300 Words

I write letters to the editor of my local newspaper. The newspaper arbitrarily limits letters to 300 words, and the newspaper web site strictly enforces the word-limit. At first I was annoyed, but annoyance turned to satisfaction when my letters became more concise and more effective.

Some of these letters do not reach a newspaper, but most follow the 300 word limit.

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(hydro) Hydro Quebec

This essay was posted on 4/12/21.

The clean energy corridor through Maine has been criticized for bringing power to New England from Hydro-Quebec, a large dam generating hydropower. Big hydro-powered dams are not clean power, they say. But hydropower is more complicated than that.

The dams behind the Hydro-Quebec generators support animals and vegetation that die and rot, emitting greenhouse gases, but the dams will be emitting greenhouse gases whether or not New England buys the power. Maine’s many lakes also emit greenhouse gases for the same reasons. We don’t drain our lakes, and we shouldn’t opt out of the Hydro-Quebec deal, either.

Maine can meet its energy needs with wind turbines, according to the American Wind Energy Association, but that is not good enough. Modern electric grids need the stability and reliability of multiple electric sources. Maine needs to complement solar and wind power with nuclear and hydropower to provide alternate sources when there are failures or shutdowns.

Maine also needs enough capacity to meet a growing demand for electricity in areas not currently covered. We need more power to recharge electric cars, and to run electric heating systems like heat pumps, for example. The increased demand needs the reliable coverage of multiple electric sources.

Finally, Maine doesn’t stand alone. We are part of the New England grid, and we share New England’s responsibilities in the conversion to renewable energy. Ignoring nuclear and hydropower is too risky.

We need Hydro-Quebec in our future because we need solar and wind in our future.

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(bargain) The Infrastructure Bargain

This essay was posted on 4/6/21.

President Biden’s infrastructure proposal has garnered mostly negative comments from Republicans. Most of the comments are about the $2.3 trillion price tag. Mitch McConnell wants the proposal small enough to avoid the corporate tax hike recommended by Biden. Other Republicans say the bill addresses real needs but not with the so-called economy-killing corporate tax increase.

The $2.3 trillion price tag needs some context. Infrastructure expenditures are planned to occur over 8 years and would average $283 billion per year. The annual infrastructure price tag is less than half as big as the $600 billion annual military budget, for example. The infrastructure price tag is just 1.3% of the US annual GDP of $21.5 trillion when spread over 8 years. Even though $2.3 trillion is a lot of money, it is a bargain in the context of the US economic engine.

The corporate tax hike proposal goes from 21% to 28%, a substantial increase but a lower rate than before the Trump tax cuts. The corporate tax hike is estimated to take 15 years to pay for the infrastructure plan, so the annual financial impact of the tax hike would be considerably less than the $283 billion infrastructure price tag.

Will the Republican prediction of a failed economy occur because of Biden’s tax hike? The analysts don’t agree. While the tax hike will dampen the economy, the infrastructure projects will more than offset the tax hike with a faster growing economy and a job growth that increases by 2.6 million jobs, overall.

The infrastructure plan looks like a $2.3 trillion bargain that should raise the US up from 13th place in overall infrastructure effectiveness. The big question: Why are Republicans so scared?

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(voting) The Right to Vote

This essay was posted on 3/31/21.

Keeping voters from voting is a long tradition in American politics, and it is a bipartisan practice. In recent years, minorities of different colors and heritages have been the targets of voter suppression. Democrats have been trying to get them to the polls, while Republicans have been trying to keep minorities from voting.

Republicans during the second Bush administration closed voting locations that created long lines, and they were over-zealous in voter purges that had voters turned away from voting places because they were no longer registered.

Republicans got more creative. They required proof of citizenship. They repealed same-day voter registration, and they made it more difficult for community organizers to register voters. Voters were also tricked. They were directed to the wrong voting place or given the wrong voting date, for example. Republicans also made voter-ids mandatory in many places, and they required photo-ids.

Republican voter suppression has had mixed results in the final vote. An advantage in the electoral college has given Republicans three of the last six elections, but the popular vote has gone Democratic five to one. Now, the Republican advantage is waning as more minority voters in traditional GOP states choose Democratic candidates.

Republicans are expanding voting restrictions to include interfering with the election count and overturning results. A Georgia law allows the State Election Board to remove and replace a county board it deems necessary. An Iowa law allows the legislature to override electoral results.

All of these attacks on our right to choose a president are enough of a threat on the peoples’ right to choose the president that it makes the effort to strengthen the Voter Rights Act more important than ever.

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(threats) Private Militias

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 3/23/21.

President Biden declassified internal reports that called domestic terrorism the greatest threat to our country, but they did not put a face on domestic terrorists. In truth, domestic terrorists walk among us. They are members of gangs with extreme views. Judge for yourself whether they should be called terrorists or patriots.

The Proud Boys became official in September, 2016 by transphobic anti-feminist Gavin McInnes. Proud Boys have four degrees of membership from requiring belief in Western superiority to the highest level where members defend their cause by beating someone up. They are fervently anti-Islam. And they believe in white racial superiority.

Army paratrooper Stuart Rhodes formed the Oath Keepers in 2009, at the start of Barack Obama’s term in office. Comprised mostly of former police officers and former members of the military, they maintain their original oath to defend the US Constitution.

With 30,000 members, the Oath Keepers are one of the largest anti-government groups. They hold the view that the current US government attacks the personal rights of its citizens, so their mission is to fight government intrusion where necessary.

The Three Percenters are mostly militia groups. Their name comes from the mistaken notion that only 3% of the Colonialists fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. Their goal is to protect the American people from alleged tyranny in the US government.

Each of these extremist groups, along with other militia-based organizations, played active roles in the Jan 6 insurrection on the Capitol building. Many of their members have been jailed for committing violent and destructive acts that delayed the confirmation of Joe Biden’s November election victory. They attacked the Capitol under the false claim that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

The aftermath of extremist militia activity continues. Black militia groups have formed to protect Black communities from unlawful militia attacks. The rise of Black militia groups increases the ominous threat of a race war.

Meanwhile the Capitol remains under National Guard protection because Donald Trump and his Republican sycophants keep alive the myth that Donald Trump should be president, and the same militia groups that attacked the Capitol believe that their work is not done.

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(methane) The Methane Warning

This essay was posted on 3/15/21.

Methane craters in the Arctic permafrost are a warning that the global warming window is closing fast or it is saying that it is already too late. Scientists estimate that the volume of methane captured in permafrost is enough to make global warming irreversible. Only time will tell us what will be our future. In either case, the time to act in the war against greenhouse gases is now.

The warnings come from other sources besides melting permafrost. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler have all announced that their future is with electric cars. Oil giant BP is using its construction expertise to build windfarms. And enough solar is in the planning stages to warrant a hard look at our electric delivery infrastructure. It will need changes to support the new demands of renewable generation. For good or bad, our future economy will be renewable-based.

President Biden wants to create an infrastructure that will be ready when the carmakers get serious about selling electric vehicles. Biden wants to invest in car charging stations, and he will need to upgrade the US electric grid to meet the demands of using renewable energy sources while also increasing our electric generating capacity.

Now the rub. Republicans want to restrict infrastructure spending to roads and bridges. They don’t want infrastructure spending that focuses on so-called green new deal issues, and they will kill infrastructure to stop Biden’s vision.

Getting control of greenhouse gas emissions is no longer just an economic problem. It is an existential problem that will not go away by wishing it so. We must start the transition from an oil-based economy to a renewable-based economy now. And the way to start is by implementing President Biden’s infrastructure vision, even if it means going around or dumping the filibuster to make it happen.

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(arizona) Debating Election Laws

This essay was posted on 3/8/21.

The Supreme Court ruling on two Arizona election laws could set precedents that impact the Voting Rights Act. The two laws in question cover different issues. The first allows ballots to be thrown out if the voter is cast in the wrong precinct. The second law prevents election officials from collecting absentee votes from a neighborhood, for example.

The second law is problematic. Voter harvesting by partisan officials can devolve into vote tampering and fraud. Making voter harvesting illegal may infringe on voter access, but the temptation of criminal activity is real.

The first law is problematic in a different way. My best friend reminded me that voting in the wrong precinct should not be possible, if voter validation procedures are followed. Voters who are not on the registration list should not be allowed to vote, so votes cast in the wrong precinct would be the result of a failure in the due process of checking in the voter.

A voter falsely representing his or her identity to vote in the wrong precinct commits a crime, but a properly identified voter should be rejected immediately. A miscast vote is the responsibility of the vote counters and not the voters.

Barring a ballot just because the voter goes to the wrong precinct is not necessary, when election officials do their jobs. It makes more sense to require the election that officials escort the wayward but honest voter to his or her own precinct, instead.

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(forward) Defining the Biden Presidency

This essay was posted on 2/28/21.

Call me crazy, but I miss Donald Trump’s constant ability to do something outrageous and contemptable. President Biden’s first month in office has been a lesson in decorum, common sense, and just plain normal behavior, and my umbrage has disappeared. What is left to write about?

The first item: Biden ordered an attack on Iranian proxy forces located in Syria. The attack was in retaliation of a February attack on US forces in Iraq that injured American contractors and killed one non-American. There was immediate criticism, mostly from Democrats who questioned Biden’s authority to act and from Iranians who compared Biden to this predecessor Donald Trump. The Iranians hated Trump.

There was also praise for the attack from Republicans and from liberal leaning Brookings Institute. Biden learned who attacked the Americans before acting and consulted with his allies. He attacked an Iranian proxy instead of a direct attack on Iran. Biden still wants to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran, but wants Iran to know that the US will do what is necessary to protect American forces in the Middle East.

I can’t take the Democratic critics that seriously. Biden’s actions have a lot of precedents from former Presidents. Until Congress musters the political courage to reclaim its responsibility with declaring war, political complaints have a hollow sound. I can’t rely on Biden’s supporters either. Their support comes more from Biden’s adherence to traditional military strategies and processes than from the wisdom of the attack.

In the end, Iran’s response may be the biggest measure of success or failure. We don’t know yet whether the attack will be beneficial or not. What we do know is: Biden will take risks, but his military actions will be measured, thoughtful, and coordinated. I can live with that.

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(story) The Story Doctrine

This essay was posted on 2/18/21.

In a response to me, Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan explained why he voted to acquit Donald Trump. Sullivan placed much of the blame for the Jan 6 riot on Donald Trump, but he said he could not find Trump guilty because Trump is out of office. Sullivan claimed that impeachment only applies to office-holders, not former office-holders. Sullivan used Constitutional expert Justice Joseph Story, who served on the Supreme Court from 1812 to 1845.

Story claims: Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution specifies that the President shall be removed from office when impeached and convicted, and, since a conviction must be followed by removal from office, the impeached person must be an office-holder. Justice Story’s logic is wrong on this point.

Article II, Section 4 qualifies which individuals must be removed from office when impeached and convicted, i.e., office-holders. The Constitution only implies that a convicted office-holder must be removed from office and that any conviction may lead to disqualification from any future office. A former office-holder could be impeached for an offence that occurred while the individual was in office and may be disqualified from any future office upon conviction.

My analysis is from a reading of the original words in the Constitution. Constitutional scholars agree with me that a former president can be impeached and tried.

Sullivan probably would have voted to disqualify Donald Trump from future office if given the opportunity. His condemnation of the Jan 6 riot and Trump’s actions on that day coupled with Sullivan’s reliance on a flawed impeachment concept showed me an acquittal vote that had little conviction behind it.

Unfortunately, Sullivan and other Republicans blew a chance to relegate Donald Trump to the history books. If Sullivan thinks he can control Trump in the future, he is sadly mistaken.

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(legacy) The Trump Legacy

This essay was posted on 2/11/21.

Many Republicans lawmakers still support Donald Trump’s big lie that he won the election in a landslide victory. Trump’s battle cry to stop the steal is ironic, because he tried to steal our votes by overturning the election results. It didn’t work, but Republicans remain loyal to his cause.

The vote on the constitutionality of the impeachment trial shows that too many Republican members of Congress still believe in the big lie. 44 out of 50 Republican Senators voted that the trial is unconstitutional, overwhelmingly indicating they have no stomach for exposing Trump’s shortcomings followed by their votes to acquit. Republican members of Congress are not alone.

Republicans in Arizona state government tried unsuccessfully to relitigate the already certified election results in Maricopa County. Cooler heads prevailed and the legislative effort failed maybe because it’s too late to change the election or maybe there wasn’t the election fraud that Donald Trump promised them.

Arizona Republicans are not giving up. They introduced a bill that would allow the legislature to override the Secretary of State’s certified result. Keep in mind, the certified result comes from the legally defined voting procedures. Republicans want to change the public will if the public’s choice is inconvenient.

Republicans around the country rose up against the ten Republican Representatives who voted to impeach. Nebraska Republicans censured Sen Ben Sasse. Arizona Republicans censured Rep Liz Cheney. Michigan Republicans will challenge Rep Peter Meijer in the next primary. And South Carolina Republicans are also seeking a challenger to Rep Peter Rice. Their crime? They all voted to impeach Donald Trump.

The future path of the Republican Party will be determined by how they react to Trump’s big lie. The current evidence shows that they have surrendered to the lie. That defines Trump’s legacy.

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(tedcruz) Point of Order

This essay was posted on 2/1/21.

Ted Cruz graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law. He is a Senator from Texas, a published author, and self-proclaimed expert on the Constitution. Even so, Ted Cruz is proving to be one of the dumbest members of the US Senate.

It starts with Cruz’s point of order that declares the impeachment trial unconstitutional, because Donald Trump is no longer the sitting President, so he can’t be removed from office. The impeachment trial can, however, ban Trump from elected office. There is a reason for the trial, and there is precedent for impeaching a former office-holder. Strike one.

Strangely, Cruz’s point of order asks the Senate to make a legal decision, an act more appropriate for the courts. The point of order would have the Senate submit evidence and act as jurors at the same time, making an odd conflict of interest. Cruz’s point of order is wrong in too many ways. Strike two.

The Constitution doesn’t support Cruz’s claim that Trump must be in office in the case of impeachment. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution specifies that the President shall be removed from office in the case of an impeachment and conviction. The Constitution doesn’t say that the impeached person must be an office-holder. Strike three.

The point of order submitted by Ted Cruz is a legally clumsy attempt to sabotage the impeachment trial before any evidence can be presented in court. Ted Cruz is smart enough to graduate from a prestigious law school. He may realize that voting not guilty will be very difficult politically for Senate Republicans. Ted Cruz is too dumb to realize that new evidence against Trump is revealed every day, and the public won’t buy his point of order except for the dwindling group of ardent Trump supporters.

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(pipeline) Exterminating the Republican Party

This essay was posted on 1/27/21.

Newt Gingrich recently said that Progressive Democrats wanted to exterminate Republicans. Gingrich was speaking metaphorically. His logic was curious, but Gingrich was looking in the wrong place. He should have looked at Republicans, who are trying to exterminate themselves by practicing bad politics. Let me provide some examples.

Republicans miss the point when they criticize President Biden for stopping the Keystone Pipeline project. Biden wants to shift his focus to the expanding renewable energy industry instead. Economics aside, the real issue is the shift in public opinion toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuel and nuclear energy. The public and the future are on Biden’s side.

Republicans also miss the point when they fight raising the minimum wage, which is now below the poverty line in most states. Republicans don’t seem to understand that raising the minimum wage will take people off of welfare programs. Two thirds of the public understand that the Federal standard is now obsolete. Republicans need to figure out how to reshape the minimum wage instead of rejecting it out of hand.

Republicans again miss the point on the DACA Dreamers immigration issue. Republicans don’t want to give the Dreamers permanent legal status even though three quarters of the public do. Properly managed immigration makes the US unique among nations and stronger as well. The Dreamer issue should not be a partisan issue.

For a long time, the Republican philosophy has become so rigid that it is stuck in a mire of twentieth century ideas. Meanwhile the country has moved to a different place where the US is more diverse with a new, evolving set of values. If the Republican party refuses to keep up, it will lose its audience and be replaced.

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(mitch) Saving the Republican Party

This essay was posted on 1/19/21.

An unintended consequence of the Jan 6 failed Capitol insurrection was the closing of a political funding spigot from major corporations to Republican members of Congress who voted against Biden electors after right-wing extremists trashed the Capitol building and left five people dead.

Call it a coincidence. Call it a spark of patriotism. Senate Majority Leader is softening in his response to the Democratic Article of Impeachment. McConnell presumably would make a conviction vote from Republicans very painful, but he is releasing his minions to vote their conscience. Is it because Trump’s crime is so obvious? Trump campaign workers organized the march on the Capitol. Riot participants claimed that Trump told them to do it. Or Maybe McConnell worries that the loss of corporate money threatens his ability to regain a congressional majority?

The public response to the Capital insurrection says a lot about the politics. Donald Trump’s approval rating has plummeted since the attack on the Capitol. A 55% majority of Americans support Trump’s impeachment, and a 59% majority hold Trump responsible for inciting violence against the government. Corporate America appears to have a better understanding of the public mood than the large number of Republicans who still supported Trump even after their chambers were sacked.

Mitch McConnell may have softened, but his position on the Trump impeachment is still a secret, as it probably should be. The outcome of the Senate impeachment trial will tell us a lot about the Republican party. Will they listen to the potential loss of corporate money, or will they remain loyal to Trump’s base? The future viability of the Republican party may depend on it.

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(biglie) The Big Lie

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 1/12/21.

Before continuing, it should be understood that President-Elect Joe Biden didn’t steal the election. To say otherwise implies that the election fraud involved both parties in multiple states using fifty different sets of rules. It implies that the many controls in place don’t work. It implies that Donald Trump must have stolen the 2016 election, and Barack Obama must have stolen his elections. The election was certified because the election officials didn’t uncover enough irregularities to change the result. Biden won. Period.

The notion that ANTIFA is behind the Capitol insurrection is laughable. Never mind that there is no evidence. The idea that a liberal group would start a riot to stop the election of a liberal President is ludicrous.

Republicans are circulating two big lies now. They are: Joe Biden stole the election, and ANTIFA was behind the Wednesday insurrection at the Capitol. Shockingly, half of the Republicans believe the election was stolen. There are no surveys on the ANTIFA question yet. Both of these lies have been disproven one way or another. Why do people still believe them in the face of mounting negative evidence?

Big lies have a life-cycle. First, they get momentum on social media, but the attention span on social media is short. Second, politicians, like Donald Trump, keep repeating them. Repetition teaches people that the big lie has merit. Third, friendly news media validate the lies by repeating them on the news and by supporting them on opinion-shows.

All new outlets do not support the big lie, which leads to the fourth element, fake news. Protagonists of the big lie repeat early and often that unfriendly news outlets peddle fake news. Viewers begin to disregard the news outlets that provide alternate views, i.e., the truth.

The fifth item is news that supports the big lie. Republicans perpetuate the big lie when they object during the confirmation process to state-certified electoral votes for Biden under the claim, without real evidence, that the election is fraudulent. Combine the event with lie-friendly news coverage and mob-rule by believers emerges, as it did on January 6.

Big lies work. The politicians who promote them know better. They are lying, but the voters on the street believe them and repeat them. I know at least three, and I don’t know that many Republicans.

A lot of effort and planning goes into turning a big lie into a believed idea. The liars need all of that effort, because hiding the truth forever is virtually impossible.

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(jan6-2) A Bloodless Coup

This essay was posted on 1/5/21.

Donald Trump’s arguably seditious call to the Georgia Secretary of State is only the tip of the iceberg. The tactics pushed by Ted Cruz and others to form a commission to investigate all the rumored election fraud is more concerning, and the 50+ rejections in the courts of election fraud claims are not reassuring. It all revolves around the election of 1876.

The election of 1876 had disputes in four states, and three of those states had disputed electoral vote results. With little precedent to fall back on and a deadlocked Congress, they set up a bipartisan commission to resolve the conflicts. The commission failed. Apparently, a secret deal was cut. The Independent member of the commission was replaced with a Republican, and Rutherford B. Hayes won the election without a lead in the popular vote.

Congress waited until 1887, when they passed a comprehensive election law that addressed the short-comings uncovered in 1876. The 1887 law clarified the election process and the Congressional confirmation process. The law set up a safe harbor date after which election results would be beyond dispute. And the law set up unambiguous rules for handling election disputes. With the 1887 law, the election commission would not have been necessary.

The 1876 election issues and their collective resolution apply to 2020 and explain why Ted Cruz wants a commission. If the 1887 law is applied rigorously, Joe Biden prevails as the confirmed President-Elect. If, however, the 1876 dysfunctional commission approach is applied, then Donald Trump still has a chance, even though he was clobbered in the popular vote.

All of this Republican activity looks like a coup.

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(jan6) Counting Electoral Votes

This essay was posted on 12/28/20.

The election of 1876 has special meaning this year. In 1876, Democrat Bill Tilden beat Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, but Tilden lost the electoral college vote after a deal was struck in which Hayes was awarded the electoral college and Reconstruction of the South ended. They needed the deal because three states each had two sets of electoral votes, one for Hayes and one for Tilden. Congress was deadlocked over the competing slates of electoral votes, so they had to make the deal.

Congress passed an election law in 1887 and amended it in 1948. The law was designed to remedy the flaws in the 1876 election. The end result is a set of procedures for electoral college voting and counting. The counting part is important this year.

The problems of 1876, are back in 2020. Six states each have two sets of electors, one for Biden and one for Trump. It will be up to Congress on January 6 to resolve the issue.

The electoral vote counting procedures have a resolution for more than one set of electors. If two sets of electors are present for a state and Congress can’t decide which slate is correct, then the slate certified by the Governor will prevail. With a Democratic majority, the House will vote for Biden. The Senate vote is not relevant because the Biden slates are the ones certified by the respective governors and should be counted, according to the law.

If, the unlikely outcome that Trump wins the January 6 count, thus nullifying the December 14 electoral college vote, then it would be in clear and blatant violation of the law.

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(popular) The Popular Vote

This essay was posted on 12/22/20 and appeared in the Portland Sunday Telegram on 1/3/21.

16 states with a collective total of 196 electoral votes have signed onto choosing presidential electors from the party that wins the National popular vote. If enough states sign on and make the collective total of electors 270 or more, then the president will be elected by popular vote. Is this a good idea?

Until now, I have favored the electoral college system, because close election disputes can be isolated to a small number of states. Resolve those isolated state issues and resolve the election relatively quickly. A close election decided by a popular vote has no isolated problem area, because every vote matters in every state, so choosing a winner is more complicated.

The elections in 2000, 2004, 2016, and 2020, all have electoral college results with only a 50-50 chance of reflecting the will of the people. In each case the electoral college result is decided by between 500 votes and 100,000 votes in from 1 to 3 states. These elections were decided by less than 1 tenth of 1 percent of the total vote. On any other day the losing candidate might have won. In the four elections, two presidents-elect won the popular vote and two presidents-elect did not. Maybe chance played a role.

In 2020, pundits defending President-Elect Joe Biden often remind us that Biden won the popular vote by 7 million votes. The popular vote seems to reflect the will of the people more than the electoral vote does.

A presidential election by popular vote would emphasize the most populous states, like California, Texas, Florida, and New York and make swing states irrelevant. The power and influence of these four states would grow at the expense of smaller states, but the president-elect would represent the will of the people.

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(worried) The Neverending Election

This essay was posted on 12/16/20.

First, Joe Biden is the legitimate and official President-Elect after crossing the 270-vote threshold as electors voted on Monday. Second, Donald Trump’s claim that he won the election at 10:30 PM, Nov 3 is patently absurd. Millions of mail-in, absentee votes are counted last in most states, and those legitimate votes put Biden ahead of Trump. End of story.

After the November election, Trump filed 50 lawsuits alleging millions of illegal votes for President-Elect Joe Biden, but Trump’s goal of overturning the election results died when the courts soundly rejected his claims. An attempt to overthrow the Pennsylvania vote was soundly rejected by the Supreme Court, and with the clock counting down, Trump tried a Hail Mary lawsuit issued by the Texas AG. That failed as well.

Undeterred, Trump said he worried that the US will have an illegitimate President (Trump meant Biden). I too worry about an illegitimate President. It’s not Biden. Trump does more than worry. He encourages pro-Trump demonstrations that advocate overturning the sovereign wishes of the voters. Fired up by Trump and recently pardoned Mike Flynn, protests recently led to four stabbings and a shooting.

I am also worried about Republicans in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and 3 other states who formed alternate, unauthorized electoral college meetings and voted for Trump. With six states in play, Republicans have a slim chance of using the alternate votes to make Trump the winner during the joint session of Congress that accepts the electoral vote totals. It would amount to a bloodless coup.

Mitch McConnell warned Senators against objecting the election results, but I worry when someone says the election is all over but the shouting.

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(facts) The Alternative Facts

This essay was posted on 12/7/20.

Kellyanne Conway introduced the idea of alternative facts at the start of the Trump administration. Alternative facts are two sets of contradicting assertions. The question is: Which set of assertions are provably false? They are the alternate ones.

Donald Trump makes some very pronounced assertions about the Presidential election. He claims he won the election. Trump claims he won in the swing states like Georgia, for example. He claims that thousands of mail-in votes for Joe Biden are invalid and should not be counted. Trump claims that all votes counted after Nov 3 should not be counted. He claims that voting machines were rigged. He claims that poll-workers cheated. He makes these claims even after the votes are certified.

The polling places and the courts tell a different story. About 50 lawsuits filed in behalf of Trump contesting election results have failed because judges, including Republican-appointed judges, didn’t find any evidence of substantial voter fraud needed to change results. None. Georgia is in the news now. Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, say that Joe Biden carried Georgia after two recounts. Voting machines are thoroughly tested before they are used. Accusations of poll-worker fraud have been debunked. The facts are clear and provable. Joe Biden won the election.

Unfortunately, Trump’s alternative facts have been spread by Trump and by all-too loyal Republicans and by Trump-friendly news media with the result that a large percentage of Republicans and other Trump adherents earnestly believe that Trump won. We are in a fact-based stalemate.

Joe Biden should be inaugurated President on January 20, and one of his goals is to work with Republicans, but compromising with Republicans will not be possible until all agree on the facts.

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(rigged) Rigging the Election

This essay was posted on 11/30/20.

The simple truth: The 2020 election was not rigged unless you consider the closed polling stations and the sabotaged post office, two ways to keep people from voting that were targeted at Democratic districts. Never mind the vote counts or the certified results or the reputations of the vote counters, and don’t ask Donald Trump. Just look at the State and Federal Courts. They have soundly rejected Trump’s unsupported claims of wide-spread voter fraud. If there is enough fraud to overturn the election, show me.

Trump’s strategy isn’t stopping certification, so he is relying on the Supreme Court to save him, and, with a 6-3 advantage, Trump feels confident. Legal experts predict that the Supreme Court won’t hear his appeals because they lack the specifics to make a case and because the issues only apply to state law and have been resolved in lower courts.

Predictions are fine, but the law can sometimes be unpredictable. When he appeals to the Supreme Court, Trump will create a two-headed monster. If, as expected, the Supreme Court rejects his arguments, Trump conservatives will feel unjustly betrayed and mistrust the court. If the Supreme Court upholds Trump’s appeals, then Trump’s vote will override the collective decision of almost 157 million voters. This election and future elections would be rendered moot and irrelevant. In either case, the court and the American people will lose.

All of this matters in ways that aren’t obvious. Ever since the election, Trump has complained that he won the popular vote, but the election was rigged by the Democrats. The courts rebuked him, but his supporters kept listening. Now, there is an important runoff election in Georgia for two US Senate seats, and Trump faces demoralized Georgia Republicans who think their vote won’t count in the ‘rigged’ election.

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(pardon) Pardoning Donald Trump

This essay was posted on 11/24/20.

Some Democrats are worried that Joe Biden will pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Donald Trump for the good of the country. Let’s forget that Biden has not yet officially garnered enough electoral votes, and Donald Trump is spending all of his Presidential time plotting with Rudy Giuliani a hostile takeover of the country. What would you do with Donald Trump if you were Joe Biden?

There are a few options. The first is to pardon him. It would be a questionable political move and might not have the desired effect of uniting the country. The divisions are real and they are huge. Pardoning Trump would only make things worse, because it would give him tacit permission to continue his destructive political career. Besides, pardoning Trump would not give him a free pass in New York where Trump is already facing investigations.

A Federal investigation would most likely lead to a conviction, but a lot of Trump’s crimes are of an impeachable nature that would be unnecessary for private citizen Trump. Nevertheless, a Federal investigation is needed even if it fails to uncover charges because we all need to understand what Trump did so we can prevent it in the future.

An investigation without a charge does not seem to be a fulfilling use of taxpayers’ money unless there is a catch. The charges could be held in abeyance as long as Trump behaves himself. Punishment doesn’t necessarily mean jail time. If there is a sword over Trump’s head that he can’t control, that might be punishment enough.

The paramount objective is not to punish Trump specifically but to find a way to move on and become whole again. We will do that, no matter what. We always have.

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(fraud) The Failure to Concede

The content in this story is too big for 300 words. This essay was posted on 11/15/20.

First, the facts. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump got 306 electoral votes and won the election. Joe Biden won the same number of electoral votes in 2020, after the votes were counted, and should become the undisputed 46th President of the US. Donald Trump refuses to concede the election and refuses to cooperate in the transition to the new administration.

Donald Trump claims massive voter fraud in Pennsylvania, where a half-million vote lead on election night was erased when all the mail-in ballots were counted. Trump claims falsely that the mail-in ballots are not valid, presumably because they arrived late. The ballots arrived on or before election day, but the processing of them was delayed. They were valid ballots. Trump’s claim is patently false.

Trump has also filed at least 18 law suits in swing states claiming massive voter fraud. All suits were thrown out due to lack of evidence. Bill Barr authorized federal prosecutors to investigate possible voter fraud. 16 assistant prosecutors reported back that there was no evidence of fraud.

Trump can’t win this election unless he flips 70-90,000 votes in 3-4 states, because his law suits are not finding votes to even flip one state. Trump must take another approach besides challenging ballots, so he relies on the false claim of massive but unproven voter fraud. Trump is trying to steal the election, and there are consequences.

Stealing the election is more than a violation of the people’s sovereign right to choose the President. It is the act of an autocrat and would mark the end of democracy as our election process becomes irrelevant. It would undermine our role in global politics as the champion of democratic governments. In the eyes of the world we would be less great.

Trump’s gambit is likely to fail as his law suits get thrown out and the election proceeds to a normal end, but Trump’s obstruction of the transition has consequences. Fixing problems in the State Department and other agencies will be delayed possibly for months. Repairs to the COVID pandemic will be delayed. Roll-out of the vaccine might have problems. Our enemies will have opportunities to damage us.

Biden is being punished by Trump for winning, but Trump is hurting everyone else more than he hurts Biden.

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(election) The 2020 Election

This essay was posted on 11/7/20.

It would be naïve to say that the US election system is free of voting fraud, but it is generally fair, or at least fair enough. The secret lies with the election workers who take their jobs very seriously and with the election process responsibility distributed to each of the 50 states.

With the election vote count is going against him, Donald Trump claims, without evidence, that Democrats are stealing the election through widespread voter fraud. Trump also claims that the vote count is held in secret and lacks transparency. He doesn’t understand that each party sends local representative to monitor the process and that there is a public broadcast of the proceedings. Trump’s most impactful accomplishment is the undermining of the election process.

In contrast, Joe Biden asks everyone to be patient, stay calm, and to let the process continue. He said in an address to the people:

“In America the vote is sacred. It’s how people of this nation express their will, and it is the will of the voters. No one, not anything else, chooses the President of the United States of America. So, each ballot must be counted. And that’s what we’re going to see going through now.”

Biden understands that electing the president is the sovereign responsibility of the people. In contrast, Trump doesn’t seem to care how people actually vote, because he plans to override it in the courts.

With 270 projected electoral votes, Joe Biden is the presumptive winner. For whatever reason, the voters have picked the candidate with a clear understanding of why we have elections over the candidate who could care less.

The people have made the right choice for this moment in our history.

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(dowjones) The Dow Jones Average

This essay was posted on 10/28/20.

Donald Trump’s favorite economic indicator, the Dow Jones Average, plunged 1,700 points in three days amid worries from new COVID spikes and the lack of a stimulus bill. The stock market is not the best indicator of economic health, but it predicts the onset of hard times very well.

Trump has dismissed the COVID pandemic from the beginning. He said it would be over in two weeks. He called it a hoax. He mocked the wearing of masks. He pushed for an early end to social distancing measures. The economy was more important. Now, Trump wants to let it spread out of control and let some miracle vaccine fix it.

Trump’s current COVID positions are making Wall Street traders nervous. The traders are nervous about COVID overwhelming the economy. They are nervous about Congress avoiding a badly needed COVID stimulus package while they confirmed Judge Barrett for the Supreme Court. When Wall Street traders are nervous, the Stock Market goes down. But Donald Trump is preoccupied with getting reelected.

So much of Trump’s foibles are forgotten. Remember the Russian meddling investigation? Remember all the corrupt cabinet members? Remember the gold star families? Remember the Kurds? Remember the bromance with Vladimir Putin? Remember the profiteering at Mar-a-Lago? Remember Charlottesville? Remember George Floyd? The timing of COVID has not been good for Trump.

Trump’s prediction that COVID will all go away when there is a vaccine doesn’t reflect the reality of huge daily case numbers and the inevitable rise in fatalities as hospitals fill up.

Trump’s decision to make the Barrett confirmation more important than a stimulus bill has impact. Wall Street traders responded with plunging numbers in the stock market amid worries of an economic downturn. Now it is time for the voters to respond as well – from a human perspective.

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(abood) Judicial Activism

This essay was posted on 10/18/20.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave Judge Amy Barrett a lecture about how the Supreme Court operates. He describes how conservatives forced a decision on the Supreme Court resulting in a 5-4 majority favoring conservatives. Whitehouse cited 80 decisions also decided 5-4 favoring conservatives. Whitehouse is troubled by the high level of judicial activism in the courts and exhorts Barrett to be a change-agent.

Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court has consequences to the ACA decision and others, but the replacement of Justice Scalia was far more impactful. When Scalia died, conservatives lost their 5-4 edge, resulting in a 4-4 court where law mattered more than ideology. Worse, Barack Obama tried to fill the seat until Mitch McConnell refused to even consider Merrick Garland. Republicans under Donald Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch and preserved their 5-4 edge, leading to the scenario in Whitehouse’s legal lesson.

A 5-4 majority isn’t a conservative monopoly. Liberals have enjoyed periods with a 5-4 majority, and there have been periods where one justice held most of the power by being a swing voter. A 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court seems to bring out a higher level of judicial activism, at least in the eyes of the minority.

Activism can be a good force. It can make an injustice right. It can equalize an inequity. But many argue that activism doesn’t belong in the courts. The litigants should be the activists, and the justices should be the referees.

If a 5-4 court is an activist court, then maybe a 4-4 court or a 5-5 court would be fairer, or at least be less predictable. If, for example, Joe Biden added three liberal justices to the Supreme Court, he would not be packing the court with liberals. He would be unpacking the conservative super majority.

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(try) The FDR Rule

This essay was posted on 10/4/20.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a simple, effective strategy for dealing with the Great Depression. It is the same strategy used by our most innovative people. The strategy is: Take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.

One of Donald Trump’s greatest and most dangerous weaknesses is his inability to learn FDR’s simple maxim.

The COVID pandemic is a good example. In the middle of June when we had over 21,000 new cases per day, Trump declared that we turned the corner, and it’s time to restart the economy. Only we weren’t ready. In three weeks, we were hitting 70,000 cases per day, and hospitals were filling up in some states.

Trump waited until the case rate dropped to just over 40,000. Once again, he declared that it is time to restart the economy. Once again, the daily case rate went up. Meanwhile, the economy remains damaged.

Trump’s trade wars are another example. He has the strange idea that unfavorable trade balances are bad, period. He doesn’t see that the global economy provides enough options to counteract a trade tariff strategy. The most remarkable thing Trump’s trade war has accomplished is the devastation of small Iowa farms that depended on a China market.

Explain to Trump that the trade balance with Canada must be unfavorable simply because Canada has a much smaller market than ours, and he won’t listen. His answer, according to Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House, is: “I know I’m right. If you disagree with me, you’re wrong.”

Trump’s actions in the COVID pandemic and in his trade-wars have harmed the US, but he is apparently unable to invoke FDR’s simple rule. When he doesn’t let go of a bad idea, he just makes things worse.

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(sovereign) The Right to Vote

This essay was posted on 10/4/20.

We the people have one important role. To vote. It is the first and most important role of governing. Choosing the President and the Legislators is our only sovereign power. But it is under fierce attack by Donald Trump and by Republicans.

Trump announced his intentions at the first Presidential debate. He falsely claimed that 80 million unsolicited mail-in ballots would be full of fraud. Trump also implied that he might need the Supreme Court to win the election. These statements are not empty.

Pennsylvania Republican State legislators want to form an election oversight committee with subpoena power allegedly designed to ignore election results and have the legislators pick the presidential electors. They want to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters.

The Michigan AG The Michigan AG charged two conservatives with felony voter intimidation. The two men, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, allegedly called Michigan voters falsely claiming their personal information would be abused. The two men apparently made similar calls to voters in other states. Republicans want to suppress the rights of Michigan voters.

North Carolina election officials modified mail-in ballot processing rules to accommodate a larger voter turnout, but the Trump campaign had a different idea. They sent a letter to local election officials urging them to disregard the new voter guidelines. The Republican goal is to get more mail-in ballots thrown out. They don’t want all North Carolina votes counted.

Republican efforts to change the election results are not limited to three states. They want to force a Trump victory even if the ballots say otherwise. In some areas, state law enforcement and state courts are making a difference, but we can’t rely only on these institutions.

Voting is our sovereign right, and the best way of protecting that right is to exercise it and vote.

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(socialism4) American Socialism

This essay was posted on 9/28/20.

Socialist activity by a government occurs when the government owns or regulates a business. Socialism is omnipresent in the US.

It started with public schools and the US Postal Service. Land Grant Colleges followed. Then came National Parks.

Public transportation includes ferry services, bus services, subway systems, commuter trains, passenger trains, airports, Federal and State highway system, bridges.

Healthcare services include Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Veterans Administration hospitals, Military hospitals, hospitals, nursing homes.

Recreational items include public beaches, State Parks, libraries, museums.

National and State research centers and laboratories working on energy research, COVID research, nuclear physics research, cancer research, renewable energy, agricultural research, and many other areas.

Public utilities including electric, gas, water, sewage.

Business regulations including work safety, environmental protection, clean water, securities and exchange, banking, product and food safety.

Each of these services runs in place of or in competition with privately owned businesses running in the free market. Most of them exist because the same level of service is often not feasible in the free market.

I make one simple assertion: This socialist intrusion is not anything like the old Communism practiced in the Soviet Union, and it is not anything like the new Communism practiced in China. And I ask one simple question: Has this socialist intrusion prevented you from pursuing a full and active life in the free market?

So, what are you afraid of?

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(fbi) Politics in the DOJ

This essay was posted on 9/23/20.

FBI Director Christopher Wray is under heat from Donald Trump over testimony to Congress in particular. Trump took exception to Wray’s characterization of ANTIFA as more of a movement than an organized group, and Trump didn’t like the reports that Russia is actively working to favor Trump over Biden in the presidential election. Based on generally reported news of ANTIFA and the Russians, Trump might be asking Wray to perjure himself before Congress.

There has always been a tortured history between the DOJ, the FBI, and the President, but a milestone occurred during Watergate when US Attorney General John Mitchell was knee deep in the Watergate conspiracy and other crimes while supposedly fighting for law and order. An outcome of Watergate was the independence of the DOJ from Presidential politics. Since then, the record has been mixed until Bill Barr took over the AG.

AG Bill Barr follows Trump’s lead. He has criticized FBI investigations not approved by him and for failing to cooperate with the Durham investigation. Barr is trying to keep the FBI aligned with Trump’s election goals. Barr openly campaigns for Trump. He protects Trump allies from prosecution. It’s all about politics.

Bill Barr acts like Trump’s taxpayer-funded private lawyer. The Trump Administration has completely forgotten the lessons of Watergate and fostered a DOJ motivated by politics instead of law.

Trump is talking about firing Christopher Wray because Wray won’t play along. Trump has the authority to fire Wray, but the firing would be politically motivated. The lesson of Watergate is simple. He should not fire Wray over politics.

By politicizing the DOJ, Trump and Barr have created an important issue to be decided by the voters on Nov 3. This abuse of power will not end until Trump is out of office.

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(fear) The Politics of Fear

This essay was posted on 9/15/20.

In 2016, Donald Trump remarked, "Real power is — I don't even want to use the word — fear."

Since then, Trump uses fear better than any politician in recent memory. Without evidence Trump called protesters in Portland, Oregon dangerous anarchists and agitators who hate our country. Trump falsely portrayed the Portland protests as being out of control. He painted a fearful picture that could come to your or my town. He made people fearful of the Black Lives Matter movement. What would be Trump’s purpose?

Fear is a distracting force. It can lead you away from the true issues. In the case of the BLM protests, the true issue is the discriminatory way many police departments treat non-white people. The discrimination is a statistical reality. Blacks are three times more likely to be killed by police than Whites. But if Trump uses fear tactics to make BLM the enemy, then the relationship between police and minorities becomes a side issue or maybe no issue at all.

Donald Trump is a consistent supporter of police actions, even when they are problematic as in the case of George Floyd. Trump has said that sometimes the police choke, as in making an error in baseball. Trump wants a tough law and order police force that cracks heads, but he doesn’t want us to think about the police. He wants us to blame the victims instead.

There is a dark side to the politics of fear. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Trump supporter went to Kenosha, Wisconsin to defend property from violent rioters. Instead, he shot three unarmed protesters, killing two. Kyle said he was afraid for his life.