomes relevant. Our district sent out a questionnaire to all of its employees. If you work as a health care provider (school nurses), are over 65, or have an underlying health condition then you get to move to the front of the line. I have Diabetes Type 2, so I got added to the list.

They (it will remain vague since I’m not exactly sure which agency is running it) set up a station at our district fieldhouse and I waited in a line of cars at my prescribed time. They verified my appointment, took my temperature and then vaccinated me without me having to leave my car. I waited for 15 minutes afterwards just to make sure there were no side effects and then went home.

I tell this story for two reasons. First, it highlights an important lesson. Government can work. One of the myths of the last 40 years is that government is just a collection of incompetent boobs that couldn’t organize a two car funeral procession. Yet, we have examples every day of this not being the case. If they are allowed to and given the resources to, government can run an efficient and effective organization.

Conservatives have run a four decade con game they call “starving the beast.” Essentially, they have defunded (remember that term?) so many government programs that it has achieved the appearance that government cannot work. If you give someone 20 dollars to do a 100 dollar job you will come away underwhelmed. Some details will be missed and some expertise will be missing. It’s tempting to focus on the failure and not on why the failure occurred.

The second reason for the story is simple. Even though some of us are getting the vaccine, that does not mean we are out of the woods. Health experts have said these next couple of months will be the most dangerous yet. Part of that is the fact that we are still in the winter when flu season is at its worst. The other part is that as people get vaccinated, more and more people will think we have finally returned to normal. They’ll stop wearing masks, stop socially distancing, and start having mass gatherings again. The death toll will skyrocket and somehow it will be blamed on the new administration.

Sure enough, local conditions (Houston and Harris county) are already dire enough for the mayor and county judge to consider shutdowns again. At the same time, our school is not only going back, but we are set to add 200 new students that used to be learning online. I’ve talked about that before and educationally the reasoning is sound, but when you consider just the idea of putting more people in close proximity to each other it just doesn’t make much sense.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have shut down before. At least we squandered the time we gained to get something done that would make us substantially safer. It seems the outgoing administration never really quite understood the fact that you actually have to do something. Now, people don’t want to hear calls of another shut down. I get it. However, now seems like a perfect opportunity. We can see the end. If vaccine production could be ramped up, we could get most people vaccinated by this Spring. Then, it would be mostly over. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is up to us as to whether it is sunlight or an oncoming train.

The Abyss

“He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?” — John Lennon

There are moments in my life I’d like to have back. Like most of us, they usually involve things we wish we had done or said but didn’t. Sometimes it was just about being too timid to share my feelings with someone I liked or have the courage to take a chance on something that might have been fun or otherwise fulfilling.

It is only with the wisdom of time that we can look back on these moments and put them in their proper context. Whatever force you may believe in (be it God, fate, or coincidence) usually has a way of sorting these things out. Girls I liked in school that didn’t like me back or that never knew I liked them usually turned out to be wrong for me anyway. Those fun activities may have gotten me into trouble had I said yes. I’m sure all of you have similar experiences you can chalk up to life experience.

Sometimes, you have regrets for the things you had done. It may have been a foolish thing you did as a kid that could have gotten you arrested or in serious trouble in a different time or place. Sometimes we have hurt the people we love with something we’ve said or done. However, the one I’m currently thinking of is a lot more recent than that.

Yesterday, I posted a piece about how we will have to find a way to forgive Donald Trump someday. I always stand by everything I say here. However, given recent events, the timing of the piece just wasn’t right. I probably should have known. Even if I hadn’t heard about the phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State, I should have known something would happen to render that opinion as ludicrous.

Forgiveness will happen and should happen, but it cannot happen until the act is over. During the act, you have to either cover up to fend off the evil forces or stand up and fight. Either way, there really is no time to reflect. Every time it feels like there will be a respite, something else happens to remind you that we are in the middle of a crisis.

Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” may have been his best work. Ed Harris played E. Howard Hunt who was involved in the Watergate scandal. He told John Dean in the movie that Richard Nixon was “the darkness reaching out for the darkness.” Who knows whether that actually happened. Creative license is powerful even in so-called biographies. Yet, it was a powerful line in a powerful movie.

In the midst of calls of four dimensional chess we get news stories like these. We see the sitting president not even holding onto vague and specious claims of fraud. Those pretenses are gone. He is simply asking another government official to just overturn an election just because. Keep in mind the Electoral college has already voted and the state’s results have already been certified. I’m not even sure what the legal machinations would be.

As Keith Olbermann pointed out on Twitter, the audio is much clearer on the president’s end. So, that means the call was likely recorded in the White House. So, either the president released it himself or someone close to the president that was privy to the call released it. This isn’t fake news. It’s the Ukraine call all over again but worse. Their own version of the facts has him guilty of any number of federal crimes.

Criminal justice is obviously a debate we will continue to have in our country. How should we police our communities? What should be a crime and what shouldn’t? How long should criminals be in prison for? What should the ultimate goal of incarceration be? These are all questions that cut to the very core of who we are as people. Are we primarily interested in protecting good people from bad people? Are we primarily interested in punishing people and making sure they suffer for making us suffer? Are we primarily interested in helping people become the very best people they possibly could be?

These are all questions that swim around my head when I think about Donald Trump. We need to be protected from him, but what does that even look like? It could just be duct tape over his mouth and broken thumbs so he can’t tweet. A life sentence or worse might be simply allowing our anger to take over. Certainly, a majority of Americans would like to see him punished for putting us through hell.

I’m not sure there is a best version of Trump at this point. Sometimes with criminals there isn’t a best version. Perhaps there is just a time when they are no longer dangerous to the community. Evil is often easier to understand when there is a goal behind it. Attention isn’t an end but a means to an end. With Trump that might not be true. Maybe attention is the end. You usually want to make a public spectacle of a fiend that has terrorized the community. He needs to public spectacle. He just needs to go away and never be heard from again. It could be in a jail cell or a mega-mansion. Either way, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Forgiveness

“I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter. But my will gets weak And my thoughts seem to scatter But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.” — Don Henley

You’ll have to excuse me today as I get upon my pulpit. Yet, I’ve paid the bill for WordPress, so it’s my pulpit today. My wife and I were telling our daughter a story about forgiveness. I thought it would be a good lesson to share with the congregation. Some of you that know me personally may know this story, but I will leave out names to protect the innocent.

Since I returned from college, I have been a regular volunteer in youth ministry. I’ve migrated between three different parishes and have volunteered at all three. At my first parish the youth minister and I were close, but we ended up having a falling out. I could go into details, but it was more than 20 years ago and there really is no need.

Things came to a head when we were having a meeting and he and another friend were laughing hysterically when I was sharing my thoughts on something. It was very hurtful. I confronted them after the meeting so that I didn’t do it in front of other people. He refused to apologize and said that was just the way he was. I could accept it and be his friend or not accept it and not be his friend. Okay, decision made.

The concept of forgiveness is a difficult one in our faith and in life in general. It took a long time to understand it in this particular situation and in others as well. It takes time for it to happen. I came to understand that forgiveness is not really for the person being forgiven, but the person doing the forgiving. It doesn’t mean the relationship returns to what it was. It just means that they don’t occupy your innermost thoughts on a daily basis.

It is about letting go. The hard part comes with everything else. I don’t really think about him anymore and yet he is not my friend. Yet, 20 years later I realize the role I played in that situation. These are things we never really think about at the time. That lesson has carried over to other situations that similarly had an effect on my life.

All of this comes to mind because of the situation with Donald Trump and the Republican party (for the most part). Forgiveness will take a long time and it won’t mean that the relationship will return to what it was. It can’t. It just means that eventually we will have to get to a place where the anger we feel doesn’t overwhelm us everyday. That anger can be turned into an obsession over how best to punish him and his cronies for what they have done. That obsession will slowly kill us.

Navigating this will be the trickiest part of Biden’s job moving forward. We saw what Gerald Ford did following Watergate. It destroyed his presidency before it even got started. Yet, I’m not sure if he would have survived either way. Biden is not in the same exact position, but the situations have similarities. How does he balance the need to hold people accountable with the desire for us to move forward?

However, that’s Biden. For the rest of us the question is a lot simpler. How quickly can we get to a point where we aren’t thinking about Trump and his minions on a daily basis? That’s a difficult question. We could surpass 400,000 COVID deaths by January 20th. We haven’t seen what January 6th will bear. There will be a fight in Congress over the election. There could be violence in the streets as the president and those around him are still sewing the seeds of discontent.

How do you forgive when your friend is still hurting you? How do you forgive when their bad actions are still negatively impacting your life? Theology teaches us it is about wiping the slate clean. Obviously that’s ideal. In this case we might just have to hope for the anger to recede. We can’t do it for him. We have to do it for ourselves.

It’s a Mistake

“Don’t think that we don’t know. Don’t think that we’re not trying. Don’t think we move too slow. It’s no use after crying. Saying it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake.” — Colin Ham

The concept of the mistake always depends on one’s goals. So, when we start off today’s piece we start off with the assumption that the general goal is for government to improve the lives of a majority of the people. Some people think that’s when government does as little as possible. Others think that’s when government does quite a bit more. We’ve learned to deal with these disagreements over the years and both points of view make sense from a certain perspective.

I have long believed that the vast majority of people are motivated by what they think is best for America. Some people call it enlightened self-interest. In short, they believe that what is best for them is what is best for America. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to come away believing that these days.

One great example is the concept of trickle down economics. It is a 40 year economic philosophy that has proven not to work. Of course, we go back to the opening sentence where we put forth the concept of a mistake. If the goal was to create economic growth throughout all segments of the economy and actually increase tax revenue it was a mistake. If the goal was to make the comfortable comforted and the destitute more destitute then it was a raging success.

One of the characteristics of government over the past 20 or so years has been the constant threat of government shutdown. Through high school I never remember the government shutting down. In the past 20 or so years it has shut down numerous times. We have seen the same over the debt ceiling. Politics has become a game of political brinkmanship where members of Congress are constantly governing with a gun to their head.

The upshot is that this is not just how everything works. This is not a natural course. We don’t do these things normally. We don’t purposefully wait until the last minute to get things done. At least that is not how adults in positions of leadership act. When we see crisis on the horizon we begin to act as soon as we possibly can.

That brings us to the debate over stimulus. The stimulus bill comes down to nothing but fiscal policy. The idea behind fiscal policy is how best to collect taxes and spend that money to influence the economy. In other words, how do you get the best bang for your buck? We saw that the stimulus in March did some good, but there were issues to be sure. Some might call them mistakes, but that goes back to the idea of what their collective goals were.

For instance, if your goal was to help small businesses and workers stay afloat then why were numerous large businesses getting stimulus funds? Why did Joel Osteen get stimulus money? Why did the Los Angeles Lakers get stimulus money? Why did other large corporations get stimulus money? The harder question is how my wife and I who never lost our jobs got stimulus money? Did we really need it?

Most countries have done more for their citizens than we have. They understood that this was going to be a longer process. They committed to the hard work of defeating the virus and they committed to the idea that everyone should be as close to whole as possible. We knew the housing crisis was coming. We knew that the March stimulus wasn’t going to be enough. We knew there were food shortages. We knew that unemployment benefits were running out. This didn’t catch anyone off-guard. Yet, here we are.

We could say it was a mistake, but that would put forth the idea that it wasn’t part of the plan all along. No one really does their best work when they wait until the last minute. Some people perform better under pressure than others, but everyone does better when you plan ahead. If Congress acted earlier they could have considered exactly how to get money into the hands of those who absolutely needed it. They could have considered exactly how to save jobs, alleviate the housing crisis, provide unemployment benefits, and save small businesses. Those are debates worth having.

When the House passed their relief bill in May, it sat idle in the Senate for over six months. Why? They could have brought it to the flooor. They could have written their own and debated with the House how to best move forward. Remember, these are things we knew we would need. Instead they did nothing until almost December. Everyone scrambled and we came up with largely the same thing we had before. Yes, ordinary citizens will get some relief, but corporations and other undeserving folks will get money too.

Currently, the 2000 dollar direct payments are being held up in the Senate because of course they are. The battle cry is that we can’t afford it. That may or may not be true. We can afford what we want to afford. If my wife and I don’t get a check it won’t kill us. We have kept our jobs. Maybe we shouldn’t get one. Maybe instead of fighting over liability protections we should have been ironing out exactly which businesses should get relief and which ones shouldn’t. Maybe paying landlords would have been helpful. Maybe paying more business owners directly would have kept more people employed and reduced the need for unemployment benefits. Maybe a lot of things. Instead we rush and fight over 600 versus 2000 dollars. Neither will solve the problem entirely, so we kick the can down the road.

70,000 and 41

Apprehension creeping
Like a tube-train up your spine
Will the tightrope reach the end
Will the final couplet rhyme?” — Roger Waters

Sometimes our worlds are just a bunch of numbers. I certainly feel that way sometimes. Officially I am called a support facilitator and case manager at work. So, I essentially have two jobs. The first job requires that I support special education students in English classes. So, I officially support 10th grade and 11th grade English students with three different teachers.

That job varies from year to year. Sometimes I support 12th grade students as well and occasionally I support students in classes other than English. However, managing numbers is key. I am the first line of defense for that student in that class to make sure they keep up with their assignments. I work with the other case managers to make sure all of our students are succeeding.

As a case manager, I have between 15 and 20 students that I monitor every year. I write goals for their annual reviews and write many of the other parts of their annual review (called ARDs). I also make sure they are passing all of their classes. That means spending much of the week looking at grades and talking with their teachers and parents.

As you might imagine, I deal with numbers a lot. Anyone that knows me knows that I also look at numbers in my spare time. Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated with baseball statistics. The lifelong fascination has led to four books on baseball with my last one coming during the pandemic. In fact, that is how this site got its name.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that numbers are neither good nor bad. They can be both depending on the situation. A 65 in English III is a bad number for me, but if you said a player had 65 home runs that would be terrific. You see two numbers in the headline and without context there is no telling whether those numbers are good or bad.

We will start with 70,000. That number was revealed yesterday during an MSNBC interview. That is the number of people that registered to vote in Georgia between election day and the time of that broadcast. How does this happen? A number of possibilities come to mind. The most likely possibility is that someone turned 18 after the deadline to register for the presidential election. If they turned 18 sometime in October or November they could register for the runoff election.

A little over 40 percent of those new registers are African-American. That by itself means nothing. The election doesn’t take place until January 6th. While many have voted early or voted by mail, we will not know how that 70,000 will impact the runoff elections. We could surmise based on past experience that younger voters and African American voters would vote Democratic for the most part, you can never know for sure.

It has been said that many of the 70,000 registered because of the fight over the stimulus currently going on in Congress. Many pundits feel there would be no stimulus at all without the runoff elections. So, you can thank Georgia for at least 600 dollars and the drama over the possibility of getting 2000 dollars is still playing out.

The 41 number is in reference to representative-elect Louis Letlow’s tragic death yesterday. He was set to represent northern Louisiana in Congress before he succombed to COVID-19. He was only 41 years old. There is no possible way to couch that number as anything but tragic. Only a sociopathic jackass would treat such a death any other way.

Apparently, he was one of more than 3700 deaths yesterday. That is a record that will almost certainly be broken at some point between now and January 20th when Joe Biden takes office. If we conservatively average 3000 deaths per day between now and then, we will see the national death toll clear 400,000 before inauguration day.

Again, I have gone through a parade of numbers. Numbers are neither good nor evil. They aren’t good or bad until we attach meaning to them. For the Letlow family, one is all that matters. He was a father of young children. He leaves behind a young mother that now must raise those children on her own. By all accounts he was a good man and a good father. They don’t care about those 3700 other people right now and no one could blame them. They only care about the one they lost.

2020 is about to come to an end. Again, that is just a number. Turning the calendar over to 2021 will not magically end the suffering. Yet, at the same time those 70,000 new voters could turn the tide and help flip the Senate. Just remember that numbers are neither good nor evil until you attach meaning to them. We all hope for a better new year, but we each will play a role in making it either a better year or worse year. That will have more to do with action and inaction than any number we could come up with.

We’ve Been Here Before

“I pick up my guitar and play. Just like yesterday. And I get on my knees and pray. We don’t get fooled again.” — Pete Townsend

We’ve been here before. One of the myths that people like to tell is that this situation is completely unique and that we are witnessing history. That is partially correct. We are witnessing history. Every situation has unique characteristics, but every situation also has seeds of deja vu baked in. Our current situation is no different.

Fringe lunatic attorney Lin Wood may have jumped the shark. It’s so hard to tell these days. He did submit a brief that promised plenty of perjury and he submitted another brief mispelling his own name. So, we may not think much of his lawyering skills, but he can certainly throw red meat to the base with the best of them.

He has accused Cornyn of being a member of the Deep State. Why you ask. Cornyn had the audacity to acknowledge the obvious. Joe Biden won the election. It’s been certified. The electoral college has casts their votes. It’s over. Acknowledging it apparently makes you a member of the deep state.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/12/27/2004370/-Cornyn-seems-to-be-the-victim-of-Lin-Wood-s-latest-attacks-towards-non-fraud-opiners

Of course, we’ve been here before. Feeding frenzies are fairly common in human history and not even unique in the United States. The whole idea of the deep state started innocently enough. The greatest lies and most effective lies have a kernal of truth in them. The whole idea behind the deep state was that there is a shadowy cabal of government workers the wields secret power and prevents reformers from making a dent. They particularly prevented an outside like Trump from draining the swamp.

The usefulness of the term deep state has been demonstrated throughout the past few years. It wasn’t Democrats and it wasn’t Republicans. It could be anyone and since no one has ever seen a list it literally could be anyone. So, anyone that opposed the president on any issue big or small gets labeled as a member of the deep state. So, that person has to either kiss a lot of ass and debase himself or herself to get back in his good graces or he/she becomes irrelevant because they are deep staters.

Gee, does any of this sound familiar? Joseph McCarthy used the same tactics 70 years ago. Every situation has some differences and those differences are important to point out. First, there was a limit to who McCarthy would accuse. He knew that if he turned his attention on Eisenhower then he would be laughed out of the Senate. There were others he wouldn’t dare accuse of being a communist.

The second major difference is our general reaction. Eventually, the country became united against him and the “Red Scare” was over. It took moments of courage from people that mattered. The moment everyone remembers is referenced below, but Edward R. Murrow was also instrumental in swaying public opinion.

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/joseph-mccarthy-meets-his-match

The question we can’t answer yet is whether there is anyone capable of standing up to these clowns and having that matter. We haven’t found one yet. It is wrong to say no one has stood up. Plenty have stood up. The problem is that their efforts have been inconsequential. The right-wing media bubble has made it difficult for truth tellers to penetrate the hysteria. It will have to be one of their own.

This is where things get complicated. As Wood clearly demonstrates, one of their own can quickly go from ally to deep state nearly overnight. Yet, you have to think at some point there will be a bridge too far. McCarthy reached that point and the Trumpists will get there too. It’s just a question of when. Then it all comes tumbling down. It’s a fact of history.