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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Democrats' Candidate, My Broken Waterpik, Trump Off the Rails and Religion 201

Democratic Primary Musings

People who are following the campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination see it coming down to a race among three candidates, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Which one emerges as the nominee will depend on one and only one factor.  (Choosing any of the others still in the race would only happen if the Party failed to come together on one of the leaders and settled on a compromise candidate, probably at their Convention.  Highly unlikely.)

Forget the nationally based polls.  Forget the State primaries and caucuses … unless they are in the States I am about to mention. They are the crucial ones.  Whichever one of the Democratic possible candidates that can win the electoral votes of States like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin should be the Democratic nominee.

Right now, that is the best path to the nomination for Joe Biden.  But we should not overlook the math, as it applies to the crucial States mentioned above.  The combined support for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, whose agendas are similar, may equal or exceed Biden’s.   When one of them drops out, the remaining one’s support may double.  But will it in these crucial States?  That is what will be important.  The decision to drop out might be predicated by poor performances in the early primaries and caucuses.   If neither Warren nor Sanders drop out, the nomination will be Biden’s for the taking.

If Sanders remains as Biden’s challenger, his doctrinaire positions on social issues may hurt him.  If Warren survives, on the other hand, she seems more adept at pivoting and competing with Biden on issues.  I think the Democratic nomination will go to either Biden or the Sanders/Warren survivor and that nominee will be the one that is thought best by Democrats for the job of convincing the voters of these five States, as evidenced by polling in those States, that he or she can beat Trump there.
 Jack Lippman

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What’s Up with Donald Lately

President Trump is running a bit more off the tracks these days then he customarily does.  He has told Jews that they are being disloyal to themselves and to Israel if they vote Democratic.  He cancelled a visit to Denmark when their Prime Minister refused his supposedly joking offer to purchase Greenland.  (Have you ever heard him joke?  Seriously, he is a humorless man.)  He told four Congresswomen to “Go Back Where They Came From,” a long-time taunt of racists toward immigrants.  His tariff proposals are falling apart, as the money comes out of American consumers' pocketbooks, and he lacks the ability to negotiate with China, North Korea or the European nations effectively. Most recently, he ordered that his “wall” be built, implying even if it required breaking laws concerning private property rights and environmental protection with the possibility of pardons for the law breakers. (although he has supposedly backed off on this). Was this another of his supposed jokes? 

The President does a lot of dancing around statements so he cannot be held responsible for them, implying things, becoming a cheerleader at rallies, and attributing his ideas to “what people are saying.”  This is how he got away with his dishonesty at Trump University and many of the shady ‘deals’ he masterminded for years, resulting in the frequent loss of other people’s money.  But supposedly, a President shouldn’t get away with this because it is Congress’ job to stop him from such tactics.

He is off the rails and the sooner Democrats start impeachment proceedings, the better. This stuff is just icing on the justification already in the Mueller Report and his violation of the “emoluments” prohibition in the Constitution.  The reason for this behavior on his part is clearly his fear of not being re-elected in 2020.  He is willing to do anything to hang on to his “base.”   Why?  I think it is beginning to enter his mind that after a defeat in 2020, when all the dirt is exposed, he will be hearing chants of “Lock him up,” and they won’t be joking.

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Religion 201 - Second-Hand Beliefs

(A few years back, this blog included a general summary of the religions practiced in the Western world.  We called it "Religion 101."  Here is "Religion 201" which is certain to be more controversal.)

Western monotheistic religious belief in one all-powerful deity is something Jews, Christians and Muslims have in common and ought to be enough, by itself, upon which these believers can anchor their faith.  But it isn’t.  Without formalization and organization into ritual and observance, people do not readily adopt what is referred to as faith in God.  And that formalization requires documentation.  Such documentation exists.

  • For Jews, it is the five holy books comprising the Torah or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Oh, there is more, but this “scripture” is the required basis.
  • For Christians, it is the “Gospels,” (the ‘good news’ about the coming of the Messiah) which builds upon the Pentateuch in the form of the Gospels of the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the epistles (writings) of Paul.  Supplementing the Hebrew scriptures, this is known as the New Testament.
  • For Muslims, it is the Koran, the words of God given to the Prophet Muhammad and spoken by him, and later compiled in a holy book.

The authorship of this documentation has been interpreted in many ways.  Some believers consider it the “word of God” and even if God did not write it, God certainly inspired it for whomever did and that’s enough for them. They accept it literally.  All of it.  Others do not. 

Jews generally accept the idea that the five books of the Pentateuch, the Torah, was written by Moses.  That is sometimes hard to take since things that happened before and after Moses’ time, including the description of his own death, are covered in it, so how could he have written it?   Some believe that the words were given orally to Moses by God to write down and pass on and therefore what Moses wrote transcended time, as only God could do.  Forget about impossible chronology.  Moses was just the “scribe.”  Understandably, some claim there were authors in addition to Moses.  And subsequent “holy” writings such as those of the Prophets, while inspired by God, are credited to individual authors such as Isaiah and Jerimiah as well.

Christians accept the New Testament even though the story of Jesus, whose birth, life, death and resurrection is described somewhat differently in the several “Gospels” authored by different apostles and written anywhere from 20 to 90 years after the events they describe took place.  None of them were there so it is logical to expect that inconsistencies would exist. Smoothing over these differences, Christians accept the formalization of what happened as documented in the “Gospels” as the basis of their faith.

Muslims accept the fact that the Prophet Muhammad spoke the words given to him over a thirty-year period by God, and those words were dutifully written down by his followers, not by him.  After his death, Islamic scribes organized these writings into what is known as the Koran.  Islam also includes, with some modification, the core beliefs of Judaism and Christianity but its basic tenet involves a total submission, if not a surrender, to God. 

In all these situations, there is a common thread.  And that is that what was written down, the documentation upon which ritual and observance were based, was obtained “second hand.”   No one was with Moses up on Mount Sinai taking notes.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn’t conduct interviews with those who were in the manger with Mary and Joseph or present at the crucifixion and resurrection.  Paul didn’t carry a tape recorder with him.  And it’s hard to believe the words of Muhammad, carved in stone and written on papyrus by his listeners over thirty years were neatly stored and cataloged waiting for subsequent editors. Over the centuries, these various editors and interpreters of all faiths have added their flavor, perspective and ideas to the documentation, making even the original “second-hand” writings difficult to separate from later versions.

But for those seeking the strength and support that the ultimate formalization of religion which these second-hand “writings,” provide to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it is enough. They accept it as divine in its own right, the word of God not to be questioned, or similarly divine because of the inspiration that motivated its acknowledged documenters.

So we end up with a community of believers in one God, not all of whom base their beliefs on the same “second-hand” documentation.  It amounts to numerous formulas arriving at the same answer.

It is wrong for someone believing in one faith to see those of other faiths who believe differently as “infidels.”  Historically, many faiths have countenanced the murder of infidels.  “My way or the highway!” … or sometimes much worse.  Such zealotry was, and is, wrong.  The early Jews stoned them to death.  Christians burned them at the stake.  Muslims continue to blow them up.

I am certain that this kind of thing was not included in the original creation of any religion’s system of belief in God but was something added along the way as “second-hand” documentation was written, discovered and amalgamated into the faith. If this is ever to be straightened out, it will take a few millenniums, at least.


But that would be just a few droplets in the ocean of time.  After all, the universe existed for a very long time before our species turned up, asking hard questions, the replies to which demand faith, not proof, because of the finite capabilities of the human mind.

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My Chinese Waterpik

About five years ago, I purchased a “Waterpik Flosser” which I use on my teeth several times a week.  Finally,  the tube which carries the water through the device to its brush or the “squirters” (an assortment of which came with the item) broke.  I went online and found replacing the Flosser would run about $60 and was about to do it.  Taking a look at the device, it looked like the broken tube could be easily replaced since the piece it was part of was held on by two screws.  So I went online and found that Amazon was selling that replacement part for just under $10.  So I ordered it.  Oddly, delivery was indicated as taking two to three weeks.  Well, I just got the replacement part by U.S. Mail and have installed it. It works fine.  

But what took so long? 

The original device was probably made in China, so it was logical that was where the replacement part would have to come from.  But it wasn’t a matter of an American vendor importing it and selling it to me as would usually be the case in such situations.  Apparently, I was dealing directly with the Chinese company which was selling it.  That’s why the delivery took so long.  And here’s part of the label from the envelope in which the part came to make that point clear. 

This is when it hit me that in addition to our trade with China being something that involves American consumers every day, it is already so deeply institutionalized that the Post Office Departments of both countries even have a common label indicating both are sharing in the delivery of the item.  Wow!  Dropping it off at a post office in China somewhere in Hunan province was sufficient to put it in the hands of the United States Postal Service.  The systems work together!  (For those studying the label, Changsha is the capital of Hunan province and has a population of about seven and a half million.)

World trade is something good and should not be restricted by tariffs, something they probably taught at Wharton for those who went to classes there.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Our Undemocratic Founding Fathers, What Pitts and Will have to say, the Mueller Report (as simple as it gets) and an Airline Pilot You Don't Want in the Cockpit.

Our Undemocratic Democracy

Back in 1789, the framers of the Constitution did not trust “the people.”  While it did give those who had the right to vote (which did not mean “everybody” in those days; each State had its own rules) the ability to directly elect members of the House of Representatives, the “People’s House,” from their Congressional districts, they were not so generous in laying out how Senators and the President were elected. 

Senators were elected by a vote in State legislatures, which had been ostensibly elected by the people, but this removed the people from directly choosing who went to Washington as a Senator.  Clearly, this was undemocratic, manifesting an elitist disrespect for the people.  This was corrected in 1913, after 124 years, with the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment providing for the direct election of Senators.

Similarly, the choice of a President was left to a college of “Electors,” who usually were and continue to be political appointees representing the party which got a majority of votes in the State.  A State has an electoral vote for each of its Representatives in the House (which can be changed every ten years based on census figures) and one for each of its two Senators.  Again, this was undemocratic and represented that same distrust of the people’s wishes.  Nebraska and Maine have gotten around this by voting to allocate their electoral votes proportionately based on the popular Presidential vote in the State.  (Actually, electors are not bound to vote for any particular candidate. They can vote for anyone they wish, and courts have upheld this.)

This undemocratic mess could be remedied by a Constitutional Amendment abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with the far more democratic process of choosing a President by the popular vote total.  Unfortunately, this would take many, many, years to implement and the question of how to determine a winner by a majority, rather than by a plurality, would have to be resolved.

An easier method of choosing the President more democratically, without bypassing the Electoral College might be one whereby a State passes legislation saying that all its Electors must vote for the candidate who received the largest number of votes nationally.  What happened in the State wouldn’t matter. This would mean that even if a State voted heavily for one candidate, but that candidate did not win the popular vote nationwide, that State’s electoral votes would go to the candidate who did win the popular vote nationally.  This would be democratic nationally, but undemocratic in terms of the individual States.  But after all, the presidency is a national, not a State, office and in 2019, States do not have the power they had in 1789.

Sixteen states are already agreeable to go this route.  Of course, there would still have to be a majority, not just a plurality, of Electoral votes needed to elect a President, as constitutionally prescribed.  If enough States to produce 270 electoral votes agreed to do this, giving their electoral votes to the popular winner, that would be sufficient to elect a President and a time-consuming Constitutional Amendment battle would not be necessary.   

At this point, the sixteen states agreeable to this approach would contribute 196 electoral votes, so this alternative is getting close to happening.  Of course, there are many challenges to this approach such as what happens if a State changes its mind later on in regard to participating in such a “compact, or if the Supreme Court invalidates such an agreement, so lawyers will be busy on this approach for a while yet.  I suspect that ultimately a Constitutional Amendment will be needed, but this method seems to be a good stop-gap way of democratically electing a President.
Jack Lippman

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George Will and Leonard Pitts Speak Out

Last week, in discussing some of the cruel tactics carried out by our government’s immigration people on Central Americans fleeing terror in their own countries and waiting, often separated from family members, to be admitted to the United States as “asylum seekers,” the Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts equated our toleration of such “cruel” tactics with “evil.”   In doing so, he quoted the late Hannah Arendt, and here is that excerpt from Pitts’ column:

“Consider Hannah Arendt’s famous book, ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem.’  Her report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Holocaust, coined a term that became controversial, if not notorious: ‘the banality of evil.’  Arendt would later explain that by it, she meant that she found no ‘diabolical or demonic profundity’ in Eichmann.  He was, she felt, a ‘desk murderer’ who, at a fundamental level, lacked the imagination to even conceive of the crime he was committing.  He just did his job.  He just followed orders.”

Many do not agree with Arendt’s excuse for Eichmann, but Pitts goes on to point out that:

“Something to bear in mind as our government of the people inflicts needless cruelty upon the vulnerable and the dispossessed.  After all, evil puts its pants on one leg at a time, just like you and I do.  Evil fixes breakfast.  Evil gets the kids off to school.  And then, evil goes to work.”

Conservative mainstay George Will had a nice Washington Post column in the papers last week too.  He clearly explained the wrongheadedness of the President’s position on tariffs.  (I still doubt whether Trump ever set foot in the Wharton School of Finance.  Even the janitors there probably know more about economics than he does.)   Will is so clear that even people gullible enough to support the President ought to understand it.   Check it out by CLICKING HERE.

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The Mueller Report - As Simple As It Gets - Courtesy of Gary Trudeau

Okay, you never did read the Mueller Report, which is slowly receding into history and no longer dominating newscasts and headlines.  But nevertheless, it still provides enough information on which to base immediate impeachment proceedings in the House of Representative.  The Democrats must move to impeach President Trump without further delay.  Waiting only helps the President!  He would like any impeachment actions to be postponed forever.  

Of course, the chicken-hearted Republican cowards in the Senate will never convict the President, but what comes out in the House’s impeachment hearings should suffice to cause many of them to cower in fear of the 2020 voters and finally renounce their dependency on Trump’s “evil” base.  (See comment above from Leonard Pitts regarding what constitutes “evil.”  All 'evil doers' do not resemble satanic figures.  Many look like you and me.)   A well-conducted impeachment hearing in the House, on TV daily, ought to suffice to either return the G.O.P. to sanity or bury it in a graveyard along with the Whigs and Federalists.

Michael Doonesbury
But getting back to the Mueller Report (which most of you and millions of Americans did not read), here is cartoonist Gary Trudeau’s “quickie” Doonesbury version of it.  It is really all you need to know.  CLICK HERE TO READ IT.  And of course, please pass it on!  You’ll love it!

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Online Voter Registration

Know any Floridians one who are NOT registered voters?   Refer them to a web site where they can complete the registration process online!    Every vote counts.  https://registertovoteflorida.gov/en/Registration/Index   


And if you are not in Florida, do the same thing wherever you live.  It’s all on the Internet somewhere!  One registered voter is worth a hundred social media messages that merely "preach to the choir."

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And finally, reprinted without permission, here is a “Must Read piece for you to digest and pass on to others.  This is why the President must be impeached.  Yesterday!

If Trump Were an Airline Pilot

By James Fallows, Senior Editor – Atlantic Magazine – August 22, 2019

Through the 2016 campaign, I posted a series called “Trump Time Capsule” in this space. The idea was to record, in real time, what was known about Donald Trump’s fitness for office—and to do so not when people were looking back on our era but while the Republican Party was deciding whether to line up behind him and voters were preparing to make their choice.

The series reached 152 installments by election day. I argued that even then there was no doubt of Trump’s mental, emotional, civic, and ethical unfitness for national leadership. If you’re hazy on the details, the series is (once again) here.

That background has equipped me to view Trump’s performance in office as consistently shocking but rarely surprising. He lied on the campaign trail, and he lies in office. He insulted women, minorities, “the other” as a candidate, and he does it as a president. He led “lock her up!” cheers at the Republican National Convention and he smiles at “send them back!” cheers now. He did not know how the “nuclear triad” worked then, and he does not know how tariffs work now. He flared at perceived personal slights when they came from Senator John McCain, and he does so when they come from the Prime Minister of Denmark. He is who he was.

The Atlantic editorial staff, in a project I played no part in, reached a similar conclusion. Its editorial urging a vote against Trump was obviously written before the election but stands up well three years later:

He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent.

The one thing I avoided in that Time Capsule series was “medicalizing” Trump’s personality and behavior. That is, moving from description of his behavior to speculation about its cause. Was Trump’s abysmal ignorance—“Most people don’t know President Lincoln was a Republican!”—a sign of dementia, or of some other cognitive decline? Or was it just more evidence that he had never read a book? Was his braggadocio and self-centeredness a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder? (Whose symptoms include “an exaggerated sense of self-importance” and “a sense of entitlement and require[s] constant, excessive admiration.”) Or just that he is an entitled jerk? On these and other points I didn’t, and don’t, know.

Like many people in the journalistic world, I received a steady stream of mail from mental-health professionals arguing for the “medicalized” approach. Several times I mentioned the parallel between Trump’s behavior and the check-list symptoms of narcissism. But I steered away from “this man is sick”—naming the cause rather than listing the signs—for two reasons.

The minor reason was the medical-world taboo against public speculation about people a doctor had not examined personally. There is a Catch-22 circularity to this stricture (which dates to the Goldwater-LBJ race in 1964). Doctors who have not treated a patient can’t say anything about the patient’s condition, because that would be “irresponsible”—but neither can doctors who have, because they’d be violating confidences.

Also, a flat ban on at-a-distance diagnosis doesn’t really meet the common-sense test. Medical professionals have spent decades observing symptoms, syndromes, and more-or-less probable explanations for behavior. We take it for granted that an ex-quarterback like Tony Romo can look at an offensive lineup just before the snap and say, “This is going to be a screen pass.” But it’s considered a wild overstep for a doctor or therapist to reach conclusions based on hundreds of hours of exposure to Trump on TV.

My dad was a small-town internist and diagnostician. Back in the 1990s he saw someone I knew, on a TV interview show, and he called me to say: “I think your friend has [a neurological disease]. He should have it checked out, if he hasn’t already.” It was because my dad had seen a certain pattern—of expression, and movement, and facial detail—so many times in the past, that he saw familiar signs, and knew from experience what the cause usually was. (He was right in this case.) Similarly, he could walk down the street, or through an airline terminal, and tell by people’s gait or breathing patterns who needed to have knee or hip surgery, who had just had that surgery, who was starting to have heart problems, et cetera. (I avoided asking him what he was observing about me.)

Recognizing patterns is the heart of most professional skills, and mental health professionals usually know less about an individual patient than all of us now know about Donald Trump. And on that basis, Dr. Bandy Lee of Yale and others associated with the World Mental Health Coalition have been sounding the alarm about Trump’s mental state (including with a special analysis of the Mueller report). Another organization of mental health professionals is the “Duty to Warn” movement.

But the diagnosis-at-a-distance issue wasn’t the real reason I avoided “medicalization.” The main reason I didn’t go down this road was my assessment that it wouldn’t make a difference. People who opposed Donald Trump already opposed him, and didn’t need some medical hypothesis to dislike his behavior. And people who supported him had already shown that they would continue to swallow anything, from “Grab ‘em by … ”  to “I like people who weren’t captured.” The Vichy Republicans of the campaign dutifully lined up behind the man they had denounced during the primaries, and the Republicans of the Senate have followed in that tradition.

But now we’ve had something we didn’t see so clearly during the campaign. These are episodes of what would be called outright lunacy, if they occurred in any other setting: An actually consequential rift with a small but important NATO ally, arising from the idea that the U.S. would “buy Greenland.” Trump’s self-description as “the Chosen One,” and his embrace of a supporter’s description of him as the “second coming of God” and the “King of Israel.” His logorrhea, drift, and fantastical claims in public rallies, and his flashes of belligerence at the slightest challenge in question sessions on the White House lawn. His utter lack of affect or empathy when personally meeting the most recent shooting victims, in Dayton and El Paso. His reduction of any event, whatsoever, into what people are saying about him.

Obviously I have no standing to say what medical pattern we are seeing, and where exactly it might lead. But just from life I know this:
  • If an airline learned that a pilot was talking publicly about being “the Chosen One” or “the King of Israel” (or Scotland or whatever), the airline would be looking carefully into whether this person should be in the cockpit.
  • If a hospital had a senior surgeon behaving as Trump now does, other doctors and nurses would be talking with administrators and lawyers before giving that surgeon the scalpel again.
  • If a public company knew that a CEO was making costly strategic decisions on personal impulse or from personal vanity or slight, and was doing so more and more frequently, the board would be starting to act. (See: Uber, management history of.)
  • If a university, museum, or other public institution had a leader who routinely insulted large parts of its constituency—racial or religious minorities, immigrants or international allies, women—the board would be starting to act.
  • If the U.S. Navy knew that one of its commanders was routinely lying about important operational details, plus lashing out under criticism, plus talking in “Chosen One” terms, the Navy would not want that person in charge of, say, a nuclear-missile submarine. (See: The Queeg saga in The Caine Mutiny, which would make ideal late-summer reading or viewing for members of the White House staff.)
Yet now such a  person is in charge not of one nuclear-missile submarine but all of them—and the bombers and ICBMs, and diplomatic military agreements, and the countless other ramifications of executive power.

If Donald Trump were in virtually any other position of responsibility, action would already be under way to remove him from that role. The board at a public company would have replaced him outright or arranged a discreet shift out of power. (Of course, he would never have gotten this far in a large public corporation.) The chain-of-command in the Navy or at an airline or in the hospital would at least call a time-out, and check his fitness, before putting him back on the bridge, or in the cockpit, or in the operating room. (Of course, he would never have gotten this far as a military officer, or a pilot, or a doctor.)

There are two exceptions. One is a purely family-run business, like the firm in which Trump spent his entire previous career. And the other is the U.S. presidency, where he will remain, despite more and more-manifest Queeg-like  unfitness, as long as the GOP Senate stands with him.

(Why the Senate? Because the two constitutional means for removing a president, impeachment and the 25th Amendment, both ultimately require two thirds support from the Senate. Under the 25th Amendment, a majority of the Cabinet can remove a president—but if the president disagrees, he can retain the office unless two thirds of both the House and Senate vote against him, an even tougher standard than with impeachment. Once again it all comes back to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.)

Donald Trump is who we knew him to be. But now he’s worse. The GOP Senate continues to show us what it is.

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Gun violence in 1865, a Tom Friedman column and the Senate Races

Advice to Damn Fools

The other day, before the President started spouting his nonsense about American Jews being disloyal to Israel if they vote Democratic, Tom Friedman started off his New York Times column by declaring:

“I am going to say this as simply and clearly as I can: If you’re an American Jew and you’re planning on voting for Donald Trump because you think he is pro-Israel, you’re a damn fool.”

Here’s the article, folks.  I hope some “damn fools” read it.  CLICK HERE to do so.

(Note:  It’s difficult to “link” to New York Times or Washington Post stories because access to their sites is often limited to subscribers.  That’s why the link to this Times article is via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which carried it.)

Jack Lippman

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Focusing on the Senate

Only one Democrat is going to end up running for President next year, and probably, he or she will choose their running mate from among the other presidential aspirants.  That leaves us with a lot of very competent people who won’t be at the top of the ticket. Two or three of them may end up in the Senate, taking seats from Republicans. More about that follows.

Crucial to the success of any Democratic administration will be control of Congress.  If a Democrat is elected President, it is likely that the House will remain in Democratic hands, but the Senate is another matter.  While “the power of the purse” remains primarily with the House, the Senate approves Presidential nominees for lifetime judicial positions, including the Supreme Court, as well as other important administrative positions.  That’s why the Senate races will share importance with the Presidential contest in 2020.

For Democrats to take control of the Senate, where 22 Republican seats are being contested (only 13 Democratic seats are being contested), they must win four seats presently occupied by Republicans. They cannot count on holding on to Doug Jones’ seat from Alabama where he defeated Roy Moore two years ago in a special election. There were a lot of reasons for Republicans to desert Moore two years ago which won’t be present if they run another Republican against Jones so the Democratic goal must be to take away four seats from the Republicans.

Beto O'Rourke
Winning those four seats would mean that there would be an evenly divided Senate with a Democratic Vice-President having the deciding vote.  A John Hickenlooper victory in Colorado and a Beto O’Rourke victory in Texas (I know he says he won’t run for the Senate, but I think he will) would get the Democrats half-way there.  Both looked great in their Presidential debate appearances.  

The other two Republican seats which are most likely to turn blue are in Arizona where astronaut Mark Kelly is challenging Martha McSally, whose seat was the result of an appointment by Arizona’s G.O.P. governor and in Maine, where Susan Collins has her hands full with her likely opponent, Democratic legislative leader Sara Gideon.

Democrats have a chance to take over more than just four G.O.P. seats if their Presidential candidate wins and has long enough coattails to take seats away from such vulnerable Republicans as Jodi Ernst (Iowa), Tom Tillis (North Carolina), David Purdue (Georgia), Steve Daines (Montana) … especially if presidential aspirant Governor Steve Bullock chooses to run there … and surprisingly, Mitch McConnell
Defeating McConnell would be sweet
(Kentucky).  It would be nice for the Democrats to gain at least one or two of these seats in addition to the Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Maine seats mentioned above. 

The Senate races are very important …. And it is important, once the Democratic Presidential nominee is apparent (and that will be before the Convention), for Beto O’Rourke and Steve Bullock to accept the fact that they won’t be running for President and decide to run for the Senate. 
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A Bit of History and a Gun Violence Suggestion

On the evening of April 11, 1865, Abraham Lincoln stood on the White House balcony and delivered a speech to a small group gathered on the lawn. Two days earlier, Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, and after four long years of struggle it had become clear that the Union cause would emerge from the war victorious. Lincoln’s speech that evening outlined some of his ideas about reconstructing the nation and bringing the defeated Confederate states back into the Union. Lincoln also indicated a wish to extend the franchise to some African-Americans - at the very least, those who had fought in the Union ranks during the war- and expressed a desire that the southern states would extend the vote to literate blacks, as well.  

In the audience for the speech was actor John Wilkes Booth, whose sympathies were with the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the speech apparently amplified his already existing rage with the President. “That means nigger citizenship,” he told Lewis Powell, one of his band of conspirators which already had been talking about kidnapping Lincoln to be exchanged for Confederate prisoners.  But this changed Booth’s plan.  “Now, by God, I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make,” he continued.

Three days later, On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth became the first person to assassinate an American president when he shot and killed Lincoln in his box at Ford’s Theater in Washington.  Jumping to the stage, he screamed out “Sic semper tyrannis. (Thus always to tyrants),” and fled the scene with a broken ankle.  After a two-week manhunt, Federal troops cornered Booth in a barn in Maryland, where a Union soldier shot him in the neck. Booth died two hours later, his last words reported as being “Useless, Useless, Useless.”

(Most, but not all, of this information comes from an article on the website of the National History Teaching Clearinghouse:    https://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/24242 .)  

Booth’s extreme feelings toward Lincoln certainly might be described today as reaching the level of a mental disorder.  Almost everyone, today, agrees that people with mental disorders should not have access to weapons.  Unfortunately though, I see no way that knowledge of the Booth’s “mental disorder” might have prevented Lincoln’s assassination. So long as he possessed a gun, he was able to carry it out.  Only strict gun laws barring civilians from carrying weapons might have prevented the assassination. 

We did not have such laws then and we do not generally have them today, although when I visit a theatre (not a movie) or a baseball game, I am screened for weapons possession.  But how far, in terms of where people gather, can this kind of screening be extended? Stores? Parks? Schools? Hospitals? Malls? Houses of Worship?  And I won't even venture a guess as to the number of folks with "mental disorders" no more extreme than Booth's who might frequent such places.

It would be easier to get rid of the guns and repeal the Second Amendment, which has outlived its usefulness (we don’t have militias any longer where members are asked to bring their own arms, and the wrong-headed 2008 Supreme Court decision which in effect voided those first thirteen words of the Amendment which stated its purpose is certain to be reversed, sooner or later.)  REPEAL!  That’s the best way of stopping gun violence, just so long as the right to own weapons for hunting, agricultural purposes, sport shooting and reasonable self-protection is preserved.

The Second Amendment is not there to permit acts of violence by people who passionately believe in a particular cause, as John Wilkes Booth did.  Booth honestly believed that he was killing a tyrant.  Many strong objectors to gun legislation today actually believe the Second Amendment justifies their using violence if they feel the government is tyrannical (the same word Booth used) and that's why they want to have access to weapons and play "war games" in the woods.  In today's environment, the Second Amendment should be repealed.  That won't solve the problem entirely but it would go a long way toward doing so