December 5, 2022

U.S. Oaths of Office

It is likely that most readers have watched an incoming president recite the oath of office. That oath is prescribed in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution:

 I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Constitution does not specify an analogous oath for other officeholders. Article VI, however, states that there must be such an oath (or oaths):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Beginning in 1789, Congress employed a succinct oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.

The outbreak of the Civil War led to an expanded congressional oath, an oath that has been modified several times since then. Senators now take the following oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

The enhanced oath seems especially pertinent in 2022.

Members of the House of Representatives take the same oath, though the name of the representative is inserted after the initial “I.”

Traditionally, incoming presidents append “So help me God” to their oath. Given that the Constitution was intended to create a secular government—the word “God” does not appear in the document—both this addition and the corresponding official endings of the congressional affirmations are contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.

Perhaps someday, an incoming atheist legislator will object to his or her oath of office as unconstitutional. Likely, however, courts will argue that “So help me God” does not constitute a religious test for office.  Instead, they will dismiss it as an instance of “ceremonial deism,” a rationale used to justify the use of  “In God we trust.”


NOTE: I am not a fan of ceremonial deism. See my essay “A Matter of Mottos.”

November 9, 2022

Thoughts on Midterm Elections

I have heard it said repeatedly that the party of the president nearly always loses seats in Congress in midterm elections. This is certainly true, and the losses are often quite large. Do you suppose, however,  that this means that every president, at least in his first two years in office, performs badly? Are we really that bad at choosing our chief executive?

I doubt that is the case. Instead, there are other explanations for the usual outcome. No president ever has (or ever could) achieve everything he promised to do on the campaign trail, particularly in his first two years in office. The president is dependent on Congress to get many things done, and Congress may not coöperate.

People who opposed the election of the sitting president consider their negative expectations realized and see the midterms as an opportunity to register their dissatisfaction. Or they may just vote against the president’s party to get even for the election held two years earlier.

People who voted for the current president are likely to feel that they achieved their objective through their vote and may fail to vote in the midterms out of complacency. Even some supporters may be frustrated by what they see as slow progress achieved by the administration. Again, they may fail to vote or may even vote for the other party.

No president is going to make America the perfect country sought by all. Not everyone desires the same country. Many voters are bound to be dissatisfied.

Although the president is powerful, he does not control everything. Unanticipated events, either foreign or domestic, can upset the best of intentions. President Biden did not cause supply-chain problems, nor could he have done much about them. He did as well as could be expected dealing with COVID, but he couldn’t make the virus go away. He could not stop Russia from invading Ukraine nor prevent the resulting inflation. In fact, it is the job of the Federal Reserve to keep inflation low, and the president has, for good reason, no control over the Federal Reserve. President Biden accomplished a lot with a Congress barely controlled by Democrats.

In the past, voting for the other guys in the midterms seemed reasonable enough. How bad could electing members of the other party be? Well, this year, it could be pretty bad. Not only does the GOP have an agenda of which most voters, if they understood what it is, would disapprove, but the GOP is willing to fight for their agenda even if it means seriously damaging the standing of the United States in the world and wounding our democracy at home.

Automatically voting against the party of the president in the midterms never made much sense. This year, it had the potential to be a step toward ending the American Experiment.

Like many citizens, I anticipated the results of the November 8 elections with dread. Although not all races have been decided, it appears that the voting was atypical this year. Democrats did not suffer the bloodbath Republicans were hoping for, though the party made gains that will upset the Democratic agenda. Maybe there is some hope for the United States after all. Nonetheless, we are probably in for two years of government stalemate.

Every vote counts!

October 29, 2022

Watching Out for the Loonies

The premise of Minority Report always seemed farfetched. Especially incredible was the mechanism, the insights of a trio of clairvoyants, by which authorities determined who was going to commit a crime. I was reminded of the 2002 movie after learning about the activities of David DePape, the 42-year-old attacker of Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi.

Apparently, DePape is an all-too-common angry, right-wing loony. According to Matthew Gertz,  he has a blog that Getz says “reads like a standard case of right-wing online radicalization. QAnon, Great Reset, Pizzagate, Gamergate are all there, along with MRA/misogyny, hatred of Blacks/Jews/trans people/‘groomers,’ and anti-vax conspiracy theories.”

The question that comes to mind is whether violent action by such a person was, if not completely predictable, at least probable. Did authorities know about this guy beforehand? Should they have? We shouldn’t have sent Tom Cruise to arrest DePape, of course, but perhaps DePepe needed a visit from one or more specialists trained to suss out his present or likely future intentions and perhaps turn his mind to more productive pursuits.

October 26, 2022

What Do We Need in Our Citizens?

Writing in The Washington Post yesterday, columnist Catherine Rampell argues that more people need to be attending college:

Enrollment in higher education is plummeting, and K-12 students are falling behind on key skills needed to succeed in college and later in life. The issue is broader than dismal new reading and math scores for youths. These trends threaten our future workforce and, ultimately, the U.S. economy.

Rampell points out that we need skilled workers, particularly as older workers retire. But our primary and secondary schools are not doing a good job of preparing their graduates for post-secondary education. All this is true, of course, and the cost of going to college can be daunting.

What Rampell failed to observe is that we need more than just job training from higher education. We also need citizens who understand the workings of democracy and have a grounding in political history. And we need citizens with reasoning skills and the ability to distinguish credible claims from nonsensical ones. Rampell might well have added: These trends threaten our future citizenry and, ultimately, the U.S. democracy.

That so many fellow citizens believe that Democratic Party leaders are cannibalistic pedophiles or that the 2020 election was stolen from its rightful winner, Donald Trump, suggests that we are failing to educate our youth properly. Why do people not demand concrete evidence for these improbable beliefs beyond the fact that certain public figures repeatedly assert them while offering no supporting facts whatever?

Not only does the country have a significant cadre of naïve, ignorant, and gullible citizens, but we are permitting those citizens to perpetuate their ilk by indulging their demands to suppress the teaching of history, censor the literature to which children may be exposed, and suppress even the mention in classrooms of ideas different from their own. Their notion that children should never be made uncomfortable in school undermines the most important goal of education, the expanding of young minds. (In their defense, of course, one must recognize that they see the goal of education as indoctrination in their own values.)

The 2022 midterm elections are now less than two weeks away, and Democratic majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate are threatened by fact-denying Republican candidates and their fact-ignoring constituents.

Pollsters tell us that the number one issue with voters is inflation. Certainly, the current inflation is worrisome. But the assertion that inflation is caused by Democrats does not follow from the fact that a Democrat is in the White House. More obvious explanations are at hand: disruptions of both workforce and supply chains caused by COVID; assaults to the world economy resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; and corporations earning record profits because they can get away with raising prices far beyond what can be justified by their own increased costs. If President Biden caused inflation at home, is he also responsible for double-digit inflation in the U.K. and elsewhere? Are the usual GOP programs of tax cuts for the rich and the slashing funds for social programs really likely to make life in America better for most of us?

Crime is another issue of voter concern. Here again, it is unclear that Democratic control at the federal level has much to do with local crime rates. (Arguably, Democrats could do more to address corporate crime, but Republicans won’t touch that issue either.) Democrats have actually tightened gun laws, and that should improve the crime situation at least a little. But crime is a local problem. Significantly, areas with the highest murder rates are in the South, in Republican-controlled states. Crime is hardly a reason to vote GOP.

In fact, people do not always vote on the basis of candidates’ declared (or presumed) policy positions. But shouldn’t they? Is basing one’s vote on the recommendation of an immoral, racist, chauvinistic, lying ex-president really a better idea?

October 20, 2022


Shambles is an odd word. It is a noun that is plural in form but can be either singular or plural in meaning. The word is frequently misused, largely, I suspect, because people are confused about what the word really means. That is to say, they have no idea what it means.

I often hear people say something like “the room is in shambles.”  This is an improper use of the word, but everyone knows what the speaker means—the room is a chaotic mess.

The basic meaning of shambles is “slaughterhouse.” By extension, it can refer to a scene of slaughter or bloodshed —a Civil War battlefield perhaps—or, by somewhat greater extension, a chaotic mess. It would be perfectly correct to say that “the room is a shambles.”

In shambles, however, makes no sense. In a shambles would make sense but likely wouldn’t mean what the speaker thinks it does. There is, by the way, no such thing as a shamble. (The verb to shamble, on the other hand, means to walk clumsily with dragging feet. The verb is unrelated to shambles.)

September 30, 2022

Two (or maybe three) Language Complaints

If we ever establish a language police force in this country, I will be one of the first people to sign up. I am constantly irritated by people who regularly violate longstanding grammatical rules. Admittedly, some English rules are arbitrary—actually, the whole language is arbitrary; the rules were not handed down by God on stone tablets—but many rules exist for clarity or graciousness. People violate grammatical rules out of ignorance, laziness, or sheer perverseness.

What set me off this morning was a piece in The New York Times, “These 12 College Students Don’t Like The System They’re In.” The 12 college students were part of a focus group eliciting opinions on their college experiences. Quotations from the panel members were generally articulate—I suspect that editing was minimal—but, every now and then, a sentence caught my language-policeman attention. For example:

This is specifically about me being a woman of color in school.

A proper sentence would have been

This is specifically about my being a woman of color in school.

The grammatical rule here is that a noun or pronoun before (and serving as the subject of) a gerund should be possessive. A gerund, remember, is a verb form ending in ing that functions as a substantive. This is explained nicely on the TERMIUM Plus Web site of the Canadian government. The site offers this commentary:

In informal writing, there is a trend toward dropping the possessive before a gerund. We often use a simple noun or an object pronoun instead … However, in formal writing, the use of the possessive form before a gerund is still preferred. Also, the possessive form may be important for clarity.

I suspect that those people who fail to use a possessive before a gerund in speech or informal writing do so in formal writing as well because they were never taught (or understood) the rule. I experience this “trend” all the time, and I am mildly upset wherever I encounter it. Is it really so hard to remember to say my rather than me?

TERMIUM Plus helpfully provides an example in which the case before a gerund makes a semantic difference (ignore the Canadian spelling):

Jorge is in favour of the candidate being interviewed Friday.
Jorge is in favour of the candidate’s being interviewed Friday.

Think about that. Careful speakers should ignore the “trend.”

A grammatical lapse that is probably more common involves the speaker (or writer) and someone else. I was always taught that, as a matter of courtesy, one always names the other person first, for example:

Mary and I went to see the new movie.
The announcer called out to Christopher and me.

What we often hear instead is

Me and Mary went to see the new movie.
The announcer called out to me and Christopher.

This me-and-somebody construction is rapidly becoming universal. I hear it all the time from celebrities and presumably well-educated speakers. Although both of the sentences are, by conventional rules, wrong, the first one is doubly so. This is because the pronoun Me is in the wrong case. It is always helpful to drop the conjunction in order to get the case right:

Me went to see the new movie.
The announcer called out to me.

The first sentence should sound wrong to every native speaker. The second sentence, on the other hand, is just fine. Of course, getting pronoun cases wrong can lead to other illiteracies:

Mary and me went to see the new movie
The announcer called out to Christopher and I.

These errors, too, and not uncommon.

Returning to the Times piece, I was struck by the fact that students focused on training for a profession rather than on obtaining a liberal education. As a University of Chicago alumnus whose son graduated from St. John’s College, I find this very worrisome. Here are some quotations from the focus group:

You want to get a good degree. You want to get to a good school. You want to get a good-paying job.

But I feel very behind in school because I didn’t want to take out loans. I did the classes that I could pay for now.

But I feel like college is filled with a lot of extra classes that we don’t need. And it just takes up a lot of time and money when we could just go directly and be focused on what we want to do.

It is difficult to be too hard on these students, however. College has become inordinately expensive, and neither foregoing a degree nor being saddled with crippling debt for the rest of your life is an attractive prospect. Participating in a community of scholars is easily eclipsed by a desire to get out alive.

Clearly, for most students, college is outrageously expensive. Few can earn their way through college, which was once common. It isn’t clear how much colleges themselves can address this problem. Teaching is very labor-intensive, and students and parents have come to expect comfortable living quarters and elaborate sports and recreational facilities. On the other hand, raising tuition to increase a school’s prestige is not unknown. Colleges and universities can always find ways to use the money.

Perhaps some jobs do not really require a college education, and some students will not benefit from one. We should rethink the notion that everyone should go to college.

Many wealthy countries provide free or low-cost higher education. The United States should do so as well.

September 21, 2022

A Fetterman Rally

Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and senatorial candidate John Fetterman was in Indiana, Pennsylvania, for a brief rally yesterday. Fetterman is running against Republican surgeon, snake-oil huckster, and carpetbagger Dr. Mehmet Oz. Electing Fetterman will replace a Republican senator with a Democratic one and, one can hope, contribute to an actual Democratic majority in the Senate.

Indiana County definitely leans Republican, but a good crowd turned out for the event, which was held in the lobby of the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Center on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus. The Indiana Gazette described the crowd as consisting of “more than 500 supporters.” I was hardly in a position to count bodies, but the lobby was certainly packed.

The event began with various local Democratic speakers, after which Gisele Barreto Fetterman, wife of the candidate, was called upon to introduce her husband. Gisele Fetterman has played an especially prominent role in the campaign ever since Fetterman suffered a stroke just before the primary election. I was eager to see for myself if the candidate exhibited visible signs of cognitive impairment.

When the candidate took to the podium, he acted more or less like any other candidate, though he certainly didn’t look like a candidate from Central Casting. Fetterman is big, with a bald head and goatee. He wore a black hoodie with sleeves partially rolled up, exposing tattoos on his right forearm consisting of a series of dates. The dates memorialize violent deaths in Braddock, Pennsylvania, during his time of mayor there. From time to time, the tattoo on his right forearm could be seen. It is “15104,” the Zip Code of Braddock. Fetterman spoke of his stroke but showed no sign of its affecting his performance.

Despite his decided workingman appearance, John Fetterman has earned two graduate degrees, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. He is an AmeriCorps alumnus and was mayor of Braddock before being elected lieutenant governor.

Fetterman’s address excited the crowd, but it contained no surprises. He said he wants to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate, protect reproductive rights, raise the minimum wage, and promote good union jobs. He took a few jabs at opponent Dr. Oz.

After his brief speech, Fetterman shook hands with people in the crowd. His wife did the same and took selfies with people who requested them.

The photos below capture the feel of the event.

Line of people waiting to enter the Kovalchick Center
People arrived early for the event and were allowed in shortly after the
official 5:30 pm start time.

Crowd inside
From my vantage point in front of the stage, this was the view to my right.

Crowd inside
And this was the view to my left.

Gisele Fetterman
Gisele Fetterman introducing her husband

John Fetterman
John Fetterman

John Fetterman
John Fetterman

John Fetterman
John Fetterman

John Fetterman with crowd
Pressing the flesh

A goodbye wave
A final wave to the crowd

September 4, 2022

A New Battery for My Honda CR-V

I remember the days when automobiles were often a bit slow to start, even requiring several tries before getting them going. My 2018 Honda CR-V (and most relatively new cars) start almost instantly when the Start button is pressed.

A few days ago, the car started with perhaps half a second additional delay, and that delay began growing with each trip. When I went to the usual Friday wine tasting at the local liquor store Friday, I worried about my ability to start the car for the return home. In fact, the car started, but the delay had become really worrisome.

At that point, I concluded that I probably needed to replace the car battery, but late on the Friday of a long Labor Day weekend was not an opportune time to be seeking auto service. I did get home, however, and I left the car out of the garage for easy access to the engine compartment.

I had recently received e-mail from AAA promoting their battery service and decided that AAA was my best option to get a new battery—if indeed I needed one—and to assure that I could reliably drive to and from church on Sunday.

The AAA message included a link to a Web page where I could fill in information about my car, since different cars need different batteries. On Saturday morning, I followed this link. Oddly—very oddly indeed—the page would not let me actually enter any information at all! I switched to my phone and encountered the same problem. For plan C, I opened the AAA app on my phone. There was no provision for requesting road service specifically for a battery problem, so I was careful to enter the information I knew would be needed from the defective Web page.

In about an hour, a small AAA van labeled for battery service showed up. I expressed my surprise that a tow truck was not sent. The technician, Michael, explained that his vehicle uses less gas than a tow truck, an important consideration in this time of high gas prices. That made perfect sense, though, ironically, Michael left the van running the entire time he was servicing my car!

Michael made a quick check of the battery with a meter and asked me to try to start the car. It did actually start, but he concluded that the battery indeed needed replacement. He placed some device inside the car—I realized later that this was to power such devices as the radio so as to preserve custom settings—and proceeded to remove the old battery and to swap in the new one. The process was quick, as Michael had specialized tools to make the job easier. 

It was not long before the job was done and I was asked to start the car. It turned over instantly. I was advised to let it run for a few minutes before turning it off. Michael packed up and left, though not before I wrote him a check for the new battery. I had planned to pay by credit card but was told there would be a 4% additional charge for using a credit card. This was the second time in a fortnight that I paid for a repair by check to avoid a surcharge. Have these now become common?

A bit later Saturday morning, I started the car again to make a quick trip to the farmers’ market. Immediately, the instrument panel displayed warning lights I was unused to seeing and showing various messages about car functions that were not working. I experience a moment of panic and regret that I let Michael get away before I had assured myself that that car was fully restored to its normal state.

The infotainment system displayed the Honda logo. This was not normal either, but I remembered how to reboot the system. The reboot seemed to work fine. My discomfort was not relieved, however, when my attempt to recalibrate the tire pressure sensors—they were the subject of one of the warning messages—failed. I decided to just sit and wait for a while. Sure enough, systems slowly began coming online. After a time, everything looked normal, though I did need to change the radio to the NPR station I most frequently listen to. My trip to the farmers’ market and later to the liquor store for another wine tasting seemed completely normal.

This morning (Sunday), I found the driver’s side door unlocked when I went to open it. This was not normal, as the car generally locks itself when I walk away and only unlocks when someone with the proper key fob touches the special spot on the door handle. Although I had earlier checked many settings for the car, usually choosing the defaults, turning on the automatic locking feature was apparently not a default setting. It took me a bit of hunting around to find the screen on which to restore the feature. I finally accomplished the change, and the car now seems to work like it did before the new battery was installed.

If you have a late-model car with lots of fancy features, be warned that replacing your battery may be a more troublesome activity than you might have expected. 

The new battery
The new battery 

August 30, 2022

My Multigrain Bread Recipe

I first began baking bread about 50 years ago, having been given a white bread recipe by the wife of a fellow Army bandsman. For years, I baked bread often, but I eventually got out of the habit. In the past couple of years, however, I got back into baking and began experimenting with different styles of bread.

Some time ago, I bought a bag of rye flour without having a specific idea of what I was going to do with it. (Finding rye flour in a supermarket was rare back then, so I grabbed it when I had the chance. My own experience suggests that rye flour is still a bit hard to find.) I began experimenting with breads containing rye, though not actually recognizable as rye bread.

The recipe below has been developed over many batches (and bags of rye flour). It produces tasty, slightly sweet bread. It has become my everyday bread recipe.

A couple of notes on the recipe: Active dry yeast can be substituted for instant dry yeast. The baking time was determined in an oven whose temperature regulation was quite accurate. The time may need to be adjusted for other ovens.


Lionel Deimel’s Multigrain Bread

Yield: 2 loaves


4¼ c (655 g)Unbleached white bread flour
1⅔ c (208 g)Rye flour
⅔ c (83 g)Whole wheat flour
1½ Tbs (16 g)   2 packets instant dry yeast
2 cWater between 100⁰F and 115⁰F
¼ cGranulated sugar
⅓ cDark brown sugar
⅓ cCrisco
2 tspSalt
Additional Crisco and butter


1. Mix all flours well in a large bowl.
2. Dissolve yeast in water in a second bowl.
3. When yeast is dissolved (or at least well distributed), add granulated sugar, brown sugar, Crisco, salt, and 3½ c of the flour mixture.
4. Mix all ingredients until the Crisco is blended in.
5. Add another 2½ c of the flour mixture and mix well.
6. Flour work surface with some of the remaining flour mixture.
7. Turn out dough on work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic and form it into a ball. Add more flour mixture as necessary to prevent the dough from being sticky.
8. Place dough in a large bowl coated with Crisco. Turn the dough to coat it all over with Crisco.
9. Cover the bowl with waxed paper and a towel, and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free location until it is doubled in size, about 80 min.
10. Coat two loaf pans with Crisco and set aside.
11. Flour work surface lightly with remaining flour, adding bread flour if necessary.
12. Divide the dough into two equal-weight pieces.
13. Knead each piece to make a smooth ball and roll the dough into a rectangle with the long side slightly longer than the loaf pan. Roll up dough tightly from the long side, folding the ends under. Smooth the edge with the seam as much as possible and place the dough in a prepared loaf pan, seam side down.
14. Cover the loaf pans with waxed paper coated in butter and a towel. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free location for approximately 70 minutes.
15. Preheat oven to 400⁰F.
16. Bake loaves in the oven for 37 min.
17. Turn out loaves onto cooling racks. Let bread rest for at least 10 min. before slicing.

Completed loaves
The finished product

August 26, 2022

The Catholic Court

The makeup of the Supreme Court that recently declared that the right to seek an abortion is not protected by the Constitution is atypical in that its members are predominately Roman Catholic. Historically, this situation is highly unusual. Justices more often than not have been Protestants. According to Wikipedia, “[f]or its first 180 years, justices were almost always white male Protestants of Anglo or Northwestern European descent.”

The first Roman Catholic justice was Roger B. Taney, who was appointed Chief Justice by Andrew Jackson following the death of the incumbent, John Marshall. He served as Chief Justice from 1836 until his death in 1864. Taney is best known for his notorious opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford. It isn’t clear that his Catholicism can be blamed for that decision, which was decided with only two dissenting justices. Taney, after all, was born into a wealthy, slave-holding Maryland family. No other Catholic was appointed to the court for 30 years after Taney’s death when, in 1894, Edward Douglass White joined the court.

Supreme Court
Home of the Supreme Court
Until recently, there have seldom been as many as two Roman Catholics on the court. Now, however, the court is dominated by Catholics. The court comprises one Jew, Elena Kagan; one Protestant, Ketanji Brown Jackson; one justice reared Catholic but attending an Episcopal Church, Neil Gorsuch; and six bonified Catholics (John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett). All the Catholic justices except Sotomayor were appointed by Republican presidents.

Nominations to the court have doubtless been made for a variety of reasons. In most cases, religion was likely not a primary consideration. One suspects, however, that Barrett’s nomination may have been an exception. She is something of an über-Catholic and was appointed by a president who promised to appoint justices who would reverse Roe v. Wade.

Senators are reluctant to make too much of a nominee’s religion, lest they open themselves to charges of prejudice. On the other hand, Americans have become increasingly sensitive to the need for diversity in both public and private institutions. The white/black and male/female mix of justices on the Supreme Court are not conspicuously objectionable. On the other hand, there are no Muslim, Native American, or LGBT justices. And why are there so many Roman Catholics? Should not senators show more concern for diversity in an institution as important as the Supreme Court?

For many disputes brought before the justice system, the Catholicism of a judge is of little consequence. In fact, there is a strong social justice concern among many Catholics that many would not label “conservative,” a label often applied to the current court supermajority. Unfortunately, that concern does not seem to apply to pregnant women. Just as belief in the perverse myth that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats has become a rock-bottom foundation of contemporary Republicanism, opposition to abortion, at least in the United States, has become a rock-bottom foundation of Catholic Christianity. It is not a topic on which the Church or its most rabid adherents are inclined to compromise. The Catholic majority on the Supreme Court made the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization inevitable. Ironically, the Dobbs opinion is bad law argued more poorly than Judge Alito believes Roe had been.

The religious makeup of the Supreme Court is clearly a problem, one likely to affect other decisions related in some way to sex, a topic with which Catholicism seems obsessed. This court also seems to value religious freedom, construed in a way it has never before been understood, above all other freedoms. The court makeup is not easily or quickly changed. This is by design. The court is expected to provide long-term stability and to not be subject to the temporary whims of the populace. What we have discovered, however, is that on a wildly unbalanced court—one with too many Roman Catholic justices, for example—stability can be sacrificed for narrow philosophical or religious ends.

Court watchers are expecting that the coming court term is likely to see even more regressive decisions likely to disrupt the nation we thought we knew. It is time to consider changes to the court that will make it less subject to the whims of an unanticipated philosophical majority. Adding more justices to the court is the most obvious and simple check, though perhaps not the most likely or effective change. Barring that, the best we can hope for is the death of justices while the presidency and Congress are controlled by Democrats. In any case, presidents and senators should pay more attention to religious diversity in selecting Supreme Court justices.

Alas, our future with the current Supreme Court is not bright.

August 24, 2022

Schroeder Goes to His New Home Today

I have been asking everyone I know and everyone I run into if (1) they would like to adopt a cat, and (2) if not, would they ask other people they know if they would like to adopt a cat. The day before yesterday, a friend was over to pick up some things, have some wine and snacks, and enjoy conversation. Expecting the usual negative reply, I made my standard pitch to find a home for Schroeder. To my surprise, Jacque said she would adopt my rescue! She is a single mom—probably the most impressive supermom I have ever known—with two pre-teen sons.

I spent hours yesterday collecting cat stuff to give Jacque along with Schroeder and writing out information and advice for a new cat owner. Today, Jacque and I had lunch together, after which we returned to my home to collect Schroeder and all his cat paraphernalia for the car ride to his new home. The boys, I am told, are excited about meeting their new pet.

Schroeder, upholding cat tradition, did not want to be caught and put into his carrier. When I tried to pick him up, he ran under a bed. We were able to lure him out with Temptations treats. Eventually, we confined him to the office, a relatively small area. Jacque blocked his access to one of his usual hiding places, and, after chasing the cat around the room a bit, I grabbed him while he was on the back of a couch. Wearing my leather gloves, I pried him off the furniture with some difficulty. Jacque put the carrier on the couch, and Schroeder entered without further drama.

Jacque & Schroeder
After loading the cat paraphernalia into the car and before trying to put
Schroeder into his carrier, Jacque had some time to bond with her new cat.

Jacque & Schroeder

Jacque & Schroeder

I will miss Schroeder, of course, but I never intended to adopt him myself. I am just happy to have finally found him a forever home where I’m sure he will be loved.

NOTE: The story of Schroeder from when I first saw him until today can be read here.

August 11, 2022

Our Democracy Is About to be Tested

It is likely that our democracy is about to undergo a serious stress test.

If, as seems likely, former president Donald Trump stole—there is no other word for what he apparently did—secret documents that could compromise national security, how will he be dealt with?

There is no question that a low-level government employee who did the same thing would be treated harshly and would soon be in prison unless he or she managed to flee the country.

Will Mr. Trump receive the same treatment as that hypothetical low-level functionary? Is it true that no one is above the law, that justice is meted out uniformly to all citizens regardless of station? Does anyone believe that?

If Mr. Trump is guilty, as it seems he may be, of theft of government property (or even treason), will he be punished as any other equally guilty citizen would expect to be punished?

Unless Mr. Trump is dealt with as the law demands, our democracy will have failed an existential test and may not be long for this world.

August 4, 2022

Schroeder: A Cat Who Needs a New Home


It’s time to find a forever home for my rescued cat Schroeder. I already have two cats, and I brought Schroeder in from the cold for his protection. I expected to return him to the wild eventually, but he took well to domesticity. I will be moving soon, and doing so with three cats is not an option. (You can see the story of how Schroeder came to be with me here. Some additional recent photos can be seen here.)

Schroeder looks onto deck in the late afternoon
I named this cat Schroeder for consistency. My other two cats are named for Peanuts characters: Charlie and Linus.

Schroeder is a neutered brown mackerel tabby, sort of what comes to mind when you think “cat.” He is a domestic shorthair of unknown parentage and age. My vet’s best guess is that he is between 2 and 3 years old. He is a medium-size cat, weighing 9 pounds or so. He is a very quiet cat; his seldom-heard meow is more of a soft squeak. He is not much of a climber. He manicures his claws on a scratching post and not on the furniture. His coat is fairly smooth, and he sheds very little. He shows no interest in being a lap cat, but this might change if he is given more attention than I have been able to provide. He plays with cat toys, both with and without catnip. He is in excellent health, fully vaccinated, and chipped.

Although Schroeder isn’t keen on being picked up, do not think him standoffish. When I show up in a room where he is, he immediately comes to me and likes to be scratched, especially on his head. In general, he likes to be petted. He follows me around, sometimes getting underfoot when he gets too close. I’ve not stepped on him yet, however. He has never bitten or scratched me or anyone else.

If you live in or near Indiana, Pennsylvania, you can come see Schroeder in his current home. I am willing to deliver cat and cat paraphernalia to an adopter in the Pittsburgh area or elsewhere not too far from Indiana. Schroeder comes with a carrier, litterbox, food and water bowls, dry food, a few toys, and documentation. (You needn’t take all the cat stuff if you don’t need it.)

If you would like to adopt Schroeder (or at least consider doing so), please e-mail me as soon as you can at (Schroeder comes free, of course.)

As a parting shot, here’s a short video of Schroeder playing with one of his favorite toys:

 Schroeder’s story to date can be followed here.

July 24, 2022

Feeding the Hummingbirds

I went through a number of hummingbird feeders before I finally found one that worked well for me. Most of my earlier purchases employed a large reservoir above a circular base that included a number of fake-flower feeding stations. I suspect my placement of these feeders may have had something to do with my failure to attract hummingbirds. But such feeders have two intrinsic disadvantages. First, the reservoirs are outrageously large, encouraging nectar profligacy. The other problem is that the big reservoirs block one’s view of some of the feeding stations.

My current hummingbird feeder is working well, and I am seeing hummingbirds at it every day. Photographing the birds, however, is frustrating, as I can never anticipate when they will show up. I have managed to take a few photos.

The latest feeder holds the nectar below a gently curved top. Unlike some feeders, this one also has a circular perch around the feeder. Interestingly, some birds perch on this rim and drink nectar. Less commonly, other birds hover while feeding. I’ve been unsuccessful taking photos of the hovering birds.

All the birds I’ve seen are ruby-throated hummingbirds, of course, the only species found in the Eastern U.S.

Perched Hummingbird
One of the perching hummingbirds

Feeding Hummingbird
A bird feeding on nectar

July 20, 2022

Democrats and Messaging

I am a liberal Democrat. I believe that governing by Democrats will make America freer, fairer, safer, and more prosperous than will governing by Republicans. In an ideal America, the two major parties would share power and act together for the good of the country. The parties once did that, but it cannot happen again as long as the GOP is dominated by Donald Trump and Donald Trump wannabees.

The Democratic Party cannot advance a liberal agenda—or pretty much any agenda—given the current makeup of Congress and the party’s weakness in the legislatures of many states. This situation demands that we elect more Democrats at every level of government.

Building Democratic majorities requires strong candidates and well-stocked campaign chests. Gerrymandering and voter suppression laws enacted by Republican legislators make this project especially difficult. But Democrats can improve their prospects by crafting their messaging to appeal to more voters rather than scaring them away. (I have written elsewhere about policy positions in 2022. Here, I am more concerned with how the Democratic message is delivered.)

A classic past messaging mistake is the failure to disavow, in the strongest terms, the ill-conceived slogan “DEFUND THE POLICE.” One cannot blame people for having concluded that the slogan implied disbanding the police without concern for the consequences. Even many (most?) people using the slogan did not take it literally, but any slogan that requires paragraphs of explanation is a bad slogan. Many people—notably Joe Biden—disavowed the slogan. Too few Democrats did, and some actually embraced it. Party leaders should have insisted that the slogan was mindless and counterproductive and, although they acknowledged that policing needed some rethinking in this country, defunding the police was not an idea that the party neither embraced nor condoned. The lesson here is that, although a simplified message has its attractions, one can simplify to the point of incoherence. Messages must be carefully crafted.

Liberals—mostly Democrats, I assume—are being equally stupid with regard to transgender people. They label any suggestion that transgender people should be treated any differently than cisgender people of the same “gender” as transphobia. And they insist that transgender people be acknowledged whenever people are spoken of. Democrats need to recognize that there is a difference between sensitivity to personal differences and pandering or virtue-signaling to what is seen as a disfavored minority. Yes, liberals should support sexual minorities, but they should avoid seeming unreasonable.

The increased visibility of trans people is a fairly recent phenomenon, and, for most people, it takes some getting used to. Anyone who doesn’t harbor at least some ambivalence or consternation regarding such folks probably hasn’t thought much about them. This is not to say that Democrats should throw their trans friends under the bus, but it does mean respecting honest concerns and being willing to engage in discussion about the trans phenomenon.

No discussion of transgender rights can be productive if the audience does not accept the legitimacy of transgender people. Unfortunately, to avoid pointless discussion, it may sometimes be necessary to assert that trans people are real and honest. Everyone has known pansy boys and tomboy girls, and such people may wish to be—or believe that, in some sense, they are—properly members of the opposite sex. That may be hard to understand, but it isn’t inconceivable. This is a reasonable and caring message. Medical care for trans children is a tricky subject and is probably best framed in terms of parental rights. (Republicans seem to like the concept of parental rights regarding their children.)

Anyway, if one can get past the idea that being trans is simply a way for children to spy on members of the opposite sex, issues such as which bathroom they should use become easier to discuss without alienating too many voters. If one thinks of oneself and dresses and acts as someone of the opposite sex, using the bathroom “of the sex you were assigned at birth” is simply embarrassing for all concerned. Avoiding such embarrassment can be justified as a matter of simple human dignity.

Discussing the participation in girl sports by transgender girls should be approached carefully. There are legitimate concerns here. If a transgender girl has experienced male puberty, it should be admitted that she may have an unfair advantage when competing against cisgender females. Insisting otherwise makes one look dogmatic, not sensitive. FINA, which administers international competitions in water sports, has ruled that trans females who have undergone male puberty cannot compete. One can argue that, for younger competitors, a similar rule should be applied or that, at lower competition levels, it just isn’t that important. Arguing that trans girls are being denied their rights if, for example, they cannot swim as females, will simply make one seem unreasonable and more concerned for “unusual“ than for “normal” people. (One wonders whether there is some sport in which a transgender boy would be expected to have an advantage over a cisgender male. I’m not sure what sport that would be. It doesn’t seem to be something state legislators are concerned about.) 

Then there is the use by liberals (and, sad to say, mainstream journalists) of such phrases as “pregnant people,” “birthing people,” “menstruating people,” and the like. This drives me, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, up the wall. Think how the average voter must react. The motivation behind these locutions is, of course, “inclusion.” Yes, a transgender man can be pregnant, but only because he has the biological mechanisms—ovaries, uterus, vagina, etc.—characteristic of a female. However he presents to the world, he must be treated as a woman by any doctor monitoring his pregnancy, irrespective of his “pronouns.” To mangle one’s language to somehow accommodate very rare exceptions is not only self-serving virtue signally, but it is demeaning to cisgender women, who, ironically, feel dismissed, rather than included by the use of such phrases as “pregnant people.” After all, when addressing an audience, one does not normally say “ladies and gentlemen and transgender ladies and transgender men and intersex folks and non-sexual people.” Being “inclusive” just isn’t worth it, and it irritates most of the audience. Democrats, take note.

A bit of an aside: Apparently, it is at least theoretically possible for an intersex person to become pregnant, although this is unlikely for most such persons. In any case, the intersex folks don’t seem to have much of a lobby and probably don’t want to advertise their condition anyway.

Finally, there is the matter of the word “Latinx,” which has been adopted by liberal Democrats (and, again, journalists) and that polling establishes is disliked by most of the people to whom it is intended to refer. Besides the fact that it alienates the very people it seeks to attract, it is a linguistic abomination and should therefore be avoided. We used to get by calling people from Latin America Latinos (Latinas, if only females were being spoken about). No one seemed to get out of sorts at that usage, but the inclusive crowd decided that this was somewhat sexist. (One can see the point.) Thus, they invented Latinx, where, I suppose, the x can represent either o or a (or perhaps both at once). This follows no orthographic rule I have ever encountered and only sort of works for adjectives. Does anyone use the word Latinxes? (Does that word refer to Latin American divorced people?) If Democrats insist on being more inclusive, why not use Latin American—a plural works just fine here—or, to be more creative, just Latin?

Admittedly, in 2022, public speaking is a minefield. Politicians who want to be elected (or re-elected) would do well to seem humane and reasonable and to avoid pitfalls that, sadly, too often seem obvious only after the fact.


Each spring, I plant new flowers and herbs in various planters on the deck. Last winter, I bought new flowerpots and retired one large plastic pot in which I had planted mint. Mint is in a different, more attractive pot now.

Although I worked hard to plant everything and make the deck attractive, I put the retired pot aside and did nothing with it. It still contained soil and the remnants of dead mint plants. I recently noticed a tall stalk growing out of the pot with a bud of some sort at the top. What, I wondered, was this thing.

Today, I found that bud in full bloom. I have no idea what it is, and it resembles nothing I have deliberately planted. This volunteer is a pretty little yellow thing, and it is a joy to see it on the deck. Perhaps it is a daisy of some sort. Can someone tell me what it is?

Volunteer Blossom

July 11, 2022

Diane L. Duntley Laid to Rest

A small group of relatives and friends traveled to the Riverview-Corydon Cemetery today to bury the ashes of my friend Diane L. Duntly beside the graves of her parents. The cemetery is in Pennsylvania, just south of the New York line. From this place, one can look down toward the lake created from the Allegheny River when the Kinzua Dam, completed in 1965, was built, The waters behind the dam inundated a number of towns along the river, including Corydon, where the Duntleys maintained the dairy farm on which Diane grew up. The farm was in Pennsylvania and bordered the New York state line.

The Rev. Bill Geiger conducted a brief service early in the afternoon, and I read Eric Whitacre’s poem “Child of Wonder” from The Sacred Veil. The group picture below was taken after the ceremony.

July 9, 2022

Course of American Rights, 2022

I began working on a poem a few days ago and was not making much progress. In reaction to the usual enthusiasm attendant the Fourth of  July, I was thinking about events in our history that have not exactly covered our nation with glory. I was thinking about slavery, the Salem witch trials, Wounded Knee, the internment of ethnic Japanese, UpStairs Lounge, and, most recently, Highland Park. My list was much longer.

I began thinking about liberty and the tenuousness it seems to have acquired in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. The resulting poem—some may not find it very poetic—captures the pessimism that motivated my writing project, though the final output is not at all what I set out to produce. I was thinking about abortion rights, but there are many reasons to fear for other freedoms as well. Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs intensifies that fear.

I don’t know that this poem is in its final form, but I need to let it go for now. My friend Lisa Keppeler helped me edit this poem, and I am grateful for her assistance.

Course of American Rights, 2022
by Lionel Deimel

Rights unconceived
Rights named
Rights sought
Rights won
Rights protected
Rights threatened
Rights defended
Rights restricted
Rights revoked
Rights uncertain

Home of the Supreme Court

July 7, 2022


I have always pronounce “electoral“ with the emphasis on the second syllable. This is the first pronunciation given by Merriam-Webster. The word is related to “election,” of course, and no one seems to place the emphasis in that word other than on the second syllable. Merriam-Webster gives a secondary pronunciation of “electoral” with emphasis on the third syllable, however. Frankly, this is a pronunciation I never heard until recently. This is how Liz Cheney pronounces the word, and everyone I hear on the radio or television seems to be following suit. Is this pronunciation going to become the standard one? If so, why? It really doesn’t seem logical.

Preventing Gun Violence

It has been difficult not to think about the numerous mass shootings that seem to have become a daily feature of news in America. What can we possibly do to lessen the frequency of these events?

After each horrific event, there is an attempt to discern why a shooter acted as he—inevitably he—did and whether there were warning signs that might have been used to predict future violence and perhaps prevent it. Warning signs are usually discovered but only after the fact.

So-called red flag laws, which allow removing weapons from people who are thought to be a danger to themselves or others, are popular. The recently enacted federal gun legislature provides financial incentives to states to enact red flag laws. Studies have suggested that such laws have effectively prevented suicides, though their effect on mass shootings is less clear.

There are several problems with red flag laws. First, although a person may have shown a propensity toward engaging in violent behavior, the signs may be missed or ignored. Shooters are often found to have been active on obscure social media sites where they expressed an affinity toward violent behavior, for example. Participants in discussions on such sites may be sympathetic and disinclined to report distressing behavior.

Red flag laws to not remove guns permanently from potential shooters. Temporary removal may be effective in preventing suicides, which often are inspired by some powerful, yet transitory events. For someone with antisocial tendencies and an inclination to methodically plan a mass shooting, temporarily removing a gun or guns may only delay an attack.

 Red flag laws raise serious civil rights questions. This may be less true for minors, but adults are another matter. If someone writes favorably about violence and this is used to take away a weapon, are we not violating free speech rights? It is difficult not to see red flag laws as punishing someone for crimes not yet committed. One immediately thinks of Minority Report. This is distressing.

So red flag laws are problematic and perhaps not even effective at preventing mass shootings. It is very difficult to identify and stop someone contemplating mass murder. Some have advocated “hardening” potential targets. I suggest, however, that we neither want to nor can afford to make every school, church, and courthouse an impregnable fortress. Nor do we want to treat every Fourth of July parade the same way we treat outdoor speeches by the president of the United States.

In the end, we have a choice. We can accept mass shootings as the cost of “freedom,” or we can restrict the ownership of guns. I sincerely hope that, as a society, we make the latter choice.

July 2, 2022

More on Dobbs

Having already read Justice Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when the Supreme Court announced its final decision, I decided that my time would be better spent reading the dissenting opinion from Justices Breyer, Sotomayer, and Kagan. Doing so proved very enlightening, and it’s a project I recommend to anyone with the interest and time to take it on. Or you can read below my observations on what the three justices wrote. (My initial essay on Dobbs is here.)

As you might suspect, the three dissenting justices are unimpressed with the reasoning of the majority. Supreme Court justices are not in the habit of calling their colleagues nasty names, but, within the bounds of judicial decorum, I think it fair to say that their dissent is scathing. Their view of what the reactionary justices in the majority were about is best captured in this analysis: 

The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.

Much of the dissent is about the flimsy rationale offered for overturning Roe and Casey and the disdain shown by the majority toward both judicial convention and American women.

The Roe decision is nearly 50 years old. The Casey decision came fifteen years later, affirming the basic finding of Roe while rejecting its trimester scheme of Roe and introducing the undue burden standard limiting state-imposed restrictions on abortions.

Breyer, et al., argue that Americans have come to rely on the right to abortion. Extinguishing that right will have profound consequences, particularly for poor women. The court’s majority dismisses the reliance interest of women, however, and argues that any reliance interest that militates against rejecting a prior decision must be “very concrete,” involving, for example, contracts. The dissenters observe

The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision.

The propriety of overturning Roe and Casey turns on the validity of the decisions themselves—the dissent actually focuses on Casey, as it was the ruling opinion prior to Dobbs—and on the doctrine of stare decisis, the legal principle that, absent compelling reasons to do otherwise, previous opinions should be respected.

 Breyer, et al., explain that the right to seek an abortion was predicated on the concept of personal liberty derived from the Fourteenth Amendment. In Casey, the court struck a balance between state interests and those of the individual woman. In Dobbs, however, the interest of the woman disappears. The court, they say, does not believe in balance.

Why did the court not recognize a right to abortion in the Fourteenth Amendment? The answer involves the perverse notion of originalism, a legal concept not actually called out by name in the dissent. According to the dissenters, the majority was interested in only one question: Was the right to an abortion understood as a consequence of the Fourteenth Amendment when it was adopted in 1868? Of course, no one suggests that it was. If you buy into the notion that the meaning of a constitutional provision is forever fixed at the time of its adoption—this is the essence of originalism—then you must conclude that there was not a right to abortion in 1868, and, therefore, there is not one in 2022.

We should not be shocked that the court was willing to toss out half a century of legalized abortion based on what men thought in 1868. (Women had no voice in governing back then.) For example, in her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Amy Coney Barrett declared that originalism is the system of legal interpretation to which she is committed. As she explained,

I interpret the Constitution as a law, that I interpret its text as text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. That meaning doesn’t change over time, and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.

 Breyer, et al., reject this strange view and point out that the court has recognized other rights not enumerated in the Constitution and not recognized in 1868. Frighteningly, Justice Thomas is well aware of this and plans to do something about it in the future.

The dissent offers a long discussion regarding the circumstances in which a prior court ruling may properly be overturned despite the default inaction demanded by stare decisis. It is not enough—non-lawyers may be surprised by this—that a case was wrongly decided. There must be special circumstances that demand a correction. What has changed since Roe and Casey were decided? Nothing of substance. Only the philosophy of a majority of the justices has changed. Ironically, whereas the current court is returning the question of abortion to a time decades ago, many other countries have, in recent decades, expanded abortion rights.

The majority opinion cites a number of cases that were subsequently overruled to justify their action in Dobbs. The dissenters analyze each of these and find significant changes in society to justify the original decisions being overturned. They do not provide appropriate models for the decision in Dobbs.

The dissenters note that the legitimacy of the court is built over time, but that “it can be destroyed much more quickly.” They conclude their remarks with this observation:

In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles.

June 29, 2022

Schroeder Update 13

I continue to work with my rescue cat, Schroeder. Schroeder was not particularly animated at first. He now seems much more like a normal cat. He plays with toys. He responds to catnip. He uses a scratching post. (A post my other two cats never used has been happily adopted by Schroeder.)

Schroeder shows no inclination to become a lap cat. But whenever I walk into the room, though, he walks up to me to get head scratches and other pets. He is an amazingly quiet cat and seems to have more of a quiet squeak than an actual meow.

This cat is amazingly adept at avoiding being photographed. I’ve tried to get video of him playing with a little ball, which he does with great enthusiasm. The moment I point a camera in his direction, he stops doing whatever I was trying to capture in a picture. Here is one picture I did manage to capture; Schroeder is enjoying a catnip cigar:

Schroeder with catnip toy
Schroeder with catnip toy

When I first brought Schroeder indoors, I confined him to a single room, a home office. He adopted two cozy corners where he tended to hang out. He gradually spent less and less time there, spending more time out in the open or on the back of the couch, where he can look out the windows.

Schroeder by couch
Schroeder by office couch

Schroeder at window
Schroeder at office window

Lately, I have been leaving the office door open, giving Schroeder the run of the first floor. (My cats Linus and Charlie are downstairs.) He was at first reluctant to venture out into the hallway, and when I followed him to see where he would go, he immediately ran back to the safety of the office.

Happily, Schroeder has not only become more comfortable outside the office, but he has even adopted a new favorite place. I now often find him on a chair facing the glass doors to the back deck. I once tried to sit next to him on the chair, but he jumped down from the chair as soon as I sat down. 

Schroeder on chair
Schroeder on his new favorite chair

Schroeder in living room
Schroeder in the living room

Apparently, I’m not going to make Schroeder into a lap cat anytime soon. He is charming in his own way, however, and I think it’s about time to find him a forever home. Once I realize I could not simply return him to the outdoors, that has been the plan.

Note: Schroeder’s story to date can be followed here.

June 28, 2022

Urging the President to Action

I wrote to President Biden today. My message may be read below.

Dear Mr. President:

Our democracy is rapidly being dismantled, engineered by a rogue Supreme Court, a feckless Senate, and aided by undemocratic structural features of our Republic. The court has undermined the wall separating church and state, gutted Miranda rights, favored gun “rights” over concerns for public safety, and, most disturbingly, consigned women to second-class citizenship. The court has not completed its reactionary program, and Congress seems unable to come to the aid of our democracy.

The upcoming midterm elections have the potential to make democracy’s plight considerably worse. History presages significant Democratic Party losses in the fall, and your personal approval rating hardly suggests otherwise.

On one hand, your anemic approval rating is unfair. Your administration can claim real accomplishments and cannot logically be blamed for high inflation. But people are justifiably dissatisfied with the status quo. They cannot banish COVID, fix supply chair problems, or roll back price increases posted primarily to increase profits. The party in power invariably takes the hit for the sort of dissatisfaction people are now feeling.

You have acted decisively in the foreign policy arena, but it is a rare voter who is much influenced by that. Alas, you have been less than resolute regarding your domestic agenda. Now, however, is the time for forceful action. Not only will that strengthen the Republic, but it will also, I suspect, increase Democratic prospects in November.

The most obvious issues to address are gun laws, abortion, and the Supreme Court itself. Having just enacted mild gun legislation, Congress is unlikely to want to revisit the matter. I urge you to lean on Congress—essentially, that means on certain Democratic senators—to pass a bill creating federal abortion rights and overriding the many restrictive laws being enacted by Republican state legislatures. This is urgent! If doing this means the filibuster must go—it does—then so be it. If serious arm-twisting is required, by all means, employ it. A majority of Americans will applaud you and may even rethink their voting for Republicans—any Republicans.

An out-of-control Supreme Court drunk with newly acquired power is a more difficult problem and a more concerning one. The most obvious corrective is to pack the court. A nine-justice court is not sacrosanct. Impeachment of some of the justices should also be considered. The charges: misleading senators about their willingness to overturn Roe and having voted to extinguish a human right acknowledged for half a century, and not enjoining laws that were clearly unconstitutional as long as Roe was still the law of the land. Given his own actions and those of his wife, there are independent reasons to want to impeach Justice Thomas.

Even if the impeachment of certain justices fails, the shot across the bow of the Good Ship Supreme Court could have a corrective effect, at least in the short term.

Please, Mr. President, show yourself to be a strong chief executive willing to take strong action to preserve our democratic Republic.

Very truly yours,

Lionel E. Deimel, Ph.D.
Indiana, Pennsylvania