We’re going to see a lot of pieces like this…

Pretty much ever since he left the White House, Donald Trump has been teasing another run at the White House, and every article I’ve seen on the matter dithers back and forth between the fact that his ego makes him think he could win it again (despite the improbable nature of his 2016 win) and the fact that his ego couldn’t stand another loss. (They all assume he’ll be a free man at the time, which is not a given, although, to be truly fair, being in prison isn’t in and of itself a reason not to be elected…)

And pretty much everyone since that day, has been wondering whether or not Joe Biden will seek re-election in 2024. It was thus inevitable that we’d see articles like this one, which appeared a couple of days ago in The Washington Post.

Let’s get the big stuff out of the way. Some of this article reads as though it came from this humble little blog of mine. Indeed, some of the talk in this article reads very much like my post from about two and a half years ago where I talked about the fact that only ten incumbent presidents actually lost their re-election bids.

I believe I’ve also talked in the past about how, since the passage of the 22nd amendment, only two presidents who were eligible to seek re-election, chose not to. (One if you count the fact that Truman wasn’t actually bound by it.)

Now back to the article. This particular essay in the WaPo is trying to make the argument that Joe Biden should not seek re-election in the year 2024. I neither agree nor disagree with the sentiment, and I imagine we’re going to see a lot of articles making other variations on this argument, or the opposite argument over the next few months (and they’ll probably get more vocal and louder after this year’s mid-term elections).

The simple truth, though, is that there is no right or wrong argument about whether or not he should run for re-election. And there won’t be until (1) he announces his answer, and (2) whether or not the democratic nominee will emerge victorious in November 2024. Arguments about his age will be tempered against arguments about how much good he’s done for the country with a razor-thin margin in congress.

And for the record, I am not in either camp. I imagine that, like LBJ and Truman before him, the ultimate answer to the question of whether or not he runs, will come from polling and general public sentiment.

That said, this article in The Washington Post does not do a very good job at arguing its position. While there is a truth to the fact that Jimmy Carter and George H W Bush effectively retired after just one term with more respect than you might expect, that’s not a really good argument since they both lost their re-election bids.

No, if we’re here talking about one-term presidents and their lasting legacies, it would be political malpractice to ignore the three most impactful single-term presidencies, as this article did. And I’m not talking about candidates who were denied the right to a second term so much as I’m talking about men who either swore they’d only serve one term, or, failing that, didn’t put up a serious effort to be re-elected.

This is probably where some people might scratch their heads over the word “impactful” in the previous paragraph. And if you’re wondering whether I’m arguing that they were good or bad presidents under that term, it’s a little bit of both.

The three most impactful single-term presidencies, in my opinion, were those of James Polk, James Buchanan, and Chester Arthur.

(Yes, we can make an argument for both John Adams and John Quincy Adams, but I should think that the better arguments for Biden not seeking re-election should not come from the presidents who lost their bids for a second term…)

Polk probably did more to shape the modern presidency than any other other of the antebellum period in the way that he consolidated power in the executive branch.

Buchanan is rightly reviled for his poor stewardship of the country and how he essentially turned the idea of civil war from something that could happen into something that was inevitable. But that definitely means he was impactful.

And Arthur brought a degree of stability to an unsteady era, and may have been one of our greatest at bringing the nation together.

As I said before, I personally don’t have an opinion one way or another on whether or not Joe Biden should seek re-election. But if you’re going to make the argument that he shouldn’t do it, you’re better off invoking the legacies of one-term presidents who didn’t lose re-election. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

It would be laughable…

Earlier this week, voters in the state of Kansas rejected a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would have enabled the state legislature to enact restrictions on abortion. This marked the first real test of the political landscape in the frightening world ushered in by an activist Supreme Court that had no qualms about overturning nearly a half century of precedent for no good reason other than saying “I didn’t like the consequences” and using extremely twisted facts and alleged history to justify it.

So naturally I have been keeping an eye on the websites that might be disappointed by the Kansas vote. And I found a doozy of an opinion piece on a website called “World”. The subheading for the greater site of “Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical (sic) truth” is as much of an indicator of anything I could predict.

They start out by questioning the media’s portrayal of Kansas as “ruby red”. While there is some truth to the fact that the current governor is a democrat, recall that before her, voters had elected Sam Brownback, who was forced to resign over the fact that the platform he actively campaigned on, proved to be absolutely ruinous to the state’s economy. And this is also a state that last sent a democrat to the senate when Franklin Roosevelt was president.

So I guess there are redder states than Kansas (Utah, Oklahoma, and Mississippi come to mind…), but to deny that it’s a conservative state is disingenuous at best.

They do make a truthful statement next. It is true that “[p]olling on abortion is all about how you ask the question.” If you ask the question honestly and with an eye towards the very real consequences of banning the procedure, such as increased poverty, crime, mortality, and government spending, then people will be more supportive of it. If you ask it from a more theological/philosophical perspective (e.g., by arguing that that clump of cells should have its own autonomy and that the mother is nothing more than ab incubator), then people will be less supportive of it.

So it’s not surprising that the author of this article feels that the latter style of phrasing is more honest than the former, despite the exact opposite being the reality.

But it is the penultimate paragraph that demonstrates just how untrustworthy the antiabortion side of the debate really is. He claims that the people who put the amendment on the ballot didn’t know that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe when they proposed the amendment. That claim can’t possibly be taken at face value.

Let’s start with the timing of the original proposal: it was proposed in January of 2021. Which meant that, by this time, Amy Coney Barrett had already been seated on the Supreme Court, and that all three Trump nominees had been thoroughly vetted by their opposition to Roe. At that time, the only real question was when the court might hear a case that could take down the precedent. Dobbs had already been appealed to SCOTUS, at that time and the court granted a writ of certiorari less than four months after the original proposal.

And that’s not even getting into the fact that this proposal was put on a primary ballot. The proponents of this measure surely knew that voters generally don’t turn out in large numbers for off-year primaries. How could they not have been counting on a depressed turnout?

The Kansas vote gives me hope that sanity can prevail. The elected officials in the Republican Party need to embrace sanity not only for their own good, but for the good of the nation. If that means shutting them out of the political process for a few cycles, so be it.

I’m not impressed

Earlier this week, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang (D), former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman (R), and former US Representative David Jolly (R-FL), announced the formation of a new political party, the Forward Party.

I wish them the best of luck in their endeavor. I have repeatedly said that neither political party in the US has a lock on truth, or ideas, or solutions to problems. And there’s certainly no reason why a position on any of the “culture war” items has to be in lockstep with either party’s position on, say, taxes. Why can’t you support legalized abortion and lower taxes?

(Other than, of course, neither party is really taking that stance…)

And of course, I know the history here. The last time a new party arose in this country to actually rise to anything resembling an electoral victory, was in the year 1860 when Abraham Lincoln, the standard-bearer for the then four-year-old Republican Party (the party that arose from the ashes of the old Whig party). So an argument can be made that we’re a little bit overdue. Ross Perot’s Reform Party first came about after his 1992 independent bid for the presidency, but their only significant electoral victory was when Jesse Ventura won the governorship of Minnesota.

Although Ventura did a reasonably good job at the helm of a medium-sized midwestern state, I don’t think that particular political party was ever really all that viable.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with a smaller political party (or parties) trying to wrest some degree of change from the duopoly of the Republicans and the Democrats, especially when you consider that Republicans any more seek political office in order to … I’m not sure what they want to do, but they don’t really want to govern.

I can’t express a huge amount of surprise that either Yang or Whitman might be open to starting a third party. Yang’s dual defeats in his attempts to become president and then mayor of New York, clearly left a bitter taste in his mouth even if his own campaign style was never destined to make any real headway. (I stand by what I said back then, which is that I give him full credit for talking about an issue that nobody else was willing to talk about.) And I remember Whitman complaining after she left the George W Bush EPA, that it seemed like her party was muscling out moderates like her.

Jolly was a bit of a surprise, given his occasional propensity for throwing bombs into the political arena.

To accompany the announcement that they were forming this party, the trio published an op-ed in the Washington Post, trying to argue why their third party is different from all of the other third parties (past and present). It’s definitely worth a read, especially while we wait for formal policy positions from them.

I have to say, though, that this essay does not impress me.

They make a point of saying that polls from pretty much every reputable polling place, essentially point the way to the need for a third party. The problem is, this isn’t the first time polls have said that. Congress, especially, has had record low polling numbers for years. The problem, though, is that most people actually like their individual representative in Congress. I confess to being guilty of that too. There are 435 people in the House of Representatives. And there’s a not-small number of people in that chamber whom I don’t like. But the truth of the matter is that none of the people I don’t like, represent me.

I actually like my representative in Congress. Too bad with redistricting, I won’t be in her district next year. I don’t like the guy who currently represents the district I’ll be in next.

But the real problem with the piece in the Post, though, is when they try to find a common-sense middle ground. Take this quote:

On guns, for instance, most Americans don’t agree with calls from the far left to confiscate all guns and repeal the Second Amendment, but they’re also rightfully worried by the far right’s insistence on eliminating gun laws.

I don’t think that the characterization of either the far left or the far right on guns here is particularly accurate. While there’s a nugget of truth to saying that the far left might feel as though the second amendment has outlived its true usefulness, that’s neither an advocacy for repealing the amendment nor is it an advocacy for confiscating all guns. Just look at any gun control advocacy group’s actual platforms. They want to ban sales of assault rifles so that our children don’t become target practice. Likewise, while there might be some on the far right who feel as though everyone should own a gun, usually the far right really just says that existing laws are enough and that we don’t need anything new.

The rest of the paragraph that begins with the above quote similarly misrepresents the views on the extremes of political thought, with only their characterization of the far right wanting “to make a woman’s choice a criminal offense” or “den[ying] that there is even a problem [with climate change]” being in any way an accurate statement of the views of either side on a particular issue.

I’m more than willing to give a chance to the Forward Party. A truly viable third party would benefit everyone, to be sure. If this is their first salvo into the world of American politics, though, I don’t think they’re going to get very far.

I hope I’m wrong.

The Russian psyche

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the Crimean War lately. Or, more specifically, how that particular mid-19th century conflagration can tell us a lot about Vladimir Putin’s mindset and the Invasion of Ukraine. And although I can only hope for an outcome that is not the installation of a puppet government in Kyiv, I do think that there are some lessons that bear noting from that war nearly 170 years ago.

I imagine that if most Americans think of this particular war, if they think of anything, they either think of the Tennyson poem The Charge of the Light Brigade, and/or the realization, thanks to Florence Nightingale, that nursing is a profession that needs to be admired.

But to Russians, it’s something completely different. Russian history, going back more than a millennium, is a series of triumphs and tragedies. Tsar Ivan IV (“The Terrible”) successfully drove out the Khan invaders and brought, for lack of a better word, pride to Muscovy. Russia hasn’t been successfully invaded since.

But then the Russian military fell into a degree of disrepair, so about a hundred fifty years later, a new Tsar, Peter I (“The Great”) strengthened the country and looked more toward Europe by building a new capital city on the Gulf of Finland, St. Petersburg.

The 18th century began with Peter the Great and ended with Catherine II (“The Great”) at the helm in this country, which would flourish economically and militarily. It was a good time to be Russian.

Not long after the start of the nineteenth century, Alexander Pushkin, one of the greatest poets of all time in any language, wrote “I love you, creation of Peter,” expressing a pride in both country and city. (Note: that’s my translation of the phrase “Люблю тебя, Петра творенье!” From that poem. Your mileage may vary depending on which translation you read…)

It was therefore a shock to the system, and an embarrassment that Russia would lose so badly in the Crimean War against the Ottoman Empire fifty years later. I don’t know whether it was poor planning, hubris, or just the lack of foresight by later tsars, but this essentially marks a low point in the Russian psyche, which essentially remained in a state of shock, disbelief, and an almost universal emotional malaise that persisted until the Russian Revolution sixty years later. Is it any wonder that in this time period, Russian writers gave us such works as Crime and Punishment? Or Uncle Vanya? Or War and Peace? Or Oblomov? Or Fathers and Sons?

I’m of the opinion that you can learn a great deal about Russian thought processes just from those four books and one play.

But then let’s fast forward to the end of World War II and the postwar era in the Soviet Union. The launch of Sputnik. The second country to develop Nuclear weapons and truly being recognized as a world power.

The Russian people — or more accurately, the Soviets, most of whom were native Russians — again had something to be proud of.

And then, almost in the blink of an eye, the Soviet Union was no more and fifteen newly independent countries tried to find their way in a new and confusing world. It’s probably not a coincidence that the first Soviet leader who was born after the Russian Revolution was also the last Soviet leader.

Although I can think of more than a few events of the twentieth century that were greater tragedies than the breakup of the Soviet Union, you can kind of see where Vladimir Putin is coming from when he calls that out.

And in full fairness, none of the former SSRs landed smoothly on their feet at first. I called this out when I was there, and wrote about it shortly after I returned home. (Although Estonia, with the backing of Finland, probably righted their ship most quickly…)

When the Soviet Union first dissolved, I remember staying up late more than once with some friends of mine in college, wondering how well the newly independent states would do as they transitioned to a more capitalistic economy. We all agreed that Russia would have the resources needed to thrive. And the three Baltic states would probably do fairly well, since their status as SSRs was different from the other twelve countries anyway. Most of us agreed that Ukraine would probably do all right, although that wasn’t immediately obvious to me when I was there, given the state of the economy. Less certain were the countries in the Caucasus or any of the “Stans” (although, if land area was enough to justify some optimism, then we conceded that Kazakhstan would do all right, a prediction that has more or less been proven true.) One person in my group predicted that Belarus would last at most two decades before it became part of Russia again. I’ll let the reader decide if that has happened in all but the definitions of the borders between the countries.

Still, it was the fear of a repetition of the embarrassment of the Crimean War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union that led Putin to annex the Crimea back in 2014. And to interfere in multiple elections around the world in 2016. And to invade Ukraine a little over a month ago.

Ironic, then, that the invasion might be the embarrassment that undoes his grip on power. Or at least, that’s what it looks like from my vantage point.

Well that’s … interesting

About a month ago on Twitter, someone whom I follow asked, and I quote “Is it wrong to be anti-circumcision?”

I responded by saying “Not at all. That said, I know a few ‘intactivists’ who are quite insufferable and I find them to be more of a harm/detriment to their cause than anything else.”

It’s true. The only person on Facebook whose posts I have muted, vacillates back and forth between posting anti-circumcision screeds and anti-vaccine screeds. Ad nauseum.

The incident that led me to mute her posts conflated the two and when I tried to engage her on just the antivax lies by repeatedly saying that I didn’t want to talk about the anti-circumcision parts of her post, she kept trying to bring me back to the parts on circumcision.

I gave up on the conversation and muted her on Facebook after that. I mentioned that same incident in an entry here more than two years ago.

So yes, I consider her quite insufferable. And a couple of others who are close to her.

A decade ago I wrote that maybe it’s time we let the tradition of circumcision die out. I stand by that position. The fact that both of my sons are circumcised, is more because my ex-wife asked for it, than anything to do with my preferences as I don’t hate the fact that I am.

You read that right: I actually agree with the anti-circumcision position but I’m not really a vocal advocate and I don’t approve of some of the methods of the more rabid “intactivists”.

I mention this because someone on Twitter picked up on my response to that question a month ago as being insufficiently opposed to circumcision. And this person added me to three lists on Twitter. They are “Supports FGM and MGM”, “Advocating for childAbuse”, and “Closeted Pedophiles”.

I’ve never been added to any lists on Twitter and I honestly don’t know how they work. I just googled it and found that the only way to remove myself from the list, is to block the creator of the list.

So I’ve officially blocked my first Twitter account. Yay me!

It’s a right-wing tactic to try to harm the reputation of people you disagree with. It’s why the QAnon followers think Trump is (or at least was) going to expose a massive satanist, baby-eating pedophilia ring and has led to countless people being doxxed online.

It’s pretty sad actually. But it’s a good way to turn reasonable people off of the position you advocate for.

The Clean-Up Guy

I know a lot of liberals are feeling a bit of buyers’ remorse over what Biden has and hasn’t accomplished since he took the oath of office as president thirteen months ago, and to be sure, there have been more than a few missteps since then. Inflation is a serious problem, but that would be a problem around about now without regard to who was in the White House.

The domestic and international numbers about the state of the economy are all over the place, so it would be natural to question Biden’s stewardship over the economy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: while some policies can have a net positive or net negative effect on the economy, when you’re living in the economy, you may not really feel the truth of things. And inflation is one thing you can definitely feel. Biden doesn’t deserve the blame he’s getting, given the numerous disruptions to the global economy, large and small, over the past two years. Supply chain issues, worker shortages, ongoing effect of the pandemic, blockage of the Suez Canal, truckers becoming terrorists and taking over entire cities while not doing their jobs, all of these are contributing to current economic mailaise.

But I’d say that Biden has done quite well in most avenues, especially considering how many messes, large and small, he was left by Donald Trump, who still feels aggrieved at having lost the 2020 election.

The sheer number of bad executive orders Trump made that Biden rescinded quickly, on matters ranging from abortion to education, from land management to border security, and beyond, are a good start. But let’s look at the biggest messes Biden had to clean up, and take a look at how he has handled them.

Let’s start with the biggie: the pandemic.

When Trump left, the FDA begun its reviews of the Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer vaccines and was on the cusp of gaining emergency approval. He left no infrastructure for its distribution. Although the nationwide infrastructure seemed (and at times was) slow to get off the ground, by about April or May, the vaccination process was in full force and we were able to distribute not only within the country but around the world. I challenge anyone to get that going that quickly. And that’s only improved since then. (Witness, for example, the rollout of the government website to allow at-home testing for the COVID virus and compare it to the rollout of Obamacare, or, more recently, the rollout of the new Truth Social platform yesterday).

I’m not sure what Biden could have done about the sheer amount of misinformation out there, but given how many people have gotten vaccinated and then boosted, we’re finally nearing a point where the pandemic is ending, despite the best efforts of the anti-vaccine/anti-mask people out there.

Now let’s talk about what’s arguably Biden’s single biggest misstep: the pullout from Afghanistan. And we can’t deny that things looked quite chaotic on the ground as we pulled out, with people scrambling and running towards departing planes. And that’s not even getting into how quickly the Afghan government fell after we pulled out, which evoked images of Saigon after we pulled out of Vietnam.

But let’s keep in mind that Trump was the one who left the Afghan government out to dry when he negotiated our pullout with the Taliban without paying any attention to the needs or desires of the Afghan government. And yes, the pictures from the actual withdrawal were chaotic, but if you look away from the pictures and look instead at the raw numbers of people we got out of there and how quickly we did it, we should be amazed that there wasn’t more chaos.

Could it have been run more smoothly? Of course. If Trump were still in office, it would have looked ten times worse.

And the messes Trump left Biden only become harder to clean up from here. Let’s start with the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Let’s make things clear. There was absolutely no reason for Trump to withdraw from that deal. His own administration certified that Iran was complying with the terms of the deal, and still pulled out. Why? The only reason I can come up with is it’s because Obama negotiated it. And what happened? Iran restarted its own nuclear program and as a result, they’re closer to developing a nuclear weapon than they’d ever be.

The fact that we’re in the process of renegotiating the deal and, although nothing is a done deal yet, there is legitimate cause for optimism here. Add in the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer in power, and the saber rattling just isn’t there.

And that leaves us with the current situation in Ukraine. I’ve been re-sharing my old op-ed from the Hoya newspaper on social media lately. It’s amazing how much of this article has held up, nearly 28 years after I wrote it. If there’s anything wrong with that article today, it’s (1) that the names of the people involved have changed, and (2) that I only talked about Russian territory surrounding Ukraine and not other less-than-friendly nations that share a border with Ukraine.

I am reasonably sure that Putin felt emboldened to do what he’s been doing because of Trump’s efforts to sow divisions within NATO, likely on Putin’s behalf. Add in the very public spat between the US and France over Australian nuclear submarines (which actually turned out to be a little overblown in the media), and Putin felt the time was right to finish the job he’d started in 2014.

He didn’t expect the unity among NATO members that he encountered, and we can thank Biden for that. I’m only half-joking when I say that if Trump were in the White House right now, I think it likely that Putin would have already taken Kyiv and would likely be looking to move into Warsaw by now.

As with the Iran nuclear deal, we don’t know yet how the crisis with Ukraine will ultimately play out, and things may yet get a lot worse and a lot more dangerous.

But at the very least, it’s good to have a president who not only takes his job seriously, can be described as “competent”, and who actually is trying to clean up the messes left him by Donald Trump.

I’ve occasionally wondered if Lincoln and FDR are considered our greatest presidents on their own merits or because of how much they shine when compared with their respective immediate predecessors. If it’s the latter, then Biden belongs in that same pantheon.

I haven’t seen anyone else talk about this…

Earlier this week, Donald Trump got the news that I’m sure he was dreading. It was inevitable and the only question people who pay attention to these kinds of things, was when.

Simply put, he can’t hide behind executive privilege to shield himself from the committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attempt to overthrow the government, and all records must be turned over to the committee, the Supreme Court ruled.

The ruling itself, was anonymous, as many rulings like this are. Only one member of the court went on the record: Clarence Thomas signed his dissent.

I find that curious. I recognize that there are a lot of exaggerated or unfounded rumors surrounding the activities that day of Ginni Thomas — Clarence’s wife — and I don’t want to give them any more oxygen than they’ve already gotten.

But she did support them, both by providing busses and expressing her support on social media. It’s enough to make you wonder if her husband’s dissent is something to limit criminal exposure. He’s infamous for refusing to recuse himself on cases where it seems he has a conflict of interest.

Clarence Thomas is an embarrassment to himself, the court, and the country. He’s done enough damage. It’s time for him to step down.

Bill Maher has jumped the shark

I have been fan of Bill Maher since he hosted a panel discussion show called Politically Incorrect on the Comedy Central station. I enjoyed watching that show, both on Comedy Central and then after it moved to ABC. After he lost that stint because of a less-than-politic statement about the September 11 terrorists, he got picked up by HBO with a weekly series called Real Time with Bill Maher, which is scheduled to return for its twentieth season tomorrow.

And, for the first time since he started this show, I won’t be watching.

I keep thinking about how Dennis Miller, the Saturday Night Live alumnus who went on to host his own show on HBO before Bill Maher, stopped being funny in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Everyone reacts differently to trauma. With some comedians, that includes ceasing to be funny and acting more like an old man getting angry at the clouds.

That’s what happened with Bill Maher after the COVID pandemic hit. I’m not specifically complaining about the why his show had to adapt to not having an audience in the early days of the pandemic, but that’s undoubtedly where the decline started.

I get it: if you’re a comedian, you need laughter to keep you going, and, without an audience to provide it, that can be pretty devastating. I give him full credit for making the best of the situation at the time.

But he always was at his worst when talking about matters related to health and nutrition. Hell, I called him out on that nearly nine years ago, building on another article that listed him as one of the five most awful atheists out there.

But when so much of the news is dominated by a deadly pandemic, a news-oriented comedy show (or is it a comedic news show?) hosted by someone whose grasp of matters relevant to public health makes for television that can run the gamut from boring to dangerous.

During the most recent season, he uncritically interviewed a conspiracy theorist whose sole argument is that because nobody is talking about the possibility that COVID was engineered as a bioweapon, it must have been so engineered (to which I say that the mortality rate isn’t high enough to be a bioweapon; evolution explains it just as well, and without the baggage of unnecessary assumptions) and then asked Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) if we can declare the pandemic over. (Where the only “fairness points” I’m willing to give him, are that the omicron variant hadn’t been identified yet.)

And on top of that, he has gotten quite cranky lately in his criticism of the Millennial generation. Barely a week went by where he didn’t say something casually dismissive of trends that the younger generations are causing.

And amid all of that, he just stopped being funny. His shows became painful to watch, and even the witty “New Rules”, which were a staple of every season since season 2, seemed dull and uninspired. I still chuckle over the early “new rule” that was taken from an FBI report of teenage and twentysomething girls prostituting themselves in malls so they can make money to buy things in malls. (“I’m lucky if I can find an escalator that goes down” and “If you take your daughter to see the mall Santa and she gets in his lap face first….”)

But those days are long gone. The girls he talked about in that new rule are now in their 30s and 40s, possibly with kids of their own, and he’s ranting about how they are causing a guacamole shortage because they like avocado bread.

Dennis Miller had the sense to realize his time was up in his HBO series before he moved on to other projects (including a very brief stint as a football announcer). I think it’s time Bill Maher did the same.

The evitability of war

Two days before Donald Trump left the White House, I wrote an essay in which I made the argument that he was the worst president in US history. As a part of that essay, I spent a fair amount of time talking about the presidency of James Buchanan, the person who, I believe, was supplanted by Trump as our worst president.

There was one paragraph in that blog entry eleven months ago, that I’ve been thinking about a fair bit, to wit:

If you lived anywhere in America in the mid-1850s, and without regard to your position on slavery, the odds were pretty good that you could tell that Civil War might have been on the horizon, but it wasn’t exactly inevitable. Not yet anyway.

Sure, with the hindsight of history we can say that events like Bleeding Kansas or John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry might have been preludes to the Civil War, but were they obvious in the moment or in their immediate aftermath?

The truth, of course, can be kind of hazy. There is no denying that, for both sides of the slavery issue, compromise became less and less of a viable option. If you’ve seen the musical Hamilton, you know that it was a thorny issue from literally day one of our nascent republic. The very fact that it was written into the constitution that slaves counted as 3/5 of a person for the purpose of counting the population had to stem from some kind of uneasy compromise between, if not pro- and anti-slavery forces, then at least those who wanted to perpetuate the institution and those who were apathetic.

The simple truth, though, is that the civil war happened because of the hatred and animosity between the two sides, that had grown and festered since the founding of the republic. The alternate timeline that I contemplated nearly four years ago was never truly a viable option and we can all acknowledge that. And that animosity really never went away even after the south was defeated. See the pushback today against removing statues that never should have been errected in the first place. (Or been allowed to be erected.)

So the question bears asking: are we headed for another civil war in the next ten to twenty years? There certainly are those who are calling for it.

Let me state up front that it’s not impossible. Last year, Donald Trump openly tried to steal the election and was thwarted at every turn. But if a future iteration of him or one of his ideological heirs apparent actually does steal an election, it might be proper to take up arms.

Laws that are being passed to prevent people from doing their civic duty as citizens, should not be allowed to stand. That’s why we had the Voting Rights Act fifty years ago before it was gutted by the Supreme Court. I’m not denying that voter fraud needs to be curbed and checked, but it’s not happening in any meaningful sense.

Voter fraud is, for lack of a better word, a made-up issue used to justify draconian means. Means that would keep the regressive political party in power despite the fact that they don’t have the numbers to justify their representation.

That party also doesn’t have facts on its side, and that’s problematic, both from the perspective of having an honest debate about, well, anything, but also from the perspective of putting the USA at a competitive disadvantage in economic competition with other countries. Think about it: an underlying tenet of, if not the Republican worldview, then at least the evangelical Christian worldview, is the denial of the facts of evolution. That’s the foundation upon which all of the science of biology has been built. We will not be able to compete with other countries in medical research if we’re not teaching our children that evolution is real.

Is war inevitable? No. But the way the Republican Party is currently progressing, they could lead us either to war or the disintegration of the USA and this grand experiment. The ideal solution to this problem is to defeat them roundly at the ballot box.

Overturning a legal precedent

I’m not a lawyer, but I do make a point of reading some Supreme Court decisions, especially ones that may appear controversial or otherwise provoke a strong emotional reaction. If nothing else, there’s usually something in the decision that is designed to anticipate criticism.

(My favorite example of this is Texas v Johnson, the 1989 ruling that declared that desecration of a flag is constitutionally protected free speech. In that decision, the majority openly questioned why the prosecution chose not to pursue other avenues that undoubtedly would have resulted in a conviction, such as creating a public danger, arson, and related offenses.)

The ruling in Roe v Wade is another one that I encourage everyone to read. The court anticipated criticism from people who feel that it goes against their faith, and responded accordingly. Plus, it was a natural progression from other rulings that go back 20 years or more from prior.

A significant amount of criticism of Roe v Wade from those who wish to see it overturned, is that it’s effectively legislating from the bench, and that so-called activist judges don’t get to make that kind of a call.

I have to roll my eyes at that. The first SCOTUS case that declared a law unconstitutional was Marbury v Madison. Ever since that one, critics of the court have called every case where a law was declared unconstitutional, to be “legislating from the bench.” See Texas v Johnson above.

That said, I’d like to see the right to an abortion enshrined in the law so that that criticism can go away.

Of course, if that criticism goes away, there’s still the debate about stare decisis, the idea of settled law, and what it takes to overturn a prior SCOTUS ruling.

Opponents of abortion will be quick to point to Plessy v Ferguson, the 1896 ruling that held that the concept of “separate but equal” was constitutional, only to be overturned by the 1954 ruling Brown v Board of Education, despite nearly sixty years of Plessy being “settled law”.

That comparison is, at best, disingenuous. In 1896, the fears of the unequal treatment to the freedmen (and women), although not unfounded, were more nebulous, amorphous, and theoretical. It took nearly 60 years of unequal treatment and bigotry to demonstrate that Ferguson’s assurances were just empty words and platitudes.

What has changed about abortion in the nearly 50 years since Roe v Wade was decided? Absolutely nothing. If anything, we have a better understanding of human gestation and medical interventions have more or less underscored that dividing up a pregnancy into three trimesters, as Roe v Wade did, is pretty much correct.

Please see some of my past writings on this topic for more details on the appalling dishonesty related to abortion.

Unfortunately, it does look like Roe v Wade will soon be overturned. If that’s the case, it’s my hope that it outrages enough people that it sweeps all of our antiabortion (which, really, means anti-woman) politicians on all levels in next year’s mid-terms and leads to real constructive change, such as a congressional law that affirms the right to an abortion.

Assuming the republic survives despite the best efforts of the modern Republican Party, it should lead to multiple amendments to the constitution being adopted. That’s not without precedent. The constitution was adopted 232 years ago, and it’s been amended 27 times, but that doesn’t mean an amendment every 8.6 years. The first twelve were passed in the first 15 years after it was adopted. The next three were all in the immediate aftermath of the civil war. The next four were passed in first two decades of the 20th century. Under FDR (or immediately after his death) we passed three more. Four more passed in the 1960s or early 1970s. And the 27th amendment was just there to finish the job started by the first twelve since it was first proposed to be as a part of the Bill of Rights. So what if it took until the mid-1990s to pass.

We’re overdue anyway. It’s time to fix some other glaring issues with the constitution, including that the whims of a corrupt president and a corrupt senate, at the behest of a shady organization could revoke a constitutional right simply because they don’t like the fact that it’s a right.