I Am A Thinking, Muscular democrat, and Will Fight to the Death to Protect Democracy.

I am a muscular democrat. I think and I act with purpose and strength, and I never give up.

I believe in the Rule of Law, and the Constitution of the United States.

I believe people, organizations and nations must face the consequences of their actions.

I am a tough, tenacious, Zelensky democrat, with a small “d,”  determined to fight to the death for what I believe, and to create a better world for the people I love.

I believe in directly facing down bullies, like Trump, Putin, Assad, MBS, Q-Anon, The Proud Boys, DeSantis, the January 6th criminal insurrectionists and conspiracy planners, Mark Meadows, Pardoned Traitor Gen. Michael Flynn, Jim Jordan, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Marjorie Traitor Greene, and other terrorists, foreign or domestic, or their enablers, like Kevin McCarthy.

I believe in confronting autocrats head-on, like the Russians in Ukraine,  and fighting tyrants whenever they threaten democracies and human rights, at home or abroad.

I believe in preventing Genocide when we see it happening, not just predicting it, and immediately punishing the mass murderers, not waiting for War Crimes trials, years down the road.

I believe that when we say “Never Again” about the mass murder of fellow human beings—especially on Holocaust Remembrance Day– we mean it, and will push our government relentlessly to act to prevent another Holocaust from ever happening again.

I believe in freezing and seizing Russia’s $100 billion of bank reserves in the US, and spending the money on arms and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, and Ukrainian refugees.

I believe in emergency relief for European nations whose natural gas and oil supply has been frozen by Russia, and in the rapid disinvestment from fossil fuel and into renewable energy resources, as a matter of national, international and planetary security.

I believe in immediately housing Ukrainian refugees in the seized mega-Yachts of Russian oligarchs, and in confiscating the fortunes of those Oligarchs to rebuild Ukraine.

I believe in free and responsible speech, and in standing up for the rights of parents and children to live in a free and liberal democracy, to be taught from banned books, to be educated about all cultures, and to learn of this country’s 230 year history of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and inequality.

I believe in giving all children, our peers, our colleagues and ourselves, every single constitutional right to which all American citizens are entitled under law, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic background, age, mental or physical disability, or income.

I believe in the freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religious zealotry; that no religion can dictate for all either the legal beginning or end of life, and that violent, inhumane actions are inherently anti-religious, as well as against all civil law.

I believe that any religious institution or related-entity that engages in politics or promotes or tolerates violence, forfeits its’ tax-exempt status.

I believe that public taxpayer dollars should only be used for public education, not religion-based or private education of any kind, nor for hedge-fund supported Charter schools.

I believe that only law enforcement and military personnel should have guns and ammunition.  With death-by-gun as the leading cause of death among children this year, I believe that the use of guns in the commission of a crime should result in long jail sentences for the gun-users, as well as prison time for the gun manufacturers, distributors, importers, sales people, gun show operators, or computer app creators, who are part of the chain of gun creation, design, manufacture, distribution and/or use in commission of a crime. 

I believe in fully-funding law enforcement to uphold the rule of law—including cracking down on white collar crime, prosecuting gun crimes, and investigating and prosecuting militia organizations, vigilantes, and the funders of groups organized for the purpose of overthrowing the government, carrying out hate crimes; or killing or kidnapping public officials at the local, state or national levels.

I believe in a woman’s right to choose, in consultation with her doctor, precisely whenthe life of her fetus begins. I believe in the immediate arrest and prosecution of anti-abortion terrorists or anyone who does physical harm or threatens to commit physical harm or interferes with anyone pursuing or delivering healthcare. 

I believe in the primacy of public health and public health emergencies at all levels of government, and in the prioritizing of medical and scientific research. 

I believe that the users of all social media sites, should be required to pass basic high school competency tests in Math, Science, Language Arts, and History, and that the posting of junk science about climate change or communicable diseases, or the use of hate speech or threats of violence, are legitimate grounds for lifetime social media bans.

I believe that the United States should return to the pre-Reagan Era requirement that the ownership of media platforms (including radio, television, internet, social media)—more essential to our national security than ever before—should be restricted to Citizens born in the US, just as a birth-citizenship requirement exists to serve as President of the US.

I believe that all money originating from non-US Citizens, enemy nations, or from shell companies or entities designed to hide the identity of investors– should be prohibited from political campaigns, as personal payments to public officials or their non-profit organizations, or as investment in critical American industries, such as steel, energy, infrastructure, health care, telecommunications, space exploration, or media. I believe all shell companies should be banned.

I believe in paying teachers, healthcare workers, mental health therapists & social workers, childcare professionals, and first responders a minimum salary of $150,000 annually, to be paid for by a progressive Public Service Tax on millionaires, multi millionaires, billionaires and large corporations.

I believe in returning to the income tax and corporate tax levels of the Eisenhower Administration, to reduce income inequality in this country, and in taxing the wealthy at twice the current rate to continue funding Social Security and expand and improve Medicare coverage.

I believe in the absolute right for all workers to unionize, especially if they work for Starbucks, Amazon, any social media company, and all companies with more than 500 employees, or annual profits in excess of $10 million.

I believe in making union-busting a federal crime, punishable by one year in jail for the CEO of the company.

I believe in stiff jail sentences—not just fines– for CEOs, Executives, and Directors of Pharmaceutical companies which knowingly manufacture, produce and distribute harmful drugs.

I believe in strengthening the investigative and prosecutorial powers of the SEC, the IRS, the FDA, the Treasury Department, and other similar enforcement agencies in pursuing crimes of financial fraud, corporate and individual tax evasion, stock and market manipulation, and the fraudulent use of COVID-19 federal relief funds.

I believe in a strong, law-abiding Justice Department, and in local, national and state law enforcement entities which prioritize diversity of their workforces, the rule of law, respect for civil rights, and equal punishment, regardless of race, income, or political connections. 

I believe in swift Federal criminal indictments and prosecution of Mark Meadows, Steve Bannon, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Green, Roger Stone, Dan Scavino, Stephen Miller, John Eastman, Donald Trump and the Trump children, Members of Congress and others, for conspiring to overthrow the US Government, and corrupting the election process at any level of government.

I believe in punishing Koch Industries for violating present economic sanctions against Russia, and for continuing to do business in Russia right now, the way they continued to do business with the Nazis, during WWII.

I believe in impeaching Clarence Thomas for failing to recuse himself from a case in which he had a direct conflict of interest, and prosecuting Ginni Thomas for being a leader of the Trump conspiracy to overthrow the US Government.

I believe in guaranteeing FBI and local police protection to all election officials and public officials at every level, and setting minimum prison sentences of 10 years for threats to the lives of such public officials.

I believe that Black Lives Matter, that I’ll say “Gay” anyplace and anytime I please, and that ALL teachers, public officials and media have the right to educate about gender diversity, racial history, the massacre of Native Americans, slavery, the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the internment of Japanese Americans in the US, the Nazi Holocaust and the systematic murder of 6 millions Jews, the Ottoman Empire’s slaughter of millions of Armenians early in the 20th Century, and Josef Stalin’s state-sponsored starvation of some 3 million Ukrainians in the early 1930’s.

I believe in critical thinking in Math, Science, History, Religion, Ethics, and all of life, and the selection of school textbooks by professional educators, trained in curriculum development.

I believe in multi-lingual education, as essential to national security, and in granting full citizenship rights to America’s Dreamers

I believe that all fossil fuel companies should be held personally and corporately liable for the destruction of our natural environment, and their CEOs, executives and shareholders be subject to lengthy jail sentences, and be required to do work-release from prison to clean up local waterways and the earth they have destroyed.

I believe that the protection, preservation and repair of our environment is our sacred obligation.

I believe in love, and allowing consenting adults to exercise their individual right to love whomever they choose, without government or religious-group interference.

I believe in science and faith, in personality and community, in personal freedom andcommunity responsibility.

I believe in changing the name of the Democratic Party to the Democracy Party.

I believe in consequences for our actions, in being fearless in fighting for humanity and the advancement of good over evil, love over hate, and embracing the use of power constructively, to achieve the best results for the most underserved and marginalized among us.

I am a thinking, loving, muscular democrat, who will continue to devote my life to repairing this imperfect world and make it more fair, inclusive and livable for our children and grandchildren. 

Black Earth, Scorched Earth.

For years, I asked a question of my students in an Ethics Class I taught in Cornell University’s Labor Studies Program: “If you had the hard evidence that Hitler was slaughtering Jews, and had the opportunity to kill him, would you?

This week, in an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky updated and broadened the moral question for us, and provided the world with an answer:

“All the (Ukrainian) people who die, will die because of you (NATO), your weakness. I remember, books about the Second World War, and about the devil in uniform, Adolf Hitler; Does the world carry responsibility for the Genocide? When you have the ability to close the sky — but whether the world is responsible for this — Yes, I believe so, I believe so. Stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself , “are you able to do something?” And ask, who are you?”

Zelensky, a lawyer by training, and the Ukrainian-born Jewish son of a computer scientist and an engineer, has been fearless — not only in standing up to the calculated, criminal and murderous methods of the world’s latest mass-murderer, Russian President Vladimir Putin — but in confronting Western leaders with uncomfortable ethical questions.

“If you are the UN Security Council,” Zelensky asked the members of the UN, “where is the Security? Do you think that the time of International Law is gone?”

Similarly, he has expressed skepticism about the roaring rhetorical charges of “War Crimes,” being lodged by the US and NATO members against the Russians, and whether those charges will ever be enforced, if adjudicated. After all, the United States, Russia, China and India — some of the world’s leading nuclear powers — have rejected the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the primary international body for prosecuting War Crimes. If even the UShas rejected the legal authority of the ICC, how can we expect Russia — a non-member as well — to ever accept that tribunal’s judgement?

Zelensky knows that the “War Crimes” war cry against Putin and Russia, is an empty threat, to take attention away from the failure of the US & NATO to commit their own forces in direct military punishment of Putin, and to make the West feel better about not stopping the crimes while they are happening in real time, in full view of the entire world. In a detailed New York Times analysis this week entitled “War Crimes Often Avoid A Reckoning,” by Max Fisher, the Times reported that: “In 2016, the ICC opened an investigation into possible war crimes committed during Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia…Prosecutors requested the first arrest warrants only last month,” some 14 years after the alleged War Crimes occurred. Fourteen years.

During World War II, the United States waited for two years to confront Hitler with direct military force, ignoring clear evidence of the madman’s widespread massacre of Jews across Europe & the Ukraine, and the Nazi’s brutal takeover of nations like Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Despite, or maybe because of, the History Channel’s endless reruns of World War II, we appear to believe that the lessons of the past — of mass murder, genocide and the utter destruction of civilizations — are only made-for-television events. But, we are shown by the hour, as Zelensky emphasized for CBS’ Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes: “This is not a movie; This is real life.”

Yale Professor Timothy Snyder has worked mightily to teach us that sobering lesson as well. Most well-known for his best-selling, small but powerful book, “On Tyranny — published during the first year of the Trump Administration, as a warning against the weakening of democracy in America — Snyder has authored 12 other books, and is one of the world’s foremost experts on authoritarianism. Snyder has repeatedly warned us that the Holocaust could happen again if we are not assiduous in defending democracy and the rights of individuals. Or, as Zelensky has said recently, “Never again, is happening again,” underscoring the emptiness of words without immediate and direct military intervention to stop another Holocaust in progress.

Professor Snyder’s book “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (Tim Duggan Books/Division of Penguin Random House, NY., 2015) is both a detailed and riveting examination of how the Nazi Holocaust happened, and an alarm for spotting the scorched-earth, inhumane tactics Vladimir Putin and Russia are taking today in Ukraine. Eerily, the term “Black Earth,” defines Ukraine — a land always known for its fertile, rich soil and as the “breadbasket of Europe”, and now seen as a wasteland of charred hospitals and apartment buildings, bombed out train stations and community centers, and half-buried bodies with frozen limbs emerging from unmarked graves.

The conquest of Ukraine (then part of Russia), was a central element of Hitler’s plan for Lebensraum, or land on which the Third Reich could grow and become a global empire. “I need the Ukraine, “ Hitler said, “in order that no one is able to starve us out again, like in the last war.” In Putin’s case, the conquest of Ukraine was essential to restore Russia to its glory days of Soviet Empire, his own version of Lebensraum.

Putin appears to be adhering to Hitler’s (and Stalin’s) examples. He has dispatched the “Butcher of Aleppo”, Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, to wipe out more Ukrainians. Dvornikov brutalized and murdered thousands of Syrian civilians in the Russian Air War campaign in 2015, earning the Russian General the designation of “War Criminal.” The Washington Post reported that Gen. Dvornikov was honored as a “hero of the Russian Federation,” in 2016, for his work in “widespread and indiscriminate bombardments of Syrian civilians, neighborhoods and hospitals.”

In the April 10, 2022, story headlined, “What to Know about Russia’s New Top Commander in Ukraine,” the Washington Post pointed out that:

“Many of the Russian tactics being seen in Ukraine — the use of cluster bombs, unrelenting bombing of civilian areas, targeting hospitals and shelling an area and then returning to hit it again after emergency services respond — were part of Moscow’s playbook in Syria.”

Brutal authoritarians like Putin, Dvornikov, Hitler and Stalin borrow tactics of mass slaughter from each other, especially when they are not forcibly prevented from doing so by the world’s democracies. It was the USSR’s own Joseph Stalin, another one of Putin’s heroes, who inspired Hitler to use mass starvation — much as Putin is using it in Mariupol — as an illegal tool of war, by using it against his own people, the Ukrainians, whether they were Russian-speakers or not. In Black Earth, Professor Snyder writes:

“Stalin wished to apply to his own subjects (Ukrainians) the policies that he believed imperialists applied to native peoples…Soviet policy brought massive resistance and massive starvation…in the second half of 1933, Stalin treated the starvation region in Ukraine as a political problem, blamed the Ukrainians themselves, and claimed the whole crisis was the result of Polish intelligence work….About 3.3 million inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine died horrible and unnecessary deaths of starvation and disease in 1932 and 1933….thousands of peasants fled Soviet Ukraine across the Polish border, entire villages at a time, begging for a war of liberation. The summary report of the Polish border guards assigned to interview the Ukrainian refugees read as follows: “The population longs for armed intervention from Europe.”

Zelensky and nearly five million Ukrainian refugees have been pleading for “armed intervention from Europe,” and the US, since the very outset of the Russian invasion. Forgetting history, we immediately ruled out a direct military confrontation with Russia, citing a fear of triggering “Nuclear War,” — precisely the talking point which Putin wanted the West to parrot. Our reluctance to fight Putin’s immoral and illegitimate use of force in Ukraine with the defensivelegitimate and superior force of NATO nations, sent the message to Russia — as the British and French sellout of Czechoslovakia at Munich did to Hitler in 1938 — that 44 million Ukrainians were expendable, as long as Western soil was left untouched.

When Putin ordered the attack on the refugee-full train station in Kramatorsk, turning Kramatorsk into a crematoria for all the world to see, Zelensky — fresh from witnessing the barbarism by the Russian soldiers in Bucha — frankly framed what faced us: “This is an evil that has no limits.” Unspoken was the phrase, “unless the overwhelming power of NATO and the U.S. are immediately and equally engaged to limit such evil.”

Instead, American intelligence officials applauded themselves for forcasting that Russia would, indeed, invade Ukraine. Our intelligence information was correct and we were elated, yet, when Putin did invade, as we knew he would, our response remained the same — weapons to Ukraine; economic sanctions vs. Russia. We had firmly planted the flag for freedom, not in the life-giving “Black Earth” of Ukraine which still feeds the world, but just over a political border, where the Western version of humanity resides. All lives east of that border were expendable, unless, of course, they became refugees in the West. Incredibly, we were content to predict Putin’s next assault on Ukrainian civilians, rather than directly prevent it.

US & NATO officials patted ourselves on the back for agreeing to more tough economic sanctions against Russia, and continuing the steady flow of weapons to Ukraine — as long as the Ukrainians, not Americans nor Europeans, faced Putin directly — even when a NATO aerial attack on clearly visible, miles-long Russian supply caravans — outside of Kyiv and now in Eastern Ukraine — could stop the slaughter. Ukrainian lives, it seemed, were not worth nearly as much as American or European lives. It was not lost on Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians that a similar catastrophic conclusion — for far more twisted, sinister and evil purposes — was made by both Hitler and Stalin decades earlier. It’s a dehumanizing distinction which should not be lost on all of us

CBS’ 60 Minutes anchor Scott Pelley asked Ukrainian President Zelensky what he wanted the world to understand:

We are defending the ability of a person to live in the modern world. We are defending the right to live,” Zelensky said. “I never thought this right was so costly. These are human values. So that Russia doesn’t choose what we should do and how I’m exercising my rights. That right was given to me by God and my parents.”

Smitten by a Numb Little Bug.

From You Tube’s Official Lyric Video of “Numb Little Bug.”

My oldest granddaughter, almost 13, might just be the best teacher I’ve ever had, and I’ve been blessed with quite a few through college, grad school and law school.

A naturally gifted artist, with the superpowers of deep insight and a diverse set of sensitivities, she has taught me, by example, to just let my art “slay” (as she would say) and to be fearless in being myself.

In her earlier years, we’d sit and draw for hours and I’d marvel at her big, bold strokes across the page; not afraid of making mistakes.

“How do you do it so easily?” I’d ask her.

“You just do it, Grampy. “You just do.” And she hadn’t yet seen a Nike commercial.

Now, as a pre-teen with a pre-college student’s sensibilities, she’s introduced me to a whole new generation of music, while I’m still dwelling on the timeless words of Paul Simon, Harry Chapin, Judy Collins or Linda Ronstadt. For all my fellow boomers who bemoan that “they don’t write lyrics the way the used to,” you simply need to mix-up your playlist, open your minds, and listen. There’s far more to life than playing “the oldies.”

Turns out, there are lots of young, brilliant song-writers out there, about whom I would never know a thing if not for my granddaughter’s intense interest and willingness to share the poignancy of their messages. Last year, she introduced me to the soulful sound and voice of MxmToon, or Maia, an Oakland-born, mixed-race, gender fluid, young female singer/songwriter/ You-Tuber who plays the ukelele , and inspired my granddaughter to start strumming the instrument herself. MxmToon’s songs, her perspectives on life, and her approachability, helped our entire family get through being homebound during the worst of COVID times.

This year, like my son’s oldest daughter, I’ve fallen in love with the lyrics to a song entitled Numb Little Bug, by a 23-year old female singer/songwriter/TikTok star from LA , named Emily, or “Em” Beihold. For anyone, of any age, who has experienced depression, anxiety, fright about the future, or the battle to survive each day, Numb Little Bug should become our anthem.

What makes the song and its lyrics extraordinarily special to me, is not only the deep feelings they convey, but the fact that my oldest granddaughter enjoys playing the song’s chorus with me in a ukulele duet, piercing my occasional numbness with her voice’s gentle lilt, straight to my heart.

Here’s a link to You Tube’s official animated video version of Em Beihold’s beautiful Numb Little Bug, with the lyrics printed below.

Lyrics to “Numb Little Bug,” by Em Beihold.

I don’t feel a single thing
Have the pills done too much
Haven’t caught up with my friends in weeks
And now we’re outta touch
I’ve been driving in L.A.
And the world it feels too big
Like a floating ball that’s bound to break
Snap my psyche like a twig

And I just wanna see if you feel the same as me

Do you ever get a little bit tired of life
Like you’re not really happy but you don’t wanna die
Like you’re hanging by a thread but you gotta survive
’Cause you gotta survive
Like your body’s in the room but you’re not really there
Like you have empathy inside but you don’t really care
Like you’re fresh outta love but it’s been in the air
Am I past repair

A little bit tired of tryin’ to care when I don’t
A little bit tired of quick repairs to cope
A little bit tired of sinkin’
There’s water in my boat
I’m barely breathin’
Tryna stay afloat
So I got these quick repairs to cope
Guess I’m just broken and brok

The prescriptions on its way
With a name I can’t pronounce
And the dose I gotta take
Boy, I wish that I could count

’Cause I just wanna see if this could make me happy

Do you ever get a little bit tired of life
Like you’re not really happy but you don’t wanna die
Like you’re hanging by a thread but you gotta survive
’Cause you gotta survive
Like your body’s in the room but you’re not really there
Like you have empathy inside but you don’t really care
Like you’re fresh outta love but it’s been in the air
Am I past repair

A little bit tired of tryin’ to care when I don’t
A little bit tired of quick repairs to cope
A little bit tired of sinking
There’s water in my boat
I’m barely breathin’
Tryna stay afloat
So I got these quick repairs to cope

Do you ever get a little bit tired of life
Like you’re not really happy but you don’t wanna die
Like a numb little bug that’s gotta survive
That’s gotta survive

Numb Little Bug lyrics © Songtrust Ave