SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 2

A friend who’s not all that interested in politics asked me the other day why, if President Biden ran on bipartisanship, everything he’s proposing is now being rejected by the Republicans. I responded that the American Rescue Plan, which will soon pass the Senate and be signed into law, has nationwide bipartisan support: 75% of the public support it, including 60% of Republicans. But the Republicans in both chambers have not been willing to legislate for some time. Thomas L. Friedman, a New York Times opinion columnist who I find generally hews toward the middle politically, minced no words in a recent essay titled: ”What Trump, San Francisco and the Deer in My Backyard Have in Common.” The subtitle was “Democracy depends on understanding the connection.” (emphases mine throughout)

SAVING OUR DEMOCRACY, PART 1

NOTE: While we are becoming accustomed to the idea of a "normal" president doing presidential work, we must not be complacent. The battle to return the Trumpian Republican Party to power is in full swing--in both the national and state legislatures. As historian Heather Cox Richardson points out below, this is not--must not be--a partisan issue. I am printing Richardson's recent column below. I began to emphasize the passages I felt were most important by using the bold font--but found I was bolding just about every paragraph.

“Gumbo Diplomacy”

As we near the end of this year’s commemoration of Black History Month, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to a woman whose life story is that of a Black American girl who rose from humble beginnings in the segregated South to a place of honor and influence in our country. I hope you’ll spend 10 minutes watching this TedTalk video of Linda Thomas-Greenfield, our newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations, as she describes overcoming adversity and being strengthened by it--with compassion, kindness, and a smile.

Winning Over White Supremacists–One Hater at a Time

I am writing this piece with images of the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol still very fresh in my mind. It is a huge stretch to think of those brutal, sadistic, remorseless thugs and imagine summoning an iota of compassion for them. But others of their ilk--and many psychologists and researchers--say that’s precisely what’s needed. They call themselves the “formers”: former Klansman, neo-Nazis, or generic white supremacists or other racial extremists who are now devoted to guiding those who’d followed similar paths to come to a better life.

PRESIDENT BIDEN IS KEEPING HIS PROMISES

I don’t think it’s too early to give a shoutout to our new President for seizing the initiative on important issues that he stressed in his campaign. He started off with a dizzying flourish of Executive Orders, which are cited here. He’s working tirelessly and smartly to demonstrate to the Republicans in Congress how popular his $1.9 trillion Covid assistance package is by going directly to the people. He’s met with mayors and governors who are desperate for help from the federal government. Tuesday night, he went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for his first town hall as President, answering questions from the public in great detail. Some polls are now showing that 75% of the public support this bill.

Keeping Our Eyes Where We Don’t Want Them To Be…

When I saw my gastro Monday morning, I told him how much better I was feeling. And the light bulb had gone off. My GI system almost instantaneously expressed its enormous gratitude and relief when Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump in the Oval Office “You’re not the only one of my patients who’ve said that,” the good doctor informed me. All this prelude is to tell you how much I want to forget about Donald Trump. I embrace his absence with my head, heart, and gut. Good riddance and all that! But I strongly suspect that we must keep that weather eye open.

“The Enemy Is Within” (An Acrostic for Nancy Pelosi)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, reacting to elected members who are threatening their fellow Representatives, said that "The Enemy Is Within." This acrostic is an homage to Pelosi, her colleagues and staffers--some across the aisle--who are laboring under the terrible circumstances her comment laments.

Pre-Inauguration Messages of Hope

Apart from grieving for our nation, I feel a personal sadness for our President-elect. He is by so many accounts one of the most decent, compassionate, honorable individuals in politics today. His experience makes him uniquely qualified to address the nearly overwhelming problems our nation faces. He has wisely chosen extraordinary individuals to help him in his formidable task. He has reached the pinnacle of an ambition he's held for his entire adult life. Similarly, our Vice President-elect. This should be an unvarnished time of personal pride for Kamala Harris. The first woman, African-American, individual of Indian descent to ascend to this high office, she has demonstrated her brilliance, strength, accomplishments, and yes--compassion. Yet when Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr is sworn in as our 46th President tomorrow outside our nation's Capitol, and Kamala Harris becomes that multiple glass ceiling-breaker Vice President, the area will look like a war zone because of insurrection by extremists goaded by Biden's predecessor.

President Obama Places the Capitol Police Actions in Context

Former President Barack Obama’s denunciation of the Capitol riot and Trump’s incitement, aided by Republican elected officials, gained a great deal of press. You can read it here. But there was less coverage of one of his tweets that I felt was extremely important.

AMERICA: WHAT DO WE DO NOW? (Part 2)

An incredibly brave Not-Soon-Enough-President Biden boldly denounced both Trump-the-inciter and the “domestic terrorists” (good for him for using the term) who ransacked the Capitol last Wednesday. It’s worth noting that Biden has stated that he’d decided he had to run for President after Charlottesville, when Trump referred to the white supremacists as some of the “good people on both sides.” Even before he selected Kamala Harris as his running mate, they had both framed this election against Trump as the “battle for the soul of the nation.” And though the election is over, that battle is not.

AMERICA: WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

I thought I was done with Trump. I hoped never to write about the man again. But what he and his supporters are threatening to do to our democracy today is beyond the beyond. How do we respond? And, my thoughtful readers from other countries whose lives are intertwined with ours, I welcome your perspectives too. We clearly need all the help we can get.

IS IT TIME TO VIEW SOCIAL MEDIA AS FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER?

If you heard that more than 89 million households worldwide had watched a particular film on Netflix during the first week after its release, you’d think something monumental was occurring, wouldn’t you? The Social Dilemma, a documentary-drama about the role of technology in our lives, garnered all those viewers. ...“Nothing vast enters the world of mortals without a curse.”

RAGE…DISGUST…COMPASSION…SADNESS…HOPE?

Last night, I finished reading Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. The author, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., is a Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. ... Though Glaude speaks of Baldwin’s rage, and his own rage, the rage that came to mind when I started this piece is mine.

Wondering Why the Election Ran So Smoothly After All? Here’s One Big Reason…

Russian meddling…Chinese meddling…even Iranian meddling. Deliberate sabotage of the US Postal Service equipment and personnel practices. Announced plans that would suppress the vote in predominantly minority areas by diminishing the number of available voting locations.... “Congress really failed our election officials,” said Liz Howard of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

A Bunch of Reasons for Which I’m Thankful…

This is long, but if you really want to get a sense of where President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are in terms of their thinking about America's place in the world--and the interrelationship between foreign policy and our nation's families--it's well-worth watching. I'm thinking not only of American readers of my blog who may not have seen this presentation, but also our many friends around the world who have been fearful and flabbergasted as they've watched the current administration over the past four years.

Post-Election Good News…

IT'S OFFICIAL: JOSEPH ROBINETTE BIDEN, JR., IS NOW THE 46TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. There will be much discussion about the meaning, trends, and implications of this election, and the results were not without disappointments. But it's too soon for all those debates. At this point, I'm simply offering my top-of-mind list of what I perceive to be the positives for our country.

This Huge Issue Is Also On The Ballot…

There are tons of issues on the ballot when we cast our votes for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. One of these issues has vast ramifications in our society. It’s complex, and I can’t do justice to it here. This isn't a new issue, but I think it’s just beginning to get the attention it deserves...It’s how we define masculinity in America. Specifically, it’s what’s called “toxic masculinity” or “hyper-masculinity.” (It has nothing to do with gender: it can be found among some gay men as well as heterosexual men.)

“Something Is Not Right Around the Court…”

At the hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's ultra-conservative nominee to replace the late liberal giant Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Dem, RI) gave a remarkably clear and extremely important tutorial on the forces that are really moving the Supreme Court's decision-making in ways large and small...I hope you will view this video, which succinctly captures so much about why our government is failing to meet the needs of the American people.

“BATTLE for the SOUL of the NATION”

I am including this video of the speech Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered at Gettysburg in its entirety because I think it gives a good overview of the man and his values. I hope you’ll spend the full 22 minutes to watch it....I am as eager that it be seen and heard by folks outside the US as by American voters because I know the world needs reassurance that most of us in the US have not gone crazy.

Expanding the Definition of “Pro-Life”

I noticed it first when I watched Elizabeth Neumann speak about her reasons for resigning from her position as the Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary of Threat Prevention and Security Policy. She was tasked with following right-wing threats inside the United States, and she emphatically stated that President Trump had made her job harder. 

THE TRUMPIAN AUDIT…WITH SOME POST-DEBATE COMMENTS

NOTE: I composed the acrostic below before last night’s debacle. I thought about not posting it because it seems almost quaint today. However, as I mull over Trump’s performance in the debate, I wonder whether the recent disclosures of his mounting financial problems—and the evidence many of us have long suspected that his alleged empire and fabulous wealth are in fact a house of cards—contributed to his unhinged performance.

A Tale of Two Calamities

Oh, the irony! This is the week that my husband and I were scheduled to be in Alaska. The purpose of the cruise on a small ship was to learn from expert lecturers and see firsthand the devastation of climate change on the animals and environment. We felt a sense of urgency to make this trip while the locale was still viable. Obviously, the trip was cancelled due to COVID-19. We were supposed to meet the tour guide and group in Seattle, where the air quality a few days ago was rated the third worst in the world. In the scheme of things, I’m certainly not complaining about our lost vacation. We are safe in our home. But in the larger sense…

Think Trump’s Not Moving Toward Total Autocracy? This International Analyst Knows the Signs Too Well…

Michael McFaul, former Special Assistant to President Obama and Sr. Dir. for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the NSC, and former US Ambassador to Russia, has some trenchant observations about the meaning behind the show at last week's Republican National Convention.

First, Let Me Apologize for My Lunkheadedness…

I realize that lots of people avoid talking about politics in these dreadfully polarized times. But political junkie that I am, I failed to realize that some of you don't even want to read about politics--not even on this blog. (Oh, my!) Please bear with me as I tell you why I am now far more hopeful about our country than I was before the Democratic National Convention last week.

These Are the Election Watchers Watching Us (Maybe)!

Remember the good old days—say, 2015—when the World looked toward the US as a beacon of democracy? Well, it seems that an international group designed to monitor elections is so troubled by what we’re doing in the good old USA that they’re sending people to keep an eye on us. The Guardian reports that these designated poll watchers are from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—specifically, its democracy and human rights arm.

Why I See Kamala’s Racial Attack on Joe as a Positive Seminal Moment for Our Country

Joe Biden has just selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential running mate. Some call it an easy, obvious decision. I see it differently. I think this was just the right choice at this time. But it couldn't have been easy for Biden. I was one of many who was put off by Harris in the first debate for her attack on Biden about his support of busing when she was a child integrating her neighborhood school. It seemed unfair because it was ancient history, and he has clearly moved far from that kind of thinking. Though I didn't support Biden then, I was moved by the shocked, hurt look on his face. He appeared wounded. He and Harris were friends. She was a close friend of his beloved late son Beau.

The Presidential Polls Will Soon Be Tightening (Gasp!)

It seems that President Trump's attempts to stay in office are increasingly desperate. "Biden wants to hurt God," he said Thursday, leading MSNBC host Chris Hayes to ask how he could even do that (?). It was bad enough for Trump that he's apparently lost control over events and the narrative--and the opportunities to get … Continue reading The Presidential Polls Will Soon Be Tightening (Gasp!)

Fighting Our “What If Trump Won’t Leave?” Paranoia

I had promised myself—and you—that I would stop talking about the gross elephant trampling through our Constitution (with apologies to real elephants, wonderful creatures that they are!).

My way of dealing with my strong feelings about Trump has been to make him tiny and powerless in my mind—even as I recognize his increasingly dangerous actions and expect them to continue to heighten as Election Day nears.

But then I read an article in The Boston Globe with the scary title “A bipartisan group secretly gathered to game out a contested Trump-Biden election. It wasn’t pretty.”

Barr’s Army: The Slender Legal Reed for Overtaking American Cities

Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler and other elected officials have been telling Washington in no uncertain terms: “Take your troops out of Portland.”

Wheeler has called the unidentified federal individuals dressed in camouflage and driving unmarked vans President Trump’s “personal army.” You’ve no doubt heard that there have already been casualties in this foray.

But it would be more appropriate to call them “Barr’s army.” Our quite-recent history includes Attorney General Barr’s giving the orders for the attack on nonviolent protesters outside of the White House to facilitate Trump’s photo op holding a Bible.

The Supreme Court Rulings Against The President: “Judicial Malpractice”?

I was one of many Americans who breathed a huge sigh of relief on Thursday when the Supreme Court emphatically said, in two 7-2 decisions, that the President of the United States is not above the law.

The small-minded part of me found it particularly delicious that President Trump's two appointees—Gorsuch and Kavanaugh—voted with Chief Justice Roberts and the liberal minority in both instances.

After all, Trump had referred to his appointees as “his” justices; how dare they cross him like that! Justices who uphold settled law going back 250 years—it’s all a plot against him!

Lesson From the Woke Dentist–and Questions From Other Stories We Need to Keep Reconsidering…

A friend (white) who likes and respects his dentist (also white) was curious about the dentist’s reactions to our nation’s turmoil in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by the police.

The dentist responded:

“I finally get it. My son’s been working on me for a while, but now it’s really clear.”

But, my friend persisted, since the media coverage has largely lost its intensity, is he still as focused on the issue?

“Yes,” said the dentist.

Are We–at Last–Ready to Let the Sun Shine In?

I have written several times on my blog about Doug Glanville, a friend of my daughter’s since childhood who is a multitalented and lovely individual: former Major League baseball player, sports commentator, writer and New York Times contributor, educator on sports and social justice, etc, etc. (He currently has a sports-related podcast called Starkville in collaboration with baseball writer Jayson Stark—I am happy to give that a plug!)...

Doug sent me a copy of the video below, "Enough!," which he wrote and narrated and ESPN produced. I find his "personal call to action" powerful, searing, and eventually hopeful--another chance for us all. Please join me in watching it. If you've seen it before, I think it merits another viewing.

My Friend Responds to “You Broke It; You Fix It!”

I noted in my previous post that the title I used above was a response from my friend, an African American woman, to my efforts last year to encourage dialogue on race in America.

She sent me her reactions to the events described in Wednesday's post (which she liked) via email, and I feel her words are yet another important message for us white folks to hear. We hear them, but do we really hear them?

Can we feel them? Can we picture ourselves in the situations she describes? And how will--or will--any of this affect our actions going forward?

Can we transform the outrage we feel now to effect changes, staying the course, because it won't be quick or easy?

Here's my friend's response:

“You Broke It; You Fix It!”

When I ran a series of posts on my blog last year in the hope of encouraging dialogue about how we talk about race in America, the comment above was made by a woman I worked with a years ago who became a friend.

She’s an African American who has risen high in her chosen field—despite not having a college degree—by virtue of her extraordinary intelligence and diligence.

Her view was that she was tired of having to explain stuff to white people; it was our turn now.

I saw an identical comment on Twitter yesterday from another African American woman...
It’s time we white people acknowledged that this problem is ours to fix—all of ours, as a country, but it will never happen if white people don’t recognize our role and responsibility.

Frogs Do It, Bees Do It–Even Educated “We’s” Do It…

I altered the first line of an old song (“Let’s Fall in Love”) to shamelessly draw you in to a discussion of an important topic.

As an intro, here’s a little Haiku for These Times

Social distancing—
Ants isolate selves when ill
Healthy queen makes room.

Why are ants so much smarter than a growing number of humans? I’m speaking now of the American variety (of humans, not ants), but surely there are others.

The Allegations Against Biden: The Press Presses On…

In my previous post, I expressed my belief in Joe Biden’s innocence of charges of sexual assault, as well as my great concern that the press would keep the story alive, thereby damaging an innocent man.

I didn’t discuss the now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in that post (except in the comments section) because I think comparisons with the charge against Biden are totally off base. 

So does New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg. She remains skeptical about Biden, but states that Democrats "would never have the audacity to demand that their political opponents act on a story with as many ambiguities as Reade's." 

But I must say the two men’s reactions tell me much about temperament and character.

Why I Believe Joe Biden Did Not Commit Sexual Assault

This post began as an exploration of presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden's positions on the issues. I imagined myself chatting with him while he was  endeavoring to campaign from his basement.

But the charges of sexual assault against him by a former staffer, Tara Reade, are getting a good deal of media attention.

Biden was slow to respond, allowing former staffers to speak on his behalf. But Friday morning, he issued a statement, which you can read here.

He speaks of his pride in the role he played in developing the Violence Against Women Act, and then he says:

The President’s Daily Coronavirus Briefings–What Do You Think the Press Should Do? My Reassessment

In my April 8 post on this topic, I expressed some ambivalence about the idea that the press should no longer cover the President’s daily briefings live at all. I certainly didn’t feel they needed to show the two-plus hour nightly events in their soul-sapping entirety, but I also wondered whether disbanding live coverage completely might be a bad precedent.

I felt that the press should try to find a compromise by airing a portion and then cutting away, rather than dropping long-held norms just because he was slashing and burning them.

On Friday, I heard Eli Stokols, a White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times, say that covering this President raises profound problems for the press and is in fact, the central issue for them at this point.

Why Are Women World Leaders Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic So Well–and What Does This Tell Us About Leadership?

With the world caught in the vortex of the pandemic, it’s clear that some of the best results to date have occurred in countries that have elected women as their leaders. Indeed, an article in The Guardian bore this headline:

"The Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Coronavirus: Women."

I find this phenomenon intriguing and have been wondering what lessons might emerge to help us going forward. There seem to be several commonalities among these women.

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS RELIEF PACKAGE(S): A Questioning Acrostic

Catastrophic delays
Of equipment for patients and carers
Reveal huge flaws in America’s design.
One thing I do
Not hear discussed
Applies to the “have nots’”
Vying for their tiny share of
Income from the supposed stimulus:
Registering their presence without
Use of computers and Internet?
Shadowy reminders of those we forget.

More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together

Events are moving very rapidly. Less than a week after I published my post about life in self-quarantine in an epicenter of the pandemic, far more Americans are in similar situations—some in mandatory lockdown, which I suspect will arrive in my community soon.

In my previous post, I described being in a hard-hit area with a local hospital whose CEO was profoundly worried about running out of ventilators for patients and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospital staff. When staff members become ill, obviously, there’s no one to treat patients.

How Bernie Sanders Can Rise From Politician to Statesman

Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio defied a state Supreme Court decision and cancelled his state’s primary election on March 17, citing “health concerns.” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, whom I greatly respect, said he’s been working with DeWine, knows him well, and is confident that his decision was based on the right reason: the desire to protect the health and safety of the people of his state. So although there’s plenty of political shenanigans around, the Ohio primary cancellation doesn’t seem to have been one of them. That’s the good part.

Post Super Tuesday: The Septuagenarian Scramble Begins

So it’s come to this: two old white guys duking it out to see who can take on the third—the youngest, least qualified, and clearly impaired. I’d like to hear a drumroll from the press insisting on up-to-date medical records for each of them, based on examinations by reputable sources (not that wacky guy who declared before 2016 that Trump, if elected, would be the healthiest president in the history of the solar system—or perhaps the universe). 

To be sure, both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are flawed candidates (as are just about all the others—but none even remotely as flawed as the current White House occupant). I would have strongly preferred a younger person, one of the highly competent women, and I hope whoever wins the nomination will select a woman of color as his vice presidential nominee.

Chaos in America…BUT… We Can End It! (A Near- Acrostic Poem for Our Times)

Candidates flailing arms in the air, bent on talking, one over another
Hapless moderators—too many, too weak to control the mayhem
Another Democratic debate,
Offering less light than heat
Seemingly not laser-focused on the context: our closeness to the abyss.
...
BUT…

When an aroused people stands together
Elevating our shared goal beyond our individual predilections,

Some Positive Thoughts…and Actions to Save the House of Representatives

After watching the pre-Nevada caucus Democratic debate, I began writing this post with feelings of frustration approaching despair. There were many things to criticize, and I was emptying my angst onto this page, and thus preparing to send it on to you. 

With the latest evidence—which we already knew—from the Intelligence briefing to the House that reiterated Russian meddling in the 2020 election, which was followed by the President’s replacement of the acting intelligence chief with someone with less than zero qualifications for the job, I cannot and will not deny that we are living in increasingly perilous times. See The New York Times article here.

The question I’ve been pondering is this: as we search for someone who is best able to defeat Donald Trump, how do we handle ourselves? And that question makes me feel more closely attuned to my more optimistic, better self—the one that really believes we can find common ground.

Here’s the Path for a Big Democratic Win in November

In case you didn't see/hear or read about Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's official Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union address, it appears below.

I believe her focus here is the path the Democrats must take to win the Presidency, House, and Senate in November. It was the successful path to retaking the House in 2018, and there are many reasons to believe it will work again.

We Need to Prevent the Democratic Party–and the U.S.–From Being “Berned…”

I just can’t seem to help myself. Pretty soon I’ll get back to happiness and haiku. I’m much more comfortable seeking common ground and expressing optimism—and not preaching against a particular Democrat (or Independent running as a Democrat). After this post, I hope to leave this topic.

But for now, with the President’s awfulness just mounting, and the chances of his removal from office practically nil, I feel I must use my little platform to try to help prevent a giant case of Buyer’s Remorse.

The Huge Trump Opposition Research File on Bernie

I really, really, wanted to take a break from politics this week. I’d rather be writing about flowers and butterflies and HeroRATs and inspirational people. But I’m writing with a sense of urgency.

After watching the Democrats, led by the brilliant Adam Schiff, weave a compelling case for the President’s guilt—and knowing the impeachment trial will probably result in acquittal—I feel even more strongly that the Democrats must present a unified front if they have any chance of defeating Trump and saving our democracy. 

ON THE GROUND IN IOWA: MY CHAT WITH TWO EXPERIENCED CAUCUS PARTICIPANTS

I’ll acknowledge at the outset: I know, understand, and accept all of the criticisms of the Iowa caucus.

But I still have a romantic fascination with this singular demonstration of grassroots participation in the electoral process. It seems to me the closest we get to ancient Athens, where the polis, or people, practiced unfettered democracy. 

OBFUS-GATE: An Exploration of Our National Crisis (Even Worse: It’s In Verse!)

In April I cited Barr’s antics
The AG was quietly frantic
The Mueller Report 
Was a strong retort
To the “Trump did no wrong” semantics.

But Bill-Barr knew why he’d been hired
And sensing the public was tired:
“There’s nothing,” said he—
“No conspiracy”
So the Truth into muck became mired.

My Watching the Impeachment Hearing Blues…

If this is the “Deep State” that President Trump has been warning us about, I’d say we need more of ‘em!

After viewing much of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings, I’m left feeling proud, sad, and frightened. 

The proud part is easy. 

Can “Love Thy Enemy” Be a Winning Political Strategy–as Well as a Healing Balm for a Divided People?

We know that the US is riven by deep divisions—and that other countries are going through similar struggles. We also know that most people are unhappy with the anger and hostilities—and that anxiety levels about politics and world events are high.

Against this backdrop, I found the final question in the fourth Democratic Presidential debate, held in Ohio on October 15, instructive. Moderator Anderson Cooper asked each of the 12 candidates (the largest group of debaters ever) this question:

“Last week, Ellen Degeneres was criticized after she and former President George W. Bush were seen laughing together at a football game. Ellen defended their friendship, saying, we’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different.”

“So in that spirit, we’d like you to tell us about a friendship that you’ve had that would surprise us and what impact it’s had on you and your beliefs.”

About Those Guns…This Time, Some Better News (Part 2 of 2)

There’s broad agreement, as noted in Part 1 of this post, that gun violence (indeed, all violence) should be viewed as a public health issue.

That idea was clearly stated by Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist trained in infectious diseases, when he returned to the US after a decade spent in Somalia, Uganda, and other countries where epidemics of such diseases as cholera, tuberculosis, and AIDs were common. In his final assignment before coming home, he was tasked to design interventions.

As he describes in a TEDMED talk, he was looking for something to do when he began hearing stories of children shooting other children. When he asked friends how America was addressing this issue, one response was through punishment. But, he said, “We who had worked in behavior know that punishment was something…that was highly overvalued” because it wasn’t a main driver of either behavior or behavior change. What’s more, it reminded him of responses to epidemics long ago—before science cast better light on issues.

My Presidential Nominee Wish List

Thursday night was the third debate among the Democratic candidates for President....

I found the debate a bit more revelatory than the two previous ones, and I thought the ABC moderators did a decent job. But I’m still not getting the sense of the candidates that I’m seeking. I’m wondering how many of you feel the same...

What am I looking for in the Democrat’s eventual nominee—and what are you looking for?

The Democrats’ Debates Were Disappointing, and Yet…

My, my my: so much drama—even attacks on No Drama Obama!

Let me state at the outset that I had never intended to become so overtly partisan in this blog. I even wrote a post a while back explaining why I wouldn’t discuss the elephant in the room (President Trump) because so much stuff was appearing elsewhere, and I wanted to focus on finding our common ground. My overarching goal remains, and in my own way, I’m still trying to do that.

When the President is an incumbent, it’s assumed the election is a referendum on him. But now that this President has made blatantly racist attacks on people of color a feature of his daily rants, I believe the 2020 election is a referendum on us. Who are we as Americans? What kind of country do we look forward to, and how devoted are we to working toward a more perfect union?...

I believe/hope...that we are seeking leadership that unites us in hope and common purpose, rather than divides us in hatred and fear.

In that spirit, I offer you my thoughts after viewing the second round of debates—and I’ll explain why I found them sorely lacking.

It’s Here, It’s Real, and We’ve Got to Talk About It Together

I know, I know. It’s the “Hysterical Doomsaying Scientists” vs the “What’s Wrong With These People? Don’t They Care About Their Grandkids?” folks. How can we ever find common ground? I’ve just discovered someone who’s devoting her life to that effort, and I’ll introduce her to you shortly...
One big change among climate scientists fairly recently is that they have better tools than previously, enabling them to speak more definitively about the association between some dramatic, never-before-seen events and climate change...
Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons today, they find, are bigger, wetter, and faster-moving than they used to be. Climate change isn’t hovering somewhere in the not-too-distant future. We’re living with it now.

“They’re Doing It As We Sit Here…”

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we were visiting friends. But all four of us spent last Wednesday indoors, in front of the TV. We were watching Special Counselor Robert Mueller testify, first before the House Judiciary Committee, and then before the House Intelligence Committee...

And while many have faulted Mueller for his halting, weary performance and his insistence on sticking to the “four corners of his report,” much emerged from those hearings.

23&WE: The Democrats Debate (With apologies to Chaucer for imperfectly borrowing his rhyme scheme)

Now listen, friends, as I unveil the chorus
Of those I’m calling 23&WE
We’re not discussing folks who came before us
It’s those who say what this country should be
And how they’ll make enough of us agree
They’re poised to set out from the starting gate,
And one of them may well decide our fate.

How Do We Talk About Race in America? An Unfortunate Update…

In Part 2 of my exploration, “How Do We Talk About Race in America?,” I spoke with Doug Glanville, a friend of my daughter’s whom I’ve known since they were children. After graduating as an engineering student from the University of Pennsylvania, Glanville has gone on to do great things in his life: his rich and varied career, which included nine years of playing major league baseball (twice with the Chicago Cubs), now involves being a sports commentator, writer, podcast co-star, and lecturer at Yale University, teaching a course titled "Athletes, Activism, Public Policy, and the Media." He is a uniter and optimist by nature—confronting racial injustice when needed but always trying to put it into perspective and not overreact..... He told me when we spoke that he likes to “take lemons and make lemonade.”

Well, life just handed him another big lemon, which he described in The New York Times Sunday Review. (He’s also a contributing opinion writer for the Times.) I hope everyone will read his entire Op-Ed, because it’s a powerful, nuanced, sophisticated view from a very thoughtful person about issues we should all be aware of and thinking about.

How Do We Avoid the Pitchforks and Achieve Greater Economic Equality?

I realize once again I’m taking on a “you can’t cover such a mammoth, complex topic in a blog” subject. That’s why I won’t mention world economic inequality right now. I have some awareness of my limits, for goodness' sake (!?). ...

What I do have is a heart that hurts when I see so much suffering and anger in this land of plenty, a conviction that this growing economic inequity is unsustainable, and—I’ve been told—an analytical mind in addressing problems. And my blessed blog gives me a bit of a forum to try to evoke discussion of these views.

So here we go.

Wherein I Tumble Into the Weeds Yet Again…

Well, I didn’t really think I’d be returning to this topic—certainly not so soon—but I’ve learned some things since the first post appeared that I feel are worth sharing.

As I noted previously, despite my ambivalence concerning legalization, I’ve been assuming that it will eventually happen. I still do. A number of you have pointed out the analogy to Prohibition, and we all know how that effort to oppose the public will turned out.

But a New York Times report on the collapse of an effort to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, which was a campaign promise made by the state’s governor, Phil Murphy, and had both his strong backing and statewide public support, points to some opposing arguments that legislators made. (I promise if you stay with me through this, you’ll see that not all my findings are negative.)

Getting Into the Weeds of the Marijuana Debate

First, sorry about that title; I couldn’t help myself.

When I was in grad school, a sheltered 21-year-old living on her own in the Big City for the first time, I had a friend I’ll call Bo. An English major like me, Bo was a wildly creative character who scavenged through garbage cans and transformed odd stuff he’d found into some very interesting works of art.

He was also eager to share some of the things he regarded as life’s gifts with his friends. And so one day he offered me—a non-smoker, rule-abider, and pretty fastidious sort—a dirty-looking piece of hemp. ....

The Constitution: Can It Help Us “Replace the Jeering With Productive Conversation”?

No matter what your politics, you may well be troubled, as I am, by the efforts on college campuses—as well as in many other arenas—to stifle dissent by preventing people with unpopular views from being invited to speak—or interrupting them so that they can’t be heard. Short of shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater, the First Amendment to the US Constitution should be a protected and revered part of all our public dialogue—from colleges to the White House.

And it seems the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) college entrance exams, has decided to do something about that problem, reports Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. They determined to ensure that the next generation really learns what the Constitution is all about. 

2020 Foresight: Looking Beyond Our Dysfunctional Government

For now, at least, 35 days after it was foisted upon us, what has been called “the Seinfeld shutdown—it’s about nothing”—is over. That would be amusing if it hadn’t wreaked such terrible damage on so many people. It will take a while to understand the larger impacts on our economy, national security, and more, but we’ll probably never know the devastation it caused some of the most vulnerable government workers and private contractors..................

OK. Now that I’ve gotten all that out of my system, I’d like to update an exploration of an issue I first raised in “Here’s Why I’ve No Intention of Discussing the Elephant in Our National Room”: What are we looking for in leadership in 2020? It’s going to be a wild ride out there as a multitude of Democrats seek the party’s nomination. 

I invite you to put on your citizen-pundit hats and tell me what you think. Feel free to name names: those you either like or don’t like at this point, but please tell me why....

But I’m equally interested in the issues you think are paramount and the qualities you’re looking for in a President—and whether you think that type of person/persons would be viable in the general election. In these hyper-partisan times, are you looking for someone who expresses commitment to reach across the aisle? How do you think such a person would fare in the primaries?

How Do We Talk About Race in America? A Serendipitous Part 3

I hadn't planned this additional post on race, but I came across what I feel is a wonderful piece of Op-Art on the topic in The New York Times. Some of you may recall it, but even if you do, I hope you'll use the link above to revisit it. It's worth several readings, I believe.

And it's followed by another serendipitous example that I find enriches the topic.

Writer and illustrator Henry James Garrett has created a wise and amusing morality tail/tale that's titled "The Kernel of Human (or Rodent) Kindness."

Navigating “The Wild West” Marketplace of Consumer Genetic Testing–and Other Needed Information About Our DNA

In an article in The New York Times Sunday Review, genetics counselor Laura Hercher described a man named Matthew Fender, who—after searching for heredity data through 23andMe—had placed his genetic test results into Promethease, a DNA search engine that probes such data for variants cited in the medical literature. 

Fender had sought to learn his risk for developing a pulmonary embolism, the condition that had killed his sister, a seemingly healthy young woman of 23. The report didn’t mention that, but it did provide the alarming news that he carried a mutation (PSEN1) strongly associated with early onset Alzheimer’s, as well as two copies of a gene variant (ApoE4) that indicates greatly increased chances of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s.

After getting no satisfactory guidance from his primary care doctor and other professionals, Fender checked out a competing genetics company, Ancestry DNA,  to see what his results there would say about the PSEN1 variant. They said nothing.
He then persuaded his doctor to order the test, which proved negative....

It’s worth noting that both companies claimed their tests were 99.9% accurate. Yet a 23andMe representative told Hercher that “a 99.9% accuracy can still mean errors.”

How Do We Talk About Race in America? Meet Doug Glanville (Part 2 of 2)

As soon as I determined to address this topic in my blog, I knew the person I should turn to for guidance. Doug Glanville, who’s been a friend of my daughter’s since childhood, is one of those all-around amazing people. It was evident when he was young:  academically gifted, terrifically athletic, warm, funny, and friendly, he was clearly destined to make his mark in the world.

And so he has. After graduating as an engineering student from the University of Pennsylvania, he had an illustrious nine-year career as a major league baseball player—a center fielder for the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies. From there he became a commentator for ESPN. He wrote a book, The Game From Where I Stand, contributes frequently to The New York Times, and has written for The Atlantic...

And yet…and yet. In the winter of 2014, shoveling the walk of his home in Hartford, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Tiffany, an attorney and Hartford Board of Education member, and their four children, Glanville was stunned to be approached by a police officer from the next town. 

How Do We Talk About Race in America? (Part 1 of 2)

“Being a human being is a really hard job.”

I heard this comment from the neurologist who treats me for migraines—a prominent researcher and a wonderful, compassionate man. He was quoting an observation that his mother often made when he was growing up.  “I didn’t realize how wise she was when I was young,” he told me, but over the years, his mother’s words have come to resonate. Fortunately for me and his other patients, they appear to form part of the empathy that makes him both an exceptional physician and a lovely person.

“Forget about race; it’s hard enough just to be a human being.” During the same week that my neurologist repeated his mother’s words, I heard a white comedian quoting Richard Pryor, the brilliant African-American comedian and social commentator who died in 2005.

At first I was struck by the similarity of the sentiments. But then I thought: Did Richard Pryor, who was a pioneer in speaking truth to audiences black and white about the burdens of racism, really say “forget about race”? So I did a little research.

OK. The Dems Won the House. Now What?

Well, there really was a blue wave—reportedly the greatest turnover since 1974—and a number of races remain too close to call or subject to a recount. These victories are especially impressive because of the gerrymandered districts and increased state restrictions that led to long lines at the very least and disenfranchisement of numbers of voters, mostly people of color. For a detailed look at what voters faced, read What It Takes to Win, published by the Brennan Center for Justice in October. 

As I stated in my last post, I view this not as a partisan issue—but as a critical win for our democracy. Unless/until the Republicans become better stewards of their Constitutional oaths, or are replaced by a new political force more willing to seek compromise for the good of the people, I hope Americans will continue to shun them in large numbers.

However, one of the consequences of this election was the defeat of some of the most moderate Republicans, increasing the likelihood that the party will become even more intransigent. 

And so, although I am grateful that the Democrats can put the brakes on many of President Trump’s chaotic and sometimes horrific actions, I see reason for concern that to accomplish anything on the substantive issues needed to show voters they are delivering and to hold their majority, the Democrats face an uphill battle. 

The Stakes Couldn’t Be Higher: Vote to Repudiate Violence and Find Common Ground

Those of you who have been following my blog know that I’ve been searching for common ground among us and/or stressing that we can be agreeable even when we disagree. I’ve also stated that I have strong opinions, and I’ve made no attempt to hide my concerns about climate change and gun safety, while generally avoiding the virulence of the political debates being played out in so many other arenas.
The thing is, I am perplexed that some of the most important issues we face are depicted as partisan, when, in fact, the majority of Americans agree about them...

The Mindfulness Community Enters the Political Fray!

I’ve long been aware that the mindfulness community is devoted not only to helping individuals find inner peace, but also to creating a more peaceful world. But I was pleasantly surprised this week when I received the letter below from one of my favorite mindfulness guides, Tara Brach (whose letter was more nicely formatted than what you see here).

Brach describes her role, as part of a group of Buddhist mindfulness leaders, in an interdenominational effort, Faith in Action. Its vital mission is to get out the vote on Election Day, November 6, vastly expanding the electorate...
Please click on the links to see if there’s any action you’re able to take (in addition to voting on November 6, of course!) and share this information as widely as you can!