July 6, 2020

Nominations for the National Garden of American Heroes

In a July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore, President Donald Trump announced plans for a “National Garden of American Heroes” to honor great Americans. The garden is to contain statues—they must be straightforward likenesses of those honored—of the likes of Billy Graham, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Dolley Madison, Ronald Reagan, and Antonin Scalia. A Washington Post story on Mr. Trump’s idea suggests that the proposed list is odd and seems designed to please his own supporters. Of course, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are included, but many other names are unlikely to be at the top of lists compiled by legitimate historians.

If this initiative is really intended to ingratiate Mr. Trump with his ardent supporters—and there is no doubt that this is the case—the list really needs to be more focused on that objective. To that end, and as a service to our president, I offer the off-the-top-of-my-head list of potential honorees below. My list is in no particular order. Perhaps readers can offer additional names:
  1. Jefferson Finis Davis
  2. George Armstrong Custer
  3. Fielding Lewis Wright
  4. Charles Augustus Lindberg
  5. Fred Christ Trump
  6. Roger Brooke Taney
  7. George Corley Wallace Jr.
  8. Phyllis Stewart Schlafly
  9. Jason Gould
  10. Robert Edward Lee
  11. Andrew Jackson
  12. Ayn Rand
  13. Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor
  14. Preston Smith Brooks
  15. Andrew Johnson
  16. Orval Eugene Faubus
  17. Ronald Wilson Reagan
  18. Isabella Maria Boyd
  19. William Jennings Bryan
  20. Joseph Raymond McCarthy
  21. Antonin Gregory Scalia
  22. Charles Edward Coughlin
  23. Jesse Alexander Helms Jr.
  24. James Strom Thurmond Sr.
  25. Rose O’Neal Greenhow
  26. John Caldwell Calhoun
  27. Ross Robert Barnett
I have to admit that I needed to look up some of these people to get their full names. I included no living persons, who surely would not grace the memorial garden—at least, not yet.

No person is totally good or totally bad, of course, so even liberals may find laudable qualities in some of the persons listed. (Perhaps not too many, however.)

The president intends for his garden to educate citizens. Who can argue with this objective? If readers do not recognize all the names above, they can research the accomplishments of these American heroes.

July 1, 2020

Thoughts on the Department of Justice

The United States of America is a nation of law. Or so we were taught in school. We have a venerable Constitution that defines the overall structure of the Republic and a Congress and president that are responsible for enacting laws. We have a judicial system, including a Supreme Court, that interprets the law and relies on the body of laws and judicial opinions developed over more than two centuries.

Justitia by  Maarten van Heemskerk, 1556
Justitia by
Maarten van Heemskerk, 1556
These institutions and resources, though vitally important, underspecify how the country actually works. For example, the Constitution is silent about political parties, yet our two-party system of private entities has become a seemingly essential component of our governing system.

Additionally, American government adheres to many unwritten rules. Votes are countered honestly, at least most of the time. Presidential candidates disclose their medical and financial records before standing for election. Presidential nominees requiring Senate confirmation get a hearing and a vote by the Senate. Presidents, who occasionally are known to shade the truth, are not expected to lie more often than not. The Department of Justice administers federal laws fairly and without favoritism.

Donald Trump and his Republican allies have defied conventions that may not be enshrined in law but which are essential to the workings of the Republic. He refuses to disclose his tax returns and offers laughable excuses for medical information. He fires competent office-holders and replaces them with temporary lackeys. He lies to the public, often seemingly for the sheer sport of it.

Most distressingly, the convention of a Department of Justice enforcing the rule of law and representing the interests of the United States before the courts has been conspicuously violated. Under President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr has led a Department of Justice intent on protecting the president, his friends, and his personal interests. Readers can easily enumerate the myriad ways in which Mr. Barr has acted as the president’s fixer, rather than an advocate for the rule of law and for the interests of the United States.

One hopes that, in November, President Trump will fail in his re-election bid, and, in January, President Biden will fire Mr. Barr and nominate a more conventional Attorney General. We should ask what we can do to avoid ever having another Attorney General like William Barr.

Assuring the independence of the Department of Justice is difficult. Although it seems as though William Barr is doing everything the president wants him to do, it is not really clear that he is taking his orders from the chief executive. Mr. Barr seems to hold the view that the president can do just about anything, and his interests override those of everyone else and of the country generally. He never should have been confirmed by the Senate.

The view of the presidency held by William Barr is, happily, a minority one. One hopes that the Senate will, in the future, assure that no one with such an anti-democratic view will be approved as Attorney General. (Actually, senators had every reason to expect Mr. Barr to act as he has, despite his less than candid answers before the Senate.)

What is needed (and the best we can do) is a mechanism to assure that justice is administered fairly and without influence by the president.

Ideally, I think, the Department of Justice should become a fourth branch of government, headed by an Attorney General appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The Attorney General should have a fixed term, perhaps of 10 years, and be removable for cause only through impeachment by the Congress. The advantages of this organization should be immediately apparent. Although this would be a logical arrangement, it is unlikely to be implemented, as doing so would require a constitutional amendment.

Perhaps a not-too-dissimilar organization would work nearly as well based on something like the Federal Reserve model. Presidents invariably try to influence the Federal Reserve, but usually without success. Of course, the Fed is protected from presidential influence in part because the president does not control who all the decision-makers are. Nonetheless, the Department of Justice could be restructured a largely autonomous body with a fixed-term leader insulated against arbitrary dismissal.

I  don’t have a fully worked-out plan for Justice, but I do think the above ideas should be given some consideration. The rule of law in the United States is under threat, and we need to do something about it.

Note: As it happens, today is the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Justice. Most people assume Justice it is much older. Its beginnings and thoughts about its possible future are offered in a Washington Post editorial that can be read here.

June 28, 2020

A 51-Star Flag

I have long been ambivalent about giving statehood to the District of Columbia. Clearly, the District is “different” from the existing 50 states, but the same sort of argument was made against statehood for Alaska and Hawaii. Whereas the last two states added to the Union were non-contiguous with the rest of the country, D.C. is special in other ways. Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution grants Congress the power to legislate for a district carved out from other states to be the seat of the government, a parcel “not exceeding ten Miles square.” (The actual area of the District of Columbia is just over 68 square miles, well under the 100 square mile stipulation of the Constitution.)

Residents of the District cannot vote for president and vice president, and they have neither senators nor voting representatives in the House. Yet, there are more than700,000 such souls, and they have long called for their being fully-enabled citizens of these United States. The population of the District exceeds that of Wyoming and Vermont. At this moment, when the country seems to be realizing that black lives do indeed matter, statehood has become especially pressing, as more than 45% of the residents of Washington are black. The Republican-led Senate will surely oppose statehood for the federal district, but a Democratic Senate, House, and White House, come 2021, almost certainly will enact it.

In fact, the House of Representatives passed a statehood bill, H.R. 51, on June 19. It would maintain a federal district mandated by the Constitution consisting only of federal buildings and monuments. The rest of the present District of Columbia would become Washington, Douglas Commonwealth, named for Frederick Douglass, the long-dead abolitionist whom Donald Trump opined has “done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more.” (Douglas spent the last 17 years of his life, which ended in 1895, in Washington.) It is unclear how we will speak of the federal government should the District be given statehood. “Washington” will refer to the current District of Columbia less government property.  Will be speak instead of “D.C”? “Columbia” refers, of course, to Columbus, whose star has lost its luster of late, so I don’t know how long “District of Columbia” is viable in a woke U.S. Time will tell.

The proposed name is a bit odd, of course, but needs to be distinguished from the other Washington on the Pacific coast. The proposed state would not be alone in having a long name. Rhode Island is technically the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a name legislators are newly attempting to shorten. Whereas “the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” can easily and unambiguously become “Rhode Island,” Washington, Douglas Commonwealth, cannot so simply be abbreviated without ambiguity. However, we speak of “Washington” all the time, and context indicates which Washington is intended. “Washington, Douglas Commonwealth,” allows “Washington, D.C.,” to continue to be proper nomenclature, albeit not, technically, for the seat of government of the United States. Were that not an advantage of the House proposal, perhaps East Washington could have been the name of the new state, analogous to the names of the Carolinas and Dakotas.

Republicans, of course, are unconcerned with democracy or the proper treatment of downtrodden minorities. They are only concerned with the fact that Washington, D.C., is largely Democratic and that statehood will likely add two Democratic senators and a Democratic representative to Congress. Given that other features of the Constitution that help Republicans by giving unrepresentative power to rural domains are unlikely to be changed any time soon, the addition of Washington, Douglas Commonwealth, will go a little way toward making Congress and the White House more truly representative.

I have worried about the state of our flag should another state be added to the Union. Admittedly, although 48 stars seemed perfect, the 49-star flag is acceptable. Perhaps it is even improved aesthetically by being a little less regimented. I really had not considered how to fit 51 stars onto the flag, but others have. Here is the most promising design, one most in keeping with recent versions of the U.S. flag:

The above design is courtesy of the Flag Institute. It looks pretty good, no?

June 27, 2020

Shirley Jackson Day 2020

Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson
“The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.”

Thus begins the most famous story written by Shirley Hardie Jackson (1916–1965), “The Lottery.” The short story was published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker and is infamous for the angry letters and canceled subscriptions it provoked.

“The Lottery” was my introduction to Jackson, who is known mostly for her horror and mystery works. Her well-crafted and shocking story led me to read her two best-known novels, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Haunting of Hill House. I’ve also read her humorous memoirs Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, the savages and demons in question being her four children. Jackson was a prolific writer, and I have many more of her works on my reading list.

Jackson spent much of her life in North Bennington, Vermont, a town that she reputedly had in mind when writing “The Lottery.” Nevertheless, North Bennington has celebrated Shirley Jackson Day in recent years every June 27. As a result of the current pandemic, Shirley Jackson Day is to be a virtual event in 2020. For those of us who do not live in Vermont, this is an unexpected blessing, as we can experience readings from her works on the Internet. Details of the event can be found here. The celebration begins at 7 pm EDT.

June 15, 2020

Our Honored Confederate Generals

President Trump has been adamant in his opposition to renaming military installations carrying the names of generals of the Confederate States of America. He justified the continued memorialization of these traitors to the American Republic via Twitter:
It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!
As usual, our president is tone-deaf and obsessed with displaying his manhood.

Sign at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Bases were named after Confederate generals as a sop to the South. More than a century and a half after the conclusion of the Civil War, however, it is time to celebrate the Union and to consign the Confederacy and its champions to the graveyard of morally corrupt ideas. If a base is renamed, its history, however storied, does not disappear, but only its association with the cause of slavery

Some will assert that base names don’t matter. I freely admit that, during my brief Army career, it never occurred to me to ask after whom the bases to which I was assigned were named. Having recently become an issue brought to light through the continuing racism revealed in police murders of black citizens, racism clearly not obliterated by Union victory in the Civil War, the celebration of military traitors can no longer be ignored. Among the bases named for those who led troops against the United States are some very substantial installations. The bases are:
  • Fort Hood, Texas, named for General John Bell Hood
  • Fort Lee, Virginia, named for General Robert E. Lee
  • Fort Bragg, North Carolina, named for General Braxton Bragg
  • Fort A.P. Hill, named for Lieutenant General A.P. Hill
  • Fort Pickett, Virginia, named for the hapless Major General George Pickett
  • Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, named for General P.G.T. Beauregard
  • Fort Gordon, Georgia, named for Major General John Brown Gordon
  • Fort Polk, Louisiana, named for Major General Leonidas Polk, a former Episcopal bishop
  • Fort Rucker, Alabama, named for General Edmund Rucker
  • Fort Benning, Georgia, named for Brigadier General Henry L. Benning
Naming installations after enemies of the nation is ridiculous on its face. Apparently, it seemed to make sense at one time. If we are to accept this self-flagellatory process, why stop at celebrating Confederate generals? Here is a short list of names for President Trump to consider:
  • Fort Benedict Arnold
  • Fort Aaron Burr
  • Port Aldrish Ames
  • Julius & Ethel Rosenberg National Laboratory
  • Camp John Brown (admittedly somewhat ambiguous)
Of course, the president will neither use these names nor assent to changing the names of bases named for Confederate generals. The military or Congress may do the job for him, if not soon, then once a new president is in office. Perhaps a promise to do so should be in the Democratic platform this year.

June 4, 2020

Trump Really Doesn’t Seek to Divide Americans

It is often said that Donald Trump seeks to divide Americans rather than unite them. His actions certainly have that effect. Nevertheless, I don’t think that division of Americans is really Trump’s objective.

Donald J. Trump
Donald Trump knows in his heart that he is a minority president, that most people dislike him and everything he stands for. But he is who he is, and Mr. Trump is not about to pander to the majority, which frankly hates his guts. Instead, everything he does is intended to please his base, those folks who think like him and, in most cases, adore him. He is terrified of losing any of these people because he has no talent or inclination to win over Americans who are not already devoted to him.

Dividing Americans is not really a good political strategy, either for winning elections or for governing. But Donald Trump has discovered, probably much to his surprise, that, with a devoted following and substantial help from our undemocratic electoral system, he can win a national election. In 2020, however, the voters disdained by the president are more strongly motivated than they were in 2016.

Let us hope that Mr. Trump’s perverse strategy doesn’t work twice.

May 27, 2020

A Son’s Tribute

When his mother and my former wife, Betty Deimel, died, my son, Geoffrey August Deimel, wrote a tribute to his mother on Facebook the next day. With permission and minor editing, I have reproduced his essay below. My own tribute to Betty can be found here.
Many of you—particularly those who knew me in my Pittsburgh or Annapolis days—knew my mother, Betty Deimel. After battling an infection (not COVID) for the last several weeks, she succumbed to her illness late last night [May 21], dying in a hospital here in the Finger Lakes.

Her last few years were difficult. She had been quite sick for a very long time with a complex of conditions that became progressively more debilitating ever since she suffered an embolism in 2006.  I don’t think she ever felt truly herself again after that incident.

As much as my final years with her made an impression—and left their scars—I can already tell that they will fade. Instead, I will remember her as the mother I knew when I was growing up. The one who was so dynamic and hopeful.  The activist and rabble-rouser.  The social justice warrior. The political operator who organized for the ERA and marched with Dr. King. My mom gave me my confidence, my politics, and many of my ways of engaging with the world. She was a great parent, always doting and loving. She always had time for me despite a hectic career and dealing with her own considerable difficulties.

The picture below is from a book on the Women’s Movement.  There’s my mom on the right side.  And that’s my little head, in the snuggly on her chest. That’s the mom I’ll remember, the one I’ll forever miss.

Betty at march for the ERA

Betty Deimel (May 6, 1948–May 21, 2020)

Betty Deimel, the former Betty Elaine Lovell, died in a hospital in Canandaigua, New York last Thursday. She apparently died of a bacterial infection and was not a COVID-19 victim. Our son, Geoffrey August Deimel, and his wife, Sara Marie Wagner, were in attendance when the end came. I had visited the day before, when a family friend, the Rev. Vicki Wesen, led Ministration at the Time of Death via Zoom. Betty was unresponsive for our visits, and, until Wednesday afternoon, had been on a ventilator.

Betty had been rushed to F.F. Thompson Hospital when she could not be roused for breakfast May 9 at the Ontario Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, where she had been living. She had suffered various medical problems for some time. Problems became increasingly serious in 2006, and she became unable to work. Her son and daughter-in-law had brought her to the Finger Lakes from the Chicago area to offer her better care.

Betty with son August
Betty with son August
Geneva, New York, August 2018
Betty and I met at the University of Chicago, where she was an English major a year behind me. We got to know one another at my Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house. She was dating a fraternity brother a year ahead of me. Like me, he was a physics major. When Boyfriend-Number-One graduated, Betty and I began to see more of one another and became square dance partners. (Square dancing was not mainstream at Chicago.) After my graduation, we wrote to one another and had a few opportunities to meet. Two-and-a-half years later, we were married on the Chicago campus, by which time, I was in the Army fighting the Vietnam War with my clarinet.

Betty had wanted to be a children’s librarian and earned her library degree from the University of Hawaii while I was stationed in Honolulu. After we moved to Atlanta to allow me to continue my graduate studies, Betty landed a temporary position at Emory University as a reference librarian. She loved the job, but her failure to be offered a permanent position changed the direction of her career. She earned a second master’s degree, in public administration, at Georgia State University. In Raleigh, North Carolina, she held an administrative position with the National Association of Attorneys General before becoming an owner and worker at a startup canvas works. She also became a mother in Raleigh. Later, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, she worked in the development office of Allegheny College.

In 1987, Betty joined the technical staff of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. (I joined the SEI a few months later.) She stayed at that job for a decade before forming her own consulting firm, Gateway Associates, to continue the work she had been doing at the SEI. Her work was directed at software process improvement and involved a good deal of travel, including several stints in Australia.

Betty and Lionel at the wedding of August and Sara
Betty and me at the wedding of August and Sara
Annapolis, Maryland, June 2008
So much for the obvious facts. Who was Betty? I’m sure many of her friends would call her a people person. She was a sensitive, caring extrovert, and many mutual friends were surprised when she married me, who was, at least at the time, a not-very-sensitive (if slightly romantic) introvert. Moreover, I was an intellectual and academic, and she was mildly disdainful of those things. She was a person who remembered birthdays and sought out gifts she could give for no obvious reason.

Also, Betty was a liberal, and I was a conservative Republican from New Orleans. We were both interested in politics but seldom let our differences get in the way of our relationship. Betty did convince me not to vote for Nixon in 1968, and I eventually became a committed liberal pretty much on my own. Betty became a feminist, a development that didn’t trouble me, but we clashed over the Equal Rights Amendment. She marched for the ERA; I wrote a letter to the editor against it. Betty was right, and she simply indulged me at the time. Betty also helped elect the first female mayor of Raleigh,

When I was on the faculty at North Carolina State University, we met Don and Vicki Wesen. Don was in animal science and worked with cows. Vicki volunteered as librarian at her Episcopal church. She became good friends with Betty and enlisted her help in organizing the church library. Perhaps not surprisingly, their conversation eventually turned to religion. Vicki was surprised to learn that her friend was not a Christian, having grown up nominally Unitarian. “But you’re the most Christian person I know,” Vicki remarked, presumably based on Betty’s demeanor. As a birthday president, Vicki arranged for Betty to have talks with her priest. This eventually led to both Betty and Geoffrey being baptized. Betty and I were later confirmed in the Episcopal Church. I discovered that the Episcopal Church was the church I had been looking for.

It always seemed surprising that Betty had such success at the SEI and later in her post-SEI career. She had been working with computers since her Georgia State days and was comfortable with computers, having used SPSS and assorted administrative software. I suppose that being married to me also gave her some useful familiarity with technical people. Anyway, she joked about helping software engineers get in touch with their feelings. Mostly, she taught them to be disciplined, something that often doesn’t come naturally to programmers. It was Betty’s communication and interpersonal skills that made her successful in an area far removed from library science.

Most especially, Betty was a planner and a doer. She built a career by making the most of unexpected developments. She led a troop of blind Brownies in Raleigh. She planned the renovation of the kitchen in our newly purchased Mt. Lebanon home. She planned parties and vacations, and she planned psychological exercises for use by our church. She helped individuals by administering and interpreting their Myers–Briggs inventory, an activity for which she actually had credentials. She arranged for Geoffrey to attend a prestigious Anglican boarding school in Australia for a term. She planned how we could finance our son’s college expenses.

We never did return to square dancing, and our dalliance with ballroom dancing was fleeting. We did some hiking in Hawaii, but that was more my thing than hers. We both were movie buffs. Betty was on the board of film society in Raleigh, and we even attended an AFI event in Williamsburg, Virginia. Besides parenting, music probably brought us together more than anything. In Pittsburgh, we enjoyed the symphony, ballet, and opera. We also sang together for many years in the chancel choir of St. Paul‘s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon. Betty took some piano lessons but didn’t stick with it.

For reasons I never completely understood, Betty wanted to live near water and wanted to sail. That and her concern that I would not be able to deal with her medical problems led to our separation and eventual divorce. She planned even that to be as minimally disruptive as possible to everyone’s life. Betty moved to Annapolis, Maryland, and bought a house within shouting distance of a cove that opened into Chesapeake Bay. Alas, her health never allowed her to fully realize her dream, and her life near the water was short-lived.

Her final years were a constant struggle simply to muddle through. Betty moved back to the Chicago area but never achieved a stable living situation. She never lost hope for better times, but she could not overcome her infirmities. In the Finger Lakes, she experienced stability if not happiness. We have remained friends, and I will miss her.

Rest in peace, Betty Deimel, and rise in glory.

May 15, 2020

What Republicans Believe

Trump supporters do not think like the rest of us. They share many odd and dysfunctional views. Although they are not uniform in their opinions, even those ideas not universally held are nonetheless widely believed. Because Donald Trump has effectively reshaped the Republican Party in his own image, characterizing Trump supporters characterizes the GOP itself.

It’s important that we understand what Republicans stand for. Those who see no difference between Democrats and Republicans are fooling themselves. Republicans intend to destroy the United States that came of age in the decades following World War II.

Below, I have created a list of the notions widely held among Republicans. I may have exaggerated a bit, but not a lot. This list was not difficult to construct, but I cannot claim that it’s comprehensive. If your view of the world includes most of the ideas enumerated, you are, or should be, a Republican. If you reject most of these ideas, you are, or should be, something else, most likely a Democrat.

A caveat: Republican officeholders often act in self-serving ways that may not be consistent with their stated opinions. (Remember what Lord Acton said.)

Keep this list in mind when you vote in November.
  • Donald Trump is a very stable genius.
  • Fox News is the most reliable source of information.
  • The United States spends too much money on the defense of other nations.
  • The world is not getting warmer.
  • Deaths from the coronavirus are much exaggerated.
  • The crowd that attended Trump’s inauguration was the largest in history.
  • Public schools expose children to government propaganda.
  • Democrats are in the pocket of Wall Street.
  • U.S. elections are rife with voter fraud.
  • People on welfare should have to work to receive benefits.
  • Wind turbines cause cancer.
  • Widespread possession of guns makes everyone safer.
  • Republicans are the guardians of fiscal responsibility.
  • Russia is a friendly nation.
  • The FBI is corrupt.
  • The U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.
  • Trump was elected despite an illegal plot by Obama to undermine his campaign.
  • The United States should not be the world’s policeman.
  • Illegal immigrants commit crimes and drain public resources.
  • Saudi Arabia is a strong ally and a valuable business customer.
  • Obamacare threatens our freedom.
  • Congress has no legitimate power over the president or his administration.
  • Abortions cause depression in women who have them.
  • Our nation is properly led by white people.
  • Vaccines cause autism.
  • Even legal immigration is a threat to our nation.
  • Donald Trump is our greatest president since George Washington.
  • Recovery from a coronavirus infection confers lifetime immunity.
  • Minimum-wage laws cause unemployment and pay some people more than they’re worth.
  • Fetuses should have the same rights as everyone else.
  • Bill Barr is our greatest attorney general.
  • Religious schools deserve as much public support as public schools.
  • Unions are inimical to free enterprise.
  • Government regulations depress our economy.
  • Israel needs to control all of Palestine to secure its safety from the terrorists who surround it.
  • Journalists are enemies of the people.
  • Muslims are terrorists.
  • Democrats exaggerated the coronavirus pandemic to harm Donald Trump.
  • Senators and Representatives of the president’s party are obliged to support their president.
  • The “real” U.S. is rural and agrarian, not urban.
  • The supply of fossil fuels is virtually inexhaustible. 
  • The Democratic Party is effectively a socialist party.
  • Military spending benefits everyone.
  • Government officials are poorly paid and should use their positions to make money on the side.
  • No president has endured as much undeserved criticism as Donald Trump.
  • The United States Postal Service unfairly competes with services such as FedEx and UPS.
  • Illegal aliens should be deported irrespective of how long they have been in the country.
  • Supporting the United Nations is largely a waste of money.
  • The coronavirus threat has been neutralized through widespread quarantining.
  • U.S. intelligence services are incompetent.
  • The country is too accepting of perverts.
  • Democrats have a visceral and unjustified hatred of Donald Trump.
  • Taxes should be reduced to discourage government overreach.
  • Drug users deserve to be in jail.
  • The government should not subsidize the “arts.”
  • Kim Jong-un only seems hostile because North Korea has not been treated well by the U.S.
  • Too many people escape criminal punishment on technicalities.
  • Free trade invariably harms U.S. interests.
  • Blacks commit most of the crime in this country.
  • Donald Trump always speaks the truth.
  • The United States is the greatest country on earth.
  • People should take responsibility for their own health care.
  • Churches and corporations should be allowed to endorse political candidates.
  • The CDC is particularly hostile to President Trump.
  • Government workers are an impediment to needed change.
  • The #MeToo movement gets too much attention.
  • Building the wall on our southern border should be completed at all costs.
  • God, in his munificence, made Trump president.
  • The Federal Reserve should be controlled by the president.
  • Freedom to act on one’s religious beliefs is our most important civil right. (Well, maybe not quite as important as the right to bear arms.)
  • Many universities undermine our nation’s ideals.
  • Bilateral trade agreements allow us to impose our interests on other countries.
  • Jared Kushner is a multitalented genius.
  • The WHO favors China as opposed to the United States.
  • The moon landing was faked.
  • The world is flat.

May 6, 2020

Sorry, Nancy

Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi
On August 4, 2018, I wrote a post titled “The Wisdom of Dumping Pelosi.” I argued that Nancy Pelosi, who was then minority leader in the House of Representatives, had become a lightning rod for Republican criticism. I suggested that her reputation among Republicans could have negative consequences in the upcoming congressional elections.

I am writing this post today to apologize for that earlier essay. I mistakenly suggested that Pelosi’s negatives among Republicans could have consequences analogous to those of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of course, this concern was much overblown. Clinton was widely disliked by citizens of all stripes, and that attitude clearly affected presidential votes. Pelosi, however, was only running in her own district, and her influence on congressional elections generally was likely slight.

Even were Pelosi’s remaining as minority leader a negative influence for Democrats in their various races, it turns out that Ms. Pelosi is an enormous asset to the party. She is, in fact, one of the most—perhaps the most—talented politician on the national scene. It would have been a tragedy to lose her talents in the House.

Republican operatives will smear any Democrat they view as a threat to their exercise of power. If Ms. Pelosi were “dumped,” as I suggested, Republicans would easily have found other Democrats and other Democratic policies to trash.

The Democrats did not dump Pelosi, and we are better off for it. To Nancy Pelosi, I can only say, “I’m sorry.”

May 5, 2020

The Coronavirus and Meat-Processing Plants

I just saw a news report of another coronavirus outbreak at a pork-processing plant. It’s time to think more carefully about the significance of such outbreaks, which are becoming all-to-common and, potentially, are threatening our meat supply.

When it is discovered that, say, a pork-processing plant has hundreds of coronavirus-infected workers in a town that was not thought to be greatly threatened by the current pandemic, we should be worried. News and commentary have suggested that plant workers will go to their homes and infect family members or other people they encounter. This is assuredly a threat.

But the situation is worse than we might imagine. How did so many workers become infected in the first place? Surely, the virus did not come into the plant in hog carcasses. Instead, one or more employees must have brought the virus into the workplace, and that person or persons were in close contact with co-workers on the processing line. In other words, the virus was circulating in the area before the outbreak occurred in the plant. That plant, however, was a perfect incubator for multiplying infections.

We must stop thinking of outbreaks of coronavirus in meat-processing plants as isolated incidents. Instead, they are canaries in the coal mine. We need to ramp up testing rapidly to discover how desperate matters actually are.

May 4, 2020

In Praise of the Diaeresis

I recently encountered a Facebook post that collected several English language quirks. One of my favorite items asked whether the “s” or the “c” of “scent” is silent. (Think about that one.) Another noted that you can drink a drink, but you cannot food a food. (Likewise, you can exit and exit, but you cannot entrance an entrance.)

Most of the observations in the post were clever, but I found one upsetting:
Why are Zoey and Zoe pronounced the same but Joey and Joe aren’t?
By normal English orthographic rules, one expects that the final “e” in “Zoe” should be silent. Thus, “Zoe” should be pronounced as though it were rendered as “Zo,” which, of course, is not pronounced the same as “Zoey.”

There are people named Zoe who pronounce their name using a single syllable. Most people named Zoe, however, pronounce their name as though it were spelled “Zoey.” Other folks render their name as “Zoë.” This last spelling, I assert, is the correct one for the common two-syllable name.

The two dots above the “e” in “Zoë” are not, as some assume, an umlaut, an identical-looking diacritical mark much used in German. English readers most often encounter umlauts in German names, for example, Schröder or Müller. The umlaut indicates that the vowel over which it sits is pronounced differently than it would be in the absence of the diacritical mark. Generally, the sounds indicated by umlauts represent sounds absent in ordinary English. One of the skills one must learn in a German course is how to pronounce these modified vowels. It does not come naturally.

What the unlaut-looking mark in Zoë is is a diaeresis. Rather than telegraphing that the indicated vowel is pronounced in a special fashion, the diaeresis signals that it is to be pronounced individually, rather than being silent or being a participant in a diphthong. Thus, Zoë is pronounced Zo-e. Diaereses are uncommon in English, but the crop up in familiar names such as Chloë and Brotë. Noël, naïve, and naïf may all be seen with diaereses, though the mark is sometimes dropped.

Americans are not fond of odd symbols creeping into their spelling. Thus, words like “rail-road” becomes “railroad,” and “e-mail” becomes “email,” an abomination an electronic neophyte might be tempted to pronounce em-ail. Likewise, “naïve” may be simplified to “naive” out of ignorance, laziness, or inability to render “ï” using a keyboard. Words with which we have become familiar tend to lose their diacritical marks in most writing. Thus, we have the familiar spelling of “cooperate,” which, according to normal English pronunciation rules should be sounded as coop-er-ate. Through repetition, we have learned to ignore the fact that the spelling of this word is actually goofy. The New Yorker and I—and practically no one else— always render this word as “coöperate,” which, I proudly assert, is the only literate spelling. (“Co-operate” is an acceptable alternative for the diaeresis-phobic.)

Although it is seldom called into action, the diaeresis is useful for clarifying how words are to be pronounced, and it is a shame when they disappear. It is worth noting, however, that there are words that would seem to demand the diaeresis but which have never had one. Why isn’t “aorta” written as “aörta”? The answer probably is that “ao” is not recognized as a diphthong, making a-or-ta the only reasonable pronunciation. Tragically, “preaortic“ is also a word, over which the medically naïve might easily stumble.

I conclude with some thoughts about another word. In the world of e-commerce—please, God, do not let this word become ecommerce—one sometimes pre-orders an item such as a book. With increased usage, this word may become “preörder” and, finally, “preorder.” You have likely seen this final form already. Shouldn't the word really be “preörder”?

April 28, 2020

How to Do It

We may not always want to admit it, but our behavior is influenced by what we see in the media. When we see beautiful and seemingly competent people doing even everyday things, we feel that we should be doing things the same way. This is easier said than done. Let me offer three examples.

In the commercials, we see attractive women washing their faces with some promoted brand of soap—or should I say, “beauty bar.” Then the person in the commercial puts her two hands together and deftly collects water that she then splashes elegantly across her face to remove the soap—beauty bar—residue. Somehow, I cannot seem to master this procedure. If I use both hands to collect my rinse water, when I lift my face, the water drips down my shirt because I don’t have a towel handy. The towel rack is too far away to reach with my head down, and, should I put a towel on my shoulder before rinsing off the soap, it will likely fall into the sink. Instead, I keep a towel in one hand and use a single hand to collect rinse water. More than one hand’s worth of water is invariably required. My method works, but it lacks the elegance of what I see on television.

Then there’s the matter of brushing my teeth. At the suggestion of my dentist, I bought an electric toothbrush. I am reasonably convinced that it does a better job of cleaning my teeth than I was able to do with a manual toothbrush. In television commercials, models use their electric toothbrushes smiling and generally looking both beautiful and capable. How hard can using a toothbrush that does most of the work for you be? I haven’t worked on the smiling part—I’m not a perpetual smiler anyway—but I would at least like to look neat. Instead, the brushing procedure seems to produce a foam of toothpaste that I cannot keep completely in my mouth. Instead, it leaks out, making me look like I have rabies. Not a pretty look.

Finally, there is the simple matter of removing a tee-shirt. YouTube hosts a demonstration of what, reputedly, is the fastest way of doing so. It only uses one hand, sort of. I don‘t think that many people use this technique, which looks more like a magic trick than an elegant lifestyle skill learned in charm school. No, what appears to be the standard way one is supposed to remove one’s shirt is to cross your arms, grasp the hem of the shirt with each hand, and pull up, thereby removing the shirt over one’s head. In Equus, Jill performed this maneuver so effortlessly before Alan, revealing that she was wearing nothing underneath. I, however, cannot pull this off. (Pardon the pun.) When I get my arms halfway up, my shirt kind of gets stuck. I can remove the shirt in the end, but I don’t look at all cool. In practice, I pull my shirt at the neck and pull it over my head.

I’m sure there are other everyday tasks I’m not good at, but those described above are the ones that most seem to bug me. Do others share my disabilities?

The Great States

She is hardly the only person to use the locution, but Rachel Maddow repeatedly refers to a state as “The Great State of [wherever].” (I haven’t caught her referring to “The Great Commonwealth of [wherever],” but, then again, I don’t know why Arizona is a state, and Massachusetts is a commonwealth. What is a commonwealth anyway? For what it’s worth, the official seal of Pennsylvania refers to “The State of Pennsylvania,” but the governor’s seal carries a “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” label. Crazy, but you can look it up!)

Clearly, “The Great State” is intended as a kind of honorific, though it isn’t clear why Ms. Maddow (or anyone else) needs to be so deferential toward a state. Moreover, she seems to be indiscriminate in her usage; she will talk about both “The Great State of California” and “The Great State of Mississippi.” One can perhaps make a case for California’s being a great state, but the corresponding case for Mississippi is, shall we say, weak. Perhaps the objective is to avoid giving Fox News a reason to claim that one state or another—probably one with a Republican governor—was defamed on her show. As for me, if I ever speak about “The Great State of Mississippi,” it is likely that I am being ironic.

I find this “great state” business tiresome. Perhaps at the present moment, however, we have a legitimate way to distinguish great states from not-so-great states. New York, with its Democratic governor who is clearly concerned about the welfare of the state’s people generally and of the well-being of its medical facilities and staffs particularly, would seem to argue, along with other facts, for speaking of “The Great State of New York.” Georgia, with its Republican governor who is eager to resume “normal” economic activity without any cause to believe that coronavirus infections will not massively increase, probably does not deserve to be called “The Great State of Georgia.”

April 27, 2020

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev

Today is the129th anniversary of the birth of Russian composer Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev. Well, maybe it is, anyway. The composer apparently thought he was born on April 11, 1891, O.S. Russia was slow to modernize its calendar, and that date corresponded to April 23, 1891, in the West. His birth certificate, examined after his March 5, 1953, death, indicated that he actually had been born on April 15, O.S., or April 27 on our calendar. Although the date of Prokofiev’s birth is ambiguous, the date of his death certainly is not. The composer had the misfortunate to die on the same day that Joseph Stalin met his demise. Needless to say, the Soviet dictator got more press than did the Soviet musician.

Prokofiev in New York in 1918
Prokofiev in New York in 1918
I was excited when I got my first phonograph capable of playing LPs. The Montgomery Ward player came with a 10-inch recording comprising a collection of various classical compositions. I had seen Fantasia sometime earlier, and I began building my classical collection immediately with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. I discovered that the main library in New Orleans lent not only books but also records. For some reason I do not recall, I checked out a recording of Malcolm Frager playing Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto. It was a Grammy-nominated recording, although I didn’t know that at the time and probably didn’t even know what a Gammy was. Anyway, I listened to the concerto over and over, discovering that I liked it and, at some level, believed that I understood it.

The Frager recording later became the first Prokofiev I’ve owned. Since then, I have accumulated recordings of most of the Prokofiev compositions that have been recorded. Early on, my collection required buying Soviet recordings of less familiar pieces, but these have been superseded by more modern LPs and CDs. Apparently, Prokofiev’s music has increased in popularity in recent years. In Pittsburgh, I have even been able to attend performances of Prokofiev orchestral compositions and ballets. My collection also includes books by and about the composer.

Many people know at least a few Prokofiev compositions, though they may not even know the name Sergei Prokofiev. His best-known piece is Peter and the Wolf, which, though charming and often performed, is hardly characteristic of Prokofiev’s oeuvre. Similarly uncharacteristic is his First, or “Classical,” Symphony. The symphony was written without the use of a piano and was intended to be the sort of orchestral composition Haydn might have written were he transported to the twentieth century. Somewhat more typical of Prokofiev’s work is the march from his opera The Love for Three Oranges. This piece became popular not from the opera itself but from its use as the theme song for the fifties radio drama The FBI in Peace and War.

It is difficult to definitively characterize Prokofiev’s music. He is most often cited for his “motoristic” rhythms and his lyricism, seemingly contradictory properties. His harmonies are distinctive—his son suggested that he wrote “normal” music and then “Prokofievized” it—as is his propensity to change keys in surprising ways. I think of Prokofiev as the inheritor and developer of the nineteenth-century romantic tradition uncontaminated by excursions into such oddities as twelve-tone serialism.

One of Prokofiev’s greatest musical contributions is his collection of nine piano sonatas. (A fragment of an unfinished tenth sonata remained at the time of his death.) He was a successful concert pianist for much of his life and had a deep understanding of the instrument and its potential. His Third Piano Concerto and Fifth Sympathy are much admired—certainly the most popular of their respective genres—though I am fonder of the aforementioned Second Concerto and Seventh Sympathy. (The second movement of the Second Piano Concerto is a perfect example of a breathless Prokofiev scherzo, by the way.) Prokofiev’s ballet music, particularly from his later ballets—Romeo and JulietCinderella, and The Story of the Stone Flower—is truly wonderful and often moving. Finally, I should mention that Prokofiev wrote several film scores, the most notable of which was for Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky. The film music was later turned into a cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra. The mezzo-soprano solo, “The Field of the Dead,” a lament for a dead lover, is achingly beautiful.

As I seek to conclude this essay, I am reminded of other Prokofiev pieces that deserve mention, many of them favorites. I did not set out to produce an annotated catalog of the composer’s music, however. To celebrate the birthday, why not listen to some of Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev’s music. If you own no recordings, YouTube can provide you with a good many options.

Happy listening!

April 21, 2020

Is It Time to Return to “Normal”?

The president is eager to “open up” the economy, and governors—not all of them Republican—are beginning to relax regulations designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Plans to return much of society to “normal” are being made recklessly, without first satisfying the prerequisites either of the World Health Organization or even of the looser requirements articulated by President Trump himself.

I suspect that the president is engaged in his usual magical thinking. Sheltering at home was an extreme measure designed to eliminate coronavirus infections. Now that we’ve largely done that, we can resume life in relative safety. Sick people have been taken to hospitals, from which they will emerge either cured or dead. People resuming their normal lives will have little occasion to encounter foreign carriers—international travel is virtually shut down—and will intuitively avoid the conspicuously ill. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot could go wrong.

We need to think about where infections are coming from. Many hospital workers or workers in nursing homes and similar facilities are being infected by their patients or clients. But infection is an occupational hazard affecting a small segment of the population.

Where are other infections coming from? Who knows? People are developing COVID-19 in states with shelter-at-home orders and in places without such orders. Meatpacking plants are significant sources of virus outbreaks now, and plant workers will infect family members and members of the public at large.

In this country, we have been obsessed with testing those who are sick. If people are sick enough, however, they don’t need a coronavirus test to tell them to go to the hospital. (Hospitals, on the other hand, do need to know who is infected in order to discourage the spread of the virus.) If people are only moderately sick, it is to be hoped that they will, as fas as possible, self-isolate. China took the isolation of such people seriously, even from their families. Sadly, we have not done that.

Problematic are infected and infectious people who are asymptomatic. These people may be sheltering in place in states like my own or walking about in states that have eschewed systematic isolation. They are the people who will create the next wave of COVID-19 cases when restrictions on public movement are lifted, or they may even be creating that wave now.

In reality, we don’t know when infected people are infectious and when they are not. We cannot tell if a person is a threat by sight alone. We don’t know if seemingly recovered people can again become infected or infectious. Only by testing can we identify asymptomatic carriers, and we may even need to test those people repeatedly. Ideally, we should test everyone. If we test a large, representative sample, we can estimate our chances of catching the virus, but we cannot assure our safety. Nowhere in the U.S. is such testing being carried out.

If governors adopt an out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude toward coronavirus infections and lift restrictions on their residents, the worst will be yet to come, and we may soon learn that the problem is indeed worse than the cure.

April 15, 2020

Thoughts on Returning to “Normal”

NPR reported today that the World Health Organization has enumerated six prerequisites for ending a coronavirus lockdown. They are the following:
  1. Disease transmission is under control
  2. Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”
  3. Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes
  4. Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures
  5. The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”
  6. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal
World Health Organization LogoDespite President Trump’s eagerness to put the coronavirus pandemic behind him and get the economy moving again, the United States is not making much progress in meeting the WHO requirements for rescinding the virtually national lockdown. Last night, Rachel Maddow noted that we don’t really have to look past the first item on the WHO list to see how little we are prepared to lift restrictions on people and organizations—disease transmission in the country is nowhere nearly under control.

Of course, the president has decided that the WHO must be held accountable for letting coronavirus infections become a pandemic, a reputed failing for which he intends to withhold U.S. funds from the United Nations organization. This is clearly a strategy to avoid his being held accountable for his own shameful delay in responding to the global health threat. Because President Trump has chosen to make the WHO a scapegoat, he is unlikely to pay much attention to its recommendations, particularly in light of his eagerness to restore “normal” economic activity and his assertion that he possesses unlimited powers to impose his will on the states,

Even were we to satisfy the six WHO criteria, new coronavirus infections will continue to occur. To the degree that we satisfy them imperfectly, they could occur in large numbers. Nothing short of a universal vaccination program is likely to remove the threat the virus poses, and such a program is probably two or more years away.

In the meantime, I suggest a seventh requirement for “opening up” the economy: we must assure that all hospitals, nursing homes, and similar facilities have sufficient medical and protective equipment to deal with the inevitable recurrence of COVID-19 outbreaks. It is disgraceful that we have asked medical and custodial personnel to fight what President Trump has called a war without giving those on the front lines the necessary weapons and defensive equipment to prosecute that war successfully without themselves becoming casualties.

When we are finally allowed to leave our houses, we will likely still have to wear masks and practice social distancing for a time. How will we know who is a dangerous person to be around? I have heard it suggested that those who have recovered from the virus and are, presumably, immune and non-infectious, can carry a document attesting to their status. This is silly on two fronts. First, we don’t know much about what happens after one survives COVID-19. More importantly, it is impractical to demand documents of everyone we meet while staying six feet apart. In the movie Contagion, people who have received the vaccine against the pandemic-causing virus are given a hospital-style bracelet to wear. We can do the same to people whom we determine are non-infectious. (A tattoo on the forehead might be more effective, but that seems extreme.) It is unclear whether we can identify such safe people, however, before a vaccine is available.

I fear that the coronavirus is going to remain an important part of our lives for quite some time to come.

April 13, 2020

Thoughts on the President in a Difficult Time

This blog was originally intended for “quick takes,” but my essays here have often been anything but. On Facebook, however, I often post thoughts that are but one or two sentences long yet seem worth preserving, if only for historical interest. The current coronavirus pandemic has inspired many such genuine quick takes. Below, I have reproduced some of these, only lightly edited from their original form.
It’s time to talk about the “Trump Virus,” which is shorter than “coronavirus,” whose success in the United States has been assured by President Trump’s inaction.
— March 29, 2020
Can it be that the president is the only American who doesn’t know that testing for the coronavirus is still a problem?
— March 31, 2020
The thing this administration isn’t good at is administration.
— April 1, 2020
Conservatives worry that universal health care will result in the rationing of care, but the restrictions on coronavirus testing are already rationing care.
— April 2, 2020
 Congress seems more inclined to act than the president. Let Congress fund a 9-month vacation for President Trump at one of his golf clubs and hire a real manager for the coronavirus pandemic.
— April 5, 2020
The Republican Party seeks to cripple the federal government. The administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic proves that the GOP’s been successful.
— April 10, 2020
A strength of the Republic little noted until now is that state governors can compensate for an incompetent president.
— April 13, 2020
The scandals that will be fully exposed after Trump leaves office will dwarf the Eaton Affair, and the Crédit Mobilier, Teapot Dome, Watergate, and Iran-Contra scandals combined.
— April 13, 2020

March 30, 2020

A Collection of Collects

Some years ago, I attended a workshop sponsored by the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer. I participated in one session on the structure of collects, a form of prayer much used by Anglicans. Inspired by this instruction, I have written a number of collects over the years. Generally, my collects have been inspired by situations for which the Book of Common Prayer seemed to have no especially relevant prayer. Some may seem useful in a wider context.

I thought it might be useful—for both readers and myself, actually—to print the collects I have made public all in one place. Additionally, I have not always titled these prayers, and I thought it best to do so now.

I offer the collects below without further commentary. They are listed in the order in which they were written. Readers are free to use these in any relevant context, though I would appreciate knowing how you have done so and how well-constructed you find my prayers.
For Christian Unity (2007)

Creator of the universe, who made us different from one another in myriad ways we can see and in more ways we shall never know, yet made us all in your image; fill our hearts with your love and our minds with your wisdom, that we may truly become brothers and sisters of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For Inquiry (2010)

Architect of the universe, who endowed us with a thirst for understanding, give us a passion to discover the mysteries of creation and your will for our lives, along with a humble spirit whenever we think we have succeeded, that we may become better stewards of your creation, better neighbors of its inhabitants, and better disciples of your Son, our savior Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For a Troubled Nation (2017)

God of justice and mercy, who delivered your people from the oppression of Pharaoh, protect us from greed, ignorance, and malevolence in our political leaders, and help us make our nation one of peace, liberty, and justice, in harmony with your creation and exhibiting the love of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For an Impeachment Trial of a President (2020)

Almighty God, whose precepts direct us into all righteousness, inspire those who sit in judgment of our president to pursue justice with wisdom, courage, and integrity, so that this nation may again display the love and compassion of your Son, our Savior, who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For a Time of Contagion (2020)

Most merciful God, whose Son manifested your love by healing the sick, protect us from advancing contagion and the fear thereof, and grant wisdom to those who, by virtue of training or election, are guardians of public health, so that we may cast aside our fears and continue to advance the Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed by Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

March 29, 2020

It’s Time for Bernie to Fight the Real Fight

I was particularly struck by an op-ed in The New York Times by Charlie Warzel, “Trump Chooses Disaster as His Re-Election Strategy.” This paragraph seemed especially important:
Meanwhile, the conversation around the virus shifts away from those needlessly suffering and the Trump administration’s woeful preparedness. The pandemic moves from Mr. Trump’s nightmare—a complex medical and logistical crisis requiring empathy and leadership—to Mr. Trump’s wheelhouse—an overly simplified, cynical political battle fought with cruelty and finger-pointing. Just as his coronavirus news conferences have become stand-ins for his rallies, the president’s politicization of the virus allows him to operate in a modified campaign mode. Without an official Democratic challenger to call out and a traditional election news cycle to cover the horse race, Mr. Trump is choosing to use the pandemic as a tool for his usual base-rallying division.
Warzel has issued an implied call-to-arms here. Trump’s loquacious, rambling, mendacious, and ignorant news conferences demand something more than truth-telling in the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. Trump’s re-election campaign began more than three years ago. The Democratic Party needs to catch up and engage the citizenry.

It is time for Joe Biden to be answering Trump’s lies and misdirections every day.

It is time for Bernie Sanders to do his part as well. He needs to exit from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, enthusiastically endorse Joe Biden, urge his supporters to work and vote for Biden, and support Joe Biden in every way he can in countering the malignancy that is Donald J. Trump.

Bernie Sanders should change his trajectory immediately. Attempting to position himself to influence the Democratic platform or Joe Biden himself is a selfish delusion. The time to act is now. The failure to act could be catastrophic.

March 24, 2020

Not Many More G&Ts

I picked up limes and tonic at the supermarket yesterday. After dinner, I planned on having a gin and tonic. When I took the gin bottle out of the pantry, however, I become mildly depressed. Not only was the bottle nearly empty, but the gin was not even my favorite brand. Normally, this would not be so upsetting. But in the current coronavirus crisis, Pennsylvania liquor stores are closed. I can’t replenish my gin supply, whether with Gordon or Bombay Saphire or anything else.

I don’t understand why I can buy beer in Pennsylvania today, but I can’t buy gin.

March 21, 2020

A Coronavirus Thought Experiment

For the sake of argument, suppose that we could immediately test everyone in the country for the coronavirus and instantly get test results. What would be our next step, and what would it accomplish?

The answer is straightforward. People who test positive for the coronavirus and who have serious respiratory symptoms should immediately be sent to a hospital; their condition is potentially life-threatening. People with a positive test but only mild symptoms—they may feel like they have a cold—and those who test positive but are asymptomatic should be confined somewhere where they have no contact with those who have had a negative test. Everyone else can safely resume normal activities and save the economic system from complete collapse. (We may need to use some disinfectant here and there.)

Eventually, the hospitalized will either recover and rejoin society or they will die. The isolates will be tested frequently. Those who clear the virus from their bodies can resume a normal life. Those who develop serious symptoms need to go to a hospital.

Under this plan, in time—perhaps not even a long time—everyone is either thriving in a normal life or is dead. To assure that the plan works, people arriving from outside the country must be tested like everyone else.

Of course, we do not have the tests or the personnel to carry out this experiment in the real world. On the other hand, it is instructive to compare this thought experiment to what we are actually doing. in particular, what our testing procedures are.

I hope we are not doomed.

March 12, 2020

A Coronavirus Story

Why can’t this administration get anything right? Not only is President Trump’s latest travel ban essentially useless and a great inconvenience to many, but also, it was announced incompetently. What follows is a personal story of damage done by an inept chief executive.

With my usual trepidation, I watched the president make his address from the Oval Office last night. What most concerned me was the announcement of a ban on travel from Europe beginning at midnight Friday. It was not clear if the ban began midnight Washington time, Greenwich Mean Time, or some other time. I did not immediately realize that time was not the only ambiguity in the president’s statement.

My son was in France for professional development. (He is a winemaker.) He was scheduled to return to the U.S. in about 10 days. I immediately sent him a text message:
I hope Trump isn’t trapping you in France.
He replied:
It’s possible.
I responded:
Good luck!
My son telephoned me a few minutes later to thank me for the alert. He had already made travel arrangements to return home by Friday night. He reported that airline fares were going up as he was booking a flight. Almost two hours later, I saw a tweet from Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli. I texted his tweet and a comment:
https://twitter.com/HomelandKen/status/1237923213910433794?s=09 Check this out. Check with the embassy.
Cuccinelli explained, an hour after Tump’s address, that the travel ban “does not apply to American citizens or legal permanent residents or their families.”

This morning, I received two text messages from my son:
Leaving anyway. No guarantee there will be any flights in a few days.

On my way to Paris by train. Then flying to Gatwick tonight and on to JFK.
I answered:
You’ve probably done the wisest thing. The president is an idiot.
We have a president so incompetent that he cannot get a simple announcement right. Does anyone on the White House staff check these things? How many other Americans did Trump scare to death and screw up their lives unnecessarily with his incomplete message? Where was Cuccinelli when the president’s statement was being written? (Trump was clearly reading from a Teleprompter.)

Of course, one has to ask if the latest travel ban from Europe makes any sense. And why the United Kingdom is exempt from the policy. (Is this an exception for his friend Boris Johnson? There are surely virus infections in the U.K.) Anyway, Trump may think that he is keeping the coronavirus at bay, but, surprise, it’s here already and spreading widely.

We cannot get a Democratic president soon enough.

Update: This morning, I checked the State Department Web site for information. There was none.

The travel ban might have made more sense weeks ago; it does not now. Further, if we are concerned about people bringing the virus from Europe, it is logical to believe that Americans can carry the infection as well as can Europeans. In other words, if the ban made sense at all, there should have been no exceptions. The exception for U.S. residents is clearly for political, not medical, reasons. The disposition for the U.K. is still an unexplained mystery.

March 6, 2020

Biden’s the One

The media have made much of the reputed progressive/moderate split in the Democratic Party. The split is real of course, though it must be acknowledged that the entire party has moved left in recent years, so even “moderate” means left-of-center.

After leaving the race for her party’s presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren said she had been told there were two “lanes” to the nomination: a left-leaning lane occupied by Bernie Sanders and a moderate lane occupied by Joe Biden. Those two lanes have been cleared of all but their original occupants, so it now appears that the Democratic presidential nominee will be either Biden or, less likely, Sanders.

Under Donald Trump, the country has moved toward anti-intellectual (and -scientific) authoritarian cronyism. When the president took office, it was hard to imagine how far from the prevailing political norms the country could be taken in three short years. The United States of 2020 is almost unrecognizable from a vantage point of only a few years ago. Those who did not embrace Trumpism—and the majority of citizens never has—have experienced a kind of political whiplash, a perpetual disorientation from which they seek relief.

The promise of a Joe Biden is a return to a pre-Trump status quo ante, followed by modest movement left. That movement, however, irrespective of which Democrat is in the White House, will be either difficult or impossible if the party cannot retake the Senate or, at the very least, defeat Senator Mitch McConnell. The fear that a Sanders candidacy will create difficulties for down-ticket Democrats is palpable and realistic. It could sabotage the very Democratic Congress needed to support the program of any Democratic president.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, seeks immediate and radical change. This presents two problems. First, even with a Democratic Congress, it is unlikely that lawmakers will approve Sanders’ radical agenda. Congress will be reluctant because citizens, having experienced the Trump whiplash, are not ready for being yanked in the opposite direction. For this reason, Sanders is much less likely to become a successful president than Joe Biden. Also, because of his radical agenda, he is less likely than Biden to be elected.

Democrats seem to understand this, and they will likely choose the former vice president as their standard-bearer. He is perhaps not the ideal candidate; he is likely not the candidate that would have been chosen through a better-designed primary process. But, under the present circumstances, Biden is what you get. He’s probably good enough.

March 5, 2020

Lizzy’s Choice

The political landscape has changed rapidly during the past week. The departure of Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, and then Bloomberg from the Democratic presidential race has left us with only two viable candidates, Sanders and Biden. (As best as I can tell, Tulsi Gabbard is still running, though God only knows why.)

Even though their prospects were bleak, I had expected Buttigieg and Klobuchar to stay in at least through Super Tuesday. Biden’s huge victory in South Carolina apparently changed their plans. Seeing no likely way forward, Buttigieg and Klobuchar bowed out and endorsed Biden, the only person in a position to derail the candidacy of crazy non-Democrat Bernie Sanders. Rather more surprisingly, Bloomberg did the same.

Warren, we are told, is rethinking her strategy, given that her showing in primaries and caucuses has been abysmal. She clearly is not getting the Democratic Party nod. She has not dropped out, but we know she has had at least one post-Super-Tuesday conversation with Sanders. What is Elizabeth going to do?

Warren has, I think, four choices.

First, she could stay in the race for now in the hope of who knows what. She might gain a few delegates to have a bit of leverage at a broked convention, an unlikely but conceivable outcome. Staying in at this point, however, seems merely self-indulgent and would provide proof that she is incapable of reading the handwriting on the wall.

Second, Warren could simply drop out, endorsing no one. This would show that she can read the handwriting on the wall. It would also show her to lack courage, and it would be disappointing to her supporters, who might reasonably look to her for guidance.

Warren could, of course, leave the race and endorse Sanders, who has been seen all along as a kind of philosophical kissing cousin. She has, after all, assiduously avoided attacking him. But Warren has positioned herself as a more thoughtful, systematic, and realistic candidate than Sanders, and many—perhaps even most—of her supporters could not follow her embrace of democratic socialism. Warren would lose the respect of many Democrats with this move.

Finally, Warren could leave the race and, following Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg, endorse Biden. Some would see this as a sellout, but it would represent a certainly personal sacrifice for the sake of her party. It has become clear, after all, that, for most Democrats, Biden is the one. Her endorsement of Biden would be a severe blow to the Sanders campaign and would make a clean Biden victory more likely.

What will be Lizzy’s choice?

Update: About the time I wrote this, NBC News announced that Warren was getting out of the race. That eliminates Option 1. The story indicated that she has not endorsed anyone else yet. The New York Times has reported that Warren has also spoken to Biden. Stay tuned.

February 27, 2020

Collect for a Time of Contagion

Americans are increasingly anxious about coronavirus and its potential to cause a pandemic. Public statements from the governments of both China and the United States are rightly viewed as untrustworthy and, therefore, not comforting.

I searched the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and found no prayer that seemed apropos of the threat posed by coronavirus. Therefore, I decided to write one. The result is the collect below.

For a Time of Contagion

Most merciful God, whose Son manifested your love by healing the sick, protect us from advancing contagion and the fear thereof, and grant wisdom to those who, by virtue of training or election, are guardians of public health, so that we may cast aside our fears and continue to advance the Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed by Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

February 8, 2020

O God of All the Nations

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is a Presbyterian minister who is also a hymn writer. America’s recent political upheavals have inspired her to compose a new hymn, “O God of All the Nations,” which she has set to one of my favorite hymn tunes, LLangloffan (see information about this tune on Hymnary.org). Although Gillette hasn’t said so on her Web site, I suspect that her text was in part inspired by “O God of Every Nation,” which is also set to LLangloffan. (One of my own hymns can also be sung to this tune, although, for historical reasons, Munich was my first choice.)

Some have criticized this hymn as too “political.” I have two responses to this criticism. First, Gillette has offered a number of biblical citations to justify her text; it is surely scripturally based. At least as important, however, is the fact that much of the Old Testament can be viewed as political commentary. Separating God from politics separates God from considerations of good and evil. If our worship is oblivious of the world around us, including the political world, it is simply solipsistic.

I am perhaps not a disinterested observer respecting the Gillette hymn, as I myself have recently written two collects in reaction to the behavior of our current president (“For a Troubled Nation” and “For an Impeachment Trial of the President”). I don’t consider my collects to be different in kind from those in the Book of Common Prayer.

I have reproduced “O God of All the Nations” below. You can also find it on Gillette’s own Web site here, on a page that carries the following notice:
Copyright © December 19, 2019 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Permission is given for free use of this hymn.

O God of All the Nations
Tune: Llangloffan 76. 76. D

O God of all the nations, your ancient prophets saw
That kings and institutions are not above the law.
Integrity is precious, and truth will one day stand;
Your way is peace and justice, and love is your command.

O God, when times are troubled, when lies are seen as truth,
When power-hungry people draw praise and not reproof,
When greed is seen as greatness, when justice is abused,
We pray that those who lead us will know what they must choose.

We pray they’ll gather wisdom and lift up high ideals,
To guide our struggling nation along a path that heals.
We pray they’ll have the vision to value each good law,
To put aside ambition, to seek the best for all.

O God of all the nations, may those who lead us see
That justice is your blessing, that truth will set us free.
Give all of us the courage to seek the nobler way,
So in this land we cherish, the good will win the day.

February 2, 2020

The Iowa Caucus Poll

 The final and much-anticipated poll results from the Des Moines Register were not released yesterday. Questions about the validity of the polling caused the newspaper to withhold publishing what were seen as questionable results. (See, for example, the New York Times story here.) Apparently, the Iowa caucuses will have to go forward tomorrow without the poll results.

The polling snafu may be a blessing. Who knows what the ultimate result of such a poll might be? If candidate A is leading in the poll, does that encourage supporters to participate in a caucus or to confidently stay home? If candidate B is behind, does the candidate’s supporters, discouraged, stay home and drink hot chocolate, or do they trudge through the snow in the hope of showing the pollsters wrong?

We’ll likely never really know the effect of the absence of a last-minute poll. We will, however, know the result of the caucuses tomorrow.

January 30, 2020

A Policy Declaration All Democrats Should Love

From the competition between Democratic presidential candidates so far, one might be led to think that policy positions are the most important criteria on which we should judge presidential hopefuls. In fact, many experts point out that voters tend to select the person, rather than the person’s policies. Certainly, expectation of what a particular candidate might actually do in office is important, but it can be difficult to rank candidates on policy alone if one considers objectives, the mix of objectives, and the likelihood of accomplishing what is being promised.

There is one pledge I would like to hear Democratic presidential candidates make, and it is a one that would be widely applauded by Democratic voters. In fact, it would be great if all Democratic candidates made this pledge. (That wouldn’t help differentiate the candidates, but it would increase peace-of-mind among Democratic voters.) The promise would go something like this:
I will appoint cabinet members and advisors who are experts in their field, rather than self-aggrandising grifters and political hacks. Furthermore, I will always give serious consideration to recommendations made by those I appoint and by career professionals within the government. I will listen to voices outside the government as well, but always with a healthy variness of the self-interest of those offering advice.
In most years, this would seem an odd pledge. After all, isn’t that what a president should do? This year, however, the declaration is a promise to undo much of the damage wrought by Trump and his minions—well, to begin to undo that damage anyway and to foster an environment that can advance the general welfare of the American people.

January 20, 2020

Collect for an Impeachment Trial of the President

I have written a number of collects, either for general use or for use in particular circumstances. As the Senate prepares to try the President of the United States, a special prayer seems to be in order, particularly since the outcome appears likely to be an unfortunate one. I hope that this collect is seldom appropriate. Before the trial of President Donald John Trump begins in earnest, however, I offer the following prayer:

For an Impeachment Trial of the President

Almighty God, whose precepts direct us into all righteousness, inspire those who sit in judgment of our president to pursue justice with wisdom, courage, and integrity, so that this nation may again display the love and compassion of your Son, our Savior, who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

January 15, 2020

McConnell’s Kangaroo Court

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants a Senate “trial” of President Trump without the introduction of any documents or witnesses.

A court proceeding without documents and witnesses is simply a kangaroo court. Without documents and witnesses, the trial is a he-said-she-said affair. The prosecution and the defense can assert anything at all, and there will be no evidence to support or refute it.

Is this really happening in America?

January 11, 2020

Gilmore Girls

A few days ago, I received a Blu-ray disk of Bad Santa from Netflix. For some reason, I had put this movie in my queue some time ago, and I ended up with it because to disc at the top of my queue was not immediately available. Having forgotten why I wanted to see Bad Santa in the first place, I expected a movie that was rather stupid. It wasn’t that, but it was quite transgressive and generally in bad taste.

The bad Santa of the title is played by Billy Bob Thornton, and his love interest, such as she is, is played by Lauren Graham. If I never see another Billy Bob Thornton movie, it will be too soon, but I was smitten by Lauren Graham’s smile. I knew her from Gilmore Girls, of course, and always thought her an attractive and talented actress. (Are we still allowed to use the word “actress”?)

Anyway, watching Bad Santa reminded me how much I liked Gilmore Girls, the entire series of which I have seen at least twice. So, last night on Netflix, I watched the pilot of the series, largely to see Graham again and to remind myself how all the important relationships in the series were set up in the first hour. It is an impressive hour of television. Today, I watched the second episode of season 1.

Re-watching this series is a real joy. I don’t have to pay much attention to plot, as I am quite familiar with that aspect of the show. This allows me to concentrate on the fast-paced and clever dialogue. I found myself laughing a lot, probably more than I had on previous viewings. I’ll likely watch more episodes whenever I need to relax and recharge.

If you aren’t familiar with Gilmore Girls, I recommend your watching it streaming on Netflix. Loren Graham plays single-mom Lorelai Gilmore, and Alexis Bledel, who has gone on to appear in many roles, including in The Handmaid’s Tale, plays her teenage daughter Rori (also Lorelai Gilmore). You won’t be disappointed.

January 5, 2020

A Litany for the Democratic Presidential Candidate

In September 2012, I was thinking about the upcoming election in which President Obama was seeking a second term. As a way of assuaging feelings of guilt I might experience should I fail to write myriad essays on things political, I wrote a longish post I called “A Preëmptive Political Post.” It was something of a list of principles I hoped would guide the incoming administration.

In this political season, I have been listening to the many people vying for the Democratic Party nomination. The political game demands that candidates try to stand out from the crowd with policy proposals that often seem impractical or barely indistinguishable from those of other candidates. In fact, one suspects that, in less competitive circumstances, many candidates could agree about most important issues.

This year, rather than enunciating political principles, I thought I would list desirable outcomes or initiatives. I suspect that nearly all the Democratic candidates could, in conscience, subscribe to a majority of the items on the list, even if no two candidates would approve of the same exact group. I acknowledge that many of my own ideas cannot be implemented, at least in the near term.

My original thought was to call my list a litany, and I had hoped that the language I used would be, in some sense, not only practical but also poetic. The poetry was largely lost in rhetorical abundance, but I have retained the term “litany” anyway. What follows is a compendium of the hopes and dreams for my ideal Democratic candidate for president.

I will likely edit or extend this list as I think of things. I welcome suggestions for modifications, additions, or deletions. Read the list carefully, however, for implications that may not be immediately obvious.

A Litany for the Democratic Presidential Candidate

We shall protect the birds of the air, the creatures that roam the land, and the fish of the seas, including sharks and the great whales.
The waters shall be clean, and the air shall be fresh and healthy to breathe.
We shall join with the nations of the world to reduce climate-altering gases in our air, and shall help our people adjust to changes resulting both from our collective action and inaction.
Likewise, shall we join with others to remove plastics from our oceans and waterways and prevent new plastics from entering the planet’s waters.
Our national parks and national museums shall receive adequate funding to protect our natural, artistic, and historic legacy, making them available to all people.
Public lands shall remain public for the benefit of all, and any fees due for their use shall be collected without fail.
Although we cannot compensate native Americans adequately for what we have taken from them, we shall endeavor to uphold treaties conscientiously and to improve life on Indian lands.
We shall undertake the development of energy-efficient public conveyances to facilitate both modest and long-distance travel.
We shall repair public works whose maintenance we have deferred: highways, bridges, tunnels, dams, and other systems essential to modern life.
We shall undertake the repair or construction of public works only if adequately funded endowment is established for their perpetual maintenance.
More shall be required of the rich and less of the poor, as we seek to reduce the disparity of wealth between them.
All personal income deemed taxable, irrespective of its source, shall be taxed at the same rate.
Inheritance taxes on large estates shall be substantially increased.
The size of salaries and severance payments of high-ranking executives shall be limited by law.
Military spending shall be carefully reviewed with the intent to implement severe cuts.
The state shall regulate commerce for the general good, and individual enterprises shall not be allowed to interfere with regulation.
Antitrust legislation shall be strengthened and enforced aggressively.
Corporate crime, when adjudicated, shall result in punishment of the offending enterprise and its responsible managers.
Corporations shall not be allowed to make profits in America and avoid or reduce taxes by recording those profits overseas.
Senators and representatives shall be prevented from sitting on the boards of corporations and from trading securities of any kind except through a blind trust.
Subsidies for particular industries shall be eliminated unless they are needed for the purpose of national defense.
Senators and representatives shall be required to disclose, on a quarterly basis, all gifts or contributions from lobbyists or those entities represented by lobbyists whose value exceeds $100.
Senators and representatives shall be required to disclose any text from lobbyists or those entities represented by lobbyists that have been incorporated into legislation either directly or with minimal modification.
The president shall not be allowed to declare a national emergency without prior approval from the congress.
Government programs such as crop and flood insurance shall be made self-supporting or nearly so.
Interest rates and fees charged for consumer lending shall be limited.
Union creation and maintenance shall be encouraged, and anti-union activities by enterprises shall be curtailed and punished.
States and municipalities shall be discouraged from using tax incentives to attract corporations, sports teams, or other institutions to locate in their area.
The federal minimum wage shall be increased to be a living wage, indexed to inflation, and adjusted by region.
Private prisons and detention centers shall be outlawed.
We shall eliminate hunger and homelessness in our land, being generous with food assistance and committed to providing sufficient shelter for everyone
Public education shall rear competent, ethical adults appreciative of the arts, aware of our history, and imbued with civic virtue, irrespective of their natural talents or handicaps.
Public colleges and universities, as well as public radio and television stations, shall receive increased funding.
The government will encourage the institution of public school kindergarten and pre-K programs in localities where they do not now exist.
We shall respect the dignity and liberties of all human beings; corporations shall enjoy similar but limited rights appropriate to non-human entities.
Specifically, civil rights shall not be denied because of sex, sexual preference, or sexual presentation.
Anti-discrimination laws shall be aggressively enforced.
The prohibition against engaging in political activity by tax-exempt organizations such as churches shall be strictly enforced; tax-exempt status shall be revoked for repeated or egregious offenses.
Adequate health care shall be available to all, and no person shall be forced into bankruptcy because of medical expenses.
Health care shall not be dependent upon employment.
No law shall be allowed to interfere in medical decisions made between a patient and a duly qualified physician.
Drugs, whether purchased by the government or by individuals, shall not be sold for a price above the average price charged in other parts of the world.
The government shall set maximum prices for life-saving drugs sufficient to make their development profitable.
The category of Schedule 1 drugs shall be eliminated, and the government shall fund adequate drug cessation programs.
Persons imprisoned for crimes involving small amounts of illegal drugs shall be released from prison.
Psychological maladies shall be treated the same as “physical” maladies, and the government shall develop adequate programs to treat them.
Basic science and medical research, as well as a space program, shall be funded on a long-term basis to encourage sustained investigation.
Profits accruing from research supported by the government shall be shared with the government.
All citizens shall be deemed voters and expected to exercise the franchise.
All federal elections shall be at least partially publicly financed.
We shall encourage the use of ranked preference voting in all elections, including party primaries.
Gerrymandering of districts shall be discouraged through articulating appropriate characteristics for drawing districts and by encouraging the drawing of districts by nonpartisan bodies.
Laws shall be passed requiring presidential candidates to make public ten years of federal and state personal and relevant corporate tax returns; comprehensive health information shall also be required to be released.
Members of Congress shall not be allowed to vote on a bill unless they certify that they or an employee under their direct supervision have read every word of the bill.
Legislation shall clarify that no person, including the president of the United States, is immune to indictment, trial, and sentencing.
By being afforded competent advocates, the poor shall enjoy the same justice before the law as the well-to-do.
The death penalty shall be abolished throughout these United States and its military; persons who shall have been convicted of capital offenses shall have their punishment changed to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
No prisoners shall be held in any jail under the jurisdiction of this nation, wherever located, without being afforded adequate counsel and a speedy trial.
Cash bail shall be eliminated except in cases of infamous crimes or the likelihood that the accused will flee to avoid trial.
The United States Postal Service shall be maintained even if it incurs financial losses.
The integrity of person shall be guaranteed in all jails and prisons; physical, emotional, and educational programs shall be available to all prisoners.
Men and women of virtue and skill shall guide the departments of the state and labor for the good of all.
The president and secretary of state shall be required to hold public press conferences at least once a quarter.
Weapons of war shall not be owned except by the military; such devices in private hands shall be subject to a compulsory buy-back program.
In theaters of war or in areas of significant danger, the American military shall be discouraged from hiring consultants to perform duties that can be performed by military personnel.
We shall reduce our inventory of nuclear weapons and urge others to do the same or to not build any such weapons in the first place.
The word of our nation shall be our bond, and we will seek to restore the trust of the world in our wisdom and our faithfulness.
We shall seek peace among nations, strengthening those assemblies that foster concord and regular commerce.
We shall facilitate free trade in goods and services among nations, even where “free” trade seems less than perfectly “fair.”
We shall demand that all nations respect the freedom of the seas.
We shall support democracies throughout the world and shall encourage the replacement of autocracies and theocracies with democracy wherever they are to be found.
We shall restore full diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba and encourage cultural and commercial ties with this nearby nation.
We shall promote human rights at home and throughout the world wherever they are not upheld or are endangered.
We shall welcome peoples fleeing war, natural disasters, and civil or domestic discord, and we shall help to integrate them into our national life.
Immigration to our shores shall be available to people of all nations, subject only to an overall annual allocation and a prohibition against serious criminals; the decision to admit an immigrant shall be made with reasonable alacrity.
Persons bought to the United States illegally as children and who have committed no serious legal infractions shall be allowed to become citizens subject to the usual requirements for naturalization.
Persons who entered the United States illegally as adults, who have committed no serious legal infractions, and have been in the country for at least five years shall be allowed to become citizens upon paying a civil penalty and subject to the usual requirements for naturalization.
No one shall be deported from this country soley on the basis of having entered it illegally.
American sales of military equipment shall be guided by military needs, rather than by commercial interests.
We shall continue to maintain American troops where they constitute a bulwark against probable aggression, but we shall remove troops from places where no credible threat exists or where no prospect of lasting peace is foreseeable.
Israelis and Palestinians shall be given the choice of creating two separate states or a single, democratic, secular state; continued American aid shall be contingent on their making a choice and implementing it in short order.
Restrictions on the funding of family planning services by foreign aid shall be removed.