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Don Rogers: Making America … worse

 

The Republicans have a crisis of conscience on their hands, no question. We’ll see who steps up and who continues to make excuses.

Their party, from leaders to ardent supporters and certainly an ugly subset of followers, is responsible for the wreckage. Fully responsible.

Now what?

The rest of us can wallow in condemnation, sure. Point at the seeds of all this, which to me were obvious going back to the Birther nonsense. Complain how Vice President Mike Pence waited so long to have his short spark of independent leadership, for Sen. Lindsey Graham briefly to point out the emperor had no clothes, all that.

A hard core of tribal partisans of course will dig in, scare up all the what-aboutism they can muster, rephrase “stolen election” without a shred of true evidence into earnest concern about the election process.

They don’t yet realize the depth of outrage from the World War Z-like swarming of the Capitol, the People’s House. That’s not a couple of blocks in downtown Seattle, or Portland, appalling and stupid as that nightly rioting was. Outraged Democrats indeed have their share of owning up to do, as well. Just not on this scale.

No, this was among the very lowest points in the two and a half centuries we’ve been a democratic republic.

It seems Republicans of principle — there is actual evidence they exist — will have to take their party back or join the exodus. Indeed, the party left them a while ago. It did me, finally, with the election of exactly the wrong president in 2016. Not that the choices were particularly great, granted.

This isn’t about a Dear Leader’s personality quirks, after all. The timber of the true him has been there all along. The party regulars, the evangelicals, the conservatives in their zeal to steer the ship of state in a more moral, more business-friendly direction turned a blind eye to the shoals we all would enter with this guy.

The storming of the Capitol put the lie to MAGA for everyone who can still see. That’s a little hard to “what about …?” away. But plenty are trying.

SUBJECT TO WHOPPERS

Families are tearing asunder. I’m watching it happen in mine. Denial is cresting, maybe a first step in the many stages back to this world. Yet still some loved ones are doubling down and making up new alternate realities to go with the whoppers that incited the mob.

I’m tempted to suggest, wide eyed, with particularly gullible friends and family that if antifa masquerading as “patriots,” say, were really the ones storming the Capitol, well then, the deepest under must be the president himself. That makes as much sense as anything in a conspiracy nut crackpot sort of way. And no, this is not my belief. I know the closest we get to the truth is not the propaganda sites to the left and the right, but the ol’ lamestream news organizations, shot through with error as they may be.

The president failing to be straight with his followers hasn’t helped. Worse, the politicians reading which way the winds of power might blow have gone along with the big lie.

Yes, I’m also concerned about where Democratic governance might go, seeing the disastrous turns from California’s supermajority leadership. A drive to San Francisco shows exactly how successful progressive policies and decisions have played out for a top priority, homelessness, for example.

But please, this is America. Flawed as it may be, we have the best system in the world for holding fair elections, checking and rechecking results, for appealing appropriately through the courts and so on to keep us from becoming another banana republic. The president, by his words and actions, plainly has been fine with that outcome if he only can remain in power.

Republicans have a lot to think about. Not that Democrats don’t. But in this remarkable moment, it’s the party of Lincoln unstitching the fabric that holds an exceptional country together.

Members can dodge and shirk, as plenty surely are. Or, as a few are doing with real courage, they can begin to lead responsibly. This is the remnant of the party I’m cheering for. The one that chooses the true right side of history.

Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 530-477-4299.

Alan Riquelmy: Living someone else’s life

I don’t remember applying to the job.

I’d been laid off for weeks, sending emails like mad, applying to anything that paid, well, money.

Then one of those emails hit — an interview at the Japanese consulate in Atlanta. Go overseas and teach your native language. Get paid seven figures.

In yen, of course.

I thought, well, why not? It’s an interview. No commitment, just a few handshakes and a suit coat with tie.

Things got serious when they offered the job that day.

About two months later — Jan. 18, 2001 — I stepped aboard a plane that flew me to Osaka. Almost 20 years to the date of this writing, I closed a long chapter and started a new one.

Like stepping through a tesseract.

One of the interview questions had been, essentially, how I’d handle the fact that squid is sold in stores, sitting alongside some food that I’d consider normal.

A better question might have been how I’d handle living in a country whose language I can’t speak while sticking out like a sore thumb wherever I went.

You’d catch people staring at you on the train. We’d have conversations about whether you should nod to another foreigner when seeing them in public. Should we acknowledge one another for no other reason than we’re both from another country?

Gomen nasai, shirimasen.

It was a slow transformation, but it happened to all of us. You’d gawk at the world around you for the first few weeks, then you became a part of the world around you. You’d park your bicycle illegally, like everyone else, and race for the train. You had a favorite train car, because it stopped near the exit you wanted.

During cherry blossom season, you’d share beers with friends and coworkers by the Shukugawa River. The air is thick with a thousand different directions your life could go.

At first, I’d have dreams of being in America, knowing I had to reach a classroom in Japan for my job, realizing it’d be impossible to make it in time.

The unconscious mind thinking I was supposed to be in the states, I suppose. Those dreams faded after some weeks, my brain determining it was in the right place after all.

America faded as well. You could see it on a map, point out where someone used to live, tell stories about the people that might have been there. But it was on the other side of the planet. Who could tell if those stories were true, or those people real?

It had to end, though. That spot on the map called, and its song grew louder as the months passed.

I could have stayed, I suppose, content with teaching conversational English and an extended college lifestyle that paid better than actual college life. A string of nights laid out by the river, the cherry blossoms in bloom, lush and drunk, living someone else’s life.

I’d wonder about my decision, sometimes, when it rained. A sad, gravel parking lot just outside my window in a small Alabama town and the endless crush of newspaper life always descending.

I’d tread through wet pavement and get into an old car, on the way to another assignment, not quite sure what happened.

Glancing at the rear-view mirror, asking —

Who is this?

Where did that other person go?

Alan Riquelmy is the editor of the Sierra Sun and The Union. He can be reached at 530-477-4239.

Photo by Yuki Nakamura on Unsplash

Danae Anderson: Insurrection at the Capitol

I deeply love my community of Truckee and all the opportunities it affords.

Living this life of privilege for so many years has also given me the opportunity and obligation to re-examine the history on which my privilege was built.

Last year we saw Black Live Matter protests triggered by the death of George Floyd. The protestors were tear-gassed to the point of suffocation, maced, beaten with batons, shot at with rubber bullets, arrested and those in custody, beaten. Additionally, police dogs were deployed, a historical tool of racial control.

On Jan. 6, armed white supremacists, white nationalists, Neo nazis and militias carrying Trump and confederate flags penetrated the Capitol, unscathed by an inadequate number of Capitol police. Apparently top law enforcement officers were not interested in preventing this insurrection.

Front line officers were not in riot gear, not wearing gas masks nor holding guns, there were no police dogs to control the white rioters.

This mob of insurrectionists assailed the heart of our democracy, threatening the safety of our representatives who were in the process of certifying a free and fair election in service of a peaceful transition of power.

The confederate flag was carried through the House Rotunda for the first time in American history. This flag and the hanging noose are not unfamiliar to Black America.

After defiling the Capitol, threatening the lives of representatives, causing the deaths of five people and destroying U.S. property, the insurrectionists walked out or were escorted out of the Capitol without arrest or consequence.

Many have said this is not America, that an insurrection to overthrow democracy is an aberration. But we have had violence around elections in efforts to subvert the democratic will of multiracial communities since Reconstruction when Black representatives were purged from government and replaced by white supremacists. Suppression of minority vote has continued through Jim Crow into 2021. What has been referred to as “fraudulent” votes were those of Black, brown and Indigenous voters.

As Americans we have had a devout belief our institutions could withstand any internal or external enemy.

With four years of norms broken, relentless disinformation and racism stoked, Americans perceived Wednesday that our institutions are fragile.

Our constitution is not self enforcing.

We are all in this together and it is up to us to uphold our democracy.

Our representatives must decide that democracy is more important than re election.

The divisions that have been stoked need to faced. Change cannot be accomplished if we are in denial about the ideology that caused them.

Despite the horrors of what has happened, there are silver linings.

Our history of ownership of other human beings and embedded structural racism gave us this moment.

With this awareness we have many opportunities to take action for a stronger union.

We can educate ourselves, talk to our friends both white and of color, support minority owned business, write letters to our journals, address policing in our communities, find out the policies of our business leaders, create cultural exchange and educational events …

It was a Black Capitol police officer who risked his life attracting mob participants away from congressional representatives, allowing them to escape to safety by just moments.

Let’s show this kind of courage and love to our brothers and sisters of color.

Danae Anderson lives in Truckee.

Pine Nuts: Power of the lullaby


It has become my obsession over the past ten months to ascertain exactly how little or next to nothing I can do, and still be counted as, “amongst the living.” This act of social downsizing has taken me all the way down to the examination of … lullabies.

Fact is, were I about to be given my last rites, I might humbly petition, “Ah, could I have Monique Palomares singing, ’Frere Jacque.’” (Monique might even bring me back from the brink.)

Taking this examination a step further, recent research by Candace Bainbridge at UCLA has discovered that lullabies can be instrumental in the cognitive development of babies. It doesn’t matter who’s singing them either, female or male, old or young, babies just love lullabies. “Goo-goo, give me a goo-goo lullaby, please!”

Yes, and the results are striking, the heart rate slows to a comfortable crawl, the pupils contract nicely, even the skin relaxes. (I didn’t know such a thing was even possible.)

So my question is, do we outgrow our receptiveness to the benefits of a lullaby? Put another way, if we are administered lullabies at a mature age, might we still respond in kind? I tested this quandary on myself by playing recorded lullabies on a soundtrack in my bedroom as I dropped to off sleep last night. Of the lullabies I chose, one was a past favorite of mine, “Frere Jacque.”

Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!

Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

The voice I chose was the melodious voice of Monique Palomares, a voice that would put the Queen’s Top Guard to sleep, and cause him to fall flat on his face right there in front of Buckingham Palace. I put the lullabies on, nice and soft, climbed into bed, pulled the covers up to my chin, and dropped like a stone into a deep sleep. But when I awakened this morning, I found myself talking baby-talk to no one in particular, “Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong!”

Well I did get the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, but even after a cup of coffee I answered the phone, “He-whoa?” And when asked if I might be interested in sending twenty-five dollars to The Little Sisters of Minerva , I answered, “Yes, yes, morning bells are ringing! Ding, dang, dong!”

Well, I congratulate Ms. Bainbridge on her research, but I am done with lullabies myself. You will not see me jumping out of bed in the morning singing, “Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong!” No, I’m done with lullabies. But if you happen to have a newborn, do sing lullabies to that lucky baby. Lullabies will hasten that baby’s cognitive development, and too, that baby just might turn out to be a karaoke singer. But if you should elect to experiment with lullabies on yourself, I caution you to take care in selecting those lullabies … stay clear of, “Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong!”

Me? Did I mention? I’m done with lullabies …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.

Law Review: Bulwer-Lytton 2020 winners

As you faithful readers recall, we annually present a handful of our favorite Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest winners.

For you new readers, the Bulwer-Lytton Contest is named after novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton who wrote many famous novels including “Paul Gifford” which started with the immortal words, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Supposedly that’s often-parodied bad writing (although it is better than anything I ever do).

The Contest rewards rookie writers composing intentionally bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Pretty clever stuff.

“Her Dear John missive flapped unambiguously in the windy breeze, hanging like a pizza menu on the doorknob of my mind.” (2020 Grand Prize)

***

“Sally loved Geoff so deeply that if he were a pirate on a dread pirate ship (and not an insurance adjuster), snarling and drinking, murdering and raping his way across the Caribbean (well, maybe not raping, it was the sentiment that counted) and he had a peg leg, she would have gladly sawed her own leg off and sewed it to his stump with silken threads, so he could dance again, holding her up since she was now a sudden amputee.” (Dishonorable Mention – Adventure)

***

“As he slowly shadowed the white Amazon Prime van down Midvale Drive in the Fresno suburbs on a sweltering July afternoon, Nigel “Cutthroat” Hawkins thought back over his career — fastboating along the Somali coast, broadcasting at 50,000 watts from international waters just off the Isle of Man, running half a million counterfeit “Bourne Identity” DVDs out of Hong Kong—and had but a single question: is this really what piracy has come to?” (Dishonorable Mention – Adventure)

***

“As Charlotte meticulously finished her egg sac on the lonely rafter at the county fairgrounds, she thought about the future day when her children would burrow into Wilbur’s flesh to consume him from the inside-out, and hummed her favorite song about the wheel of life rolling on.” (Winner – Children’s & Young Adult Literature)

***

“When she walked into my office on that bleak December day, she was like a breath of fresh air in a coal mine; she made my canary sing.” (Winner – Crime/Detective)

***

“She sauntered into his smoke-filled office with legs that, although they didn’t go quite all the way to heaven, definitely went high enough for him to see that she was a giraffe.” (Dishonorable Mention – Crime/Detective)

***

“It was a dark and stormy night, the kind where the orchestra in a crime movie would bang on a piece of wavy sheet metal and blow raspberries to add ambience to the drizzle coming from an off-camera stagehand holding a garden hose.” (Dishonorable Mention – Dark & Stormy)

***

“‘Master Wlfindermx sauntered across the Plains of Teflandous towards the city of Gjorgturc carrying the mythical Blade of Vulbertrian, once owned by Lord Leszsoriog,’ wrote the author, who wanted to make the life of the audiobook narrator a living hell.” (Dishonorable Mention – Fantasy & Horror)

***

“The biker gang roared into the parking lot of the bar and grill like a troop of howler monkeys trying to lure mates, the gravel beneath the tires of their well-oiled bikes crunching like the dill pickle spears the place served alongside their famous tuna salad, BLT, and Reuben sandwiches.” (Winner – Purple Prose)

***

“The fearsome isle of Gandew was home to two native tribes: the Lacenites, a proud warrior race, and the Demescans, a warrior race but not exactly proud of it, as they found the whole “raping and pillaging” enterprise a bit distasteful, but recognized the fact you can’t build an empire on artisanal ceramics alone.” (Dishonorable Mention – Historical Fiction)

***

“Deep within the Great Pyramid, Pharaoh Khufu gazed at the walls of what would eventually be his burial chamber, asking himself what he had been thinking in entrusting its adornment to the teenaged Prince and Princess, but comforting himself with the certainty that the younger generation would soon tire of these annoying “emoticons” and return to the rich thirty-character Egyptian alphabet.” (Dishonorable Mention – Historical Fiction)

***

“Gasping for breath as she lay in the dew-laden lakeside grass, Rifka Lieberman’s chest heaved with rising passion as Saul Cohen approached with the inhaler she had left behind at the assisted living facility.” (Dishonorable Mention – Romance)

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, Ca-0=]lifornia, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or http://www.portersimon.com.

 

Law Review: A sampling of new California laws in 2021

Our prolific California Legislature has been busy passing hundreds of new laws – needed or not. Here are a few:

Demilitarizing Police Uniforms. Law enforcement may no long wear uniforms that have camouflage or resemble military uniforms with a few exceptions e.g., SWAT teams. This presumably stems from our President sending unmarked federal troops into Portland, Oregon.

Diversifying Publicly Held Corporate Boards. California law already requires publicly held companies headquartered in California to have at least one woman on the Board. That has been expanded, so by Dec. 31, 2021, any California-based publicly held corporation with at least six or more directors must have at least three female directors on its Board; if the number of directors is five then at least two must be women, and if that number is four or less, then the corporation must have at least one female director. Also, by Dec. 31, 2021, any publicly held corporation in California must have one director from an “underrepresented community,” and by the end of 2022, any such corporation with more than four but fewer than nine directors must have a minimum of two directors from underrepresented communities, and such a corporation with nine or more directors must have a minimum of three directors from underrepresented communities. Underrepresented communities is defined as follows: an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. I suggest you read the law to get the details.

Minimum Wage Bump. As of the first of the year, California’s minimum wage is $14 an hour at companies with 26 or more employees and $13 at companies smaller than that. It is part of a phased series of increases that will eventually make the state’s minimum wage $15 an hour in 2023.

Family Leave. SB 1383 amends the California Family Rights Act to require any employer with 5 or more employees to grant the employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner. Such employers are also required to grant up to 12 workweeks of protected leave during any 12-month period due to a qualifying exigency related to the employee or employee’s spouse’s active military duty. An employer who employs both parents of a child must grant up to 12-weeks of leave to each employee.

Student Loans. As of July 1, 2021, AB 376 starts a host of new protections for student loan borrowers and makes it harder for lenders to take advantage of people who may not know all of their rights or know how to navigate the sometimes-complex student loan programs. I know something about that.

Insurance Notifications. Under AB 2756, and the Insurance Code, insurers must now prominently notify policy holders if their offer to renew a policy reduces coverage, such as eliminating fire protection, and must get that acknowledged in writing. Believe me, I know something about cancellations of fire policies.

Flavored Tobacco Ban. The new law passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Gavin bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products in California including menthol cigarettes. The goal supposedly is to make these products less appealing to children and teens. Word is however, that the ban may be delayed as tobacco companies have filed enough signatures to put the new law to a statewide vote. You can be assured any such proposal will not ban flavored tobacco products. There is money in tobacco.

Traffic Safety. Under AB 2285, drivers may be fined if they do not slow down and whenever possible change lanes when encountering a Caltrans vehicle, tow truck or other emergency vehicle with lights flashing on the highway. Under AB 2717, Good Samaritans who rescue an endangered child under the age of six from a locked, unattended vehicle, are immune from civil or criminal liability.

 

BIZARRE LAWS

Just to lighten the mood, I want to remind you that as of 2012, nudity at permitted events is unlawful, but municipalities may be required to issue permits to nudists participating in parades under one court order. And because a long time ago teenagers rode their bicycles and skateboards on frozen swimming pools in Southern California, it is now illegal to ride your bike in a public pool.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or http://www.portersimon.com.

Don Rogers: Nothing for an answer?

I have this theory that how we respond to the most basic question reveals everything about us.

Of course I got it from a book: “Why Does the World Exist?” The author, Jim Holt, calls it an existential detective story. I’ll go with lay person’s guide to our best thinking about nothing.

What is this thing, existence? Yours, mine, that table over there. Particles, waves, dark energy, vacuum, spooky quantum theory, mathematical symmetry, everything. Where did it all come from? How can something come from nothing?

This is no koan, no riddle, no exercise in semantics or rhetoric or logic. Wordplay won’t help. Neither will the right set of premises, scientific theory or scripture get to the very nub.

I love it. Precocious children have asked this ever since we’ve had language. And no doubt dads have deflected as my dad did and I did in my turn.

But everything we think we are as adults is contained in what we tell ourselves, or shrink from telling ourselves, about this question. This is the seed of our sense of purpose, our place in this world.

How we answer dictates how we live, what we think about, whom we love, our faith, maybe our politics, certainly what we find important, our capacity for imagination.

To be sure, plenty of intellectuals, theologians and dolts alike have found the question silly. And it is kind of beside the point.

Look around. We’re here. No real need to wonder why. It is what it is. Jeez. Grab a beer, watch the game. There’s one answer: Do something. Nothing can wait.

SELECT AUDIENCE

OK, so maybe this isn’t for everyone. I’ve had my share of weird looks bringing it up, obsessed when I first read the book in 2013.

But I’ve also had fascinating, bonding conversations over the mystery. We don’t all repel the question like magnets at bad ends.

I remember a campfire in South Lake Tahoe with old college friends, singlemalt in hand, stars above, warm and in wonderment together. And chance conversations, earnest ones, thoughtful, humorous, fun. One new acquaintance at a retirement party looked at me a little wide-eyed, like “so much for small talk, eh?” Then we got right into it.

Holt wrote this story for us. He scoured for the great tomes and traveled the globe to talk with today’s great thinkers about why there is something rather than nothing.

He gives us history, wit, theories including one about our existence being the creation of a hacker, the initial disbelief at the Big Bang, the nesting doll notion that if it all does come to God, where did God come from? Always was? Sure, that’s still something.

His work is readable, if demanding full focus. Holt was wise enough to write the story as an adventure finding and engaging with his sources as well as getting down what they had to say.

He ends in Paris with an anecdote about a preacher, a physcist and a monk he sees on a TV show. Each is asked the question. God, the preacher declares. Some quantum fluke, the physcist postulates. It always was nothing and is still nothing, mostly, the monk says with a smile.

None of these is any answer at all, really. Holt goes for a walk into the night, flicks a cigarette into a black river and that’s that. He leaves us with the journey, for me a wonderful read.

COMPASS

This simplest question is the great leveler. It renders the weirdest, most arcane cult’s theology on par with the most exact science to date. The densest soul on equal footing with the highest intellect. It might be the best case going for humility.

A child full of wonder can ponder it. An adult caught up in the world can shove it aside, yet there it remains, never far.

How we live with this paradox — the objective fact of the unanswerable — in wonder, in terror, trying to ignore it, convincing ourselves we really do know, well, that defines us. Says everything.

Pascal’s wager and Kierkegaard’s leap of faith are direct responses. Mysteries gnaw at us. We yearn to know. Often we make things up to feel like we do know. Sometimes scientific findings mess us up. The Big Bang did, at first. The politics in the scientific community were withering. But even Einstein eventually came off his “always there” pulpit.

Still, none of this has come to nothing. I’d say, if we’re rigorously honest, we know we don’t have the answer. But the question, our north star, gives us direction. If we guess all this is random, meaningless, we may go one way. Holy, another.

I think this question, this unanswerable question, makes life infinitely richer, more interesting. That’s something, at least. Better than nothing.

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at drogers@sierrasun.com or 530-477-4299.

Pine Nuts: Sheep that glow in the dark

 

One of the most overlooked pieces of noteworthy scientific advancement buried by the pandemic of 2020 occurred in Uruguay. Yes, right out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a group of Uruguayan scientists announced that they had successfully modified the genetic makeup of a group of sheep to make them glow in the dark. Your first question, like mine, might be, “But why?” I don’t know, though the Uruguayan wolves are high-fiving each other like crazy. Oh, night hunting for wolves will now be like shooting fish in a barrel if you will forgive a mixed simile.

But how on Earth did the Uruguayan scientists do this, pray tell? Well, they did it by extracting a green fluorescent protein found in jellyfish, and implanting that green protein into the sheep, don’t ask me where. And I suppose if one were to inject that same fluorescent green protein into the big toe of a human, that human could walk around in the dark barefooted, and that human would no longer need a night light to get from bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Worse case scenario, if that same human were lost at sea in a lifeboat, that lost human could just wave his or her big toe in the air when an airplane flew overhead and be rescued at dawn.

The possibilities are endless. Imagine dropping your car key in the snow on a dark January night, and as good fortune would have it, you just had your tongue injected with green fluorescent protein earlier that day, and now all you need do to find that lost car key is to get down on your hands and knees and stick out your tongue.

Then again, what if we could get mosquitos to glow in the dark? We could effectively wipe out the entire mosquito population of the planet with our bare hands in one summer’s night. Taking it a step further, what if those Uruguayan scientists could make a virus glow? Imagine if I were COVID-19 positive and walked into a family reunion shimmering like a glow-stick. Well, the family would flee like rats off a burning ship, but for the next two weeks, my quarantine would be an easy matter, as I could read all night long just from the glow of my forehead.

I’m going to get in touch with those scientists down in Uruguay who can make sheep glow in the dark, and see if I can convince them to try to make a virus glow in the dark. It would be so much easier to rid ourselves of the little monsters if we could only see them. Yes, I do believe those Uruguayan scientists are on to something big, and I intend to incite them to take their research to the next level. Indeed, I shall attend to it first thing in the morning, if I can find this napkin with all these scribbles on it to remind myself…

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock: Respecting an imperfect system

Many Americans still have serious concerns about the integrity of the vote in this election, and rightly so. In-person Election Day voting, with all the safeguards inherent in that system, has been replaced with mass mailing of ballots to every name on voter rolls that may be deceased or have moved, often followed by ballot harvesters to collect the surplus ballots and with no chain of custody.

This new system invites fraud and incubates suspicion of fraud. The many eyewitness accounts in sworn affidavits of ballot tampering and the documented cases of multiple votes, votes by dead people or by non-residents, deserve far more attention than they have received.

Despite the clear and precise language of the Electors Clause of the Constitution — that electors shall be appointed “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” — several states changed their election laws not by legislative action but by executive decree. This was the subject of the friend of the court brief submitted by 126 members of the House, including myself, in support of the suit brought by Texas and 18 other states: “Can a legislature delegate such authority and if not, what is the remedy for an illegally conducted election?” We still don’t know the answer to that question, because the Supreme Court refused to hear it.

But does this give Congress leave to usurp their powers? Does Congress have the constitutional right to refuse to count the votes of states that it believes acted fraudulently or illegally?

If the Congress can refuse to count electoral votes — for whatever reason — then it has the inherent power to seize the decision for itself and render the Electoral College superfluous. Unlike the judiciary, Congress has an obvious conflict of interest: If it invalidates enough votes, it gets to elect the president and vice president directly. If the founders had intended to give this power to the Congress, why did they go to all the fuss and bother of designing an Electoral College at all?

And here’s a bonus question: Does anyone seriously believe that a body of 535 intensely partisan politicians is a safe repository for the power to adjudicate the integrity of the vote?

Benjamin Franklin once warned us that as creatures of reason, we have the faculty to come up with whatever reason we need to do whatever we want.

That’s why we have a Constitution which commands, “The president of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.” There is no discretion offered to the vice president or the Congress. “The votes shall then be counted.” Not some of the votes. ALL of the votes.

Congress has occasionally refused to count electoral votes submitted to it under the doctrine that the power to count the vote implies the power to certify it. Yet under the 12th Amendment, certification rests solely with the states. Article III assigns the resolution of controversies arising under the Constitution and laws solely to the judiciary.

The Electoral Count Act of 1887 attempts to define a role for Congress in deciding which votes to count — but even its provisions are inapplicable here, since the administrative and judicial challenges have run their course, the states have certified the electors, and the electors have voted.

From that point on, the disturbing questions about the conduct of this election pass from judges to historians. And perhaps prosecutors.

We desperately need intensive state and federal investigations into all the allegations of fraud in this election. Every fraudulent vote disenfranchises an honest citizen. Until there is a full public airing and resolution of the charges, the questions will remain, and a lingering pall of illegitimacy will stalk the new administration.

We might even discover the election was indeed wrongly decided — just as we occasionally find cases erroneously decided by juries.

No one has ever claimed that ours is a perfect system. It is merely the best we have yet been able to design. And until we come up with something better, we owe it to our country, our Constitution and our posterity to stand by it and to respect its outcome, despite our wishes and suspicions.

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock represents the 4th Congressional District, which includes part of eastern Nevada County.

Pine Nuts: Name one good thing about 2020

Most of us might agree, 2020 was the annus horribilis of our lifetime. But just as the darkest cloud has a silver lining, 2020 has offered one thing about which we can all brag and be proud. I can’t think of what that one thing might be just now, though it does occur to me that learning how to cut our own hair might be a thing to celebrate and be genuinely proud, unless of course you’re a barber.

I should think that my being the first person in our village to grow moss on my face should amount to something to brag about, though my dear mother covers her eyes when she greets me.

Flowers have become a small beacon of light in my life. I purchase a bouquet when I shop. Oftentimes I have someone in mind who might like to have them, other times I give them to the first person I see who looks like they need a little lift, and sometimes the flowers stay with the cashier. Little things sometimes smooth peoples’ roads out during a pandemic. I can’t tell you the amount of joy I got when I arrived home to a small container of spaghetti on my doormat with a note, “From a Secret Angel.”

When the Great Conjunction appeared right on time, after 800 years of high anticipation, an astronomer who was looking through a telescope on the beach at Tahoe asked me if I’d care to have a look. He took a few steps back, and I was allowed a peek into the distant past as it took stage-center in the present, and I was mightily impressed. I could see how three wise men could follow such a bright light in the night to Jerusalem, whereas left to my own sense of direction, I would have ended up in New Jersey, or some place where they were not expecting me.

Perhaps in 2020, we began to regard all dear things as dearer yet, and more precious. Yes, I think that might be a thing to which we can point …

I wish I could shake the hand and hug every scientist who has gifted us an effective vaccine. That’s it! That might be the central thing we can all look to with enormous pride in 2020, the dedicated and talented scientists, doctors, nurses and frontline workers who have managed to close out this most precarious of years with hearts full of hope, promise and gratitude.

We wish you a saner and safer 2021, and leave you with a New Year’s Resolution from our mutual friend, Mark Twain …

“I intend to live within my means this coming year, even if I have to borrow money to do it.”

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.