I was mortified to realize that in the initial posted version of this note, in undue haste I had inexcusably misspelled “Encanto,” and at one place in the text had misspelled the name of the film’s lead character, Mirabel. My place in the Circle of Life is clearly not as an editor of the Washington Post, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal ;). These errors have been corrected.
The Circle of Life v. The Weight of Expectations
[Spoiler Alert: this post addresses the plotlines of two animated classics of the Walt Disney Company. If you are the one person on the globe who hasn’t seen and isn’t familiar with the storyline of The Lion King, but it’s still on your bucket list, or you haven’t seen Encanto, but intend to, exit the Noise NOW 🙂 ].
We met our youngest grandchild this past January, and not surprisingly, found that whether a birth occurs in the humblest of locales or in one of the world’s most storied cities, the regime is the same: feeding, napping, diapering, and parental exhaustion. The infant’s parents’ universe is reduced to … feeding, napping, diapering, and a sleep-deprived, semi-consciousness state. (Fortunately, an infant’s grandparents, after helping during the day, are able to scurry back to their hotel for a good night’s sleep 😉 ). At the same time, there is a lot of down time, during which weary minds have no space for deep discourse; we found this time best occupied by watching Disney animated classics.
I think we saw all of the Disney favorites from our kids’ day to the present during our ten-day visit. I was surprised by what seemed to me a marked dichotomy in philosophy between Disney’s arguably greatest animated offering, The Lion King, and its 2021 – and extremely well-received – release, Encanto.
As all who care are aware, The Lion King is the story of a lion prince, Simba, son of Mufasa, the king of the jungle, who upon his father’s death seeks to live a carefree life and avoid his responsibility to lead and safeguard the kingdom. The film’s signature song is “The Circle of Life,” composed in part by Elton John and imprinted in the memory of all who have listened to popular music during the last 30 years. The film begins with the following verses:
From the day we arrive on the planet
And, blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
It’s the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
‘Til we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life [Emphasis Added]
It was interesting to recall upon seeing the film after so many years that Mr. John did not do the vocal in the film. His familiar recorded version is obviously similar, but excerpts are arguably grittier:
Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed
As they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give
In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life
Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some of us have to live with the scars
In the circle
The circle of life [Emphasis Added]
By the end of the film, Simba comes to recognize his destiny, routs the villains, and assumes his rightful place as guardian of the kingdom.
Twenty-seven years later, Disney released Encanto, a delightful film about the Madrigal family, each of whom – seemingly except for the charming main character, Mirabel – has a super power that s/he uses for the good of the family’s village. The family’s most robust – literally – super power is that possessed by Mirabel’s super-strong sister, Luisa, who uses her strength to carry ponderous weights to keep the village functioning smoothly. Luisa’s song in the film, “Surface Pressure,” is in part thus:
I’m the strong one, I’m not nervous
I’m as tough as the crust of the Earth is
I move mountains, I move churches
And I glow, ’cause I know what my worth is …
Under the surface
I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus …
Under the surface
I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service …
Give it to your sister, your sister’s older
Give her all the heavy things we can’t shoulder
Who am I if I can’t run with the ball? …
Give it to your sister, your sister’s stronger
See if she can hang on a little longer
Who am I if I can’t carry it all? …
But wait, if I could shake the crushing weight of expectations
Would that free some room up for joy
Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?
Instead, we measure this growing pressure
Keeps growing, keep going
‘Cause all we know is
Pressure like a drip, drip, drip that’ll never stop
Pressure that’ll tip, tip, tip ’til you just go pop …
Through what becomes apparent during the course of the film are Mirabel’s super powers – her intuition and caring – she sees that despite her family’s efforts, their village is nonetheless literally cracking apart. She ultimately leads the members of her family to see that they are more than just their powers, more than their responsibilities in supporting their family and the village; and at the end they and the community flourish as a result of that realization.
Since we are obviously all more than the roles we play, and both films stress love of family, one might argue that the two films differ in emphasis rather than core message. I would nonetheless suggest that the differences in philosophy are notable, and worthy of pondering. I would submit that the moral that the Disney writers were seeking to impart in The Lion King is that each of us is one of many, that each of us has a role to perform for the whole, and that the good of the whole is what is paramount in the Circle of Life; while in Encanto, a different set of writers, separated by a generation, perhaps reflecting a shift in societal perspectives over these last three decades, seemingly posits that an individual’s contribution to the whole, while very important, is nonetheless less significant to a flourishing society than the fulfillment of oneself.
So consider: is filling one’s place – sticking to the knitting, being a cog in the Circle of Life – sustaining, or confining? Fulfilling, or limiting? Ennobling, or demeaning?
My guess is that if the readers of this note were polled, it would be a pretty even split. I find my own inclination best expressed by a great fictional character:
“[You have] the dignity of a man who has found his place and occupies it …”
- Legendary detective Nero Wolfe, to his associate, Fred Durkin; Rex Stout: Death of a Doxy
I read the Wolfe story (along with all the other Wolfe stories) about a thousand years ago. I’ve always considered, “You’re a man who knows his place and keeps it,” to be among the finest tributes in all of literature. As all reading this will readily conclude, I have greater affinity for the message of The Lion King. That said, and no matter which of the two Disney-depicted philosophies you yourself are more comfortable with, I sincerely apologize for the fact that you’ll have Sir Elton singing “The Circle of Life” in your head all day today. 😉
The Murphy – Gutekunst – LaFleur Era in Green Bay Truly Begins
Aaron Rodgers is gone. This week, the Murphy-Gutekunst-LaFleur Era in Green Bay truly begins.
As all familiar with Green and Gold lore well recall, Green Bay was the furthest removed of NFL backwaters when Packer President Bob Harlan hired Ron Wolf as Packer General Manager in 1991. Mr. Wolf promptly hired San Francisco 49er Assistant Coach Ron Holmgren to be his head coach and traded a first-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for their second-year, third string quarterback, Brett Favre; and the Packers’ reascension to NFL royalty began.
After a few years of team wobbling after Mr. Holmgren’s departure which, due to Mr. Favre’s continuing brilliance, were more apparent to the diehard than the casual fan, in early 2005 Mr. Harlan hired Ted Thompson as Packers General Manager; in 2006, Mr. Thompson hired San Francisco 49er Assistant Coach Mike McCarthy to be his head coach; and as his first first-round pick, Mr. Thompson selected University of California Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, after 25 teams had passed on Mr. Rodgers.
That selection, more than any other made by Mr. Thompson, maintained Green Bay’s place among NFL heavyweights during the last 15 years.
Certainly, Messrs. Wolf and Thompson made mistakes over the years; I will always believe that Mr. Wolf cost Green Bay at least one more championship by mistakenly selecting University of Florida Cornerback Terrell Buckley rather than University of Wisconsin Cornerback Troy Vincent in the 1992 draft; Mr. Thompson glaringly whiffed in his last draft, 2017, when he passed on Wisconsin Linebacker T.J. Watt, instead in effect choosing the duo of University of Washington Cornerback Kevin King and Wisconsin Linebacker Vince Biegel, both marked disappointments. But it cannot be disputed that Green Bay’s consistent success over the last 30 years is in large measure due to the respective skills of Messrs. Harlan, Wolf, Thompson, Holmgren, McCarthy, Favre and Rodgers.
When it was time for Mr. Thompson to step aside in 2017, Packer President Mark Murphy, who had succeeded Mr. Harlan during Mr. Thompson’s tenure, chose Brian Gutekunst as Packer General Manager in 2018; in 2019, Mr. Gutekunst hired Tennessee Titan Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur to be his head coach, succeeding Mr. McCarthy; and in 2020, Mr. Gutekunst traded to move up in the NFL draft to select Utah State Quarterback Jordan Love in the first round.
During Mr. Gutekunst’s tenure as Green Bay General Manager, with Mr. Rodgers continuing as quarterback, Green Bay has made playoffs three times and rose to the NFC title game twice. During Mr. LaFleur’s tenure as Green Bay head coach, he has – or at least for quite a while had – the best winning percentage of any Green Bay coach in history.
I am reminded of a story that I may have entered in these pages before: when legendary New York Yankee Manager Casey Stengel was asked about the most important strategies he employed in winning so many World Championships and American League Pennants, Mr. Stengel replied: “Well, there were many; but the three most important were named, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Berra.”
I saw a note yesterday that only three players drafted by Mr. Thompson – Placekicker Mason Crosby, Running Back Aaron Jones, and offensive Tackle David Bakhtiari – remain with the team. The rest of the roster was selected by Mr. Gutekunst. Although the Packers have seemed to me to be increasingly floundering during Mr. Gutekunst’s tenure – his shortcomings as a General Manager arguably most apparent by his selection of Mr. Love much higher than most teams had rated him — the team has been mostly able to compensate for its weaknesses through the continued brilliance of Mr. Rodgers.
While I have no marked criticism of Mr. LaFleur, I don’t think anyone believes, despite Mr. LaFleur’s impressive early winning percentage as Packer head coach and recognizing the differences in eras, that Mr. LaFleur is as good a coach as Vince Lombardi was. I don’t think he’s as good a head coach as Mr. Holmgren was. I’m not sure he’s any better or perhaps even as good as Mr. McCarthy was.
Aaron Rodgers is gone. This week, the Murphy-Gutekunst-LaFleur Era in Green Bay truly begins. Packer faithful should hold on to their Cheese Heads. As former President Donald Trump likes to say: We’ll see what happens. 😉
On Tanking and Other Random April Notions: a Postscript
In a post earlier today, which envisioned what an imaginary “Mr. Republican” might be calculating about GOP prospects in the 2024 presidential election, I stated that such a figure might in part be thinking, ‘“Let Trump and [FOX News Commentator Tucker] Carlson take the party over the edge to what is currently looking like it will be a general election shellacking. …”’
While former President Donald Trump may take the Republican party over the edge in 2024, he may have to do it without Mr. Carlson’s help. 😉 As all who care – and probably some who don’t – are aware, Mr. Carlson was dismissed by Fox News today without so much as providing him a farewell broadcast. If Washington Post accounts are to be credited, Mr. Carlson’s transgression in the eyes of his employer wasn’t his private indication that he “passionately” hates Mr. Trump, or any doubt he sowed about President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral triumph, or his misrepresentations about the substance of the January 6th insurrection, or any of his countless other toxic discharges over the years … but because of his private criticisms of Fox News management — which would have included Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch – that were uncovered as part of the Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Perhaps Mr. Carlson forgot who the boss was.
One would have to assume that Mr. Carlson was, from an employment standpoint, a dead man at Fox either when Fox management learned of his criticisms or when the criticisms became public; and that Mr. Carlson’s dismissal awaited only the settlement of the Dominion-Fox suit, lest either the dismissal be touted by Dominion as an indication of Fox’ liability or because Fox feared that Mr. Carlson would testify against the network on Dominion’s behalf. Although one can be confident that the mini-me Foxes, Newsmax and OAN, would love to put Mr. Carlson on their air as soon as possible, and while employment law was never my field, one has to assume that Mr. Carlson’s contract with Fox prohibits him from broadcasting on another network for a specified period. He will presumably ultimately resurface, but without Fox’ trumpet.
Those of us who have been outraged and revolted by Mr. Carlson’s incendiary rhetoric over the years should be allowed a quiet smile at his abrupt dismissal; but the fact remains that Fox gave him the platform, just as in the past it provided its platform to, and then removed its platform from, Bill O’Reilly and others. Recall that Mr. Carlson’s ratings were initially disappointing when he in effect replaced Mr. O’Reilly in the Fox prime time lineup, but his viewership and attendant stature grew as he amped up his toxicity. It may take a bit, but by the summer of 2024, no matter where Mr. Carlson himself might then be, there will be a new version of Tucker Carlson in Fox News prime time. It is what it is.
On Tanking and Other Random April Notions
A few disparate impressions as we move further into spring:
“Tanking is the art of creating a purposefully bad team with the intention of losing games to gain high draft picks. … Tanking aims to … ultimately win a championship with the core constructed while tanking.”
- What Are The Odds: A Statistical Analysis of Tanking in The NBA; towardsdatascience.com; Brayden Gerrard, March 11, 2019
If there was a Mr. Republican who controlled the party’s national strategy – and if there were such a being, he would, being a Republican, obviously be a white male 😉 – he might well be thinking that having former President Donald Trump as the party’s 2024 nominee would be in the best long term interests of the party: “Let Trump and [FOX News Commentator Tucker] Carlson take the party over the edge to what is currently looking like it will be a general election shellacking. After winning the culture war for years with many moderate Americans who are alienated by what they perceive as progressives’ obsession on Americans’ gender, ethnic, religious, and sexual preference identities and disregard for traditional American values and hallmarks, now it is we who are on the wrong side of the American middle with our positions on abortion, health care, book banning, guns and climate; we even seem poised to put ourselves on the wrong side of the American majority on the debt ceiling and perhaps Ukraine.” Mr. Republican might reason: “The GOP can’t win in 2024 without the MAGAs, but Trump can’t win without the traditional Republicans; let’s tank and concede a Biden re-election. We still have the majority of Americans with us on many issues such as immigration and crime [note that at the same time Wisconsinites were providing liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz an 11-point victory this past April on the strength of abortion rights, they were voting in higher percentages for referenda in favor of tightening state welfare eligibility and keeping criminal defendants in jail before trial]. A Trump debacle will give us years to develop and test positions in areas in which we are now considered too extreme, and we’ll have a great chance to win in 2028 when Americans will be ready for a change, with a fresh candidate against a Democrat almost certainly more progressive than Biden.”
(Is there a Republican master strategist? Nah. Are MAGA diehards such as U.S. OH Rep. Jim Jordan seeking to prop up Mr. Trump as part of some long term Republican strategy? Nah; I know, I know. They’re just blackguards.)
Next: There are obviously all different types of smarts. Since FL Gov. Ron DeSantis went to Yale, and is widely reported to study issues, he seemingly has what might be called, “academic smarts.” That said, Mr. DeSantis appears to be too politically dumb to be president. Turning hard to the right on abortion in the face of recent nationwide polls and electoral results is inept enough for a candidate who will need to win swing states to win the general presidential election; but his fight with The Walt Disney Company, the signature employer in his state, over culture issues is so egregiously politically stupid for a Republican that it makes one blink. Say what you will about Mr. Trump and former WI Gov. Scott Walker [and I’ve said plenty 😉 ]; these men, while campaigning as populists, were politically savvy enough to cultivate and maintain great relationships with the business community. For Mr. DeSantis to seek to use his office to punish the Disney organization over culture issues is akin to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown over the last couple of years on mighty Chinese conglomerates perceived by Mr. Xi as being too powerful. I am confident that many major American CEOs are calculating that if Mr. DeSantis is using his gubernatorial power to go after Disney today, he could use presidential power to go after them for perceived slights tomorrow. Since I consider Mr. DeSantis every bit as dangerous to America as Mr. Trump, I’m happy to see that he seems to be as politically obtuse as he is boring.
Next: Unless U.S. CA Sen. Dianne Feinstein can return to Washington by the end of April, she should resign. There have been plenty of credible reports to indicate that Sen. Feinstein, 89, is no longer physically able to fulfill the duties of her office. I consider the claims that the calls for her resignation are gender-based – i.e., if she was a man, no one would be calling for her to resign – a progressive spasm irrelevant to the main point: getting President Joe Biden’s judicial appointments confirmed. [I would understand the reluctance to pressure Ms. Feinstein if California had a Republican governor; but I’d make the same call for resignation if it involved U.S. MD Sen. Ben Cardin (to be 80 this year, representing a state with a Democratic governor), if it was obvious that Mr. Cardin could no longer serve and his continuance in the Senate was blocking the President’s judicial appointments.] Someone Ms. Feinstein trusts should go to the Senator and advise her to step down. Democratic CA Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Ms. Feinstein’s successor, and given the already-hotly contested 2024 California Democratic primary battle for Ms. Feinstein’s seat, the appointee should be a “caretaker.”
Two final notes, arguably more significant:
First, those chortling – and there is a fair amount of chortling in this note – about the Republicans’ seemingly dimming prospects to win the White House in 2024 with Mr. Trump as their nominee, need to keep one thing in mind: Mr. Biden’s health. If he appears hale all the way to Election Day in a race against Mr. Trump, I think he wins. If he has a significant health reversal in the last few weeks before the election – the worst kind of “October Surprise” (recall that U.S. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just couldn’t quite make it to Inauguration Day, 2021, and the havoc her truly untimely death has caused) – Mr. Trump can win. Those who believe in democracy should hold their breaths that the octogenarian Mr. Biden remains healthy at least until Wednesday, November 6, 2024. (I doubt U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ readiness for the presidency, but even if my estimation is correct, we will muddle through; Mr. Trump’s illiberalism is an existential threat to our way of life.)
Finally, the debt ceiling. There is no substantive issue – Ukraine, race, abortion, guns, Social Security/Medicare, climate, election reform, or anything else – I consider as important as maintaining the full faith and credit of the United States. For us to be able to continue to pay our debts, Congress must pass a law raising the debt ceiling by sometime this summer. U.S. House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, are posturing (as they always do when a Democrat is president) about budget restrictions they will require in order to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Safeguarding America’s democracy from provocateurs is existential, more important than any substantive issue, including maintaining its full faith and credit. If counseling the President, I’d recommend that he get this blunt message to Mr. McCarthy (if he hasn’t already): “Kevin, I’m not compromising with you. I’m not going to accept any budget limitations in order to get your votes on the debt ceiling. I’m going to sit here and talk about Social Security, Medicare, and our need to protect our troops and our veterans. There are enough votes in both houses to pass an unrestricted debt ceiling. If we default, Americans won’t blame me; they’ll blame you and your extremists for the fallout. In 2025, any Kwik Trip will be big enough to hold the entire Republican House Caucus; and you won’t be there. You know it. I know it. Have a nice day.”
Mr. McCarthy has shown himself to be a gutless hypocrite; I think he’ll cave. Whether he does or not, and although I am deeply concerned about a U.S. default today and the effect that the mounting U.S. debt will have on our children and grandchildren tomorrow, one cannot appease political terrorists.
More than long enough. (Could have cut the paragraph on Mr. DeSantis, which added nothing you haven’t already seen, heard, or thought; but just couldn’t resist piling on 🙂 ). Have a good week.
On Aaron Rodgers’ Transition
The Wall Street Journal had an article this week about the long-expected Green Bay Packer- New York Jet trade that will send Quarterback Aaron Rodgers to New York. Although I think all consider the trade all but certain to occur, the Journal noted that the trade details were “complicated,” citing Mr. Rodgers’ “age, his recent performance, his possible retirement and the enormous sum of money he’s due.” The Journal also opined that the Jets – although described as “utterly desperate for a quarterback,” have leverage over Green Bay “if the Packers want to recoup picks this year.” The NFL draft begins on April 27.
I’ve found a surprising unanimity of sentiment among the Packer faithful about Mr. Rodgers’ imminent departure – in sharp contrast to the rancorous split of opinion in the Packer Nation when the team decided to move on from Mr. Rodgers’ predecessor, Brett Favre. Virtually to a person, the Packer fans with whom I’ve talked credit Mr. Rodgers for his wonderful performance over these last many years; most acknowledge that technically, he was even better than Mr. Favre; they will not begrudge it if he goes to New York and wins another Super Bowl; and that he is a weird guy. A random comparison regarding relative fan affection for PGA giants Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus comes to mind: golf fans knew that the reserved Mr. Nicklaus was technically better than Mr. Palmer, but always loved Mr. Palmer more due to his classy, yet competitive, lay-it-all-out-there demeanor; Packer fans acknowledge that Mr. Rodgers, a cool Californian, was better, but will always remember Mr. Favre, a Wisconsin kind of guy – and notwithstanding his peccadillos since leaving the team – more fondly.
That said, if I were Packer General Manager Brian Gutekunst, I would wait the Jets out. If the Jets do have, as the Journal stated in its piece, “a playoff caliber roster – except for the huge void at quarterback,” it is they who have to win now. They should provide the Packers two first round picks for Mr. Rodgers, although such might not happen until after the draft. Mr. Rodgers – like legends John Elway and Peyton Manning who won Super Bowls late in their careers – is no longer capable of carrying a team on his back every week, but certainly retains the skill to dominate a few games during a season when his team finds nothing else is working.
As for the Packers, although they seem very likely to complete the trade before the draft in the win-now culture of the NFL (indeed, the trade may be announced as I post this 😉 ), I don’t think they should. Mr. Gutekunst presumably believed when he drafted Utah State Quarterback Jordan Love in 2020 that Mr. Love had the right stuff to follow in the tradition of Messrs. Favre and Rodgers. Mr. Love may be the finest man in the world, but all current indications are that in drafting him, Mr. Gutekunst whiffed, completely whiffed. (If you need evidence: the team wouldn’t have paid Mr. Rodgers $50 million last season if it considered Mr. Love, even after having had two years in Green Bay, to have been remotely ready to start.) The issue at this point seems not to be whether Green Bay is destined to revisit the NFL hinterland, but how best to make its return as brief as possible. If Mr. Gutekunst could secure 2024 and 2025 first round picks from the Jets for Mr. Rodgers after the draft, the stockpile of first round picks will serve Green Bay well as it builds for the future. Even if Mr. Love plays well, this is probably a lost year for the Green and Gold; they have a lot of gaps, and recall that neither Mr. Favre nor Mr. Rodgers made the playoffs in their respective first years as starter. That said, it is the extremely rare team that can win a Super Bowl in this era without an elite quarterback, so if Mr. Love doesn’t play well, those picks could could be packaged to move up in the 2024 draft for Mr. Gutekunst to try, try again. (If he whiffs again, he won’t be around for a third try.)
‘Nuff said. As always, fun to take a break from the ongoing domestic and global issues which we face.
On the Dominion – Fox News Settlement
As all who care are aware, yesterday Dominion Voting Systems (Dominion) and Fox Corp. (Fox) settled the defamation suit Dominion had brought against Fox arising from Fox’ falsehoods about Dominion’s voting systems, with Fox paying Dominion $787.5 million. Fox released a statement indicating: “We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects Fox’s continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards. We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues.”
I have been a lawyer too long not to recognize that a good deal for a client is not always a good deal for society, so I certainly don’t begrudge Dominion locking in an almost record-breaking defamation settlement award, or choosing to avoid the uncertainties of trial and, if victorious, the grueling prospect of lengthy appeals against a well-funded and implacable opponent. At the same time, I am offended by the blasé hypocrisy of the Fox statement. I’ve seen one of Dominion’s lawyers acknowledge that Fox is not obligated by the terms of the settlement to have its hosts admit on their air that they lied about Dominion, which lies had the effect of furthering the hoax that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election and arguably at least indirectly led to the January 6th insurrection. A First Amendment lawyer quoted by the New York Times observed: “With the settlement, everybody wins. Fox goes its way. Dominion gets cash.”
Not everybody wins. America didn’t win. I had hoped that the settlement would require the Fox hosts to acknowledge their falsehoods on Fox air, which, even if such did not dispel the Big Lie, would perhaps at least weaken their future credibility with their viewers. That’s not going to happen. I fear that the confirmation of Fox’ perfidy won’t even meaningfully enter the alt-right information silo. I expect one close friend who follows these pages and is more familiar with Fox propaganda than I am will provide me backhanded consolation by repeating his oft-expressed observation to the effect that even if Fox viewers knew Fox hosts were lying to them, they wouldn’t care.
On that note, I guess we must, like Fox, go on our way.
A close friend who has been part of the Colorado Search and Rescue operations for decades (although he is still a young man 🙂 ) recently called my attention to Rebecca Young’s short story, “Joan,” which won the Conger Beasley, Jr. Award for Non-Fiction in 2021 and recently appeared in New Letters Magazine. He wrote, “What struck me when I first read this story was that it has always been difficult to illustrate what we do to those who have never done it. … In her nonfiction narrative, Becca successfully uses one of our [teaching] search scenarios to convey the desperate and often emotional circumstances of a real search party from a patient’s imagined perspective and absolutely from a search leader’s perspective.” It’s excellent.
Our friend and I have discussed the Colorado Search and Rescue team’s efforts a number of times over the years, but I never “got it” until I read Ms. Young’s story about a search and rescue effort in Rocky Mountain National Park. Her recital did cause me to recall an account in Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, in which Mr. Abbey, in the 1950s a park ranger in Utah’s Arches (now National Park), searched for a member of the public who had gotten lost in its desert terrain.
Without giving away Ms. Young’s story, I would suggest that the main takeaway for those of us – from our 20s to our 70s and beyond who will never participate in rescue operations but enjoy the wonders of our national and state parks and other wild areas — is: Be Careful. A couple of times since our retirement, TLOML and I – although any veteran outdoorsperson would consider our excursions terribly tame – have had to deal with uncomfortable uncertainty, although never actual danger. Whether in the snowy Rockies, on the searing rock of the southwest, amid Everglades flora and fauna, or in Alaskan bear country, one needs to be aware of one’s limitations and surroundings. Ms. Young notes at one point about her own experiences: “So many times, I’ve been lucky instead of smart. … I can’t say why I’ve always come home from the mountains when others haven’t. Often our choices were the same, the dead and me.”
On the Trump New York Indictment: A Postscript
In the original of this note, I declared: “If the counts brought against Mr. Trump ultimately amount to no more than falsification of business records under New York law … such charges are highly likely to be seen … as ticky-tack fouls. Such an impression helps Mr. Trump.” I have no background in criminal law. I have seen it reported that the 34 charges brought against Mr. Trump will amount to NY law misdemeanor counts, not felony counts, unless the prosecution can persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Trump falsified his business records in order to evade apprehension for a separate felony crime. Judging by the muted tones I heard from NY District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance, Jr., during a CNN interview about the indictment, and by the reserved commentary I have heard from some of the legal experts on MSNBC’s decidedly-liberal Morning Joe, I’d venture that they consider Mr. Bragg to have brought … a whole lotta ho-hum. (I know, I know; Al Capone. Even so ….) Whether this indictment ultimately helps Mr. Trump politically – more on that below — remains to be seen.
Since former WI Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in 2010, I have had a lot of surprises in politics; but rarely have I been stunned. I was stunned by Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory; and I was stunned by the margin of Judge Janet Protasiewicz’ victory over former WI S. Ct. Justice Daniel Kelly for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court — 11 points – in such a closely divided and deeply polarized state. Ms. Protasiewicz had campaigned primarily on women’s abortion rights and her concerns with Wisconsin’s despicably gerrymandered legislative districts. We learned the day after the election that a close woman friend who is fairly apolitical, and who had truly significant personal issues literally coming to a head on election day, nonetheless made the time to vote for Ms. Protasiewicz because of the abortion issue. It would appear that former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has again been proven too smart by half; if he had either allowed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court or chosen not to proceed with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, there would not have been five U.S. Supreme Court votes to overturn Roe v. Wade (recall that conservative Chief Justice John Roberts adopted a more limited rationale that would have upheld Roe). From Republicans’ perspective, the political milk is now spilt; they are seemingly stuck on the wrong side of an emotive, galvanizing issue that appears likely to be the political gift that keeps on giving for Democrats for years.
That said: into every life, a little rain must fall (at least for us Irish 😉 ). As Judge Protasiewicz was winning her Supreme Court seat, Republican state Rep. Dan Knodl won a WI state Senate seat to create a Republican supermajority bloc that now has the votes to remove WI Gov. Tony Evers and other Wisconsin office holders – including judges – from office if the Wisconsin Assembly chooses to impeach them. (As in the federal system, impeachment charges need only receive a simple majority in the lower house Assembly – now controlled by Republicans – to be referred to the state’s Senate.) This is not comforting; Mr. Knodl was among state lawmakers who signed a letter in 2020 calling for Vice President Mike Pence to reject the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Even so, do I think that the Republican Wisconsin legislature will seek to remove Mr. Evers from office? I may be too optimistic, and stand ready to be corrected (some who read these notes have forgotten more about the innards of Wisconsin state politics than I’ll ever know), but I actually don’t believe that Wisconsin Republicans – despite what (or perhaps because of) what recently happened in Tennessee – will undertake such an effort; such would too closely smack of a Republican Wisconsin state coup d’etat, and could be predicted to incite too fierce a political backlash. Do I think that the Republican legislature will seek to impeach liberal WI Supreme Court Justices if they seem likely to rule that women have abortion rights under the Wisconsin Constitution? Again, particularly given Ms. Protasiewicz’ margin of victory, I’m guessing that Wisconsin Republicans would consider the political repercussions of such an action for such a reason too great to risk. On the other hand, do I think they’ll consider attempting to remove a liberal WI Supreme Court Justice on some trumped up (if you will 😉 ) charge if such is necessary to avoid having their perniciously gerrymandered legislative districting – the reason some of them have jobs — declared unconstitutional under the Wisconsin Constitution? You bet.
Back to Mr. Trump’s indictment. Two notions:
First, I was recently asked by someone aware of my legal background why New York Supreme Court (note: in New York courts, the Supreme Court is actually the trial court) Justice Juan Merchan doesn’t find the former president in contempt and put him in jail for attacking the judge and his family after the Judge instructed Mr. Trump during his arraignment not to make remarks that could endanger others. My view: Justice Merchan confronts the horns of a dilemma. I suspect that the former president may be goading the judge because in his warped view, Mr. Trump wins either way: either he can significantly tarnish the credibility of the proceedings by consistently casting aspersions upon the judge and the judicial system, or he gets to play the persecuted martyr if Justice Merchan orders his incarceration for contempt of court. Ultimately, I think Justice Merchan will have little choice but to jail Mr. Trump for contempt if he continues his outbursts; but I would imagine that he’ll wait a bit. At least were I in his place, I would feel I needed to. He just shouldn’t wait too long.
Finally, although Mr. Bragg’s charges against Mr. Trump may well ultimately amount to no more than two-pound walking weights when compared to the baggage he’s already carrying, the notion lingers that as Mr. Trump’s legal woes mount, it might be possible for a Republican moderate to run a bit to his left and surpass him for the nomination. However, even if that happens, Judge Protasiewicz’ victory margin makes clear what a difficult juggling act any GOP presidential nominee will have with the abortion issue in the swing states in the general presidential election campaign. If the Republican takes the position that s/he will appoint more judges like Mr. Trump did, it will mobilize those seeking to protect women’s abortion rights; if s/he waffles on the issue, s/he will lose the Evangelicals and other religious conservatives, without whom I will venture no Republican can win the presidency. This issue even seems to help President Biden blunt the ageism issue facing him; in two years, when asked about his obviously advanced age, he can respond, “Justices Alito and Thomas are our oldest Supreme Court Justices. If they leave the Court during the next four years, who do you want to have appointing their successors – [the Republican candidate] or me?”
On Good Friday
Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, the Son of God, who allowed himself to be sacrificed and who died for the good of all humankind. Although Jews and Muslims – who are, currently, respectively in the midst of Passover and Ramadan — reject the notion of Jesus’ divinity, I understand that they nonetheless hold him a great prophet. I will venture that the vast majority of those who are aware of Jesus and his teachings, even those who do not believe in a Supreme Being, consider him to have been a wise and good man. Given the bitter discord in which we seem endlessly enmeshed within both our nation and our world, it seems appropriate on this day to record his succinct summation of his teachings.
“He began to teach them, saying,
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
- Matthew 5: 2 – 10