It is the end of December. I look outside and the lawn and trees are covered with a fresh dusting of snow. It is quiet and peaceful. I fancy I am a tracker from the time when hominids clad in animal skins would hunt grasping nothing more lethal than a flint topped spear or axe. I go out looking for deer, rabbit and fox tracks in the snow.
Nah. Who are we kidding?
The Holiday Season is upon us.
The walls are decked with holly, the houses and rooftops are aglow with lights, jovial Santa is smiling benignly and Rudolf the reindeer is prancing on the lawn. The malls are packed, parking is at a premium and of course the mad rush of shopping for presents continues unabated. I find people slumped on benches and chairs in the mall, exhausted by long hours of hunting for bargains and presents.
Which begs the question, why.
Tired from shopping
Lining up to vote
Like the rest of the country I sat glued to the TV throughout the evening on Tuesday, November 8. The people have spoken and we now have a President-elect. I congratulate him and also Secretary Clinton for a hard fought campaign. Needless to say, the campaign has left a bitter taste in the mouth for many. But it is now time for healing, bringing the country together and moving forward. Much has been promised during the heat of the presidential campaign and debates. Reality will soon set in and then it will be time to take stock of what can be done in the short term and what needs to be put off till later. I have compiled a list of five things that the President should consider doing in the first 100 days in office.
- Bring back civility, bipartisanship and accountability in politics. I was shocked but not surprised to hear that nearly 70% of Americans are either angry or not satisfied with the government in Washington. Therefore, have a plan on raising the favorability rating of senators, congressmen (and the president) to e.g. >30% in the next 2 years. They should be more attentive to the interests of the people who elected them. We want to vote for a person because we genuinely like him/her, it should not boil down to whom we dislike the least. Have term limits for senators and congressmen: 2 terms (just as we have for the president).
- Reassert global leadership. Have a plan to combat or manage rising tensions with Russia, China, North Korea and in the Middle East including ISIS. This includes settling the Israel-Palestine issue, a long-standing, festering sore.
- Have clear, actionable plans on creating new jobs, raising living standards, improving infrastructure and increasing economic growth leading to a more equitable distribution of wealth.
- Ensure that the Affordable Care Act is truly affordable. If you really want to repeal Obamacare as you said you would, (I would rather you didn’t, it has helped many), then have a universal, affordable, quality health care system in place for all Americans. And please do consider having a single payer system. It works, Medicare is a good example. Everybody does not have to subscribe to it. If someone has the money to afford better care elsewhere, he can keep it.
- Ensure Social Security is adequately funded and benefits are not curtailed. Above all, it should not be privatized, not even a small fraction. Just think of what a market crash like 2008 would have done to the portfolio.
I know he will have an overflowing inbox the day he walks into the Oval Office, so I have purposefully kept this list short. But, I don’t think anyone would quibble over the five points made. I wish the next President the very best in moving the country forward.
Deer in my backyard
I woke up early. It was a beautiful day. The sun had just peeked over the horizon and the treetops were ablaze with color. Ah Fall! My favorite season. I got up and walked to the window and stopped dead in my tracks. There, in my backyard were three deer, one with antlers. They already had their brown winter coats which contrasted beautifully against the dark green of the lawn and the bright yellow of the trees. I grabbed my camera, swiftly donned a jacket and crept outside. I tried to stay downwind in the shadow of my house but failed. The stag lifted his noble, antlered head and stared at me, nose twitching. His cotton-tail rose slowly, preparatory to give the warning call. I froze. He relaxed and resumed grazing. The light was not optimal but I look a few photos. I watched mesmerized as he gradually walked away.
“Are you lying to me”, roared the judge to the defendant.
“Not lying, your Honour, just being economic with the truth.”
Sometimes lawmakers deliberately use a sleight-of-hand to befuddle people. They are not lying, mind you, just being economic with the truth. English is a beautiful language; you can express yourself clearly, succinctly and unequivocally, if you know the language and if you try; or you can deliberately create confusion in an attempt to mislead. This became clear in the question to raise the retirement age of judges in Pennsylvania that is on the ballot on November 8, 2016.
The President’s UN speech, 2016
I listened to President Obama’s speech at the UN. There, he talked about a liberal political order, respect for human rights and the rule of law. These are essential for solving many of the problems we see in the world today.
But here is my problem with that assertion. How can we ask others to follow the rule of law if we are incapable of doing so ourselves? Many have correctly pointed out the huge income disparity in the US. The 99% of those left behind believe the 1% is above the law. Some current events reinforce this perception.
Can a centuries-old way of life exist side by side with modern life? A good question. The Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania provide a good case study.
We were badly in need of a vacation, a change of scenery, a place to relax and recharge. Was there such a place within a short drive? I went to the local AAA office and had a chat with an agent. “Lancaster County or the Land of the Amish,” she said. “Perfect,” I thought.