December 31, 2020

Farewell to 2020. Happy New Year

After the American Century

A year ago no one had heard of COVID-19, and 2020 looked like it might be a good year. Like all new years, it had the benefit of the doubt. It was more than disappointing. Some good results. Donald Trump was defeated, even if he refused to believe it himself and constructed fantasy explanations. But he did a great deal of damage to the United States, the world's climate, and the credibility of democracy.

The pandemic has kept me in my house most of the year, starting in March. I completed one book and wrote another one. Both will appear in 2021. The work was my escape from tedium, from the haunting news stories of suffering, and from the mostly rainy weather. But compared to many people I was fine, and I appreciate that. 

2020 was a year to savor small pleasures and to grab the small opportunities for adventure that came along. The high point for me in this regard was an unexpected invitation to help a friend move a boat from Århus to Fåborg, a two day journey. As it turned out, these two days in June were the best two of the summer, in terms of sunshine and gentle winds. They were also two of the longest days of sunlight. My friend had just bought a small fiberglass sail boat, used, which had a motor that pushed us along at 5 knots, since there was little wind. There was a small area below where we kept some food and drink, and it could sleep two people. 

Sailing toward the Lillebælt Bridge, June, 2020

We did not spend the night, however, but put the boat in the Middelfart marina and went to our separate homes. The boat needed to be cleaned a bit and fitted up before it would be pleasant to spend the night. But it moved smoothly through the water, and I saw a few seals and two small whales. There were many islands that I had only seen on maps. A god bit of the time I held the tiller, but taking directions from my friend, as he has sailed these waters for decades. Those two days also stand out, because due to the lockdown my wife and I could not take our vacation in the US, and no other good options were available for the days she had off. 

The two day adventure on the sailboat turns out to be my most pleasant outdoor memory of 2020. But there were other good days, too, short rides and long walks in the local countryside. There was the pleasure of both working in the same place again, on different floors of the house, because my wife's employer was ordered to send everyone to work at home. This meant coffee breaks and lunch together for a change. I also walked around, 10,000 steps a day, all over town, avoiding the commercial areas, and often in the evenings during the long twilight of spring and summer. If it had not been for the pandemic, it would have been OK. 

Posting this on the last day of 2020, we can look forward to vaccination sometime in the spring. I might even get outside the country, if it is safe to travel. But in 2020 I learned to live within more narrow limits.

December 09, 2020

Five Proposed Amendments to the Constitution of the United States

After the American Century

The conduct of the Trump presidency has revealed the need for amendments to the US Constitution. The precise wording will require some fine-tuning, but here are my suggestions.

(1) The prompt and orderly transfer of power after an election being a paramount necessity for the preservation of public order and the practice of diplomacy with foreign governments, the declaration of who has won a presidential election shall not rest in the hands of the incumbent president, nor in those of a person appointed by that chief executive. Rather, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall determine who has prevailed in the contest, and thereafter the successful candidate shall immediately have access to all the information necessary to prepare to take office, together with office space, a budget to pay the transition staff, and all other forms of assistance that can reasonably be necessary.

(2) If a president chooses to replace any member of the cabinet, a new appointee must appear within 60 days before the Senate to be examined and evaluated. In the meantime, an acting secretary may be appointed, but this person must already be a member of that department of government, and he or she cannot be a candidate for the position. An Acting Secretary shall always be identified by that title and cannot use the title of Secretary during the temporary period of his or her appointment.

(3) To ensure fairness and minimize outside interference in cases of impeachment that concern any person in the Executive Branch, in such cases the Department of Justice's investigation shall be funded and overseen not by the president but by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. 

(4) On the use of the presidential pardon. The President  cannot pardon himself nor members of his or her family, nor use the power of the pardon in cases that involve treason, espionage or tampering with an election, nor may the president pardon persons who worked for his or her political campaign or on the White House staff. 

(5) Trust in the electoral system being essential to any democracy, no candidate for federal office shall claim that an election was not properly conducted, "stolen," or otherwise compromised except when such statements are made in writing and under oath before a federal judge, together with substantiating evidence of the charges made. False or misleading statements about election officials or about the conduct of an election must be investigated by the Department of Justice and are subject to prosecution under the laws of perjury and slander.