Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Friday we lost a great American patriot and true hero of equality. She was a woman of unquestioned character with a mission in life to ensure the freedoms and liberties of our nation are a blanket of protection and opportunity for every man, woman and child within our borders. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was, until Friday September 18, 2020, a living legend in the fight for equal rights. Most see her as a champion of women’s rights, but that is to view her through a small lens and misses the foundation and the spectrum of her contributions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg believed in human equality. She embodied the fight for human rights, that every person is entitled to the same considerations, liberties, and freedoms under the law without regard to race, gender, sexuality, religion, financial status, or national origin. RBG understood a wise truth: that the signing of our Declaration of Independence and the ratification of our Constitution was not the culmination of liberty and freedom achieved, but the beginning of that pursuit.

Our nation began as an infant, its expressed freedoms and rights bestowed on the few: male, white land-owners. But even as the men who crafted it kept their powers close, they also understood the nature of infancy: growth. Because of this foresight, they crafted a foundation to accommodate both growth and growing pains. They formulated a document to bind us and free us, with the flexibility to grow as we grew. They gave us the ability to become a more perfect union, a more inclusive republic, and a beacon of freedom to all people. The founding fathers created a completely new idea of patriotism, giving citizens the right and duty of dissent. They made a government answerable to the people, and placed in the hands of the people the right to ratify and change the boundaries of freedom and power.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg believed freedom and liberty and equal protection under the law were more than utopian talking points, but tangible rights affordable to everyone. Because of her contributions to the fight for equality, we are all freer today. While no one should look at our nation and claim we have achieved the pinnacle of equality, thanks to RBG, we climbed higher up that mountain, ever closer. Due in great part to her contributions, and those of so many other amazing patriots, women can purchase property, open bank accounts, obtain a credit card, and even buy a car without needing a man’s consent. Yes, not that long ago, women could do none of those things without their husband, father, brother or nearest male relative cosigning for them. People of color are able to obtain business loans, open businesses in any location, have credit cards, and purchase homes without being legally excluded from ‘desirable’ neighborhoods. LGBTQ people are protected under the equal rights amendment and further, we all can marry (or not marry) the person we love without consideration to gender, sexuality, race, or religion.

It would be a kind reflection to believe we could take some time to absorb the enormity of her accomplishments and the goals she still had yet to achieve, but that time spent pausing in memorial would be to undo so much of what she fought for. Without her kind but penetrating gaze and her stalwart dedication to equal justice, it is up to each of us to lift the torch she once held with seeming ease. It is heavy in our hands, but working together, we can continue this Everest climb to that ideal summit of true equality.

Let us not mourn quietly her loss, but celebrate her life by demanding what she demanded, by continuing her fight and seeing to it she did not labor her entire adult life in vain. Ruth Bader Ginsberg showed us how much one person can accomplish. Just think of the reality we could have if we all put in even a tenth of her effort to a better world. We have the ability to see that dream fulfilled; to be a true beacon of freedom to all the world. We can see the fruition of what was begun over two hundred forty-four years ago when the founders first began this trek. They were imperfect, as are we, but that does not dismiss the call to rise above ourselves, to be better, and to choose a better life and world for tomorrow.

Thank you, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, for showing us all that even if we feel small, we are still mighty enough to move this mountain and we can defeat any giant who stands between us and our liberty.

Fairfarren, Justice Ginsberg.

by Ann Lavendar

Endorsement Announcement: Elizabeth Warren, step right up.

As a resident of Southern California, our primaries are looming just around the corner and candidates are all about to get into the thick meat of delegate hunting. Only about 2% of the nation’s delegates necessary to win the Democratic Party nomination have been awarded, so this race is a long way from over. In fact, they have barely even left the gate. While some see Bernie as the front runner right now, we’re nowhere near the final turn. And, I’ll remind you, it hasn’t been long ago everyone felt Biden was a sure thing.

Thankfully, the race is narrowing to our prime candidates who all have the experience, network, organization, and platform to compete in November. Still, it is time to start making the difficult decision about who to support. There are many things to consider, like plans and policies, effective leadership, agendas, and even competency. However, the one thing that keeps getting tossed out there with regularity is electability.

I know, that sound important, and it is, but it’s not a real issue. Here is the fact, almost everyone still in the campaign polls to beat Donald Trump in November. That includes Bernie, Mayor Pete, Warren and Biden. Even Bloomberg, who started late and only has one campaign donor can beat Trump. So, in making my decision, electability was not a real concern.

Now, for full disclosure, I have liked and leaned towards Senator Elizabeth Warren for a long time. In fact, I listened to her speak several years ago and thought even then she would make a fantastic president. I was thrilled when she announced she would seek the Democratic Nomination.

I am not going to say I always agree with her on every issue. We may have some differences of opinion in some things, but I like to keep that in perspective. Who really agrees with someone else 100% of the time? I know I don’t always agree with my husband, but we are still happily married, and that is certainly a much longer commitment than four to eight years. Also, something I have learned from a healthy and happy marriage is that sometimes our differences are what lead us to our best decisions.

When we immediately agree on a course of action, then we may not be looking at all the possible outcomes. Sure we are in it together, but we may not end up where we intended to go. When we do not fully agree, then we are forced to look at both sides, weigh all the possibilities, and consider the ramifications of our actions. That process allows us to take the best of the opposing ideas and create an alternative which is generally better planned and more effective.

Thinking about my choices from this perspective allowed me to really give a second and third look at all the candidates. While I have liked Warren a long time, my goal is choosing the best person for the job who I believe will most accurately represent they key issues I hold most dear. After reflecting on this, reviewing the policies, plans and agendas, as well as the background and experience of each candidate, I came full circle back to Elizabeth Warren.

One of the most essential qualities we need in our next leader is someone who will answer to us. I do not care how much money someone has made, so long as they did it legally. I believe being a billionaire or a millionaire neither qualifies nor disqualifies a candidate. I also do not believe that being a successful business man or woman automatically transcends into political leadership abilities. The truth is that running a nation is nothing like running a business. Take a look at the current bull in the china shop. Granted, successful may be a bit of a stretch in terms of business. It takes a special kind of businessman to bankrupt a nice casino, but that aside. The idea is still the same. When you are the boss, you tell people what to do and they do it. They answer to you. But part of being a truly great leader, a President, is understanding you are not the boss. The country and the world does not answer to you. You interact with other nations with respect and as equals, but you answer to the people.

It is this quality in Elizabeth Warren which keeps bringing me back to her. Senator Warren’s entire platform is built around empowering the people of our nation, giving them megaphones for their voices to be heard and she has been willing to do that where it both hurts and counts the most: in the proverbial pocketbook.

Yes, she has the most realistic plans, most executable, of all the candidates. She has put real plans out to be picked apart while the other candidates just paint pictures with broad strokes. She has not been afraid to stand up and show what it takes to make big dreams into reality. Realizing dreams takes more than imagination and a go-get-’em attitude. It takes time, determination and sacrifice and she does not back down from the truth of that. It opens her up for critics, but it is also one of the best ways to find the flaws of a plan and remedy them. And she is not afraid to listen to anyone who might have a better idea. I like how she considers us, the people out here, her partners in forging the future. And that is what leads to this big difference: she cannot be bought. Not only does she not accept money from special interests, she discourages it in the election process completely. Big money in the hands of a few have bought influence in our politics for far too long. Look where it has led. If we want our nation to survive and come out stronger, then we need someone like Senator Warren who is committed to removing those influences from Washington D.C..

Why is this my tipping point issue? Well, because it is the fundamental element in achieving anything else. The vast majority of U.S. citizens support Medicare for All or a similar single payor system. But big businesses like insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and others which profit heavily off the current system keep pouring money into Washington to protect their own profits, with complete indifference to the plight of the vast majority of people. The overwhelming majority of people believe in a fair and equal voting system, but large corporations spend hundreds of millions in campaign and finance contributions to influence the drawing of districts in such ways which undermines democracy and diminishes the voices they want silenced. This is how they help put their bought and paid for politicians in office, the ones who control environmental regulations, approve trade negotiations, and introduce tax laws and incentives. You know, the ones who approve government contracts and spending, make it cheaper and easier to dump chemicals in rivers, pollute the air, and poison children without facing consequences. If we want common sense gun laws which both protect our second amendment rights and the safety and welfare of our citizens, then we have to crush the gun lobby powerhouse which wields its money for more influence than the parents of angels taken too soon in gun violence.

Every single element of both the progressive and more moderate agendas floating through the Democratic candidacies hinge on removing the big money influence from elected officials. Until we eliminate that power from the financially elite and place it back in the hands of voters, we are just throwing rocks in a gun fight. This should be a bipartisan effort. It benefits any and all parties because it makes all politicians answer solely to their constituents.

Senator Elizabeth Warren brings this to the table with complete sincerity. It has been the fundamental premise of her campaign from day one. When I couple this with her ability to devise realistic plans to accomplish real and permanent change for the betterment of our society, I find my first instinct was correct.

I am thankful Elizabeth Warren stood up to fight for us and I am hereby, officially, endorsing her candidacy. I thought President’s Day was a fitting time to do so, as we look to the past for great deeds in leadership and inspiration. With Sen. Warren, I believe we can also look to the future.

We are One Woman, One World.

Ann Lavendar Truong

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Democracy’s Terminal Diagnosis: Is There Hope for Remission?

First, let me say thank you to all my readers and followers for the kind words of encouragement and condolences for the loss of my father this past year and understanding that I needed to take personal time away, despite the hardships and entanglements of the nation, to grieve that loss and handle his affairs. I have not forgotten any of you nor our purpose in this ongoing fight for equality. I am happy to say I am now back at work for you and for every woman, man and child whose voice cannot be heard over the howling winds of injustice. Again, thank you for allowing me to take the time I needed. Now it is time to take this fight forward. Together, we can do what needs to be done.

Yesterday was an historic day in the United States of America. After refusing to hear testimony or review relevant evidence, after many refused to be impartial despite their oath as jurors, after the evidence presented and unrefuted clearly proved guilt of the charges brought forth, all of but a single GOP Senator [Sen. Mitt Romney, R. Utah] voted to acquit Donald J. Trump of all charges. They chose power and party over their constitutional duty and over their sworn service to the American people. While it was expected, why is it so egregious? Why does this trial and ruling have such a greater impact on our nation than, say, the Clinton impeachment trial and acquittal? Well, let me explain some of those reasons and why yesterday was such a dark mark for this nation.

First, we can begin with the fact that the Clinton trial was wholly different. The administration did not withhold evidence nor obstruct testimony. It complied with subpoenas for both information and witnesses. Second, the alleged conduct was wholly different. President Clinton did violate the law by lying under oath in a deposition about a consensual, extra-marital affair in a civil case. That said, the question was under objection, may not have been admissible, and had no factual bearing on the case as it did not substantiate the plaintiff’s claims of harassment. So, there is the possibility that even the truth would not have been admissible, but only used as cannon fodder or, potentially blackmail. This, and the fact that the House did not concentrate on the actual crime of perjury in proving its case, but on the morality of the President having an affair, meant they did not actually work to prove the legitimate case they had. Thus, acquittal was a reasonable outcome.

Note- I am not in any way defending President Bill Clinton for his actions. I supported his impeachment because, while I did not feel it rose enough to remove him from office in a legal sense, I did believe he earned the stain of impeachment on his presidency. Perhaps many people would lie in a similar situation, but that does not excuse dismissing our laws. Our leaders should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one, and he deserved to be made an example of this. Also, I do believe he used his position to attract such behavior and encourage it. He used his authority to manipulate young women and he deserves the lecherous legacy he built.

Clinton’s acquittal served to uphold the constitution. The actions of his affair were unfortunate and below the idea of the office he held and the trust placed in him as a moral leader. But it was also, and more importantly, actions which were personal in nature. Make no mistake. They did not put him on trial for the lie, but for the affair. I’m old enough I was around and watched it all, the whole C-SPAN coverage, taped daily on the old, trusty VCR. I was a Republican back then and recall the annoyance at the House’s failure to stick to the real issue. I did not care about his affair in any sense but that he lied about it under oath. I seriously doubted he was the first president with a wandering eye or loose zipper, nor that he would be the last. So long as it was consensual, the only relevance was the lie. The House failed to conduct its prosecution in a way which concentrated on why the lie deserved a conviction. Also, he could have been convicted and still not removed from office. Once convicted, the Senate would need to vote again on the punishment and determine if the crime was of such significance as to warrant expulsion from his position. Conviction without removal would have been the best outcome, as he was definitely guilty of perjury, but I did not believe that crime warranted removal from office based on the facts surrounding it.

Because of the conduct of the prosecution, no real precedent was set, other than dislodging the idea that politicians can be removed for immoral, victimless, personal actions such as consensual sexual conduct. By victimless, I am referring to victims of a crime. There are always innocent people hurt when personal trusts are betrayed, especially in such a public manner, but those private affairs are best handled as such and not in a political or public arena.

What we witnessed in Trump’s trial cannot be compared to any of this. His actions were not personal and private. They were in the direct use of his office, the leverage of his position, and in the actions and conduct of State policies and agendas, to be used for his personal benefit, and to extort foreign governments to undermine our democratic process. He then refused to cooperate in any way with the constitutional governing body charged with overseeing his conduct. He flagrantly denied and obstructed the authority of congress.

Further, the facts of the case were never in question nor refuted. The defense instead argued that believing his re-election was in the best interest of the nation superseded any governing laws or policies which he may have broken. In essence, the defense portrayed that so long as a president believes his or her actions are best for the country, no matter how self-serving, he or she is allowed to break any laws or rules they desire. They are not required to provide any evidence of actions to anyone else, nor incur any consequences for such conduct aside from election results. They contend a president can really do anything without accountability except at the ballot box. In short: if the president does it, then it isn’t illegal.

While the ballot is how we replace unsavory or ineffective politicians, it was obviously not intended to be the sole method. Further, by the defense’s own iterations, Trump is allowed to seek interference in the election, even from foreign governments, so long as he BELIEVES his actions are best for the country. This, aside from anything else, is the most dangerous precedent coming from the Senate yesterday. This is the one which will haunt us.

This precedent says that the president is allowed to cheat, to undermine our election process, our very democracy itself, under nothing more than the guise that they believe they are right. This precedent goes further to empower the executive branch as superior to that of the Judicial and Legislative branches, by being exempt from accountability for its actions. It has, in effect, created a four year dictatorship, whereby they can only be removed by an election, but is, existentially, also allowed to cheat to win that election.

That may sound a bit harsh or reaching, but it is not. This is exactly how the ruling can be applied going forward. As a result, it has made our elections less reliable by basically legalizing interference by a single party (a sitting president). Opposition candidates do not carry the same protections as the Office of the Presidency against prosecution for Campaign Finance Violations, or really prosecution of any crime like bribery, extortion, or fraud. They do not have the authority or power to circumvent subpoenas for evidence or testimony. They must follow the law, and that is a good thing. But their incumbent opponent does not have that same obligation. Sure we can hope to elect scrupulous people going forward and overcome the taint of illegitimacy already hovering over this November, but it does not change the fact that someone in the future can seize on what happened yesterday to change our nation forever.

It really is not a matter of if, any longer, but a matter of when. Will it happen in the coming months? Or will it happen in a couple of decades when the taint of this presidency has drifted into fades of history, less poignant? And is there any way to circumvent it? Can we save ourselves?

Well, maybe. Sorry, that’s the best I’ve got for you. Maybe. First, and this is the most crucial thing I can share, is that we all must become active. We need to be poll volunteers. We need to shout out when we see anything that undermines voting. Now, more than ever, we have to protect the value of our voice to make certain it is heard, loud and clear, at the polls.

Second, promote candidates who will not abuse their position or our nation. Maybe the nominees aren’t your favorite, but learn the art of compromise. No one will believe everything exactly as you do, but there will always be a best option. No candidate is a one horse pony show. Just like you, they have a spectrum of beliefs, ideas, morals, and plans for the future. But here is a real hint that might help, at least this November: any candidate who would silence or deprive anyone their vote, is a no. Any candidate who would deprive any citizen of their basic rights to love, live, work, or receive healthcare or an education based on discrimination against their race, gender, sexuality, country of origin, personal and healthcare decisions, or religion is working in direct conflict to our constitution and the people of this nation. These are the exact kinds of politicians who would use the precedent set yesterday to inflict harm on the people of this country against whom they hold a great prejudice. Be active and work against such candidates, even if you do not fully support all the positions of their opponent. Why? Because it is about the best decision between the choices we have, not just about getting everything we want.

Which brings me to the third call of action: vote. Vote in every election. Encourage your friends and family to vote. Every voice, whether you agree with them or not, deserves to be heard and counted. Every election from your school board, up. Voting is not just a flippant right, it is a responsibility. It should neither be taken for granted nor tossed easily aside. Those are the actions of spoiled people without any sense of value, who dismiss too easily the sweat, blood and sacrifice which paid for that ballot. Now we have to defend it and the only way we can is by using that very same power. So, VOTE. It matters.

The last thing I will mention comes after we successfully accomplish the first three and it is not a charge to voters, but to those elected. The only way to protect our future from this injustice, from this degradation of our democracy, is to face it head on with legislation and possibly, an amendment to our constitution. Such an amendment should better define the perimeters of impeachment and create an exact process which will apply without regard to party power. In doing this, both the House and the Senate can be held to an accountable standard and will no longer be allowed to make up the rules as they go nor be subject to undue political influence in how the process is conducted. The Judiciary Branch has been all but excluded from the process, only allowed a token appearance without any real authority to conduct the trial as a judge should. We must set it up to more closely mimic a federal trial regarding evidence, testimony, subpoena, and discovery. The House should sit as the prosecution, the Senate as the jury, and the Judiciary to oversee due process and court conduct and hold in contempt those who refuse to comply.

This is the only way I believe we could excise the cancer on our democracy and truly achieve a lasting remission. Make no mistake, history has a way of repeating itself, especially when people stop believing it can or will. This will not be the last threat facing our nation from within, but if we can learn from it, then we could come out stronger on the other side. It is really up to us to demand it.

My suggestions moving forward are not a party line thing. I’m certain that when a Democrat is in office, the Republicans would be more than happy to jump at the chance of limiting the power grab they so greedily wanted for themselves. We will want to take advantage of the fear they will have. Yes, they will be quite afraid that Democrats will use the GOP’s own actions and precedents against them. But I urge the DNC to not be what they expect. Be better. Help the people take our nation back. Help us ensure a future of responsibility and accountability. Help remove the corruption of big money donations in the hands of politicians and their campaigns. Make accountability to the people a priority and close the loopholes which allow presidents to hide their actions from their employer. Hint: We are the employers.

Unless we can do these things, we are accomplishing nothing more than treating a stage four cancer with a placebo. We are just smiling, pretending to do something and getting along okay, while the cancer continues to eat away beneath the surface, until finally our organs fail and we will have a final, disbelieving gasp as the life so many sacrificed to make a reality, dies from this world.

Freedom and equality is never really a battle won. It can be attained, but there will always be elements looking for ways to chip away at it for their own purposes. We can never stop the efforts to improve our democracy, find inclusion for the under-served, or to hear the whispers of those who have been silenced. We can never cease in our demand for justice. We can never forget that when anyone is less than equal, no one is equal.

We are one woman. We are one world.

Ann Lavendar Truong
Author & Activist

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