Your Opinions

A few nights ago, our friend David suggested I do a post asking for readers’ opinions on the most current issues and I thought it was a great idea, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Meanwhile, David himself posted a ‘questions’ post that asks six very pertinent questions. I couldn’t have done better, so I am sharing his. David has had some problems with his blog lately and unfortunately, there is no room for comments on his, so I will be asking him to check out comments here and respond where he feels so inclined. Thank you, David, for these thought-provoking questions.

The BUTHIDARS

Before we start, if you are a confirmed Republican who sees no problems confronting your Country at the moment and feels that everything is as it should be with the reduction in voting rights within the states adopting them, and that the Investigation into Jan 6th is wrong, there’s no point in starting an argument with me as you won’t change my views. If you have any constructive suggestions as to how things could change to benefit the United States We want too hear them. Please include any opinions on the current status of gun control too if you have them.

1.Are the current State Changes to voting legislation fair to all? If not, what is wrong with them and how can they be changed to ensure fairness?

2.Why will Republicans not bring forward and vote for the new Bills on Voting Rights, waiting in the wings.

3. Do You…

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Some Food For Thought

Late last night, I was trying to clean up my inbox before heading up to bed when I came across Robert Reich’s latest newsletter.  I found it both thoughtful and thought-provoking, so I am sharing it with you today.


Is there still a common good?

Yes. And I’ll tell you where to find it, and how to preserve it

By Robert Reich

We’ve gone through the shameful first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol and of the refusal of 147 members of Congress (all Republicans) to certify all the electors from states that voted for Biden, on the basis of no evidence of fraud. So far, no political figure has been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. We’ve seen 34 voter-suppression bills enacted by 19 Republican state legislatures; at least 8 give state legislatures the power to disregard election outcomes. More than 400 additional voter suppression measures are now being prepared. And we are now witnessing a struggle in the Senate to reform the filibuster so that voting rights legislation can be enacted. All of which raises a basic question: Is there still a common good?

I was at the impressionable age of fourteen when I heard John F. Kennedy urge us not to ask what America can do for us but what we can do for America. Seven years later I took a job as a summer intern in the Senate office of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy. It was not a glamorous job, to say the least. I felt lucky when I was asked to run his signature machine. But I told myself that in a very tiny way I was doing something for the good of the country.

That was more than a half century ago. I wish I could say America is a better place now than it was then. Surely our lives are more convenient. Fifty years ago there were no cash machines or smart phones, and I wrote my first book on a typewriter. As individuals, we are as kind and generous as ever. We volunteer in our communities, donate, and help one another. We pitch in during natural disasters and emergencies. We come to the aid of individuals in need. We are a more inclusive society, in that Black people, LGBTQ people, and women have legal rights they didn’t have a half century ago.

Yet our civic life—as citizens in our democracy, participants in our economy, managers or employees of companies, and members or leaders of organizations—seems to have sharply deteriorated. What we have lost is a sense of our connectedness to each other and to our ideals—the America that John F. Kennedy asked that we contribute to.

Starting in the late 1970s, Americans began talking less about the common good and more about self-aggrandizement. The shift is the hallmark of modern America: From the “Greatest Generation” to the “Me Generation,” from “we’re all in it together” to “you’re on your own.” In 1977, motivational speaker Robert Ringer wrote a book that reached the top of The New York Times bestseller list entitled Looking Out for # 1. It extolled the virtues of selfishness to a wide and enthusiastic audience. The 1987 film Wall Street epitomized the new ethos in the character Gordon Gekko and his signature line, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

The last five decades have also been marked by growing cynicism and distrust toward all of the basic institutions of American society. There is a wide and pervasive sense that the system as a whole is no longer working as it should. Racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance are on the rise.

A growing number of Americans feel neglected and powerless. Some are poor, or Black or Latino. Others are white and have been on a downward economic escalator for years. Some have been seduced by demagogues and conspiracy theorists.

Is there a common good that still binds us together as Americans? Yes, and it’s not the whiteness of our skin, or our adherence to Christianity, or the fact that we were born in the United States. We’re bound together by the ideals and principles we share, and the mutual obligations those principles entail.

After all, the U.S. Constitution was designed for “We the people” seeking to “promote the general welfare”—not for “me the selfish jerk seeking as much wealth and power as possible.” During the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II, Americans faced common perils that required us to work together for the common good. That good was echoed in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms”—freedom of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear. The common good animated many of us – both white and Black Americans—to fight for civil rights and voting rights in the 1960s. It inspired America to create the largest and most comprehensive system of public education the world had ever seen. And it moved many of us to act against the injustice of the Vietnam War, and others of us to serve bravely in that besotted conflict.

Americans sharply disagree about exactly what we want for America or for the world. But if we are to participate in the same society we must agree on how we deal with our disagreements, our obligations under the law, and our commitment to democracy.

It’s our agreement to these principles that connects us, not agreement about where these principles lead. Some of us may want to prohibit abortions because we believe life begins at birth; others of us believe individuals should have the right to determine what happens to their bodies. Some of us want stricter environmental protections; others, more lenient. We are free to take any particular position on these and any other issues. But as political equals in this democracy, we are bound to accept the outcomes even if we dislike them.

Our central obligation as citizens is to preserve, fortify, and protect our democratic form of government. We must defend the right to vote and ensure that more citizens are heard, not fewer. We must require that presidents be elected by the will of the people, and prevent political parties and state legislatures from disregarding the popular vote. We must get big money out of politics so the moneyed interests don’t have more political power than the rest of us.

Democracy doesn’t require us to agree. It requires us to agree only on preserving and protecting democracy. This meta-agreement is the essence of the common good.

Those now attacking American democracy are attacking the common good that binds us together. They are attacking America.

We must join together — progressives and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, inhabitants of blue states and of red states, business leaders as well as leaders of nonprofits and of the public sector — to rescue American democracy from those who now seek to destroy it. There is no time to waste.

Your thoughts?

One Nation, Divisible, with Liberty and Justice for Few – How the U.S. could split up

Due to my own unfortunate circumstances of late, I have not been reading many blogs, but I’m gradually working my way back into the fray. Tonight, I read Robert’s blog and I found it to be extremely well-written (as his always are) and more thought-provoking than any I’ve read in a long time. I urge you to read this from start to finish and think about the possible outcomes of our current state of division. There are no easy or particularly good solutions. Thank you, Robert, for this excellent piece of work!

The Secular Jurist

One Nation, Divisible, with Liberty and Justice for Few
How the United States of America could split up much sooner than expected
January 3, 2022

By Robert A. Vella

The United States of America is currently the longest standing democracy in the world at nearly 246 years old (as a constitutional republic, it is almost 234 years old).  The next oldest democracy is Norway at 208 years old.  That’s quite an accomplishment considering that it barely survived tearing itself to pieces during the disastrous Civil War of 1861-1865 and also the global threat to democracy posed by Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan during the catastrophic Second World War.  But, even the most optimistic Americanophiles have always known that the U.S. could not endure forever.  All countries experience multiple peaks of achievement and valleys of failure, and all of its various forms of government are inherently transitory.  Even the…

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Something To Think About …

Since becoming largely disabled due to a heart condition in early September, one of the things I have been able to do is spend more time reading!  Way back in the day, I used to read 3-4 books of an average 450 pages each, every week.  But then … I began blogging, Donald Trump came on the scene, the clowns took over the country, and my days and nights were suddenly filled with trolling the news and writing 2-3 blog posts every day.  Reading for pleasure took a backseat and I was lucky to read 100 pages a week.  But now, being unable to leave my chair for more than a few minutes at a time, I am once again a voracious reader and have read, on average, 6-7 books every week.

One of the topics that is near and dear to my heart is September 11, 2001.  When I became ill in early September, I had just started working on a 20-year-anniversary post, but never managed to finish it.  I don’t know that I ever will, but among the books I have read over the past three months are a couple of 9/11 books, the most recent being “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11” by Garrett M. Graff.  This book is composed of thousands of personal accounts of that day, from the North and South towers to the Pentagon to the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where flight 93 was brought down by passengers determined to fight back against the hijackers.

As I read those personal accounts of people … thousands of people … firefighters, police officers, government workers and civilians … risking and often losing their own lives in their attempt to help people, I couldn’t help thinking of this country today, some 20 years later.  What a difference!!!

When I was working on my master’s degree, I worked for a professor of Political Science, the late Dr. Joseph Scolnick, at the University of Virginia.  I well remember one paper I helped him research that proposed the most effective way to bring about cohesion within a divided nation was an external threat.  Throughout history, some countries have even manufactured external threats in order to bring their citizenry together.  We saw a prime example of how an external threat brought people together with our own eyes in the hours and days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when people went out of their way, out of their comfort zone, even in one case buying a brand-new truck and donating it to the rescue efforts!  Shop owners opened their doors and their hearts to the injured, the displaced, and the traumatized.  There were no strangers on that day.  And I wonder …

With the current level of divisiveness in this country today, largely magnified and enhanced by the former guy and his puppets, if we suffered a similar attack, would we rise to the occasion as we did on September 11, 2001?  Or would we remain so politically divided that each side would point the fingers of blame at the other?  Would racism, religious differences and ideological divides keep us from coming together in the interest of humanity?  Would a Republican risk his life to run into a burning building to carry a Democrat out?  Would we, the average people in this nation, pitch in to help in any way we could, or would we find ways to attack and denigrate one group or another?

I have no answers for those questions.  I like to believe that we would, once again, rally to the cause, come together as humans, setting aside our differences, but I find it difficult to believe most days when I see the pure hatred between ethnicities, religions, and political parties.  A year and a half ago, when COVID first hit the U.S. hard, I thought this would be the thing that brought this nation together, the enemy we could all join hands and fight against.  Instead, the pandemic has further divided us over such things as masks, social distancing, legislation, and vaccines.  Even after more than 818,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, we cannot all agree to do what is necessary to protect both ourselves and others, so why would I think we would rush into a burning building to save a stranger?

As I said, I have no answers, but I ask only that you … think about it.

Boom 🧨

Just what pleasure do people get from setting off obnoxiously loud fireworks for hours on end?  I’ve never understood it.  I am sitting here at just after midnight, and every few seconds comes another loud BOOM!  This is an apartment complex of 180 townhouses, most occupied by working class families with children and pets.  Some actually go to bed and sleep at night, but obviously not tonight. My own cats are cowering under the sofa.  There are a number of fireworks shows in and around this city with fireworks that are actually pretty, that light up the night sky with colour, so why don’t these fools attend one of those?  No, they would rather set off fireworks that only make loud noise and cause my heart to literally jump with every single one.  I am too old for this crap.

The reason for the fireworks?  Today is the 4th of July 2021.  Here in the United States it is a federal holiday commemorating the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.  There was a time when this day meant something to me. Today, I find it difficult to feel any particular loyalty to a nation that is so divided we seem to be two distinctly separate countries, only without geographic boundaries.  There is no middle ground anymore … you are either a liberal or conservative, Democrat of Republican, human or racist, thinker or follower.  There have, of course, always been such divisions, but until about a decade ago, there was a middle ground, some things that we could all agree on.  Today, that middle ground is gone, replaced by a wide chasm, a desolate wasteland where neither side will venture.  Worse yet, civility and respect have also flown the coop such that if one person disagrees with another, they will call each other vulgar names and hurl accusations, maybe even threats.

We are on a path that is taking us far from the ideology that this nation was once based on, that of “all ‘men’ being created equal.”  Racism is on the rise around the nation, promoted by many of our elected officials.  Our right to participate in our government via our vote is on the chopping block and was dealt what may turn out to be a death blow last Thursday by none other than the U.S. Supreme Court.

Inflation is >5% just in the past year, and many families who lost income during the pandemic are struggling to survive while state governments are cutting unemployment benefits.

Gun violence is beyond words … anybody can buy and own a gun … as many of them as they want.  They can buy automatic weapons that can kill everyone in the room within a minute or two.  Shootings at grocery stores, mosques, on the streets, in theaters and bars have become commonplace and one half of the nation would protect their right to own a gun before they would protect their own children.

The U.S. is the #1 per capita emitter of the carbon that is literally killing us all with melting icecaps, rising sea levels, deadly heat, water shortages, ruined crops and more and the people of this nation rebel at any suggestion that they make certain lifestyle changes to try to turn things around.

No, I’m afraid there really isn’t a whole lot to celebrate this holiday.  The one bright spot is that we do, after four long years, finally have a president who is intelligent and compassionate, who cares about the needs of the people, but even that bright light is dimmed by those who would put up obstacles at every turn to slow or halt any progress he might make.

So no, I’m not celebrating this holiday … this is just another Sunday to me and frankly I’ll be glad when this long weekend is over and the fireworks stop so the kitties can come out from under the sofa, we can stop worrying about a fire here in da hood, and my heart can settle back into my chest.

Missing Words …

I simply cannot find my words today.   I don’t remember where I left them when I went to bed last night … er, this morning … and I’ve called and whistled for them, but no words are forthcoming.  However, John Oliver does not have any problem finding his, and he has graciously agreed to fill in for Filosofa today with words that are wiser and more informed than mine would have been, even if they had come out of hiding.

Seriously, though … this clip, while it is nearly 18 minutes long, is well worth watching as he assesses the current situation here in the U.S. and quite effectively puts to rest the rumours and conspiracy theories that are being spread by Trump and his nasty cohorts even faster than the coronavirus pandemic.  I do hope you’ll take the time to watch this from start to finish … it is well worth the time … plus there is a glint of much-needed humour.

Musings From The Rabbit Hole — Unity

Joe Biden, who will take the Oath of Office in just 67 days, has promised to try to unify the people of this country … unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office who has done nothing but divide us.  I applaud that effort, and until yesterday I naively thought it might just be possible.  I still hope that it can be done … certainly if anybody can, Biden is among the best candidates to do so.  But today I have my doubts.  I don’t want to be negative or a naysayer, for we all need all the hope we can find, but I am nothing if not a pragmatist, a realist. Yesterday as I perused the news, considered what was happening, it occurred to me that a large number – about half – of the people in this nation do not want unity, but rather thrive on division and chaos.

Certainly, there have always been political divisions in this country and always will be, for we are a nation of humans, but what we are experiencing now goes beyond ideological differences and into the arena of personal hatred.  This “Reign of Cruelty” as I term the past four years, has changed us, has made us more willing to accept things that we once abhorred.  It has made us less human.

I hate that it has boiled down to Republican vs Democrat and the language of hate, the finger-pointing, the blame game is always … always the fault of everyone who identifies with one party or another.  I, too, have been guilty of saying, “The republicans only want …” or “The republicans are the cause of …”, and it’s not something I’m proud of, but admittedly it will likely happen again, for I am human.

Today, thousands of people are gathered in Washington to … what?  I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish, but they are protesting the results of the election, results that clearly prove Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. They are parroting Trump’s false claim that the election has been ‘stolen’, that there was massive voter fraud, even though this has been disproven.  They’ve brought their guns, they’ve brought their Proud Boys, their maga hats, their Trump banners, and while so far nobody has been killed, I won’t be surprised if there is violence and death before the day is done.

I am neither a democrat nor a republican, but for the past twenty years or so, I have found nothing particularly valuable in the republican platform, while I do support the same sorts of things the Democratic Party supports, things like providing affordable health care for everyone, women’s rights, equal rights for the LGBT community, equal opportunities for people of all colours and religions in such areas as housing and employment.  I support raising the minimum wage, workplace safety, and perhaps most importantly, taking care of the planet that we have long neglected.

The pandemic perfectly highlights the differences between the two ‘sides’ in this nation.  We cannot even agree to protect each other from a deadly virus, cannot agree on something so simple as wearing a mask in public, else staying home.  If we cannot agree on even that, how can we possibly come to terms on such things as environmental regulations, universal health care, and ending systemic racism?

This nation was founded on freedom of religion, which also means freedom from religion, and yet today a growing portion of the population believes that their religious beliefs ought to be the basis of the laws that we must all live under, even those of us who do not share their beliefs.  This only further divides us … wars have been fought over this very thing, but we fail to learn the lessons of history.

The effort to unify will require compromise, and I just don’t see a willingness among the people of this nation to budge so much as an inch, let alone meet the other side at the halfway mark.  What will it take to bring the people of this nation together, united in a common goal?  Will it take bombs being dropped on us by an outside entity?  Will it take the deaths of half the people in the nation before we open our eyes and realize that we cannot keep killing each other?

Can we possibly set aside our vitriol and hate for a moment and think about the things we have in common?  Or do we still have anything in common?  I think we do … we all love our families and want the best for them, we just don’t agree on what is the best or how to achieve it.  We all have certain basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and breathable air … we just don’t agree on how to achieve those things.  We all want our children to have a good education … we just don’t agree on what, exactly, that is.  So yes, we have much in common, but we view it from different perspectives.  All of which would be fine, if we respected each other, respected others’ viewpoints and agreed to compromise.  Instead, we try to shove our views down the throats of others.

If you’re waiting for me to tell you how we can fix this … don’t hold your breath, for I have no idea.  I only hope that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are far wiser than I and can make decisions and policies that will help narrow what I refer to as the Great Divide.

What’s Next?

Okay folks … we’ve danced in the streets, popped the champagne corks and celebrated Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.

Now it’s time to get serious, for what lies ahead is a 73-day transition period that presents a number of pitfalls & perils, given the contentious nature of the incumbent and his loyal lapdogs.  We need to prepare ourselves to survive these next two-and-a-half months with our country and our sanity relatively intact.

In his column today, Robert Reich tells us what we can likely expect over the coming weeks leading up to inauguration day.  I have no doubt that despite all of Trump’s machinations, temper tantrums and legal challenges, Joe Biden will take office on January 20th, but what happens between now and then, and even beyond?  Let’s hear what Reich has to say …


How can Biden heal America when Trump doesn’t want it healed?

The nearest thing America has had to a dictator is beaten but unbowed. He will disgrace the national scene for some time yet

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

It’s over. Donald Trump is history.

For millions of Americans – a majority, by almost 5 million popular votes – it’s a time for celebration and relief. Trump’s cruelty, vindictiveness, non-stop lies, corruption, rejection of science, chaotic incompetence, and gross narcissism brought out the worst in America. He tested the limits of American decency and democracy. He is the closest we have come to a dictator.

Democracy has had a reprieve, a stay of execution. We have another chance to preserve it, and restore what’s good about America.

It will not be easy. The social fabric is deeply torn. Joe Biden will inherit a pandemic far worse than it would have been had Trump not played it down and refused to take responsibility for containing it, and an economic crisis exacting an unnecessary toll.

The worst legacy of Trump’s term of office is a bitterly divided America.

Judging by the number of ballots cast in the election, Trump’s base of support is roughly 70 million. They were angry even before the election (as were Biden supporters). Now, presumably, they are angrier.

The nation was already divided when Trump became president – by race and ethnicity, region, education, national origin, religion, and class. But he exploited these divisions to advance himself. He didn’t just pour salt into our wounds. He planted grenades in them.

It is a vile legacy. Although Americans have strongly disagreed over what we want the government to do, we at least agreed to be bound by its decisions. This meta-agreement required enough social trust for us to regard the views and interests of those we disagree with as equally worthy of consideration as our own. But Trump continuously sacrificed that trust to feed his own monstrous ego.

Elections usually end with losing candidates congratulating winners and graciously accepting defeat, thereby demonstrating their commitment to the democratic system over the particular outcome they fought to achieve.

But there will be no graciousness from Trump, nor a concession. He is incapable of either.

He will be president for another two and a half months. He is still charging that the election was stolen from him, mounting legal challenges and demanding recounts, maneuvers that could prevent states from meeting the legal deadline of December 8th for choosing electors.

If he continues, America could find itself in a situation similar to what it faced in 1876, when claims about ballot fraud forced a special electoral commission to decide the winner, just two days before the inauguration.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump refuses to attend Biden’s inauguration and stages a giant rally instead.

He’ll send firestorms of aggrieved messages to his followers – questioning Biden’s legitimacy and urging that they refuse to recognize his presidency. This will be followed by months of rallies and tweets containing even more outlandish charges: plots against Trump and America by Biden, Nancy Pelosi, “deep-state” bureaucrats, “socialists,” immigrants, Muslims, or any other of his standard foes.

It could go on for years, Trump keeping the nation’s attention, remaining the center of controversy and divisiveness, sustaining his followers in perpetual fury, titillating them with the possibility he might run again in 2024, making it harder for Biden to do any of the national healing he’s promised and the nation so desperately needs.

How can Biden heal the nation when Trump doesn’t want it healed?

The media (including Twitter, Facebook, and even Fox News) could help. They have begun to call out Trump’s lies in real time and cut off his press conferences, practices that should have started years ago. Let’s hope they continue to tag his lies and otherwise ignore him – a fitting end to a reality TV president who tried to turn America into a reality warzone.

But the responsibility for healing America falls to all of us.

For starters, we’d do well to recognize and honor the selflessness we have observed during this trying time – starting with tens of thousands of election workers who have worked long hours under difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances.

Add to them the hospital workers across the nation saving lives from the scourge of Covid-19; the thousands of fire fighters in the west and the emergency responders on the Gulf coast battling the consequences of climate change; the civil servants getting unemployment checks out to millions of jobless Americans; social workers dealing with family crises in the wake of evictions and other hardships; armies of volunteers doling out food from soup kitchens.

These are the true heroes of America. They embody the decency of this land. They are doing the healing, rebuilding trust, reminding us who we are and who we are not.

Donald Trump is not America.

Hope, Unity, and Patience

I was impressed with Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ speeches tonight.  Here is a link to both video and text of the speech.  For me, one of the most welcome things to hear was …

“All those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance.  It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again, and to make progress.”

These are words that we have not heard since President Obama left office on January 20th, 2017.  This is the polar opposite of what we have become used to hearing and it was a breath of fresh air, a welcome relief after all the hate and divisive language we’ve become used to.

Now, a few people have let me know in no uncertain terms that they are not pleased with Biden.  It’s not that they wanted Trump to win, necessarily, but they have issues with some of what Biden will or will not do.  Let me start by saying that we cannot have everything on our wish list – this is a nation of 330 million people, people with different goals and hopes, differing priorities and values.  As John Lydgate and later Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

There is much wrong in this nation today and Joe Biden is going to have a struggle trying to prioritize what must be addressed first, getting legislation through Congress, and re-establishing relationships, both domestic and international.  We cannot expect to get everything we want, and we cannot expect anything to be accomplished overnight.  For the good of this nation, we all need to be patient and supportive of this administration, rather than constantly seeking reasons to criticize.  Some will call me a hypocrite for saying this, since I have been hypercritical of Donald Trump since long before his inauguration and ever since.  But there is a difference … Donald Trump never had the best interests of this nation and its people at heart.  Joe Biden does.

No president will be able to do everything we would like, and there will be times you and I disagree with the president’s actions … that has been the case in every nation and under every leader since the beginning of organized governments.

The things I am most pleased about in the Biden/Harris agenda are that they plan to re-join the Paris Climate Accord and reverse the withdrawal from the World Health Organization – these are two big ones, for climate change and the pandemic are the biggest threats to life, not only in the U.S., but worldwide.  Biden plans to repeal the ban on almost all travel from some Muslim-majority countries, and he will reinstate the DACA program allowing “dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally as children, to remain in the country.

Biden will also need to focus on filling cabinet positions, which may prove difficult if Mitch McConnell remains Senate Majority Leader and proves to be as unwilling to work with Biden as he was with Obama.  He will also need to re-establish relations with our allies, to earn once again the respect of other nations that has been shredded in the past four years.  He must re-implement environmental regulations that were rolled back by the current administration that was more interested in pleasing the fossil fuel industry than in the health of the world.

And, of course, the first order of business will be a strategic plan to control and contain the coronavirus pandemic that is raging out of control in this country.  To that end, Biden has already made plans to set up a coronavirus task force on Monday, in recognition that the global pandemic will be the primary issue that he must confront. The task force, which could begin meeting within days, will be co-chaired by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.  He has a plan.  He realizes that he cannot simply ignore it and hope it goes away.

Now, some of the things I’ve been told people don’t like are that he has already said he would not sign legislation that would provide Medicare-for-all.  He has, however, promised to build on ACA, to fix what needs to be fixed and expand coverage.  You don’t go from zero to a hundred overnight … small steps. I think that ultimately this nation will have either Medicare-for-all or some form of universal health care, but we have to start somewhere … you don’t build a city from rubble in one day.

I’ve also heard from some that they are displeased that he won’t ban fracking.  Okay, I would like to see fracking banned, as well, but again, it doesn’t happen overnight.  Win some, lose some – that’s the way it works in a democracy.  And I’ve also heard displeasure because he has no plans to ‘defund the police’.  Folks … you cannot simply defund the police.  I am as aware as any of the problems of systemic racism in our police departments and yes, it needs to be fixed!  But cutting funding to police departments is NOT the answer.  The answer is more training, psychological profiling, and accountability.  Federal oversight of problematic police departments is crucial, and any officer caught with his proverbial pants down is out … no second chances.  Sensitivity training, which the incumbent has called “un-American” is essential.  But you cannot simply shutter the police departments around the nation.

No, Joe Biden will not be perfect – he will make mistakes, he will sometimes do things we don’t agree with or that we don’t understand the reason for, but … he is a good and decent man who will do his best to heal this nation, to narrow the divide between right and left, to initiate conversations such that we can begin to try to understand each other once again.  And, he will uphold the U.S. Constitution as per his Oath of Office.

The next 73 days are going to be filled with garbage talk from the current administration and we will have to do our best to simply ignore it.  Biden’s win is sound enough to withstand challenges and recounts, so at this point, the incumbent is irrelevant, and we really can afford to ignore him.  What we cannot afford is to lose our hope, to allow the detritus to bring us down.  Keep remembering that awesome feeling when you heard, yesterday morning, that Joe Biden was the president-elect.

To Hold Trump Accountable — Or Not?

I apologize in advance for the lengthiness of this post, but I thought it was one worth consideration.  I have mixed feelings on this issue of whether Trump should be held to account for his actions such as obstruction of justice, bribery, conspiracy to defraud, and campaign finance violations once he leaves office.  On the one hand, I do want to see him treated just as any of the rest of us would be for harming the people of this nation, but on the other hand … can we truly begin to heal the Great Divide in this nation if Trump remains headline news for the next two years or longer?  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Sam Tanenhaus’ OpEd from The Washington Post last Friday


The reckoning

The country can’t recover from Trump’s presidency unless he’s held accountable

tannenhaus-samBy Sam Tanenhaus

October 16, 2020

Some Americans entertain a fantasy that goes like this: President Trump is voted out of office, finally faces justice for his serial misconduct and shuffles off to prison. A wearier, probably larger population looks forward to scrubbing the nation’s memory of these past four years and returning to pre-Trump life. A third sizable group shows unwavering loyalty to Trump.

One lesson of American history is that the country’s worst injuries are those we’ve caused ourselves. This history is not uplifting, but it is edifying, and it haunts. Failing to perform the necessary diagnostic surgery after a time of collective wrongdoing has costs. The steepest is this: Subsequent generations inherit a weakened democracy. Today it is imperative to confront the facts of the Trump era. We elected as president a homegrown insurrectionist. He rose to the highest position in our democracy and damaged it. Even now, he continues to assault our laws and institutions, our independent judiciary, our national security, our health, and our constitutional system of checks and balances. It’s unimaginable, ludicrous even, to contemplate doing nothing about Donald Trump.

No single course for a post-Trump reckoning will satisfy, let alone reconcile, the country’s divergent constituencies. And some damage can’t easily be undone — harm to America’s standing in the world, for example, and the fatally negligent response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in the search for accountability there are middle-path options that fall between prosecuting this singular president and prosecuting his broader legacy. One is to begin with a problem that Americans across the ideological spectrum agree needs fixing: our elections.

Elections are the place to start because so much of Trump’s misconduct relates to them. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election resulted in three dozen indictments or guilty pleas and five prison sentences, all related to Trump campaign actions during that election and afterward, when the president and others tried to cover up what they had done. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, have both done time. The Senate Intelligence Committee — led by Republicans — produced a nearly 1,000-page report detailing the Trump team’s misdeeds, most pertaining to the 2016 election. Prosecutors in New York, meanwhile, are digging further into Trump’s payment of hush money to a porn star ahead of the vote. And of course, in his impeachment, Trump was charged with misusing his office to try to get help from Ukraine in his reelection campaign — in violation of election law and of the framers’ fear that a president might, in James Madison’s words, “betray his trust to foreign powers.”

In at least one thing Trump has been proved right. Joe Biden is a strong opponent. If he is elected (increasingly likely), and if Democrats hold on to their majority in the House (it seems probable) and achieve one in the Senate (distinctly possible), they will be in a position to mount the kind of full-scale investigation they have been kept from doing while Trump is president.

But will the next administration hold the Trump crew truly accountable for past crimes, such as those uncovered by Mueller, the House impeachment committees and the Senate, to say nothing of the Trump family’s financial dealings? Should it? Yes, some will say, because of Trump’s long trail of malfeasance and mis-governance, which also involves top administration figures such as Attorney General William Barr. But the price of such an inquiry would be considerable. It could rebound against Democrats and undermine public confidence in their fairness and sense of proportion.

We are a fiercely divided country. As the historian Garry Wills remarked to me recently, the true crisis of our moment consists “of Trump showing us not about Trump but about us.” Republicans continue to support Trump as faithfully as any president in modern memory. It is true that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he won 30 states. No matter the result in November, the tribal feelings that now define American politics will not change. They might intensify.

This is partly an outgrowth of Trump’s approach to the presidency — his unapologetic conception of the office as explicitly serving him and those on his side, even as he wages war against those who oppose or even question him. The formula, as Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine, is blunt and direct: “If Trump’s opponents are doing something, it’s a crime; if Trump and his allies are doing it, it isn’t.”

The president’s supporters have a grievance of their own. They can say that Trump’s enemies tried to delegitimize him from the moment he took office. His detractors spoke early and excitedly about impeachment, as though the removal of a president was sport. This was why cooler heads, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urged caution after Democrats regained a majority in the House.

With Ukraine, everything changed. The facts were clear. Trump’s plea to the Ukrainian president that he “do us a favor” by announcing that he would investigate Biden was a textbook case of abuse of power. It hardly mattered. Republicans mounted a counteroffensive, echoing Trump’s cry of “witch hunt.” The rest was an elaborate performance in which the only verdict that seemed to matter was public opinion. Yet the most significant poll showed that two-thirds of Americans, regardless of the outcome, would not change their minds.

Attacks on Trump, no matter how justified, have dependably aroused his base. There is no reason to think his post-presidency will be different. What’s to stop Citizen Trump from continuing to operate at the margins of the law, but without the cover of the White House and in the knowledge that there would be a reluctance to prosecute a former president? A fresh investigation, broadcast over the “lying” media, could play right into Trump’s program of self-glorification.

And yet, America is not just a political carnival with gladiators in the arena and spectators in the stands. It is also a democratic republic — a nation of laws, procedures, history and tradition. A good, or rather ghastly, example of history failing to hold its chief actors accountable is the first president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, in 1868. For many years schoolchildren were taught, with the aid of the book “Profiles in Courage” by John F. Kennedy, that Johnson’s escape from removal was an act of high statesmanship. Supposedly Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas, a Republican who went against his party and voted to acquit, “may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity constitutional government in the United States.” The real villains, in Kennedy’s view (shared by many at the time), were the “Radical Republicans,” who arrogantly treated the defeated Confederate states as “conquered provinces” and wanted to “crush their despised foe” and voted to convict.

Today the episode is judged very differently. Johnson, most agree, was one of the worst presidents in history and a danger to the republic. Taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he flagrantly violated the principles of post-Civil War Reconstruction. He sided with “all-white Southern state governments full of ex-Confederates, stood by when they enacted ‘black codes’ that oppressed ex-slaves, and took no action when racist mobs began to murder black Southerners,” according to a history in The Washington Post. Johnson’s removal would have sent a powerful message about the nation’s new, post-slavery course; his acquittal instead reinforced pro-Confederate sympathies, which have lingered for generations.

So, too, with the case of the next president to face impeachment, Richard Nixon. He resigned in 1974 when it became clear that he faced removal for his Watergate crimes. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him. For years, the thinking was that Ford’s action was statesmanlike, and the nation gratefully heard his soothing assurances that “our long national nightmare is over.” But the pardon helped plant the seeds of a counter-history of Watergate, promulgated by Nixon and his defenders, that Nixon was not the perpetrator but the victim, hounded by the liberal media, and that the investigations and impeachment were an  example of “the criminalization of politics.”

What happened afterward may suggest a sensible approach to holding Trump accountable. In 1975, after the New York Times published a sensational report by Seymour Hersh under the headline “Huge C.I.A. operation reported in U.S. against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years,” the Senate organized a committee to examine the long history of Cold War intelligence. The chairman was Sen. Frank Church of Idaho. Respected legislators from both parties, giants of the period, also were on the panel. Their inquest looked hard at the Nixon administration but also pressed further and turned up patterns of wrongdoing by three predecessors, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Not everyone was happy with the result. The intelligence community felt under siege. But no one could accuse the committee of being partisan.

Here is a possible road map, then, for a public accounting of the Trump years. Instead of mounting an investigation of all his excesses and corruptions, the Biden administration could reach out to Trump’s supporters with a statement acknowledging their concerns, and Trump’s, that our elections are “rigged.” Why not take him at his word? To some extent, many are — in both parties. Each has assembled teams of lawyers and operatives for state-by-state legal battles, in the expectation that if Trump loses, he will challenge the results.

At that point, rightly or wrongly, a substantial portion of the country will question the validity of our elections. This has happened before, in 2000. Biden, as president, might address these concerns, respectfully announcing that he will set up an Election Commission, a formal investigation on the scale of the Warren Commission, which tried to uncover the facts of the Kennedy assassination, or the commission formed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A more immediate example is the panel convened after the 2000 election. Chaired by former presidents Ford and Jimmy Carter, it presented recommendations. One was that there be a ceiling of 2 percent on the share of votes thrown out because of errors. Another was to have a federal agency create national standards for voting machines. A third was to restore voting rights in all 50 states to felons who had served their sentences. President George W. Bush supported the “key principles” stated by the panel and urged Congress to act on them. But the operative word was “recommendations.” The report did not say the government should require these changes. And so almost 20 years later, the defects remain.

But the circumstances are different now; the crisis has grown. Trump has sown doubts about our elections for the whole of his presidency. As soon as he took office, he declared that the 2016 election was “rigged” because the popular vote had gone against him. He organized a “commission” of his own on voter fraud, with Vice President Pence in charge. It quietly disbanded eight months later, having met a total of two times and without filing a report. The material it did produce was “glaringly empty,” in the words of one member. A commission set up by Biden could take up the work of Trump’s panel, only push much further.

And this is where the Church Committee could be a good model. Just as it pursued the trail of intelligence wrongdoing back to the early years of the Cold War, so Biden’s blue-ribbon panel would start with the 2000 election and the recommendations made afterward, this time pointing out what was lost because those recommendations were not adopted. From this premise, the commission could range widely and hear testimony on many important matters — for instance, efforts to suppress African American and Hispanic votes in battleground states. Every Republican who has affirmed or suggested that the 2020 elections are rigged, beginning with Trump himself, would be given a chance to testify with immunity and in a closed session, their words recorded. The findings would be released with ample transcripts.

Such a proceeding will be vulnerable to accusations of bias. But the facts would be on the record, and perhaps we would learn more about how democracy works, and doesn’t work, and what we can do to repair it.