Grandpa, do I need lawyers?

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Oh, my! Why would you think you need a lawyer, Elijah?

IMG_0255I didn’t say ‘lawyer’, Grandpa. I said ‘lawyers.’ Sometimes you don’t hear so well or just don’t listen. But that’s okay. So, how many lawyers should I have? How many do you and Grandma have?

Right now we don’t have a lawyer, Elijah. We don’t need one.

Why? 

Well, we don’t have need for one, and our lawyer retired, so she’s no longer practicing law.

You have to practice to be a lawyer? Can we practice being lawyers?

It’s confusing. Practice doesn’t mean trying, like trying to walk or say ‘Grandpa’ or throwing the ball to Barclay. It’s a different kind of practice.

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Fred Trump

Yeah, and you can’t practice alone if you’re a lawyer, right? I’ve been watching Ari on The Beat. Michael Cohen’s a lawyer and he has lots of lawyers. President Trump has lots of lawyers. He keeps hiring and firing them. So how many lawyers should we have, Grandpa. You need at least ONE.

Okay, I see where you’re going. But Grandpa doesn’t need a lawyer right now. Neither does Grandma or your Mom. We’re not in any trouble.

I’m in trouble, Grandpa. ICE is coming to my daycare! I know my rights under the Constitution! But Juan and Carlos don’t have rights like me. Their parents don’t either. We’ve been practicing what to do if ICE comes to our daycare. I’m going to be a lawyer when I grow up!

Good for you, Elijah. But before you think about practicing law, let’s practice saying ‘Mama’ and ‘Grandpa’. So far ‘Uh-oh!” is your only word. You need more words, not more lawyers.

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, April 21, 2018.

Oprah, Donald, and Jesse Ventura

Just when you thought it couldn’t get weirder, it got wackier.

A new candidate is being pushed to run for President in 2020. Maybe the last two digits of 2020 — or the first two, for that matter — offer a 20/20 look back at what’s happened to American society.

Maybe a personal anecdote from my 2003 Toyota Avalon experience will shed some light on the weirdness. Bear with me.

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2003 Toyota Avalon XLS 

The Avalon’s a great car. But, like the American Republic, it’s getting older. A month ago, the Avalon’s muffler died. I took it to the nearest shop, Arboretum Tire and Auto (yes, I’m using the real name here, rebuking any fear of a law suit), which replaced the muffler for $412.90 with tax. I thought all was well until a few days later a hard-to-describe grinding sound appeared and grew louder on a seven-hour drive to Chicago for New Year’s weekend with friends.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are not good times for car repairs. The Tuesday following New Year’s, Northbrook Toyota squeezed this out-of-towner into an over-crowded schedule for a look. The mechanic and I took the Avalon for a test drive. He was certain it wasn’t the engine or the transmission. “Sounds like a shield is loose underneath.”

Back at the shop, he put it up on the rack where he discovered the problem. The muffler had not been installed properly. He took photos that visually confirmed what he had found and assured me that I could get home to Minnesota with no problem. It would be an annoyance, but it was safe to drive home to Chaska.

Northbrook Toyota did not charge me for its hour of labor. Not a nickel!

The morning after returning to Minnesota, I took the Avalon to a different shop than the one that had installed the muffler. It was closing time at Chaska Auto Repair, but Jeff welcomed me to the shop, looked at the photos from Northbrook Toyota, saw the problem, and said he could fix it.

So now I had two skilled mechanics who confirmed the noise was caused by an improperly installed muffler.

I took the Avalon back to Arboretum Tire and Auto, explained the problem, and showed them the pictures and the diagnostic note from the Toyota dealer. “I don’t see it,” said the proprietor. “You can’t see it? The Toyota dealer could see it. Chaska Auto’s mechanic can see it. Even I can see it now, and I’m not a mechanic.” “Did Chaska Auto or the Toyota dealer say they would fix it? Get an estimate and give me a call. I don’t see it.”

This morning Jeff at Chaska Auto Repairs did the repairs. No springs had been inserted to cushion vibration, the bolts between two plates had been forced and stripped, and one of the braces that hold the muffler in place was loose, causing the vibration.

I drove back to Arboretum Tire and Auto with a copy of the Chaska Auto Repair receipt for $76.88 including tax that described the work just completed: “Exhaust rattle: Repaired muffler bolts with proper spring bolts and shortened one rear hanger.” Arboretum offered to give me a credit toward future repairs, or they could send me a check. I took the check and told them I wouldn’t be back.

So…back to the point this anecdote intends to illustrate.

Training, skill, experience, hard work, honesty, and a track record of competence in one’s field are no less important for electing people to public office than they are for choosing a mechanic. Oprah and Donald have never held elected office. Ever. They’re entertainers. So was Jesse Ventura, but at least Jesse had served the public as a mayor as well as a wrestler before becoming governor.

There’s a noisy muffler vibrating under America these days. It just got louder last night. Having learned nothing from recent experience, another billionaire entertainer with no qualifications for public office  — who doesn’t love Oprah! How can you not love Oprah! — was cheered on to run for President against the other billionaire entertainer in 2020.

If you want a country that works, get a real mechanic. One who is trained, skilled, experienced, hard working, and honest with a track record that demonstrates competence in the field. Otherwise, you may get a “credit” for future repairs done by a high profile entertainer or a bad business. Public office is not a show. Not a prize. Not a popularity contest. And it’s not dirty! It’s a nothing less than a sacred calling.

481px-Snellen_chart“Civil authority is, in the sight of God, not only sacred and lawful, but the most sacred, and by far the most honourable, of all stations in mortal life.” — John Calvin, 1559 version of Institutes of the Christian Religion.

On the way to 2020, maybe a little hindsight may help create 20/20 vision in America before it gets even wackier than it just got.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 9, 2018.

MARTYR – I’M NOT AND YOU AREN’T EITHER

Marilyn Armstrong’s SERENDIPITY piece on martyrs and not-martyrs brought smiles, a few chuckles, and nods of the head. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life On Earth

I don’t know any martyrs. Historically, there are plenty to choose from, but in the context of “real life,” I don’t know any.

I’m not a martyr. Not even close. Whatever sacrifices I have made on behalf of my beliefs, they never came anywhere near martyrdom. Discomfort or disruption to your normal life does not make you a martyr. Taking care of your kids, working at jobs you don’t like, or struggling to survive? None of these make you a martyr.

This is one of those greatly overused words, along with “awesome,” “resonate,” and the ubiquitous “back in the day.”

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How many times have I read “I’m a martyr to housework.” Really? What strange belief system do you follow?

You are not a martyr, even if you are depressed and miserable. If merely being miserable were enough for martyrdom … well … who wouldn’t be one? These days, there…

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HOLLYWOOD SEX AND OTHER DISTASTEFUL STUFF

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life On Earth

I’m afraid there won’t be any men left in Hollywood. The way things are going, they will all be out on sexual assault charges. This is not me saying this stuff didn’t happen. I’m positive it did. I always thought it was going on. Everything I knew about people in show business said that powerful men abused women pretty much all the time and got away with it because … they were powerful men.

Some guy I know suggested he had thought that it was a mutual thing. Sort of humorous.

No, it wasn’t. Not mutual nor humorous. Guys who force women to have sex don’t look like a young Robert Redford. Guys who can have any woman by saying “Hey baby … ” and she faints in his arms, don’t need to force anyone to have sex. Okay, well, there are some pretty weird guys out there, so who…

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“A Soulless Coward”

The President’s lies about former presidents Obama and Bush in reaction to criticism that he had not made presidential calls to the families of four soldiers killed in Niger struck me as just one more example of his unfitness for office.

Then The Nation exclusive interview — “‘A Soulless Coward’: Coach Gregg Popovich Responds to Trump” — popped into my inbox. “[T]o lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House.”

Gregg Popovich, the United States Air Force Academy alumnus and head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, is affectionately called “Pop” but one has to wonder how long the affection will last after calling the president a soulless coward.

The interviewer, Dave Zirin, The Nation‘s sports writer, concludes the article: “Should be one hell of an NBA season.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 17, 2017.

 

 

 

The World as a Waiting Room

ERB-logo-Color-SmallToday The Englewood Review of Books published its book review of Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness.

Click The World as a Waiting Room to read the review.

Thanks to Chris Smith, The Englewood Review‘s editor, for including Be Still!, and to Madeline Cramer, the reviewer, for close attention to its themes and substance.

Be StillMs. Cramer’s review is the first to lift up the deep affinity between the book’s cover, Vincent Van Gogh’s “Prisoners Exercising”, and the book’s elaboration of the less obvious forms of imprisonment, and our searches, alone and together, for sanity and stillness.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 7, 2017.

 

 

Respite off the map

Sanity demands solitude.

thoreau quoteHenry David Thoreau withdrew to Walden Pond to come to his senses. His time was much simpler than mine. He never got out of bed to check his emails or search the internet. But even in that less over-stimulated time he felt the need to leave everything that distracts the human spirit from the deeper truth about itself.

Solitude loves silence.

The wilderness cabin in northern Minnesota feels a bit like Henry’s place on Walden Pond. The wetland separates it from the small pond that has no name on a map. There are no sounds here other than the loons’ calls, Barclay’s bark, and the occasional mooing from a mile or two away when the wind is right.

Solitude puts me in touch with nature.

Not all the sounds are calming. In the night darkness, the howls of a nearby coyote and the scratching sounds of skunks digging for grubs remind me that nature is not as altogether sweet as romantics sometimes make it out to be. The cabin provides a respite from the human howls and odors that startle me in the world beyond these woods.

I ponder with the psalmist the societal ills that drove Henry to Walden Pond and have driven me here.

Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.

They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
eyes have they, but they cannot see;

They have ears, but they cannot hear;
noses, but they cannot smell;

They have hands, but they cannot feel;
feet, but they cannot walk;
they make no sound with their throat.

Those who make them are like them,
and so are all who put their trust in them.
[Psalm 115:4-8, The Book of Common Prayer]

fd102fe612128b9da9857f58e5286d30I become aware of the light dancing on the aspen leaves in a gentle breeze, the yellow oak leaf signaling the turn of summer toward fall, the sudden gust of wind from across the nameless pond, the osprey circling overhead on currents I cannot see, the ice-cold water hand-pumped from the well, the warmth of the fire in the wood stove, the feel of dirt from the flower beds—the living silence of a dead stop.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Walden Pond, MN, September 2, 2017.

GOP Leaders MUST Convince the President to Resign

“The Resignation of Donald J. Trump,” Part 3 by John M. Miller.

Trump-fantasies

GOP Leaders MUST Convince the President to Resign

Donald J. Trump is an extreme narcissist. As such, he is in the highest possible position to do the greatest amount of damage to the United States of America. Already he has thrown American government and politics into an unprecedented quandry.

The President must leave the presidency at the earliest possible date. More and more people in the news media, in Congress, and in the American public are stating this with undisguised candor and concern.

Neither an impeachment trial in Congress nor congressional action utilizing Amendment XXV can occur nearly quickly enough to evade the increasing and inevitable  chaos which awaits our nation and the world should the President continues in office for another three-plus years. America cannot afford to wait until the election of 2020 to resolve this crisis at the ballot box. It must be firmly addressed and terminated soon.

Mr. Trump is clearly so mentally debilitated that his continuation in office inevitably nourishes a rapidly-growing malignancy on the presidency. Our democracy simply shall not survive in its present form, because Mr. Trump is dismantling it far too quickly. His erratic behavior is undermining political structures that have taken decades or centuries to erect. For the healthy future of America, the President must resign, and as soon as possible.

But how can such a monumental step be arranged? Because of the nature of his mental condition, the President will not voluntarily resign unless he is subjected to such extreme pressure he realizes he has no other option. And there are no publicized concerted measures being taken to insure that herculean option shall occur anytime soon.

The Singular Historical Precedent and the Current Situation

Within a few days and weeks of his assuming the presidency, a few news pundits and others began comparing the Watergate scandal to the avalanche of Trump alleged illegal or unwise actions. Months ago, however, most students of political history said President Trump’s activities were of quite a different character from those of President Nixon, and the Watergate analogy was widely dismissed.

6401745-nixon-cover-upThe Watergate scandal is the only such abuse of presidential power in the nation’s history that forced the resignation of an American President. But as the Trump presidency has rapidly plummeted, it is painfully instructive to compare 2016-17 to 1972-74.

The full breadth of Watergate could not be evident when the July, 1972 break-in occurred at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington. What was described by President Nixon as a third-rate burglary actually seemed like a third-rate burglary at the time, a failed caper of an inept gang who couldn’t shoot straight. But then the story slowly began to grow.

Before the election of 2016, there were isolated rumblings about a dubious Russian connection in the Trump campaign. After Mr. Trump’s election, the rumblings grew louder. Investigative reporters in the news media kept bringing up stories that appeared to validate the suspicions of Russian skullduggery in the 2016 election, possibly encouraged by candidate Trump himself.

In a televised speech in August of 1973, President Nixon denied any White House involvement in Watergate. Most Americans believed him.

In a string of speeches and tweets since early 2017, President Trump has denied any Russian irregularities or illegalities. Initially, many American believed him, but many others were viscerally unwilling to believe anything he said. As personalities, Nixon and Trump are mentally and temperamentally more unalike than alike, even though there are many similarities.

In the fall of 1972 Nixon ordered the CIA to impede the FBI’s investigation. In the meantime, seven Watergate conspirators were indicted. Five pled guilty to avoid a trial, and two were convicted at trial in January of 1973.

In mid-2017 President Trump ordered FBI Director James Comey to stop the FBI investigation into the Russia connection and other potential irregularities or illegalities. When Comey refused, he was fired. A new FBI director was eventually approved. In the meantime, Congress appointed a Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to begin an investigation of President Trump. The President has threatened to fire Mueller, but on the very strong advice of many White House and congressional counselors he has refrained thus far from doing so.

In the fall of 1972, the Senate formed its own committee to investigate Watergate. Judge John Sirica, who presided at the trial of the Watergate conspirators, began to demand more information as the trial proceeded.

In the spring of 2017 the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees began their own investigations into allegations regarding Russia and other potential improprieties in the Trump administration.

John Dean, President Nixon’s White House attorney, revealed under oath that President Nixon secretly taped every White House conversation he ever had with anyone. Judge Sirica demanded that the tapes be turned over. In the summer and early fall of 1973, Mr. Nixon postulated that executive privilege allowed him to refuse to do so. Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor who had been named, Judge Sirica, and the Senate Investigating Committee again demanded the turnover of the tapes.

In the summer of 2017, many people have asked whether all presidential conversations in the White House are taped. To date Mr. Trump has declared there are no such tapes, and even if there were, he said executive privilege would protect them from outside investigation.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAuMAAAAJGNlNzQ2NGEyLWI4YjMtNGJhZC04MzYwLTgwYzQyMDhlMWVmMAOctober 23, 1973 was the date of the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.” In it Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox. Several high-ranking Republicans in the Justice Department resigned in protest.

Since he took office, Donald Trump has fired several key members of his administration. Regularly he hints at firing even more.

On March 1, 1974, after much legal wrangling, President Nixon finally turned over most, but not all, of the White House tapes. A grand jury also indicted seven White House aides, referring to the President “an un-named co-conspirator.”

In July of 1974 the Supreme Court ordered all the White House audio tapes to be released. Mr. Nixon resisted the order, and the House of Representatives initiated an impeachment trial against him.

On August 5, 1974 Mr. Nixon at last relinquished all the tapes. They proved his part in the Watergate cover-up beyond any doubt. On August 8, after consultation with his closest associates, the President resigned.

The English political philosopher Edmund Burke made a statement which has rung true ever since he said it almost three centuries ago: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Relationship of Donald Trump to the GOP

When there were seventeen people vying for the Republican nomination for the presidency, sixteen of those candidates declared in varying ways and with varying words that Donald Trump was not really a Republican. His behavior during the campaign and since his election has sometimes, but not always, proven them correct. Mr. Trump’s appeal is based on populism, not on traditional Republican principles, although many of his decisions in office certainly do reflect a time-honored conservative philosophy.

The Wall Street Journal has probably been a Republican-leaning newspaper as long as it has existed. During the primary campaign, their opposition to Mr. Trump was very obvious. Since his election, their support of his policy decisions has been squeamishly tepid at best.

Recently, WSJ published a story about the President’s remarks to a group of law enforcement officers in which he urged them, “Don’t be too nice” when arresting “thugs.” Other law enforcement officials took strong issue with the President’s get-tough remarks. The Journal article seemed to side with the more irenic observations of the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association than with the President.

  Another WSJ story had the headline, “Trump Deepens GOP Divide.” It cited how the President’s attacks on the attorney-general, the collapse of the GOP health bill, the demand to bar transgender people from the military, and the White House staff shake-ups have caused serious fissures in the Republican Party. It quoted former Rep. John Jolly, a Republican from Florida, who said, “Particularly among some of my former colleagues in the House, there is a frustration and lament about opportunities squandered in what should be a prime time for the Republican legislative agenda.”

A recent USA Today story was entitled “War with his own party risks isolating Trump.” The writer, Susan Page, wrote, “(The President’s) ability to reach voters drawn by his personal appeal rather than his party affiliation has been a source of his political strength and possibility in a nation where allegiance to Republicans and Democrats has eroded.”

Therein lies a major factor in the unique political dilemma Donald Trump represents. He is as strong as ever with his base. But his base cannot be equated to the traditional Republican base. Instead it is solely the Trump base of support and not the wider Republican base.

Daily he tweets to his base. When under severe attack, he immediately stages a rally of his supporters to cheer him up and cheer him on, as he did recently in West Virginia. His tweet that transgender people should not be allowed into the military appealed to many of his most ardent followers. But because it was simply a tweet, and not an official presidential order, the military has very noticeably done nothing and apparently intends to do nothing to implement the mercurial twitter.

Mr. Trump’s erratic actions are enormously disruptive. They often represent no carefully-considered or official policies. Instead, they represent only the momentary mental meanderings of an unstable mind.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in PhoenixDonald Trump is a bully. Every objective biography of the man chronicles that he has been a lifelong bully. Narcissists usually exhibit that behavior. Typically, bullies are defeated only when confronted by the employment of overwhelming force or by the threat of overwhelming force. Before tanks surround the White House, there is a logical and increasingly obvious means of resolving the Trump Dilemma.

Donald Trump cannot be faulted for being an irremediable narcissist. No one with any mental disorder would ever choose it. But it is inadvisable, unpredictable, and unacceptable for any government, especially a democratic one, to enable someone who is mentally unstable to remain in its highest office.

No one knows Donald Trump’s long-range intentions, including Donald Trump. Probably he is mentally too flighty to have any long-range political plans. But his day-to-day decisions are so damaging that for the sake of American stability, he must quickly be removed from the presidency.

Very soon, a sizable coalition of Congressional Republican leaders plus some of the highest members of the Trump administration must confront the President, demanding his resignation. The nation cannot afford the lengthy time it would take to go through an impeachment trial or an Amendment XXV congressional hearing. And we certainly cannot risk waiting forty-plus months to vote Mr. Trump out of the White House.

Whether Donald Trump is a genuine Republican is, and always will be, debatable. But he ran for the presidency as a Republican, he won as a Republican, and, at least for the present, he has not disavowed the Republican Party.

Therefore it is only Republican leaders who can bully the bully into resignation. If they fail to do that, they shall irreparably damage their party in the 2018 congressional election and the 2020 presidential and congressional election.

This country needs two responsible political parties. Whether the Democrats are currently acting responsibly is also a debatable and ongoing question. But fact is this: The necessity for restoring the political health of our nation now rests primarily on the backs of the most influential Republican leaders.

Throughout the tumultuous Trump presidency, there has been a widespread sanguine opinion that the USA will survive Donald Trump, whatever might happen in the next three and a half years. We have managed to survive numerous other crises in our 240+ years of history. But when you consider what has happened in just the last seven months, it may be a very sanguine view that we shall inevitably muddle through once again.

It took more than two full years for Watergate to be resolved. The past seven months feel like seven years. If we wait nearly three and a half more years, it will seem like an eternity. Remember Edmund Burke.

A sanguine attitude toward the current crisis could be the correct one. If so, the dark musings of these three essays are all in vain. If such a view is incorrect, however, a laissez faire opinion may eventually be perceived to incur as much guilt and condemnation as the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

  • John Miller is a writer, author, lecturer, and preacher-for-over-fifty-years who is pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC