No New Wars

          The transition to a new administration has its rituals. As part of them we examine the incoming president’s agenda, and we comment on the outgoing politician’s accomplishments or lack thereof. I pay little attention to this. Our presidential campaigns are so long that nothing in an incoming president’s plans that should be a surprise. Let’s wait to see what is achieved and not depend on mere hopes or fears. The assessments of the outgoing president always have a partisan tinge, and since I have lived through the administration, I can make up my own mind about the merits of the outgoing president. I especially did not care to hear what Trump said. I assumed that his inevitable and often misleading or untrue boasts would make me angry. I was surprised, then, to hear him say something that was true and even significant: Trump said that he was proud that he was the first president in decades who had not started a new war.

          Many Americans may feel that this is a strange boast. We believe that ours is not a war-mongering nation. Oh, yes, occasionally we have to get involved in wars, but only for the great cause of peace, for we are a peace-loving people. Combat, battles, and killings in the name of the United Sates are the exception for us. Right?

          I then looked at a Wikipedia page titled “List of wars involving the United States.” The list begins with the Revolution and continues to the present. Since Trump had claimed that he was the first president without a new war in “decades,” I concentrated on our involvements over the past forty years. Take a guess how many there were. The list had twenty-seven wars in which the United States was involved during those four decades, but, as Trump pointed out, none started during his tenure in office.

          You might, like me, doubt our involvement in that many wars during those forty years. The last one listed is the American intervention in Libya (2015-present). I read further and learned that in August 2016 we announced that at the request of the Libyan government we would aid in recapturing the city of Sirte from the Islamic State in Libya. We bombed Sirte from August to December with up to 100 sorties and gave other military support to the Libyan government, which retook Sirte on December 6, 2016. Maybe you are different, but I certainly don’t remember this. However, if some country bombed an American city 100 times over a few months, we would definitely count that as a war. While this was not our biggest war effort, it surely counts as substantial military hostilities.

          While being oblivious to the Libyan bombings, however, I had not forgotten about all the conflicts we were involved with. I remembered that we “intervened” in Lebanon and invaded Grenada and Panama in the 1980s. There was the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and a few years later an “intervention” in Somalia. The U.S. was involved with the Bosnian War of 1992-1995 and the Kosovo War of 1998-1999. And, of course, we are all aware of the Afghan War, which started in 2001, and the Iraq War starting in 2003. We are still involved in the Afghan War two decades later, and Iraq is still not at peace. We may not want to recognize it, but our “peaceful” nation has regularly been involved in multiple wars during our lifetimes and throughout our history. It is unusual, apparently, for us to go more than a few years without getting involved in a new war. When Trump says that he is proud of not getting us into another war, it is not mere fanfaronade. (This is word that I have just learned, and I know that I will soon forget it, so I feel compelled to use it while I still retain it. And “fanfaronade” is apt.)

          Whatever you may think of Trump’s foreign policy moves, rejoice in the fact that he did not start the equivalent of another Iraq war, the greatest foreign policy blunder of the last generation. He did not have us invade another country under false pretenses that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, untold casualties, and striking numbers of refugees; cost us trillions of dollars; massively increased our national debt; helped cause more instability and terror in the Mideast; and made our country less safe. We still feel the harmful effects of the Iraq war. I find it hard to give any sort of praise to Donald Trump, but I am glad that in the last four years he did not involve us in yet another shooting war.

Three Musings

Three Musings

1)Whither Alabama and Mississippi?

Although I am sure that there are many reasons that Georgia voted for Biden and then elected two Democrats as Senators, the mobilization of Black voters is seen as a cause, and surely Stacey Abrams must be given considerable credit. The voting in Georgia might herald an important path for Democrats: Set a ten-year goal to make Mississippi and Alabama politically competitive. Of course, even though Democrats can now compete effectively in Georgia, it does not mean that Alabama and Mississippi can ever lose their deep red status. All three have large Black populations—Georgia at about 30% Black is in between Alabama at 26% and Mississippi at 38%–and that is a reason to believe that Democrats could compete better in Alabama and Mississippi. However, Georgia’s political shift may not be a roadmap for Alabama and Mississippi. Even though all three have large Black populations, Georgia is more dynamic than the other two. Georgia’s population grew about ten percent in the last decade with both Blacks and whites attracted there from the north. That shift has not been true for Alabama which grew only about three percent and Mississippi whose growth has been stagnant. There is little to attract people to these states. Mississippi ranks 50th among the states in household income and Alabama 46th. On most measures of health, the two states have dismal rankings. For example, only West Virginia has a lower life expectancy than Mississippi with Alabama only two states above Mississippi’s ranking. (Both Blacks and whites in Mississippi and Alabama have life spans shorter than the national average.) Similarly, most measures of education place those two states right at the bottom of the country.

Georgia does not have particularly impressive rankings on such metrics either—33rd in household income and 39th in life expectancy—but it is significantly better than Mississippi and Alabama on such measures. Georgia is admittedly ahead of the other states, but even if Georgia has become politically competitive, it does not necessarily indicate that those other states can become so, too. Nevertheless, because of their low rankings and meager population growth, these states ought to become targets of Democrats. Alabamans and Mississippians might be made to realize that a political change would be good for them. And, of course, Democrats should want to make lives better, and here are two states where living conditions have no where to go but up.

2) Sue the Hell Out of Him

As I have said on this blog recently (see post of January 13, 2021), I have mixed feelings about trying Trump for criminal charges after he has left office. I also have mixed feelings about an impeachment trial. But I am hoping for all sorts of civil trials against him, both because he has regularly used litigation as a bullying tactic and because some suits might make him accountable for words and actions for which he has taken no responsibility. For example, I hope Ruby Freeman sues him. Freeman was just an ordinary worker in the Georgia election process, but Trump named her as the person who put 18,000 “fake” ballots through a scanner producing 54,000 bogus votes for Biden. Even though this was conclusively proved false, our then-president said about her, “She’s a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler.” This slander no doubt produced death threats against her and required her to go into seclusion. Normal life may never return to her. I hope that she can get enough money from Trump at least to receive a fraction of the security that Trump expects Americans to pay for him.

3) A Republican Conundrum

Here’s an interesting dilemma for some: The Republican Party might be helped if Trump is convicted in the Senate of the impeachment charges and barred from future public office. If he remains free to run for president again, he will probably act as he did in the ten years before he ran for the presidency and make frequent noises as if he will run in 2024. Instead of Republican officeholders dominating Republican politics and policies, Trump will. This can make it an interesting wire-walking adventure for some who want to be president. Let’s just say this includes Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. Cruz and Hawley will want the backing of the Trumpistas, but as long as there is a chance Trump himself will run, the first question those two Senators will be asked is, “Do you back Trump for president?” It will be interesting to hear their replies. In fact, Cruz and Hawley will be better off if Trump is barred from taking office again. Then they can pledge allegiance to the Trump flag, tell us the election was stolen, and how they should be elected to continue on with the Trump legacy. But, of course, they can’t do that if they vote to convict on the impeachment charges. Instead, they have to hope that enough other Senators will vote for conviction so that Republican paths to the Presidency don’t have to step over a possible Trump candidacy.

Words to remember on Inauguration Day. “Visits always give pleasure—if not the arrival, the departure.” Portuguese Proverb.

Snippets

A new parlor game: Find out how many ways it is offensive that Trump told Pence, “You can be a patriot or a pussy.”

Good books can be emotionally  hard to read. I have recently read two very good novels that were very hard for me to read. I was not familiar with Margaret O’Farrell until I read her Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague, which centers on the death of William Shakespeare’s young son. It is beautifully written, and I kept wanting to turn the pages, but the powerful prose about mounting waves of grief pressed down on me making it hard to continue, but I did.

I had read Redeployment by Phil Klay shortly after it came out, and now, six years later, I have read his Missionaries. He is a spell-binding storyteller, and I wanted to stay up late at night reading about Afghanistan, Colombia, and Yemen. Combat stories can be hard to handle, but I have read many before. On the other hand, the many, many atrocities of Colombia were, at times, stomach-turning. Yet, because the book is so compelling, I kept on reading and was rewarded with some thought-provoking insights about the modern world.

Both books were very good;; both were hard to read. If I am asked whether I would recommend them, I don’t know how I will reply.

“In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers.” August Bebel

“War hath no fury like a noncombatant.” C.E. Montague.

I certainly hope that Biden produces fewer jactations than Trump.

I don’t believe that I will ever meet Donald Trump and, therefore, I will not get the chance to say what I always wanted to tell him: “I marvel at the extent of your nescience.”

There is much concern over what will happen on Inauguration Day. If I had my way and if your neighbor still had outside Christmas decorations up on January 20, you would have the legal right to tear them down.

The spouse and I got our first Covid vaccination shots a few days ago. We were lucky to get an appointment. We had logged onto various websites numerous times and got error messages or a notice that no appointments were available. It was especially aggravating that each time we had to fill out the same (rather long) form only to find out that we still couldn’t get an appointment. Then, as if it were a miracle, a slot opened. We nervously went to the high school location at the appointed time expecting to meet as many problems as we had had on the website. Instead, we met pleasant, smiling people seeking to help. Many of those administering the shots were volunteer nurses. Many of these other wonderful people were civil servants who cared about serving us. We too often forget the many dedicated people who work in the government. One of those wonderful people was a young Sudanese-American woman, and I again marveled at how much value immigration has added to this country.

We Called Her Mom

I’m not entirely certain why reminiscences of my grandmother have come up this week. They preceded finding a copy of my eulogy written for her in May 1988. She was 97 when she died. We called her “Mom.” She lived in a tiny southern town — Ashland, Alabama — where my sister and I had visited many times. Here’s the eulogy:

My most vivid childhood memories of Mom are, naturally enough, linked to warm summer days in Ashland when my sister and I would most often come to visit. Those were lazy summer mornings for me. I often spent them doing nothing in Mom’s front yard. In her front yard was the first time I investigated the mysteries of green moss. Out in front was also a set of mysterious concrete steps down to the curb leading to the street. I often puzzled over the existence of those steps leading nowhere. But I used to sit on them for hours and watch the Ashland of thirty [now more than sixty] years ago go by. Somebody on horseback or in a mule-drawn wagon might come along – quite a spectacle for a little girl raised in the city. Sometimes people would come to visit Mom, and they would drive their cars – or more usually their trucks – right up onto the front yard. Sometimes it seemed they would drive right up onto the front porch!

You could crawl under Mom’s front porch and under her house, too, if you dared. One day somebody drove up in one of those pick-up trucks, crawled under the porch and killed a snake under there! Much of the exotic trivia of my youth comes from Ashland.

Because of Mom’s love and concern for this church [the Baptist Church across the street from her house], it isn’t surprising that many of my Ashland memories are of this church. Sometimes on those long summer days I would go across the street to the old church building and play the piano. I was about ten or eleven then and not a very good piano player, but the church was cool on hot summer days, and I would play “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair” and sing along.

And on Sunday, we’d go to church in white elastic mesh gloves and black patent-leather shoes and crinolines that we had brought along…special. I had a little straw hat with daisies around the brim. And I would sing the hymns and, before air conditioning, I would examine carefully the peaceful scenes on the fans.

Late on those summer afternoons we would come home to Mom’s from a day at the swimming pool or an afternoon at the five-cent movie, and Mom would be there busy: feeding the chickens or bustling around the kitchen making fried chicken, biscuit, lemon meringue pie. Oh! Mom’s lemon meringue pie! She kept on making it until she was in her 80’s because she knew we loved it so. And then we’d have the chicken and the biscuit and sip pink lemonade through silver straws that my father had brought from Mexico.

I remember the warm – no, hot – summer nights. Mom’s magic porch held a magic bench swing. We would sit out there on that swing and do nothing. Tell ghost stories maybe. Play jacks by the light of the door. When my sister got older, boys would come by.

Mom was like those warm summer nights: tranquil, accepting, at peace. Mom had a rare capacity for acceptance. She never railed against the fates, even when she lost a brother to typhus, a son to war (see blog post, November 11, 2020), and then a husband to cancer. She accepted what life in God’s wisdom had offered her. I know that she didn’t always approve of what we did or how we ran our lives. But she never criticized. She accepted us and loved us for what we gave and what we were. She never rejected us for what we didn’t give or what we weren’t.

I sort of lost touch with Mom as I busied through college and graduate school. After my grandfather died, she was always part of my life, always part of my Christmas, always part of my school vacations, but I was too busy to notice. And then I finally grew up and married and was fortunate enough to marry a man who realized, and helped me realize again, the treasure that our family had living with us, sitting quietly in her room reading. It was Mom in her 80’s who knew when Hank Aaron was trying to beat Babe Ruth’s home-run record. Mom who read Oliver Twist before we went to see the movie. Mom who read things that would dismay or rattle a less accepting human being. Mom who read all of the richness of life, took it in, and accepted it for its window to the world.

Going through her papers this week we came across a quotation she had cut out of the newspaper. I see why she saved it; It’s the way she lived her life:

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and the wonder of the world.

Mom gave to my life a living model of peace in a hectic world. She believed in and lived in the peace of God that passeth all understanding. Her legacy to me was her quiet goodness and the fundamental decency of her life. My sister and I have both commented that it was like Mom to leave this world in the brilliance of spring and in the peace of her sleep.

I thank her belatedly for being a calm and loving presence in my life and wish her now all the peace and tranquility of those warm summer nights.

Forgive Yourself

          Should Trump be criminally prosecuted after he leaves office? Many assume that a president cannot be prosecuted while in office but can be later. Even so, that an ex-president can be prosecuted does not necessarily mean that he should be, and my feelings about such a prosecution are mixed.

          Deciding not to bring valid criminal charges seems to place the president above the law, and that does not seem right. On the other hand, a prosecution brought by a political rival tends to make the country look like a despotic state in which political rivals get jailed by those in power. In addition, I am concerned that the Trumpistas may become even stronger and more entrenched by a Trump prosecution. My opinion: Trump should be prosecuted only if he committed a crime of such clear venality that it would be apparent to most people that this was not simply a political prosecution.

          However, if Trump pardons himself before leaving office, the next administration will have almost a duty to prosecute him. The self-pardon brings up two issues: 1) Can there be a pardon when a person has not been convicted or even charged with an offense? 2) Can a president pardon himself? There is an accepted answer to the first question, but not the second.

          It seems strange to many that a pardon can be issued for crimes that have not been charged, but we have two famous examples of such clemency in our history: On Christmas Day 1868, President Andrew Johnson pardoned all confederates even though the southerners had not been charged with crimes. And on September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon even though Nixon had not been indicted or charged. Nothing in the Constitution and nothing said by the Founders authorizes such preemptive pardons and nothing forbids them, but the actions of Johnson and Ford have been accepted as legitimate. Thus, pundits proclaim that a president can pardon people for crimes that have not been charged.

          (There is an important difference between those two pardons. Johnson pardoned the confederates “for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies in the late civil war.” Ford issued a blanket amnesty for any and all crimes, known and unknown, during a specific period. Ford granted Nixon a pardon “for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969, through August 9, 1974.”)

So, while there is precedent for pardons of unindicted crimes, we have no historical precedent for a president pardoning himself. Arguments have been advanced both in favor and against that power. If Trump does issue an I-forgive-myself decree, I may explore the competing arguments, but suffice it to say now that it is not certain whether presidents are allowed to self-pardon. However, neither the constitutional text, the constitutional debates, nor court decisions made it clear that a president could preemptively pardon, but the actions of Johnson and Ford have served as precedents legitimizing that power. (Jimmy Carter on his first full day in the Presidency in 1977 granted amnesty to all who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War era. While many praised or condemned the wisdom of his action, no one seems to have questioned his authority to grant the preemptive pardons.)

          And that is why if Trump pardons himself, the Justice Department, assuming it has appropriate grounds to do so, should indict the Donald. There are clear dangers in presidents being able to pardon themselves. They can then freely commit crimes knowing that they can escape criminal punishment by being able to pardon themselves. If Trump pardons himself and that action is left unchallenged, it may become assumed that a president has such authority, just as it is now accepted that presidents have a preemptive pardon power. A self-pardon should be challenged so that the courts are forced to rule on its legitimacy. Thus, the scenario goes, Trump is indicted. Trump, presumably through an attorney—please, please, let it be streaky-faced and incoherent Rudy Giuliani—will move to dismiss the charges, citing the pardon. Courts will have to rule on this motion, and that ruling will presumably make its way to the Supreme Court. In the end we would have more than Trump’s opinion that he has the ability to pardon himself.

          Thus, I am hesitant about trying Trump for crimes unless he pardons himself, and then there definitely should be a criminal prosecution. I expect that others share these views, and thus we have a somewhat bizarre situation where if Trump does not pardon himself, he is less likely to be federally indicted than if he does.

          Of course, if Trump wants a pardon, he should work out a deal with his Vice-President and say, “Mike, I will resign if you, when you are President, will pardon me. Pinkie swear?” But since it is not clear that the two are even talking these days, this will be a hard conversation for Trump to initiate.

Snippets

We need to retire all phrases like this: “This is not our America” “This is not who we are.” “We are better than this.” The good and the bad—both have been in America from its inception. The bad is at least as much part of this country as the good. We need to recognize that if the country is to get better.

To my surprise, Edith Piaf recorded more than one song. In spite of what my ear tells me, I am not hearing the same song over and over.

The news reported that a pastor of a Methodist church was killed with his own gun by a fugitive who had taken shelter in the building overnight. The minister drew his gun when confronted by the fugitive, but the fugitive wrestled the firearm away and killed the pastor. I am guessing that this is not a situation that Second Amendment fanatics will be citing often.

The District of Columbia has strict gun laws. Is that a reason that there was not more gun fire during the insurrection?

The spouse was right again. I thought “ukase” had three syllables.

The spouse right yet again. I did not know the difference between “mantel” and “mantle.”

The final season of The Good Place mocked my alma mater. I don’t know what it says about me, but I thought it was funny and a bit too much on the mark.

Trump believes that he is a self-made man. He wants to relieve the Almighty of a great responsibility.

In an updated take on a story about Disraeli and Gladstone: “What is the difference between a misfortune and a calamity?” “If Trump fell into the Potomac, that would be a misfortune;  if anybody pulled him out, that would be a calamity.”

People I know once included the president in their prayers. Now they look at the president and pray fervently for the country.

I would not be upset if I never encountered the word “proactive” again. Most often its use is merely pompous without adding anything to the thought supposedly being stated. For example, I recently read a job description for a manager of a club. One requirement for the job stated: “[He/she should] proactively anticipate, address and resolve member and guest issues with utmost timeliness, courtesy and professionalism.”  A dictionary defines “proactive”: “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.” Another dictionary concludes its definition with one word: “anticipatory.” Perhaps to the writer the word “proactively” in the job description sounded weighty and meaningful, but it was merely redundant. (Of course, we could also ask what “utmost” added to the job description.) Another part of the listed qualifications said that a new manager must “be creative and proactive in the development of a marketing strategy.”  How is the meaning changed if “and proactive” were excised? Let’s quit using it.

We Have Audited

            During the riots on Wednesday, I watched right-wing media to get their “take” on the events. Some of the commentators were continuing to assert, often in vague terms, that the election was fraudulent and stolen. Many others, however, while not overtly claiming fraud, maintained that a sizeable percentage of the population does not trust the outcome of the election and that those feelings must be addressed. Many who want to appease the angry hordes suggested an audit of the election. How or why this would mollify those who must be mollified was never explained.

            The appeasers ignore the fact that we already have had audits of this past election. Wisconsin investigated its voting machines. They worked just fine. Pennsylvania always does an audit after the election. There was no fraud. And, of course, Georgia did an audit. Even so, the claims of fraud and massive irregularities continued. Facts have not mattered. And reason seems to be in short supply.

            Consider Georgia again. A claim was made and stated again and again by Trump that ballots for Biden were erroneously scanned three times. You don’t have to be a forensic accountant, Hieronymus Bosch, or Sherlock Homes to deduce that if such a claim were true, the votes totaled by the machines would have been greater than the number of paper ballots. (A thinking person might also ask how Trump would know who the ballots were for.) Georgia, in its audit, did a hand recount of the paper ballots, and those totals were in sync with the machine tallies. The claim of multiple scanning was conclusively disproved. Of course, even so, Trump continued to make the claim.

While it is clear that Trump’s goal was to spread widespread distrust of the election outcome, others now say that they are not claiming massive fraud. No. Instead, their goal is to combat the distrust that so many cling to. If that were really so, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Laura Ingraham, and all those Republic representatives would have been responding every time the president made the thrice-scanned claim about Georgia, “It is not so,” they would have said. “American public, the president has been proved wrong. He is not credible when he says ballots were scanned more than once in Georgia.” And they would have gone on to explain the irrefutable evidence. Did any of them do that? If they didn’t, I can’t take them seriously now that they claim that their goal is to lessen distrust of the election outcome.

I do not know why Trump refuses to face logic or accept the evidence. It might be because of willful blindness or because he is a pathological liar or because he is delusional or because he is trying to emulate Putin. But what is to be made of these conservative leaders who have not addressed the proof? What is their goal? What is their excuse? Trump will be out of office; they will still be with us.

            It is assuredly a problem that there is widespread distrust of the election, but there is an even bigger concern. Too many of us have forgotten the definition of a “fact”…not an alternative fact, a fact. Too many of us rely on and accept unsubstantiated assertions and allegations. We need to be able to seek out evidence and proof. I don’t know how we as a society can get better at fact-finding. Perhaps things might change if our elected and media leaders took the care to examine evidence and to denounce what is palpably not true. That has not been happening. Instead, too many of our leaders carelessly repeat falsehoods and baseless claims, do not correct them, and pass them on. That happened even during the insurrection. On conservative media, speaker after speaker said that “reports” stated that the Trump people had been infiltrated by left-wing agitators. No one identified the source of these “reports.” Was it the police; a demonstrator; an official in the White House; a reporter? And no doubt, some, perhaps many, in this country will now believe that antifa is the cause of the desecration without any evidence having been presented. Is this what we allow to pass for journalism or leadership?

            Some Republicans and traditional conservatives have pulled away from Trump (Lindsay Graham angrily—or so he seemed to be — said, “Enough is enough.” And I thought, “After three years and fifty weeks, you have finally come to that conclusion? Are you an imbecile? A know-nothing? A weasel?”), but our problems seem only to be intensifying. People are not entitled to their own facts, but a lot of people seem to believe that they do have that right.

Today is the Sixth of January

I had been thinking of various essays to commemorate today, January 6, often known as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Several topics came to mind.

First, I thought I might write about the bizarre time the spouse and I were ordered by a man to hide behind some columns in a dark crypt inside an Mayan pyramid in Yucatan, and then we think we were invited by this man (we think it only because we had such trouble understanding his English) to a neighborhood Three Kings party. P.S. We didn’t go.

            Then I thought I might write about how some traditions call the Magi Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar even though these names are not in the Bible. I would continue by noting that not all Christian faiths limit the Magi to three or agree that the wise men visited shortly after Jesus was born. Thus, s0me denominations have as many as twelve Magi and some have the adoration by them occurring up to two years after the birth. I might include that we refer to them as “kings” even though that designation does not appear in the Bible.

            And then I thought I might explore different gift-giving traditions observing that various cultures share presents on St. Nicholas Day, December 5, or 6,  some on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas Day, some on Boxing Day, and others on January 6.

            I have several times been in New Orleans on January 6 and have always been served Three Kings cake then.  I planned to write amusingly about that tiny plastic baby Jesus hidden inside the cake, which I think is tacky. The essay would have continued with a discussion of Mardi Gras.

            However, I have been distracted today from thinking about the religious, social, and cultural aspects of January 6. All such thoughts have recently been replaced by a new epiphany that January 6 is another important day in the selection of our president. For most of my life, I considered there to be only two crucial dates for our presidential picking: Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November) and Inauguration Day, some day in January when, according to the Constitution, a new presidential term starts at noon. I was aware that we had an Electoral College, but I never knew the date that it “met” because it never seemed crucial, and it never garnered more than a paragraph in the news. (Of course, the EC does not really meet – at least not in Washington. Instead, electors in each state separately convene and cast their votes.) If I had thought about it, I might have realized that there had to be some sort of state certification process of the vote after Election Day, but until this year I had not thought about that process. Moreover, I learned that the date of certification varies from state to state.

            And then there is the day that Congress counts the electoral vote — once again a date I have paid little attention to because for a century-and-a-half it has been an insignificant day of routine bookkeeping. I could not have told you that it fell on January 6, but now I know that it does. It is still expected to have no practical significance. The electoral count will be the same number that has been in effect since a few days after the election. However, this January 6 will garner more attention than any congressional elector count since 1876, a shameful time in our history. We can hope that today’s count will not reveal a shameful time in our current history.  

            The day will get attention because several members of Congress will object to the electoral count, and that will lead to “debate” in each House. Other than reaping attention for themselves, the naysayers are not expected to affect the election results. At least some of the constitutional subverters say their goal is not to keep Trump in office, but to address the distrust that has built in the public. F0r example, Ted (Look! I can grow a Covid beard) Cruz, a leader in attacking the election, said, “We’ve seen in the last two months unprecedented allegations of voter fraud. And that’s produced a deep, deep distrust of our democratic process across the country. I think we in Congress have an obligation to do something about that.” (Hmmm. And what’s he going to do? Tell us that the fraud is real and the election results are invalid? Yeah, that’ll help.)

            So, while he is hardly the appropriate person to address this problem, he has a point. Even I have become distrustful of our “democratic” processes, not because I buy into the baseless claims of electoral fraud, but because so many of our political “leaders” are fanning the fraud flames and are advocating extraordinary, sometimes bizarre, and often illegal and unconstitutional measures that would sabotage the democratic process. While we can be cautiously optimistic that today will end as it should with Biden’s being declared President, the bombastic stupidity that will be on display is disheartening to say the least.

            The Trumpistas are winning. They have made me distrustful and fearful. May our country and our democracy and our republican form of government survive today intact.

Snippets

How different would news reports and public perception of the Nashville bombing be if the bomber had been Black or if he had had a name that sounded as if he were a Muslim?

A recent news story said that only one professional football team had a former NFL player as its chaplain. The article did not make clear if all professional football teams had a chaplain, but it made me wonder what other businesses regularly employ clergy. How many lumbering or office-cleaning companies have a chaplain?

The op-ed headline said, “Will Trump Force Principled Conservatives to Start Their Own Party? I Hope So”. How large do you think a party of “principled conservatives” would be?

“Tyranny is always better organized than freedom.” Charles Pierre Péguy.

The two-note introduction to some Netflix productions makes me wonder if that streaming company has the same composer as Law and Order.

Trump has made appointments to a commission he created to promote “patriotic education.” I thought of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who said, “There is no patriotic art and no patriotic science.”

“The essential matter of history is not what happened but what is thought or said about it.” Frederic W. Maitland.

It is good to know that our society has something that is nearly perfect. A sports columnist, who I expect knows a lot more about football than most people including me, predicts the outcome of all the professional football  games against the point spread. To his credit, he gives the tally of how he has done throughout the season. The last time I looked he had been right 116 times and wrong 116 times. Damn, those point spreads are good.

On December 14, many news outlets had some variation of “democracy prevailed because the Electoral College functioned,” a platitude that may be repeated on January 6. Four years earlier, many said that we did not have a democracy because the Electoral College functioned.

Obama released his favorite books of 2020. Do you think Trump will?

A tiny tragedy of the winter: one small mitten on the edge of the sidewalk with no one around. Old joke: “I have never seen second-degree burns like that. What happened?” “Somebody called and I picked up the steam iron by mistake.” “But what about your other ear?” “They called back.”

Why Celebrate January 1?

          The New Year did not always begin on January 1. New Year’s Day was celebrated on different dates throughout history. In some ages and places, January 1 started another year, but in other places and ages, a new year began on December 25 or March 1 or some other date. In early England and its American colonies, March 25 was New Year’s Day, which strikes me as odd. I may be conditioned by the January 1 date, but it only seems natural to begin a new year as a new month begins. March 1 or April 1 seem to be possibilities for another year, especially since these are days of spring in the northern hemisphere when we see the earth being renewed.

          In England and America January 1 became New Year’s Day in 1752 as England adopted the Gregorian calendar, leading to the trivia question of when was a year not a year-long? The answer: 1751. The British parliament passed a law adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1750 that mandated that the year 1751, which began on March 25, would end on December 31 with next year being January 1, 1752. Thus, 1751 in England was only 282 days long.

          There is another answer to that trivia question, however. The Julian calendar in use in England was not quite accurate, something that had been recognized during the middle ages. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII adopted the more accurate Gregorian calendar, which had January 1 as a year’s starting point. (What are the odds? Gregory adopted the Gregorian calendar.) This deletion required the elimination of ten days so that 1582 is also a year that was not year-long.

          Of course, because the Pope made this change, which brought about a needed change, many Protestant countries resisted it, apparently thinking that if the Antichrist was behind it, then it could not be all good. Eventually, of course, other countries did recognize that the Gregorian calendar was not some sort of devilish trick and adopted the new style of dating—even the British.

          Now countries that used to use different calendars have adopted the Gregorian calendar, including Japan, Egypt, Korea, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. New Year’s Day starts at the stroke of midnight on January 1 and is the most celebrated time around the world as billions are excited by fireworks, whistles, and bells, local time of course.

          Even though I don’t understand why we celebrate the day, come Friday I, too, will be saying “Happy New Year!”

(See you next Monday.)