In the post of last week, “The Big Lie…” and our national political disaster of January 6th, (https://wordpress.com/post/naturereligionconnection.org/6891), I ended by commenting on my apprehensions for the following Sunday and Inauguration Day. I was concerned that more of the Right-Wing Hitler-like Putsch would continue on those following occasions.
It did not! Not nationally nor locally did Insurrection or even demonstrations occur at a significant scale. Here locally in the Central O-H-I-O, that following Sunday witnessed a very minor event at The State Capital, one that was ironically made light of by our very decent newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch.
Only several dozens of demonstrators appeared and they were overwhelmingly outnumbered by police and state National Guard. It did begin ominously with the appearance at noon of an armed and marching contingent of “Boogaloo Boys”, but they quickly declared their intention to the police to be “peaceful” and merely to practice their right to bear arms.
(These boogaloos stressed to reporters that they were not “Proud Boys” nor were they there to support President Trump’s efforts to resist the results of the election.)
The Dispatch reporters ended their story with the wry observation that the demonstration started to wind down soon and was done by 3pm, leaving amply time for everyone to get home to watch the big professional football game involving the Cleveland Browns. Hey, even revolutionaries have a variety of priorities.
On the National Scene, two local men, ages 36 and 27, were arrested in Columbus and charged for their participation in the Capitol Building Riot. The men were initially approached by Capitol Police as they were waiting for an Uber ride to return them to their hotel after the incursion.
When they were informed the ride could not reach them in the security zone, they turned to walk further but one of them stopped to pick up the fancy wooden coat tree with brass hooks that stood near them. Police then (duhhh!) demanded he stop, but he dropped the coat tree and ran. The other man waited and cooperated with police and was found to be wearing an armored vest, and have in his backpack marihuana and an open bottle of good bourbon. Upon review of Capitol security tapes both the bourbon and, obviously, the coat tree were stolen in the “insurrection.” The spoils of war, I guess.
In German, grosse Luge (roughly)can be traced back to Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1925. He contended the Jewish people and Marxists told “The Big Lie” by blaming German General Ludendorff for their loss in WWI. Ludendorff was an anti-Semite and Nationalist, and thus respected by Hitler.
Hitler’s lieutenant Joseph Goebbels was probably the first to have said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it often enough, it will be believed.” But it was Hitler that gave the definitive analysis of its effectiveness in his book. “The broad masses of a nation” are “always more easily corrupted by” a big lie than a small one. The Big Lie effects “the deeper strata of their emotional nature.”
And so we saw what we saw on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, a small-time insurrection against our Democratic Government, a regular Beer Hall Putsch in Washington D.C.
The Beer Hall Putsch was part of a very unstable time in Europe and the world: the post WWI period. It may seem only a cliché, but something is deeply true about it; in society, old orders were in decline, new and uncertain forces were pushing forth. People searched for answers and some found them in different kinds of extremisms. Many people became adamant Communists; others turned to racial and ethnic identifications and discriminations — extreme Nationalists; others hung desperately to the the old system of aristocracy. This was the faction and forces represented by Ludendorff, an aristocrat himself and still an advocate for the Kaiser and the nobility; they temporarily, at least, aligned with the rising charismatic leader, Hitler. (Similarly, American Fundamentalist Christians hitched their wagon to the rising but erratic star of that vulgar, irreligious man, Donald Trump.)
Hitler attempted to follow the course of Mouselini in Italy and seize power. At a mass meeting at the Burgerbraukellar (Citizen’s Beer Cellar) Hitler leaped upon a chair and fired a shot into the ceiling with a pistol to gain attention. He declared that his Nazi Party troopers had the building surrounded and were ready to march. He demanded the support of opposition factions and eventually Ludendorff led this temporary coalition through the streets to overtake German government offices.
Well, at least Hitler had the ‘courage’ to accompany his supporters on their march. Mr. Trump, in his 80 minute incitation to sedition, promised to march with his people but that did not happen.
The Big Lie in America
A shocking series of events these were, in the U.S. of A., over these past two weeks. Our current President, Donald J. Trump, now stands Impeached for the second time in his four year term.He incited the overthrow of our government. History was made as American politics took a deep dive into the dirt, as it occasionally has in our 200 year history.
January 6th was unprecedented in American history. An out-going president urged a large group of his supporters to march on The Capitol building in protest of an election he claims he won “by landslide” but was being “stolen”. “Stop the steal”, they chanted. Trump vowed he would “never concede” and that they should “never stop fighting.” “Strength” is what is needed now, “not weakness”. he told them. One of his warm-up speakers, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, what was needed now was “a trial by combat” — a fight — to decide the issue. Trump had previously promised his people, that if they came to Washington, “it will be wild.”
And so it was “wild”, deeply disturbing, and very un-American! Five people died. One shot by Capitol Police as she attempted to forcibly enter the Chambers of the House of Representatives while its members were huddled inside. Another was a Capitol Policeman hit in the head with a fire extinguisher while resisting the seditionists. The remaining three were Trump supporters who died of medical emergencies, such as heart attack, in the uproar. One of these, her family reported, had gone to Washington in spite of their efforts to dissuade her, and that in recent months she had become deeply interested in online conspiracy theories. “It just started to spiral” said her sister.
One of the many incredible aspects of these events, was Trump’s eventual treatment of his longtime loyal Vice President, Mike Pence.
In the build-up to January 6 and the joint session of Congress to accept the Electoral College ballots to officially sanction the elections results, Trump put tremendous pressure on Pence, both privately and in public, to not accept the ballots, to rule them invalid in several key states. But, Pence did not have the power — by law — to do so, and this was overwhelmingly regarded to be the case and the historical tradition.
In the immediate hours before the joint session, the President’s supporters began to gather for their “Rally to Save America” and Trump made one last call to Pence. He cajoled him, pleaded with him and finally told him that this was his chance “to either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy.“ Some of our international readers may not be familiar with that slang term; it is an extremely derogatory term for a women that simply equates her to her genitalia. (As reported by the N.Y.Times, 1/12)
But, Pence refused to break the law and ended up huddled in the Capitol basement with various Congresspersons and under tight security as the seditionists had breached the building. Some of them were chanting, “Hang Pence, hang Pence.”
Such is the character of our outgoing president. He is a massively destructive influence to American political integrity. In other words, he is not honest; he is not concerned about right or wrong, and he has no principles outside his own ambitions.
How Did It Go This Far?
There are many questions about the events of January 6, but let me focus on just one, a big one. Why did Americans follow this man?How did it get this far? And this returns us to THE BIG LIE.
As far back as September, I wrote of my concern with Trump’s reckless rhetoric concerning the upcoming election. Mr. Trump had already supercharged the political atmosphere by vilifying those that disagree with him. They are “evil”, “criminal”, “crazy”, “stupid”, “communists”, “brain-washed” (by the mainstream media), and not “true Americans”. Immigrants from Mexico are “rapists”, “thieves”, “murderers” and infiltrated by “terrorist”. Democrats “want to destroy our country”, he contended, and media organizations that criticized him were “fake news”.
I commented that discussion with his supporters was already nearly impossible because of their bizarre views, their “alternative facts” and highly charged emotions. And so, Mr. Trump has Lied Big on many occasions and as Hitler had observed, appealed to his supporters at a “deep emotional level.”
In the September post, I wrote of my particular concern about one claim of his, and that I would politely contest it with any of his supporters in spite of this toxic atmosphere. I wrote,
“I will propose that Mr. Trump is doingusall a disservice when he says, “If I lose, it is because the election is rigged.” After all, one of the spectacular realities about our country is that Our Democracy is Real.” (see The American Presidential Election…https://wordpress.com/post/naturereligionconnection.org/5926)
Mr. Trump has now played that card. The election was stolen and those that are Not True Americans will now hold power, he still believes I will not go into detail to refute this claim of the theft, sufficient to point out that 60 of his lawsuits have been dismissed, all 50 Secretary’s of our States have certified their election results as accurate, and that his own FBI chief and (former) Attorney General have declared no evidence of any significant irregularities.
But the card was played, and the January 6th attack on our Democracy was the result. The vehemence of his supporters and their delusional states were well on display. Trump has been Impeached by the House, and we will wait on the outcome in the Senate. How many Republican office holders will continue to stand by this farce and this denigration of our country? Many have abandoned it and him.
Today is Sunday, January 17th, the day further ‘rallies’ by his supporters are to take place in Washington and various state capitols. And to these, these ‘Americans’ have sworn to carry their weapons! I wait apprehensively, my only hope is that the rather thorough denunciation and negative outcry against the law-breaking and desecrations of January 6th will have dampened the mood and convictions of many of these potential and continuing insurrectionists. (But also, a huge police and National Guard presence!)
”Our state is on fire,” said the Governor on Wednesday (11/18). He is touring the state delivering this message. He has already initiated a state-wide Curfew from 10pm to 5am. He is seeking to be more surgical in his approach this time, instead of the massive and across-the-board Shut Downs he initiated in March. DeWine is a courageous and honest man! He is a Republican and is defying great push-back from his own party on both Virus Policy andMr. Trump. DeWine is one of the few Republicans to nationally acknowledge Trump’s evident defeat and the need to start the transition to Biden! Not all politicians are dishonestand shameless opportunists!
Last Tuesday, The Ohio Hospital Assoc. reported some 3,600 Ohioans in the hospital with Covid. Of those 900 were in Intensive Care Units and 440 of these on Ventilators! We are now recording 8 to 9,000 new cases a day, and these are jumping dramatically by the day. My county, Franklin — the state capital, home of The Ohio State University (with its 50 thousand on-campus students, in normal times), and the world HQ of Nation Wide Insurance and Wendy’s — has now gone “Purple” in the state Covid warning system. This is the most severe category and we are the first Ohio county to attain it (“We’re No.1; We’re No.1!”) In response, some stores are closing early, some school systems are going online or staying there longer. Some schools are going online for Middle and High School but staying in a blended mode for elementary students, who do not learn well online and cannot be at home alone. We are recording about 50 to 60 deaths a day.
The madhousecharacter of the situation hit home this morning when my wife went grocery shopping. The store was packed! No carts were available. The store had people waiting at the door at the 6am opening she was told, and by the time my wife got there at 9:30, most paper products were gone and also boxed spaghetti, macaroni, a lot of bottled water and a few other items. When she left, an hour later, the store was more crowded than initially. This crowding situation at the store was probably exacerbated by a Noon Kick Off here in town for our OSU Buckeye football team. But no 100,000 fans at the stadium (by order of the Health Dept.) only lots trying to get errands done by noon to watch on TV.
To put some perspective on the Ohio situation, we have 64 Covid cases per 100,000 people but North and South Dakota have 177 and 137 respectively. That is outrageous considering the open spaces and lack of urban crowding in those states. Their Republican Governors have been flamboyant in their denial of Covid’s Reality, and now they are the world’s Hottest Spot for spread and their hospitals are Full and staff’s Exhausted! Nationwide the average is about 40 per 100,000.
We need to get TRUMP OUT and Biden’s Team in as fast as possible to start leading this National Health Crisis!
And now, moments before the publication of this post, I have learned Trump has got The Virus. Well, he didn’t want us to wear that mask, now look! Here is my post, with no alterations made in light of the big news. “Trainwreck” Trump, he is.
Been talking to some people, watching and reading a variety of news sources, seeking their take on the debate. Seems a pretty common reaction that Both Did Bad: Biden and Trump. Some of the headlines and leads suggest something of the same: “Debate Chaos” and such. But this is misleading, I believe!
Granted, your frame of mind and reference point does have a lot to do with your final interpretation, and I’m glad I waited till Wednesday morning to view it because I wasn’t tired and had more patience than late Tuesday evening. But really, what else should you have expected from President Trump?
Here is a headline I like better, from The Columbus Dispatch as part of the USA Today Network: “Analysts: Trump hurt worse by chaotic debate.” And then soon in the article it gets to the heart of the matter, our President destroyed that debate!
“Doubling down on the steamroller tactics that helped him…in 2016, Trump repeatedly talked over Biden during (Biden’s) allotted time,” said the paper. “When moderator Chris Wallace repeatedly admonished him, Trump loudly talked right over (him) as well.” The paper then reported that Biden, in his own defense turned to the President and said, “Will you shut up, man?” Wallace then finally reminded Trump that “the country would better be served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions” and later reminded Mr. Trump that his campaign “agreed to the rules” that he was so poorly following.
That is the debate that I saw. Biden won that debate, in so much as it was one. He showed reasonable poise in the face of Trump’s attempts to bully, and actually had several fine moments when he turned away from his opponent and spoke directly to the camera and the American people. Granted, he did refer to Trump as a “clown”, but a clown, and worse, he was and is, in my opinion.
Mr. Trump continued to disparage and undermine our electoral process on Tuesday evening, and this is grounds enough to vote him from office, in my view. He does our entire nation and it’s history a grave disservice when he pretends our elections are not fair and accurate. This claim was aptly rebutted by Mr. Biden. Also, when the President of the United States cannot call out and unambiguously disavow an armed and violent group based in racial and other forms of hatred our country is in dire straights. Former Vice President Biden skillfully assisted in putting Mr. Trump in that spot in this debate, the spot from which he miserably stumbled.
I say, Joe Biden succeeded in that first encounter with this unscrupulous man. Let us not soil that accomplishment due to the dirt in which Trump placed that event! Apparently various Biden aides have labeled Donald’s performance, “a trainwreck.” I think that is an apt description but also a worthy monicker: “TrainWreck” Trump.
What to say or do in the current American political situation?
We Americans are fortunate to have a solid democratic tradition. We can debate and disagree about politics, put different signs in our yard, go and vote, or even just ignore the whole thing. But this year, and this Presidential Election, seems different.
The stakes are higher than ever! Obviously we are plagued with this virus and it’s economic consequences. Obviously our lives have been and still are hugely disrupted. This past two weeks I have returned to teaching at a high school that has classes at less than half the normal size with the student body divided into three groups. One group comes to school Monday and Tuesday, another Thursday and Friday, and a third group has chosen to only work online from home. Sporting events have restarted but with no on-site spectators or only a few. My wife and I have eaten at a restaurant (on their patio) one time in six months! Things are very different and that is true in politics too.
I used to involve myself in a lot of political conversation. I often go door to door working for Democratic Party candidates. I have trained door-to-door teams and my wife and I have sent them out and coordinated them from our home. When substitute teaching, the topic often arises especially in social studies classes. In that situation I generally and carefully play ‘devil’s advocate’ to contentions made by students advocating various positions. With my wife’s brother, a very committed Republican, I was once able to carry on a polite, informative and ongoing conversation about politics, but no more.
The current Republican President, and candidate for reelection, has changed all that. (Well, kind of. Actually I believe that our election of Barack Obama, a black man with a different kind of name and a political progressive, scared right-wing Republicans and a portion of the population that feels itself threatened and ‘marginalized’. That is what gave Mr. Trump his opening.) Mr. Trump’s Politics of Fear, Denigration, and Division has made conversation very difficult, very tense, and easily nasty.
It is probably of little value to argue (debate) with most Trump supporters! In general, I have tried to point out the factual errors in many of their contentions, and this especially with his younger supporters at school. But with his adult supporters, I feel it is almost like a personal psychological affliction that leads many of them to their support of that psychologically disturbed man. Often discussion has come very quickly to, something like, “Boy, do they have you fooled.” And we each say this to the other! They believe I am ‘the sucker’ for believing “main-stream media”, and I believe they are sadly mistaken and kind of crazy for believing so many conspiracy theories and “alternative facts” (i.e. Fox News). It can even come to them regarding all progressives as Evil, and I being deeply concerned that many Trump supporters are racists, xenophobes and potentially violent.
This is scary! This very seldom happened when Republicans ran far more respectable and principled candidates like John McCain or Mitt Romney. Though let us not forget, Republicans do often turn to fear tactics to motivate their base which is — beyond many of The Wealthy who simply want to make more and more money — predominantly racially white, religiously conservative Christian, and many of them not well educated. Mr. Trump actually has said, “I love the poorly educated.” Please, Donald, let’s try Not to make that a virtue, but he does!
Our Democracy is RealandThe Two Things I have Decided to Insist Upon
So, what to say in this unfortunate situation? Of course one could say many things, and most would lead quickly to hostility; but I will try to keep the conversation going by trying for two minimal points. First, I will propose that Mr. Trump is doing us all a disservice when he says, “If I lose, it is because the election is rigged.” After all, one of the spectacular realities about our country is that Our Democracy is Real.
When Trump surprisingly beat Democrat Hillary Clinton — the wife of a former president — in 2016, that election was not rigged (though the Russians did interfere and did coordinate with the Trump campaign to an unacceptable degree). When Republican George W. Bush beat Democratic Vice President Al Gore in 2020, in one of the tightest elections ever, that election was not rigged (though the voting situation in Florida left much to be desired). When Republican Ronald Reagan beat incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980, that election was not rigged. No real evidence exists that our system is not overwhelmingly legitimate!
When Donald Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of the American Electoral Process he desecrates (or even defacates) upon the very foundation he stands. For even Trump supporters, and those opposed to him, that is A Tactic that should not be tolerated! That is Not “Making America Great Again” nor will it “Keep America Great”!
SECOND, I am going to resist the claims that “All politics is dirty” and that “All politicians are crooked”. I usually do give some resistance to those who propose this as a self-evident truth, but this election cycle I will simply oppose it outright. It is not true, and Donald Trump has made it shockingly clear that in comparison to him, ManyPoliticians are Downright Saints! Mr. Trump has taken modern American politics to an all-time low and should not be allowed to continue. If you don’t see that, you haven’t been watching. Saying “All politics stinks” is too often laziness and a neglect of responsibility. In this election, that easy way out should not be accepted as legitimate for any American.
This point has also been made very clear to me by one of our own local politicians, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. He is a Republican and I have never voted Republican in my entire and long life. But, Mr. DeWine is a sincere and honest Public Servant! I do not agree with him on some very important issues like woman’s rights to abortion and often tax policy, but this man has impressed me and my wife with his honesty, courage, effort and intelligence in these very difficult times. He has run our state well –often in opposition to many in his own party– during this pandemic and following the tragic mass shooting that occurred in Dayton, my home town, in August of 2019.
DeWine is an old school Ohio small town practicing Catholic who has remarkably remained open to the goodness of most people and to the honor of service. As Senator, he went to the funeral of every Ohio soldier killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he did so without publicity and from his sense of obligation. Early in his political career his eldest daughter died at 21 in an auto crash. She had been involved in an orphanage and school in one of the poorest areas of Haiti, and in response to her death the DeWine family has taken responsibility for that school through donations, fund-raising, and many personal visits to the site. These are not commonly known facts about him; he does not publicize them. He is the polar opposite of that bag of self-aggrandizing wind, President Trump.
So this year, once again, I am gearing up to campaign and to discuss politics! The sign is in my yard; I have been in conversation with the local Biden campaign; I have already been discussing it some at school with students. There are two points I plan to push hard: one, Mr. Trump does Every American a Disservice when he attempts to de-legitimize our electoral process, and two, not all politicians are crooks, and certainly not to the degree that Mr.Trump is himself! I believe these are two minimally acceptable propositions that all Americans should be ready to face.
In following posts, I will let you know how it goes!
Recently there has been much talk about our conference’s decision (The Big Ten) to not play football this fall due to the pandemic. Most of it has been criticism, even anger. Conspiracy theories are common. How could we shut down football when Notre Dame, the SEC, and others are continuing to plan to play? In Ohio we are allowing some high school football, leaving it to individual school districts and leagues to decide, but the major colleges won’t play (the MAC conference is also shut down). How does that follow? That argument— “they’re playing”—may be a little like saying, “look, the guy in front of me just ran that red light, therefore I should follow!”
Hey, I’m a Buckeye fan and I was very much hoping to watch them play. We have the best player in the country, and Coach Day said this could be a once-in-a-lifetime great team. It is probably not going to happen and that is very disappointing. Further, the league officials did not make clear their specific reasons for closure. It was left rather vague.
I can understand the disappointment and even some disagreement, but not to this level! We should all really know by now, that this pandemic is a mess; if you don’t know that, then you are part of the problem. You are one of the reasons there will be no Big Ten fall sports! You doubted the scientists and doctors. You questioned Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton’s decisions. You did not, and may still not be, fully complying.
League officials did give some clues to their decision. The Columbus Dispatch reported (8/20 “Virus curve, testing issues problematic for Big Ten”) that league officials in interviews with the paper reported their concerns about community spread. Prior to that, the paper reported a league medical officer’s concerns that there was no national policy; no effective national testing or contact tracing, no reasonable and universal masking standards. He suggested that the situation was a chaos in which the decision to play would be no more than a roll of the dice.
That is correct. Imagine game day here in Columbus, and in Ann Arbor, East Lancing and western Pennsylvania, Iowa and Nebraska (Big10 country). No fans at games, and bars full. Neighbors gathering round TV sets, families, friends all together and rooting, shouting, drinking, high-fiving, and sharing food. Don’t even think about the teenagers in the campus dorms. It would be a royal cluster contagion in too many cases. Too many, as has now been proven, would not behave responsibly. The virus would spread.
So, unlike what I hear from many of my friends and family, who are determined that it is always about money and law suits, I believe that maybe these institutions of higher learning were holding on to something higher. The Big Ten felt that they should not go along with this mess. They are supposed to be about education, knowledge, and enlightened behavior. Maybe this time, they chose that over football. Go Bucks!
Apparently, things were getting a little loose in bars as the night went on. Imagine that! So here in Ohio, the Governor recently ordered all bars and restaurants to serve their last drinks (alcoholic) at 10pm and close their doors at 11. Bar owners were furious because 10pm to 1am is their most profitable hours. In the campus area, some of the worst offenses were taking place and some bars were issued citations by the health department. In Columbus we have The Ohio State University main campus, one of the largest single campuses in the nation. Some 50,000 students attend classes and live on campus or in the area. They can party, and they do get rowdy!
But who am I to talk?
Last Saturday night my wife and I were sitting around the house, as usual, drinking wine, as usual, and binge-watching some old TV series, as usual. She fell asleep on the couch and I continued to drink and watch and get increasingly board. Well, the feeling must have been mutual because at about 10:30, someone in the neighborhood began shooting off fireworks.
Fireworks in August is a fairly rare thing. I listened for a few moments and then realized, “What the hell!” I hustled up stairs and into the back of my closet, dug around, and found what was left of some “excitement” I had purchased maybe eight years prior. Nothing big or fancy, mostly just “bottle rockets” and a few strings of “lady fingers.” Soon I was in the back yard “enjoying myself,” I guess I can say, filling the air with very modest “pops” and fleeting trails of sparks. Actually, most of the rockets just fluttered to the ground a few feet from the launch and fizzled or popped among the flowers but causing only minimal damage to them, I hoped.
It did not take long until my wife appeared at the door and ‘sparking’ a bit herself demanded to know “What the hell are you doing?” As if it wasn’t obvious. I guess her question had a different sense to it. She stomped back into the house. I shot off a couple more and then returned to my my wine and television. That night she had me sleep alone. Well, as is often said, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Unfortunately, last week Ohio saw some of its worst disease days, in a way. Reported new cases in a day set record highs with 1500 and then 1700 with every day above a thousand. Fortunately, deaths have not increased proportionately, apparently because these cases are now appearing among more young people. In a small city in the east of the state, a nursing home was infected and has so far reported 11 deaths, 59 residents testing positive and 32 employees also! The Columbus Public School District has decided to start the year on-line and so have several others including my old district. The governor has issued a state-wide mask order and in the last several days new cases a day have fallen back below a thousand. Hopefully they will stay there.
Shocking to say, Florida is a state with almost twice the population (22million) of Ohio. They are beset with a horrible Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, who has constantly down played the virus and done little to slow it. While we were hitting 1500 cases a day, last month Florida topped out at 15,000 new cases one day, 10 times our number! Ohio’s Governor, Mike DeWine, is also a Republican but a moderate one and one not overly supportive of Mr. Trump. He has been one of the most active and decisive leaders in the nation in efforts to contain the virus. It just goes to show, not all Republicans are the same and I appreciate the few that are still moderate and decent public servants. Why, 4-5 decades ago, there were actually Liberal Republicans (!), like New York Governor (1959-73) Nelson Rockefeller who sought his party’s nomination of the presidency several times. Well, good luck to Ohio and good luck to Florida, but sometimes you can help make your own good fortune.
In a surprising turn of events, just yesterday Gov. DeWine tested positive for Corona by a “rapid results test” in the morning, announced the results making state and national news, and then by late evening got the results from a more accurate but slower kind of test that he did not have it. A further round of tests confirmed that he and his family and closest co-workers were fine. Apparently, social media lit up with reaction to the first part of the story. Many sited their belief in the ineffectiveness of masks, and on the other side, some declared that no one should return to work or school until rapid tests are available to all! Both those contentions turned out to be problematic. There are a lot of overly rapid (and very fervid) reactions to “virusy” things these days.
Be safe, and don’t let the boredom, jumpiness and wine distort your thinking! I, too, will try my best.
On Tuesday 7/21, my wife and I were tuning into the Governor’s twice weekly Coronavirus update. We were surprised by an unusual face, that of U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers. In an energetic and almost nervous style he was discussing “Company A” and it’s provision of funds to “Generation Now.” On the bottom of the screen I read, “Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder charged with corruption.” I laughed and clapped in surprise and amazement. What a suitable fall for a man so overblown with himself and his own high-jinx. See his infamous campaign add below.
Householder is a Republican, and here in Ohio you can say, “of course he is.” Republicans have Ohio state politics wrapped up. They hold every state-wide office and control the majority in both legislative houses. All they want to do is cut taxes, limit abortion, get re-elected, and expand gun rights.
For the last two decades they have achievedthis control through the ‘skillful’ drawing of voting districts. They play Ohio’s rural conservative voters off against our Democratic leaning big city populations. They isolate and concentrate Ohio Democrats in as few a districts as possible while assuring Republican majorities in most. It’s called “gerrymandering” and has been ruled unconstitutional and ordered corrected but not before the upcoming election. After all, Ohio does pretty much split 50/50 in all Presidential elections, and voted for Obama twice! Yet, Republicans have state politics in their pocket.
Householder is from a family farm in the area of Glenford, just east of Columbus. No one ever hears of Glenford and here is why: population 175 and has experienced a 30% decline in the past decade. He once quipped in response to “social distancing”, that from where he comes, people been “doing it all their lives.”
“Company A” is Akron, Ohio based “FirstEnergy.” They are a power company that serves customers in six states, from Ohio and to the east. They are ranked as about the U.S.’s 200th largest corporation by Fortune magazine with revenue of over $14.5 billion in 2016. They have two aging nuclear power plants in northern Ohio along Lake Erie. These plants are no longer profitable in this era of cheap natural gas and coal. FirstEnergy (now renamed Energy Harbor) threatened to close these plants costing Ohio 1,400 jobs, 15% of Ohio’s generated electricity, and loss of these non-carbon polluting energy sources. They approached Ohio legislators seeking relief. No one, yet, from this company has been charged with any crime, but the investigation is on-going. and “more charges will be forthcoming.”
It is not clear to me, from information so far released, how the initial contact and proposals started with “Team Househoder”, the name for The Speaker’s campaign group. In 2017, a social welfare non-profit named, “Generation Now“, was started by a “Team” member and began receiving the first payments from FirstEnergy. They came to total just over $60 million by time of the indictment. It is “the largest corruption and bribery case in the history of Ohio” said U.S. Attorney Devillers. He almost chuckled, it seemed, as he reviewed the scope and audacity of the scheme. A single hidden source channeling money to multiple dummy recipients and then on to Generation Now and “not a dime was spent on social welfare” the investigation so far has revealed, DeVillers claimed.
An exact account of all the spending is unclear. The 60 page indictment contends about $400,000 went to Householder personally and was used to pay off credit cards and make payments on two of the three homes (one in Florida) he owns. A significant portion was used to contribute to not only his own re-election but also the election of his personal supporters around the state who were pledged to support his speakership. This included attack ads against Democrats and unfriendly Republicans, and these possibly without knowledge or coordination of benefiting campaigns. The charges include racketeering and money laundering, with four accomplices to Householder so far indicted.
A vicious battle ensued around the state when the bail-out bill — called “House Bill 6” — was proposed, eventually passed and then challenged with a revoke by ballot petition. Stories circulated in the news that signature-gathers for the recall effort were being threatened, and some being bought off to quit and return to their out-of-state homes, return ticket provided. In the indictment it is reported that $450,000 dollars was used by Householder to hire 15 signature-gathering firms to not do anything! They were hired to not be hired by the pro-recall supporters!
Interestingly, the bail-out bill would cost “most Ohio residential users” 85 cents a month. Why, I drop $0.85 a month into the lining of my favorite couch, but state-wide and over a year it was estimated to come to around $170 million, plus there were some other beneficial strings attached to benefit FirstEnergy.
Such is politics in the O-H-I-O!
Happily, I can report that thus far our sitting Republican Governor, who I like, has not been shown to be involved. He is a Moderate Republican and a sincere public servant (it seems), and that is a dying breed worth appreciating, in my opinion. He has done very well in his Coronavirus efforts and attempted Gun Regulation following the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio —the home townof my wife and I!
Throw the Bums Out!
THIS IS A CHEER WE LIKE TO DO AT OUR FOOTBALL GAMES. Football (American style) is big in Ohio! “Go Buckeyes!”
Reader Mark commented: “Ohio listens to money – seems to be true in most states.”
GWW: In my mind, it is not so muchthe $money$ that shocks me, though there was a lot, it is the audacity and the hypocrisy involved. See Householder campaign ad: “I am a Christian Conservative.” He is armed and ready to fight for his rights!, he tells us. His rights to what? Steal and cheat the Ohio people he is sworn to serve?
How did these men (all men, no women) think they were going to get away with it? Maybe I’m just out of the loop, maybe there is far more corruption than I realize, so that it is possible, and likely, to do this sh/# and get away with it.
Or is it that personalities like Householder (and Trump) don’t see things accurately, but just thru their own eyes thru which they can do no wrong and get all they want?
Thanks Mark for the comment. All comments welcomed!
SOLIDARITY ON SATURDAY: Show Your Support. No Justice, No Peace.
Around THE NATION and THE WORLD Huge Rallies of Protest Against Racial Injustice are occurring. Please show your support and outrage in ways that you feel safe. Here in Columbus, Ohio, rally and march at Statehouse 10 am.
These are hard times.
Worldwide Pandemic. The Covid Virus causes over 100,000 deaths in a three month period in the U.S. Significant and justified societal shutdown as response to halt or slow the transmission. It’s a nasty, vicious illness to have, in many cases, even if you do survive. Fear. I’m frightened that I may die: I’m fairly old; I have poor lungs. I’m an asthmatic—I know what it is like to not breath! Each day about 30 to 40 people die here in Ohio from Covid. Yes, this is very, very, bad.
Add Donald Trump is president, with his divisiveness, arrogance, boorishness, incompetence and narcissism. He is totally unable to lead us in any time of significant need. He is part of any problem, not part of its solution. And his supporters are almost as bad, some even worse. They carry Assault Rifles at our Ohio Statehouse and shout at our sincere and conscientious Governor that he is a tyrant and like a Nazi !
Racism. In early May, a young black man is chased down by two or three white men with a rifle in Brunswick, Georgia. They think he is involved in robbery. His mother says he was jogging in his neighborhood. They go vigilante on him. In a struggle captured on video, Ahmaud Arbery is shot to death. For two months, no charges were filed by authorities.
George Floyd. Monday, in Minneapolis Minnesota, May 25, Memorial Day — the day Americans are to honor soldiers who gave their life to preserve our country and its values — a video captures a police officer casually kneeling (hands in pocket) on a man’s throat. The video does not show two other officers, hidden by a police cruiser, holdingFloyd down, one on his back, one on his legs. It is reported that he was in handcuffs. In the video Floyd is not moving, though in some versions he is heard to say, “I can’t breath.” The official police report times the restraint to have been about 8 minutes. One autopsy has stated that Floyd was dead on the scene, asphyxiation; the official autopsy is much more evasive. In the video, the restraint is shown ending with Floyd being rolled over onto a stretcher by these officers. He appears limp and lifeless.
The situation starts to explode. Thursday, two days after the murder, the videos have gone viral. Photos appear in all the major news outlets. Protests and demonstrations are occurring 25 or more cities around the U.S. As evening comes, some of them become violent.
Here in Columbus Ohio, The Police initially took a very poor approach to the protesters. They lined up in full riot gear in tactical formation, barriers in place, as if the demonstrators had to be confined and mistrusted from the start. All accounts that I have seen agree that all was very peaceful initially, then this starts to change. Two thousand demonstrators were on hand, it was estimated; my youngest daughter was there. Yes, some cops were being shouted at over the barriers at close quarters. Some water bottles were thrown at them from afar.
Bad decisions were made by police commanders on the scene. The corner of Broad Street and High Street is the center of our town. The state Capital Building stands there and just several miles up High is the huge Ohio State University campus. The intersection and Capital grounds is where most demonstrations happen. Commanders decided not to allow protesters in the street; they then tried to block several crosswalks at that intersection. Tensions rose, and videos and photos then show some individual cops starting to lash out. They pushed back, poked it the face, demonstrators in their face. More was now thrown at them, including rocks. Some officers started spraying pepper spray, and this very indiscriminately. The crowd started to break up as chaos enveloped. Various small groups of then broke off and started smashing windows, starting some fires, some looting of stores. Most just tried to remain peaceful, helpful, or leave. At least, this is the best I can make of it.
That was Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday night some of our local leaders were there; sadly, some were not. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, City Counselmen Shannon Harden and County Commissioner Kevin Boyce were there and tried to calm both police and demonstrators, and got pepper sprayed amidst the outburst. All are black, and it is worth noting that the demonstrators were clearly of all color. Our Mayor, Democrat Michael Ginther, was no where in sight until Sunday. Nor was the Police Chief Quinlin. Both are white. Beatty, Harden and Boyce all stated that the city police overreacted. Ginther tweeted a similar opinion.
On Sunday, the situation changed dramatically. Police adopted a new and less aggressive posture. It worked. Demonstrations started and stayed peaceful. Police were no longer standing in formation forebodingly in full riot gear. Demonstrators were allowed to ‘take’ the intersection and traffic was diverted. The Mayor marched with the people and police cars escorted the marchers as if a parade. (Though recently I have read a brief conflicting account that concerned late Sunday night.) Monday was similarly approached and equally peaceful.
Gaining a reasonable understanding of events, in some ways, has been difficult. I have stayed a away from the protests because I have a history of lung issues and am in my later 60’s. I do not want to die of this virus. I have marched with Black Lives Matter, in past years. But what is perfectly clear and evident from the video of the death, is the restraint should have stopped long before it was. American police officers are not judge, jury, and executioner. George Floyd was immobilized, rendered harmless, and in custody; he should not have died!
And this is where we start to seek to understand Why He Did. Why was that choke-hold, knee applied to the throat, an authorized tactic? Apparently it was. Why did none of the other three officers —now also charged with abetting in the crime — insist on its cessation? One apparently did ask, twice, if it was time “to roll him over” and Chauvin said “No”, Meaning continue.
Chauvin, himself, was a 19 year member of the Minneapolis police force, and in that time had received 18 complaints against his conduct (a high number in the opinion of some police-watchers) that resulted in two reprimands (no specifics are public), but also received two commendations. He has been involved in at least three acts of serious violence (now four) of which two involved discharging his weapon and the third was an auto chase that resulted in the deaths of two bystanders killed when their car was struck by the fleeing vehicle. In the shootings, one involved several other offices and was ruled “justified use of force” and resulted in the death of the suspect. The other resulted in injury and, in the account I read, it’s victim —the perpetrator in a domestic violence incident — challenged Chaivin’s account of events contending Chauvin unjustly shot him. At least, one other complaint was for language and behavior demeaning to a suspect.
A limited amount of information is available about the Floyd incident itself. Hopefully, this will soon change. Several accounts I have seen say a 911 call came in reporting an attempted use of a counterfeit bill at a convenience store and a man outside that store who was acting erratically. A description of that man was given, and one report said that Floyd “fit that description.” Chauvin and the other three officers responded to the call.
That is all I can find about the origin of the incident. Though it should again be noted, however this incident started, that restraint went on too long. It killed Floyd when he was already securely in police custody. And, from the manner of former officer Chauvin, as caught on that video, his casual application of that degree of force seemed cold and calculated. The official County Autopsy does find both fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system, though that would not seem relevant to the excessive use of force at that point in the restraint. More information to come on this, I assume. There is also a strange fact, very recent, that Floyd and Chauvin may have known each other from a night club at which each worked.
“Meanwhile”, as as Stephan Colbert used to say, back here in Columbus, only a few FACTS are crystal clear. That the Columbus Police, and especially their commanders, committed various inappropriate, ineffective and excessive acts and decisions involving use of force, seems to me indisputable. I thought they would, at this point in time, have done better. Maybe I am naive to believe that.
At a social-distanced backyard get-together, several days ago, I was ‘called out’ for defending the policeespecially by several younger members of the gathering. I mention age because it was Quite A Role Reversal for me. I have almost always been farthest to “the left” in most political discussion. Now, to find myself being told that, “I know, it’s hard to reconsider your long-held beliefs” by someone not even half my age and with not that much experience — goodness, I was alive and participated in some of the initial events in the Open Housing Movement and School Desegregation in the mid-1960’s — well, I had to try to sit calmly and hold my tongue. It reminded me of my father saying to me in about 1968 when I was a teenager, “Ever since you’ve read a couple of paperback books, you think you know everything!” I did not want to say that to them.
But I do want to end this long post, with an additional insight I believe I’ve gained. I was skeptical of some of the opinions of some of members of that gathering. It seemed to me they had been swept up in the frenzy of the moment and made some claims against the police that turned out to not be accurate, as I had suggested at the time.
One claim was that some Columbus cops had deliberately taped over their badge numbers to avoid identification. I said that if so, they, and any supervisor that knew of such practice, should be immediately disciplined. It turned out that the riot gear is old and has no badge on it; the tape stripes were to identify units and ranks.
There was a claim that police provocateurs were hidden in the crowd and secretly led the initiation of property damage. Associated with this was the claim that outsiders were involved, “Anarchists”, which led to a disagreement about what an anarchist even was these days. No facts have come forth to substantiate hidden police agents or anarchists, nor even much of an involvement by anybody other than Ohioans and mostly central Ohioans as demonstrators.
Finally, there was a video I was shown were the video-taker eventually came to believe that she had evidence of police rioting, breaking windows. I said “Please, I really hope not.” I was shown the video, and frankly could not see anything definitive, but her conclusion was clear. It turned out, apparently —because the building’s operators have rejected her interpretation– that several officers did break (more) glass to get inside and put out a mall fire that had just been started.
These are hard times. It is especially hard when Information is not clear and emotions are high. Much has been made of disinformation from “the right’, Fox News and all, but we all must carefully think through situations, talk, and try to discern what most likely happened. I have since written a short text of regret that my differences of opinion created tensions at our gathering and helped lead to a somewhat uncomfortable ending. Thankfully, they were graciously accepted. These are uncomfortable times, too.
SOLIDARITY ON SATURDAY. Participate: Show your Support for Change and Justice, in any appropriate way!