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Although the tradition goes back to the Pilgrims celebrating their first harvest in 1621, and President Washington made a 1789 thanksgiving proclamation asking God “to pardon our national and other transgressions,” historian Heather Cox Richardson reminds us, our federal Thanksgiving holiday is all about the Civil War.

As she noted today in her “Letters from an American,” official days of thanksgiving were first proclaimed, in November and December 1861, by governors in 17 states in the early stages of the conflict, when things did not look good for the union forces. …


Sculpture of Pegasus, the winged horse, at courthouse in St. Louis. Photo by Amy Buxton.
Sculpture of Pegasus, the winged horse, at courthouse in St. Louis. Photo by Amy Buxton.

On the Sunday before the U.S. election, I walked out in the predawn to watch the Space Station cross over our city.

My sister, Chris, had told me about these passings, how you can sign up at the NASA website to get texts alerts about when the Space Station will pass over where you live. I had woken my wife up a week or so previously to watch it, for our first time, cross the sky, at a fairly high angle relative to the horizon, from the southwest to the northeast for the advertised 6 minutes of visibility.

Awed by the preciseness of the passing. I muttered that it was a bit eerie. But Jyll said she thought it was comforting. …


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Just other night, I found myself in a Walgreens. I had just returned from getting a root canal in a molar and had to replenish my pain medications.

As I stood at the counter being checked out, an older man walked in, paused, and asked in a loud voice if it was okay if he didn’t have a mask. The checker said masks were mandatory. For a moment, I thought we were going to have an issue with a mask denier, but the man, looking disappointed and a bit disoriented, turned and shambled back out.

I asked if they had a supply of masks for customers. No? So I ran around looking for masks by the counter, and the checker pointed me to a display at the end of an aisle. By the time I made the purchase and got outside, the man was putting on a paper one-use mask I think he had just pulled from a trash can. I cannot prove that because I didn’t actually see him do it. But it seemed to be the case. I told him these were washable. He thanked me. As I walked away I saw he had left on the dirty one, and I realized he likely had no place to wash the ones I had given him. …


When the president is leading a disinformation campaign, what’s the press to do?

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The First Amendment protects free speech but, as is said, does not allow one to cry “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Should people be allowed to cry “Election fraud!” in a crowded democracy?

Well, that famous quote about falsely crying fire in that crowded theater, from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, has been somewhat misinterpreted. It was an analogy he used in a case concerning censorship, an analogy that is still pertinent in saying that the First Amendment is not absolute. In the actual case, it was determined that the First Amendment held unless speech “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” …


When Donald Trump and his enablers falsely bray election fraud, they are speaking to their own dark plans.

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The fraud Donald Trump speaks of is his own.

Always.

That is invariably the case for this lifelong conman. Beyond dividing people and appealing to the worst in their natures, perpetrating fraud is a key performance indicator for all con artists. In fact, “Committing Fraud Daily” could very well be the motto of the so-called Trump Organization.

Trump is playing from the 2000 “Stop-the-Recount-in-Florida” playbook, which, apparently, he felt made America great again. Certainly, the Republican bully boys who staged their riot to shut down the count in Miami-Dade county looked really sharp in their Brooks Brothers, suitably dressed for the business of fascism. …


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Dear Wisconsin, about that recount. Better ask Donald Trump to pay up front, don’t you think?

The Trump campaign asked on Wednesday for a recount of the Wisconsin vote, even before it was completed. In an interview with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said that the state has a “safe, secure and reliable” process but that a recount can happen if the vote is within a 1% margin. He noted that if the vote is within .25%, the state pays for the recount; otherwise, the campaign requesting the recount must pay.

Wisconsin was called for the Biden/Harris Democratic ticket Wednesday afternoon, with more votes still outstanding expected to lean toward Biden from the Milwaukee area. The Trump campaign immediately called for a recount. …


Closeup photo of scripted text of the Bill of Rights
Closeup photo of scripted text of the Bill of Rights

“Pro-Life” Judge Amy Coney Barrett seems to have no problem putting guns in the hands of individual Americans who want to buy them — every Tom, Dick, and Kyle. She reportedly takes “an expansive view” of the Second Amendment, writing in her only ruling on gun regulation that it should not be considered “a second-class amendment.”

A number of groups advocating gun control/safety, including Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, expressed their deep concerns with Barrett’s nomination in a recent letter sent to leading members of Congress.

The 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller expanded the meaning of the Second Amendment far beyond militias — regulated or not. And that 5-4 majority opinion was written by Barrett’s mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia. …


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If Donald Trump thinks he can insist on knowing the results of the election on election night or, if not, call the entire election a fraud, many of us would be happy to call it right now, based on the polls.

Mr. Trump, you lose. In other words [insert your own hokey dramatic pause here] — you’re fired.

At the time of this writing, Joe Biden leads Trump in a number of national polls by double digits. A CNN poll has Biden-Harris up by 16 points nationally. The Democratic ticket also leads by a healthy margin in a number of key “battleground states” — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. …


Schematic drawing of mailbox by Downing and photo of the inventor
Schematic drawing of mailbox by Downing and photo of the inventor

That familiar yawning blue mouth allowing you to vote more conveniently, more safely in this time of pandemic? You know that one — the one the president and his postmaster general continue to fulminate about and have endeavored to remove from the streets, especially in inner cities?

It was created by an American, one who happened to be of African heritage.

Now, how dazzlingly pertinent is that?

I came across the information in a roundabout way while researching nineteenth-century English novelist Anthony Trollope for a piece I was writing on how he had anticipated Donald J. …


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Much is still not known about what the Trumps knew about their physical condition when they traveled last week to Cleveland for the first presidential debate, but the timeline is being worked out hour by hour.

We now know that the Trumps and their family and staffers did not arrive in Cleveland in time to be tested before the debate. We also know that despite the agreed on rules, the Trump team took off their masks and refused to put them back on even after being admonished by a Cleveland Clinic physician.

An obvious question is, If Trump knew he was feeling under the weather and had not been tested on Tuesday, did he hide it so he could do the debate, just hoping for the best? A harder question is, Did he suspect he was infected and purposely roll the dice that evening for Joe Biden? …

About

Kirk Swearingen

Kirk Swearingen is a poet and an independent journalist. His work has appeared in Salon and The American Journal of Poetry.

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