For Those Who Have Followed The Rules; Moving The Goalposts, And Shaming Us For Asking Why, Is Infuriating
On May 6, two weeks after my second vaccine shot, I’m may find myself putting #COVIDIOT in my bio.
In response to news today that Rutgers University will be mandating vaccines for students next Fall, while also continuing masks and distancing, many of us have been asking…why?
If students are vaccinated, why should they continue to wear masks and distance? We know vaccines prevent serious illness, and we know transmission risks dramatically decrease. If they can’t do it after vaccination, when can they? Do you not see how this provides a slippery slope into permanent restrictions? For the rest of time, life is going to consist of vaccinated people spreading COVID to other vaccinated people, so who cares if we do it now? Are we ever going to have big family gatherings, concerts and sporting events again? Have I seen my last Broadway show? Will I ever be able to sit on a plane without wearing a mask for a 10-hour flight?
You’ve asked me mask up and social distance for a year. I’ve done it happily. I’ve been to one (outdoor) restaurant since last January, fewer than many of the preachy folks have been. I remember COVID doomsdayer Laurie Garrett taking pictures of a crowded River Cafe in Brooklyn after Donald Trump called New York “dead” in an October presidential debate, before complaining a few days later about how New York was reopening too fast and risking another wave. I see you Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, relocating your entire family to Europe in the middle of a pandemic so your kids an attend school, while criticizing folks traveling and and jurisdictions reopening schools.
I’ve had one (outdoor) family gathering. I’ve kept a bubble of the same seven people. I’ve barely worked (and built up massive debt because of it). I have only left a 10-mile radius of my house twice – both for essential reasons. I’ve done everything I’ve been asked and I’ve done it better than many experts.
But now, it isn’t enough for some. I am expected to continue doing this even beyond the point where vaccines are available to everyone, a point we will likely reach in the next couple of months. I’m supposed to do this because a good number of people will freely choose not to get vaccinated, or there will be a (very small) number of people who can’t get vaccinated, or variants or whatever new reason people who seem to be enjoying the punitive pandemic life like flagellant monks come up with today.
You may enjoy the pandemic lifestyle. Maybe you ran yourself too ragged before and enjoy a slower pace of life. Maybe you were lonely and bitter and enjoy watching people who have families and friends be forced to sit in the same isolation you’ve resigned yourself to. Maybe you think disrupting normal life will trigger whatever fantasy anti-Capitalist revolution you have been LARPing for years and are intent on keeping it going until it happens.
I don’t know why you feel like things are better now than before, but this sucks. It sucks. I have good friends and dear family members I have not seen since December 2019. I have not been able to travel, which I take a lot of joy from doing. I have seem my hometown, which thrives with crowds and congregate settings, tourism and nightlife, exist in a half-alive state for over a year, a city desperate to heal and unable to heal. Will it ever be allowed to be itself again? Or are we determined to depopulated major cities in cold climates and make Ron DeSantis’ Florida or Greg Abbott’s Texas economic powerhouses?
And why are asking these questions turning into battle? Why am I COVIDIOT because I want to go to a bar in June, or want to see my friends maskless this summer, or think college kids who have been vaccinated should return to college life? None of this is the same as someone questioning whether COVID was a real a year ago. Those people were the ones telling us that we were the idiots, for following guidelines experts had no intention on ever lifting; for being slow-walked into a dystopian future where our freedoms are restricted on the premise of “public health.”
Why are we so intent making them correct?
If you want to understand why people stopped following guidelines months ago, why the COVIDIOTS popped up, this is why, because people recognize when they’re being gaslight and abused. They recognize no one is going to give them permission to live normally again. They made a different risk assessment than you did. You can be angry about it, call them names, but it won’t do any good.
As for me? I’ve done my part, so don’t bother shaming me after May 6th. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
The Windsors Have The Ability And Resources To Adapt To The Modern World, They Just Keeps Refusing To Use Them
It all stems from The Abdication.
When news over the rift between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Royal Family shifted our attention from the pandemic for the first time in a while earlier this month, Americans asked once again why an institution that most countries got rid of over a century ago, still exists in a country as modern as Britain.
The truth is – and it is rather hard to believe having seen how the Royal Family has reacted to the Meghan Markel situation – the institution has outlived all the rest by being comparatively populist and progressive.
And that’s how it would go until 1936, when the Abdication changed everything. That, with the death of Prince Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, were two events that have left the monarchy in a constant state of panic, forgetting the past lessons that allowed it to survive for almost a millennium.
The People’s Monarchy
To really understand why the British Royal Family has managed to hold on to their crown for so long, you have to go back to how it all started – at least in its current form. Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of William of Normandy, who seized the crown in 1066 after King Edward the Confessor died without an heir.
Though William was the son of a Norman duke, his mother was a commoner, likely the daughter of a tanner, making William a bastard. Subsequently, in ongoing skirmishes between the monarch and the nobility, English monarchs would leverage the fact that they descended from the son of a commoner to appeal to the people. Though more often the not, the nobility would win – such as in the establishment of the Magna Carta in 1215 and the English Civil War that toppled the monarchy for a decade in 1649 – the monarchy always kept the faith and popularity of the common folk in ways their colleagues didn’t in other European countries. It some cases, it did work: The Tudors were masterful at being faux populists. Henry VIII exploited feudal anger at the corruption of the Church to break away from Rome and secure his divorce from his first wife. His daughter, Mary Tudor, leveraged her public support as rightful heir to depose a coup attempt by her noble cousin, the Duke of Northumberland. Henry’s other daughter, Elizabeth, painted herself as a “woman of the people” in order to keep the Catholic aristocrats put in place by Mary from overthrowing her, and commanded that populist leadership into a patriotic frenzy that helped defeat the powerful Spanish Armada.
The monarchy’s survival is also rooted in the fact that it was among the first to actually be abolished. In the mid-17th Century, the rift between the Stuart kings, who ruled Scotland as absolute monarchs before inheriting the English crown, and the nobility who made up Parliament exploded into an civil war that ended with the king’s head on a pike and an oligarch dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell. Though the monarchy was restored a decade later after Cromwell’s death, a lesson was learned. The Stuarts had allowed the nobles in Parliament to gain the trust of the British public and mount a populist rebellion against the monarchy. Such a thing could never be allowed again. The monarch would always need to be seen as God’s chosen soldier fighting the nobility in the interests of common man.
In fact, I would argue one reason the United States appears to be an oligarchy today is because we misinterpreted the American Revolution to be a populist revolt against nobility, and not a continuation of the ongoing battle for power between the British nobility and the monarchy. The Founding Fathers were mainly wealthy landowners who wanted seats in Parliament, joining the ranks of British nobility, but the existing aristocracy opposed it and King George III was too weak or too apathetic to assert a different view. The American Revolution was a victory for breakaway nobles against the monarchy, establishing what was, and still is, a country governed by nobles.
The Enlightenment provided another opportunity for the monarchy to position itself as guardian of the people against corrupt oligarchs; the Hanovers through Queen Victoria prided themselves on being thorns in the backsides of the nobility, and a voice for a English public increasingly asking for a larger voice in their government. It was Victoria’s grandson, and the current queen’s grandfather, George V, and his wife, Mary of Teck, who decided to take a royal tour of India, and visit with working people in the industrial heartland of England, something nobles loathed to do. They sought to keep up public support for the institution at a time when monarchs were being knocked off thrones across the continent and worker-based political movements began to grow.
In fact, Queen Mary made it her duty to keep the Royal Family in the good graces of the public, even as labor movements and suffragette movements threatened the social order of the kingdom after the Russian Revolution. By 1935, with the monarchies in Russia, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Greece having been ousted in her time as queen (and Italy not far behind), George and Mary were greeted with fawning crowds during their Silver Jubilee. The monarchy seemed secure. Britain’s institution would once again endure.
The Abdication: That Traumatic Event
Eight months later, in January 1936, George V died. He was greatly mourned by the British people. For more than 200 years, the British crown passed from relative to relative without any issues, father-to-son-to-grandson-to-son-to-brother-to-niece-to-son-to-son. It appeared that would continue when George V’s eldest son, Edward, was declared king.
But the seamless transition would quickly unravel. Edward was single and 42 years old, while his three younger brothers had all married. More importantly, Edward had been dating Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and intended on marrying her. The British government and the Royal Family was not too keen on having Wallis as queen, and neither was the British public, whose good graces Edward’s parents had fought so hard to stay in. Edward marrying a divorced women would counter the teachings of the Church of England, which did not permit remarriage after divorce. Edward would be head of the Church of England as king.
The country was plunged into a Constitutional Crisis that threatened the monarchy. To fully understand why this was such a problem, it is important to know what was going on elsewhere in Europe at the time. In 1936, Europe was just two decades out from the collapse of the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian monarchies and 12 years removed from the Greek Royal Family being exiled from Athens. In Spain, the Spanish Civil War has broken out after municipal elections all but abolished the monarchy. The monarchy as an institution, which had ruled Europe since antiquity, was on the verge of being extinguished. It wasn’t clear Britain was in any less perilous a situation, and the fear of losing the support of the public, and thus suffering the fates of Europe’s other royal families, permeated Buckingham Palace. For once, it seemed the nobles and the public were on the same side for the first time since 1649: there simply could not be a Queen Wallis.
To save the monarchy, Edward VIII abdicated the throne, leaving his eldest younger brother, Albert, to reign as King George VI. It was George and his queen, Elizabeth, who were able to restore the public’s faith in the institution of the monarchy, perhaps saving it. They famously refused to leave London during the Blitzkrieg in World War II, and walked among the rubble in the working class East End of the city after the bombings. Elizabeth, the current queen’s mother, became so popular with the British people, Adolf Hitler referred to her as “the most dangerous woman in Europe” and a major threat to his plan to break the will of the British.
The Abdication Crisis, and how close it came to sweeping away the monarchy, made the royals of that time obsessed with keeping as many segments of British society happy as possible. It appeared they had succeeded…for now.
How It Shaped Her
When the palace was plunged into crisis in 1936, a ten-year-old girl was thrown in the center of it. The Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King George VI, went from being an obscure granddaughter of a monarch to heir to the throne in a matter of months. While all this may seem like ancient history to us, that little girl is still alive today, and at the age of 96, still wears the British crown.
What is happening with Harry and Meghan is a direct result of the trauma Queen Elizabeth II personally faced when watching her family nearly ruined by her uncle’s actions and her family’s overreaction to the instability of the monarchy as an institution in Europe in that era and the decades to follow.
Netflix’s The Crown has done a tremendous job of really dramatizing how meticulous the royal family had been about protecting their status in the wake of the Abdication Crisis, and how they have often gone overboard and made mistakes in being overtly careful and cautious to avoid scandal and disfavor with the public. While the shows storylines are largely fiction, they are based on real life events. The queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, was barred from marrying Peter Townsend, because of concern over how the public would view the match. Sir Anthony Blunt was allowed to remain in service of the Crown despite being outed as a Soviet spy, because of concerns that it would damage the credibility of the monarchy, and while it is never been confirmed, it widely accepted that Prince Charles was pushed into his marriage with Princess Diana because of his ongoing affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, whose lifestyle was considering ill-fitting for a future queen.
In the first season of The Crown, there is a scene where Queen Mary, played by Eileen Atkins, writes a letter to her granddaughter who is returning home after learning of her father’s death. Her words set the foundation for the show’s plot, but it also explains the many actions and mistakes of the Royal Family through the modern day.
“I have seen three great monarchies brought down through their failure to separate personal indulgences from duty. You must not allow yourself to make similar mistakes…the crown must win.”
Though the letter is almost certainly fictional, the sentiment is certainly true. Mary implored on her granddaughter that every decision she makes and makes for her family must put the survival of the crown first, even at the cost of her and her relatives’ own personal happiness.
It was a perfect explanation of the driving force behind whatever the Royal Family has done and continues to do, and how always being stuck in 1936 mentality has left it vulnerable. Once an institution that smartly shifted with the times, holding on to some traditions, while getting in front of societal changes on others, the monarchy has instead found itself a deer in the headlights, too afraid to step too far ahead of the curve, and risk its tenuous survival.
The overreaction to the Abdication has led to many bad decisions, most notably the decision for Queen Elizabeth II not to put forward a public show of grief and mourning after the death of Princess Diana in 1997, perhaps the greatest threat to the monarchy in her time. Princess Diana had a very rocky relationship with her in-laws during her time as princess.
The marriage was unhappy and Diana’s very-public distress inspired empathy in the British public, an empathy that grew as Diana charted her own course in charitable causes. For whatever reason, the Royal Family refused to capitalize on Diana’s magic; instead they saw it as a threat. Critics would argue the queen was jealous of Diana’s popularity, which is shortsighted if true. More likely, they saw the progressive actions of the princess as the threat to the monarchy Queen Mary spoke about decades earlier. Her very public lifestyle focusing on divisive causes, seemed as if she was putting her own personal ambitions over duty, which older royals, including the queen, were taught jeopardizes the monarchy. Diana, who would have been Britain’s next queen consort, was the future of the Crown. Leveraging her people skills would have ensured its survival well into the 21st Century, but the Royal Family could not escape from trauma of 1936 and could not see the lessons learned in the first half of the 20th Century no longer applies in the second half.
And Diana’s death was an opportunity for the Royal Family to make past sins right, but instead led to them doubling down on the bad decision making. Rather than capitalize on the grief surrounding her death, and kick the troublesome press while it was down, being blamed for Diana’s death, the monarchy allowed the press to redeem itself by going into hiding and giving the British tabloids fodder to exploit the public’s grief. At the end of the week following Diana’s death, the monarchy had been more unpopular than it ever was in Elizabeth’s reign, with a quarter of Britons ready to exile her majesty.
To this day, the survival of the monarchy is always in doubt. There are only a handful of monarchies left on Earth besides the United Kingdom; Japan, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and some Muslim nations like Malaysia, Jordan and Saudi Arabia Though republican sentiment is not currently high in Britain, the Royal Family is often advised to keep the media on their side to avoid quick public shifts of opinion, like the one that blindsided them in 1997.
Which brings us to Meghan.
How They Messed Up Again
What the Windsors keep missing is this: It is not longer 1936. The world has changed, society has changed, and what the public expects from the Royal Family has changed. Gone are the days when the royals were expected to just to an example of nobility and piety to give the “little people” something to aspire to. The public no longer wants to sit on the sidelines and see well-dressed nobles and royals go to garden parties and debutante balls. Today, the public expects the Royal Family to lead; the put their names and their money to work in charitable causes and causes to lift up the British nation. We see this with other royals around the world. Queen Rania of Jordan has become an advocate for education and cross-cultural understanding worldwide, and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was the first royal to support the rights of LBGTQ people.
Queen Elizabeth II has shown that she has learned this since 1997. Her popularity has remained quite high and her speech to the public at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic helped rally the British public during the initial lockdown.
However, the Windsors were never more popular than when Diana was out in the world finding landmines and hugging children with AIDS. The Royal Family remains largely blind to how that helps them survive in the modern world. To them, hugging AIDS patients, standing up against the use of landmines, and for other causes goes against the advice to remain apolitical given to them by ancestors like Queen Mary, who feared political involvement would doom them. Today, however, it is remaining apathetic in the face of divisive issues that makes people question the continued relevance of the institution.
The arrival of first Kate, and then Meghan, to the Royal Family brought new excitement and promise, but the British press savaged Meghan in a way they didn’t Kate, and the Royal Family did not back Meghan up, give her the help and support she asked for, and keep her and her husband, no doubt feeling he was reliving the trauma his mother suffered, from breaking with the family and triggering the current crisis. After all, to do so risked angering the press, and who knows where the public would fall on the issue. It is likely the Royal Family, unsure of how the younger son of the future king marrying a divorced biracial American actress would play in the British public, treaded carefully in a way that was unfamiliar at best, cruel at worst, to the California-born Duchess of Sussex.
For her part in this, Markle really hasn’t done herself any favors. The Oprah interview almost came across as a kamikaze mission on her and her husband’s part. Their popularity has soured in Britain, but she may have also hurt the Royal Family in the process, and the damage was entirely preventable for them. Maybe that was the goal, but maybe the duchess is responding the only way an American thespian knows how – to tell it to the world and lay it all bare. Perhaps the Royal Family will luck out again and leverage Meghan’s mistake and now growing unpopularity to their benefit, by presenting themselves as victims. It might be their best card to play.
It is time for the Royal Family to escape from the constraints of 1936. The Abdication was nearly a century ago. There are very few Britons still around who were alive to really remember it, fewer who were old enough to have an opinion. The British monarchy is threatened, as it has been for its entire existence, but as Elizabeth’s ancestors learned, oftentimes the hard way, the key to survival is to meet the people where they are. That meant something different in 1936 than it does now. Today, it may have meant throwing your support behind a princess whose background looks more like the emerging diversity of the nation, and allowing her and her husband to chart their own course. Clearly, though, it’s too late for that now.
As A ‘Crisis’ Builds On The Border, Let’s Not Forget A Similar Crisis Is Why We Get To Call America Home
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
This week, while you are scarfing down corned beef and cabbage and scoffing at child migrants at the border, remember Annie Moore.
Who is/was she? On January 1, 1892, she was the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island. She was a 15-year-old girl from Ireland who was put on a boat by her relatives and sent to America with two younger brothers and no adult. They wanted a better life for these children than what they could have found in Ireland.
When Annie arrived at Ellis Island, she walked off the boat, was given $10 and welcomed into America. Until the Immigration Act of 1907, passed 15 years later, there were zero restrictions on immigration into the United States (except against Chinese people). If you were an Irish immigrant, even an unaccompanied minor, you just walked into America. Before 1907, you didn’t have to wait in a facility like children are doing at the border today. Even after, an unaccompanied child was detained at places like Ellis Island and then quickly given into the custody of relatives, a religious institution or a foster family. Few were turned away.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied Irish children were put on boats and sent to America by their parents or other relatives who couldn’t feed them or take care of them during and after the Great Famine, or, as in Annie’s case, to meet parents who came to America without their children to find work. If you have Irish Ancestry, chances are you descend from them. They are our grandparents, great-grandparents or great-great grandparents. You may owe your American lifestyle to a child who came to this country alone. My own great-grandmother, Felicina Deusebio came to America from Biella, Italy (via France) as a 19-year-old, coming to find her two sisters, who came here as teenagers in specialty-designed dresses with their names stitched on them. Our ancestors more than a century ago decided finding a better life was more important than what you might term “respecting borders.”
Those kids at the border are no different than your ancestors. They are sent her by relatives desperate for them to have a better life, or trying to reconnect with relatives who came here looking for work, unable to bring their children with them. We should dedicate ourselves to making sure that they will be given the same opportunities than America gave our forefathers.
As Clocks Move Ahead One Hour, We Can Finally Let Go Of The Darkness We Dreaded
Last summer, as we were still battling the COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight, no word on vaccines and the predictions for a winter surge looming, I noticed something that made me shudder.
Daylight Savings Time was to end on November 1, the earliest possible date it can happen. I noticed it didn’t begin again until March 14, the latest possible date. That meant this winter, the first since the pandemic began, would feature the longest possible timeframe for the sun setting before 6 p.m. The thought depressed the hell of out of me.
When we went into shutdown mode a year ago, New Yorkers started a tradition of going outside and cheering and banging post at 7 p.m. each evening in honor of healthcare workers who were desperately trying to save lives. One evening while joining in, I noticed it was still daylight out. I texted to a friend of mine:
“Thank God this happened after the winter ended, I couldn’t imagine being in lockdown and it getting dark at 5 p.m.”
Early sunsets are my least favourite thing about winter. Growing up, I found myself suffering from terrible depression in the dead of winter when it would get dark at 5 p.m. Even on the rare nice days, it meant there was little chance of hanging out with my friends since we couldn’t be out past dark and “dark” came only about an hour or two after school ended – time eaten up by homework. In my early working days, I remember leaving work at 5 p.m. and it already being dark. When I was Editor-in-Chief of the Queens Tribune, I often got to work when it was dark and left when it was dark, sometimes going 36 hours without ever seeing sunlight. And it felt like it went on forever. I remember walking home from the subway once in pitch darkness at 5:45 p.m. well into January looking at my phone and seeing that the sun wouldn’t set after 5 p.m. until the third week of the month. A few years ago, driving around in darkness at 6 p.m. in February, I noted that “it felt like I had lived ten lifetimes since the last time it got dark after 6:30 p.m.”
That was the dread I felt going into this winter. None of those timeframes between Daylight Savings were going to be as long as this year. That, combined with the idle pandemic lifestyle we are forced to endure, would make this winter hell. It would be long, dark and boring, slowly watching the calendar turn. I dreaded the feeling I felt the first week of the pandemic, where it had felt like a year had gone by. It didn’t help that the winter COVID-19 wave started right after we changed the clocks in November.
It was as bad as predicted.
Hundreds of thousands died, there were no Broadway shows, bar trivia nights and family gatherings to take my mind off my seasonal depression, my usual means of endurance. Christmas was small, New Year’s was quiet, there was little-to-no work. There was an attempted coup in Washington.
But there were also vaccines, a new president and new friends that I made over social media. There were movies I haven’t seen in years, great television shows to watch, recipes to cook and chores to do. There were real estate classes to take, virtual writing groups to attend and decorations to put up. I read books, did puzzles, dabbled in SimCity for the first time in five years. There were things that kept me busy, and away from counting the weeks and days until March 14.
In November, there was a focus on counting votes. In December, Christmas kept me busy and joyful. In January, I got myself back into the grove of work and continuing education, which carried over in February and before I knew, we were closing in on the end of the 17 arduous weeks that Standard Time lasted.
And now the sun will set after 7 p.m. for the next six months. When I eat dinner, it will still be daylight. I can do evening showings again, and not have to turn on my office lights at 4 p.m., allowing natural daylight to illuminate my space a few hours longer. Warmer temperatures come soon, as do flowers and birds and, once a vaccine is in my arm (dose one scheduled for April 1), friends, family and parties will return as well.
I wouldn’t relive the past year for any amount of money, but I can say with certainty that there were positive lessons learned. I learned to tackle my fear of isolation and solitude, and appreciate them when the opportunities to be alone are offered. I learned patience and I learned the value of friendships and family, and I learned that no matter how long and dark the winter may be, filling it with projects and people that bring you joy will help the time go by faster. In future years, the long stretch of time where it gets dark early will be easier to endure, thanks to the Longest Winter.
It certainly did not feel like 17 weeks, but here we are. Now get ready to go out there and enjoy the sunshine.
This past Sunday, I was on “Joanne’s Healing Within” with my good friend and Reiki Healer Rev. Joanne Angel Barry Colon to talk about ways to make two careers work. Since 2017, I’ve been juggling two careers – real estate and writing/editing. Only in the past year have I really figured out how to make both work. I shared some tips, ideas and what I’ve learned on Joanne’s show.
Don’t forget to Like, Share and Comment on the show to qualify for a free raffle prize!
It Will Never Be Possible To Get 67 Senators To Convict A President, Essentially Making Him Or Her Lawless
So Trump’s second impeachment trial ended a month ago, and as expected the Senate acquitted him of the charge of inciting an insurrection connected to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters on January 6th. The vote was rather historical though. Seven Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in voting to convict the former president, and several others, including former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) suggested their vote for acquittal had to do with believing the trial of a former president is unconstitutional, and not that Trump wasn’t guilty of the crime.
There have been four impeachments of sitting presidents, two of which were against Trump alone. In 1868, Andrew Johnson was acquitted by one vote, and in 1999, Bill Clinton survived conviction by the Senate by a fairly wide margin of 19 and 17 votes. In both those incidents, no Senator from the sitting president’s party voted for convict. Trump, however, saw defections both times. Last year, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) became the first Senator from the impeached president’s political party to vote for conviction when he voted to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors related to his pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on the man who ultimately defeated him in 2020, President Joe Biden. Romney did it again last month, joining Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) in convicting Trump of inciting the January 6th attack. This made the vote the most bipartisan ever for an impeachment of a President.
And yet, Trump was acquitted. Ten more votes were needed for conviction. Ten. In the nearly one month since the trial ended, the thought has crossed my mind over and over. It’s hard to imagine what else could’ve been done or said to get those ten votes. Progressives stewed about the decision by the Democratic majority to backtrack on calling witnesses; Republicans had threatened to turn the trial into a long drawn-out circus if they did, but even House Impeachment Manager Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) admitted it wouldn’t have changed any votes.
Which brings us to the final conclusion: In the current (and perhaps now permanent) partisan reality, there is nothing a president can do that would get him or her impeached and convicted. Presidents are essentially lawless. Impeachment is an obsolete, badly ineffective way to hold a president accountable. It may have worked in the 18th Century when the Founding Fathers created it. Back then there were only 26 senators, no political parties, and senators were not directly elected by voters, so they didn’t have primaries to worry about. Twenty-first Century America deserves a 21st Century way to hold its leaders accountable. Here are some ideas on how we can do that:
1.) Make The Jurors A Panel Of Randomly-Chosen Federal Judges
In a way, the 17th Amendment may be primarily responsible for the impeachment process becoming obsolete. When the Constitution was written, Senators were not directly elected, and did not have to worry about primary elections. That was purposely done to keep Senators from having to react to populist whims, the way the House often does. It made sense for the Founding Father to see Senators are likely to be able to put aside politics and be unbiased jurors to a president’s trial.
But times have changed, and perhaps that means the people who should serve as jurors has changed as well.
The Judiciary Branch of the United States Government is designed to be the only one not accountable by voters. That’s why federal judges are given lifetime appointments by the President, confirmed by the Senate. That means they don’t have to worry about the political popularity of their decisions, and can focus on legality and constitutionality. We know that the decision to acquit Donald Trump was a political one – Republicans don’t want to upset their base. The Republicans who voted to convict Trump last weekend either aren’t up for reelection for four to six years (Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Ben Sasse of Nebraska were just reelected to six year terms in 2020, Mitt Romney of Utah isn’t up again until 2024 in a state where Trump was never particularly popular with Republicans), or are retiring like Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The seventh Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, has already survived attempts by her party to primary her, and will run for reelection next year in a state that has adopted a jungle primary system, meaning she doesn’t have a partisan primary to worry about.
How many of the other Republicans might have been inclined to vote for conviction if they weren’t worried about the next Republican primary?
Which brings us the idea of judges. Federal judges never have to worry about primary voters. They are in their jobs for life, or until they decide to retire. That gives them the ability to put aside politics in judging a president’s criminality.
It is true that judges can also be partisan, and idealogical battles are fought on judicial confirmations. Presidents and political party use to process to shape the judiciary to serve their interests, so you can’t have one court (i.e. the DC Circuit or the Supreme Court) serve as the jury. My proposal is to create an impeachment tribunal, featuring one judge selected a random from each of the 11 circuit courts, the DC circuit court and one Supreme Court justice. The panel of 13, called an “Impeachment Tribunal” would sit as jury and House Impeachment Managers and the defense would make their case in the Supreme Court rather than Congress.
The process would remove the U.S. Senate completely, or the U.S. Senate could, like the House, be required to agree to impeachment by simple majority vote and Senators could serve as impeachment managers along with House members.
2.) Lower The Threshold For Impeachment to 60 Votes
There was a reason the Founding Fathers gave the power of Impeachment to Congress. They are the elected representative body of the American people. Even the Senate, which initially wasn’t democratically-elected, is more representative now because Senators are directly elected by the people they represent.
The problem, however, is political realities make it impossible to ever reach the 67-vote threshold for conviction. It is difficult for a party to achieve more than 55 seats. It has only happened once in the past 25 years – when Democrats won 59 seats in the 2008 election, and held 60 seats for a short time during that succeeding Congress. You would often need to convince more than ten members of the president’s own party, and likely more, to convict.
The only time any president came close to being impeached and convicted was Richard Nixon during Watergate, and at the time Democrats held 56 Senate seats and at least ten Republicans warned they would be willing to convict, putting Nixon in danger. If Democrats only had 50 seats in 1974, it is possible Nixon never would’ve faced conviction, and could have survived Watergate.
The first Senate had 26 members and no political parties. It is much easier to get 18 independent Senators to agree on the criminality of a president than 67, many of whom are political allies of the president or represent constituencies where he is popular.
Since 60 seats is a threshold nearly impossible for a party to reach, and maintain, perhaps simply lowering the threshold for a conviction to 60 votes would give the process more teeth. At that threshold, it is likely an incumbent president couldn’t be convicted without some support from Senators from his or her party. We’ve seen that this is possible in Trump’s impeachment trial, but that a double-digit number of conviction votes from the president’s party is a step too far.
3.) DOJ Must Allow For The Criminal Prosecution Of A President
There is always one last option that doesn’t involve impeachment – simply allow a president to be criminally prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Allow the Attorney General, or have Congress authorize, the appointment of a special prosecutor to convene a grand jury, and let the judicial process play out the way it would for any ordinary American.
Right now we don’t know if this is Constitutional or not, but as Robert Mueller noted in his final report on the Russia Wikileaks investigation, it is standard policy of the Department of Justice to not indict and prosecute a sitting president. There are justifiable reasons for this: What do you do in a situation where a president is indicted and awaiting trial? Who is president if he is being held on bail, or on house arrest? Does the Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment and give the Vice President power while the process plays out? What if they refuse to do that? These questions have national security implications.
The alternative, however, is for us to have a lawless president who can never be held accountable. If Donald Trump, after inciting an attempted coup, couldn’t get the votes needed to be convicted, no president will. There needs to be a plan B, one that is not marred and tainted by politics.
Giving the Department of Justice independent authority to convene a grand jury and try the sitting president in the same away they would any other citizen does that. After all, that would surely mean the president is not above the law.
Regardless of how we do it, it is clear the current status quo is not cutting it. All over America, there are men, and perhaps women, in positions of power and influence who are thinking the presidency is an office that absolves them of all crimes, and are plotting their way to the office.
Why Would Honest People Get Involved In Such A Dirty Business?
The West Wing aged poorly, but one of the things Aaron Sorkin’s early 2000s political drama taught us that is definitively applicable now is politics is messy and involves a lot of compromise and complex nuance debates that leave us feeling like we’ve just bathed in a pig trough full of shit.
You have to deal with some real sleazy characters who are inexplicable given undeserved power by voters who are dazzled by bullshit, or in the case of foreign governments, won it through undemocratic means. But you do it because maybe, just maybe, at the end of bathing in that shit, you might make the lives of some folks better and you might help society progress. Those rewards are few and far between, but when they come, they are invigorating. It gives you the motivation to swim in that shit trough again.
In lieu of President Joe Biden’s decision not to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman accountable for the murder of American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some have felt a wave of disillusionment. We dethroned the corrupt and sleazy Trump Administration, but got one that is still kowtowing to a brutal character like MBS. When does it ever get better? Why would he do it?
It reminds me of a scene from a 2002 episode of The West Wing where White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, is briefing reporters about the White House’s response to a story from the Middle Eastern kingdom where 17 school girls were trapped in a burning school, and emergency crews refused to rescue them because they weren’t wearing correct Islamic garb. After holding back her own emotions on the subject. a reporter asks Cregg how she could be so sanguine about the tragedy. With righteous indignation wrapped in a protective layer of sarcasm, Cregg goes through the laundry list of reasons Saudi Arabia is a brutal, oppressive regime, while finishing it by quoting Shakespeare “but Brutus is an honorable man” and telling the reporters the standard American government talking point about the kingdom, with obvious derision – “That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace”
It’s an indigent recognition of a truth that existed in that show’s world that also exists in ours: Saudi Arabia is an ally we can’t afford to piss off. A major oil supplier that is barely holding together a politically volatile region with duck tape and pins. When our options are bad or worse, you choose bad. It still makes it taste like ash and iron to have to sing the praises of the “bad,” or give in to it.
Politics is a great place for many naive and delusional people to get involved in if they want to see the real world. It is eye-opening. You discover that life is actually full of bad options, and you often have to pick the least bad option to hope to live another day. Sometimes great options come along, and you take them and enjoy them, like a rare sunny, warm day in early summer. It’s those options, where we make the best differences and almost makes up for all the bad times.
I’ve been quiet lately. My day job has gotten busy quickly and I’ve been digesting everything that has happened politically over the last few weeks, but I have a lot coming down the pike for you to read.
I’ve talked about my childhood experiences with bullies pretty often on this blog; especially about how it felt like any attempt to battle them proved futile. Ignoring them didn’t work, fighting back didn’t work, even when I “won,” they seemed to only take it as a sign they had continued power and influence over me. That just reacting to them meant they lived rent-free in my heads, and ignoring them meant they had intimated me. It was years before I figured out the one thing that worked was something I had no control over – starve them of the attention other kids gave them. It wasn’t me or how I respond that fueled their bad behavior, it was how other people did. The more my classmates rooted for them and egged them on, the more they bullied.
In the past few years I’ve seen Trumpism evolve into something similar. There seems to be no real way to quell the bad behavior, meanness and cruelty of Trump and his allies. Accountability doesn’t work – Trump has been impeached and acquitted once and will likely be again imminently. Removing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), a QAnon-aligned freshman congresswoman, didn’t work. It only led to her boasting about being marginalized and doubling down on her incendiary comments. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), who famously objected to counting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes EVEN AFTER a riot stormed the Capitol, has preemptively complained about being cancelled before any attempt to hold him accountable is even made.
Whenever a Trumper is held accountable for anything – or whenever the possibility of holding him or her accountable is entertained – he or she quickly finds a safe space at Fox News to complain about being cancelled, while also bragging about how he or she has “triggered” his or her opponents. Trump would find solace at his rallies, letting thousands of adoring fans cheer on his bullying tactics as validation against ongoing attempts to hold him to account. There is no winning scenario. If you ignore them, they take it as a sign you’re too feckless or scared to stand up to them; if try fight back and hold them accountable, they claim victory for having “triggered” you in the first place.
Depriving them of an audience works. Look at how deplatforming Trump from social media has silenced him since the January 6th Capitol attack. We haven’t heard from him since he left Washington more than three weeks ago. Without his Twitter soapbox – and the dopamine that comes from the likes and retweets – and his adoring mob accused of trying to stage a coup, Trump is no longer able to receive the reward of popularity for his cruel and bullying ways. Having lost the election and having been repudiated by the American people, along with his own supporters hanging him out to dry to save their hides, he is no longer able to leverage a victory as a defense against criticism of his opponents. He and his supporters are not longer able to respond with dismissive catchphrases like “u mad bro?” and “fuck your feelings.” It is no longer liberals and Democrats who are screaming and crying, it is Trump and his supporters themselves. It is QAnon groups who are losing followers, disenchanted in having been hosed by the conspirators. Republicans are losing members by the thousands, Trump’s popularity has never been lower. The political movement that made a name for itself dismissing their opponents as crybabies and whiners, threw the ultimate temper tantrum.
There was one other thing that I discovered worked, largely because it seemed to turn other students against them – bully back. Tony Navarro stopped bullying me when I pointed out his father abandoned him; Mike DeMarro left me alone when I mocked him for having a learning disability; Alex Price never said another word to me after I made fun of his weight problems.
That’s the thing about bullies, they do what they do because of their own insecurities. It’s a pecking order. They don’t feel strong, so they need to appear strong. Bullies can dish it, but they cannot eat it. Once you point out their flaws and air their insecurities, bullying you becomes like touching a hot steam pipe or exposed electrical wire; the pain reminds them not to do it again.
But what kind of society are we building when we are responding to bullies with more bullying? That is not the ideal scenario, and not one I necessarily advocate for or endorse. I am not proud of having done these things. But when you have exhausted all other options and are left with no other means of recourse, it becomes the only one. You cling to it out of desperation.
And that’s an ugly place for us to be. We may have no other path but to end up there, however, if accountability fails.
Americans Rarely Dabble In Collectivism. That They Would Do It This Drastically For This Long Was Always A Delusion
Social media was all abuzz this weekend by the crowds that packed the streets of Tampa, and later Raymond James Stadium, for Super Bowl LV, where patrons, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis himself, watched the Big Game maskless.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, how can people be so careless? It’s the same scolding-about-guidelines narrative we’ve heard since last March’s Spring Break. We saw it last Memorial Day with crowds on the Jersey Shore and in Lake Of The Ozarks, Missouri; Fourth of July; Halloween; and traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In every case, it was the same complaint. How can people be so careless? How can they not take this virus seriously? How can they not care about endangering the lives of other people?
Putting aside the fact that this Super Bowl was unique in that the host city, Tampa, saw its own team play in it – something that has never happened before – we are now nearly a year into a pandemic that has disrupted all of our normal lives, and forced into unprecedented social isolation and economic chaos. No one should have expected anything different at this point.
Let me be clear: Nothing about what has transpired during this pandemic should surprise anyone. We asked a nation that is ingrained in the concept of individualism to give up their lives for several weeks, which most did do voluntarily. Then, a few weeks in, we told them they had to do it for longer, perhaps indefinitely: No social life, no bars, no traveling, no family gatherings, no church, no school. We were told to give all that up, first for two weeks, then a month, and then until such a time that a bunch of doctors and politicians decide that it was safe to resume them. We told them maybe we can go back to some level of normal if we get caseloads low enough to test, trace and isolate, then watched that fail in most countries that tried it. I can’t think of a scenario that is more unlikely than Americans voluntarily giving up their joys and livelihoods for the sake of others for an extended period of time, let alone indefinitely. That people are surprised at this turn of events, frankly surprises me.
The truth is, this is not merely an American problem. There was a reason other countries enforced lockdowns by police or military force; because they knew some people wouldn’t voluntary comply, and as time went on more and more people would grow fatigued and frustrated and join in. Lockdowns have a shelf life. New Zealand was able to eliminate the SARS-COV2 virus from their borders after only a month of hard lockdown that led to hundreds of arrests; Australia took a few months longer, but had to strictly enforce restrictions – during which they literally locked residents in one apartment complex inside their units – and shut borders tightly, to get there. They didn’t “beat” COVID because they are better people, or because they have a collectivist spirit. I mean, the Australians? Really? They did it because their government restricted their civil rights. They did not have a choice in the matter.
The United States, in part because it is a nation that values individualism over collectivism, does not have clear legal authority to enact such enforcement. State borders cannot be closed, stay at home orders cannot be enforced. Even more reasonable, less intrusive restrictions like mask mandates and limits on size of gatherings have met legal opposition in the courts. And would we even want to? How do you think Donald Trump with the power to enforce stay-at-home orders with mass arrests would have ended? He tried to stage a coup d’etat last month, there is zero chance he wouldn’t have taken his new found COVID powers and used to keep himself in power as well.
Considering who we are as a country – one that wouldn’t even hold our elected officials to reasonable gun control legislation after the massacre of little children, or turned the other way to decades of racism and other forms of bigotry – I’m surprised we lasted this long and got the level of adherence to guidelines that we did. Americans, whether fairly or unfairly, developed a reputation in Europe to taking better to mask-wearing, for example.
And considering the shifting goalposts and incoherent messaging, as well as lack of clarity in an end game, I’m surprised as many Americans are still following guidelines as they are today. Much of this is self-preservation – fear of your own death or the deaths of your loved ones, but that’s where vaccinations change the game, and even to some extent natural infections. Much of the recent talk about a return to normal revolves around when and if we’ll hit “herd immunity,” where enough Americans are considered immune to prevent exponential growth of new infections. With the more contagious variants popping up, that threshold is higher than it would have been a few months ago, perhaps too high to reasonably be met. There is justified concern that herd immunity won’t be reached, and no real plan for what happens if we don’t; just new stories about how the “end” gets pushed farther and farther away. First summer, then maybe fall, now maybe winter…if we’re lucky.
People who have been following guidelines are at some point going to get tired, and find their own exit ramps. Once you believe yourself and your circle to be free of the threat of death or serious illness, you’re likely to stop caring. I expect that’s what we’ll see happening as vaccinations become more widespread, and there remains a lack of clarity from experts as to what the end game is, and when/if we can return to normal.
Everything that we have been told by public health officials in this pandemic – how long social distancing would last, the changing story on masks – plays right into the hands of those who have defended our obsession with individualism: It has allowed libertarians and conservatives to once again make the argument that the only instinct you can trust, is your own. Increasingly, we’re going to find experts, who we’ve grown to trust, more and more marginalized as vaccinations increase and cases and deaths subside. Any calls to continue to take precautions and adhere to restrictions for the few people who can’t get a vaccine, or for the many who just won’t get one, is going to met with opposition at best, disdain at worst.
I suspect what will happen in the coming is cases and hospitalizations will decrease down to minimal levels, #COVID will fall out of the news cycle, and we’ll go back to normal even as experts scream “no, you can’t” into the void.
A View From Denmark On Europe’s Latest COVID-19 Wave And Lockdowns
I’ve had a pen pal in Denmark for the past 24 years. Marie-Louise Metz (or Mare as I call her) and I have been writing each other since I was 14 and she was 15. We probably would’ve stopped writing if the internet hadn’t become a thing two years after we started mailing letters. It became easier after that to chat, first via email, then on instant messenger, then on Facebook and WhatsApp. Sometimes we chat on the phone. We met fairly often while she was doing graduate studies (and dating an American soldier) in Virginia, and we met in London seven years ago for a fun weekend. Today she lives in Copenhagen with her husband and three kids. Anyway, here is an email I got from her earlier this week responded to a series of Tweets I posted about COVID-19 and Europe. I think it provides a perspective into how some Europeans feel about their early success, and their current situation, and the paradox of emotions around this crisis.
Lockdown sucks. It really does suck. During the first lockdown, we were shocked by it and by the time we adjusted to it, it was over. Then we thought we were done. The kids went to school, we went back to our lives, with masks and two metres apart. We had beat it and now we will be able to control it. Yeah, we mocked Sweden and Brazil and you for failing. Then it came back. It feels like we're being punished for doing it right. Since we did it right the first time, we are expected to do it again. The kids are miserable, my husband is miserable. I miss my mom and dad. They're saying April if we're lucky, but possibly even June. We are confused. We see numbers dropping and are told to ignore it, another surge is coming, and it's coming because there's no immunity in the population. We don't know when the vaccines are coming and we see Americans getting vaccines by the millions. It's as if any hope we have is quickly shot down and discouraged. We remind ourselves why we're doing this; to save lives, to save hospitals, for the good of the country. I can't help but feel a little jealous at your guys. There are times when I wake up and think 'okay I'm finished with this, whoever dies will die,' but then I feel guilty about that.I feel like I'm having my humanity and empathy sucked from me. At this point, we have sort of came to the conclusion that we will all get infected before we get the vaccine and are just hoping we don't die. It's feels like the end of the world almost. We hear about another neighbour or family who caught it, and it comes closer and closer to us. I'm more terrified now that I was at the beginning, because then I trusted that what we are doing was working and now I'm not sure anymore. All we can do is pray, and hope we still have a country after this. I had hoped and looked ahead to seeing you again after this, but now I'm not as sure we will anymore.
For what it’s worth, experts have suggested that Denmark is doomed to another surge despite declining cases because the B117 variant, the “UK Variant.” The theory is that even though cases have declined, the proportion of cases that are of the variant is going up, meaning at some point an equilibrium will be reached and cases will grow slowly.
While such a surge is also predicted in the United States, it hasn’t happened in the UK or Israel, where here is widespread immunity, via infection or vaccination. Basically, Denmark is screwed because they managed to keep the virus from infecting most Danes, while Israel was able to vaccinate enough people fast enough and the UK responded too slow early on, creating a Spring wave that allowed some level of immunity to build. It might be what saves Americans too in the coming months. And if so, Mare would be right, still sitting in lockdown in Copenhagen. They fell victim to their own success.
UPDATE: On Friday, Mare lost her sense of smell and taste and immediately went for a COVID test, which they are turning around quickly in Denmark. She tested positive and is now in isolation away from her family. She feels well and I hope she continues to have a mild case and can return to her children quickly. What a nightmare.
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