Young and Old Usually Think Happily

As the days and hours to next Tuesday’s election drag by, most of us are in agony over the uncertainty. There can be no doubt that this really is the most important election of all our lifetimes – all hyperbole aside.

If Trump’s ability to divide and conquer prevails, to his credit he will have been successful as one man versus 317 odd million people who never could have dreamt his wild dream, any more than 60 million people in Germany in 1932 could have dreamt Hitler’s comparable dream – leaving all guns aside.

We grumble about our Constitutional system having gone awry. We worry that too many of Hillary’s ‘deplorable’ enemies have bonded against a significant majority of Americans in what it really is to be an American.

Anticipating this election with all the distortions of our current election system – voter suppression, gerrymandering, and ongoing efforts to use social media as a weapon, to name a few – there are legitimate reasons to be fearful.

But, there is one BIG glimmer of hope peeking over the obscure horizon.

Obviously the future means more to the young; they will have to live with it longer than us oldies. But we do share a bond with them in protecting our so-called golden years.

The news happily may be that we will help each other.

Young people under 29 have traditionally been weak voters particularly in non-presidential years. Fewer than 20 percent of eligible voters under 30 cast ballots in the 2014 mid-term election, and historically runs about 38 points below the participation of those 60 and older, according to the U.S. Elections Project.  At the moment a very recent poll suggests that they are planning to come out in droves way larger than ever before, with 51% saying they will “definitely” vote. And while far fewer ultimately do cast ballots, the increase in enthusiasm has a direct increase on turnout.

And a similar movement appears to be underway for people over 70, with even more seniors saying they “definitely” plan to vote than made similar claims in the 2016 Presidential election. The combination of the two groups strongly suggests in close races that they may produce 3-5% additional democratic votes, which could result in a young/old undertow that might be a big surprise for Trump next Tuesday.

The angst between now and then will persist – hopefully productively before midnight.

Pin Drop

Once upon a time when our politicians did not tend to apologize for our country’s prior actions, here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our great country.

These are good…

Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when De Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO.

De Gaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”

De Gaulle did not respond.

You could have heard a pin drop.

When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of ’empire building’ by George Bush.

He answered by saying, “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.

During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?”

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly:

“Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?”

You could have heard a pin drop.

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies.

At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.

Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks, but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, “Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?”

Without hesitating the American Admiral replied, “Maybe it’s because the Brit’s, Canadians, Aussie’s and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.”

You could have heard a pin drop.


Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.

At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

“You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.

“Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”

The American said, “The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”

“Impossible. Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France!”

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look.

Then, he quietly explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on, D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchman to show a passport to.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

A Perverse But Interesting Idea

Let’s encourage a continuation of Trump until 2020

One of the surprisingly ‘good’ things that Trump has managed to accomplish is that not much of any significance really gets done while he is writhing and tweeting his way into history.

He seems to have neither a staff capable of putting into practice any program, nor any consistent plan that he or his disjointed staff can consistently drive forward.

As Woodward explains, Trump apparently believes that fear and surprise are the way to get things done. Indeed, they do work at times. But the broad swath of Executive responsibility and power come from steady, well thought out and executed plans by careful, responsible people.

Yes, he has been appointing a lot of too conservative judges to the Federal court system. But there are limits to what they can do to our basic principles like women’s rights and freedom of the press, which the Supreme Court can affect for decades.

Yes, he can fiddle with taxes to benefit himself and other very rich people. But that can be reversed quite easily and quickly.

Yes, he can deregulate more than is desirable, but that too can be reversed reasonably quickly.

Even though he reads little and listens less than most Presidents ever, he has less time to focus on strategy and policy and the process of the Presidency.

So let’s keep it that way for as long as he is in office.

Pence could prove to be far worse?

McConnell May Be Right After All?

If you want to turn the clock back 100 years

Politically-oriented people with outstanding foresight (obviously not including me!) apparently have been playing ‘the long game’ in tinkering with one of the biggest threats to representative democracy: population trends that are eroding the fair and equitable representational dimension of the democratic formula.

The constitutional dictate of two Senators from every state, regardless of population, today gives 16% of the population half the country’s Senate seats, and thus NOW effective control of five of nine Supreme Court seats. [By the way remember that there were far fewer States when that rule was adopted. And, when new States were added this issue was not yet fully visible.]

The likely effect will be further radical changes in the ‘law’ as it applies to women’s rights over their bodies, the independence of a President from interference by the Congress and broadly giving the President more singular authority and power than was ever envisioned by the founding fathers.

What is happening – and will continue unless soon checked at the ballot box – is that a minority of the voters in America are gaining effective control over a significant majority by using the Senate’s very different election process (designed at that time to protect the less populous states from the “mob rule” in the House of Representatives and get them to support the Constitution.).

Because the Senate also has the singular power to confirm the Federal judiciary, that dichotomy in representation extends to the Supreme Court which, as a result, is moving backwards in time to a very different world with regard to powers of the Presidency and rights of individuals.

Moreover, it threatens to thwart the careful balance of power the Constitution envisioned between the three branches. Instead of truly co-equal partners in a democracy, we now face an authoritarian-inclined President enabled by a lapdog Senate, which is itself impeding the Constitutional functions the Founders envisioned for the judiciary. Disproportionate representation of the overall population in the Senate makes this distortion possible – even potentially calamitous.

The ability to foresee this radical shift from majority rule to minority rule was a genius stroke by the Republicans [from their point of view] and largely ignored by the Democrats who blithely proceeded in the belief that control of any one chamber of Congress –such as the House which has the singular power of the purse–was sufficient to protect overall national interests.

Then came the completely unexpected election of a rogue President who only collected some 3 million fewer votes than his opponent – demonstrating also that the Electoral College is infected by the same disease as the Senate issue in undermining/under-counting representative democracy.

What this boils down to is that the Constitutional formula and model, designed with the politics of 1800 in mind, is simply now  working in reverse today and is undercutting the basic cornerstone of democracy which is overall majority rule. Instead of a check on a tyrannical majority, the two-Senators per state rule now enable a tyrannical minority to control not only its own actions, but those of the judiciary.

It also should come as no surprise that slavery, which still lies at the roots of our Constitutional distortions, continues to haunt us in unexpected ways. For example, the classic racism perversely aroused by Obama’s successful election to the Presidency also is no doubt contributing to today’s new dysfunctions.

Just as the compromises of 1787 merely forestalled the horrors of the Civil War, if we as a nation do not firmly address this basic problem at the ballot box, and soon, we may once again soon face a nation perilously divided and risking a very angry population.

The very roots of our democracy are at stake!

Quiet Restaurants?


An Oxymoron?

Apparently it has become a given in restaurants that buzz = noise = happy campers.

That may be true for a lot of eaters – particularly people who are young, eager, energetic, with PERFECT hearing and energized by the entire buzz.

But, there are a lot of folks who do not fit the loud buzz model and are constantly looking for restaurants that have appealing food AND an atmosphere in which they can talk with their companions and hear them without everyone having to shout!

It might be desirable for some restaurants to promote their ‘quiet’ atmosphere, though a lot of us oldies will remain skeptical without some ‘real’ evidence that they really know what that really means.

And/or other restaurants may want to create quieter zones or rooms and actually enforce that result.

Obviously, all restaurants should be free to be as loud as they want. But, if they want and value some quiet for its own sake and to entice clients who appreciate that, they should consistently provide that atmosphere.

Perhaps it would help if an APP were created to assess and report on the quiet atmosphere so that people could have some reliable guidance in advance.

If this idea of quieter eating atmosphere appeals to enough of you, please let me know and I promise to help translate that into a reality?

Happy eating!

Oh My! Oh My!

Have we no shame? Have we no fear?

Susan Collins’ well-crafted but weak-minded Senate speech crystallized the essence of our problem. She took the Republican bait of an alleged Democratic smear and shut down her own independent reputation in assessing what was really at stake in confirming Kavanaugh.

Give her credit for risking the wrath of Maine’s women in 2020 when she faces re-election. Perhaps she has had reassurances about alternative jobs from the Republican leadership. Politics is a nasty business with many currencies.

Granted, it is relatively easy to complain from the sidelines about close calls. But when basic democratic ideals and the political health of the nation are at stake, we see the true “stuff” of a politician on exhibit. Consider Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota, who probably sacrificed her reelection next month to take a principled stand. Collins flunked badly despite how she shrewdly positioned herself with her last Kavanaugh speech and 45 minutes of what she hoped would be seen as persuasive, thoughtful analysis. A careful listener could quickly tell that she was substituting a lot of words for a thoughtful summary of the big picture. We will learn soon enough whether Kavanaugh votes to overturn Roe v. Wade. This writer will be grateful to be proven wrong. But even if Collins is ultimately proven right about that issue, her shameful performance during this ordeal will leave a lasting stain on her reputation.

Some people like to think that Supreme Court Justices use some kind of mysterious formulas – like ‘the law’ – to find the truth in their marble palace.

The law, sad to say, is not any kind of formula or even language. If there is any truth to be found by the Supreme Court, it lays in the Court’s read of the minds of the American people. One of the most important issues for more than 50 years has been the rights American women have over their own bodies. If one analyzes all our founding documents – from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – it has to be clear that ‘freedom’ must include the rights of women over themselves. Yet it was not until the 1970s that Roe v. Wade finally made that clear AND the law. And to this day over 2/3rds of the American people consistently favor that view. Still, a minority of Americans disagree. And, given the distortion of political power due to small states vs. large (25 states with 16% of the overall population elect 50% of the U.S. Senate) it has become possible for a minority of the people to dictate to a substantial majority a political imperative for half our population – WOMEN.

There is something indisputably wrong with that situation. And it will have to be corrected SOON at the ballot box or it could get really out of hand.

The Republicans have piously and pompously argued it is their right politically to do what they can to reverse Roe v. Wade. It may be ‘sort of’ their right for a brief moment in history.

But in due course the undeniable right of half our population must prevail.

Let’s VOTE our way out of this mess before it gets too late!!

Where Was The Catholic Church In The Kavanaugh Matter?

As a non-religious Jew, I fear being accused of muddying the water with a religious reference to the Catholic Church’s many past and current sex abuse scandals, often many decades old. But, there is an aspect of the Kavanaugh matter that seems to be going unnoticed which needs some sunlight.

The Church to its credit appears to be at least trying to say the right things even though it apparently still has trouble doing the right things in assigning responsibility and sanctioning culprits.

It should not be overlooked that Kavanaugh was attending a Catholic boy’s school when his alleged misconduct occurred. And, today, as he ascends to the United States Supreme Court, he becomes one of the highest ranking Catholics in the United States and the World. He has been treated like several Catholic Bishops and Cardinals have been treated – with very velvet gloves – over the years. (Cardinal Law in Boston was a classmate at Harvard, whom I knew, and though he lost his rank, he never lost the support of the Church.) Do you suppose there is – or should be – special treatment for high rankers later in life after misdeeds are brought to light?

Or do you suppose the Church is so politically focused in the United States that it lays low in criticizing Kavanaugh despite the fact that it is struggling to stay afloat dealing with sexual abuses?

I even know personally how discombobulating such abuse can be. When I was about 14 years old, and on an overnight train from New York to Exeter in New Hampshire, I was sexually accosted by an ordinary man. I was so alarmed I threw a coke in his face and escaped to my berth and shuddered all night. That was 70+ years ago and I have never forgotten the key details. I have told a very few people over the years because until recently it seemed largely irrelevant, yet I empathize with the many men and women who have had even worse encounters.

The United States and the Catholic Church have to come honestly to grips with reality and recognize the phenomenon for what it is and deal with it once and for all.

Episodically, the Senate has acted firmly in setting character standards. Remember Douglas Ginsberg who was forced out of a prospective Supreme Court seat simply because he had smoked pot?

We have to try much harder to be consistent and clear headed about the qualifications – or lack thereof – for the Supreme Court. The glaring fallacy of Senator Collins attempt to justify her vote on Kavanaugh was her reliance on presumption of innocence about Kavanaugh. Presumption of innocence relates to criminal law matters when a person’s freedom may be at stake, not the rare and important privilege of a seat on the Supreme Court.

What was before the Senate just now was much more than sufficient evidence about a man whose lifetime behavior put in question his judgment and fitness to sit on the Court.

In an effort to sway our legal system, the Republican majority in the Senate has twice now in two years abused its position of the majority to both deny AND grant confirmation. Remember Wyoming has 500,000 people and two Senators, California 25,000,000 people and two Senators. The 200 year old system to protect States with few people has opened the door to the few ganging up on a wide majority. That is a clear recipe for a big problem, and it is here NOW. The 25 smallest states contain only 16.2 percent of the population, but control half the seats in the U.S. Senate.

They have opened the door wide to comparable abuses by a Democratic majority in the future to further tamper with the system.

That will likely lead to even further diminution of the standing of the US Supreme Court and further weaken the last solid leg supporting democracy.