Trees Know What’s Going On

Be Careful What You Reveal to Them

When you stop and think about it, TREES really are quite different than most other inanimate living objects. Some are beautiful, many are plain, and they all bow and sway to their music, the way humans do.

Scientists have been studying the ‘whispers’ of trees for a long time. Tiny reports are leaking on what they have been finding recently. None of this is, as yet, confirmable, but IF it proves to be correct it is astounding!

Scientists have wrapped their ‘wires’ around different trees and are able to keep track of the changing tree sounds. That coupled with some assumptions about what trees might be thinking and saying about what is in their plain sight have begun to provide the basis of ‘tree language’ for general use.

For example, trees that are ‘wrapped’ properly, when they clearly can hear sounds of chain saws, might be expected to say, ‘oh my God!’—and guess what –that is what they in fact say.

Another test recently reported that when two humans ‘coupled’ intensely at the base of a tree, the tree was heard to say: ‘so that’s how they do it!’

Those two simple examples are a good start at building a whole tree language and vocabulary.

When ‘we’ get there, what could we do with such information?

First, we must be careful not to get too squeamish; we need wood more than we need happy trees.

Second, when we seek to use trees that do not care that they are cut down, we may find that there is an adverse selection bias that gives us flawed wood.

Third, we need to be very selective to leave alone the trees that are most likely to reproduce even more such trees.

Now any movement against trees will be seen by trees at large as signals of a possible all-out war.

We have enough threats of war all around us already. North Korea combined with trees might just topple Trump.

So, let’s keep our chain saws under lock and key until after the election!

Dangerous Days

Three Months of Never-Never Land

After Biden’s blow-out victory on November 3, we will still have 3 (yes THREE) more months –79 days, specifically – of Trump having ALL the powers of the Presidency.

I am not an historian, but I doubt we have ever before had a less responsible person in such a powerful position. He has already violated the previously respected restraints on Supreme Court appointments. He still could set up a meeting with Kim of North Korea and go over there and try to provoke hostilities, which could be a basis to try to postpone the ‘turn over’ in such a dangerous situation.

On January 3, 2021 the new Congress is likely to be controlled by Democrats in both houses and could vote stringent restraints on Presidential powers until January 20, the current date for the Presidential turnover. That would lead to a (hopefully short-lived) Presidential lawsuit directly to the Supreme Court to strike down such restraints.

Biden’s proposed bi-partisan Commission on Constitutional Issues related to Supreme Court issues could not yet be functioning to weigh in.

Until 1933, the formal Presidential post-election transition date was in March. It was moved then to January 20 (21 if the 20th falls on a Sunday) to shorten the dangerous interregnum. Perhaps it should be moved again to when the new Congress first meets. our system does not lend itself to the immediacy of parliamentary turn overs. 

Remember that in 1933, TV barely existed, WIFI had not been conceived of, and air travel around the world was VERY limited.

 Things today are virtually immediate the world over.

We should NOT put ourselves at the mercy of a volatile world AND a completely unreliable and embittered President who already has been voted out by the American people.

Not a simple or easy question BUT it is real! NOW.

Dis-Mis-Information

Hard to Tell Which?

Boy, is there a tangle of confusion out there.

The other day, it was reported that emails went out – via Estonia — to a number of registered Democratic voters threatening them to “vote for TRUMP – or else.” 

Intelligence reports suggest Iran is behind the messages, designed to make it appear to be the work of the Proud Boys far-right militia group. The purpose of the messages was apparently to HELP Biden by running a “false flag” operation against an extremist group of Trump supporters.

But, really, who believes John Ratcliffe? It’s certainly plausible that it WAS the work of the Proud Boys, whose intimidation tactics are well known.

What’s most interesting to me is that anyone thought such a plan might work. It reeks of the kind of desperation and incompetence that have so far been the exclusive hallmarks of Trump’s campaign. Would anyone put it past Trump’s band of mischief makers to concoct this operation as a last-ditch play for sympathy? (“See? They’re trying to steal the election!”)

Granted, the Iranians don’t have a lot of experience with free and open elections (then again, some might say we don’t, either). But could they really be this inept? It seems just as possible that the Trump geniuses, having exhausted both their efforts to repeat the 2016 campaign and their billion-dollar campaign war chest, have simply run out of ideas.

In any event, we’ve got to get this election behind us before we all go insane! 11 DAYS TO GO!!!

Depression

And what to do about it.

The odds are, whether you know it, or like it, that you are somewhat clinically depressed. If you are not, you either must be a Trumper and/or someone who enjoys boredom.

These are some of the common symptoms of depression: feeling blah! sleeping a lot; not interested in life; anger at the world around you, including your most loved ones; a lost sense of humor; loss of interest in beauty of all sorts. I could go on and on, but if you have not seen any of the above in yourself, you are NOT depressed (and therefore must be suffering a more serious illness!).

So, what can you do?

Stop thinking about the election and the brink of civil war everywhere! Easier said than done.

Make plans to distract yourself from yourself. Pick a few hard to find places of interest not too far from your home. Try to get there and back in your car without getting too lost and, whether you finally see the place or not, when you get home, you may feel you have accomplished something worthwhile! It’s called spin the wheels for change.

Cut way back on TV. The constants of TV—Covid news, Trump nonsense, election bear tracks and traps, and pontificating talking heads are probably the main causes of your depression. Strangely, it keeps on drawing you in—STOP!

Make a plan for everyday—with due regard for social distancing and masks. See and talk with at least one neighbor and friend every day; order IN a special dinner menu at least once a week—have one drink too many every OTHER night and sleep better for it. And, for good measure, start and/or finish a good book every three days.

Pay attention to your appearance – even if the only person who sees you is the spouse you’ve woken up next to for decades.

Go on your computer and browse around for something you do not need but absolutely cannot live without. Then, immediately order it from Amazon and wait impatiently for it to arrive.

Instead of taking a shower every third day, take one every other day. You will be surprised at how good that feels and smells!

Tell your spouse he/she looks great – the response can be surprising—be prepared!

Bottom line is that if you were not somewhat depressed in this strange time, you likely would NOT be normal.

The election may be a turning point for most of us and we may have to convert our collective depressions into collective anger to changes around us that put our ways of life at risk.

And, when that happens, we can go back to being depressed.

Then we go back to work patching America back together.

Easy!!!!!

What Now?

The Election and Its Aftermath

Given what we know today – and with the usual caveats that things COULD change between now and November 3 — it is quite clear that Biden will win the election, racking up a large popular vote margin and a strong majority of the Electoral College. That should short-circuit all of Trump’s efforts to muddy the post-election waters.

The big question right now in my mind is how his supporters react, specifically the “Proud Boys” and other heavily armed militias that have already taken it upon themselves to confront peaceful protestors. Trump is, for these people, their last, best hope to reclaim a country that they see slipping away (but hasn’t in fact existed since the 1950s). If the country instead rejects Trump (soundly), do they crawl back quietly to the cracks from which they emerged?

It’s hard to believe these zealots have an abiding commitment to democracy; rather, they seem alienated from democratic processes, and certain of their own righteousness in confronting – violently – those who disagree with them.

That’s a dangerous combination in any political environment but is particularly worrisome now. Trump may concede the race, given a large enough defeat. But, having sullied the public’s confidence in the administration of an election conducted largely by mail, can he persuade others to accept his defeat, as well? Who, having watched Trump over the last five years, truly believes he’ll even try? He’s already asked the Patriot Boys to “stand by” and refused to condemn them (“they seem to like me a lot”).

In truth, right-wing extremists and the militias they organize, inspire and direct have roiled just under the surface for decades – emerging occasionally in a burst of violence that catches the country off guard (Oklahoma City bombing, Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Kenosha). They could well view Trump’s defeat as the last vestige of hope for America’s salvation slipping through their fingers and determine to take matters into their own hands. Then what?

We should begin to worry about and plan for a period of post-election violence. It won’t be a ‘civil war’ OR a revolution – just a bunch of malcontents stirring up trouble. The good news is there aren’t so many of them that they pose a big threat everywhere; the bad news is that they are dispersed and, in many cases, hidden, and the FBI – primarily responsible for domestic security – hasn’t under Trump prioritized tracking and intelligence gathering for these groups.

A lot may depend on the military. Most senior military leaders take SERIOUSLY the need to avoid intervention in domestic politics. Come November 4, it will no longer be a political issue, but one of domestic order. I’m confident that under those circumstances, governors in affected states will call on the National Guard to restore peace in the face of post-election chaos.   At the end of the day we may need to put our faith in the military. But let’s hope and pray it doesn’t come to that.

“Justice”? Barrett

For Better or Worse

I – like a lot of my fellow Democrats – have been squirming about the unfair and untimely confirmation of a new Supreme Court Justice just before the election, after the Senate refused to even hold a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination just a few years back because it occurred in the SAME YEAR as a presidential election. Earlier this week, nearly 100 of her apparently loving and admiring faculty colleagues at Notre Dame begged her to defer confirmation until after the election, because proceeding would “further inflame our civic wounds, undermine confidence in the court, and deepen the divide among ordinary citizens.”

On her life record, Amy Coney Barrett appears to be more than just qualified to be a Justice of the Supreme Court, albeit one who does NOT believe in abortion, does not like Obamacare and who cannot bring herself to recuse herself in advance from a case that may quickly come before the Court about this election.

To be clear, I believe Roe v. Wade is settled law partly because the case is a clear precedent, but also because the American people have repeatedly made clear that they want it to stay that way. While she didn’t leave any dispositive hints, she did indicate that Roe is a very well-established precedent.

Similarly, I also believe Obamacare SHOULD be settled law because it is clearly the wish/will of a clear majority of Americans. Again, she didn’t leave any hints; she did make clear that she recognizes that the American people overwhelming want and need health care.

President-for-now Trump got a shot at one more Supreme Court seat when Justice Ginsburg untimely died. He clearly wants to kill Roe v Wade and Obamacare. Therefore, he presumptively found a candidate who would do his bidding. Despite that, Barrett categorically denied ever discussing any of that with anyone in the White House.

And the Republican Senate – by one vote — appears to agree with the nomination.

So, despite the warnings of her colleagues, it is likely that we will shortly have a new Justice Barrett.

I listened to the first day of her hearings and came away heartened, I think.

Barrett properly refused to answer specific questions. But, in her precise lawyerly way IN MY OPINION Barrett left me with the feeling that she would –if seated on the Court—DO MANY OF THE RIGHT THINGS.

That surprised me because she is caught between the pincers of two diametrically opposed points of view AND she repeatedly said she agreed with Justice Ginsburg not to give any indication of what she might do IF seated on the Court.

That said, her oblique statements about precedents reassured me that she takes seriously the existing policies of Congress on both women’s rights and health and would be highly unlikely to have the Court go contrary to those policies. Her view on the role of the law in the judicial process appears to be consistent that Congress sets the policies and the Court deals with the law. That’s an interesting theory, not always practiced.

And, on recusal, if a case came before the Court involving the election, she was very clear that she would give serious consideration to recusal AFTER conferring with her colleagues on the bench. That is the right way to do it and suggests to me that, again, she might do the right thing.

She would like to share Chief Justice Roberts’ veneration of the standing of THE COURT in the American system. Thus, she should weigh carefully the views of her Notre Dame colleagues to avoid at all costs politicizing the Court in any way and diminishing its standing.  

That is a tough thing for an ambitious person to do, but she could earn an even more interesting place in history and remain a highly interesting candidate (and young enough) for the next Republican president to place on the high court. Democrats might even be inclined to agree.

I am offering up my neck for you to criticize me, IF I prove to be wrong!

And, if I am right? That’s what you’re entitled to expect from me!

So, we wait and see…

REACH OUT TO YOUR NEIGHBOR

Who Loves Trump

The day after the election, each of us grateful for the outcome should find someone we know (and we all know someone) who was rooting for the other side. Our words should be simple: “I feel for you because I know how I would feel. While we do not agree, we are neighbors and we owe it to all our neighbors and ourselves to maintain decorum and stop whatever politicking we have been doing—with and to each other — for at least a year!”

Hopefully, that neighbor will reciprocate (and in my case he knows who he is and I expect he will read this).

If that doesn’t happen for you, perhaps you need to talk to other neighbors and review the options. There are plenty of ‘civilized’ ways to work through that scenario. Flat tires and broken windows are not among them.

And, we all will start after the election with some sort of story like this one.

Basically, this is a NEW OPPORTUNITY to put disagreements aside and start finding things we all can agree on – like parking–and work from there back to a world where we join together in recognition of our intermingled lives instead of living in separate universes.

Let’s face it –we all need and want a peaceful world.

We also want a predictable world.

We also want a world of opportunities—for everyone. If opportunities are to be parceled out just to the privileged, that means those who are not privileged will be understandably feel left out.

In other words, we want many of the same things, and share many of the same values, including and especially a commitment to American democracy. We SHOULD be able to get along without too much difficulty!

Consider Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Ginsburg, who became dear friends despite their strong and diametrically opposed views on the world. I wish we could have extracted the ‘stuff’ that made them friends. We really need it badly for the world today.

Our collective job now is to get back to making our world work. That starts with finding a neighbor and rediscovering your common ground.

From that simple act, it can spread wide between two oceans.

What’s Next?

Am I and My Family Going to Be OK?

The answer to that question begins with the question — what’s on your mind?

For most Americans today, their mind is occupied by three central worries: their and their family’s personal health, their economic situation and prospects in the face of an unrelenting virus, and the future course of our nation. Let’s tackle the questions most people are asking in turn.

Is it possible I will get sick? The answer must be hedged. If the President can get the virus, everyone else can too. Recent data indicate a widespread resurgence of infections, and it’s vital to remain diligent. Will I survive unscathed? Most probably yes, but there are no guarantees.

Is my job safe? This answer must also be hedged. Is my employer OK? Am I essential? Do I more than pay for myself? How quickly can the general economy recover from Covid? Meaning, it depends and cannot be answered unequivocally today.

What of the future? Will Obamacare survive and a woman’s right to control her own body? That largely depends on the outcome of the election. If Judge Barrett makes it to the Supreme Court, both are in serious doubt. However, if Biden wins the popular vote by a big enough margin, there are steps Biden and the Congress can, and probably will, take to rectify the result of Trump’s and the Senates’ hypocritical intransigence.

Will the basic operations of democracy ever get back to normal? Possibly when and if the base of 40% of Americans who find no fault in Trump begins to shrink back to a more normal size and flexible temperament. When four out of ten Americans are constantly angry at the other six people, inevitably there will be outbursts of hate and some violence. There needs to be a lot of on-the-ground work among all Americans everywhere to repair this seemingly intractable divide. Only then will we better know and trust each other. If Facebook and Twitter would encourage an amicable life instead of an angry one, we just might make a start in that direction. Instead, their persistence on seeking profits from popular anger may be today’s biggest problem.

We all keep reading about the risks that we are sliding into a new period of despotism. Is that possible and what can we do about it? Thankfully, our military leaders say repeatedly that they have NO ROLE in politics. Unfortunately, history has too many stories from the past of militaries having “no role” – until they do. Make friends with as many military officers as you can.

So how can I and my family be OK in the period ahead?

Protect yourselves, first and foremost. Treat the virus like the dangerous adversary it has proven to be, rather than a trivial inconvenience that unduly infringes personal freedom.

Then, protect — with your life, if necessary — the freedom of the press. They hold all the ultimate keys to your prisons, hospitals and food lines.

Adapt to the changing economic conditions by taking jobs –almost any jobs—that can keep you and your families off the streets with a roof over your heads and enough food on the table.

NEVER despair. If you do that, you practically ensure that the worst things you worry about will happen. Individually and collectively, this is one of the most challenging times in our young nation’s history.  I remain hopeful that the American people and the institutions that serve us can and will rise to the occasion.

Also, keep your cockeyed optimism in your pocket for your next job interview.

Optimism sells well on the job.

Go for it!

Joe: Stay in the Basement!

And run nice ads.

With less than a month until the election and millions of votes already being cast, it seems the only thing that might alter the outcome is if Joe Biden joined Donald Trump in contracting Covid-19.

Soldiers as “suckers”, $750 in taxes, and Trump’s reckless handling of Covid-19 have solidified Biden’s lead.

The late afternoon joy ride the President took – endangering the poor Secret Service officers who had no choice but to take him – is likely to further cement voter perceptions of a President wholly unequipped to make good decisions.

What then, is left for Biden to accomplish on the campaign trail that could help and not possibly hurt?

My advice therefore to Joe is: Stay in the basement — AND stay WELL.

A remote debate is possible. Be kind, calm and sympathetic.

With today’s margins, RISKS are unnecessary.

Make no promises to pardon Trump!

Name your choice for the Supreme Court — Merrick Garland?

And start to speculate on your cabinet.

You can’t do nothing, but too much could get risky.

Congratulations and luck to us all!!!

What’s At Stake?

Only Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Sadly, the first Presidential debate lived down to the expectations set for it. Defying physics – and the limits of human tolerance – it was “all heat, no light” for 90+ painful minutes. It is not likely to change minds, but it did bring into clearer focus the threat that lies ahead.

It seems increasingly certain that Trump will lose the election. But he’s made it clear that he does not intend to go quietly. The question is whether his lies and bluster about election fraud are meant merely as a salve to his ego (and his followers) to explain his defeat, or if he intends to fight tooth and nail to cling to power in defiance of the will of the people

There are certainly options available to Trump if he chooses the latter path. The Republican legislatures that control 8 of 9 swing states could seat Trump’s electors instead of Biden’s – claiming the popular vote can’t be trusted.   

That could, in turn, lead to a convoluted outcome in which the election ultimately goes to the House of Representatives, where each State delegation gets ONE vote. That could result in the election of Trump by the 26 State delegations with Republican majorities, even though Biden might still have a 5-10 million popular vote majority.

IF THAT IS NOT A DISTORTION OF DEMOCRACY, WHAT IS?

Whatever the course, the election is likely to end up before the Supreme Court. Trump has already made that appointment of a replacement to the late Justice Ginsburg specifically so that she might join in such a decision (presumably on his side).

If we want to avoid those risks – including the destruction of our Constitution—we must ACT NOW!

If we fail to act now, we face a likely period of widespread civil unrest across the country and conventional military intervention will be very little help or actually make things much worse.

To do that we must IMMEDIATELY get a case before the present Supreme Court to rule on the appropriateness of the President’s appointment of a 9th Justice BEFORE the election.

Though success with the present Court is far from a sure thing, it could at least delay the appointment process until after the election.

If Trump wins –in whatever, whenever way—we would be back to square one, where we are today. No better- no worse.

Our democratic system is what is at stake.

We should whatever steps and risks necessary to save what we have and protect it from future Trumps.

The way to do that is hark back to ‘a person’s word is their bond’ of my youth. And, hold Senator Lindsay Graham’s to his widely seen and heard promise on TV that the denying a vote on Merrick Garland set a precedent for today.

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president [elected] in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

 As the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee he spoke with more significance than most and ‘we the people’ have a right to rely on that.

The time is ripe for Senators and State Attorneys General to bring an emergency case on that point to the Supreme Court TODAY!