Politically Motivated Shooting Spree: Losing GOP Candidate, Trump Supporter, Election Denier Engages In Multiple Shootings Against Democrats

Solomon Pena, election denier, arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians

It is not possible to write about each multiple shooting or every instance of insanity that plays out with gun owners and their crimes. Given, however, the deeply fractured nature of our politics and the attacks on our democracy that peaked with the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th, the news over the MLK holiday weekend from New Mexico truly startled me. A staunch Donald Trump supporter and losing candidate for state assembly was arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians.

James Patterson could not have plotted a more sinister and dangerous storyline than what Albuquerque Police stated had occurred when Solomon Pena contracted individuals to carry out at least two of the shootings.  Pena, himself, was present and fired a weapon at one of the other shootings.  Those fired upon were the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators. 

The report from NPR on Monday was, frankly put, frightening in every respect.  In one case bullets ripped into the wall of a child’s bedroom.

The first act of gun violence happened on December 4th when eight shots were sent into the home of County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. That was followed on December 11th when more than a dozen bullets were fired into the home of County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. Representative Javier Martinez’s home was also involved in a shooting incident in December while this month the home of state representative Linda Lopez was fired upon.  That is where bullets blasted into a 10-year-old’s bedroom while she slept.

While the danger of such actions on a human level is most evident, it is the undermining of our democratic foundations that also must be addressed.  The notion that violence is considered an option when losing a political race is absolutely disgusting and reprehensible.  It strikes against the very ideas of what constitutes free and fair elections in a democracy. We know that Donald Trump has taught a large percentage of his base of supporters to act recklessly and claim election fraud at every turn.  Police stated that Peña alleged his defeat was the result of election fraud.  Gosh, where did that line of horse rot originate? 

It needs to be noted that Peña lost his state assembly challenge to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%.  Or to round out those numbers Peña was defeated by roughly 50%!!   

So, what did the losing candidate do upon having voters utterly reject him?  NBC News reported that two handguns were found by police in a Nissan Maxima owned by Peña during a traffic stop on Jan. 3. One of the guns appeared to have fired shots outside the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez roughly 40 minutes before and 4 miles away, police said in a statement. A shell casing found in the Maxima matched those found at the scene of another shooting, an incident outside the home of new state House Speaker Javier Martinez on Dec. 8th.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller correctly summed up the crimes and placement of them into the larger issue at hand.  

“This was about a right-wing radical, an election denier, who was arrested today; someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which in turn that into violence.  That should never be the case”.

There is another factor needing consideration, and that is the Republican Party in New Mexico.  Voters knew Pena was previously arrested and convicted of stealing goods from multiple big box stores as part of a “smash and grab” scheme.  They knew their candidate served close to seven years in prison.  Peña was also ordered to go through alcohol/substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, 90 days in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, and anger management, court records show.

And yet….and yet.  The New Mexico GOP thought him the perfect name to be on the November ballot. What they offered the voters was a terrorist who was not able to grasp that every election has a winner and a loser. Peña was told over the past two years of bombast and absurdity from Trump and his ilk that election-denying is just another part of the GOP playbook.  A 10-year-old could have been a victim of this lunacy.

How many Republicans will now step up and denounce the fascism that has taken hold of their party?

Wisconsin GOP Elections Commission Member Robert Spindell Said Quiet Part Out Loud

This week I reflected on advice that was offered many years ago by former Republican State Senator Robert Welch when he was lamenting the number of unwed mothers in the state.  He contended that shame was lacking in our society and pondered the value of that emotion when dealing with issues that arise from those pregnancies. My reason for thinking about the Waushara County pol and the use of shame followed hearing the news about a highly troubling email from Wisconsin Elections Commission member Robert Spindell.  If ever there was a time for shame to be observed by someone in the public eye, this would be the moment for it to be keenly felt.

Spindell sent an email to his good ‘ol boy network of fellow Republicans with a statement that underscores why conservatives have been charged in the public mind with attempting to thwart the right of voters and undermine people of color at the ballot box. 

“In the City of Milwaukee, with the 4th Congressional District Republican Party working very closely with the RPW, RNC, Republican Assembly & Senate Campaign Committees, Statewide Campaigns and RPMC in the Black and Hispanic areas, we can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”

“…this great and important decrease in Democrat votes in the City” was due to a “well thought out multi-faceted plan,”

Applauding and approving of reduced voter input in the election process is a sick and twisted way to view the most important way citizens communicate their views of candidates and policy ideas.  To send a statement gloating about “this great and important decrease” runs counter to the ideals of our Founders and the concept of fair play we should strive for in our body politic.  

There was glee in the words of Spindell about decreased voter turnout.  We have witnessed in many places around the nation, especially after the November 2020 elections, that among the first items on their agendas were bills to reduce the ability of voters to cast a ballot. Many of the proposals placed a harder burden on minorities to vote and have their feelings made known at the ballot box.  

It troubles me that limiting voter participation continues to be an accepted trait among conservatives.  As Americans, this practice should alarm us greatly. I would like to think that more Republicans…somewhere… might understand the larger more noble calling at making sure elections are open and accessible to all voters. The perverse partisan joy at blocking voting or limiting a citizen’s ability to participate fully in our democracy is truly sickening, and disheartening.

Is there any doubt as to why more of the general public is coming to understand that Republicans feel they cannot win elections unless they suppress votes? Or rig district boundaries with gerrymandering?  As such, we all need to care more about the condition of our electoral processes and the faith people must have in them so to buttress the foundations of our democracy.  Whatever political stripe we label ourselves it is essential that at the end of the day, in that quiet space that is all our own, we recognize the harm and outrageousness of Spindell’s comment.

And then demand his resignation from the Elections Commission. His conduct in the fake elector scheme was more than enough reason for his ouster, but now his continued untoward behavior is a reminder that there are far better people who can serve on the commission.

Merry Christmas, And Happy New Year With Mom’s Angel Cookie Recipe…Caffeinated Politics Returns In Early January

Earlier this week I told James that my upbeat mood about the Christmas holiday could not feel any better. Then it snowed and the kid in me was pressed to the window very late Wednesday night watching as the landscape transformed into the way it should look at this time of year. Since moving into our old Victorian on the Isthmus in 2007 it seems each year the holiday season takes on a stronger meaning as we seem to decorate every inch and ‘over-stuff’ the home with seasonal charm. We are not thrilled with the commercialization of the season and know the family and friends we gather with to laugh and share a meal and memories are what not only matters but what is most enjoyable.

This year we were able to resume, following the pandemic, a holiday tradition that goes back to 2005 when James’ parents visited our home on the west side of Madison.  People are asked to come to our home where a large box is opened which contains solid colored ordinary Christmas ornaments or other items such as milkweed pods, etc. which are then used to create painted ornaments using acrylic paints, or paint pens.  

With my lack of artistic skills ‘unique’ is the kindest one can say about the result.  But as most of our friends have proven, and as James does each year, there is a lot of talent when there is patience with a small paintbrush.  When the painting and laughing are completed, and the ornaments are dried with the hair blower, they are placed on the tree.  Or people can take them home to hang on their tree.

Every year when decorating the tree James and I remark on this or that ornament, who made it, and recall the memories along the way.  Out of the over 500 ornaments on the tree, this year about 50 are made with the love and smiles of friends.

This year my long-time broadcasting school friend, Bruce, and his partner, Ronna, laughed and created their way through a Sunday afternoon.   Such hours are what make the season meaningful to me.

Our Victorian home looks like a Christmas from the late 1800s landed all about.  There is a warmth and a gentle manner to the holiday in our home that lands far more on tradition and nostalgic moods than commercialism.  I would have it no other way.   The photo in the banner, through the end of this year, is what my family home in Hancock looked like during a snowstorm.  Love the look and the way it makes me feel. The memory of those wintery days when as a child I watched the snow piling high still brings broad smiles.  Just as it did this week as the snow fell heavily and I knew why until the bustling New Year takes hold everything will now slow to a crawl for those in this home.  Trust in yours, too.

But before I end this post I need to head back in time to a recipe that is over 60 years old. It is a winner, easy to make, and very tasty!  They are great to eat just out of the oven, and they also store well for late-night munchies.  If you make them, I guarantee that you will be back in the kitchen soon to whip up another batch.  They do not last long if you have kids at home…even big kids aged—well, like me!

When I was a boy these cookies became my favorite, and no Christmas season would be complete without several batches being whipped up and baked.  Every year at about this time I called Mom and asked if she had done any baking yet.  I always seemed to call before the cookies were made, but soon thereafter they were always in the cupboard where they had been placed since I was in the third grade.  If they can leave a memory like that in a man who is 60 years old,  it must mean they are good!

Angel Cookies

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 cups shortening

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp. cream of tartar

2 tsp. baking soda

4 cups flour

Mix sugar and shortening.  Add eggs and beat.  Add flavoring.   Add dry ingredients.  Shape into balls the size of a walnut and roll in colored sugars.  (As the years went along my mom at times left this out, and it did not detract from the yumminess.  I also recall that as a boy my mom placed the sugars on the cookies midway through the baking process.)  Place 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.  (Not the non-stick kind.) Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. 

As the recipe notes it “Makes a pretty Christmas cookie.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The first of five Christmas trees in our home greets visitors as they enter and remove their shoes in the entryway.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Time Person Of Year, Democracy Wins Again

I am so very pleased to learn this news tonight. TIME magazine released the Person of the Year edition, and it was not only the best decision that could be made for the cover but without argument the only decision for the person of the year.

In February 2022, I predicted that this would be the ultimate outcome this year. Every year since I was, much younger, I have made a prediction for the cover of this magazine as the year closes out. The world may not be united on many things given the array of conflicts and issues which divide and splinter nations and peoples. Still, the newsworthy and importance of this man, and the shaping of world events he impacted, means there is worldwide agreement tonight. Zelensky is the man parents everywhere wish their child to emulate for values, resolve, and character.

I wrote last winter the following, and it still very much applies tonight.

Democracy matters. It must be fought for. It can never be taken for granted.

When so many from Madison’s legislature to Moscow, from Trump Tower to Beijing either dismiss democracy or work feverishly to undermine it comes a refreshing– and, oh, so needed reminder–as to why we must never be lackadaisical about its continuance.

With steadfast resolve, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is leading not only his nation but being a teacher to the world.

And the world is watching.

There is no way not to feel his commitment to justice and sincere regard for democracy. There is no way not to fully grasp his correct desire for a heightened international repudiation of Russian thuggery.

When this year ends it will be near impossible to consider anyone more elevated and deserving to be Person of the Year than Volodymyr Zelenskyy. May God keep him and his family safe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing my readers a Happy Thanksgiving! Caffeinated Politics returns following the holiday weekend.

Another Angry White Male And The Right-Wing Conspiracy Media

Once again we have a narrative that, sadly, fits the profile of so many others about angry white men. The lunatic who is fed continuously the fascist offerings from conservative media acts out, but then the ones who pour the gasoline through the airwaves pretend they had nothing to do with the dreadful outcome.

David DePape attacked Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With a hammer. To the skull. Once again strong evidence exists of his personal history of online radicalization. DePape’s online postings included a range of false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, (shocked!) Jan. 6, (shocked) coronavirus vaccines, (shocked) the war in Ukraine (shocked), and QAnon. (shocked). Where or where would one find a daily…no, hourly…diet of these bat-shit crazy offerings in America? Hmmmmmm…..

A native of Canada, DePape was once a Green Party-registered public nudity activist in San Francisco but time shows that his dive into conservative conspiracy theories was where he thrived. He railed about pedophilia, elites, transgenders, and anti-whiteness. His blog contained bigotry against a wide range of groups and topics like “Holohoax.” WordPress, correctly, removed one of his sites Friday. (This blog also uses WordPress)

I am not sure what it will take to wake up the Republican Party to the dangers they are creating among their base and using right-wing media to spread the disease. The untenable attack on Pelosi is just the latest tragic and telltale sign of what is happening in the land due to the corrosive and thuggish people who listen to the rhetoric from conservative media. Sadly, we have, yet again, the outcome of a litany of absurd and ridiculous far-right looney conspiracy theories that took root in the mind of someone who believed it was time to act out on behalf of all who share his views.  The GOP must reckon with the fact that their embrace of lunacy does have consequences.  They can not pound over and over—year after year–false narratives about the 2020 election and vaccines and rants about transgender people and the insanity of the ‘white replacement theory’ and fail to understand that is does inevitably incite violence.

I have been consistent and continuous about the need to consider the grave dangers our democracy faces, as it slides towards embracing autocracy and fascism. The rhetoric and programming from AM talk radio to FOX News are aimed at white males, and stirring their resentments about a growing list is the goal. Stoking the fears of the undereducated and lower economic strata is proving to be a violent and dangerous path for the nation.

The Republican Party needs to turn off its self-created madness.

‘Told You So’ Also Used By New York Times As Rishi Sunak About To Be British Prime Minster

This summer and fall have been alive with fascinating political intrigue not only in our mid-term elections but perhaps even more so as the revolving door at 10 Downing Street will soon rotate again.

For the past six weeks, Mr. Sunak has been lying low as his economic predictions have played out at a dizzying speed. Investors balked at Ms. Truss’s widespread tax cuts and increased borrowing; the pound slumped; government borrowing costs soared; the mortgage market was upended; and the central bank had to intervene. After just 44 days as prime minister, Ms. Truss resigned last week with her economic agenda in tatters.

Mr. Sunak’s relatively gloomy attitude over the summer, warnings about inflation and strict adherence to fiscal conservatism may have cost him the opportunity to be named prime minister in September. But less than two months later, these same characteristics and accurate prognosis of the effects of Ms. Truss’s program have eased his pathway to Britain’s top job.

After Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, took himself out of the running on Sunday, Mr. Sunak has cemented his commanding lead in the contest.

Sunday evening The New York Times had their headline go to the same place that I took a Caffeinated Politics post on October 3rd.

Rishi Sunak has the very life story that Tories require if they are to make inroads into the diverse British society. Born to Indian parents who had left East Africa, attended excellent schools, and rose to a high position in the government showcases the fact all are welcome in the nation. And can lead the country.

Conservative leadership need not be grounded in the harsh racism and stale models of the past. The Tories made a colossal error in supporting Johnson and then the ludicrous Liz Truss and now must step high and higher to get past the detritus that resulted from their actions.

I have said it before this year, and do so again. The Tories can do no better at this time than embrace Rishi Sunak.

He is going into Monday’s crucial Tory deadline in a commanding position, hoovering up scores of MP nominations and seemingly the clear choice of the parliamentary party. His new-found supporters include several big Tory figures who might have been expected to back Boris Johnson–who fled the political contest Sunday knowing his bridges are burned. Many conservatives were reported saying about Johnson that he was a “guaranteed disaster.”

I have supported Sunak since Johnson resigned from 10 Downing Street. I can support a strong conservative when they are intelligent and reasoned. I need not agree on policy in all or even many instances, but instead see the larger mission as one about credibility in government, and when governing. Sunak meets and exceeds that level of competency.

When Voting In 2022 Think About 1912, Warren Harding’s Words About Character Still Echo

President Reagan gave a 4-minute, 648-word speech on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger

Character matters when it comes to who we cast a ballot for in the mid-terms.

I read the 1912 nomination speech from Warren G. Harding, then an Ohio newspaper editor, on behalf of President William Taft at the Republican Convention. The following portion showcases one of those moments where we put into stark notice the type of person with certain qualities we desire in elected officials.

The nomination speech declared that Taft was “as wise and patient as Abraham Lincoln, as modest and dauntless as Ulysses S. Grant, as temperate and peace-loving as Rutherford B. Hayes, as patriotic and intellectual as James A. Garfield, as courtly and generous as Chester A. Arthur, as learned in the law as Benjamin Harrison, as sympathetic and brave as William McKinley……”

We need a lot of things in our country today, but I argue there is nothing we need more than elected officials grounded in logic, who have the ability to empathize, and able to use words from their office to bring a nation together during times of crisis.  Governors, members of the House, and the Senate simply must have those skills and character traits.

I was on-air at WDOR the night President Reagan spoke to the nation following the horrific explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. In my lifetime there is perhaps no other speech that so clearly demonstrates the role of a president at times of national crisis, or the heights of rhetorical balm that can come with the office.  I sat in the broadcast studio and was moved to tears.  Contrast national moments such as that one to the current chaos and bombast from elected officials across the nation who continually stoke the anger and resentments of people for partisan advantage.

Perhaps no other example can be given of how far removed our nation has drifted from reason and being humane than when a nominee for president made fun of a disabled journalist.  It was a truly pathetic display. Nothing like that had ever occurred before. After being called out for the horrible behavior the nominee failed to offer comforting words, but instead petulantly defended himself on Twitter.  It was almost unbearable to watch play out on the national stage. 

The lack of such empathy allowed some of his lowbrow followers to bring down a withering barrage of abuse on the journalist.  The purpose of using this example is to show how vital it is to have solid leadership grounded in morals and a strong character when we cast our votes for those who wish to have such responsibility in our government.  There are consequences for the nation when we allow the lowest common denominator into public offices. Voters require good role models for society to emulate. The behavior of a large segment of the electorate today can be traced back to 2015 and the election results of 2016.

Character matters.  We say those words often but also take the concept for granted.  When the lack of character is so obvious and smacks at us daily, it becomes a reminder of how much this nation lost over the last six years. This year we must do what is right for the nation when we cast ballots in the mid-terms.  We must do so for our collective national soul. Voters can talk about their values or religious faith, but this is the time to prove all that is more than just mere words. After all, the idea of virtue is one that requires our diligence.

The idea of virtuous people in government was not lost on the Founders. They wrote and spoke of its worthiness repeatedly. Good character matters, and as individuals, we have a role to make sure the person sitting in the office of governor, or either chamber of congress is as solid and good as the people across this land. In our republic, we have a responsibility to promote honest leaders in office who will make wise, fact-based decisions. When they fail at that most fundamental requirement of the office the voters must hold them accountable.