All We Need

Here we are with story number eleven in my twelve stories in twelve months challenge. The prompt this month was “All We Need” and the word count was 500. With such a short word count, I decided to write a children’s story. And since it’s November, I thought a Thanksgiving story would be appropriate. As usual, let me know what you think. Or, even better, if you know any little kids, read it to them and let me know what they think.

Sue woke up and stretched. It was Thanksgiving. She looked over at the clock, but the face was blank. She got out of bed and went downstairs to find her parents. They were in the kitchen talking quietly. “Mom, Dad, my clock isn’t working.”

“It’s not your clock, Suzie,” her mom answered, “the power’s out.”

“Oh no,” Sue said, “what about Thanksgiving?”

“We’re still going to have Thanksgiving,” said her dad. “Hopefully the electricity will be back soon. But we’re not going to have the turkey. We would have had to have it in the oven an hour ago for it to be finished on time.”

“No turkey!?” cried Sue. “But I love turkey. It’s my favorite part of Thanksgiving. It’s not Thanksgiving without turkey.”

“That’s not true,” said her mother. “We don’t need turkey for Thanksgiving. All we need is family.”

***

A couple hours later, Sue’s older brother Ben was talking to their dad, “But you said the power would be back soon.”

“I hoped it would be. It must be a harder problem than I thought.”

Ben asked, “What are we going to do?”

“We’re still going to have Thanksgiving here. I texted Mrs. Johnson, and they don’t have power either, so they’re going to come celebrate with us.”

“But what will we do?” Ben asked again, “Without power, nothing works. We won’t be able to watch football. How can we have Thanksgiving without football?”

“Easy,” said their father. “Maybe the power will come back on, but if it doesn’t, we’ll visit and talk and maybe play some card games. We don’t need football for Thanksgiving. All we need is friends.”

***

After the Johnsons arrived, everyone was gathered in the living room. They were munching on nuts and chips by candlelight and telling stories and jokes. The Johnsons’ daughter, Molly, sat up and said, “Mom, can you show everyone that Thanksgiving video you play every year?”

Mrs. Johnson said, “I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t bring it with me, and without power, we can’t play it anyway.”

“But what about your phone?”

“No, Molly. It’s a long video and we don’t know when the electricity will be back. I can’t waste the charge on my phone in case we need it later.”

“Aw. That’s not fair. It’s a tradition, it won’t feel like Thanksgiving without it.”

“Sure it will. Think of all the people who don’t have what we have. Think of the poor people who have to work to restore our power. Be grateful. For Thanksgiving, all we need is gratitude.”

***

As everyone was eating their Thanksgiving dinner of pies and cranberry sauce, Sue was thinking. This wasn’t the Thanksgiving she had expected or hoped for. There was no turkey, no football, and no funny video. But the adults were right. She was surrounded by family and friends and everyone was full of gratitude. It was different, but it really felt like Thanksgiving.

“This Thanksgiving,” she said, “I’m thankful that we have all we need.”

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Third Parties

One thing that struck me when I voted today was a complete lack of third party candidates. Line A was the Democrats, Line B was the Republicans, and Line C was write-ins. That was it. It wouldn’t have made a difference in my vote. I was going Democrats all the way (perhaps this is a subject of a future essay, but I really feel like any vote for a non-Democrat right now is a vote for Trump). I know this was a local election, and third parties are more common in the national elections, but it got me thinking.

I don’t like third parties. There are all the usual reasons about them playing spoiler. The data shows that Hilary Clinton would have won if a bunch of liberals hadn’t voted for Jill Stein instead. It really looks like Al Gore would have won if not for the leftists who voted for Ralph Nader. And there’s a chance that George Bush the First could have won a second term if not for Ross Perot. Two of those results were bad and one was good, but they were all frustrating since there will always be the suspicion that the majority of Americans didn’t like the result of the elections. But this is only scratching the surface of why I don’t like third parties.

There are two main reasons for my dislike. The first goes back to how I started. Where are the third parties in local elections? I know they do pop up occasionally, often it’s a disgruntled primary loser who couldn’t take the hint, but that’s about it. There is no concentrated effort on the part of third parties to get a foothold. If the Greens or the Libertarians actually cared about making a difference, they would put up candidates for school boards and town councils rather than wasting everyone’s time (and potentially thwarting the will of the people) in the presidential races. If they can’t care enough to try*, I’m certainly not supporting them.

The second reason why third parties bother me is that they don’t do anything to differentiate themselves. There are dozens of third parties out there, but the two most prominent third parties in the US are the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. The Libertarian Party is no more than the Republicans without the evangelicals (again, probably the subject of a different essay, but they treat their pet economic assumptions with religious fervor, so they’re even less different than the Republicans than it seems). The Green Party is no different than the Democrats. I don’t even have a qualifier for that. They’d probably tell us that they center environmentalism more that the Democrats, but the policies they support are pretty much the same. Then, there are parties like Working Families. They don’t even run their own candidates most of the time. They just take a Democrat or Republican and put them on their line of the ballot. A person can vote for Working Families, but in doing so, they are just supporting the Republicans or Democrats. I see no point in having more parties just to have more parties. They have to find a way to be real alternatives before they’re worth taking seriously.

Trust me, I understand the frustration with the two party system. I completely get why someone would dislike both the Democrats and the Republicans. I certainly don’t agree with either of them on many, many issues. But I live in the real world in which we usually cannot vote for the best. We have to settle for the better. Third parties are not better. And they won’t be better until they figure out how to build from the ground up and find a way to separate themselves from the Republicans and Democrats. I’d love to see a real third party, one that presents a viable alternative to the Democrats and Republicans that at the same time takes itself and its issues seriously. I just don’t have a lot of faith that we’ll see one any time soon. In the mean time, I’ll keep voting for Democrats. They may not be perfect, but they are definitely better than the (sort of) alternatives we are presented with.


*It’s possible that they do care, but just simply don’t understand how the world works. If that’s the case, they have my sympathy, but I’m still not voting for anyone who is that clueless.

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Vote – It’s Really Important

We are a week away from election day. Typically, odd-year elections get extremely poor turnout at the polls. That’s always bothered me. People are always saying that they wish they could make a difference (or the related statement that they are disappointed that they can’t make a difference). Realistically, odd-year elections are the time when most of us can make the biggest difference.

Odd-year elections, for the most part, are for local elections. Next week, I’m going to be voting for mayor, town council, board of ed, and fire commissioner. That’s the case with most Americans. Those positions may not be as sexy as president or senator, but when it comes to our day-to-day lives, they are probably more important. Trump gets people very excited, but for most Americans, he hasn’t changed our lives very much (I’m not trying to downplay the damage he’s done or the lives he has affected, and there are many. I just mean that the president doesn’t have the authority to make changes at my kid’s school or decide which roads get repaired or whether those roads will be pedestrian friendly.) The people who get elected next week will make decisions that affect me every single day.

Many of the excuses people give for not voting don’t really work for voting in odd-years. People often complain that with tens of millions of people voting, their vote doesn’t make a difference. In odd-year elections, the pool is much smaller. It’s not uncommon for local races to be decided by less than a hundred votes. Your vote really does make a difference. People also complain that the elected officials don’t really care what the people think. But local officials actually do care. They are sending their kids to the same schools and driving on the same roads. Plus, it is easy to go to meetings and speak and make sure they hear what you have to say.

The other reason it is so important to vote in odd-year elections, is that these, and the state elections, are the elections where the two major parties consolidate their power. It is a lot easier for national changes to be made when those changes have the support of sympathetic local officials. The Republicans have been far more successful in this arena for a while now. That’s why they’re able to gerrymander and disenfranchise voters and generally do a bunch of things that go against the will of the majority of Americans. In order to take the country back, we need to vote in the local and state elections.

Being registered to vote doesn’t expire. If you are registered for the presidential elections, you’re still registered for the local elections. Go out next Tuesday and use that vote. You can make things better.

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Greek Pizza

Greek Pizza

Connecticut has the best pizza in the world. That’s just a simple fact. It might upset a bunch of New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and maybe some Italians, but it’s true (California pizza doesn’t even deserve to be called pizza). New Haven style pizza (or apizza as it’s locally known) is famous, and deservedly so. It’s wonderful. But I didn’t grow up in and around New Haven. I grew up just outside of Hartford. In my neck of the woods, Greek pizza is king.

Greek pizza isn’t as famous as Italian. Doing a quick internet search, most of the things that come up aren’t even Greek pizza. They’re just pizza with feta on it. Feta’s just a topping. It doesn’t change the nature of the pizza. There is a Wikipedia article on Greek pizza, but it’s only one paragraph long and it doesn’t even come up on the first page of search results. So, apparently Greek pizza isn’t famous at all. I’ve only ever seen it in Connecticut, Western Mass, and Rhode Island (although Wikipedia does say it is popular throughout New England). That’s too bad. It ought to be well known.

The major difference between Greek and Italian pizzas is the crust. A Greek pizza is cooked in a shallow pan that has been lubed with olive oil. The oil bakes into the crust which gives it a distinctive flavor. Imagine dipping a good piece of bread into olive oil and adding some caramelization to that. The texture is also changed. It’s thicker than New York or New Haven style pizzas. Done right, Greek pizza crust has a crunchy exterior with a chewy interior.

The sauce is usually smoother than other pizzas. There won’t be any chunks of tomato in the sauce. And the cheese layer is a bit thicker. The other big difference is the way a Greek pizza is cut. Instead of triangles, the pizza is cut in a crosshatch patter which give square pieces. There are, however, four small triangle pieces, known as the “corner” pieces, on every pizza. The external pieces have a crust-only border, but the interior pieces have the sauce and cheese covering the entire piece.

That is the pizza I grew up with. I was even puzzled as a kid as to why pizza slices were triangular in cartoons. My favorite part of the pizza was the corner pieces. I don’t know why, probably because they were small and different, but I always wanted to start with a corner piece.

I’m not saying that Greek pizza should replace Italian pizza. The two can happily coexist. When I get pizza, sometimes it’s Greek and sometimes it’s Italian. What I am saying is that more people need to realize that they have options when it comes to pizza. Also, if you come to Connecticut to try the pizza (and you absolutely should come to Connecticut to try the pizza), try a variety of pizzas. You won’t be sorry.

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Jokes

Often at family dinners, the kids like to tell jokes. Some of them are funny and some aren’t, but that’s OK, we all have fun. Often they’re the same jokes that I told when I was a kid. A little while ago, my nephew told this joke:

I have ten apples in this hand and ten apples in this hand. One falls out. What do I have?

A: A lot of apples.

All of the adults chuckled. The two younger kids didn’t get it. My niece doesn’t even see how it’s a joke. I tried to explain to her that the joke is the way it subverts expectations. It sounds like a math problem, but then the answer doesn’t even have a number. That didn’t help. Weeks later, whenever jokes come up at dinner, my niece brings up this joke again and expresses her frustration because it’s not even a joke. It’s gotten to the point that this joke has now become a running joke for my family.

It’s interesting the way humor develops in kids. When they’re really young, jokes don’t work at all. Humor is all about silliness with maybe a little slapstick. After a little while, wordplay becomes funny, especially puns. Then, they start getting simple and obvious jokes. The jokes get more complicated and subtler with time. I’m still wondering when they will reach the age where they’ll be able to appreciate an actual comedy routine. It’s fun watching the progression.

That’s all I wanted to say. Nothing deep. But I also wanted to share a variation on the joke that my nephew told:

I have ten apples in this hand and ten apples in this hand. One falls out. What do I have?

A: Big hands

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The Rise Of Skywalker Is Going To Be Really Bad

When The Force Awakens was released, it had a low bar to get over. It had to be as good as The Phantom Menace. That’s it. If it had been at least as good as The Phantom Menace, The Force Awakens would have been perfectly satisfying. Instead, it was one of the worst movies imaginable. The plot was nonsense, the characters were poorly drawn, the characters didn’t grow or change throughout the movie, the emotions were cheap and manipulative, and the look and action were like a mediocre cover band, derivative and kind of boring. The cast was the only redeeming quality, but that couldn’t save the movie from disaster.

If the movie weren’t a Star Wars movie, it would have been awful, but not any worse than all the other bad movies out there. What made The Force Awakens so otherworldly bad is the way it rewrites the original trilogy. It erases the character arcs of Luke, Leia, and Han in those movies. It turns the victory at the end of Return of the Jedi, the fall of the Galactic Empire, into an embarrassing failure. Kylo Ren’s obsession with Vader makes us doubt Vader’s redemption. That just scratches the surface. It’s like if someone wrote a sequel to Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy turned out to be completely mismatched and got a divorce. It’s a complete travesty.

The Last Jedi, as a standalone movie, was probably slightly better than The Force Awakens. At least it attempted to give the characters some actual motivations. But, it was still worse than The Phantom Menace. As a Star Wars movie, it doubled down on the rewriting of the original trilogy. Its biggest sin was changing Luke from a hero who would risk everything to save his father into a bad teacher who would rather kill his nephew than try to save him. Then, he ran away to pout because things didn’t go his way.

Now the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker has been released. It looks like it’s going to be worse that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. It looks like it will rely on the non-existent character development from the prior two movies. It also looks like it will try to continue the nonsensical story with more nonsense. But that’s not the worst of it. It really looks like Emperor Palpatine is the big bad in this movie. That’s the same Emperor Palpatine who was killed by Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi. If that’s the case, it is such a bad decision that it’s hard to explain why. If Palpatine survived the Battle of Endor and has been manipulating all the events since, it undercuts everything that came before, in both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. Why care about Anakin’s fall if his redemptive act failed? Why care about Luke’s journey if he’s no more than a mild annoyance in Palpatine’s story? Star Wars has long been praised for its adaptation of the hero myth, but apparently JJ Abrams couldn’t even keep that intact.

All of the evidence points to The Rise of Skywalker being in competition for the worst movie of all time. That’s probably the way to approach the movie. Going in expecting the worst means the disappointment might not sting so much.

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Nutrition and Economics

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Nutrition is a strange science, if science is the right word for it. It acts like a science. It has hypotheses and experiments and studies. There are nutritionists who make a living studying nutrition. They write peer reviewed articles about nutrition. It feels very scientific.

But there’s a problem. Nothing appears to be certain in nutrition. In a sense, that shouldn’t be a big deal. All scientific knowledge is provisional in that it is only true to the extent that no one has found a better explanation yet. The classic example is the way Newton’s theory of gravity was true until Einstein’s theory of relativity improved it.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way nutrition is uncertain. With nutrition, if you want a vegan diet to be healthy, there’s a study that shows that. And if you want a carnivorous diet to be healthy, there’s a study that shows that, too. According to some studies, fat is good for you, while there are others that show that fat is bad for you. A few of the diets out there are Keto, Paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers, and The Zone. They are all backed by “science”, but say quite different things. It’s really confusing for those of us who aren’t nutritionists.

Economics is almost the same as nutrition. It acts like a science. Economics has hypotheses, experiments, and studies. There’s even a Nobel Prize in economics. But, like nutrition, you can find an economic paper that will prove anything you want to prove. Some studies show that planned economies are better. Others show that they are worse. There have been tons of papers showing the benefits of the free market. There have also been tons of papers showing the damage done by free markets. Libertarians have their defenders and communists have theirs. Pure capitalism, pure socialism, and mixed economies are all backed by “science”. What is a non-economist to do?

In most sciences, there are standards and norms that keep the truly bizarre theories in check. There’s just no way a physics journal would accept a study that shows the accuracy of astrology. A medical journal would never accept a paper that shows that illness is caused by an imbalance of the humors. With nutrition and economics, there don’t seem to be any similar types of standards or norms. What else explains the studies that show that alcohol is healthy or that trickle down economics works? It feels like anything goes.

This isn’t just a problem for people who desire the truth, it’s a problem for everyone. But, it’s more of a problem with economics. With nutrition, we’ve been eating for millennia. Evolution has made us in a way where we know what to eat all on our own. That’s not to say that people always eat what they should. But it means that common sense tells us which is the healthier option between an apple and a candy bar. We don’t need a scientist to enlighten us. With economics, we don’t have any equivalent kinds of instincts. Common sense won’t tell us what to do in a Prisoner’s Dilemma or how to handle a tragedy of the commons situation. We do rely on experts to help guide us, but those experts don’t seem to be able to come to a consensus.

This is how it appears to outsiders. I am willing to give these two disciplines the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps there is a lot of consensus within nutrition and economics. If that’s the case, they both have a communication problem. We don’t get to see an accurate picture of either of them. It seems to be a problem with the press. The press is only interested in gathering as large an audience as possible. So they only report on the findings that are likely to get clicks rather than the findings that reveal something true. It gives an outsized voice to the sensational and those views that align with the press’ corporate owners’ agenda. We are all worse off for it.

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A Tale of Two Houses

Here is my tenth story for the twelve stories in twelve months challenge. The prompt was “The Signature” and the word count was 1,000. I’m not sure what to think of it. The prompt didn’t exactly inspire me, but it’s gotten positive feedback on the challenge’s website. Let me know what you think.

Doug stood in the street next to the first driveway. He looked at his clipboard. His parents, his sister, two cousins, and his parents’ neighbors. At least they didn’t all share his last name. He wiped his right hand on his pants and shook it hoping to dry the moisture. A clammy handshake wouldn’t do at all. He took a deep breath and walked to the front door.

He rang the bell and waited a few moments. Just as he decided no one was home, he heard the latch and the door opened. An old woman, about the same age as his grandmother, smiled at him.

“Hi,” he began, “I’m Douglas Walker. . .”

“Come in!” she opened the screen door for him. He stepped inside. “Can I get you anything?” she continued. “I just took some cookies out of the oven.”

“No, thank you. I’m just here to. . .”

“Nonsense. You remind me of my grandson, too skinny.”

She bustled off to another room. Not knowing what to do, he looked around the room. There was a couch and a chair and a coffee table and a TV. It looked like every square inch of the walls was covered with photographs. Her family, he guessed.

She came back with a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk. He put the clipboard under his arm and accepted the treats with a, “Thank you.”

Doug took a bite of the cookie and washed it down with some milk. “Thanks again,” he said. “I’m here today collecting signatures so I can get on the ballot for town council in the next election.”

“That’s lovely. Why don’t you sit down?”

Doug sat in the chair and the woman sat on the end of the couch nearest him. “You really do look like my grandson,” she said. “He’s going to be graduating from college in May.”

“That’s great, congratulations.”

“He’s always been a smart boy.”

Doug smiled and took another bite of his cookie. When the woman didn’t say any more, he swallowed and continued, “As I was saying, I’m running for town council and I need to get signatures to get on the ballot. I hope to. . .”

“You know,” she interrupted, “it’s good to see young people getting involved.”

“Thank you.” He finished his cookie and took another sip of milk.

“My grandson is going to go into banking. He had an internship last summer and they offered him a job once he gets his diploma.”

“That’s excellent. It’s not easy to find jobs right now. Which is something I want to help fix as town councilor. . .”

“It’s hard for your generation,” she said. “I saw on the news that a college degree doesn’t mean what it used to.”

“I’m one of the lucky ones, and it sounds like your grandson is, too. That’s why I feel like it’s my duty to give back. . .”

“I’m sure my grandson will do the same. He’s always been very generous and very involved.”

Doug waited to see if there was more. After a moment he said, “He sounds like a great kid. That’s why I’m running for office, I want to make things better for people like your grandson.” He held out his clipboard expectantly.

“Oh! Silly me. Of course, I’ll sign.” She took the clipboard and signed her name. “You must be wanting to go get more signatures. You don’t want to spend the whole day here with me.”

“Thank you,” Doug said. “I’m happy to stay and chat. . .”

“Nonsense, I’ve kept you too long already.”

“It’s my pleasure, but I am hoping to get to this whole neighborhood today.”

He finished his milk in a couple of big swallows. The woman stood up and reached for his glass. He handed it to her as he stood. “Thank you again,” he said.

“Thank you,” she responded. “I enjoyed our chat.”

“I really appreciate it. And remember in November, I’m Douglas Walker for town council.”

She showed him out and said, “Bye.” He said goodbye and waved then walked over to the next house. It had taken longer than he expected, but he was feeling more confident now.

He knocked on the next house’s door. An older man opened the door almost immediately. “Hi,” Doug began, “I’m Douglas Walker and I’m collecting signatures to get on the ballot to run for town council.”

“You a Democrat?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Taxin’ us to death,” and the man started to close the door.

“Not at all, sir,” Doug said. The door opened a little wider. “You know those old, blighted buildings on Cedar Street where the car dealer used to be?” The man nodded. “I believe there’s a way for the town to take control of the land so that we can find new owners who can contribute positively to the town.”

“So, you want the town to steal someone’s land?”

“The owners already abandoned the property.”

“That doesn’t mean the government can steal it.”

“We wouldn’t be stealing it, sir. They haven’t been paying their taxes for years. . .”

The man interrupted, “What’ll ya do with it once you’ve stolen it?”

Doug answered, “We wouldn’t be stealing it, but we will clean up the land and put it on the market.”

“That’ll cost money, won’t it?”

“Well, yes. There will be some up front costs, but. . .”

“That’s my money you want to spend. Taxes!” and the man shut the door.

“No, sir,” Doug muttered to himself, “it will raise revenue for the town without raising the tax rates. Could you at least sign? You don’t even have to vote for me.”

He walked slowly down the driveway and let out a long sigh when he reached the road. This was going to be harder than he thought. He shook his head and took a deep breath as he looked at the third house. “Just keep swimming,” he said to himself and continued on his way.

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Plastics and Politics

I went to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. I parked, got out of my car, and opened my trunk to collect my reusable bags. A woman who was just getting out of her car said, “Ugh! Bags! What a wonderful state we live in!” She was clearly being sarcastic. For those that don’t live here, Connecticut implemented a 10-cent-per-plastic-bag tax in August, with a total ban on single-use plastic bags set for a couple years from now.

Today I was at the grocery store again. I had my reusable bags with me and did all of my shopping. When standing in the checkout line, the guy in front of me started ranting to the cashier about how awful the bag tax is and how no one would have voted for Governor Lamont if we had only known what he would do as governor (as a side note, I did know what Lamont would do as governor and I voted for him). Then, he turned to me and continued the same rant, saying that no one likes the bag tax, it’s ridiculous, etc. I avoided eye contact, hoping he would stop talking to me, but he didn’t until he had paid and left the line.

Before I go on, I just want to say that the cashiers and clerks throughout Connecticut have my deepest sympathy. The last thing they want or need is customers ranting at them about politics. It must make for an annoying and awkward work environment.

I was completely taken aback by both of these interactions. Part of that, I’m sure, is because I’ve been going to the grocery store for decades and I’ve never had any kind of conversation with a stranger at the store before a couple of weeks ago. Not that these were exactly conversations, they were both completely one sided, but they were unexpected and unwelcome. The other part that had me taken aback was that I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. They were speaking English and using recognizable words, syntax, and grammar, but I couldn’t even begin to understand them.

It’s bizarre to be interacting with another human and have them seem so completely other. But in the time since these two interactions, I have tried, and failed, to see their point of view. How on Earth could anyone be against the plastic bag tax? Pollution is bad. That shouldn’t be a controversial statement. Plastic bags are a major source of pollution. Therefore, limiting the number of plastic bags is good. It’s pretty straightforward.

But maybe it isn’t about the bags themselves. Maybe it’s about the tax. But that seems a strange position since it’s a completely voluntary tax. No one has to pay it if they don’t want to. I would think anti-tax people would like to see more voluntary taxes.

It can’t be that there’s no good alternative to plastic. Many stores have stopped using plastic bags completely and have seamlessly replaced them with paper bags. And reusable bags have been around for ages.

Maybe it just comes down to people being uncomfortable with change. I can almost see this. But even that’s hard since plastic bags haven’t been around for very long. There’s no proud American tradition of using plastic bags. I remember before there were plastic bags in every store. And I also remember the transition period where people had a choice of paper or plastic (almost everyone chose paper). It eventually changed over to plastic, not because anyone liked plastic bags, but because it was a little bit cheaper for stores to operate with plastic bags. If it is just being uncomfortable with change, these people would have been just as violently against plastic bags just a little while ago, and I have a hard time believing that is the case.

The only other reason for their anger that I can think of (assuming that it’s unlikely they both used to work for a plastic bag manufacturer and got laid off as a result of the new law), is that the plastic bag tax was implemented by Democrats. This is the most likely reason for the anger and a position I can’t understand at all. I didn’t like the first President Bush, but when his administration tried to fix the hole in the ozone layer with changes to the Clean Air Act and adoption of the Montreal Protocol, I was fully on board. I’m even with Donald and Melania Trump in their efforts to stop kids from vaping. A good idea is a good idea. I can’t imagine getting mad about a good idea just because it was proposed by the other side.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the way the world is now. It makes no difference to most of the electorate whether an idea is good or bad, whether it will be effective or not. All that matters to most people now is who wins. Everyone wants their side to win and the other side to lose. It’s like politics is nothing more than another sport, something we watch for entertainment. It’s sad that people don’t realize that politics shouldn’t be a competition. It’s not like one side can win and the other side lose, anyway. We either all win or we all lose together. Getting rid of single-use plastic bags is a win for everybody. No one should be angry about it. And even if someone is angry about it, it’s not worth accosting me in the grocery store about it.

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Impeachment

A couple of days ago, Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would begin formal impeachment hearings against President Trump. The left is over the moon about it. They’ve been calling for impeachment for months. The right thinks it’s just more harassment that’s interfering with the good job the president is doing. Setting aside the fact that the right’s position is just stupid, I find myself, as usual, feeling all alone in my opinions.

I should start by saying that I am extremely anti-Trump. I don’t think there’s any question that he is the worst president in our country’s history. Anything that gets him out of office is an unqualified good. But, I don’t think impeachment is the way to do that. Or, maybe I should say that while I recognize that impeachment is the formal, constitutional process of removing a president from power, I don’t think it will work in this case.

The most obvious reason is that the Republicans control the Senate. The House can do whatever it wants, but without the Senate, nothing will happen. There are some who believe that as long as the evidence is overwhelming enough, and it is overwhelming, the Senate’s hand will be forced and they will remove Trump from office. I think that’s just naïve. The evidence is overwhelming that universal background checks will help prevent gun violence and they are supported by 90% of Americans, but the Senate hasn’t bothered to act on that. The evidence is overwhelming that man-made climate change is making our planet inhospitable, but the Senate won’t act on that. They won’t act on impeachment.

Then there are those who think removing Trump from office is beside the point. The House should impeach anyway to hold the administration accountable. Many have even said that the House has a “duty” to impeach. First, there is no constitutional duty for the House to impeach a corrupt president. That part of the constitution is rather vague. It’s not like there is a set of criteria for impeachment and Trump has hit the criteria. The House has been investigating him from the minute he took office. Like everything else in Washington, it’s a political calculation whether to impeach or not. And second, impeachment proceedings will not hold anyone accountable unless the result is expulsion from office. Clinton was never held accountable for taking advantage of an intern and lying about it. Nixon was never held accountable for Watergate. Impeachment alone will not hold Trump accountable.

There are also those who think impeachment is worth it for the electoral boost it will give Democrats in the 2020 elections. I do see some merit in this. But I think the timing is wrong. If the House moves quickly and turns it over to the Senate, Trump will be able to ride his exoneration to victory in 2020. And if the House drags its feet so that the proceedings last through the elections, there’s a very good chance that people will be sick and tired of the investigation by then and it will make it harder to energize voters. In a lot of ways, this strategy comes down to how well the press can keep voters aware and interested in the story. And I don’t trust the press to do their job well enough to do that.

Finally, my most important issue in the impeachment debate is that there are just so many ways it can go wrong and only one way it can go right. The only way it goes right is if it moves quickly and actually removes Trump from office. (Of course, that leaves us with President Pence, which is horrifying. Maybe if it goes perfectly, Pence and Trump can both be removed from office, and we’d get President Pelosi. I just don’t see any scenario where that happens, though.) The worst case scenario is that Trump is legally exonerated and easily wins reelection. Likely it will be something in between. I just don’t have any faith that it will be good.

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