Hank Aaron – quiet dignity, quiet strength

I had planned to write a tribute post to baseball’s legendary Henry (Hank) Aaron this afternoon, but as often happens when great minds think alike, Keith was on the same page, only he beat me to the punch and did it every bit as well as I could have. Thank you, Keith, for this lovely tribute to a man who was not only a great baseball player, but also a great human being.

musingsofanoldfart

A great baseball player passed away yesterday. His name was Henry Aaron, but he went by Hank. He was a very quiet man growing up in the south in the middle of the Jim Crow era. But, arguably he is on a very short list of the greatest baseball players ever.

Rather than bore non-baseball fans with endless statistics indicating how great he was, let me focus on how poorly this African-American was treated as he chased records set by white ball players. He received multiple death threats and family kidnapping threats and was openly called the N word both aloud and within the many letters of vicious hate mail.

Like Jackie Robinson before him, he took all of this with quiet dignity and a heavy dose of quiet strength. Racism and bigotry was dumped on this man like garbage. But, he stood strong.

When he chased the greatest of…

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Life, Once Again, Goes On

My friends, we now have a President.  I began watching the ceremonies with some degree of trepidation, fearing another terrorist attack similar to the one two weeks ago, but as the program progressed, there was no sign of trouble or even mild dissent, and I began to relax a bit.  I realize that this is only the formal first step, and that Joe & Kamala have much work to do, but it feels as if fresh air has returned, as if I can breathe again.  My tears today were tears of relief, of peace.

It is time, now, to move forward, not to keep looking back at the past four horrifying years.  That’s not to say there won’t be times that it is necessary to look back, for much damage has been done and repairing it will also mean assessing it, but for the most part, I think we need to focus on President Biden’s actions.  Moving forward doesn’t mean we forget the past, but rather that we learn from it, we catalog the mistakes, assess their origins in order to ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes ever again.

For four years, this nation has been steadily losing the respect of the rest of the world, and it will take time and effort to repair our alliances, to once again be respected in the eyes of the world.  For the past year, we have fought a deadly pandemic, with deaths in the U.S. alone totaling over 400,000 … fully 20% of the total deaths worldwide, though we have only 4% of the world’s population.  The overt racism and police brutality toward Black people is out of control.  Unemployment and poverty are at an all-time high, in part due to the pandemic.  And perhaps the most critical issue is that for four years we have completely disregarded the environment, have added more plastic and CO2 to the atmosphere than ever before.  All of these and more are things that President Biden will need to deal with rapidly, and I believe he will.

Solutions will not happen overnight, and our patience is likely to be sorely tested, but finally we have a President who understands the problems, will listen to the experts and the scientists, and will do his best to repair the damage, to protect not only the people of this nation, but of the world.  My hope is that rather than engage in partisanship and obstructionism, Congress will work with President Biden to help solve some of our many problems.  Members of Congress who fail to do so will earn themselves a place in my ‘snarky snippets’ hall of fame!

And so, we enter a new day in our ongoing history … a day filled with hope for the future, something we haven’t felt for a very long time.  When I awoke this morning, the sky was cloudy and grey, but sometime in the early afternoon, the sun came out and outside my window the birdies are eating the squirrel’s peanuts and the squirrels are eating the bird seed – and thus, life goes on!

Now what?

Once again, our friend Brosephus is spot on with his assessment of the U.S. today. Would MLK be appalled? Probably, but then he’d jump in and get to work trying to help fix this mess. Thanks, Brosephus, for this accurate summation of where we are today.

The Mind of Brosephus

Now what

Yesterday morning, I opened up the WordPress editor to begin writing a column. The words that were bouncing around in my skull didn’t seem appropriate for a day honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., so I left the page blank. I didn’t want to sully his memory with the things in my mind. In hindsight, yesterday was probably the most appropriate day of the year to let those words and the message they convey flow freely like water leaping from a waterfall.

America is a broken country. It’s been that way for a long time, but the false sheen of good (or greatness) has been rubbed away by the abrasiveness of modern politics. Instead of working towards the idea of E Pluribus Unum, we’ve been guided by a principle best described as “I’m getting mine, f**k yours”.

CoVID-19 exposed the shortcomings for American health care. Many already…

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Something To Ponder …

Our nation has become a frightening place in the last two weeks since domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol on January 6th with the intention, it is now known, of doing bodily harm or even killing some of our elected officials such as Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence.  And now, only five short days from the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, we know that the terrorists have even more mayhem planned for the days before, during, and after the inauguration. 

While I am not an alarmist, this situation has me frightened for the lives of Biden, Harris, and members of Congress, but also for the continuity of our government, for the future of this nation.  Law enforcement dropped the ball last Wednesday and I cannot help but wonder if they will be able to keep our lawmakers and our new President and Vice President safe next week.

Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week, has written a well-researched column outlining some of the threats and possible solutions, both immediate and long-term.  It is well worth spending a few minutes to read …


Do Democrats realize the danger they are in?

ryan-cooperRyan Cooper

Democrats, already rattled by nearly falling into the hands of a violent mob during the attempted putsch at the Capitol on January 6, are facing the possibility of worse happening soon. Democratic members of Congress were briefed on three different additional conspiracies to overthrow the government on Monday, and at least one member has faced harassment by Trump loyalists out in the wild.

One has to wonder: Are Democratic leaders able to face how much danger they and their party are really in, or what it might take to preserve their lives?

As I’ve written previously, the fascist mob was within yards of seizing members of Congress on several occasions during the January 6 putsch. If the guns, pipe bombs, flex cuffs, and literal gallows they carried are any indication, many members would have been hurt or murdered by the putschists — as they did murder one Capitol Police officer, as well as seriously injuring some 15 others. Now the extreme right is plotting new conspiracies to overturn democracy during the Biden inauguration, including by assassinating Democratic members of Congress or President-elect Biden, according to the new leadership of the Capitol Police. One plot “would involve insurrectionists forming a perimeter around the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court, and then blocking Democrats from entering the Capitol ― perhaps even killing them ― so that Republicans could take control of the government,” writes Matt Fuller at HuffPost. One Chicago man has already been arrested for allegedly threatening violence against President-elect Biden.

What’s more, law enforcement agencies are clearly less than trustworthy. There were many off-duty cops and members of the military involved with the putsch, and already several Capitol Police officers have been suspended for fraternizing with the putschists. Meanwhile, a Secret Service agent is under investigation for unhinged social media posts accusing Democrats of treason and stealing the election. For every member of law enforcement dumb enough to get caught doing that, it’s probably safe to assume there are several more with similar views but who keep such thoughts to themselves.

Even if we think it is comparatively unlikely that the vast security apparatus will fail to protect the new president at least, there is still a major danger to the Democratic rank-and-file. Backbenchers get no Secret Service protection, and a pack of Trump supporters — who have been constantly whipped into a frenzy with inflammatory lies from half the Republican Party elite — were reportedly on the verge of violently attacking Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) at Dulles International Airport before security intervened (though Correa says those same security officers failed to even take down the names of his assailants).

What is most urgently needed right now is for elected Republicans and conservative media to tell their constituents the truth, and deescalate the situation — admitting that Biden won the election fair and square, and telling conservatives to go home and try to win the next election instead of threatening violence. This would be far too little, far too late, but it might avoid major bloodshed. Unfortunately, it is also exceedingly unlikely given that President Trump has gone back to doubling down on his rhetoric that incited the mob in the first place, and many Republicans are now whining about impeachment and the lack of unity they themselves created, so more unilateral options are needed.

Luckily, there are a great many legal and regulatory actions Biden and the incoming Democratic Congress could do to crush right-wing extremism. For instance, the far right runs on a flood tide of oligarch money — the app Parler, on which much of the putsch was organized, was funded by the notorious ultra-wealthy Mercer family — which could be taxed and regulated. As Alex Pareene suggests at The New Republic, “Rigorous audits and reclassification of 501 nonprofits would do more to disrupt right-wing organizing than any new domestic terror law as interpreted and enforced by our current security state.”

Perhaps most effective immediate step would be squelching the spread of extremist propaganda, which genuinely appears to be driving much of the nutcase behavior we see around the country. Look into the history of the putschists, and in virtually every case one finds someone who melted his or her brain watching conservative YouTube, or people who are themselves conservative media personalities. I have argued that rolling back Section 230 (which protects internet companies like Facebook from being held legally liable for the material that is posted on their sites) would expose the social media behemoths to titanic legal liability, and force them to remove all extremist content — probably causing them to shrink drastically in the process, which would be its own benefit.

Finally, Democrats could conduct a purge of all the right-wing extremists in law enforcement and the security apparatus. Rather than passing a new domestic terrorism law, they could excise the fascist sympathizers from the FBI, Secret Service, NSA, and so forth, and use existing legal authorities to smash far-right political structures. The Capitol putsch was already a massive crime spree, all is needed is to enforce the laws that are already on the books.

On the other hand, it is worth noting how the space of possibility shrinks if anti-democratic extremism is allowed to metastasize. Eventually, meeting force with force becomes the only option available. This was the case by 1860, just after the Republican Party had been formed to combat slavery, when a small group of men calling themselves the “Wide-Awakes” took to protecting a Republican campaign in Connecticut. Soon there were copycat organizations springing up across the North, and the Wide-Awakes became a sort of paramilitary wing of the Lincoln campaign — serving as security for Republican events, conducting big marches through towns and cities, and recruiting thousands of young people to the anti-slavery cause. (As historian Matt Karp argues in a big article for Catalyst magazine, the Wide-Awakes were just part of a massive organizing campaign that united the Northern working class under the Republican anti-slavery banner.)

Few historians believe that the Civil War could have been avoided without splitting the U.S. in half. But today, untrammeled violent conflict could still be avoided — if the Democrats are willing to mobilize the vast powers of the American state to protect democracy and freedom from the fascist threat. It seems like a long shot, but let’s hope that being in literal physical peril motivates them to get over their usual timidity.

Wiser Words Than Mine

I find myself tonight in a strange place, a place where I can find no words.  I have much I would like to say, but I cannot get the words to move from my brain to my fingers.  My head and heart are still reeling from the dark chasm into which I was forced to look on Wednesday, and when I try to write my thoughts, no words will come.

Fortunately, not everyone has been struck silent in the wake of Wednesday’s terrible tragedy, and New York Times columnist David Brooks has written my post for me tonight, far better than I could have done even were I at my best.


This Is When the Fever Breaks

Wednesday was a moral exposure, and a turning point.

david-brooks-thumbLarge-v2By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

Awe and reverence. I remember the first time I entered the U.S. Capitol. I was 14 or so. I came down from Pennsylvania by train, and I was overwhelmed by the glory of the place. This was where Lincoln and Henry Clay had worked. This was where the 13th Amendment was passed, the Land Grant College Act, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act. It was such a beautiful building, I was stunned.

I got inside, found the tunnels and explored the complex. I figured if I walked really fast, people would think I belonged there, so I trucked along as fast as my little legs would carry me — heart racing and imagination aflame.

It’s decades later. I live a few blocks from the building now and have been inside thousands of times. The awe and reverence have never diminished an iota.

The people who work there have their human frailties, but at moments of great crisis, like 9/11 or Wednesday’s mob rampage, most of them show a devotion to our common enterprise that makes me cry with admiration.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio once took me on the Senate floor and showed me how generations of senators had carved their names in the drawers of the desks — ancient hands with their penknives scratching away in the wood, a centuries-long parade of lives dedicated in their imperfect ways to our country.

That is why the Capitol, not the White House, is the altar of our democracy, the sacred gathering spot of those who served, strove and died building this nation.

One day in 2013 a freshman senator named Ted Cruz shut down the government. He was months into his first term, a time when his eyes should have been wide with wonder and his heart full of humility. Instead, he co-opted the Senate, with no realistic prospect of serving any cause, but simply for the purpose of making Ted Cruz famous. He gave a 21-hour filibuster speech on the Senate floor that riveted right-wing media for a news cycle.

I was in the Senate Dining Room shortly afterward when he walked in. The emotional temperature plummeted. Everybody, of both parties, despised Cruz for putting himself above the Senate, for his own arrogance and narcissism.

But it worked. Cruz became a prominent G.O.P. figure, a fund-raising machine. The model of being a Republican lawmaker changed. It was no longer somebody who passes legislation; it was someone who pulls a publicity stunt that owns the libs. Millions of Americans felt scorned by a cultural and media elite. They were willing to follow anybody who could make himself despised by the people they felt despised them.

Donald Trump came in the wake of that. And then, this week, Josh Hawley. As of Wednesday morning, Hawley was the model of what a Republican senator was going to look like in the post-Trump era. He cannily understood what the party faithful wanted. Publicity stunts. Owning the libs.

But there are dark specters running through our nation — beasts with shaggy manes and feral teeth. They have the stench of Know-Nothingism, the hot blood of the lynchers, and they ride the winds of nihilistic fury.

Read the history books. They have always been lurking in the shadows of our nation’s greatness. Hawley didn’t just own the libs, he gave permission to dark forces he is too childish, privileged and self-absorbed to understand. Hawley sold his soul to all that is ugly for the sake of his own personal celebrity.

Human beings exist at moral dimensions both too lofty and more savage than the contemporary American mind normally considers. The mob that invaded that building Wednesday exposed the abyss. This week wasn’t just an atrocity, it was a glimpse into an atavistic nativism that always threatens to grip the American soul. And it wasn’t just the mob that exposed this. The rampage reminded us that if Black people had done this, the hallways would be red with their blood.

We are a flawed and humiliated nation, but when well led, we can be more self-sacrificial than we have any right to expect. I despised the sight of the Confederate flags being paraded through Capitol halls, but I loved everything Mitt Romney said and did on Wednesday. Romney showed what moral leadership looks like, and how just a few voices can shift a herd.

Leadership matters. Character matters. The thousands of people who work in the Capitol complex were chased from their chambers or barricaded in their offices by the furies that are ravaging this nation. The shock of this atrocity is bound to have a sobering effect.

I’m among those who think this is an inflection point, a step back from madness. We’re a divided nation, but we don’t need to be a nation engulfed in lies, lawlessness and demagogic incitement.

We look to you, our 535 representatives, to simply do the people’s business, to cut deals so people can stock their pantries and school their kids, and so that a 14-year-old, or a 59-year-old, can enter your building with eyes of wonder, awe and devotion.

REBIRTH OF A NATION?

Like it or not, the U.S. has a place in the global community, and as such, what happens here affects our friends and neighbours all ’round the globe. Here is an assessment … a spot-on one, as it happens … from our friend David in the UK. Thank you David, for your thoughts on our disastrous day, your hopes for our future, and for caring.

The BUTHIDARS

Yesterday, January 6th 2021 will be a day long remembered in the history books. I saw something I never thought to witness outside of a Banana Republic. A Western Nation go to war with itself. There was armed insurrection in the Capital and the home of Democracy in America , The Capitol Building, was attacked by armed civilians carrying every type of weapon. These people had not gone to demand a more Democratic State, they had gone to destroy Democracy itself.

People were forewarned of such an event and it surprised me that there wasn’t a stronger defence of he building though it seems likely that there may have been some collusion between these insurrectionists and members of the current ruling party. The President who has made an almost single handed assault on Government during the last four years, and who has done little to earn his salary for the…

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Alternative Facts — 1984 or 2021?

The events of the past four years have often brought to mind George Orwell’s 1984, starting in the first week with Kellyanne Conway’s assertion that there can be ‘alternative facts’.  But even more so are recent events, such as Trump’s uncanny ability to convince some 70% of republicans that he actually won the election, contrary to what the numbers say.  Charles Lane is on the editorial board of The Washington Post, and today has written a very thought-provoking editorial that I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read and to ponder, comparing Orwell’s dystopian novel to our dystopian reality in the U.S. today.


Trump is playing an Orwellian numbers game

Opinion by

Charles-LaneCharles Lane

Editorial writer and columnist

Jan. 4, 2021 at 5:58 p.m. EST

“Mathematics,” Galileo said, “is the language in which God has written the universe.” Though an atheist, George Orwell very much agreed with the Italian astronomer that quantification is an essential attribute of objective reality.

Orwell understood, however, that politics is not a scientific endeavor, but rather “a sort of sub-atomic or non-Euclidean world” where perception could prevail over substance, sometimes dangerously, and sometimes lastingly. He hoped for a decent politics that would enable people to discern objective truth, and to act on it — consistent with their principles.

And so, in his greatest novel, he framed an individual’s protest against tyranny as an insistence on arithmetic. “Freedom,” the protagonist of “1984,” Winston Smith, confided to his diary, “is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.”

In the Ministry of Love’s dungeons, a different credo prevails: “Whatever the party holds to be truth is truth.” The party’s interrogator knew it had broken Smith’s resistance when, under horrific torture, Smith first lost the ability to count four fingers held in front of him, then came sincerely to believe that the four might be five.

President Trump did not torture Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Saturday — life does not imitate art to that degree. Yet his attempt to pressure this astonished official and his lawyer into “recalculating” the state’s certified presidential vote totals otherwise deserved the admittedly overused adjective “Orwellian.”

As Orwell illustrated in “1984,” the power to make another person believe something that literally cannot be true — not just to mouth the false words but to believe them — is the ultimate form of domination.

In a sense this is what Trump is doing with Republicans now: He is making acceptance of his phony numbers — figures that are not just false, but impossible — into a test of personal and party loyalty.

In reality, the result of Georgia’s election was: Joe Biden got 2,473,633 votes and Donald Trump got 2,461,854; the former figure is 11,779 votes greater than the latter. These figures have been checked, rechecked and verified repeatedly. They denote real votes cast by actual citizens.

In Trump’s reality, however, such things never happened, but all sorts of fraud — “they went to the table with the black robe and the black shield, and they pulled out the votes” — did occur, and he really “won that state by hundreds of thousands of votes,” as he told Raffensperger.

Raffensperger replied, sounding almost like Orwell’s beleaguered Smith: “We don’t agree that you have won.” He was so incredulous at the president’s words, perhaps, or so desperate to placate him without capitulating, that he used a verb — “agree” — implicitly making Trump’s contentions worthy of debate.

This counts as a courageous performance, however, especially given the threat of legal action Trump made against Raffensperger (albeit probably empty), and the hostility the president is whipping up against both the secretary of state and Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp (R), on social media.

Meanwhile, no beatings or electric shocks have proved necessary to bring others in the GOP into line, starting with the 77 percent of Trump voters who believe he was cheated out of victory, according to a Fox News poll.

The president’s own irresponsible statements were enough to convince them that he had been the victim of massive fraud, just as his concession to Biden would have convinced them of the opposite, had he chosen to behave like almost every other losing candidate in the history of U.S. presidential politics.

For numerous elected officials in the GOP’s upper echelons, however, the threat of a pro-Trump primary challenge, or fear of being rendered nonviable in a 2024 Republican presidential primary, induces obedience, or what they hope will be a sufficiently sincere-seeming display of it.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers, including 13 senators, plan to confront electoral votes for Biden with a challenge, the premise of which, essentially, is that two plus two might make five.

Leading the charge in the Senate is Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), joined by fellow 2024 hopeful Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). When he was running against Trump in the May 2016 Indiana primary and feeling offended by Trump’s insinuation that Cruz’s father might have been involved in the JFK assassination, Cruz said: “This man is a pathological liar, he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. . . . Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it.” Now, though, Ted Cruz loves Big Brother.

Fortunately, this maneuver will fail, rejected by the rest of the Senate. When you add the Democrats in that chamber to reality-based Republicans — such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Mitt Romney (Utah), John Thune (S.D.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) — the number of votes to accept Biden’s electors could reach 86.

And 86 is, still, a majority of 100.

Pardon Me??? — Part I

Meet Stephanie Mohr …

Mohr

In the middle of the night on Sept. 21, 1995, a local Prince George’s County police burglary stakeout unit found two homeless men on the empty roof of a business, eating food they had found in the trash in Takoma Park, Md. Ordered down from the roof, Ricardo Mendez and his friend willingly climbed down. Lit by a police helicopter above and facing a brick wall, the two men were surrounded by police officers, some with guns drawn, and Mohr holding her German shepherd on a leash. Both men obeyed commands and stood facing the wall with their hands up.

It should have been over. It wasn’t.

A police sergeant later testified that he was approached by Mohr’s supervising officer who said, “Hey Sarge, we got a new dog. Mind if it gets a bite?” The sergeant gave consent, and Mohr set her dog to attack Mendez, an undocumented immigrant whose only crime was seeking a safe place to eat and sleep. Mohr testified that she was doing her job as trained, and the victim needed “only 10 stitches.”

Think about that: only 10 stitches. Mohr disregarded her training to give her dog a taste of flesh and blood.

This was no accident or split-second mistake. It was a willful and deliberate act of police brutality. It was also not Mohr’s first — and there was a pattern to the violence. Evidence at trial showed that Mohr had previously released her dog on a Black teenager sleeping in a hammock in his own backyard. She had threatened the relatives of a fugitive that she would let her dog attack their “black ass” if they did not tell her where he was. There were other incidents that the jury did not even learn about, including one in which Mohr put her dog into a trash dumpster to attack a man who had fled from police.

At trial, in addition to the police sergeant at the scene who pleaded guilty and went to jail for his role, numerous police officer witnesses testified about the incident. The jury convicted Mohr and the presiding judge gave her a significant prison sentence. A unanimous panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, one of the most conservative appellate courts in the country, affirmed her conviction. Mohr was released after serving a 10-year sentence.

On December 23rd, Donald Trump pardoned Ms. Mohr.  This is but one of many unconscionable pardons issued by Trump last month, and not by far the most horrendous.  Throughout his tenure, Trump has issued pardons for those charged, and in most cases convicted, of crimes from something as simple as drug possession all the way up to and including premeditated murder.

Throughout history, presidents have used their pardon pen to pardon the unpardonable, but none have abused it in the ways that Donald Trump has.  It is time to take away the presidential pardon pen.  Why should one man be able to undo sentences handed down by judges and juries?  Why should it be possible for one person, with the stroke of a pen, to release killers back into our ranks?  And why should the person elected by the people of this nation not be held to account by those people?

Trump’s very first pardon, in August 2017, was the notorious Joe Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who had a history of racism and human rights violations, failure to comply with federal laws, and basically thumbing his nose at humanity.  On July 31, 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court.  Less than a month later, on August 25th, Trump pardoned him. The pardon covers Arpaio’s conviction and “any other offenses that might arise or be charged.”  Trump announced his decision on Twitter, declaring that Arpaio is an “American patriot” who had “kept Arizona safe.”  Safe for whom?  Certainly not for the Latino population, many of whom Arpaio had jailed simply for the crime of existing.

On December 22 – 23, Trump issued some 41 pardons by my count.  The ones you’ve heard the most about, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Duncan Hunter and his wife Margaret, while shameful, are far from the worst of the lot.  The worst was Trump’s pardon of four men convicted of killing innocent civilians, including children.  The pardoning of four Blackwater guards – Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough – may well have been a violation of international law, and is most definitely, as United Nations experts have said, “an affront to justice”.

Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten

FILE – This combination made from file photo shows Blackwater guards, from left, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nicholas Slatten and Paul Slough. On Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, President Donald Trump pardoned 15 people, including Heard, Liberty, Slatten and Slough, the four former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more a dozen Iraqi civilians dead and caused an international uproar over the use of private security guards in a war zone. (AP Photo/File)

In the next day or two, I plan to delve a bit deeper into Trump’s pardons, particularly those, like the Blackwater guards, whose crimes truly are ‘unpardonable’.  Why did Trump pardon the ones he did?  What was in it for him?  As we all know by now, Trump does nothing without expecting something in return.  Can any of these pardons be reversed once Trump leaves office?  And lastly, is it time to take away the presidential pardon pen?  I believe that, like the Electoral College, it may well be a law that has outlived its usefulness and is now the subject of much abuse.

Stay tuned …

Hello 2016 … er, um … 2021

I started to write a New Year’s post last night … it began like this …

Well, my friends, we made it through this year of sheer hell.  Most of us have survived not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also the pandemics of hatred and stupidity that have taken over our newsfeeds and the headlines in every major news source.  Sadly, I must remind you that a ‘new year’ is but a manmade contrivance to help us keep up with our lives, not an actual reset of events.  That said, I think 2021 will start just as 2020 ended … with a raging pandemic and political chaos; with people dying by the hundreds or thousands, with a megalomaniac and his bootlickers attempting to turn this republic into an autocracy by overturning our votes.  Nothing changes just because when the clock strikes midnight you pop the cork on a champagne bottle, kiss your loved ones, and turn the calendar to January 2021.  You won’t wake up in the morning to find that Donald Trump is in prison and that we actually have an intelligent, concerned president.  You won’t wake up to find that you can now go out for dinner, take in a movie, or pop over to the mall for a bit of shopping without wearing a mask.  You still won’t find toilet tissue, Lysol, or Clorox disinfectant wipes on your grocery shelves.  You will still be limited to two packages of meat at your local grocery store.  You will still be worried sick about sending your child back to school.  And more than 1,813,000 people will still be dead worldwide of a virus that is nowhere near being controlled. 

Um … not quite the tone I was shooting for, but very much an honest assessment.  Then, I began to wonder what my New Year’s post five years ago, the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 was like, so I went digging around in the archives.  I think you will find my words kinder and more hopeful back then, plus I think that, knowing what we know now, you will find some humour in it! 


I do not quite understand why it is, but most of us welcome in the new year with great hope for the next 365 days, almost as if we believe that the slate we were using for the past 365 days was wiped clean at the exact moment the ball hit bottom in Times Square, and we are now starting afresh with new hopes, new dreams, a clean slate on which to write a new story, a better one.  Okay, okay … I am not going to be a the one to dash those dreams, those ethereal images that you are seeing with such joy.  Life will see to that soon enough, probably when you awaken in the morning and turn on the news, pick up the morning newspaper, or boot up the computer.

Do you make resolutions at New Year’s?  I do not, so I am always curious about people who do.  Oh sure, I hope that I can do better at certain things than I have in the past, but that is pretty much a daily hope of mine.  Do people who do make resolutions start thinking about their resolutions a week in advance?  A month?  I once had a friend who made his resolution on the morning of January 1st … same resolution every year … when he awakened with a massive hangover and resolved then and there to quit drinking, effective immediately.  His resolution usually lasted for about 12 hours.  Have you ever made a resolution and actually kept it throughout the year?  I don’t think I personally know anybody whose resolution was anything other than a dim memory by January 31st, so I am curious if some people who do make resolutions actually do manage to keep to them.

I do not make resolutions, but I think about, based on the past year, what the year 2016 might bring.  It would be lovely, and I am sure some say this is their hope for the new year, to think that within the next twelve months we will see peace and prosperity around the world, an end to wars in the Middle East, an end to racism and bigotry in our own nation, more love and tolerance, less hatred toward our fellow man, and an end to the highly annoying facebook memes that attempt to compress complex socio-political issues into a single sentence.  Who wouldn’t love to see an end to ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations?  These are dreams we could all share, even if we are divided on who should be the next president of the U.S.  But sadly, just like the person who buys a lottery ticket and goes to bed dreaming of a new home, a new car, and telling his boss “I quit”, when we look back a year from now, I am pretty sure those problems will still exist, others will have joined them, and people will still be … well, human.

Filosofa is not a cynic, contrary to what you may think.  I am actually known in my circle of friends as quite the optimist … annoyingly to some.  But I am a pragmatist, a realist, and as such I do not live in a world of dreams.  One of the readers of this blog commented yesterday that we need to say to ourselves, “okay, the world is a mess … now how do we fix it?”  I like that attitude. So, while I do not make resolutions, I do have hopes.  Unlike hopes for world peace, an end to all war, etc., my hopes are that people will start asking themselves “what can I do to make the world a little bit better?”  And then start looking for answers.  The answers are all around you, if you just realize what the question is.  Many years ago, my answer to this question was, and still is, to treat everybody as human beings.  These days, I try to make a difference by writing, in hopes that I might be able to make just one person think about things that matter.  Most of us, realistically, are not in a position to bring about world peace.  We cannot all be Mother Teresa or Gandhi.  We cannot all be leaders of nations.  But we can make small differences within our own small spheres of influence, in our community, in our neighborhood.  We can volunteer one day a month at a homeless shelter or food pantry, we can help a neighbor who is struggling, we can donate unwanted clothing or food items to the poor.  We can find ways to fight violence without resorting to more violence.  We can talk a little bit nicer to people, say “good morning” and “thank you so much” to the young person who bags our groceries.  Think that doesn’t make a difference?  Think again.

So my hope for the new year is that we all try very hard to find the small things that we can do to help people we come into contact with every day.  No, it will not end the conflict in Syria, it will not eradicate Iran’s enriched uranium supply, and it will not remove Donald Trump from the presidential race, but a lot of little deeds add up to making the world just a little bit better.  You can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution … your choice.

In closing, I wish each and every one of you a year of peace within your own family and circle of friends, good health and that you be able to meet all of your needs.  Happy New Year!