Supreme Court Starts Session With Win For Gun Control Safety In America

The new session of the U.S. Supreme Court started out with an action that runs in alignment with a major theme of this blog, gun safety in the nation.  The Court rejected two appeals by gun owners seeking to overturn the federal government’s ban on the sale of bump stocks.  Those stocks are the shortened term for devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger.  It is not difficult to understand why that item is most undesirable, and why the ban was implemented. The ban was one of the very few policy moves from the one term of Donald Trump with which I could voice strong agreement.

The only way to report this story is from the perspective of the safety factor as the ban is a way to stem the furthering of gun violence this nation faces daily. The action of the court in their rejection of the cases is a significant victory for gun control advocates and supports the role our government has undertaken–though far too timidly–with efforts to regulate very dangerous weapons.

Why these cases being shunted out the Court door matters is that knuckle-draggers who sought to undo the ban tried to suggest the government did not have authority to ban bump stocks under the National Firearms Act, a law enacted in 1934 to regulate machine guns. In 1968, the Gun Control Act expanded the definition of a machine gun to include accessories “for use in converting a weapon” into a machine gun, and the ATF concluded under the Trump Administration, when it issued the ban, that bump stocks meet that definition. I found fault with the ATF under the Obama administration when that agency ruled bump stocks should not be classified as a “machinegun” and therefore should not be banned under federal law. 

Bump stocks are accessories for semi-automatic rifles, such as the popular AR-15-style weapons that have been used in a plethora of mass shootings in our country. They use the recoil energy of a trigger pull to enable the user to fire up to hundreds of rounds a minute. That is simply insanity that needed to be curbed. It took the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead before the ATF acted during Trump’s time in office, and credit needs to be given where it is due. After all, what more needs to happen to show the bump stock ban was necessary. The Vegas shooter used assault-style rifles to fire more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes into the crowd of 22,000 music fans.

For rational and common-sense people in the nation who fully understand and desire that logical regulations be placed on the sale of guns and their “particular attributes”, today was a solid win. Not a bad way to start a Monday morning or the first day of a new session of the Court.

Speaker Robin Vos Should Want To Do As He Stated, “Guarantee Public Faith In Elections”, Could Be a Win-Win

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was most willing to appropriate more than a million dollars to a former Supreme Court justice so to ferret out alleged nefarious and illegal voting behavior following the defeat of Donald Trump in the state’s 2020 presidential election. Rather than admitting the Republican Party had a seriously flawed candidate, Vos stood by as Michael Gableman threatened to jail the mayors of major Wisconsin cities such as Madison, Green Bay, and Racine if they didn’t comply with subpoenas to sit for private interviews as part of the investigation. Following the August endorsement of Vos’s primary opponent by Gableman, the Speaker terminated the contract to further spend taxpayer’s dollars on an investigation that had no serious purpose.

What was widely reported in the state, and in national political columns was that this summer while the investigation was underway Vos stated he had taken a phone call from Donald Trump, who told the Speaker of his desire to see the results of the 2020 balloting overturned.  It comes as no surprise that the January 6th committee follows such developments as that phone conversation, and is attuned to the developments which are aimed at undermining our democratic institutions and eroding the faith of the citizenry in our electoral process.  Therefore, the committee is, of course, mighty interested in Vos’ testimony and information he can add to the larger understanding of a seditious conspiracy plotted by Donald Trump, and aided by a number of close aids and confidants.

After the anticipated legal protection that Vos grabbed for after the panel handed him a subpoena, the panel canceled Monday’s deposition deadline, but noted their desire to have his compliance and know the matter is pending upon the ruling from a judge.  This reluctance from Vos, however, to honestly testifying is troubling for two reasons.

First, the desire of the Committee is straightforward. They simply requested in their subpoena for Vos to give a deposition about his call with Trump and the surrounding circumstances. The fact is our democracy came under violent attack on Jan. 6th. Many attempts at undoing the election outcome, though impossible to achieve, have been made in the months following as Trump furthers an absurd theory in several states.  Wisconsin was one of those playgrounds which have used tax dollars, and as such, there is a need to know what pressures were placed on the Speaker by Trump to thwart the will of the voters.

Secondly, if Vos is true to his words and intentions then he would very much desire a full accounting of what occurred with the Trump phone call.  During the period following the 2020 election, he stated Wisconsin needs to “look forward” to guarantee public faith in elections. He said he believes “half of the state or more,” thinks there were “serious problems with the way the election was conducted”.  I can state that equal numbers of our fellow Wisconsinites are much concerned about the shape of our democracy and worry about the fate of our political and electoral processes.

As such, Vos would well serve our state by being forthcoming to the Jan. 6th Committee about his stated desire of securing the public faith in our elections….while at the same time giving a boost to our overall democracy. It could be a win-win.

Good Day For America’s Checks And Balances Continues With Strong Rebuke To Donald Trump Wednesday Evening

Late Wednesday evening we witnessed another sign that our nation’s checks and balances continue to work. I take note of such events as they are lifting moments in our troubling times when we witness fascism rising while an autocrat makes threats about violence being unleashed in the nation if he is brought to justice.  

Throughout the day we saw the efforts of law and order rise up and make a clarion statement that this nation does not kneel to such blackmail. New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to bar Donald Trump and his children from ever again running a business in New York State. She filed a lawsuit that claims the Trump family and their business overvalued assets by billions of dollars and with the proof of Trump’s annual financial statements showcased at least a decade of absurd myth-making while defrauding banks and insurance companies.  

Late in the evening, a federal appeals court handed down a blistering ruling that unleashed the Justice Department so to rightly resume using documents marked as classified that were seized from Donald Trump in the FBI search. In so doing, the ruling undoes a lower court’s order that had strictly limited the investigation into Trump’s handling of highly classified government materials.  The 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an earlier order by a Florida federal judge that had kept the department from using about 100 files that Trump illegally retained. 

The three-judge panel wrote in their opinion, “For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings.” 

What strikes me of great interest is that the panel in this ruling found particularly unpersuasive the repeated suggestions by Trump’s legal team that he may have declassified the documents. But note that when earlier pressed by the special master, Raymond Dearie, those lawyers would not say very much in court if Trump had acted to declassify the materials in question.  They know better than to lie during a court proceeding.  

So tonight, the federal court lowered the boom on Trump.  “Plaintiff suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified. And before the special master, Plaintiff resisted providing any evidence that he had declassified any of these documents,” the panel wrote. “In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal.” 

We have come to a point in our nation where the legal process and the application of the rule of law will be required to be used energetically to ensure the nation remains a democracy.  This blog has often opined on the drift away from our nation’s ideals and the Framers’ construct during the Trump term—our nation’s most embarrassing fiasco since the days of Richard Nixon. (And let us be frank and term Dick a piker in comparison.) Today, however, was a fine example of what the law can and will do to right the ship that has drifted and tilted dangerously.  In so doing, it allows us a strong ray of hope about the future of this country.

Queen Elizabeth II Dies At 96: Met U.S. Presidents Since Harry Truman

It still came as shock, even though it was often talked about over the past years. Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96 and there is now a new monarch in Britain. Only earlier this week the Queen had continued her constitutional duty and invited Liz Truss to form a new government. Even with health problems and aging concerns, there was always Queen Elizabeth who kept the long line of history very much intact on the British throne, acting with quiet resolve for decades.

I have thought about how to best reflect her life as seen through the eyes of this American home, and have settled on a series of photos of her interactions with our top leaders. (The Queen never met President Lyndon Johnson.) President Harry Truman was her first president to meet even though Elizabeth was not yet queen when, at the age of 25, she filled in for her very ailing father.  

President Harry S. Truman and Britain’s Princess Elizabeth are shown as their motorcade got underway following the reception ceremony at Washington National Airport on October 31, 1951.
 Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
20th October 1957: Queen Elizabeth II, US president Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 – 1969) with his wife Mamie (1896 – 1979) and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at a White House State banquet.
 Keystone/Getty Images
Buckingham Palace during a banquet held in his honor, American President John F. Kennedy and his wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, pose with Queen Elizabeth II London, United Kingdom, June 15, 1961.
 PhotoQuest/Getty Images
From BBC
President Gerald Ford dances with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during a White House State Dinner honoring the Queen US Bicentennial visit, Washington DC, July 7, 1976. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)
6/8/1982 President Reagan riding horses with Queen Elizabeth II during visit to Windsor Castle, Daily Mail
Express UK
People magazine
Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo: Jack Hill – WPA Pool/Getty Images
(Wow….just wow.)

President Biden Addresses “Battle For The Soul Of Nation”

It was a national address from a President of the United States that the citizenry needed not only to hear but to heed.  While the three main networks did not air the speech the gravitas of the message from Philadelphia was one that echoed from the Founding Fathers about political passions that are not tempered with reason and dangerous autocratic behavior not bridled by citizens.

President Biden spoke from Independence Hall Thursday evening to give a stern warning to the nation about our national democratic values being flagrantly assaulted and undermined by forces of extremism who kneel to Donald Trump. Biden did not mix words when he stated the issue that we face.  This is, he told us, a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

The message is one that the majority of this nation has been aware of since the years when Trump sat in the Oval Office and especially since the end of Election Day in November 2020.  We watched with dread and revulsion as the seditious actions played out at our nation’s Capital on January 6th and since then as Trump deliberately and aggressively has poked and stoked his followers who are easily led to the point they will even aid in the undermining of our nation.   Those followers are willing to add their voices as election deniers and some even have lowered themselves to the point they now call for violence to be unleashed in this country.

So it is readily understood with the facts we have seen play out that Biden was correct when stating Thursday that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”

The others in the nation who have embraced reading and understanding our national story could connect and agree with the historical truth when Biden talked about the “extraordinary experiment of self-government” represented by the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, saying that “history tells us a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.” The Federalist Papers which were taught in high school, and more deeply studied in college alerted many Americans to the dangers the Founders urged us to avoid.

I have advocated for years our nation required a president to undertake the role, though some might think it old-fashioned, of a leader who will stand on the stage and preach the values of democracy.  The efforts of reducing and outright removing liberal democracy around the world have been underway for decades. Autocrats prattle about how democracy is not the way for nations to grow and prosper. Actions from Hungary to Brazil have left many worldwide rightly concerned about the condition of democracy. China has challenged democratic tendencies in places like Hong Kong, while we know all too well that Russia will do anything for wistful memories of an empire.  That battle for democracy is also taking place in the United States.  Right in front of eyes.  The seriousness of the matter makes headlines daily as democracy versus dictatorship, freedom versus authoritarianism plays and we must be engaged as citizens to defend the core ideals handed to us by the Founders.

Our Founding Fathers envisioned several examples of possible dangerous behavior to democracy and placed solutions to them within the Constitution. But they simply could not have fathomed the degree of partisanship and even outright sedition and treason currently running through some parts of the Republican Party. Partisanship is so deep and corrosive that it would harm the nation itself.

It is truly concerning for the politics of our time, and for the very nature of democracy itself, that a rather staggering number of Trump’s most vociferous, foul, and unbalanced followers are proving to be violent and hostile. Conservatives have willingly traded away their credibility by allowing the Republican Party to be hijacked by Trump. Today, no actual conservative party policy idea can surface as the saturation of crazy has dominated every aspect of the GOP. There is no oxygen in the room to talk about ideas as there is a past election outcome to excoriate.

So, it was most appropriate, in fact necessary, that Biden called out last evening the vilest of the Trump base who have seized hold of one of America’s two great political parties.  That element celebrates the violent mob that stormed the Capitol in hopes of overturning an election.  That is what the weak-minded in the nation have opted to do with the ideals and hopes of our Founding Fathers.   As I watched the 24-minute speech it dawned on me how remarkable this moment in our history is, as first, a president has never needed to call out the opposing party for their desire to strangle democracy. But secondly, there has never been a time in the 45 years (since age 15) of my reading American history where that was required. Biden stated it precisely as our nation needed to hear it. “You can’t love your country only when you win”.

Robin Vos Does Not Get Profile In Courage Award For Firing Michael Gableman

There are those times when what might be considered a strong and resolute position, instead winds up looking rather sluggishly anemic. Such is the result of Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos firing Michael Gableman a mere 72 hours after the Racine County Republican squeaked out a primary election night win after Donald Trump urged voters to elect his opponent.

It was only after the votes were counted that Vos found his voice, even his backbone, along with a microphone into which he could utter his feelings about the former Supreme Court justice. “He’s an embarrassment to the state.” But only last week the former justice was a needed investigator for Republicans! Catching up with the sentiments held by the majority of state residents for the past year does not make Vos a prophet or even slightly principled, but simply underscored why many people think Republican politicians are playing to the most gullible within the GOP.

Vos’ comment, however, is about the length and breadth that leadership and a commitment to facts are allowed to be displayed within the current Republican Party. It is due to elected officials, such as Vos, who have continually played to the right-wing conspiracy theories from the base of the party, and in so doing have allowed for oxygen to be given to the nonsense. That has resulted in much harm being done to the home of such political giants as Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

Speaker Vos authorized and funded Gableman’s actions which resulted in a wild, unhinged, and legally impossible notion, such as decertifying the 2020 election. There was no evidence of widespread election chicanery to unearth, though that did not stop state tax dollars from being used by Gableman to foment lies for the less educated in the state. Nor did it stop Vos from continuing the spigot of money into Gabelman’s efforts which even included his attending a seminar in South Dakota hosted by luminaries such as Mike Lindell, the MyPillow facts denier.  

The time to cut ties with Gableman would have been after the first sit-down the Speaker had with someone who claimed in 2008 that Justice Ann Walsh Bradley rapped him on the head during a meeting. At the time many in the state snickered at the event, but in hindsight, it might be appropriate to ask exactly how much damage was inflicted!

The Michael Gableman we have watched over the past year is the same person who ran a sleazy and racist campaign in 2008 against the Supreme Court’s only African-American, Louis Butler. A major state newspaper wrote in 2012 that Gableman, as a justice, “opened the door to accusations of unethical behavior”. The years have changed, but the character of Gableman sadly has not. I wrote on Caffeinated Politics in 2011 that Michael Gableman was the least intelligent and probing mind on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  After this past year, that may be the kindest thing one can say about the man.

Why Speaker Vos was not able, or willing, to provide leadership and honesty to the ones within his party spreading the Big Lie remains a troubling question that historians will need to address. After all, firing Gableman was only about 365 days too late.

Threats Of Civil War By Angry White Males Fostered By GOP During Donald Trump Years

It was less than an hour after I posted on my Caffeinated Politics Facebook page about the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Florida home when a white male reader commented that the action meant “civil war” upon the nation. This week Ricky W. Shiffer posted messages on Trump’s social media platform recommending that “patriots” go to Florida and kill federal agents.  After he tried to break into the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati office his fate was sealed when he thought it wise to engage in a gun battle on an interstate with law enforcement.  Shiffer was shot dead.

It is very clear from the national chatter that extremists, low on IQ and book learning, but loaded with crazy thoughts and deadly guns are intent on creating violence in the nation following the law-and-order process the FBI undertook this week in Florida.  When a deranged personality was outside the home of a current member of the Supreme Court this summer, a hue and cry rightfully arose about the safety of the judiciary.  The backlash, however, from conservatives this week about the violence and threats from angry white males in the nation, like Shiffer, were hardly registered.  Transactional politics when it comes to the safety of our police and law enforcement officers is nothing short of repugnant.

If one listens and reads the crazy lingo from those white males who are engaged in right-wing militancy it is soon apparent, that they are again aggrieved—their favorite pastime when not stroking their weapons.  They huffed and puffed and made threats this week of ‘locking and loading’ in their zeal to defend their cult leader, Donald Trump.  Our nation, it needs all to be reminded, did not just arrive at such a moment; rather the GOP helped to create this situation.

The animus the Republican Party has fostered and yes, stoked, within their ranks against law enforcement and the rule of law-and-order is highly troubling and unsightly. We watched the GOP fall for Trump starting in 2015, and then over his term in office followed the disregard he had for the FBI, wanting to use the Attorney General as his own personal lawyer, and striving mightily to undercut the Constitution. The Republican Party stood by and watched and even started to mimic and repeat his false claims and further the erosion of respect for folks who put on a robe or a badge when they head to their job.

The outcome of Trump’s corrosive actions, and the spinless reaction from the GOP, is now playing out with the vile and threatening rhetoric and actions by the basest lowlifes in the conservative tent.  In 2018, I wrote a post about the disregard Trump had for the judiciary.

What troubled me….and cuts to the core as to why Trump is viewed as dangerous to democracy–concerns his disdain for laws and our Constitution.  To have our system work requires we acknowledge the rule of law.  The public needs to respect the judgments of those who sit on the courts.  The public needs to obey the laws and abide by the decisions of judges.  To then have a person in the Oval Office lashing out with personal attacks on judges and the court system–as Trump does continually–sends a most disturbing message to the nation.

There is also the added danger that judges should never have to consider any fear of personal attacks, or venom from the citizenry when rendering a decision. Having an autocratic person in the White House should not in some way taint the decision-making process in a court of law.  It is imperative that Trump show the proper respect for not only the law but those who decide the cases and shape laws.

The federal judge who signed the search warrant after being presented with facts as to what classified documents were strongly believed to be in Trump’s Florida home, and even where the documents that should not be anywhere except in a government building were located, should not be the target of terrorist threats by Trump’s flying monkeys.  Yet the judge has been placed under law enforcement protection based on the threats of violence.

This is the second time in just a matter of weeks that I feel the need to write about the growing trend in the nation that views violence as an acceptable path forward in our nation. A poll finds that Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified, that result being the largest share to feel that way in more than two decades. The percentage of Americans who say violent action against the government is justified at times stands at 34 percent, which is considerably higher than in past polls by major news organizations dating back more than two decades. Again, the view is partisan: The new survey finds 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents, and 23 percent of Democrats saying violence is sometimes justified.

Our nation has been placed in a truly contentious and troubling place due to the Republican Party caving to the very thing the Founding Fathers feared.  It was my clear favorite of those men, Alexander Hamilton, who worried about the populace being swayed by a charlatan or one with low character. He knew of the Donald Trump types, as Hamilton had read books about the nature of mankind. He was also most aware of the threat of unlearned people being easily led, and led woefully astray, as the Trump base within the Republican Party has continually demonstrated.

The angry white males that are now threatening and seeking to intimidate the majority of the nation are precisely what Hamilton was worried about in his days of pondering the larger questions about our then-young nation. We join him in his justified worries.

Toto, Where Have We Landed?

I grew up in a rural Wisconsin home with rather firm codes of how to live life. Not old-fashioned as much as one where values were taken seriously. Not just talked about, but lived.

It was frowned upon to cheat on your wife; straying from marriage vows was not looked at as being manly. It was not so much a religious view, but rather one about character, or the lack thereof. Fathers imparted, through their actions, lessons for boys to learn and live as they, too, came of age.

So today, I had reason to think about Danielle Mitterrand who invited her husband’s mistress, Anne Pingeot, and their 21-year-old daughter Mazarine, to the funeral service for former French President François Mitterrand. I recall that news story from many years back and can still recall the oddness of how it landed when first hearing it. Who lives that way? Or accepts living that way?

This all comes to mind as Donald Trump took his third wife to the funeral for his first wife. I felt sad for the grown children who lost their mother but also who had lost years ago that sense of what a real home and stability and a healthy family unit look and feel like. Today the third wife must have also felt like, well, just another spoke in the life and times of the troubled rich. After all, she too, is just a spoke in that family which all spins around Donald.

It just is hard for me to even know what type of ‘family’ dynamics are at play where something like that which played out today is considered normal, or dare I say, acceptable. My perspective of which I write is not political, but rather just the feelings about where I think the guardrails on society should be placed. We can see what does happen when those constraints are not acknowledged.

I have written often on this blog about the need for good parenting and proper role models. That need continues.