Posts by hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.



^^ the Framers misjudged the exportability of English impeachment method

Impeachment by the House of Representatives rests upon very few words : “…and shall have the sole power of impeachment.”

The duties given the Senate are much more spelled out :

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present. Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

The punishments are dire. The Framers intended they be dire. Yet as we have seen, when a President is to be impeached nd then tried in the Senate, the impeachment powers fall short. Few of the President’s political party will vote to impeach, and almost none will vote to convict.

Why so ? Why can a President who has committed impeachable offenses not readily be impeached and, if impeached, not convicted ? Three factors impede the process : importation, election, and religion

The Framers adopted impeachment from English parliamentary practice. In 1787, it was parliament’s way of ousting public officials who committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a phrase which our Framers defined as “breaches of public trust.” Unhappily, America’s Congress lacked the political substructure that underpinned Parliament. Parliament was elected, the king and his officials not. Parliamwent was the voice of religious localism; the king, of religion centralized.

The parliamentary party had, from about the 1590s to 1649, been powered by a Puritan, congregational religious movement strong in the English middle class, which had gradually come to dominate elections to both parliament and local parish ministries. Meanwhile, the unelected Sovereign had committed itself to a highly centralized church led by appointed bishops, and demanding its version of the Christain catechism.

In effect, England of the 1590-1649 period had two separate goverments, operating upon two entirely separate theories of power supported by two entirely distinct establishments.

Parliament during that era did not have an impeachment mechanism (although impeachments had occurred in parliaments before that period. All they had were attainder — loss of property — and bills of treason. Thus the parliament of 1640-1649 used, to King Charles’s discomfiture. Our Framers wanted, for good and just reasons, to not make conflict between Congress and President a matter of life and death. After all, both Congress and the President were to be elected, and neither Congress nor President represented a religion in a religious war. Thus the Constitution saw impeachment as the voice of the entire electorate — as Alexander Hamilton put it, “a national inquest.” It might well have worked .

Because there is no war of religion afoot, wedded to either Congress or President, Congress has no need for institutional solidarity, and no sense that it as an institution is a necessary, primary opposition to the President. Indeed, our Congress is elected by all the voters of a District, who may include a large number of Presidential adherents, or even a majority thereof, whereas — to reiterate — the English parliaments of 1590-1649 were elected almost entirely by the squire class of property holder who were the chief supporters of congregational religion and thus chief opponents of the Sovereign and his religious enforcers.

The framers were well aware of party faction and of its danger to the working of their republican system. I do not think, however, that the framers realized that their impeachment power was an historical anachronism lacking, here, the conflict conditions that gave it force in English practice. If we have learned anything from the two impeachments of President Trump, it is that the impeachment power in our Constitution does not conform to the imperatives of American politics.

England in the 1590-1649 period was beset by the war between Catholics and various Protestant sects, and of wars among Protestant sects, going on all over Europe at that time. By 1787, men had decided that religious war and a politics arising from it were well discarded. Unhappily, when granting the impeachment power, they did not see that politics without religion would have to rest on some other power foundation, oaths of office and personal principle not being sufficient. Hamilton’s “national inquest” can’t be assembled when the inquesters are divided by parties, to one of which the President belongs. We would all like oaths of office to be the only support that Congress members need when being asked to impeach a President. Yet it is not the case. The President and members of Congress are elected on the same ballot on the same day, and they are thus bound together.

In today’s America, the only foundational power upon which politics of impeachment can rest is the law. Which means legal punishments which, in our nation, are imposed by legal systems — the Courts. Add to this the power of public opinion, an unwritten movement and thus beyond the restrictions in a written Constitution.

It will have to be the Courts that decide the political fate of President Trump, and public opinion, which will decide not only his political fate and is doing so already: a power more drastic than what is written and which is more drastic and less civil than the framers intended a “national inquest” to be. It will be public opinion that ousts Mr. Trump from the respect and honor due honorable public men. It will not be pretty, and the ouster is more than richly deserved. Mr. Trump called for, organized, marshalled, planned, and led an insurrection against our democracy built upon lies and more likes. The nation, if not the Congress, will have its say unchecked by writings. And this is where we are.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



As I write, the House is debating an article of impeachment whereby the current President of the United States is charged with orchestrating and instigating an insurrection, a coup to overthrow our democracy and Constitution.

Impeachment will be voted, and conviction in the Senate looks likely as well as disqualification from holding future offices of our Federal republic.

Why the individual I write of instigated this coup, is for historians to speculate about. I really don’t care what his motives were. The deed was done. Now come the consequences f or those involved, all who assisted him in launching this insurrection.

That said, there are degrees of culpability. The punishment must be fitting and just, not driven by revenge, though the passion for revenge runs deep and not without good reason. The following are my recommendations:

For those members of Congress who, AFTER the insurrection ended, still objected to acceptance of the electoral votes duly certified by the States : censure by the House or Senate.

For all the insurrectionists themselves, including their organizations, criminal prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

For the members of Congress — there appear to have been three — who, from inside the Capitol, aided and abetted the insurrectionists by tweet, text or other communication : expulsion from Congress and criminal prosecution where proven.

For Senators Cruz and Hawley and Congressmen Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, who spoke at the pre-insurrection rally and whipped up the crowd to do its worst, expulsion from Congress

For immediate aides of the President, who helped organize the rally — and there were several — and/or who spoke at the rally and encouraged the mob to “kick ass” or the like, knowing full well that the mob included known militias including Proud Boys, criminal prosecution for abetting and aiding incitement to riot.

Do I include Donald Trump Jr in that category ? Possibly so. If so, then the same punishment as I ask for the others applies to him as well. You don’t get a pass from insurrection because you love your insurrectionist Dad. That said, it does not appear that Trump Jr specifically incited mob violence. In addition, during the Georgia Senate runoffs, while his Dad was trying to extort State officials, Trump Jr stuck to normal campaigning. Mercy may well be shown him, and justly: but punishment first, before moving to temper it with mercy.

And what of Mr. Trump himself ? Impeachment, conviction, and disqualification, of course. But also prosecution at law and severance of business ties between any of his companies and entities they have a business relationship with. Mr., Trump must be cut off from the normal course of things. He is damn lucky to be living in 21st Century America. What he has done is no less than Charles the First attempted in 1640-1649 England, and for wreaking insurrection and dictatorship upon his kingdom, King Charles was convicted of treason and sentenced to an ultimate punishment. In America today, we do not do that, cannot do that, shouldn’t do that. Mr. Trump’s punishment, other than those rendered b y the Senate’s conviction, should be social. Impose upon him pariah status wherever feasible.

The insurrection is NOT over. Far from it. A substantial number of Americans support a coup, support Trump, consider him a god. As I have written, religious fascism abounds in parts of our nation, a fascism that wants to abolish our democracy and our Constitution and impose its religion on all of us. The fanatics of this fascism will stop at nothing, as we have seen, and I doubt that many will disavow the obsession merely because the coup failed.

As for the insurrection’s bigots — fascist gangs like the Proud Boys, various militias, lone-wolf anti-Semites, and disgruntled veterans — they too are unlikely to dial it down. Many of them have criminal records, some of it ongoing; they are outlaws, and by connection with one another appear to revel in outlaw status. Curiously, many Proud Boys are Latino. Their bigotry is not as universally “white supremacy” as some on the left want to tag them. Nonetheless, the Boys stand shoulder to shoulder in insurrection with anti-Semites, neo-nazis, and haters of Black Americans, and I give them, no pass at all for being “inclusive fascists.” We will have to fight all of these folks by all means legal and social, and maybe worse, for quite a while before the stench of Trumpism is cleaned from our national wardrobe.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



One wants not to allow that the color of a person’s skin ranks one in American society. Yet as Curtis Mayfield, America’s greatest poet of the past 60 years, wrote, “if you had a choice of colors, which one would you choose, my brothers ?”

Mayfield was not wrong to write that line, or to sing it in that plaintive voice of moral force. He was an American; and here, in America, the federal republic framed upon the equality of all, the color of a person’s skin has more often than not been an exception to foundational principles. I do not talk of slavery, an obvious derogation — one which occupies the minds of far too many reformers who prefer basking in past wrongs to a hard-fought future — because slavery was abolished for good 155 years ago. I speak of the situation since that time. The equality of all is written into the Fourteenth Amendment, a covenant affirmed by the Civil War deaths of hundreds of thousands of us. Either we keep our solemn promises, or we fail ourselves and those to whom these promises were made. That the Fourteenth’s promises were made 153 years ago, by our great-great-great grandfathers who we never knew, is no excuse for evasion now. The Constitution continues to exist, and all who seek office under it, or to be licensed as a lawyer, swear an oath to uphold those promises. I get that honoring Constitutional promises is constant work, every minute of every day, because the Constitution provides no time-outs. Its promises can’t take a bye week. Understandably some of us slack, just as the Jews of Biblical times, so we read in the Bible, constantly backslid on their covenants with God. Covenants of any kind are hard to keep.

And so I come to the question asked in my headline. It is one that Black friends of mine often pose in online discussions. “Black Americans have so often done the grunt work of lifting America up. We love this country. We prove it every day. Why doesn’t it love us back ?”

Why, indeed. My own view is that the honor roll, of heroes who have dark skin is long, very long, very honorable, very inspiring; just last week we saw a Black Capitol policeman, Eugene Goodman, face down a mob — a vulgar racist mob — all by himself and thereby saved our democracy. I would place him high on that honor roll, alongside tens of thousands of Black veterans and political leaders, thousands of pillars of society despite every obstacle, indeed just about every Black American, including those who toil for inadequate wages or who risk their lives as health care workers; because every Black American either has been disrespected — often — or knows that he or she, even if never yet disrespected, can be disrespected at any time, in any place. We see it happen, and brutally, now that online brings daily wrongs against Black Americans virally into every news feed. Were these sorts of loveless encounter to happen to the rest of us, we would rise up in anger, and justifiably. Crap is crap, and if you lay crap on another, do not be surprised if you get a face full of spit in return. And if you nod agreement with what I wrote, why is a Black American not fully entitled to the same degree of anger at being dissed ?

That said, of course we cannot go around, not any of us, wreaking anger upon one another. That does no one any good. We have to tough it out; to bear the unbearable, using the vote to oust from power those who abet or tolerate violations of Constitutional promises.

All of the above is easy to write. The actual situation is far from easy. In an America harshly polarized by political party, 85 to 90 percent of Black voters choose one party, a majority of white Americans the other. And so partisan politics segregates despite the written promises we have made to each other. Observers accused Trump supporters of trying to void the votes of Black voters, but what they were seeking to void was the votes of Democratic voters. Trump people were, I am sure, quite happy to have Black voters vote for Trump, and some in fact did so. Party polarization is the new segregation.

Can we surmount this last bar to the equality we have promised to one another ? I think we can. I think we are doing it. The election of Ralph Warnock as a Georgia Senator, with the votes of at least 38 percent of white voters is one such kept promise. so has been the election and re-election of Tim Scott as a South Carolina Senator — in his case, winning majority of white voters. Here, too, we see that the actual division is not skin color but political party. (The same was true of Barack Obama’s wins as President.) I do not expect angry political division to weaken any time soon; yet as ever more Black public persons win major elections, perhaps more and more Americans will become accustomed to respecting, even loving, more and more Black Americans, regardless of partisan axes to grind.

We are very close now to fulfilling our equality promises. I see no reason why with tons of conclusive effort we cannot win the final battle over skin color disrespects.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Congress Electoral College

In this image from video, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says “Count Me Out !”  as the Senate reconvened to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College Vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. 

All during yesterday’s mob attack upon the nation’s Capitol, I read comments on social media about those Republicans — and it was Republicans they were judging — who finally turned against Mr. Trump[ and refused his overturn-the-election gambits. “too little, too late” said many. “Oh but you had the chance last year to impeach him,” said others, “so no points,”: Yet others wrote “you’re no hero” about the many Senators and a fair number of House Republicans who rejected Mr. Trump’s coup shots.

It is oh so easy to be judgmental when you’re ass is not in line to become grass.

Think of Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who from 2018 to just a few weeks ago became the bete noire of Trump haters. Having to face re-election in a Trump State, with Trump; enjoying 85 to 90 percent support among his State’s Republicans, what realistic choice did Graham, have but either to not seek re-election or to use Trump for all it was worth ? Avoiding being “primaried” and thus being easily re-elected and therefore on hand, as he was yesterday, to shut the door upon Trump-supporting dead-enders in a Senate that had decided to isolate them, as it did, with Graham’s merciless support. More about Graham later.

Perhaps no Republican in Congress was more often spat upon than Senator McConnell: yet McConnell’s announcement, on December 14th, that the votes had all been State-certified and Joe Biden was the winner, that drew the line between what is right and what was seditious; drew the line and drew it irrevocably. After McConnell made that declaration, on the floor of the Senate, and carried with him almost all Senators, the game was up for Mr. Trump. No longer could he with impunity cow or bully the Republican legislators. Now there was an equally powerful option, perhaps a more powerful one. And Mr. Trump knew what had happened. He immediately spat upon McConnell — and on McConnell’s second in command, John Thune of South Dakota — but his spit had no force : McConnell had just been re-elected for six years, well beyond the reach of any threat to “primary him,” while Trump himself was a month from gone.

McConnell made it very clear that day, and every day thereafter, that he was going to follow the Constitution to the letter and that nothing Trump might say or do could move him.It worked, because McConnell knew that almost all Republican Senators supported his stance; and as the President has no Constitutional power over a Senator, or all of them,. McConnell knew that he had — finally — broken with Mr. Trump at the right time: the time when he could break and keep his caucus support. Almost everything that was done yesterday by the Congress was successfully done because McConnell now held the power, just as our Constitution devised: the Congress is our primary branch of government. It is established by Article One, after all, the Presidency only in Article 2. Nor was there a Congressional escape route for Trump, as the House is controlled by the opposing party.

McConnell had waited until he had an unshakable case to make : the Constitution and the will of the people. Some have asked, “why didn’t he vote to convict Trump at the impeachment trial back in January ? Certainly he knew — they all knew — what Trump was, just as Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manger, passionately spoke. So why did conviction not happen then ? I think we know the answer : back in January, Mr. Trump’s utter disregard had not been shown in full cry; it was known to political people — who understood the import of Trump’s infamous phone call to Ukraine’s President, in which Trump extorted him to “do us a favor though” in exchange for badly needed weapons to fight Russian aggression — but not to ordinary people, who don’t breathe or drink politics every minute; and that Trump received some 74,000,000 votes on November 3rd emphasizes the point. But if most voters did not grasp the impeachability of that phone call, every voter knows what an election is and what it means, because everyone values his own vote and will NOT have it denied. And when Trump made it clear that would move heaven and earth to overturn the election results, no matter what or how, this the average voter fully understood. Many Republic an voters believed Trump’s lies about election fraud, but some did not; and upon that opt-out group of Republicans, about 40 percent in number, McConnell took his stand. And his gambit succeeded. Elections were over, nobody could be “primaried.” Thus his move did NOT come too late. It came at exactly the right time.

As McConnell, so the many other Republicans who took his cue, or even preceded it, as did Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse (Nebraska). In the House, Adam Kinzinger stepped up — full tilt and every day. His twitter posts drew tons of comments “where were you back in January ? you voted against impeachment.” Yet why vote for impeachment if you know that the impeached cannot be convicted because the votes are not there ? When the political and Constitutional grounds shifted, however, Kinzinger stepped up. And several Hose Republicans joined him. too late ? i say no. I say they stepped up at the right time, when their objections to trump COULD WIN; could have an effect rather than merely making a point and losing.

I do not mean to suggest that I applaud such artistry and calculation; much about politics is craft, very little of it is heroic. Yet I am grateful for craft exercised in the service of our Constitution’s ideals, and I am always mindful that in politics, when the chips are really, really down, you HSVER to win, there are no second chances at such junctures, and if a Congressman or a Senator waited until the moment when his or her craft could nail it — as masterfully as Tom Cotton of Arkansas nailed it three days ago, mortally after Senator Hawley of Missouri made his fatal mistake, and as Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina nailed it yesterday — then I am glad, very glad, for crafty nailings.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



As we all know from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016, he could not bring any charges against President Trump because the Department of Justice has in place a long-standing policy of not prosecuting sitting Presidents.

We now ask that the Department rescind its policy as to Presidents. Our reasons follow :

Most importantly, we now see, by Mr. Trump’s conduct, that the policy allows a President pretty much to break the law wherever he likes, his only worry being that after he leaves office he loses any immunity from criminal responsibility and might be charged ,

A significant motive for his current lawless, unConstitutional conduct and his hurricane of lies, purposing his being able to remain in office, arises from his knowing that is immunity will end once he leaves office. Here he is no doubt correct. Little wonder that he is violating every oath and contemplating mad stuff. as long as he remains President, he is safe. Leave office, and all hell breaks lose.

Such a prospect might make far less guilty Presidents than Trump think twice about conceding election defeat.

Were the immunity policy rescinded, every President taking office would know that there was zero to be gained from his fighting against conceding election defeat, he would be chargeable every day in office already. Not immune under the law, a President might even temper his desire to “do what I want,’ as Trump once famously said a President could do. Not immune, she might seek advice of counsel before acting, rather than asking her lawyer after the fact to explain it away. Yes, the spectacle of a President in criminal court seated at the defense table with his lawyers, would demoralize many; and yes, undergoing a criminal trial would occupy may of his work hours. Yet is the difficulty here that much more burdensome than the job of President already is ? I think not.

Prosecutor Mueller clearly would have charged Mr. Trump with several crimes of collusion and subornation, also conspiracy, had the Department of Justice policy NOT been in place. But maybe, had no such policy existed., Mr. Trump would have been restrained from his impeachable conduct by the immanency of prosecution ?

Granted, that no Federal policy maker anticipated such a lawless figure as Mr. Trump ever coming close to winning the Presidency. Perhaps we were naive about human nature, even when politicking under a marvelously crafted Federal Constitution. Perhaps we just didn’t think things negatively enough. But now we know. Now we can see that the non-prosecution policy almost guarantees a bad Presidential end. Time top rescind it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^^ protecting his molecules : Joe Biden receives the coronavirus-19 vaccine

If there’s one arena in which we are all on time together, it is that of public health. Hermits perhaps excepted, we all live together, in community whether we commune or not,, and we all have a body, and that body is made of organic material which lives. Some people who have a faith believe that that that faith operates their body. The problem is that the molecules that comprise a body do not have a faith. They operate by the rules of their chemistry. That chemistry can be observed, and to an ever greater extent understood; and from those doing the understanding, all of us who have a body ought to take advice on how to keep our molecules working cleanly.

If some of us do not heed the advice of our molecule-watchers, all of us suffer when those molecules are kidnapped by a virus that can turn our molecules into death stars and occasionally does so. In the present crisis, more than 339,000 of us have been thus turned. That’s more than one out of every thousand of us. Public health doctors call this a “pandemic,” “pan” being the Greek word for “everywhere”; and the current viral pandemic has become as much an everywhere as we ever want to experience again, hopefully. This being upon our molecules, and thus upon us, we are all charged with taking such measures a swill rescue our molecules and those of everyone around us, because if we do not do that, many of us will suffer and some will die.

We all owe each other our best efforts to keep ourselves, and all of us, safe from known harm. I do not know how else to say it : take the vaccine. Over the next few months, we will all be offered it. Thank goodness !

It is not compulsory that you take it, although it ought to be, yet to not take it is to risk making oneself an accomplice of the virus, an accomplice in suffering and even death. It is to take a gamble upon one’s own suicide.

There is a difference only of degree between the act of not taking the vaccine and blowing oneself up on a downtown street as did Mr. Anthony Quinn Warner.

The above sentence may shock you ? I intend it to. Not taking one of the now three available coronavirus vaccines is an unsocial act. I know no other way to make my point.

We will almost all of us be taking the vaccine, rescuing our molecules and, without charge, rescuing those of the few who refuse do their community part. So now to the mask.

Wear the mask that doctors ask you to wear. That President-elect Joe Biden ask you to war. If he can wear a mask, so can you. The virus may be in you without your knowing it. It may be in those around you. The virus doesn’t care about who you are, but it sure does care about your molecules, the ones it requires to link with in order to replicate and thus increase its chances of species survival. As it enters your body via the mouth and nose chiefly — because it seeks your respiratory molecules — by wearing a mask, you can block it from its food, which is you. If you really want to defeat the virus, you will also, in addition to masking, wash your hands with soap, often, and you will “socially distance.” It’s what my family and I do.

We are at war with the virus, and like mafia gang fighting a mafia war, we have gone to the mattresses : isolating in our bedrooms,. keeping our molecules away from the virus until it can thrive no more. Yet who wants to live in a perpetual war ? Thus the vaccine, a kind of carpet bombing from which the virus has no escape.

Do I make sense ? If I have yet to sense-ify you, consider this : if the virus gets into you, even a mild occupation by it will leave you physically impaired for months, Months whose impairment you could have avoided merely by doing the minimums that I have suggested : mask up, wash hands, socially distance, and take the vaccine.

Remember : we’re all in this together, as in any total war against a lethal enemy. This is an event which proves to us the declarative confidence of our Declaration of Independence : “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

All means all. Not just all “men,” but all of our body’s molecules.

Do your part, as I do mine, as your neighbors do theirs. All mollecules means all.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^^ a mob of “Qanon” crazies instigated by a crackpot, bigot conspiracy p0ublsiher who goes by the name of “Q”

—– —- —-

On January 20, 2021 Mr. Trump will depart the Presidency, and every tentacle of his corruption will trouble us less. That is a good thing. The basis of his rise to power, however, will remain untrimmed, unfettered.

Of right-wing media I speak. You know what it is. It began with talk show hosts, who pretty quickly realized that they could attract a sizeable following — and bushels of ad dollars — by saying outrageous things. It became a devilishly profitable shtick. Say crazy stuff — none of which you had to actually believe — and millions would come flocking to take the bait. People who should have known better than to respond, responded. Some of talk radio’s greatest hits were when ordinary people would call in, and their (naively “Liberal”) conversation with the host was broadcasted and laughed at.

For as long as that was all that talk radio was — crazy commentary, slapstick political, and zany callers taking the bait — it was fun entertainment, a kind of Sid Caesar – Howard Morris, Your Show of Shows version of political campaigns. Unfortunately, a new wave of shtick practitioners soon sought graver, angrier ambitions.

They believed their own crap and sought to influence actual politics with it.

Thus right -wing talk became a vehicle for loony theories, purposely false accusations, crackpot narratives, and — incongruously — worship of Trump, who eats up bad entertainments for lunch and spits out his loonier versions of them after dinner. It has gone from a slimy sideshow to an actual driver of actual votes in actual campaigns, — much of it pornographically racist or plastered with other kinds of bigotries — and, as we have seen, it has enabled Trump to contest an election he lost by 7,060,000 votes and be believed. It has also had consequences deadly, vigilante cosplay including recklessly lethal Covid behavior, and is still having them.

Doing so, it has hyperbolically increased its following and thus its profits. It is, as my cousin Chris Mugglebee calls it, “hate profiteering.” It is more dangerous still It now aspires to take over the Federal government, to overturn an election, to in effect install a dictator for life who will wreak its hallucinatory revenges upon everybody who the disinformers have schooled its followers to hate.

What do we do about this ? Can we do anything about it ?

I think we can.

First of all : every broadcast medium is licensed by the FCC. Congress should restore the “fairness doctrine,” by which media are required to tell, or give time to, all sides of a story.

Second : there is no First Amendment protection for defamation, lies, or disinformation. Broadcasters — including intermediaries like facebook, twitter, parler, and gab — must be found just as liable for defamatory or disinformatioonal content carried by them as are the person who input the content.

Third : the criminal law should import the tort law notion of “proximate cause,” so that those who publish lies, disinformation, and defamatory content are prosecuted for resulting violence just as surely as the actual perpetrators of said violence. There can be no “get out of jail free” card for public enabalers.

Fourth : to the extent that the trail from publisher of disinformation, etc. to the perpetrator of violence runs across State lines, the disnformation, lie, or defamation should be a Federal offence prosecutable by the Department of Justice.

(I speak of course of published material that the content maker knows (“scienter”) or should know to be false. This is the same principle as “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”)

Fifth : punitive damages should be foremost. There might not be much economic damage in a defamation case — such as the ones being brought by Dominion Software and its chief officer — but there is loss of reputation to the aggrieved, but what is much more, the conduct complained of is enormously widespread, or looks certain to be, and such conduct can be cut off at the knees by a punitive damage award that leaves the defendant(s) bankrupt or almost, and having to issue a public disclaimer fir its conduct.

Sixth : the publication of doctored, altered, or selectively edited videos should be classified as disinformative and actionable at law.

Seventh : entry onto a premises without explicit permission, for the purpose of obtaining a video which later ends up doctored, altered, or selectively edited, or which is obtained without express permission to record it, even if not altered, should be a criminal trespass punishable by a fine proportionate to the scienter and consequences. This will end the practices of such as Project Veritas, a name which cloaks exactly the opposite.

I am sure that the above hardly exhausts the methods at law by which the wrongs of right-wing media are to be put to rest, but for discussion’s sake, these proposals will do. I invite my readers to offer their own suggestions. Because this nation cannot survive as a participatory democracy if a substantial numbef of us take our politics from lies, disinformation, and defamation.

One thing more to note : these abuses are so far specific to right-wing politics. There is no equivalent left-wing media broadcasting loony conspiracies, idiotic non-events, “truthers,” and the like nor defaming businesses and persons. The left does engage in “doxxing,” and it certainly practices street violence, arson, looting, and harassment of officials at their homes, but these are standard criminality already punishable by ordinary means. To my knowledge there are no mediums of the left misusing broadcasting in the way — much less the degree — that right wing tortfeasors are doing.

So no, there is no equivalence. The problem I am writing about is entirrly a right-wing, anti-democratic event.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



The above is a map of Massachusetts’s 19th Suffolk House District. As you see, it covers all of the Town of Winthrop and the southeastern one-quarter of the City of Revere.

This is the District that has elected Robert DeLeo since the 1990s. As DeLeo became House Speaker in 2010, the District has had the singular luck to have the most powerful man in our government as its voice — yes, more powerful even than the Governor. That’s because the Speaker controls the movement of all legislation. The Governor may want a bill passed, but if the Speaker isn’t aboard, it won’t even be sent to the floor for a vote.

Let’s look a bit closer at the Speaker’s power, and you’ll see what I am saying. First, the Speaker appoints ALL committee members, even those of the minority party, and perforce he appoints all committee chairs. If you are not on good terms with the Speaker, you’ll get the worst committee assignments — and you’ll be given the worst State House offices.

The Speaker cannot, of course, become too arbitrary in his treatment of his members. They can rebel, and the House has rebelled against Speakers. One legislator, Charles Murphy, rebelled against DeLeo a few years ago; his rebellion gained no backers, and not long after that he resigned his seat.

DeLeo has amassed even greater power than the usual Speaker because since 2015 he has established, and held to, a solid partnership with Governor Baker. Rarely do he and Baker go separate ways on legislation. This partnership has boxed out the Senate President — who in the 1980s and 1990s (William Bulger, Tom Birmingham, Robert Travaglini) was more powerful than the Speakers — who has tended, since Therese Murray took that office, to pursue a more “progressive” stance toward legislation than either Governor or Speaker. That partnership continues today, although the House’s police “reform” bill proceeded without the Governor joining in. On budget matters, DeLeo and Baker have marched as one: no new taxes, prudent allocations of funds.

DeLeo’s leaving office threatens this partnership and, indeed, opens the possibility that the “progressive” State Senate will now call the legislative shots. The police “reform” bill shows it. The bill includes several provisions that undermine policing and also violate the State’s civil service and union contract agreements. The bill might not even have happened had the State Senate not acted first, forcing the House to respond. The House did respond, but with a bill much less invasive than the Senate version. It was styled “emergency’ legislation,. yet after passage in July the two versions sat in committee until last week. (Some emergency !) Governor Baker vetoed the committee compromise bill, and his veto stands because enough House members voted No the first time to assure there will be no veto override.

All that now stands to change. Who will be the new House member from Winthrop and part of Revere ? Who will be House Speaker ?

The first question is of merely local interest. Whoever wins the office will be a rookie. (More about the contest later.) Who will be Speaker matters to everybody. As I see it, there are three potential Speakers : Ronald Mariano of Quincy; Patricia Haddad of Somerset on the South Coast; and the North End’s Aaron Michlewitz, currently the chairman of ways and Means, the committee that works out the annual; State budget.

All three have moderate to conservative voting records; yet it is not clear how much of their moderation arises from loyalty to DeLeo. Yet every Speaker since I can remember, except Salvatore diMasi, has plotted a very conservative course: Tom Finneran, Tom McGee Sr. and John Thompson especially, but even Charles Flaherty, David Bartley and George Keverian, though big builders of State institutions, tried nothing too bold. Their worst failings were budget lassitude : none cared to challenge the demands of public employee unions or construction trades. That hasn’t been the case with Deleo. If anything, he’s a budget hawk. His support for Baker’s sweeping MBTA reforms got them all enacted and sustained. DeLeo also chose to support casino legislation, unlike the two Speakers before him. (Casino legalization seemed destined to be a big deal back in 2012, when it finally was enacted. It hasn’t been that at all. the big dal has been legalization of marijuana sales — also accomplished by the Baker – DeLeo partnership.)

Also credit the Baker – DeLeo partnership with enacting prudent criminal justice reform; a sweeping update of our school funding standards; the end of using Framingham women’s prison as an addiction treatment facility; two major opioid addiction prevention reforms; and full rescue of the Stater’s rainy day fund. Can DeLeo’s successor follow suit ?

We really won’t know until he or she takes office, probably some time in January. Nobody expected Sal diMasi to follow the liberal path, yet he did so. Might Patricia Haddad, a veteran of many terms., now change course ? Unlikely; her District is one of the most conservative-voting Democratic seats in the State. Much the same can be said of Ron Mariano’s Quincy. Even a Speaker can’t move against the sentiments of his or her particular District, and the Districts that elect Mariano and Haddad are in no way hot beds of left-leaning activism. (nor is DeLeo’s Winthrop-Revere. If anything, his District is more conservative than the State as a whole.)

The wild card is Michlewitz. He represents Boston’s North End, Chinatown, Waterfront, part of the South End, and half of loser Roxbury. It’s the same district that elected Sal diMasi. If anything, lefty-leaning sentiment is more widespread in the district than in diMasi’s time just ten years ago. Yet Governor Baker in 2018 carried almost every precinct in Michlewitz’s district, most by big numbers. So there is a case to be made that Michlewitz’s voters want him to follow the kind of prudent yet innovative course that baker exemplifies. If Michlewitz becomes Speaker, I shall certainly call for him to be a Baker — or a slicker, younger DeLeo — rather than a diMasi.

As for the 19th Suffolk District itse4lf, several hopefuls are already calling around for support. There’ll be candidates from Revere and from Winthrop, probably more from Winthrop, as the seat is designed to elect a Winthrop ;person. The Democratic primary will of course be the venue of decision. I have a personal favorite, to whom I committed years ago, but his election is not assured. If there’s five Winthrop candidates and only one from Revere, it could be a close run thing. Thus “clearing the field” will be critical. Can my favored candidate, who has a powerful following, get other ambitious Winthrop guys to give him a clear shot ?

Upon the answer to this kind of question are more offices elected than most of you readers suppose.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Yesterday, one Marco Rubio, purportedly a Senator representing the State of Florida, tweeted this :

“According to the left & their partners in the legacy media, the Supreme Court was the appropriate place to legalize abortion & redefine marriage, but it has no business taking up claims regarding a presidential election.”

I shall refer to this tweet quite a bit in the column that I am now writing; but before I come back to it, let me state my present case : the lawsuit filed by Texas’s supposed Attorney General and collaborated in by 106 purported members of Congress and 17 purported State Attorneys General — a manoeuver which we all know about now — is nothing less than an attempt to overturn our November election and hand the office of the person who lost, Donald Trump. it is sedition and worse; it is an outlaw attack upon the Constitution, a violation of the Oath of Office which all the 124 supposedly swore to.

It is a coup masquerading as a lawsuit.

The 124 who filed and supported this coup should be expelled from office, assuming that they hold one, or recalled, and then prosecuted for their crime pursuant to the Federal sedition statutes, 11 USC 115 and 2384.

Their attempted coup won’t succeed, but that doesn’t in any degree excuse its seriousness.

It’s a far more radical attack than the rebellion of 1860. The Southern States who voted to leave the Union at least never contemplated usurping its government. But then the Southern secessionists were honest men. They did what they did to preserve the institution of slavery and made no bones about it. They didn’t attempt to cloak it as a “concern” about “voting irregularities” or the rest of the bullshit shat into the 124’s lawsuit briefs. They did what they did in the open and challenged us to do something about it.

The 124, on the other hand, show themselves to be liars and cowards, fakers and deceivers. They merit the bitterest contempt.

Let me now offer a minority opinion : I do not think most of the 124 have done what they’ve done for the sake of Mr. Trump. I think most of them know who he is and what he is. Their actual motivation is plainly stated, however, in Marco Rubio’s tweet.

In Rubio’s mind — so he points out — overturning a national election is no different from assuring LGBT people full civil rights or assuring that women shall; have the right to control their own bodies.

Why does he think so ? Simple. He thinks so because that is what is insisted upon by the constituency that wishes to impose its radical religious zealotry over the nation b\y every means it can, including erasing the Constitution (substituting for it a “:Christian Constitution,” in the words of Mr. Trump’s quack lawyer Jenna Lyn Ellis) and even murder : anti-abortion zealots have murdered doctors, as we have seen, and they threaten every abortion clinic worker every day. That they have no right to interfere in the private decisions of another is no matter to these furies; and their viciousness is matched by pastors and talk show mountebanks who every day abuse the airwaves to call for murdering LGBT people.

Religion furies have spent 40 years working to take over Republican party organizations in the States where they have a critical mass of numbers. They have succeeded. Most Republican precinct and county organizations in the most zealot-heavy States now belong almost exclusively to the furies. Of all voter groups, these “evangelical” zeloats gave Trump the highest percentage share of votes — as high as 80 percent.

These are the people that Rubio had in mind when he said that overturning a national; election was no bigger deal than assuring civil frights to LGBT people.

I don’t mean to excuse the others in the 124’s clique who have other motives. A large part of their reasoning arises from vote suppression: to the 124, the only legal votes are votes for Trump. Votes for any other candidate are, so they want to tell us, illegal. That Is what they are saying, isn’t it ?

They want RETROACTIVELY (!!) to outlaw voting by mail, not because it is open to fraud, as they claim — it isn’t — but because mail voters voted three, four, five, even ten to one for Joe Biden.

Their insistence that votes for Biden are illegal isn’t new. Republicans in religion States have been vote-suppressing for at least two decades, in line with the many types of vote suppression — even vote refusals — practiced in the South ever since the 1880s. Then, it was a desire or a need to keep Black citizens from having political rights. Today, attempts to suppress votes, most of them Black votes, is done because 80 to 90 percent of Black voters vote for Democrats, and the Democratic party insists on civil rights for LGBT people, rights for women, and the prevention of imposed religion. Today’s vote suppressors are quite happy to welcome Black voters who vote for the zealotry agenda. We see this in South Carolina’s election of Senator Tim Scott, and his re-election; and we see it in several other elected Black Republicans, most of them religion zealots.

Until political religion is ousted from our elections, we can expect more and more attacks upon Constitutional norms. Trump may be gone soon, but smarter and younger zealots are waiting to ride the horses that have been offered up to Trump of late.

The incoming Joe Biden administration can expect absolute obstruction from sedition zealotry in Congress, limitless smears from fright-wing media, paid subVersions by Project Veritas and its slime sisters, and outright terrorism from the vigilante wing of the anti-Constitution forces. (Note : most of the terrorism we have seen does not come from the religion furies but from bare bigotry — for immigrants, for people of color, for Jews and for urban elites.) The bigots draw much more attention than their actual numbers merit, but they are there, and their chief effect (except upon the people they harass or injure) is to shield the actual danger, organized religion fury, from easy view.

In that respect, Marco Rubio has done the nation a big favor. he has made it plain who the real danger to Constitution democracy are — and who we must commit to fight all along the line, politically and, if it comes to that, legally and with our bodies. My ancestors — and yours — did not immigrate here to live in a religion tyranny. They came here for freedom, opportunity, and right — as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said so well during the impeachment hearings last year, “here, right matters.”

That is what we fight for. What we MUST fight for, or we are doomed.

But now back to Marco Rubio.

Mark his tweet well. Memorize it : “According to the left & their partners in the legacy media, the Supreme Court was the appropriate place to legalize abortion & redefine marriage, but it has no business taking up claims regarding a presidential election.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^^ the incoming President has a big decision to make about Mr. Trump. What to do and what not to do ?

—- —- —- —-

Mr. Trump’s actions since November 3rd — before that date as well — require a prosecutorial response. No President should ever be allowed with impunity to do the abusive things, or make the false claims, that Trump has done. The difficulty is, what actions should the Biden administration take ? What actions not ?

President-elect Biden has averred that he does not want his administration to be about Trump. Correct. His administration should be about all Americans. That said, he cannot ignore what Trump has done. The following Trump acts, at the least, require response :

( 1 ) Trump attempted to blackmail a foreign country into concocting and heaping dirt upon Mr. Biden’s candidacy. For this Federal criminal act he was duly impeached.

( 2 ) Trump refused, with no justification, to respond to innumerable Congressional oversight requests, and he forced his administrators to do the same. He fired m any who did comply with Congressional; subpoenas, and then heaped insults upon them.

( 3 ) Trump misappropriated legally allocated funds to build his stupid “wall.”

( 4 ) Trump has, in violation of the Constitution, directed hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to his hotels and other businesses.

( 5 ) Trump has vilified almost every branch of our government and those who manage them, terminating many such people with no good cause.

( 6 ) Trump has attempted, time and again, to persecute and deport immigrants who have an established expectation of forbearance.

( 7 ) Trump has threatened to withhold Federal funds from States whose leadership criticizes him.

( 8 ) Since November 3rd, Trump has moved every move he could think of to try overturning the election and deliver the electoral college vote to him, in violation of law, Constitution, custom, and foundation; and he has done so without a shred of cause, has lied without stop, has engaged the services of quack lawyers to work his scheme, and has tried to blackmail State legislators and even Governors to do his seditious bidding with no justification.

( 9 ) His seditious, lying interferences continue even as I write on December 9th, 2020. He has incited his followers to sedition, and they have done so.

( 10 ) He has impeded the work of the Biden transition team despite saying that he would authorize every agency to co-operate.

( 11 ) he has subverted our military, betrayed our allies, insulted our alliances, and hollowed out ther Department of Defense, National intelligence, and State.

( 12 ) he has abused the pardon power.

( 13 ) just yesterday, in a recorded phone call, he and his Chief of Staff bullied and extorted the Secretary of State of a sovereign power, the State of Georgia, to overturn its election results from November.

I could go on, but the list of crimes and subversions is long enough already. What, then, should a Biden administration do ? Here is my list of steps I hope they will take :

A — remove the Department of Justice policy directive that prevents the indictment of a sitting President.

B — encourage Federal Courts to impose severe monetary sanctions upon the quack lawyers who file Trump’s frivolous, subversive lawsuits challenging his election defeat. Frankly, I am surprised that Courts have not already done so.

C — initiate prosecution of the many Federal crimes, including election crimes, enumerated in Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel report. Initiate prosecution, also, of Trump’s acts of sedition beginning on November 4, 2020.

D — investigate, and prosecute where feasible, Trump’s many money transactions, including those that appear to violate the Constitution’s Emoluments clause.

E — The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice should make it a priority to enforce voting rights for all citizens. The Voting Rights act of 1965 should be updated by legislation and its jurisdiction expanded to all 50 States.

F — enact legislation curbing the President’s Executive Order power to alter or supplement Congressional legislation. Pass legislation also to curb the President’s power unilaterally to impose tariffs or declare national emergencies.

G — require that all candidates for Article 2’s office must publish their Federal tax returns for the ten years prior to commencing said candidacy.

H — prosecute any executive branch officer who is found to have destroyed, hidden or altered an executive department’s public record.

I — Prosecute official(s) responsible for DHS’s ordering or carrying out family separation actions at the border.

It seems a long list, but it’s not as sweeping as you might want. I do not suggest that a Biden Department of Justice pursue every person, or every act, that could sustain a prosecution. One must pick out the unusually egregious. One cannot just brand every Trump flunky a criminal or assault his or her career. That said, my list of actions Biden should take is quite enough to keep Trump and his chief enablers very busy for the next four years or more, and it is a very powerful signal to future aspirants to the presidency not to engage in the wholesale criminality and abuses of power with which Trump has demeaned the nation.

One other action that President Biden must NOT take : he cannot, must not, pardon Mr. Trump. President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon was justified. Nixon resigned his office. He did not set the nation aflame with hate. Trump has done that and more than that. He has every burned his bridge of custom or respect, his link to any mercy or consideration and must face the bitter music that is coming his way — indeed, that MUST come his way.

—- Mike Freedberg /Here and Sphere