Tuesday, December 29, 2020

22 Days to Fresh Start: Privatizing USPS, Moving on from Trump, A New Political Party

 Perry Como, the smooth baritone crooner of 1950s-early 1960s television, often had a segment on his NBC show introduced by the jingle, 

“Letters, we get letters, 

We get stacks and stacks of letters, 

Dear Perry, would you be so kind, 

To fill a request and sing the song I like best.” 

Don’t be alarmed. There’s no link to my singing anything for you. But I have received some “fan” mail recently which I’ve chosen to respond to in this post, along with some comments on what others have written.

1st Up: After my recent lament about the inefficiency of the U.S. Postal Service to deliver a package of books to Omaha mailed December 1, and yet to arrive, Jim opined, “We really need to privatize the Post Office. There is no need to have a government entity handling the mail. It has had major issues when overseen by Democrats, and major issues when overseen by Republicans. A number of European countries have figured this out. As those on the left are always wanting to emulate Europe, I am not sure why they don’t want to in this case.”

The political swipe at the end, notwithstanding, Jim, a public post office is necessary to deliver mail, including medicines, to everyone regardless of how remote their address. Price is the same for everyone. 

In the pursuit of efficiencies and profits a private mail service could reduce or eliminate deliveries or charge exorbitant fees for remote deliveries. Our current system is not perfect but it is a universal investment much like our interstate highway system, our national defense and our national park service. 

You may counter that these areas also should be privatized but I would disagree. Can you imagine what tolls would be on the East Coast and West Coast interstates? Or how we would fare if Blackwater (or whatever it is called now) replaced the military? Or how commercial our national parks would become? 

No, Jim, the post office should be as Ben Franklin imagined it—a national service.

2nd Up: As I continue to write after the election about the way Donald Trump is dismantling norms and our government institutions, Ruth took umbrage, suggesting I “Move on. Biden is your president. Now let us see how he does. You are beginning to sound like a fanatic. Give it a rest and let’s hope this is a better change.”

Ruth was not alone in her thoughts. A few days earlier Steve wondered if after Biden’s inauguration I “will stop talking about Trump? Or will you refer back to Trump for the next four years. Or maybe your hatred has no bounds and we can look forward to your blaming Trump for everything that goes wrong in the entire world for the remainder of your life?” 

I would love to move on, Ruth and Steve, but our fearful leader (for the next 22 days) has shown no inclination to do so. I would hope to never have to mention Trump after Jan. 20. 

But the reality is Biden’s presidency will be engaged in cleaning up the mess Trump left our country: more than 330,000 pandemic deaths from more than 17 million cases, many because Trump failed to warn people about the virus and to take necessary precautions like wearing a mask and not attending mass gatherings; 

Biden will have to repair international relations and America’s reputation that Trump damaged; Biden will have to work double time to repair environmental damage wrought by Trump so we all can live more healthy in the next 30 years; 

Hardly any action Biden takes in the next four years will not be to balance the divisiveness Trump sowed in this country. So yes, Trump will be mentioned by me and any other honest commentator on the state of America.

3rd Up: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently hoped “principled conservatives” will bolt the Republican Party and start their own political organization (https://nyti.ms/34CKeTO). 

I disagree.

If anyone should start a new political party it should be the Trumpians. Principled Republicans should not move away from the heritage of the Grand Old Party that gave us presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan as well as numerous senators of national esteem. 

In a more practical sense, the Republican and the Democratic Parties enjoy the two top lines on election ballots. It would be political suicide for principled Republicans to cede their ballot spot to a party led by Trump. 

4th Up: What do the following two stories say about our country? Nothing good, in my opinion.

“Minnesota town approves a whites-only Nordic heritage church”


“University of Michigan claims ‘picnic’ and ‘blacklist’ are offensive”


Friday, December 25, 2020

26 Days to Fresh Start: Holiday Edition

If you have listened to any newscast during the last few weeks you no doubt heard dire warnings about expected delays in deliveries of holiday packages by FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. 

Heeding those warnings I shipped out a box of books to our two Omaha-based grandchildren. I mailed the Hanukkah gifts December 1. My post office receipt stated, “Estimated Delivery Date Mon 12/07/2020.” Hanukkah began the evening of December 10 and ended at sunset December 18. 

The package has still not arrived. USPS tracking, as of December 25, says the shipment is “in transit.” That most recent update was recorded December 17. I realize books receive less than priority shipping, but really, three-plus weeks!?!

Full disclosure—I also mailed Hanukkah cookies Gilda baked for our grandkids in Omaha and Acton, Mass. I mailed those December 4. Those packages were received in time for Hanukkah celebrations. 

Fortunately, the books were not the only Hanukkah presents CJ and Leo were to receive. Otherwise the Grinch might have stolen the joy of another holiday. 

Speaking of Disappointments: Torrential wind-driven rain overnight washed away almost all of the snow in White Plains, but this being Christmas Day you can still hear “Frosty the Snowman” playing in many stores that are open and across many radio stations. But in my neighborhood, at least, the art and joy of actually molding a snow person from the near foot of snow that fell last Thursday apparently has been lost on this new generation of children and their parents. 

In the last few years 10 families with pre-teenage offspring have moved into our three block development. Yet, the only snow people to have appeared on lawns are the blow-up type that are part of outdoor holiday decorations.

My faith in junior humanity was somewhat restored Wednesday afternoon during a one hour walk in a nearby neighborhood. Gilda and I came across two child-made snow people.

Still, I cannot help but wonder if life has become too cushy for the current generation of parent and child. 

Out in Omaha, five-year-old granddaughter CJ loves sledding. Three-year-old brother Leo does not. He doesn’t like getting wet. 

CJ’s enthusiasm for sledding, on the other hand, is unbounded, even after she slid under a chain link fence on a friend’s property. She might have been severely scratched if not for being bundled up in a puffy winter jacket and pandemic mask. 

CJ’s brush with trauma reminded me of a time I took her her mother, Ellie, and uncle, Dan, sledding at nearby Maple Moor Golf Course. Dan was probably 10, Ellie 7. 

We chose a steep hill that most of the other children and parents slid down. It sloped toward the Hutchinson River more than 100 yards away. On one of Ellie’s first runs she exceeded expectations, so much so that more she seemed certain to wind up in the aforementioned Hutchinson River. 

Dan and I screamed for her to roll off her sled. Doubtful she heard us from the top of the hill, but she did stop yards from the water. She was excited by her adventure, but agreed to be more aware of her proximity to the river on subsequent runs.

On a return visit to Maple Moor we noticed that some enterprising daredevil had built a slight bump onto the snow about half way down the hill. The bump was perhaps six inches in height. 

On one of my runs I steered right at the bump. Going over wasn’t the problem. Landing was. My coccyx bone hurt for three months. I don’t recall ever again sledding with the kids.

Animal Farm: My recent post of a neighbor’s dog named Murray and a visit by a deer to our yard elicited the following comments: 

From AG: “WOW, a St. Bernewfie named Murray! How lovely. Our NPR station (WAMC) Pres/CEO Alan Chartok’s dog, a beagle, I think, is also named Murray and he is frequently in the studio!

“My first boy-friend’s family had a big beautiful black Newfoundland named Sheila. Her mother was named Sheba, and lived nearby. One afternoon the local Tuckahoe fire department got a phone call from a woman obviously in great distress explaining that there were two big black bears asleep in her cellar next to the furnace. 

“The person at the fire department laughed and explained it was Sheila and Sheba who must have found their way in and were keeping warm, and were quite harmless. Sheila’s human father was a volunteer fireman, so all knew the dogs. They are quite large and quite wonderful. 

“From what I learned then, Newfoundlands are natural swimmers and somehow know how to save children and women FIRST, so they were adopted as official dogs of the Coast Guard!”

My cousin Michael reacted to our deer visit: 

“We have lots of deer in our (Baltimore) neighborhood, and they can be very destructive to Mary’s gardens. So, if you find that you are starting to have problems with the deer eating your shrubs (and flowers in the spring), I can recommend Plantskydd animal repellent.  

“It comes as oil liquid (best for shrubs—you spray it on) and granules (good for plants that are close to the ground). The liquid smells absolutely terrible. I wear old clothes to apply the spray, then immediately disrobe and put them in the wash and head to the shower. I also recommend using disposable gloves. This repellent has been very effective in keeping the deer away.  Needs to be applied about every 6-8 weeks.”

Bambi returned early this morning after several days’ absence. I couldn’t tell if he ate some more of the ivy on our fence, but he did drop a calling card on our slate walkway. 

Oh, well. In keeping with the season I’ll close with the greeting on a Santa Claus picture card I used to send to friends, “Murray Christmas.” 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

27 Days to Fresh Start: Challenge Any Self-Pardon by an Evil Man

 I think I share with the evangelical community—Christian and Jewish—the belief that Donald Trump is an agent of God. Only, I believe he is an evil man sent by God to test our resolve to do good during our stay on this earth.

His latest dastardly deed inflicted pain and anguish on Democrats, Independents and Republicans suffering financially from the coronavirus pandemic’s assault on the economy. Instead of actively leading the discussion on the size of relief checks, Trump waited till the eleventh hour to express his preference for the amount he wanted. He threatened to veto the relief bill if it didn’t provide $2,000 per eligible person rather than the congressional compromise amount of $600.

On the surface, a noble act. But in reality his blindsided decree undercut Republican support for the relief bill and has jeopardized the much needed package Americans of all stripes need to survive.

A truly Grinch-like deed as the nation awaits a mostly joyless Christmas and New Year. Surely not a message of goodwill to all. 

Few, I would hope, would argue that since the turn of the 20th century the United States has been the primary source of global benefits, not as pertains to conquest and corporate aggrandizement, but rather as the most underlying force for the expansion of personal liberties and healthy living.

Through our entry into two world wars America provided the balance of power to overcome tyranny in distant lands. Moreover, victory enabled the domestic march toward racial and gender equalities, however imperfect and incomplete those achievements remain.

The U.S. set the global example of dedicating vast tracts of public land for all to enjoy. We championed just peace and helped rebuild our enemies. We forged strategic alliances to preserve peace and repress aggression.

Our annual budgets, though heavily weighted by military spending, nevertheless included funds to spread democratic values around the world and provide humanitarian aid after disasters.

Our technological and medical breakthroughs have softened and enriched the lives of billions. At the same time our shores have welcomed those seeking refuge from intolerance and oppression. Once inside our borders immigrants have been able to exercise their industry and ingenuity.

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century Trump is doing everything in his power to topple the heritage of achievement his predecessors built.

To be sure, many of his actions have been legal. Misguided, but legal. His pardons of convicted criminals and murderers have undercut the rule of law and the military code of honor.

Trump haters want him prosecuted. But it is doubtful any of his foul deeds violated any of the powers granted a president by the Constitution.

Yet, if he chooses to test the limits of presidential authority by issuing a self-pardon it would be incumbent upon the Biden justice department to immediately seek Supreme Court review. At stake is our very bedrock principle that no one is above the law.

If the court finds in Trump’s favor a future president could act without compliance to any federal legal standard, without fear of any restraint or punishment. A president or self-pardoned ex-president could, for example, reveal national security secrets without personal repercussions. Even impeachment while in office for “high crimes and misdemeanors” would have no impact on behavior that could be excused by a self-pardon.

In the waning days—27, to be exact—of his occupancy of the White House Trump will continue to amaze and flabbergast. It is a “small” price we collectively will pay the blackmailer to rid ourselves of evil in the Oval Office. 

We owe it to future generations to settle the debate if a president can self-pardon. I, for one, will not be surprised that Trump, the consummate grifter, will try to grab the ultimate prize to exonerate the last four years of his life, the 70 that preceded them and the remaining years he trolls this earth. 

Whether he gets away with such a brazen act will rest on the collective wisdom of the Supreme Court.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

31 Days to Fresh Start: Neighborhood Wildlife

Another Murray moved into the neighborhood. Of course, this Murray ambles along on four legs, has a bushy tail and speaks in single syllables—arf, ruff, bow wow.

Murray is a big dog. A cross, I believe, of a Saint Bernard and a Newfoundland known as a Saint Bernewfie. 

I usually encounter the black and white Murray curled up on his front lawn as I walk around the neighborhood. He rarely gives me more than a baleful glance. Mostly he ignores me. He never barks, unless a dog in a nearby house sets him off.

So far he hasn’t shown any inclination toward wanting to engage in a relationship.

With one exception 48 years ago, I have not met any Murray younger than me. Murray is not the kind of old time name enjoying a modern revival, like Max or Leo. 

Murray has generally been confined to the names of dogs or policemen in comedies and to variations of Mel Brooks-Carl Reiner 2,000 Year Old Man routines (https://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2009/11/whats-in-name.html).

It’s a mixed blessing. It is not a source of pride, but at least my given name remains in contemporary usage.

Deer Me: Just as we were getting ready to say Friday night sabbath prayers before dinner the security lights of our side yard went on. Caught in their glare was a young buck, his antlers in early stage of growth.

As our neighborhood is a block from Saxon Woods Park and abuts the rear of a nursery/landscaping business, deer sightings are quite common, as are other wild beasts. A coyote several years ago. A trio of wild turkeys, including one that chose to plop on top of one of our cars idle in our driveway. Skunks. Hawks, even a turkey vulture with an impressive wing span. Woodchucks and raccoons, of course.

Deer tracks often can be found on our lawn. But we’ve never witnessed their presence until Friday night.

Bambi, as I immediately started calling it, gazed in at Gilda and me as we watched him through our full length windows. He was about 18 feet from our home, standing next to a fence. When he realized we were no threat to him he began his supper—ivy covering the fence. Bambi munched away, occasionally stopping to look across at us and, to his displeasure, to listen to the high pitched yapping of a neighbor’s small dog that probably had picked up his scent.

After about 10 minutes Bambi had enough of our hospitality and wandered back into the nearby woods, leaving footprints in the snow and plenty of ivy for what I suspected would be a return engagement.

Yup, Bambi returned Saturday morning. Or maybe he never left, shielding himself from observation behind pine trees in our yard. He was back there again as I began to write this. 

I zipped up my snow boots for a closer look. I ventured within 10 feet of him, shielded by pine tree branches. Neither of us seemed eager for a closer encounter. 

Shortly after I started raking snow off the solar panels atop the garage, Bambi wandered off. 

He did not return Saturday night, nor Sunday morning. The only evidence of his presence, apart from tracks in the melting snow, are bald spots on our fence where he chewed away the ivy. 

For wildlife visitors I’ll have to content myself with the cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches, morning doves, starlings, sparrows and woodpeckers that frequent our yard when I restock fresh seed and suet in our bird feeders.  

Given coronavirus restrictions, they’ll have to suffice for visitors during these pandemic times.

Friday, December 18, 2020

33 Days to Fresh Start: Can Biden Forge Unified Nation?

 Joe Biden told Stephen Colbert on his “Late Show” Thursday, “The nation is looking for us to be united... politics has become so dirty and vicious, so personal and mean, a clenched fist instead of an open hand. I think people are looking for us to come together” (https://youtu.be/QgIbnaEzSqM).

Dr. Jill Biden observed during the interview that her husband secured more votes than Donald Trump because of the former’s ability to show empathy during a time when more than 300,000 of our fellow countrymen and women have succumbed to the coronavirus. 

Biden’s calming tone, a composure some might mistake for weakness, does not mask his understanding of the intense task he faces convincing opponents in Congress to work with him to combat the economic and health issues facing America. Nor does it assuage the prickly distrust almost half of the country feel towards his pending presidency. 

Case in Point: Here’s an example of the vituperative attacks Trumpsters hurl at those who question their defeated leader. I’ve reproduced a redacted email sent to a friend who dared challenge Trump’s leadership:

“You and (redacted name) have now been blocked from my email. 

“I am DONE with you. I do not wish to engage with you ever again.

“I am so sick and tired of the lot of you and the obnoxious stupid old Jewish irrelevant men who have nothing better to do than be communist/corporatist/ globalist/Soros sympathizers. 

“If Trump is rude and crude then you all are a cancer on society with your promotion and enabling of the undermining of individual liberty and equal justice for all. Feel free to champion ever bigger govt that erodes the rights and freedoms of the individual, far far away from me.

“Do not email me again because if it somehow gets through the block I’ve put on, I will report it as electronic harassment.”

Wow. Having been previously banned by the same individual I was not surprised by the temper of the remarks. I initially characterized it as one of the funniest emails I ever read. But it also is one of the most troubling and depressing as it displays in graphic terms the depth of our nation’s divide.

Disagreement has always been part of our heritage. It did not originate with Donald Trump. Nor did the vile nature of disagreement, the personal disparagement, begin with him. It surely will not end with his departure from the White House, a legacy he might relish but one we as a nation should be ashamed of. 

Joe Biden’s job is to restore the soul of America. Its commitment to all of its citizens, to its allies and to the multitudes around the world who look to America as a beacon of hope and freedom.

The patrimony Biden inherits has become more complicated because of his immediate predecessor. In the last year, alone, we have watched incredulously as Trump ignored overwhelming medical and scientific advice to fight the pandemic and barely comforted the families and loved ones of 311,000 fatalities among 17.3 million cases of COVID-19. 

Trump has remained silent as details emerge of a massive government and industry security breach, almost surely perpetrated by the henchmen of his Russian bro, or should we say, comrade, Vladimir Putin.

As police overreaction, if not brutality, transpired before our smartphone and video-cammed empowered eyes in racial incident after racial incident, Trump lashed out at protesters seeking justice, offering no comfort to the aggrieved.

Preoccupied with his reelection campaign and with undermining the pre- and post integrity of the election, Trump has tarnished America’s image at home and abroad. 

In 33 days Trump becomes an ex. The divorce will be complete, complete with an alimony providing him taxpayer funded perks including a pension, staff and office expenses, medical care or health insurance, and Secret Service protection. 

The mantle of obstructionism to progressive ideas and ideals will pass again to Mitch McConnell if Georgia votes in at least one of two Trumpian senators seeking office in a January 5 runoff election. 

Even with a razor thin majority McConnell would have the power to stymie Biden’s hopes of unifying the country behind economic and pandemic relief. Having just won his own reelection, McConnell has six years of worry-free freedom to shaft the country even as his own state of Kentucky fails to become more successful. 

The future will tax Biden’s skills as a politician and populist leader. Are we, as he believes, seeking unification, or are we to march onward as opposing armies? 

Friday, December 11, 2020

40 Days to Fresh Start: Radical Thoughts on Martial Law, Secession, Dual/Dueling Presidencies

 We have entered a time of radical thought. Arguments are being made for martial law. Secession. Dual, that is dueling, presidencies.

Those who have the ear of Donald Trump are advancing the idea that he declare martial law to void the November 3 election that court after court has endorsed as state after state has certified as untainted with more than sufficient Electoral College votes to award Joe Biden the presidency on December 14 and upon Inauguration Day January 20.

Ah, but there are yet 40 days before Inauguration Day, plenty time for Trump to wreak more havoc on our governmental institutions. The Constitution and subsequent acts of Congress, in fact, does assign a president extraordinary powers.  Yet even during the Civil War Abraham Lincoln did not invoke martial law to avoid an election (which he won) but he did suspend habeas corpus, permitting the indefinite detention of individuals. And during World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt interned West Coast Japanese Americans.

A House Divided: Lincoln’s election triggered a long brewing secession movement by Southern states opposed to any restrictions on their slavery-based way of life. Today’s politicians and commentators who disdain the voting rights and power of minorities are voicing a new form of secession. Rush Limbaugh, anointed earlier this year by Trump with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, said Wednesday on his radio show that the U.S. is trending toward secession. 

“There cannot be a peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs,” he said of our house divided between conservative and liberal ideologies (https://mol.im/a/9041539).

Limbaugh is not advocating secession, but the mere mention of the radical idea is destructive of our national union. It followed by a month a tweet from congressman Price Wallace (R-Miss) that Mississippi needs “to succeed (sic) from the union and form our own country” if Biden is sworn in. He quickly erased the tweet (not because it showed he doesn’t know how to properly spell “secede”), but however strongly he disowns the sentiment it is on the public record.  

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis), a staunch Trump supporter who has to date declined to accept Joe Biden’s victory, is on record as saying half the country would not as well.

Which means, half the country would accept the results.

Apparently, Senator Johnson doesn’t believe in close elections. Apparently, he doesn’t believe elections have consequences. Apparently, he believes Democrats have to accept minority Republican rule, as they did when they accepted the elections of George W. Bush and Trump. Apparently, he and his Trumpian brethren—including 106 House Republicans—believe garnering seven million fewer votes than Joe Biden and way less than the required 270 Electoral College votes entitle Trump to be president again.

What to do? Secession is on Republican minds and lips.

Republicans are always touting their religious values, so perhaps we should look to the Good Book for guidance.

Fellow congregants, turn to Kings I, chapter 12. As any preacher could tell you, after King Solomon died the people of Israel sought tax relief from his successor, his son Rehoboam. Rather than heed their plea, Rehoboam responded, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke; my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

What did the 10 tribes of Israel do? Not surprisingly, they broke away from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to form their own kingdom. Did that work out for them? Not really, according to the Bible. Recall those who formed their own kingdom and eventually were conquered by the Assyrians are now known as the “10 lost tribes of Israel.” 

Why don’t we let the states that Donald Trump won and/or support his challenge to the election results—Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Texas and Arizona—form their own country? It would mean Democratic states would be mostly coastal, making Trumpian territory truly flyover country.

Historians will tell you partition—a nicer word than secession—has been done before, as when the British left the Asian subcontinent in 1947 divided between India and Pakistan. Let’s also not forget partition was the United Nations’ solution to the British mandate in Palestine.

So, how did those two partitions work out? None too well, as India and Pakistan are uncompromising enemies while Israel and the Palestinians are equally unyielding foes.

The breakup of Yugoslavia also does not provide assurances of peaceful coexistence of previously shared statehood. Other example of failed partitions abound.  

What, you might ask, should be done with Democratic enclaves in the middle of the Red states? Austin in Texas, Omaha in Nebraska? Or Republican strongholds in otherwise Blue states, such as upstate New York? Again, turn to history. Until The Berlin Wall came down Berlin was a West German bastion of freedom surrounded by Communist East Germany. 

Won’t people stuck in a state not to their liking want to relocate? Sure. We’ve had mass migrations before. But not everyone will want to vacate, say, Florida’s warm climate for Minnesota’s tundra winters. If they don’t move they will have to accept being a minority under a government not of their political hue.

It has become increasingly clear to me that differences between Trumpsters and the rest of America is an insurmountable continental divide. My friend Arthur and I no longer are included as part of an email group because we do not accept Trump, because we believe the election was legitimate, because we believe in science-based decision making, because we ask questions and do not blindly follow pronouncements from the current occupant of the White House.

If respectful dialogue is not countenanced we are lost as a united nation.

Dueling/Dual Presidencies: Like the time of the two popes in the late 1300s-early 1400s. Elections by the College of Cardinals—the Roman Catholic Church’s version of the Electoral College– weren’t easy back then, either. Eventually, Catholics repaired their schism. 

But then, as now, two leaders who refuse to accept the other’s authenticity, has economic and international implications. 

States that favor Trump are among the least wealthy, with the lowest educational and healthcare benchmarks. To provide basic services most enjoy receiving more dollars back from Washington than they sent to the federal government in taxes. Don’t expect those states to be forthcoming with the equivalent of Obamacare or minimum wage 

During the Middle Ages, countries and different municipalities recognized different popes.

Today, if we have dual/dueling presidents, which president will countries recognize? You can bet Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and other Arab states would favor Trump, as would Israel, Russia and The Philippines. Biden will get the nod from democracies—Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada. NATO members, other than Turkey, would also go for Joe.

Who would the military consider its commander-in-chief? 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, seems to be more favorably inclined towards Biden, but there’s no guarantee he will be chairman if Trump thinks he would turn on him. A replacement, a pliable replacement, might be in order. 

How far down the chain of command does loyalty to the Constitution reside, or can Trump find a sycophant eager to please him and follow his bidding? His recent nomination of Scott O’Grady to be an assistant secretary in the Defense Department dramatizes Trump’s desire to implant his people at the Pentagon. O’Grady recently retweeted disgraced national security advisor retired general Michael Flynn’s call to suspend the Constitution and impose martial law (https://mol.im/a/9019671).


It’s all a dizzying array of non-appetizing prospects. Martial law. Secession. Dueling/dual presidencies.

To some degree, I’m kidding, of course. But the reign of terror, real and imagined, that Donald Trump has unleashed is palpable.

Monday, December 7, 2020

44 Days to A Fresh Start: Don't Fret Pardons, Worry About Trump Declaring Martial Law

 So many people are anxious about Donald Trump issuing countless pardons during the final days of his presidency. They’re especially overwrought he might self-pardon, a constitutionally vague permissible action.

Me? I’m more frightened by the notion that Trump might declare martial law under emergency powers to overturn the election. Martial law would allow him to jail any dissenters with no rights to habeas corpus release from incarceration.

 Crazy, no? But perfectly legal, according to some constitutional experts. More worrisome—advisors like guilty-but-pardoned-liar-to-the-FBI Michael Flynn and Scott O’Grady, nominated to be the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, are pushing the idea (Two separate links: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-election-2020/michael-flynn-suspend-constitution-martial-law-trump-reelection-b1765467.html and https://mol.im/a/9019671).

A desperate to stay in office Trump, having exhausted all judicial appeals and having lost the Electoral College vote count to Joe Biden, might take their counsel to heart as his only and final recourse.

If you’re not already pulling your hair out or losing sleep over this possibility (I personally couldn’t get the idea out of my head at 3 am Monday), spend a few minutes reading this prescient article from the Atlantic back almost two years ago. Here’s an excerpt: 

“This edifice of extraordinary (presidential) powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them. With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, this assumption has held up. But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down” (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/presidential-emergency-powers/576418/).

Executive orders, I believe, require sign-off from the Justice Department, which perhaps provides some context into the intense French Apache being danced by Trump and his frequent enabler Attorney General Bill Barr.

After stating he did not see fraud sufficient to warrant dismissing election results, Barr’s fealty and performance was sharply criticized by Trump. Barr, countered, no doubt, by letting it be known through the media that he was contemplating resigning before Trump’s term in office comes to an end.

How convenient. After years of promoting absolute presidential power, Barr now has second thoughts of endorsing the corruption of our electoral process. He knows if he withholds approval of a martial law pronouncement Trump would fire him, and dismiss any successor, until, like Richard Nixon during the Watergate Saturday Night Massacre, Trump would find his “Robert Bork” willing, if not eager, to legalize his malevolent intentions.

To rehabilitate his already tarnished reputation, Barr has seemingly decided he will not be the one to authorize martial law.

Of course, the military needs to be on board for martial law to be implemented. Based on comments he has made, General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would be expected to resist.

But like Barr, Milley could be replaced by Trump. For several weeks Trump has been seeding compliant officers at the Pentagon, and nominating others, including the aforementioned O’Grady.

Intricate intrigue, is it not? It is, as author Sir Walter Scott wrote in “Marmion, A Tale of Flodden Field,” “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”

Sleep tight tonight, if you can.