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My First Blog Post

The Biden crime bill and Crack

— Oscar Wilde.

In the late 1980’s, cities in this country were confronted with a new drug fad involving cocaine; namely, “freebasing”. Traditionally, cocaine is abused by “snorting”; the user inhales the powder up the nose. This can be somewhat uncomfortable, In that the individual crystals are rather sharp, and repeated use can damage the septum, the membrane between the nostrils.

I hate to do this, but we need to consider some chemistry here. Cocaine, along with most other drugs, fall into a category called “nitrogeneous bases”, substances that contain nitrogen in the molecule. These are frequently messy, smelly liquids (think of ammonia). As such their physical properties render them unfit for ingestion. What is generally done about this is to convert them chemically to acid salts, usually the hydrochloride (HCl). This dramatically alters them to a more suitable form for use in the body. For instance, the conversion makes them dissolve better I n water, which makes up most of us. Another property which changes is the melting point; it is much lower in the freebase form. One can smoke the stuff, which gives a quicker high, and avoids damage to the nose. Win-Win!

In a pervious life, I worked in DEA forensic labs. I was once called upon to do a dog-and-pony show for agency higher-ups. I took a gram of cocaine HCl , added an ounce or so of water and a teaspoonful of baking soda, stirred briefly, and a white solid dropped to the bottom of the beaker. I poured out the water, and voila! Crack cocaine!!

In so doing, however, I increased the penalty for dealing the mere gram of coke (as the HCl salt) to what it would have been for a kilo. Talk about value added!

Evidentally, Joe Biden, then a senator, had some responsibility for drastically increasing penalties for trafficking on crack, vis a vis cocaine as the HCl salt. This had the unintended consequence of filing jails with low level druggies, mostlyminorities, with no effect to speak of on cocaine trafficking by the organized crime cartels, who rarely fooled with crack.

The crack epidemic was a crisis in many large cities at the time. Whether this did any good to deal with the problem is well above my pay grade. The law was modified in 2010 to reduce the sentencing disparity from 1,000 to 18. It is probably still too great, but a baby step in the right direction, maybe.

The P.S. 102 Playlist

Back in the day (1949-1952) the New York City public school I attended taught Music Appreciation in Grades 5-8. Probably about 12 or so pieces were taught per year. The teachers would play a few minutes of the selection (probably on 78 RPM records, remember them?) and we were required to learn the titles.

For the uninitiated perhaps puzzled by the title, New York City, then as now, operated so many public elementary schools that it was inconvenient to name them all. Instead, they were given numbers. Moreover, since there were (are) 5 boroughs in the city, the schools were designated , for example, Public School #102 Queens (there were probably at least 100 schools in each of the boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens; much fewer in Staten Island). You get the picture. To the best of my recollection, here are some of the selections:

J.S. Bach, Air on a G String; (arranged by Charles Grounod), Ave Maria

Beethoven, Minuet in G

Brahms, Lullaby

Chopin, Minute Waltz; Waltz in Csharp Minor

Schubert, Flight of the Bumble Bee; Ave Maria

Rossini, William Tell Overture

Liszt, Lieberstraum

Dvorak, Humoresque; 9th Symphony (New World)

Bizet, Carmen Overture

Saint Saens, Danse Macabre

Rachmoninoff, Prelude in C Sharp Minor

Tchaikovsky, Marche Slav

Mendelssohn, Spring Song

Grainger, Country Gardens, Shepherd’s Hey

Von Weber, Invitation to the Dance

Major omissions to the Dead White Europeans listed above: Joseph Haydn, W.A. Mozart. And, a point was made by a teacher that Dmitri Shostakovich would have been included, but “he’s a red” (this was, after all, the beginning of the Cold War and McCarthyism).

A couple of Americans made the list:

MacDowell, To a Wild Rose, and varoius songs of Steven Foster. Numerous omissions: George Gershwin, Aaron Copeland, Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington. Couldn’t include everybody!

Some of the selections claimed a niche in popular culture. Danse Macabre was a fixture in Halloween rituals (and still is). The Finale from the William Tell Overture was part of the theme music for the radio program “The Lone Ranger (remember that?). Then, as now, the Largo movement from Antonin Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony almost seems like a second National Anthem. (Musically, it would be a considerable upgrade to “The Star Spangled Banner”, based as it is on an (at best) vocalist challenging English drinking song).

If the aim of all this was to instill a love of “classical” music, it certainly worked with me, although I was raised in a musical family, where I was exposed to this type of stuff from infancy. To this day, whenever I hear one of these pieces, I still recall it was from the P.S.102 Playlist seven decades ago.

Cars

Cars. It is a guy thing, although women love ’em too. I have owned quite a few of them, since I got my licence in 1960, on my fifth try ( in those days, you had to parallel park). My first was a 1953 Mercury, bought from a friend. I have since purchased new ones: 1964 Ford Galaxy, 1970 Ford station wagon, 1984 Ford Granada, 1990 Ford station wagon, 1994 Ford (I forget the type) and a 1987 Ford Ranger. Get the picture? Fix or Repair Daily. I always preached Buy American to my kids. After the Turn of the Century, we bought a Honda Accord (my son assured me I had paid my dues). Two hundred thousand miles later, I got a 2009 Accord.

The Fords ran well, until they didn’t. Things would break down, such as A/C, heater or some other ancillary function, which usually cost an arm-and-leg to get repaired. My two Hondas just keep on running, and (I hope the universe doesn’t get me for saying this) never need repairs, or so it seems. The best longevity I ever got from my Fords was maybe 100K .

Lots of interesting things happened along the way. For example, I performed long distance maintenance on my Ranger. My daughter had it at Old Dominion University, when she was a student there. ODU is located in Norfolk, VA, I was working at a DEA lab in Washington, DC, about 200 miles away. Got a call from her one morning at work. Dad, the heater’s not working, but the engine seems to be running hot. OK, Jen. Can you pop the hood? You see what looks like a milk container? OK, is there any fluid in it? It’s dry? OK, you need to get some water in is as soon as you can. Then start the car. Let it run for a minute. Getting some heat? Good. Now you need to buy some antifreeze, and pour it into there before you go anywhere……..All this before there were cellphones!

Since we were a two worker family (working about 5 jobs between us) we had to have at least two cars. The second car was generally a clunker. Some of these rides provided some thrills and chills:

3-Wheel Buick

Bet you never knew that some Buicks only had three wheels. I was driving a 1970 V-8 (which was given to my by a friend). I was moonlighting as an adjunct chemistry professor at Prince George’s Comminity College at the time (1993). I left campus after teaching to drive home. I got on the Capitol Beltway, accellerated to 65, and moved into the left lane. Suddenly I felt like I had run into the mother of potholes, and the car dipped momentarily. A split second later, it did it again. I slowed down glanced out my side view mirror and saw a shower of sparks astern. I stopped on the shoulder, got out and saw only three wheels. I never saw the fourth wheel again.

Non-Electric Granada

We have, as a society, become accustomed to (at least the concept of) electric cars. I once drove the diametric opposite, sort of. One evening, I left my day job to go teach some chemistry at PGCC, about a half hour drive from New York Ave in the District (not a nice neighborhood). Since the car was old and decripit, I didn’t bother locking it. Class was at 6PM. When I went to start the car, it was dead. Battery? Upon lifting the hood, it was apparentt that I didn’t have one, dead or alive. Midnite Auto Supply strikes again! I went back to the lab , borrowed a car from a coworker, drove to an auto supply store, bought a battery, dropped it in the car and made it to campus on time (only had to cancel office hours).

VW Rabbit Diesel Non-starter

I bought it used. Car soon developed a compression problem; it wouldn’t start. Fortunately, it was a stick shift. You just had to get it rolling and pop the clutch, and it would start. I learned to park on inclines so it would roll, or sometimes, the kids on my street would push. An engine job would have cost too much (had two in college at the time). One of the pusher kids was a senior in high school. They told me that when she received an acceptance to college, she wondered what I would do when she left town. Who would push Mr.Canaff? Cheryl, where ever you are, thank you so very much……

As the song put it so well, thanks for the memories!

Bookends

I was born late in Franklin D.Roosevelt’s second term. There are those in the media who are comparing our current president’s accomplishments and aspirations with FDR’s, which seems almost unbelievable at this point. From my perspective, at age 82, I can’t help wondering if, FDR having been president at my birth, Joseph R.Biden, Jr. might be my last. No. I do not have a terminal illness, but let’s face it, how much longer do I have?

Even comparing the two at this point in Biden’s term appears to be ludicrous, but it seems to be happening. There are similarities. An old metaphor from my Navy days speaks of the relieving watch officer being handed a “wet bag” (this is well before the widespread use of plastic bags…). The bag is handed off to the relieving officer, and the bottom falls off, spilling the contents…you get the drift. Both men were handed wet bags. Roosevelt faced a collapsed financial and banking structure, massive unemployment, near starvation of much of the citizenry, to name a few. Biden was handed a pandemic which killed off somewhere north of a half million Americans. While vaccines had (miraculously) been developed, no mechanism had been set up to get them into folks. Shutting down the country to try to slow the spread had resulted in massive layoffs and unemployment.

FDR was lightly regarded by much of the pundits when first elected. Not much was expected by many of this upper crust lightweight, who, by the end of his first term had many complaining that he was “a traitor to his class”. Biden, on the other hand, was largely to be a placeholder. At 78 years of age when inaugurated, he was considered a genial bumbler. His greatest virtue in the eyes of many was that he wasn’t Trump. Unlike FDR, he was a product of an Irish-American working class family, a state university alum, the first since Ronald Reagan not to have Ivy League creds.

When it became time to build up the military, FDR was shocked to find that a large percentage of men called up for service failed to qualify physically, due to inadequate diet, caused by the Great Depression. Biden inherited modern day breadlines, 21st century style, consisting of long lines of cars waiting for food baskets.

One major difference is that Biden seems to deal in trillions, while FDR spent millions. There are, of course, about three-plus times as many of us. Both men faced flak about overspending, this from the other party which, then as now, has no problem bestowing lower taxes on corporations; a rising tide lifts all boats, after all, (except I have never seen this work).

There are other similarities, and differences, between the two. Biden has only had the job for about four months as I write this. A good start. Let’s see what happens.

Recycling

The earth is drowning, or maybe being buried, in trash. Pope Francis, for one, has deplored our use of the planet as a “garbage dump”. Many of us would be glad to reduce much of this stuff by recycling. Most of us, however, don’t have a clue as to how to do it effectively.

In my senior living complex, we are (sort of) set up for recycling. Our kitchens

are equipped with dual pockets for trash bags, one for trash, the other for recyclables.

Trash (and recyclables) are picked up five days a week, out of a single trash container. The same white kitchen bags are used for each. Nobody looks inside to see what is there. There are trash rooms on each floor, each having a receptable for “rubbish” and “recycling”. Works fine on the trash collectors days off, not so much the rest of the time. One wonders whether building codes are being prepped for eventual adoption of mandatory recycling, or a fig leaf for inaction. (The complex I live in is less than four years old).

Then there’s the issue of what should be recycled. Not as simple as it seems. Plastics, for one, should be recycled. What kinds? According to the U.S. EPA website, there are specific types which can be, and others which cannot. Plastic grocery bags, Saran wraps and black plastic are not acceptable. Also, there must not be any food waste clinging to the item. Who knew? Aluminum foil and cans are valuable because they save considerable energy over producing the metal by electrolysis of bauxite ore. In an earlier life, I taught college chemistry students that a large percentage of the output of an electric power plant in Frederick, MD was consumed by an aluminum refinery nearby.

How many of us know anything about this? We’ve our all seen the TV ads about how the plastic bottles can be recycled into useful stuff. Unfortunately, nowhere near enough is being done to prevent whole sections of the oceans from being dumps of plastic waste. Recycling in most localities is voluntary. In places like New York City, it is mandatory. This came about late in the last century when Virginia stopped sccepting the city’s waste (Virginia is for lovers, or was it the Garbage State??). Sooner or later, we have to come to grips with solid waste; get serious about it. The planet is not getting any bigger.

While we’re (not) at it, we need to recapture CO2. The substance is acidifying oceans and destroying coral reefs, among other things. So what? Coral reefs mitigate storm surges, which have become increasingly deadly as the planet warms. The technology to do this currently exists, but is too expensive. So is extinction……

I often wonder whether our species is really capable of reversing some of the mess we have created. One hopeful precedent is the salvation of the ozone layer about a quarter century ago. Seems like chlorofluoro carbon compounds, widely used in air conditioners at that time, had decimated a layer of ozone, which filtered harmful ultraviolet light from the sun. The compounds were banned from use in many nations, and the layer seems to have restored itself. Yes, we can, so it would seem. Perhaps we can do this on a larger scale and save ourselves. But we need to start soon!

Before I Check Out

Before I check out……also, to be able to converse with my adult children, I need to

know:

What is the difference between 4G LTE and 5G LTE? Apparently, it will change my life forever. You hear about it every cell provider commercial, so it must be true. What exactly is Bluetooth? Incidentally, has anybody noticed that cellphones are being introduced faster than they can educate the reps in the AT&T and Apple stores on how to work them?

Medical terms abound in drug ads. I must ask my doctor what is “medullary thyroid cancer”. How abour “certain fungal infections”? I have had AFIB for a quarter century; not sure what that is, either. And what on earth is Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndrome Type 2? Could I take the med if I have Type 1? The people in these drug ads seem so well off, and having such fun! Let the good times roll……….

On to popular culture. What is WOKE? Is it the same as Cancel Culture? I grew up before there was an Internet. No Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Phones were hardwired. No text messages. Imagine that! This gave us a chance to be opionated, bigoted, stupid, etc. before taking the show on the road. Yet today, you are judged by every utterance, at any age or stage of maturity. I often wonder at these politicians who spouted all forms of nonsense at tender ages – on line, of course. Did they really think it would never come out?

What goes around, comes around. I came across another term recently; POC. Stands for Person of Color. I well remember growing up in the 1950’s. Darker hued persons were “colored people”. The term fell into disfavor in the 60’s. Well now it is a respectful descriptor or label. I only wish we didn’t need these terms anymore.

For many more years that I’m comforable admitting to, I have heard that Product so-and-so “is far superior to the leading brand”. Well, if it is so, why is the leading brand still leading?

All I can think of (remember), for now.

Gateway

Of all the retirement gigs I have enjoyed, none have been as satisfying as my time teaching community college. As noted in a previous post, I taught chemistry (the central science, “the toughest course in high school”, etc.). Community college was a valuable start in higher education for a couple of my family members.

Without this sounding like a poorly written resume, I taught courses in three different systems in Maryland and Virginia, all as an “adjunct professor”, spanning about two decades. This fancy, high sounding title has been called the “stoop labor” of the industry. It didn’t pay all that well, there was no tenure in any meaningful sense, and no job security. It was, however, the highlight of my working career.

I also taught in high school for several years, including a year of Virginia Governors.School. I taught undergraduates for a year or two at what is now called University of Mary Washington. My students at the various “junior colleges”, though, were special to me. As a group, these people tend to be a little older. Many had been through the school of hard knocks. They were more focused on why they were there, and what they wanted as a professional goal. Near the end of my “career”, I taught mainly nurse wannabees. The course was titled ”Chemistry for Nurses “, and was the only chemistry course needed to qualify as an RN. (By contrast, a niece of mine took several chemistry courses at Villanova University in the mid-70s for her degree). To further add insult, the course had no laboratory!

These kids (pardon me for use of the term; at my age, anybody under age 60 or so is a kid to me) had more complicated lives and struggles than most late-teen undergrads. I tried to be as flexible with assignments as I could be. One overarching characteristic of most of them was “hustle”. They were anxious to better their professional lives.

I had a few rules:

-No question is stupid, except the ones you censor yourself from asking.

-I assigned homework problems. You didn’t need to do them, unless you were interested in succeeding. Exams were based on the assigned problems.

-Exams were open book. Life is an open book. Having to memorize physical constants and facts is a waste of brain power.

-What to call me? Mister, or Professor. Don’t call me “Doctor”. I haven’t earned it, and I worked for a living.

Unfortuntely, I saw a lengthy article in The Washington Post earlier this week. Seems like community college enrollment is down nationwide. The pandemic may have something to do with this. I sure hope so. We need all the help we can get. Now that we seem, as a nation, to have loosened restraints on participation by women in professions, it’s time to get guys back into the game. Our survival as a species may very well depend on it. Male participation has been dropping in the professions, dating back to when I was teaching. (When I was hired to teach in high school, lack of participation by girls in science classes was flagged to me as a problem). Have times ever changed!

The drop in enrollment in these institutions comes as proposals are being considered at the federal level to provide free (or reduced) tuition. This is part of increasing awareness of our need for skilled workers. Back in my day, more than a half century ago, high school graduation was sufficient for most occupations paying a livable wage. This just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Arms and the Man

I hate guns. I don’t have any problems with the Second Amendment, target shooting, hunting, self defense (if you know what your’re doing) or any legitimate use of them, I just don’t care for them.

During my naval service, I was once required to carry one in an official capacity. I was summoned to the XO’s office and entrusted with an important mission- seems that one of our crew was busted in a small town near Boston. I was to take another sailor in a government car to retrieve the offender. I was ordered to carry a pistol because the sailor had been reportedly drunk, violent, etc. My first thought was, what am I going to with it?

Anyhow, we made the trip south. Upon arrival, I asked the cop in charge what my sailor had done to warrant being locked up in the local slam overnight. Turns out he was caught speeding (something like 55 in a 30mph zone). Unfortunately, he couldn’t come up with the $50 to release him on bail (this was near the end of the month). Was he violent? Drunk? Did he resist arrest? None of the above. I settled matters and took him into my custody.

Upon arrival back to the ship, I reported to XO, whose small office was next to the captain’s stateroom. After a short post-mortem with my superior, I prepared to leave. NOT SO FAST: The Commanding Officer, having heard the conversation, entered, with the air of an avenging angel, “What’s this I hear about speeding? At 55, you’re not driving the car, you’re aimimg it! I want this man at mast immediately”.

For the uninitiated, Captain’s Mast, aka Commanding Officer’s Non-Judicial Punishment, is the mildest form of dealing with offenses. It ts convened by Command to deal with relatively minor infractions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). More serious charges can be dealt with through various levels of Courts Martial. (Does any of this suggest a kangaroo court?) In any case, the sailor was found “guilty”, and reduced in rank from Boiler Tender 3rd Class Petty Officer to pay grade E-3 Boiler Tender Fireman. Of speeding.

A quote attributed to John F. Kennedy asserts that “life is unfair”. I should mention that I often drove well in excess of 55mph on the same interstate. I was stopped at least once, but having been an Officer and Gentleman, I was never charged, let alone tossed into the clink for the night.

All of this occurred in the early 60’s (Vietnam Era), when nobody thanked us for our service, I managed to get through a few more years of duty, without having had to fire a weapon, or, worse yet, get shot with one.

Wisdom from my Father

My father is long gone now (which is to be expeced, since I am past 80, myself). He was a man of very few words, which, I have finally begun to learn, is the secret to being listened to. Many of the things he said to me only make sense now, having (hopefully) learned a few things, myself.

He was, for all his working life, in the hospitality trade (for the most part, a waiter and maitre’d) in New York City, and a proud union man. One of the things he told me was that strikes rarely benefit the strikers; he felt that it was all but impossible to recoup wages lost. Like most rational people of his time, he felt his most important role in life was to support his family.

Wars, he always said, were fought over money, irrespective of the patriotic patina governments always painted on them to justify their rationale.

He was never a fan of insurance. Life insurers were basically betting on you to stay alive, so they wouldn’t have to pay. After all, paying out benefits is not part of a good business plan. To this day, I marvel at the chutzpah of these TV ads that promise to replace any of your appliances if a “covered” part or system fails. Somehow, it’s never the one which fails in real life .

The main thing he taught me regarding politics is one I have never made sense of: the Republican Party. (“Roger, the Republicans are the party of the rich; the Democrats are the party of the working man”) . Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a democracy, the majority rules. Aren’t there more poor people out there than rich folks? If so, the GOP should have been out of the electoral business ages ago. Ya think?

These words were uttered to me in the late 1940’s. The old man had to be wrong. But, guess what? He was right then, and is still right today!

In a previous post, I wondered whether the republic created by our Founders could be kept. I see, in events of the just-completed presidential election, real hope that the present generations want very much to keep it. Although it took a pandemic to do it, much of the Republican voter suppression was shattered, and we got a huge vote total out of it. Yes, it took a long time to count the votes, and an unofficial result finally became available on the Saturday after Election Day (even though our President has not acceded to the inevitable). Counting continues, and the President-elect’s popular vote margin has crossed the five million margin, which constitutes a landslide, given the bitterly divided state of our politics.

Can We Keep It?

Benjamin Franklin is said to have remarked to the founders of our country, “Gentlemen, we have a republic…. if we can keep it”.

The Founders had developed a totally new concept – that the people would choose their leaders. The prevailing model at the time was heriditary monarchy. You were born into leadership. Your sole qualification. Did this ever make any sense? You had kings who were certifiably insane, feeble minded, or maybe just plain incompetent.

So the Founders decided this might be a better model – the people select the leaders. With certain limitations. We had a popular vote for a chief executive (president), but not directly. Instead, the selection was to be made by a group of wise men (white, property owners), convening as an “Electoral College”. Can’t trust ordinary folk with such responsibility (the masses are asses, after all). The electorate consisted of white men (can’t trust women, or brown/black people, at best three fifths of a person, anyway).

Yes, perfection, then as now, was the enemy of the good. Several compromises had to be made so this would fly. For example, the Founders created a bicameral legislature, one house of which allocated two “senators” per state, regardless of population. This results in the contemporary absurdity where Wyoming, with fewer than one million residents has the same representation as California (population approaching 40 million).

Can we keep it?

The Founders also did not provide for the possibility of political parties. At least one of them, representing mostly white men, sees itself becoming a permanent minority as the electorate becomes increasingly brown (and female). Its principal survival mechanism lies in preventing people from voting. This is nothing new. It took well over a century for women to win the right to vote. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation granted the franchise to former slaves in 1862, more or less. However, former states of the Confederacy enacted “Jim Crow” statutes, such as poll taxes and literacy tests aimed at black voters. It took until the late 1960’s to force these states to eliminate these impediments.

Can we keep it?

Current voter suppression tactics are a lot more subtle. In order to discourage voter fraud (which doesn’t seem to exist in any meaningful sense), “red” states have been known to:

  1. Eliminate voting sites in minority areas
  2. Limit drop boxes to one location per county, regardless of size or population
  3. Purge voting rolls
  4. Require ex-felons to pay court costs and other fines before being granted ballots
  5. Intimidate voters by “monitoring” polling places

Employment of supporters in polling places (goons?) is especially chilling. The vote tabulation is expected to extend well past Election Day, raising fears that the President will declare the election “rigged”. This might lead to invalidation of Electoral College tallies, freeing states to appoint electors opposed to the (invalid?) popular vote count in many states (there is, apparently, no Constitutional requirement that selection of electors must conform to popular vote totals). This could conceivably force the election into the House of Representatives. Republican controlled state legislatures outnumber Democratic ones 26-24.

Can we keep it?

The Electoral College, itself, has installed the popular vote loser five times, including twice in this young century (George W. Bush in 2000, and the current incumbent). No, America, we did not elect this clown (he lost the vote by almost 3

million in 2016). We must rid our political system of this anachronism.

Can we keep it?

The incumbent’s desire to cling to office appears mostly tied to the distinct possibility that, once he is again a private citizen, he will be subject to numerous legal actions which could cost him his freedom, not to mention much of his personal fortune. He appears to have no interest in a second term, other than to ward off (or postpone) his personal legal and financial troubles. Who does he owe $400M to, anyway?

Can we keep it?

The Worst Ever

He never thought he’d win. ( I lived in New York City many years ago; I remember a mayoral election where conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr ran as a third party candndate. Somebody in the press asked him what would be his first act as mayor if he was elected. Without hesitation, he replied “Demand a Recount). I don’t think he ever really wanted the job; he doesn’t seem to do much, anyway.

Our election system (other than the Electoral College) serves us well – until it doesn’t. Since we are not a European parlimentary system, we cannot remove a president by a mere “No Confidence” vote Even if we could, we’d still be stuck with Mike Pence (could he have picked someone else? Probably not. Would you want to work for him?).

I knew we were in trouble as I listened to his inaugural address (probably the most disgruntled in history). This was followed by the flap over the size of his inaugural crowd, vis a vis Obama’s. We learned some new terms: Fake News, and Alternate Facts.

Current mysteries: What does Vladimir Putin have on him? What does he have to hide? What is in his tax returns he so desperately fights to keep secret? (Despite his distaste for the job, he appears to want a second term if only to keep from going to prison).

The administration is blessed with skilled, loyal family members in high places. (seems almost Mafia-like, doesn’t it)? Jared the all purpose go-to guy recently coined the phrase “overconfident idiot” (takes one to know one). If you are not part of the family, chances are you’re “acting”. At least several of his cabinet secretaries are serving illegally, having had their 210 days expire. Does anybody care???

The recent spate of appearances of Bob Woodward on cable talkies lead me to wonder: Is this for real? Woodward is the absolute master of the art of getting folks to speak their minds (or spill their guts). Did he really think he was going to charm Woodward? (see overconfident idiot, above).We did learn some interesting stuff about (to paraphrase Senator Howard Baker) “what did the president know, and when did he know it”. He seems to have handled Woodward about as skillfully as he handles Putin.

In the midst of a pandemic, why the desperate and continuous attempts to abolish Obamacare? Might it have to do with pressure from insurance companies? And, by the way, the “great job” he’s doing to manage the virus has resulted in the death of over 200 thousand Americans (that we know of).

The military (traditionally a GOP stronghold) has been dissed. Are they really suckers and losers? Of course, the fake news is reporting this; he never said that……

These are only the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view). I could go on, ad nauseam. Several Democrats in high places have suggested we “build back better” (Lord knows we have a great deal on our plates to rebuild). One place to start might be abolition of the Electoral College. This anachronism makes a mockery of the very definition of democracy. Our founders seemed to feel that the people could be trusted to choose their own leaders, up to a point, but needed to be protected from any rash judgments. The College, I think, was intended to assemble an elite group of (white, property owning), wise men to temper any foolishness on the part of the electorate. How has this worked out for us? In this short century we have had two presidents (both Republicans) who received fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. In the case of the current one, about three million fewer!

We continue, in fits and starts, efforts to facilitate voting for most citizens, The GOP seems to want to reduce the number of voters, perhaps in the interest of self preservation (or, maybe they are smarter than the rest of us).