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 wariness 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 the 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.