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The Move to Ban Vape Mail

The bill is 116th Congress: S. 1253. It passed the Senate by unanimous consent, which is another way of saying no Senator could be bothered, with everything going on, to say, “I object.”

Now, the bill doesn’t get everything wrong, but it gets one thing very wrong: it adds a ban on the US Postal Service carrying vaping-related packages, either as the primary carrier or as a last-hop service for commercial carriers. (Actual tobacco products have been in that boat for some years, though cigars are exempted because enough rich fools smoke them and have a lot of clout.) Some rural customers, who are often not served by commercial carriers, will be unable to receive delivery of the products at all (though the law being amended does exempt Alaska and Hawaii, which effectively means that rural folks in those states are treated better than rural folks in the remainder of the nation).

With all the attention on the post office these days, what with Donald John Trump and his Postmaster General DeJoy trying to derail the 2020 election, and his OMB with their postal butcher’s chart, one would think the US Senate, or at least one Senator, would not want to cut off another slice of flesh, however small, from one of the most impressive and dependable government organizations. But they did, and now it’s up to the House to finish (the House had previously passed a similar bill, so it seems likely).

The basic idea behind the bill is to prevent teenagers from ordering e-cigarettes online and getting them in the mail. So far, so good. But it also prevents everyone from that basic commercial function. Commercial carriers can continue delivering the products, but only with enhanced age verification measures.

The USPS should, by rights, be able to compete with commercial carriers for revenue, given that Congress has, in their infinitesimal wisdom, requires them to generate revenues rather than funding them as part of the general welfare, as an essential government service, as the necessity they are. It’s not like the military turns a profit, but they get beaucoup. The IRS does bring in revenue, and they get mismanaged and cut down. And the USPS with them.


There is an obvious need for a modern system to verify age for all purposes online. There is also an obvious need for improving the delivery verification mechanisms. Congress has not attempted either of those things. They have simply shrugged off their duty to regulate with care. That is sad.

As the country moves toward cannabis regulation, for example, there will come a day where it will be shipped across state lines. Should the post office be banned from that? Shouldn’t there be a modern system of age verification for it? Or for alcohol. Or any other product that, by law or by a vendor’s choice, is to be age restricted?

And if no children live at an address, why shouldn’t the resident be able to register that fact and have their packages delivered as any other article would be?

The Postal Service should be modernized, including steps that protect and improve its ability to carry ballots during elections. Democrats absolutely should not assist in cynical plots to undermine a bedrock institution like the USPS.

But not a single senator—not my senators, not yours, not the best nor worst, not nobody’s—bothered to object to this bill. It is a damned shame. The weal is left unguarded, the US Postal Service is further neglected, the system gets just a little worse.

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unAmerican

Evidence and Allegations

There has been an allegation that in the early 1990s Joe Biden sexually assaulted a staffer. This post offers some thoughts on that and the larger problem.

First, Associate Justice Kavanaugh. He was accused of past wrongdoing during his confirmation hearings, and the Republicans in the Senate, along with the White House, blocked any real investigation into the matter. This is a sick pattern among Republicans, of blocking information about matters big and small. The Republican party is a shadow party, content to hide from the light of day all sorts of important information vital to the functioning of capitalism and democracy. So long as it’s not about a Democrat. Indeed, Mitch McConnell has called on Biden to release his Senate papers, while he and the White House blocked the release of thousands of pages of relevant information during the Kavanaugh hearings. To this day, I still do not have enough information to judge whether the allegations against Kavanaugh were true.

Now, Biden. As it stands, I do not have sufficient information to decide whether to believe the allegation. The claims of corroboration do not actually corroborate, but merely repeat. There were no additional details or indications of past details being offered by the people the allegator allegedly told of the incident.

I find it problematic to believe accusations without evidence. That’s not to say I disbelieve the claims, but it is to say I hold in my mind the capacity to place unproven claims in a space dedicated to them. And that’s how my mind is going to operate because there are plenty of things I cannot determine the truth of, at least yet, and I do not also find evidence to dismiss them entirely.

I think that having an independent law firm look through the relevant files and releasing any that apply to the circumstances is reasonable. I think the same should be done for Donald John Trump’s files and the accusations against him. And McConnell can release his own Senate files. But double standards are something I have no interest in. The Republicans who seek to dig into Biden while they hide under the table are public failures and the princelings of loserdom.

Going forward, the reasonable advice that movements like #MeToo should offer is that anyone who has been told by a friend, neighbor, coworker, or other familiar party of serious wrongdoing, sexual or otherwise, should seek out a lawyer to conduct a video recording with a court reporter present. They would make a firm record of the retelling of the telling, including questioning by the lawyer, to be kept in confidence should the need arise in the future to attest to having been told of an incident. That’s prudence, and it would be much more corroborative than anything offered in this instance (or in the allegations against Kavanaugh, for that matter). Nonprofits that specialize in this area can and should work to develop criteria to that end and a process to be followed.

Either we formalize the process, or we continue to entertain allegations and make judgments based on blurry pictures. I’m obviously in favor of formalization.

There are numerous benefits to such a process, and other than the risk of the material being leaked (which would find punitive effects for whatever lawyer allowed that to happen), the defects are few if any.


The allegation against Biden is serious, but without some evidence that is more than an allegation, it would be impossible for me to believe it. I understand others’ judgments work differently and I respect that. My own judgment is my own and is not to say others’ approaches are wrong.

The DNC (and the RNC, for that matter) should, however, have some formal processes in place to investigate any allegations and to, if warranted, replace defective candidates. Voters do at least deserve the reassurance that if details emerge that disqualify a candidate for office, they will not be left holding the bag for that malfeasance.

As for the likes of those who hide from the light like Mitch McConnell, while calling for it only to be shined upon political opponents, one can only hope that the voters of their states wise up and turn them away from their service.

The election is in 26 weeks (half a year).

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Why Witnesses?

The question is moot now, the Senate having voted against entertaining motions for specific witnesses. It’s worth noting that every other Senate impeachment trial included witnesses.

Particularly in this Senate trial, when nobody believed we could see anything approaching real justice—given the majority of Republican Senators spiritually-entangled with Donald John Trump, what could witnesses have added?

If the Republicans are to acquit no matter the evidence, why would they have witnesses? If Donald John Trump is to be let off the hook, again, for known and proven crimes, what would witnesses add?

Purgation, for one. Not for Donald John Trump, of course, but at least for the Senate Republicans. A full airing of the facts that they turn a blind eye to, would serve to place the record upon the table. It would allow them to point backwards and say, “We knew, but we were paralyzed with fear and hate, we could not act upon the truth!”

Instead, they will always be haunted. They will, for the rest of their time, be confronted by the witnesses they have failed to call. Everyone who ever sees them will recall and associate them with John Bolton and Mickey Mulvaney. What would have been said? (We’ll find out over the years.) Why couldn’t they bring themselves to have had it said then, despite all the calls for them to do so? (Did they hate themselves that much?) What went so wrong with this sad being before me? (It used to be a thing of stature, but look at how it oozes around now.)

The innocent employees of the executive would be cleared, for another. Anyone seeking to do business with former associates of this administration will now have to ask, “Can I trust they didn’t have a hand in that Ukraine scheme?” Any firm with a laywer would receive advice against hiring those with potential involvement—the blackmail risk is too high for any of them to hold a position of trust! But had the full record been developed, those who hope for carreers beyond this administration would not have it hanging over their head.

For the same reason, it would have protected the nation’s security. There are those still in the administration who helped further this corrupt scheme, and they are subject to blackmail or other kinds of manipulation. They have not been rooted out, and the rot continues.


We’re at a point where it again seems futile to try to explain the daylight to the blind fools in the Republican caucus. Maybe so, maybe not, but it sure feels pointless. If they care not for the nation, which appearances again suggest, one wonders why they bother to remain. Why not take a cruise to one of the four corners of the earth?

Alas, there is something sick in them, and science has no known cure. They are betting against the United States of America, the place that invented telling naysayers where to stick it. They have placed their chips with corruption and coverup. It’s a bad bet, and it won’t pay. (And their donors will move on, leaving them with the debt.)

To be clear, the election of Donald John Trump was a major and lasting blow to any claim to credibility or sanity the Republican party could make. It was a bleeding wound in their caucus. But it was survivable. Get to a doctor. Fight for your life.

No. Given every opportunity, with the Democrats and others urging and rushing them to the surgical suite, they have now called off surgery. They are choosing to bleed themselves to death. Pro-life? Indeed. The Republicans in the Senate have fled the hospital and intentionally thrown themselves upon a clearly marked landmine. They’ve pissed away at least a couple of Senate seats on that vote alone! (Ask me which.)

It happens, sometimes. Institutions that know they have grown sick, that they are beyond redemption. Like those spots in strip malls that keep opening and closing and opening and closing. Permanent dead zones. One hates to believe it, that some can slip so far that they are beyond reprieve. But it does pass, in this universe of odds.

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Where Be Wrath Upon the Liars?

Something that comes up repeatedly in the era of Donald John Trump is the lack of accountability and consequences for the brazen and nefarious lies that he and his minions have spewed and continue to spew. The cry goes out, “Will they not be punished?!”

Ah, but karma does not work that way. Karma works this way: the punishments will come, in the future. The liars may be among those punished. Or their children. Or their friends. Or complete strangers. But there is no definitive way to say who will receive the punishments of the karma they have created through their lies. That would be too easy.

We can hazard some guesses, though.

The Republican party will be punished. As we will keep hearing about this era for the rest of our lives, and as new and horrid details will continue to bubble up from this poisonous bog long after even the staunchest of the brainiacs who now support Donald John Trump have soured on hearing his very name, the heads will again and again turn to the Republicans and ask, “How could you do nothing?!”

The future will be punished by fallout from these years. Loss of trust, weakening of international institutions, strengthening of despotic regimes, and more will have lasting effects causing us to spend more time and money and effort to build and keep a useful world for humans to prosper in. The future will turn to the Republicans and ask them that same question. And those of them who have to fight to keep the peace in foreign lands squeezed in the vices of famine and drought, they too will pose similar questions to the nation and to the Republicans particularly.

And you and I. We will be punished. For we will have to hear about every last shitty thing done in the name of the United States by Donald John Trump and his ilk. We will be punished with the knowledge that we’re spending time cleaning up rather than making new strides. Knowing we live in a country less than it could be for the lamest of reasons. And we will have to hear the same question posed to the Republicans every single year from here to our ends. And we will have to listen to their sorry excuses or their new lies:

  • I did not support him.
  • We didn’t know it was so.
  • We were afraid of losing our seats.
  • We were confirming so many judges, it was like a drug.
  • We were blinded by his lies.
  • We were addled by our sleeping pills.
  • The liberals were so annoying that we thought it was good to make them angry.
  • It was a fad we all bought into at the time, like bellbottoms or hoola hoops.
  • We thought the whole universe was a simulation.
  • Donald who?

And so on.

Yes, there are consequences. There is karma. There will be punishments, irregularly distributed, to the innocent as well as the guilty. Such is life. It is self-correcting, on a long enough timeline, bending toward justice as the wicked are found out, as the ignorant are disabused, and as the rest of us stare on, baffled and disgusted but seemingly incapable of escape from these sick and sad mysteries.


“Karma’s a big dummy,” I hear you say. “It shouldn’t work that way at all.” But that’s like saying gravity is a dummy. Karma is. It’s a force, not a judge.

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unAmerican

A Lot is Going On for 12 October 2019

The president has pulled troops back in Syria, allowing Turkey to invade and attack the Kurds. Most everyone is opposed to this, and yet the Republicans can only be so critical before they worry it will hurt their next primary. Donald John Trump is unfit to be president, and everyone knows it, but only one party can actually say it and act to do something about it.

But speaking of unfitness, you have the likes of Apple, the NBA, Blizzard Entertainment, and ESPN, all trying to appease China’s authoritarian bullshit. Not with chocolate cake, this time, but with various moves to promote their worldview, either against Hong Kong, against Taiwan, or in favor of an unfounded claim over a body of water they share with about five other countries. The preference for short-sighted profit motives does not surprise, but it does prove to be the losing side of things. The day will come when China inevitably democratizes (whether as a whole or as a set of separate states), and those citizens will remember the failure of these companies and institutions when that day comes. They will not remember them fondly.

One cannot imagine a tale of modern international history being portrayed in Chinese cinema, because they cannot tell the truth. They don’t teach it properly in schools, and they don’t portray it in their media. A society cannot be built upon amnesia. As America continues to reckon with its own past, we should recognize that other nations face that challenge, too, and worse, are far less equipped to face it. That amnesia is exactly what these corporations are supporting, for a buck.

There’s no power for chunks of California while the power company out there tries to decide if it’s safe to turn back on. Rather than do sufficient work to clear fuel on the front end, they’ve decided it’s more efficient to not make money for days at a time and hope that the weather changes. It seems better than having major fires, but one would suspect that clearing the fuel around lines would be the easier and saner way to go.

And that’s not even getting to the ongoing impeachment saga. The president continues to deny that he’s accountable for anything. The White House even sent a letter saying that impeachment was contrary to the law. One wonders, given all the times Donald John Trump has received beautiful letters from Kim Jong Un, why the White House never sends beautiful letters (re: impeachment or otherwise).

New revelations continue to come out about various worries officials have had from other phone calls and incidents. One suspects before it’s all over, Trump will claim Clinton won the election and it’s all her fault for not contesting the vote and taking the job. He already tried to pin the blame for the call on Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

On the other hand, we’re finally having another Democratic debate this Tuesday (15 October 2019). Will be good to see the gang back together. Will be good to see Senator Bernie Sanders back at it. If the Republicans could find it in their hearts to ever have this kind of sanity in a group running for their nomination, it would be a great blessing for our nation.