Monday, May 15, 2017

The State of the State

 As you may already know, I am returning for a couple of lectures in June. I want you to get ready for them, should you be able to attend, by thinking or reading up on two main areas of interest.
1. We will be talking about the Supreme Court, and how the election of President Trump may affect the composition of our aging Court. Circumstances may create 1-4 openings in the next 3 years, and if the Senate maintains the D-R balance, and the nuclear option, those nominated will be confirmed. What happens if the Court shifts dramatically (from 5-4, 4-5) to 7-2 to the "right?"  What issues, having  been decided in the past, rise from the dead? Think about that.
2. The second lecture focuses on the issue of compromise, on the gridlock, on the inability to govern (pick you trite, tried and true metaphor. What I want you all to think about is the why it seems that we cannot agree on anything? Is this something new, is this a problem that has been recently made, or is this instead an American tradition? Is compromise possible, desirable?

We will have some fun teasing those issues out in full, as much as 2 hours can be full.
People always say, " I can't tell you how excited I am..." and then they proceed to tell you exactly how excited they are. It's like, "sooner rather than later" which to me means, simply, soon.

I am excited to see you all, and to reconnect soon.


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Why Hillary Lost

News flash.
McClatchy, a respected news and polling organization released a report last week that confirmed two other previous reports, one by the New York Times. In the report, data analysis showed that in several of the key swing states (enough to win the electoral vote) the number of Trump voters who had previously voted for President Obama was enough to swing the election. In other words, it was former Obama voters who moved to Trump that gave him the victory in that state and its electoral votes.

Think about that, Sure there were broad swaths of disaffected voters in all parts of the country, and in the mostly red states they were legion.  But those states would have gone either red, or blue, as they have done historically for years.  The key swing states were the tipping points. Those voters, many of whom identify as moderate, or independent, voted for President Obama and President Trump.

Now, the data analysts don't tell us why they did that, which of course, it the key question.  Perhaps that is too hard to pin down- was there a general disaffection among large swaths of voters, was there a singular dislike of Hillary Clinton, was there a mood that Washington does not work that pushed them to support the "outsider?" These are questions that remain to be answered.

And perhaps it does not help to try to find out.  I saw the bumper stickers of President Obama in 2008 proudly displayed on the Priuses (or is it Pree I) and pickups alike, only later to be half torn off as those voters' hopes turned to disappointment.  People often regret their choices, but rarely offer up the truth when they are protected by privacy.

What we are seeing today is a Congress back where it was, deeply divided, unable to achieve consensus, failing leadership, raking in millions to protect their positions in the next election.  A president who is unorthodox (I am being more kind than I can even imagine), careening from one apparent crisis to another (though, interesting how every event today is magnified in to a crisis by our media). And an electorate (that's us folks) who wash  our hands like Herod because of course, we are pure of heart and susceptible to deceit.

The fault of all of this, the dismay, the despair, the fear we feel, the fault dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.


PS. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements on a special lecture duo.  We may just be seeing each other sooner than you think.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What next for Congress?

Sorry for the delay- I was indisposed for the last two weeks, in court, experiencing first-hand the workings of the civil law system. And I can attest that the system is a conglomerate mess.  But, that is a story for another day. Or book. (My old agent called me out of the blue and we had a nice chat- so he has me on yet another project).

Speaking of messes- what is going on in Congress?  The Republicans has a numerical advantage, enough to get legislation passed, but except for slight efforts around the edges (which help everyone, losers oppose and gain support, winners win and gain support, and the rest of us sit wondering how any of it helps us in our daily lives.)

The pending budget crisis (read: raising the debt ceiling because no one, and I do mean no one, cares one whit about ever paying back what our country has collectively borrowed over decades), approaches yet again.  President Trump demands money for his wall, and Democrats, realizing that they always have the advantage opposing cuts (they are real and hurt), will stand firm.  Not on principle, but because they understand the dynamics always favor avoiding short term pain for long term gain.

The budget problems have grown so immense that we gloss over their significance.  But I think that they demonstrate the fundamental and growing realization that we have a government that does not govern.  Every decisions is kicked down the road; numbers dont matter, and there is no sensible way to measure if a program succeeds or fails.  Every program, once created, generates its own acolytes, and they mobilize to hold tight to every cent. In each annual budget that follows, the beginning numbers start at last year's ending figures, insuring increases.  Each agency insists that  every program is essential, every jet engine or toilet seat necessary for the safety and security of the Republic.  No cut (which in DC parlance means that the number arrived at is not as high as the one we first asked for, and of course, we asked for an inflated number  so we could call our increase a cut) is possible, because since that loss of dollars will cause cancer to run rampant, ISIS to rise in your neighborhood, and the air to become do dirty it will choke out the sun.

We delude ourselves and lose faith in our leaders, and then, each election, re-elect them at higher and higher rates.

Are we at the end of governance? Is every bill passage a success? Can we even measure the value of what we do, because we do not know the purpose of what we want?

The seeds of collapse are sitting right there. All it will take is one budget crisis pushed to shutdown not for days, but months, or for one T-bill sale where no buyers show up.  And we may not be all that far removed from either.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Governing in the Age of Obama-Trump.

The failure of the health care repeal-replace-fix-alter-redo whatchamacallit has a thousand mothers. But as Democrats celebrate, and the new announces that the first 100 is the worst 100 and that Trump is over and.. what, we can go off and celebrate, let me bring you back to reality.
Nothing in politics is ever as it seems, and the media, for some odd reason, never look father than their nose.  Let's assess where we are:
1. Obamacare lives on. As it adds trillions to the debt and family budgets with higher premium costs and limited reduction on medical expenses, there is little doubt that unless altered, and altered pretty radically, there will be very few private insurance companies left to provide insurance. What will be left is the massive increase in medicaid eligible (where the vast majority of newly insured are going) and a continuing problem for anyone who needs to buy insurance for themselves and their  employees.
2. If that happens, then the entire program will be reexamined.  You cannot enforce a "penalty-tax" if the person has no option to buy anything.  The Court will strike down the rule, and the enforcement fails.
3. Remember, the bill failed not because it wasn't being luxuriant enough for  the Freedom Caucus Republicans but because it wasnt fiscally conservative nor market oriented enough.  You think the next option up will be less conservative?
4. So, where we are is on the path to a collapse of the medical insurance option under the bill, and a massive realignment of insurance premiums for not merely those affected now, but for every employer and every employee in the US.  When unions and professors and companies and Universities see 20-40% annual increases in that part of their budget, something has to give. Higher tuition? More cost share for employees? Higher deductible, co-pays, less coverage? Shifts to more employee controlled (and paid for) coverages?
5. And the Republicans will still not understand. A week after the ACA passed, I wrote  a short piece proposing this solution: Pass a bill that required the agencies and companies affected by ACA to enforce it "exactly as written." Remember all of the exemptions, changes, delays that occured in the first  two years? Nope, you wrote it, voted for it, that's your baby.  The entire bill would have collapsed, or the people affected by the bill as written, would not have had their hurt delayed.

And the collapse of President Trump is not (sorry to be such a wet blanket) imminent. Our government, our system, is designed to provide means for strong presidents to succeed, and means for weak presidents not to fail. So, until President Trump figures out that he is only in charge of people and ideas that move with him, supported by the people, and that those must get through a system full of opposition, and that you cannot make a deal with each member like you could with a business partner because some of them, many of them do not want your deal and will not suffer from its failure.

Let's see how much and how fast President Trump can learn this new lesson, this new paradigm.
The art of the deal in government is compromise, but on your terms, and deftly, often labored over months, years, until the exact right moment when you see the light and push and idea into the void.
Who ever thought you could sum it up in 17 words?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Dem Assault on Gorsuch Resembles NKorea's Latest Rocket Launch.

Well, either I missed the entire point or our national politicians have entirely forgotten how to ask questions in a congressional hearing.  Watching the Dems flail at Gorsuch has been, even with Sen Franken, not even a little amusing. Hobby Lobby, protecting the little guy, supporting corporations... this is the terrain that Dems have chosen on which to do battle with the conservative Court?

And they have, so far as I can tell, not even mentioned natural law, which I consider the most significant clash with progressive ideals available. What would Gorsuch say to this: "Would you please describe your position on how natural law, and do define that for us, should and would affect your decision making as a justice on  the Court?

Then tease out in every way how that idea would affect the current issues of the day. At what point do those rights attach? (The big issue of course, is the concept of natural must define the  concept of person hood, ie. life  begins when?)

And natural rights, but to corporations? If corporations are not natural they do not have those rights, and then, those rights must come from government, and then could be restricted? (Campaign spending, speech, religious liberty).

The problem is that our political leaders are not prepared to fight that fight. Where is Sen. Moynihan, Senator Paul Simon-- our Senate is filled (with apologies to my home state) with Carl Curtis's and Roman Hruska's. Good people no doubt, but think an original thought, never.

So, Gorsuch is a shoe-in, and the only question is whether the Dems make the Reps avoid cloture or make them use the nuclear option. I think they will not do that here- despite their anger at the Obama snub last year, because it is always the next fight that matters. And the next fight, especially if it is Justice Breyer, or Justice Ginsburg. Because the next justice could determine the course of the court for the next generation.

Or not, as we know. You just never know.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Natural Law Debate: Predilections and Predictions

Neil Gorsuch, by all accounts, has been an excellent judge, and has not left much of a paper trail that stirs up controversy. That should be no surprise given the history of confirmation hearings since the Bork failure.  Any judge contemplating a move up the judicial ladder (and yes, people do plan for their futures long before they become judges) strikes a balance between their philosophy and their written opinions and published articles.  To become an advocate for any judicial position puts that potential nominee too far out there to become a nominee in our current divided climate.

Nominee Gorsuch has a background in natural law, having studied at Oxford under John Finnis, a leading scholar on the natural law philosophy. So, you are about to hear a debate on that legal philosophy intended to confuse you, strike fear in your heart and make Gorsuch look like a radical nominee.  It is unfortunate, because natural law has been one of the leading legal ideas in our history for over a century, waning and rising on the economic tides of history.

Fundamentally, natural law is a system that posits that the law's legitimacy rests on the moral values intrinsic to human nature."If a law is unjust considering those values, it really is no law at all" would be the most direct statement of the natural law principle.
[You can find a pretty good summary of natural law at :

The principle is worthy of discussing, but unfortunately, our current politics constricts every discussio into a soundbite.  You will hear the defenders and contenders of Gorsuch conflate past cases, about property rights v. workers rights, to contend that natural law is an anachronism befitting of the white old men of the 19th century, and damning to our multi-cultural, progressive sensibilities.

But consider this debate on the Court: Are there any moral principles derived from human nature that should form the foundation of government action? (All law is derived from governments action; that is not in serious dispute. The source of the power granted to  government to implement law is another story.)
I have asked this question, in a different form, to the class numerous times.
Are there any universal truths?

Consider the debate on the Court going something like this: Is slavery ever moral? If it is not, why, what is the principle that supports our position? Is that the value of every human life, the right of every human to decide for themselves their course, their path, for good or ill? Is that right universal to every living human being, without  regard to capacity, ambition, personal goals?
And then, after a slight pause, heads nodding in progressive approval, of course, that is fundamental to freedom, that the rights of each of us are derived from our innate humanity, given to us by God our creator.....
Then, someone raises this question: When, if that is true, does that right begin?

With every legal issue, the rub comes in the implementation. And the complications become clear as the answers more difficult. Unless we abandon consistency, the very principle that our law is supposed to provide to the polity. If our law is not consistent, what good is it.

Pay attention to the upcoming debate, if only to discern how it is used by both sides to obfuscate the facts. A good healthy debate about natural law principles would force the citizens to come up with some very hard answers for issues we have dumped off on the judicial  branch, and perhaps allow a reckoning among disparate views long thought impossible.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Undoing the Undoing of Affordable Care

Hail Blogistas!!
So, by now, you have received the note announcing the return of this blog and you have returned to find 3, yes THREE, blog posts waiting for you and your analysis.  I am posting this Sunday night, and it will be shorter, mainly because the availability of information is sparse.

The Republicans, who have had 8 years, more or less, to battle against Obamacare, passing bill after bill to repeal it, secure in their knowledge that their bills would never become law, are having a time of it.  They are finding out the dilemma of repealing a law that creates a program for millions. Call it an entitlement if you wish-- you could make the same argument with the capital gains tax, but once a program is in effect, and there is a continued constituency for it, the entire dynamic about repeal changes.

Abstraction in politics is wonderful at creation; deadly at repeal.  It is great to describe the benefits of programs you make, to espouse their successes before they become successes, and to deny any harm they might do.  No one can prove the effect of the program before it begins, and OMB reports are dry and easily ignored tens days past publication. Who cares, who pays attention?

But a face on a program, a name and a story about  how the program removed, taken from the person, who now has a face, a family, a problem you can not only describe but see, well, that puts the process into limbo. And people can quantify the results of the repeal. People can crunch numbers and see who's in and who's out. And the pressures on the legislators who must make the decisions black and white, jump out at them, especially if they reside in their districts.

So, once again, the health insurance and health care and costs and prices and availability and deductibles and co-pays and every nook and cranny of every issue rises up and constricts the will of Congress to act.  It amuses the political elite of both persuasions, or perhaps now there are more than two, but they dont worry much about paying for insurance.  For so many Americans, the fear is not that something will get done, but that once again, whatever gets done or not, will be such a mess things will only get worse. And the people long for competence, and straight answers.

We watch as the repeal unfolds and doubt, if  my  sense of the polity is accurate, most of us are not confident that even as the sun rises an hour different than it did last week, things will get better.
That is the crisis we are facing even greater than the rising cost of health care and health insurance.

Unless we face that, apart from the politics of the moment, none of this will matter.


Saturday, March 04, 2017

Executive Action and the Living Constitution

Good day class,
So, more about emails, and contacts with Russians, and now, a story that during the campaign, the Obama Administration used the FISA Court to wiretap Trump Tower, ostensibly to look for and uncover illegal contacts that Trump officials or the candidate himself might be having with foreign (read Russia) officials.  CAVEAT: We do not know if any of this is true.

What I do want to discuss is the connection between the expansion of executive action, and the power of the executive branch, and the theory and value of a living constitution.

Those two may seem unrelated, and one can make the argument that they are very different uses of power by distinct branches.  Executive power, the use of the Administrative agencies to implement the law Congress passes is essential to modern government.  We cannot expect, for example, Congress to draft regulations to implement a change in the tax code.  In passing the law, Congress gives to the Executive Branch and the agencies, with their tens of thousands of employees, the power and duty to write regulations which must pass through hearing and comment periods, to put into effect the mechanics of implementation.  This is a well-accepted and constitutionally permissible use of executive power. You may not like the power of the bureaucracy, but no modern government can operate efficiently without it.

What binds the bureaucracy is that the regulations it writes and administers must be done, and only be done, to effectuate the general power and specific authority Congress has directed it to use to put into effect the  broad goals and specific objectives iterated in the law passed by Congress.

Jump to the vision of a living Constitution-- the principle best espoused today by Justice Breyer, that the Constitution was never intended to be a document frozen in time. That it is the duty of each generation to understand the contemporary values of the polity, and to take into account all of the changes that have occurred, and to mold the values of the Constitution to meet those changes.  The justices are bound by the words of the document, but are not prevented from adopting positions that appear (literally) no where in the document, because the document itself anticipates, authorizes and authenticates this evolution.

Now, what is the connection?

On their face, both the use of executive power and the ability of the Court to write decisions not hidebound by the moral and political strictures of 1789 seem to be sensible approaches to the problems of modern America.

But what if the balance between the branches (separation of powers) or the balance between the people and their government (popular sovereignty) gets out of whack? What happens if one of, or all of, the three branches get lazy?
Let me take two examples, and let's start with "A."

ACA: the passage of the health insurance overhaul and its initial five years of implementation are a perfect example of the sharp dissonance between legislative action and administrative implementation. (I am not talking about  the website- that was simply an example of the failure of government and people). What I am talking about is how the health care law was rewritten numerous times without a single congressional vote.  Recall, if you will, the myriad of exemptions, the granting of waivers, the reallocation of tax funds, the expenditure of public funds to prop up failing coops and failing insurance companies, all done ostensibly to "make the law work."  None of these were authorized by Congress, except, if you take the language of the law.  Congress, incapable of reaching consensus, chose to give the executive branch broad authority to write regulations to address issues that came up.  Genius, you might say.

Ok, where does that authority stop? Could the administrators write regulations to grant exemptions to every third American who lost their doctor, or lost their plan, kind of like a National Health Lottery, where, if dissatisfied, you could draw your plan out of a hat and see if you won?  What about those poor insurance companies who took the chance on the plan but ended up with a whole bunch of sick insureds that cost them too much profit? Can't we all just give a lot? Congress wanted this to succeed, and we all know how little Congress gets done, so, c'mon, can the administrative branch fix the law and make all those poor Congressmen and Congresswomen feel good about themselves?  Imagine how the collective psyche of that body would suffer without our help.

The problem, of course, is that Congress may or may not have wanted those administrative actions;  it may or may not have debated those issues; it  may or may not think them appropriate to the overall objectives of the legislation.  The law wasnt passed not to fail, it was passed to address the problem of the uninsured and the rising costs of health care.  (Guaranteeing the financial success of insurance companies hardly promotes the cost controls of the local hospitals fees for inpatient ibuprofen.)

Congress, having washed its hands of the law, (or half of Congress in this case), now abdicates its fundamental duty: once passing the law to address a problem, Congress has a duty to oversee its implementation to insure that  the law is working as expected.  It is not a permissive activity; Congress must do this.

Jump to the principle of a living constitution. The broad concepts are the same, though the players are different. The founders gave us broad principles, but left much of the canvas blank.  They expected that the central player in that drama, the story of the changing Constitution, would stay engaged. But that player has, like Congress, taken its work as being done in 1789, with ratification, and has decided to let the other players take control.  The President considers his responsibility for those central constitutional questions complete with his (I will add the pronoun her when Americans elect a woman) vetting and nomination of a justice. The Congress considers its work as done with the confirmation of each justice.

And off we go. We often hear the lament of the disabused. Wow, did Justice Warren turn out to be not what we thought.  Can you figure out Justice Kennedy?
Listen carefully to what they are lamenting: this justice didn't vote the way  I would have. He or she didn't express in that decision my political or moral or economic views He doesn't represent me.

No kidding.
The concept of a living constitution promotes the view that the Court should and does act as a representative branch of government; that the Court is but one more body to validate our individual views. (I don't say collective, because much of what the Court has done is to protect the minority views- which, is to say the least, a vision of living constitutionalism that defies the concept of popular representation.)

But the player most important to the entire process has "gone fishing." Off for the weekend, or decade, or century.  The people themselves, who were central to the entire conception of judicial review, have decided to take a break from their role in preserving the institution of judicial review and judicial supremacy, and in that, have delegated their responsibility to .... to.... to whoever wants it.  And over the law century, it has increasingly become the Court itself that has taken it on.

The living Constitution is much like the double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. It has taken on the mantel of progress; Justice Breyer proudly demonstrates that the value of a constitution that evolves distinctly through the views of 5 votes, of which is is one, means that it can move forward, into progressive modernity and make the lives of Americans better.

Martin Luther King, Jr said, and believed, that "The moral arc of the law is long, but it bends toward justice." But when we, the people themselves, allow another body to define what  justice is, we should be aware how precarious the permanence of principle.

Second letter A: abortion.  If the evolving constitution fundamentally reflects the movement toward what most of the people want, if it is bound not by the old, staid, stale word of the founders, but instead by the movement of the polity toward the values and views of the age-- if that is true, then when the opinion polls take a turn, on such issues as, oh, abortion, is it not perfectly appropriate, nah, even required under the principle of an evolving constitution, that a court toss out precedent and move the law into the modern day?

Many current opinion polls show that the majority of Americans oppose abortion.

How's that for evolving public standards of decency? What is Justice Breyer going to say when the arc of the law bends back again, as it has done over and over, not like piece of steel, but instead like smoke trail of a bottle rocket. When it bends back again to a very different position? Will the living constitutionalists be on their feet arguing for precedent, or keeping to tradition (as in 1973 Roe v Wade tradition). What binds the Court is the value of change, and change founded on the value of change may not be to your liking.

I hope I have made the connection, but as the hearings for the newly nominated justice begin, watch the language of the two sides.  The originalists will be slying positioning the nominee to accept the emerging majority opinions (probably if they are bold enough, using Justice Breyer's own words) and the living constitutionalists will be advocating for stasis and permanence and precedent (using the words of Justice Scalia-- they won't use Justice Thomas's words I'll wager, but they could) to box the nominee in.
And they will all fail, because the only thing that boxes the Court in, in any real way, is the power of the people themselves to define the values of the world they live in, and wish their laws to be constrained by.

Our system works best, when it works at all, when all the players are on the stage, acting their parts, and not off in the audience, or more likely, at intermission early getting a beer.

Go get 'em tigers.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Return of the Blog

I have been having this dream, after what seemed to be so long a period of dreamlessness-- it came back not long ago, and it now seems to invade all my sleep.  I'm alone and it is dark, too dark to see. Suddenly, I sense this weight on me -- a pressing weight on my chest, then my head. I struggle to evade it, but as I roll around and push away, I feel this sand, something like sand, and it is coming from above, as though I am laying helpless at the end of a dump truck as it unloads. To save myself, I turn over, digging out from under, but then, I sense a sucking, pulling force beneath me. I am caught - from above the sand piles on, from below, the quick sand sucks me down. There is no way out.

Fortunately, at about that time, I wake up, covered with too many blankets tangled around me by my own restlessness, but no threat to me in the light. I look around, breathing that sign of relief, as the new day tip-toes into my windows.

Dear Class,

First, let me say that I have missed you all more than I can express. That old Irish wish you sent me off to Nebraska with has kept me safe and well, but I am punch drunk from talking to myself. I am no match for my own challenge and sarcasm- and I long to be in front of you good friends talking and discussing and questioning each other.

This is something, right? I never anticipated the tumult of the primary season we all got to experience week by week and then, it got even weirder. Election night was, well, unbelievable.  I thought about my prediction that neither would win the election, and will freely admit, that being half right is no consolation.  I will tell you, despite my long-held belief that a person's vote is entitled to be cloaked in secrecy, that I did not vote for Donald Trump. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton. Voting in Nebraska, of course, (where I knew that the Republican nominee would win 3 electoral votes -- even the 1st District this year went true to form) by third grade) one could say I risked nothing by casting my vote for who I felt was my best choice.  But I have always believed that casting my vote was both a very personal choice and a very public duty, and that I should always try to pick that person who best represented the ideals and values that I strove to achieve and that Americans needed.

And Americans, stuck with their Electoral College system (oh, yeah, you forgot that it was and is your system until you decide to change it, so quit complaining about popular votes blah blah blah and fix it) got the First Twitter President. And that moment uncovered (it did not begin as I will explain later) a divide among Americans that appears so deep that it could split us forever.

Friends who have never posted or commented or seemed the least bit political have become vociferous in their activism. Neighbors who for years bar-be-qued together and watched each others door fronts find themselves at odds over a bumper sticker. There are people, and not just a few, who have made their support for, or their opposition against President Trump, the sin qua non of their existence.

There will be posts later to take on policy and positions and open them up to public inspection. Today, I just want to ask you about that divide of which I speak and if this is, or simply appears to be as big a chasm as appears?

Set aside the personality for a moment. [I didn't ask you to ignore boorish behavior, rude and ignorant comments, "locker room talk", which, in any of the locker rooms I showered and dressed in, would have gotten me some form of severe discipline from one of the coaches who taught me how to block and tackle and dribble and that sport was discipline and that discipline started with my mouth); don't ignore it, but for today, put it aside.

What we need to decide if there is a way forward with what we have done to ourselves. Harsh reality- unless President Trump has actually committed high crimes or misdemeanors (and civil perjury is not such a crime, right?), he will not be impeached and removed from office. You and Don Quixote can joist at windmills, but I have to move ahead because our country cannot face four or more years of this constant, perpetual avoidance of problem-solving. Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump. Need I say more?

So, the question for us to think about is this: is the exposed divide (or divides) so big that ordinary Americans cannot find common ground? Have we decided that our principles do not include compromise. Has politics become, instead of a means to articulate differences of policy as a means to arrive at solutions to pressing issues, a take-no-prisoners war zone of combat cloaked in self-assured righteous sanctimony devoid of any acceptance of possibility that your opponent might be worth listening to?

I am not falling into that trap. Oh, I have heard from some of my closest friends that I am sanguine, that I am foolish, that I am un-American not to see and accept the emerging fascism, the danger that rises on the horizon; that my optimism is dangerous in these dangerous times.

It grates on them, and I understand. But I have held the belief founded on my understanding of our history, that our Republic does not rise or fall on the whims of one person. And I believe today as I did last March, that we Americans can stumble and bumble into all kinds of bad things, but when we talk, and reflect, one with another, we can and do put ourselves and our interests aside for the common good. (Let's not ruin my hope with discussion about motivations- that just adds ugliness to my whimsical narrative).

So, let's try once again, at least among us, to talk about our problems with a touch less rancor, a bit more hope, and a firm belief that only in the people can the answers to our problems be found. It is time for the non-political class (yes, odd for me to even say those words, since it is the anti-metaphor for every class I teach), the unelected people themselves to take command of the role we are both commanded and reluctant to take.

We set the standards for the people we elect, and it past time for us, each of us, all of us, to instruct them in their behavior.

In the next few posts, we can discuss much. The coming court fight, the immigration system, the use of executive power, the nature of rights,  our elections, the power of money v the power of personality, what the hell happened and the topics that I will ask you  to offer to me, either on this blog or by email to me at:

I know I left you hanging on two points, of course; cutting dead limbs and planting trees outside and as I clean away the detritus of years of lives spent in this house, finding photos set aside, put away, finding the 8th grade report card my Mom inexplicably saved, and remembering yet not quite reliving the moments of lives entangled in ways that help explain the foundations of one's life, have not dimmed my ability to leave you hanging but come back before the end of class to answer those questions.

The dream, I think, reflects my deep anxiety of being buried by so many amorphous and undefined problems which cause blind and senseless struggling  and mire me in paralyzing fear. Only when the light comes on do I see that they are but blankets, harmless when recognized, organized, and put in their proper place.

Abraham Lincoln. That's who I voted for.
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Call that a wasted vote if you will, but I vote for the person who best expresses the ideals which I believe our nation needs most at the time.