Donald Trump Impeached – AGAIN

In the wake of the calamitous riot spearheaded by President Donald Trump and his merry band of seditionists, Democrats turned to the one lasting punishment only the House of Representatives could deliver upon this corrupt chief executive, impeachment.

The violence and criminal hate displayed by Trump loyalists as they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, was revealed to be worse than first witnessed. Subsequent video and commentary from perpetrators showed premeditated intent to harm elected officials and overthrow the U.S. government.

It would be dishonorable to allow Trump to sit idle for a week without consequences considering five people died at his behest. An official censure from Congress, as proposed by Republicans, would be laughed off by Trump and his ilk, like some verbal slap on the wrist given a violent schoolyard bully.

Democrats reached out to Vice President Mike Pence about invoking the 25th Amendment but he was unwilling to make such an overt rebuke. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was visibly angry, chose impeachment as a method to permanently besmirch Trump for his treasonous behavior.

On Jan. 11, the House introduced a single article of impeachment for the act of “incitement of insurrection” against the U.S. government. On Jan. 13, the article was adopted as 222 Democrats were joined by 10 Republicans in voting affirmative, with 197 Republicans against. Trump is the only federal officeholder to be impeached twice. The first incident was December 18, 2019, when he was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Mercifully Trump was kicked off social media over his want to incite violence and decay. Silencing his deranged rantings has been a welcomed relief and spun The Donald into a new stratosphere of pissed off.

The immediate fallout from all this is the Trump brand has been irreparably downgraded. Big Don at least had a body of work to hang his hat upon. The family merely treads on his coattails. Now that all of them are pariahs it’s unclear how they will navigate polite society.

This week comparisons started to be made between Trump and Richard Nixon, as the final days for both these presidents were mired in disgrace and discussions of impeachment. While Nixon was a horribly flawed human being and a criminal, he did love the country and was an accomplished statesman.

Trump has rarely shown respect toward American democracy, nor the patchwork of ethnicities making up the country’s diverse culture. Instead he favors marginalizing those different from him and mimics autocratic maneuvers whenever possible. His failure to govern during the Covid-19 pandemic, and all the anti-mask sentiment he spawned, will go down as one of the great humanitarian failures in modern history as nearly 400,000 Americans died under his watch.

Trump has since forbidden the name “Nixon” being mentioned in the White House. Regarding the Teflon Don officially joining Nixon in the criminal category, those litigations will likely commence shortly after Trump is removed from power on Jan. 20.

The thing I remain unable to wrap my head around is why this man was ever viable to run for president. Once he mocked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as not being a war hero it should have been over. This showcased Trump’s lacking moral character, bellicose demeanor and inappropriate nature.

That was followed by his ridiculing of a reporter with disabilities, then shaming a Gold Star family. There was the Access Hollywood tape and Trump’s sleeping with a porn star and paying her off with hush money. These are a few of Trump’s early indiscretions that should have precluded him from being elected dog catcher.

Then there was Charlottesville and his race-baiting commentary. Not to mention the frequent violence he advocated with vigor at his white power rallies that masqueraded as political events. The man would root on attendees roughing up dissenters, falsely offering to pay any corresponding legal bills. With all this darkness and isolationist commentary it bewilders me why none of this stuck to Trump.

Considering the antagonism and intolerance on display over the past four years it’s no surprise he incited the Capitol riot. What is more troubling is the number of supporters who tolerate or believe in Trump’s view of America and are willing to employ violence to help create his fake reality. It gives one pause as to how deep a rift truly is running through our society and the fragile nature of American democracy.

While Trump may have skated over most of his landmines, what we are beginning to see is  his divisive rhetoric has formed a montage of hate that finally is coming into focus when viewed through the lens of the Capitol riot.

The shine is off the apple. The 45th president’s approval rating has tanked below 40 percent. He will go down with the lowest approval rating of any first term president.

Most thought the Trumps were bad people. Now everyone knows they are.

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Congress Affirms Biden Victory After Trump Mob Overruns U.S. Capitol

For a brief couple of hours Wednesday morning I felt a sense of relief for the first time in nearly a year. After a long night of watching ballot counts in Georgia, both Democrats won runoff contests against incumbent Republicans, wresting control of the U.S. Senate away from Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

That glimmer of accountability made breathing come easier, like a weight was removed from my chest. For the second time since November finally we were seeing a rebuke of this dreadful brand of Trump Republicanism. Hope was coming to chase away the darkness of the last four years.

With control of the House and Senate, President-elect Joe Biden would get a fair chance to correct the isolationist and hate-filled direction in which Donald Trump had steered America.

This ebullient feeling lasted till noon, as Trump was ginning up his violent band of loyalists at a “Save America” rally in DC near the White House. The president, Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr. and brother Eric, among others, all took turns pushing the fraudulent agenda of a rigged election and that the sitting president’s second term was being stolen. Mind you no proof has yet to be produced, nor has any court found merit in the administration’s arguments.

Trump then sent his incensed mob on a tactical mission to overtake the U.S. Capitol, where Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over a joint session of Congress. The Electoral College vote totals were being recorded to certify Joe Biden’s election as the next President of the United States.

This was Trump’s last chance to prevent his election defeat from being finalized. He wanted it stopped or at the very least see the ceremonial process disrupted to lend a hand to the minority of legislators who planned objecting to the election results.

Shortly after 1PM, inflamed by the president’s call to arms, Trump loyalists turned terrorists, pushed through superficial perimeter barricades and stormed the Capitol, overwhelming the underprepared U.S. Capitol Police. Trump’s insurrectionist brigade scaled the Capitol’s walls, broke windows and about 90 minutes later entered the building, pushing officers back into the entryways and streamed past metal detectors into our nation’s seat of power.

Wearing face paint, masks, costumes, horns, combat gear and proudly waving Confederate flags next to Trump 2020 flags, this rag-tag band of seditionists made its way down the halls of Congress chanting, “Fight for Trump” and “Hang Mike Pence.”

Both chambers were evacuated under armed protection and members were escorted to safety as Trump’s hooligan terrorists entered the Senate chamber and looted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Terrified staffers were forced to shelter in place, barricading doors, turning off lights and hiding under tables, like in active shooter situations.

Later, improvised explosive devices were found at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee, and a support vehicle was discovered in proximity to the riot containing Molotov cocktails and firearms.

It took until just after 5:30PM for Capitol Police, aided by DC Metropolitan Police and the National Guard, to re-secure the building. In the carnage police shot one woman dead, three other insurgents died of medical issues during the siege, and one Capitol Police officer succumbed to his injuries the following day.

Proceedings resumed around 8PM. Even after this violent coup attempt was suppressed, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pressed forward with their bogus contest to the election results. Half of the other senators who intended to join this grandstanding effort of pointless subservience to Pres. Trump’s ego reneged after the insurrection.

At 3:41AM, Pence honorably served his ceremonial role by announcing Biden’s 306 to 232 victory over Trump and Congress confirmed the Electoral College result.

Sadly this uprising wasn’t any great surprise. Trump’s divisive rhetoric and outright lies for years were echoed by enablers and right wing media, which fueled a disenfranchised subsection of America itching for a second Civil War.

Staff forced Trump to release two recorded videos as the violence at the Capitol worsened, impressing upon him that he likely would be removed from office if efforts were not made on his part to quell this act of domestic terrorism. Both statements were deficient, with the second reminiscent of a hostage video, where Trump appeared forced to read a canned statement for the camera like a captured enemy combatant.

Five people are dead because of Donald Trump. Injuries were sustained to 14 police officers. Some 70-plus assailants were arrested on-scene, and dozens more have since been apprehended.

A federal murder investigation was opened to find those responsible for the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was lethally struck in the head with a fire extinguisher while heroically doing his job.

Several White House officials resigned in the wake of this melee, along with former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, cabinet secretaries Elaine Chao from Transportation and Betsy DeVos from Education, due to Trump’s inciting of violence. Subsequently the Capitol Police chief, and Sergeant-at-Arms for both the House and Senate stepped down.

Democrats and Republicans are calling for Trump’s removal from office, as he is considered unstable and capable of greater harm to the country. This gets tricky with 10 days remaining in his term. Invoking the 25th Amendment is on the table, but requires a majority of Trump’s cabinet along with Pence signing off, which is unlikely. Speaker Pelosi is fast-tracking a second impeachment of Trump as he refuses to resign.

There is blood on the president’s hands and our Capitol was desecrated. It is not equitable that Trump simply skulks away. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have shuttered the president’s accounts, which silences him by and large.

Yet chatter in the dark corners of the Web are urging further civil unrest in Washington designed to disrupt Biden’s inauguration. Seditious chatter of “We took the Capitol once before, we can take it again” is circulating.

As former Clinton and Obama aide John Podesta stated, “If you’re too dangerous to be on Twitter, then you’re too dangerous to be in charge of the nuclear codes.”

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Trump Rebuked in Georgia with Democratic Senate Wins

Newly elected Democratic senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff, left, and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Georgia sweet Georgia!

If previously you told me it would fall upon the Peach State to cast the decisive ballots that would wrest control of the U.S. Senate away from Republicans I would have said good luck completing that Hail Mary pass.

Yet under immense pressure from a deranged Donald Trump and millions in dark money spent by special interests to sway the election outcome to the GOP, Georgia stood tall and dispatched two tarnished Republican incumbents in a historic pair of runoff election victories by Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Warnock and Ossoff are the first Democrats elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia since 2000. Warnock will be the first African-American to represent Georgia in the Senate and the first African-American Democrat elected to a Senate seat by a former Confederate state.

This was Georgia’s second turn in the political spotlight in two months. Debate over the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election had yet to be quelled, and Georgia remained in the center ring as the surprise swing state from the Deep South that nominated Joe Biden.

State election officials and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp continuously were assaulted by GOP calls to invalidate election results against unfounded accusations of fraud in Georgia right up until the run-off elections on Jan. 5. But mandated recounts were conducted and Georgia certified its results for Biden.

Making matters worse Pres. Trump endlessly ran his mouth on Twitter and otherwise about Georgia’s voters being disenfranchised, and if local officials would not throw the election the president’s way, Republicans should stay home on Jan. 5 and not cast ballots.

This strong-arming took a criminal turn on Jan. 2, 2021, when Pres. Trump placed an ill-advised and potentially illegal phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, pressuring him to overturn the state’s election results, citing unfounded fraud claims.

On the call Trump famously told Raffensperger, “What I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than [the 11,779 vote margin of defeat] we have, because we won the state.”

Both sitting Georgia Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, joined the Trump chorus claiming without evidence that there had been failures in the 2020 election, and called for Raffensperger’s resignation, who rejected them.

Mind you, Loeffler had never faced voters. Gov. Kemp appointed her after former Sen. Johnny Isakson announced his resignation for health reasons in 2019. Loeffler distinguished herself as the only senator to vote with Trump 100 percent of the time.

Loeffler also had the distinction of being investigated in connection with the 2020 congressional insider trading scandal after selling stock in companies vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic valued at several million dollars. This occurred the same day she attended a private briefing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions on the emerging coronavirus disease, before the public was alerted to its severity.

Perdue took office in Jan. 2015. He likewise was linked to the 2020 congressional insider trading scandal for allegations of Stock Act violations. The basis was he sold off stock before the 2020 market crash allegedly using knowledge from a closed Senate meeting.

With Warnock defeating Loeffler and Ossoff taking down Perdue, the U.S. Senate is evenly divided 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaker. This sends Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has served in the Senate for 36 years, from his perch as majority leader back to the minority. Democrats will now control Senate committees, and any legislation or nominations to be brought to the floor.

It’s funny that instead of the supposed gatekeepers that should have checked Donald Trump’s abuse of power, it fell instead to ordinary people, voters, to do the heavy lifting. It took people who were not worried about Trump’s Twitter rampages. They just wanted the madness to stop.

Taking place simultaneously to these Georgia Senate runoffs were the deaths of 3,775 Americans from Covid-19. Where was Trump’s righteous indignation at a preventable disease killing so many in a single day?

The Trump administration estimated it would inoculate 20 million Americans for Covid-19 by the end of 2020. The doses were available but a mere 4.8 million have been administered. Why? Because Trump and the Republicans had no plan to get those vaccinations from their delivery points into peoples’ arms.

In fact Trump threw a wrench into the stimulus plan passed prior to year end that included vaccine distribution money. Once again Trump played political games that cost American lives.

In terms of all the purported “winning” Donald Trump promised America, let me check my math here. First The Donald LOST control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Got himself impeached. Single-handedly increased the spread of Covid-19. Then LOST his re-election bid for president. Not being one to do things small, Trump stepped up to the plate once again and LOST the U.S. Senate, sending his party into the minority.

A big thank you to Georgia voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who tirelessly organized Georgia voters through her anti-voter suppression group, Fair Fight Action, that boosted turnout for Biden’s victory, and in the Senate runoffs.

Democracy spoke loud Tuesday in Georgia. The earlier Biden win paired with the two runoff victories by Democrats end Trump’s reign of terror. America may now begin its long climb out of the sleazy swamp that was Donald Trump’s Washington.

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2020: The Year of the Mask

As we prepare to bid 2020 a fond farewell, we’re left to contemplate this 10-month quarantined loss of normality. Homebound. Working in living rooms and dining rooms. Kids in virtual school. Pets everywhere. Sickness. Nowhere to go. It’s jarring.

Apparently the Trump road show is mercifully coming to a fiery conclusion, but Covid cases are raging like regional wildfires across America. Today the U.S. set a daily Covid-19 death record for the second straight day. We saw 3,740 citizens die. Another 80,000 could die in the next three weeks. How do you pop champagne to that?

It’s like some bad season of the Survivor television show. But instead of getting voted off the island, some 340,000 Americans died this year from a virus. We’re seeing 229,000 new positive cases daily. Shortly there will be 20 million cases across the United States.

As tragic as this news is I must pass along my gratitude and appreciation to the front line workers that are facing the greatest public health challenge of our times. It’s a withering work environment.

The rest of us reside on edge. People are out of work. Evicted from housing. Losing benefits. It remains unclear where this is all going. The end is unclear.

Yet even in the face of Pres. Trump abdicating his leadership role to indulge in a post-election pity party, America has stood tall in these darkest of days.

The work being done by front-line medical workers, ICU staffs, EMS, administration, coroners, and all first responders is heroic. This has been hazardous terrain responding to calls.

For law enforcement they also are contending with the largest single one-year increase in homicides since the country started keeping such records in the 20th century.

Still, with all this swirling around, these guardian angels have answered the call. The sick have been cared for and the dead comforted. Local, state and federal safety nets have banded together to fill the holes left by an absent federal response.

We will make this right. In the meantime grab hold of hope. Multiple vaccines are being distributed. A stimulus package may provide some needed aid. Donald Trump will leave office in 20 days. There will be a Biden inauguration.

It’s New Year’s Eve. Let the baggage go for half a minute.

Take a spin around the neighborhood. I find solace in the green glow from the Covid lights reflecting off the damp road. It’s calming. We hear you everybody.

Happy New Year!

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2020 Election: Political Polarization Showing Signs of Shifting Liberal Electorate

Has America lost its way?

The results from the 2020 Presidential Election showed a bitterly divided country. A majority of the population sought leadership from the medical science community throughout the current pandemic. The remaining 30-plus percent of the electorate had a problem with facts. They chose to receive life and death medical advice from a reality television host playing president. These are the same folks who consider the coronavirus “fake-news,” and question whether 300,000-plus Americans really died from Covid-19.

If scientific results, or sourced news reporting for that matter, are no longer considered valid, uncomfortable truths can simply be swept away, replaced by fabricated narratives better suited to a conservative ethos. Neither is the rule of law respected by Trump and his followers. It’s just something else to manipulate and get around.

The rub is facts matter. Pres. Trump is learning this the hard way as he peddles conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud through legal channels. Lacking any tangible evidence, courts have repeatedly rejected the president’s arguments.

This cult of personality presidency has fundamentally altered the way America practices its democracy. We stopped investing in allies or the future. Look at the infrastructure dilemma, schools, education or healthcare. These issues at best received lip service under Trump.

His focus instead was on feel good projects such as building glitzier immigrant detention facilities, and seizing land along the Southwest border, where he might live out his border wall wet dream.

How’d that whole ‘getting Mexico to pay for it’ bit work out?

Trump supporters vehemently push his agenda, and pine for his re-election. But Joe Biden rose to the presidency as more of a coalition action plan to take down the sitting president.

People appreciate Joe Biden as a person. They know him and are comfortable with his presence, leadership and commitment to country. That being said Biden was the beneficiary of a defining anti-Trump protest vote cast by embarrassed moderates, independents and a sizable chunk of the Democratic electorate.

This leaves the Republican Party to face a vexing question. Either it’s going to find a way to silence some of its far right minority, learn to play nicely with others and actually govern – or it risks becoming a party of knuckle draggers. Interested more in grandstanding about perceived infringements on personal freedoms and advocating a platform that violates Constitutional guarantees.

HOW DID WE GET HERE

The last decade has been problematic to Republicans. Between the changing population nationally, a populace that supports alternative lifestyles, gay marriage, getting married later, never getting married, no kids, pro-choice, better educated, gun control, climate change – the Republicans are out of step with every major issue, and they know it.

George Wallace, a staunch segregationist who served as the 45th Governor of Alabama for four terms.

To combat these changing demographics the party became more polarized. Reagan and others saw it as easy pickings to rouse up the far right with images of patriotism and religious fervor, but they didn’t take it seriously themselves.

These leaders failed to adequately calculate just how seriously this lot took all the patriotic window dressing and Jesus chatter.

I get an individual being anti-death penalty and pro-life. But pro-death penalty, and then crying about pro-life. That line of thinking fails me.

Same as love thy neighbor. In many proper, Christian, evangelical gated-communities – the prophecy of love thy neighbor is so written – unless the couple moving in down the block is gay.

The GOP has homogenized itself. Believers walk lockstep, group-think and don’t question a good cover story. This nostalgia-driven group, seeks some reclaimed version of Andy Griffith’s fictional Mayberry, apparently believing they can keep a changing world at bay by putting up walls.

For them the concepts of freedom to gather and of religion are mere Constitutional stumbling blocks needing to be hurdled, while Second Amendment rights are narrow and absolute. The Republicans have become the caveat party. The party of conflicting ideals and obstructionism.

Violating civil rights, personal rights, voting rights, walls, wars, waterboarding, Charlottesville and this peculiar hatred toward the Affordable Care Act. It stinks of corruption and FEAR.

And with that fear present in the conservative electorate, the Republicans played their strongest hand by whipping up religious zealotry, lonerism, discrimination and hate-mongering.

Talk about expanding your base and promoting inclusion. The Republicans opened up room under their tent for those previously left outside the boundaries of the polite establishment wing of the GOP.

The Proud Boys are a far-right, neo-fascist and male only political organization that promotes and engages in political violence.

Militias were welcomed, end-of-the-worlders, white power, white supremacists, even Russians. All were welcomed to bask in the light of Trump. No worries, we’ll tuck it behind talking points about gun rights, limited government and religious freedom.

With the assistance of our “fair and balanced” friends at Fox News, the message for the simpleminded was broadcast in unison, like a finely choreographed Broadway play. For those hungry to drink up paranoia, the same message was heard emanating from the Republican political establishment, its ankle-biting lobbyists, special interest parasites, think tank chameleons, and carnival barkers like Rush Limbaugh.

With all those conservative sources united in telling a desperate demographic, hungry for miracles, that their freedom was being persecuted by “Stay Safe” orders and mask ordinances – well it must be the true, right?

Demographics show the groups that reside on the fringe are less well educated, come from depressed economic conditions, lack employment options and reside in areas where immigrants and minorities are moving into previously lily-white enclaves.

Change has arrived in most every corner of America, and the fringe is scared. They don’t get what is happening, nor do they want to understand the realities of why these changes are occurring. They can’t compete in a global economy and time is running out on their chances for an American Dream of their own.

From Left: Jeffrey Espstein, convicted sex offender and accused sex trafficker who died in jail awaiting trail, partying with his friend Donald Trump.

This group was looking for a soothsayer, a snake oil salesman. Anyone who would tell them, “America is great. We are number one.” Didn’t matter if it was true. Enter Trump. It’s delusional and has proved dangerous. In the meantime conservative Republicans edge further right as their misguided anger builds.

This spin sharpened the Republican message with its political polarization and obstructionism. Conservative politicians lost their decorum and ability to be embarrassed for holding ideals that were hypocritical to making America a better and stronger country.

Peoples manners in general have gone in the toilet, especially in politics. Emboldened by Trump’s inappropriateness, Republicans decided to yell louder and with more irreverence to mask the idiocy of what they echoed on the president’s behalf.

See Trump’s repeated claims of widespread voter fraud as a reason for loosing the 2020 election, or the administration’s diagnosis that Covid-19 was no big deal and would be gone by spring 2020.

On a national level the trend lines are clear. Republican margins are dwindling, and in important voting blocks, like Latinos, women, millennials, it is unclear there is a viable conservative inroad to swing those populations. This makes the GOP’s path to the White House growingly treacherous.

Will those same trend lines drift down into local and state-based election results? The jury remains out. In 2020, it did not play that way. Trump lost, but down-ballot Republicans faired well. Nationally, Biden will be sworn in as the next president in January, the House is under Nancy Pelosi’s able control, and pending two senatorial run-off races in Georgia, Mitch McConnell could find himself in the minority.

THE OUTCOME

If the GOP can’t find a way to broaden its message there is no wall to build that will not be topped. Because right now they are a party of exclusion. It is Democrats who have a welcome mat displayed out front to greet all comers.

How much longer can the Republican Party, with a straight face, continue denying the science of climate change? Solutions may be painful to big business, but acting like these interconnected weather anomalies are not actually taking place inflates the GOP’s credibility gap.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), posing next to Chester Doles, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, who was sentenced to prison in the 1990s for assaulting a Black man in Maryland.

Meanwhile, the middle class is under siege. Wages have been stagnant for decades. In my youth moms stayed home with the kids. That was great from a childrearing standpoint, but women entering the workforce was huge, and a welcomed change. Yet the fight continues as women still don’t make a fair wage, and now two income families are faced with dual stagnant incomes that inflation has roared past.

Somebody must stand up to Wall Street, and let the CEOs and CFOs and all the other bloated fat cats know their salaries need cutting, profit margins trimmed and proceeds redistributed to include the working class. The current system is bankrupting people and making it near impossible to achieve home ownership. Much less allow single moms to afford the security of raising kids in a safe environment.

For America to remain great the nation must invest in its people. Don’t keep the riches for just the one percent. If Republican leaders can’t see their way to a more inclusive, pro-people, pro-worker platform, the GOP may find itself out of business.

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Guitar Legend Eddie Van Halen Passes Away

Eddie Van Halen, the influential guitarist and co-founder of hard rock band Van Halen, died after a years-long battle with cancer on Oct. 6, 2020. Van Halen was 65.

Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Jan. 26, 1955. He moved with his family to Pasadena, CA, in 1962. Eddie and his brother, drummer, Alex Van Halen, co-founded their namesake band in 1974.

VAN HALEN | UNCHAINED | 06.12.81 | OAKLAND COLISEUM STADIUM

Eddie was the band’s main songwriter and a ground-breaking guitarist. He is considered one of the all-time greatest guitar players in rock history, ranked No. 8 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Part of Van Halen’s urban legend is the cobbling together of his custom hybrid guitar from scrap parts. The maple neck cost $80, while the Northern Ash body was bought for $50. The tremolo arm was originally taken from a 1958 Fender Stratocaster, and was later replaced with a Floyd Rose arm. The guitar had a single Gibson PAF (patent applied for) humbucking bridge pickup from a Gibson ES-335, which he enclosed with paraffin wax to prevent feedback.

Eddie Van Halen’s custom built “Frankenstrat” guitar.

This became known as “Frankenstrat.” Originally painted black, “Frankie,” was recoated with Schwinn red bicycle paint in 1979, offset by distinctive asymmetric white and black lines.

This was Van Halen’s attempt to combine the sound of a classic Gibson guitar with the physical attributes and tremolo bar functionality of a Fender Strat. A copy of Frankenstrat is housed in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

This fabricated monster of a guitar, Eddie’s irreverent playing, the hair, bandanas, overalls, wrapped together with the band’s sheer joy on stage drew millions of fans to Van Halen. They were a shot in the arm to an aging 70s rock scene.

Van Halen crawled out of an L.A. gutter amidst the ashen remains of Punk, Disco, and 70s acid rock. For us 1980s kids, Van Halen was a band to call our own. They were immediate. Vital. And still evolving.

VAN HALEN | BOTTOMS UP | LIVE 1979

Gene Simmons from Kiss was the first to get Van Halen into a recording studio. He bankrolled a 29-track demo tape in 1976, but could find no interest from record execs. It was after a sizzling performance at the venerable L.A. club, Whisky a Go Go, that Ted Templeman signed the band to Warner Bros.

Van Halen’s eponymous debut came on Feb. 10, 1978. It peaked at No. 19 on Billboard, selling more than 10 million copies in the U.S., and became one of rock’s most commercially successful debuts.

From L to R: David Lee Roth, Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony.

What set the band apart from your average hard rock act was the structural underpinnings to Van Halen. Eddie was a virtuoso. David Lee Roth, with his long hair, bare chest and martial arts moves was the perfect circus front man to lead this outfit. Eddie’s raw guitar set the tone, but what caught people by surprise was the layering of sound, multi-voiced harmonies, a palpable sense of humor, paired with a tight rhythm section supplied by Alex on drums and Michael Anthony on bass.

Against this backdrop Eddie performed his two-handed tapping technique for playing guitar solos. This isn’t something he invented. It was popular with flamenco guitarists for a century, as well as the likes of Paganini on both violin and guitar. It involves using both left and right hands on the guitar neck, which makes for dramatic stagecraft when showcased live.

Additionally, in 1982, Eddie Van Halen contributed the guitar solo to Beat It, for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which became the biggest selling album of all time.

Throughout life Eddie struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. He began smoking and drinking at the age of 12, and later admitted to requiring alcohol to function. This contributed to an illustrious history of instability within the band. He entered rehab in 2007 and was sober since 2008.

Van Halen began receiving treatment for tongue cancer in 2000. The subsequent surgery removed roughly a third of his tongue. He was declared cancer-free in 2002. It was suggested his tongue cancer was due to Van Halen’s habit of holding a brass or copper guitar pick in his mouth.

Van Halen suffered health issue for the remainder of his life. He was hospitalized in 2019, after battling throat cancer over the previous five years. His ex-wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli, also mentioned a battle with lung cancer he had in an Instagram post after the guitarist’s death. He ultimately died of a stroke at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA on Oct. 6, 2020.

VAN HALEN | SO THIS IS LOVE | 06.12.81 | OAKLAND COLISEUM STADIUM

Van Halen ranks 20th on the RIAA list of best-selling artists in the United States. The band has sold 56 million albums in the States, and more than 80 million worldwide.

Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Toro Mower Steps Up to Double Lot Challenge

The logistics of getting a family packed up and moved is enough to fill several “To-Do” lists. Cutting the new yard once moved was not one of my immediate concerns. We moved in Oct. 2019. The mowing season was over.

It was March 2020 when the lawn became a problem. The house sits on a corner double lot. The front yard isn’t so bad, but the back is sizable. Not something one would want to use a push mower on.

I wasn’t sure what I needed, but the time had come to find out.

I poked around online to see makes and models, then went to Lowe’s to look in person. I failed to receive the feedback that any of the Craftsmen were the way to go. The Husqvarna brand and some of the Honda models might have worked. There are a lot of questionable brands out there to sift through, but if you have a larger yard, it requires a machine that is built to last and can stand up to the punishment of weekly usage.

This got me looking at what the contractors were hauling on their trailers through my neighborhood. It was eXmark, which I learned was the contractor-level machines for the Toro line of products.

The only folks in Frankfort that carry Toro are Lyon’s Lumber Co. This is a local, family-run retailer that has been in business since 1909. Lyon’s has a full-service lumber yard, hardware store and specialty outdoor equipment location. This last one is where I was headed.

At Lyon’s there is a modest selection of brands, and with good reason, the ones they offer last. It may cost a little bit more up front, but each will serve a homeowner well in terms of longevity, routine upkeep and repairs.

Most of this store was well above my head in terms of seriousness. I just needed a solid self-propelled unit that was a home warrior. Customers I saw at Lowe’s had told me I would want a riding mower the minute I finished cutting my yard once. I didn’t care. I could use the exercise. Besides the zero turns start at around $2,000. I’m not there yet.

In my price range, the best unit I saw hands down was the Toro Super Recycler (#20382). This had a 21″ cast-aluminum deck and the upgrade to a Honda GCV 160cc engine. Toro backs the product with a 5-year full warranty.

It retailed for $669, and I paid $569.

The auto-choke and easy pull ignition start the engine on a single try. The Toro is light and maneuverable. Yet mows strong and walks at a steady pace, free flowing. Takes me about two hours to complete my front and back yards.

A water port on the deck allows garden hose access for easy below deck and blade cleanup.

My advice, listen to the lawn care experts. Buy a Toro.

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Breonna Taylor Shooting by Police Leaves Louisville Officials Without Answers

If there was a positive takeaway from the tragic death of George Floyd it’s that the continued scrutiny of his treatment at the hands of Minneapolis police has illuminated the circumstances surrounding the murky police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

Taylor’s death, along with Floyd’s, has pushed to the forefront the issue of racial injustice and police reform amidst differing brands of justice being handed out depending upon the color of one’s skin.

Unlike the Floyd killing, which was captured on multiple cell phone videos by witnesses, much of Breonna Taylor’s death remains a mystery. It took place on March 13, during the midnight hour. Narcotics detectives wore street clothes. No badge cameras were utilized.

Taylor was shot and killed after Louisville Metro Police officers broke down her apartment door to serve a “no-knock” search warrant in connection with a narcotics investigation.

Police say they knocked and announced their presence, but Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he and Taylor didn’t know who was pounding on the door.

Breonna Taylor, 26, was not unlike millions of other Americans, in that it took her some years to figure out who she was and what life was about. Taylor was the daughter of a single teenage mother, and a father who has been incarcerated since she was a child.

Taylor attended college and trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (E.M.T.). She was considering nursing as a possible career goal. The hours and low pay forced her away from E.M.T. work, but she settled into the position of an emergency room technician.

On the day leading up to her death, Taylor had completed four overnight shifts at the hospital where she worked. She and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, went out to dinner that evening, then back to Taylor’s apartment to watch a movie in bed. Taylor drifted off to sleep just after midnight on March 13.

At that same time plain-clothed police officers were surveilling the apartment. They failed to recognize Taylor’s boyfriend had come home with her. They anticipated finding a single female alone in the apartment. This set in motion a series of miscalculations by police, where a failure to follow routine safeguards and protocols led to Taylor’s shooting death.

The question was did police need or have the right to be at Taylor’s door?

Police interest in Breonna Taylor stemmed from her involvement with a previous on-again, off-again boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover. Taylor had no police record and was never a target for inquiry.

Glover, 30, was in the drug game and had frequent run-ins with the law. This landed him in jail more than once. The attention Glover drew from law enforcement gave Taylor pause. This was a lifestyle seen routinely in Louisville’s segregated West End. It often ended in prison or on a medical examiners’ slab.

Yet Glover had listed at times his home address as the one at Breonna Taylor’s apartment. A GPS tracker on Glover’s vehicle showed he made regular trips to Taylor’s apartment complex, and surveillance photos showed her outside his house.

This connection led to Taylor being interviewed in a murder investigation. Taylor had rented a vehicle and provided it to Glover. Later another man was found shot dead inside the same vehicle. Taylor was also on record having paid or arranged bail for Glover and his associates.

Admittedly this entanglement between Taylor and Glover doesn’t look great. But most of this so-called evidence leading to probable cause is anecdotal. It’s a woman who had feelings for a bad boy and tried to help him when he got in trouble. Police construed it as hard evidence Taylor was in the dope game.

The department received a “no-knock” warrant to search for drugs or cash related to Glover’s drug trafficking operation. Prior to the raid the order was changed to “knock and announce,” meaning police had to identify themselves.

Nearing 1:00AM on March 13, police punched Breonna Taylor’s apartment door with a battering ram. Both Walker and Taylor were awakened by the pounding at the door. They screamed for the unknown visitors to identify themselves, but heard nothing in return.

When the door came off its hinges, Walker, fearing it was Glover or another violent intruder, reached for his 9mm handgun and let off what he characterized as a warning shot.

The bullet ricocheted off the floor and struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. He and Det. Myles Cosgrove returned fire. Another officer, Det. Brett Hankison, standing outside the apartment, blindly fired shots through Taylor’s window and patio door.

Taylor was hit five times and bled out on the floor, dying in her apartment hallway.

Det. Hankison has been fired, while Cosgrove and Mattingly remain on administrative reassignment.

Several investigations are under way including a federal civil rights inquiry. For reasons still unclear Louisville Metro Police and city officials have refused to release routine internal investigation details on the botched raid. This void created by a lack of any concrete details from police has led to tensions between the city’s African-American residents and police.

The family’s civil lawsuit, filed April 27, alleged Taylor’s life was wrongfully taken, that police used excessive force and that the search was grossly negligent.

An amended complaint filed two months later additionally claimed Taylor’s death was the result of Louisville police’s effort to clear out a block for gentrification and the newly formed Place-Based Investigations unit consisted of “rogue police” who violated “all levels of policy, protocol and policing standards.”

Taylor’s family alleged in the suit the warrant served at Taylor’s apartment was targeted at Jamarcus Glover, a convicted drug dealer who was located by police at a drug house 10 miles away before the warrant was served on Taylor’s residence.

Why police were looking at Breonna Taylor, how they were able to get a “no knock” warrant and the shabby way it was carried out all are endemic of racial inequality. Racism has never left this country. Instead it slowly poisons communities. African-Americans and other minorities bear witness to generations of discriminatory leadership from industry, the education sector, commerce and the judicial system.

Black residents in Louisville are in poorer health and have less income and far fewer economic opportunities.

Minority populations have been relegated to these impoverished neighborhoods, where they are cut off from basic necessities like groceries and adequate health care. It stymies their ability to find sustaining waged jobs and build wealth for future generations. Their schools are less than adequate and prospects after graduation are even worse.

Only 2.4 percent of businesses in Louisville are Black-owned. African-Americans are less likely to be ready for college upon graduation from high school, more likely to be searched by police during traffic stops and more likely to be unemployed.

Statewide, African-Americans are almost three times as likely to be incarcerated as white people, and more likely to be evicted from their homes.

The casino is holding all the cards, stacking the deck against minority betterment. Even within the police department itself, only 10 percent of the city’s 1,154 officers are Black, when African-Americans make up 25 percent of Louisville’s overall population.

It sadly takes the tragic death of a person like Breonna Taylor, and subsequent months of protests to shock the stacked system, and get city officials to feel sufficient community pressure to make change possible.

The conclusion to Breonna’s case is far from over. What we can do as a community and a nation is “Say Her Name,” and bring her justice.

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Maytag Washer and Dryer Combo Comes to the Rescue

The Maytag MVWB855DC Washing Machine

It’s never a good day when the agitator inside an older model washing machine ceases to agitate. I moved into my current home in 2019, and the washer/dryer units came with the house. They were far from new then. Now I was in research mode to get up to speed on modern washer/dryers, to see what brands and features might be the right fit for my family of five.

Walk into any home appliance retailer and the number of brands can quickly appear overwhelming. Just figuring out where to start seems daunting to the uninitiated. I needed this decision narrowed quickly.

Thankfully three things managed to drop my choices down to four washing machines rather fast. First, regarding the washing machine style, one must decide agitator versus impeller. Most of us who are 40 or older grew up with a washing machine that used an agitator. It’s that tall spindly thing popping up out of the center, which rotates to draw the clothes in and pull them beneath the water to clean items.

Newer technology features an impeller. Nothing sticks up out of the water, allowing for larger capacity wash loads. It utilizes smart technology to adequately soak clothes, and a series of rotational spins then forces clothing to rub against other items in the wash. This rubbing action against other items works to remove stains and saves water.

View inside of the low profile impeller in the Maytag washer

It took a little convincing, but I finally wrapped my head around the impeller technology over having an agitator. Believe the science. The industry is trending in that direction anyway.

The second limiter was a preference thing for me. I wanted a machine without a bunch of excessive functions that could break, and needed to feel assured the product would be easy to get serviced.

After reading a ton of user feedback on units and talking with sales reps at Lowe’s and a local retailer in Frankfort, Joey’s Warehouse Sales, my take was brands such as LG and Samsung are excessively electronic, not that they are not nice machines, but the rap was they break. Replacement parts are not easy to acquire, meaning your machine is out of action longer. That made eliminating these brands easy.

Thirdly, I wanted a top-loading washer. The front-loaders are eye-catching, but I find the washers take on a mildew odor because the water fails to fully drain. These three qualifiers, along with setting a maximum price point of $1,500 for the washer/dryer combo, got me to my Final Four of washing machines. Two sets were Maytag and two were Whirlpool.

Now for those not familiar, Whirlpool also is the owner of Amana, Electrolux, Jenn-Air, Maytag, Roper and KitchenAid is its premium line. Picking a winning unit between Whirlpool and Maytag would be challenging. Both are well made and industry leaders.

The following are key features I sought to be included in the washer unit: Stainless steel wash basket, impeller, EnergyStar efficient, quality motor (preferably no belts), deep clean (high water) feature, steam sanitize and a decent warranty. All of my Final Four machines fit this criteria, with only minor nuances to separate them.

Whirlpool Cabrio WTW8500DC

I first eliminated the two Whirlpool models. The 2019-2020 Whirlpool, WTW8500DC (Chrome Shadow), retailed for $200 more than my eventual choice. The other Whirlpool was the same model just the 2018-2019 version, MTW8040DW, in white, which was the least expensive option at $598.

The winning unit was the 2019-2020 Maytag MVWB855DC (Metallic Slate), which ended up only $100 more than the cheapest of my four finalists. From a feature standpoint and manufacturing quality I gave the Maytag a slight edge over Whirlpool. Cosmetically, I liked the look of the control panel having one large wheel dial to select most options. Teenagers will be using this a lot and a turn dial is easier to navigate than touch control buttons.

Maytag MVWB855DC control panel

It’s also powered by an impressive DirectDrive motor (no belts) and its backed with a 10-year warranty. The machine itself and the dryer included an industry standard 1-year warranty. There are 11 special cycles, including Maytag’s PowerWash, PowerSpray, Sanitize, Deep Clean, and a steam-enhanced water cycle to increase the heat for stain removal.

Similar to the Whirlpool scenario, the 2018-2019 model Maytag, MVWB835DW, was the other unit in the running, but I was able to get the price dropped on the current year’s model to the same $648 for each unit. It was a no brainer to go with the newer model. I liked the color too!

Maytag washer with the MEDB855DC Dryer

With my family’s size, and considering the occasional pet mishap (we have seven cats), there is a lot of bedding getting washed and both boys play sports, so plenty of clothing. The MVWB855DC is a beast. It runs multiple loads daily and has a huge load capacity. Might help if owners have long arms, which I do, because it is a ways down to reach the bottom of the basket.

I dig the impeller. I think the agitator takes up valuable real estate in the basket. The unit conserves energy by weighing out the laundry and limits water usage depending on the weight and cycle setting. The clothes come out super clean. The matching Maytag dryer, MEDB855DC, is equally a monster, and has all the necessary cycles to meet a family’s clothes drying needs.

I don’t think one can go wrong with either Maytag or Whirlpool washers and dryers. I paired this purchase with a 5-year extended warranty. Couldn’t be happier with both these Maytag units since they were installed.

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Minneapolis Police Take the Life of George Floyd

On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year old unarmed black male, was arrested by Minneapolis police officers for a non-violent offense, and subsequently died in their custody. This interaction transpired in broad daylight on a public street, and was captured on cell phone videos by multiple witnesses, as Floyd was handcuffed, pinned to the ground and his life forcibly extinguished.

A convenience store clerk called 911 to report Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Once police arrived on scene, a span of 17 minutes elapsed, at the conclusion of which Floyd was rendered unconscious. Three officers were seen sitting on the suspect, one of which maintained his leg across the neck of Floyd.

The following day all four responding officers were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department. This move came after videos taken by witnesses showing the street execution of George Floyd played non-stop across airwaves overnight, and trended on social media.

The official autopsy report classified Floyd’s death as a homicide attributed to cardiopulmonary arrest caused by subdual and restraint. Potential intoxicants in his system were listed as “significant conditions.” A second autopsy, commissioned by Floyd’s family, found that the “evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause” of death, with neck compression restricting blood flow to the brain, and back compression restricting breathing.

It’s not like this wasn’t brought to the attention of police. George Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” Bystanders begged with police to get off Floyd’s neck. Witnesses, one of which was a nurse, told officers they were going to kill the man and offered to provide first aid. The officers refused assistance.

On May 29, Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney (Minneapolis), announced third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges against Derek Chauvin, who was the most egregiously identifiable officer in the witness videos.

Officer Chauvin, who is white, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes and 15 seconds. He did not remove his knee even after the suspect had lost consciousness. In fact Officer Chauvin felt compelled to keep his knee on George Floyd’s neck for one minute and 20 seconds after paramedics arrived on scene.

Hennepin County prosecutors later added a more serious second-degree murder charge against Chauvin, and charged the three other former officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Chauvin, if convicted, could face up to 40 years in prison.

This catastrophe of a police encounter went viral immediately. It wasn’t just about what happened at the scene in Minneapolis. The senselessness of Floyd’s death struck a nerve that spoke to the racial injustice suffered by minority populations across America.

Officer Chauvin, 44, was seen as the poster child for white police indifference to the social inequalities for minorities, and the iron-fisted response law enforcement delivered in these communities.

Large protests erupted as a result in more than 150 American cities against police brutality and systemic racism. Clearly not all of these protests were peaceful. Businesses and a police substation were set on fire in Minneapolis.

The nationwide protests took on a life of their own. Particularly here in Louisville, KY, where Floyd’s death highlighted the March killing of Breonna Taylor, a young black woman, shot to death in her home by Louisville Metro Police in a botched no-knock warrant.

It’s incomprehensible the sheer, unending number of unarmed black men murdered on the streets of America by white police officers. You would think that with all the attention on this subject currently, when faced with an unarmed black male, who is not a danger to himself or others, officers would back off, disengage and find a nonlethal solution to the situation.

The fact that incidents such as the killing of George Floyd keep happening, one can’t make a logical interpretation other than these deaths are purposeful. It is an inconvenient truth that unarmed black men are disproportionately killed by police. Change will not be realized until law enforcement deals with this internally, officers get held accountable and politicians lose elections as a result of inaction.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey indicated on social media that he had requested the F.B.I. open a civil rights investigation, and that, “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence.”

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