DO YOU KNOW THE HISTORY OF YOUR HOME?

I have rarely, if ever, wondered about the folks who lived in my wife’s home after she left. But this past weekend, my wife and I attended a meeting of the past and present owners of my wife’s former home in Atlanta, Georgia.

My wife’s family finished building the house in 1938 (when she was 7) and they remained there until 1960, when another family took over. After about 1970, there was a 10-year period of rapid turnover—during which four families lived there—after which one large family occupied the house for 37 years until the current owner moved in a year ago.

My initial reaction to the idea of participating in such a “union” was so what.  I did, however, want to support my wife’s interest in participating.

It turned out to be fun, interesting, and worth the effort and time put into the event.

The four participating families were different in many ways, BUT they shared a love for a very special house and the seven acres of low-lying pastures on which it stands.

It was interesting to see and hear about the different perceptions from these folks. For example, to hear why one family took out a window to make a closet after an earlier family wondered aloud where it had gone, was fascinating. They all discussed a love of horses, except for the one family, who owned “Morris the Horse” simply as a symbolic gesture of appreciation of the pastures.

In this moment when Americans are being pulled apart in so many ways, it was heartwarming to see how a group of such people could bond so quickly around their shared history regardless of today’s politics.

We all share in an awfully abstract 220 years of simply being Americans.

Perhaps an idea like this could spread and remind more people of their more tangible common bonds to give a reason to bond besides simply being Americans?

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EXECUTIVE POWER TO START WAR

There has been recently an interesting discussion about revising and limiting the President’s power to initiate war. Though the Constitution reserves that power to Congress, Presidents can take (and have taken) actions that risk or initiate war without Congressional consent. The current flashpoint is North Korea, specifically President Trump’s ability to preemptively strike the country using nuclear or conventional forces.

Trump’s unconsidered outbursts pose a real risk in provoking a war, but Congress can hardly take away his phone. But Congress could limit his ability to strike North Korea without its consent.

President Trump, according to the New York Bar Association, can only take defensive actions against a threat that is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation”. However, President Trump has shown little regard for rule of law and, besides, such a definition is open to a bit of interpretation. There is currently nothing stopping Trump from giving the order.

General Robert Kehler, commander of US strategic forces under President Obama, told Congress that soldiers are not obliged to follow an illegal order. Barring a nuclear launch by Pyonyang, Trump ordering a preemptive strike without Congressional approval would likely lead to a genuine constitutional crisis.

In the end, the only solution is to remove Donald Trump from office and refrain from electing such volatile figures to the American Presidency in the future. Any legislation that crystalizes the President’s power to launch a preemptive strike risks giving our adversaries carte-blanche to maneuver and might delay an American response until it is already too late.

In the interim, Congress could pass legislation that does not change when and how a President can declare or make war, but could simply declare that as long as Trump is President, it would take a unanimous vote by the President, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State to undertake a preventative strike.

While that process may be constitutionally questionably, by the time the Supreme Court finally rules, the Trump threat may have become moot. The upside of this subject is that it further legitimizes discussion about a person’s temperament and capacity for decision making during an election cycle.

 

THE POLITICAL AVALANCHE BEGINS

Many Americans had their fingers and toes crossed last Tuesday as they awaited the outcomes of local and state elections across the country.

There were encouraging polls and other signs going into the elections that the pendulum was swinging away from Trump’s shocking victory one year ago. Several Republican Congress persons announced that they would not run again in 2018. And then the returns started to trickle in with amazing results. The Virginia Governor race was a rout, as was New Jersey’s. Furthermore, in both states—and in others—the down ballot results showed a strong resurgence for Democrats in legislatures and other local bodies. More evidence will no doubt follow this pattern in the next few weeks.

The Republican response has been to rush the tax bill so they can sneak through tax cuts for corporations and the rich while increasing taxes on the middle class while the GOP still has control of the federal government. There seems to be little doubt that the increases will hit a lot of Trump’s base pretty hard, so it is hard to see the sense in what they say. But if that happens, a sudden drop in Trump’s popularity is likely to occur.

This year’s election and the Republican push for a middle class tax increase might bring the whole Trump story to a conclusion a lot earlier than most of us had even hoped for.

Ryan and many moderate Republicans have strong survival instincts and, under the scenario above, the only possible way out would have to be to reverse course and remove Trump from office. The sooner they do so, the sooner they might just save their political skins?

The struggle is switching gears from political beliefs to political realities.

Therefore, Democrats should begin to seek out a new generation of new leadership (Al Franken and Seth Moulton, for example) and develop a plan to cope with Pence through 2020, to keep the courts balanced and to set the stage for the next President.

Hopefully the relatively brief Trump era will be looked back on as a painful curative (like cod liver oil) period that helped the country adjust our governance to deal with a very changed modern world!