A Thanksgiving Week To Remember

The week of Thanksgiving 2022 did not get off to a terrific start. I woke up at 5:15 A.M. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to arrive in Gaithersburg by 7:00 A.M. Plenty of time for a 45-minute drive to the outer suburbs. I had an appointment for a MRI procedure at Kaiser Permanente, my health care provider. The reason I got up so early was that it had taken almost two months to get this procedure scheduled, which was critical because I had an appointment next week with the doctor, who needed the results. I recalled talking to someone at Kaiser a while back who told me that if you are late to a procedure with a long wait list, you will have to reschedule, no exceptions. Apparently they now had a new, get-tough policy on flakes who never get anywhere on time, which, by the way, is not ME. I was determined not to be late.

I took the elevator to the basement garage where our car was parked and hit the start button. Nothing. Tried again several times. Still no luck. What to do?  Hey, no problem, I told myself. Just a dead battery, and I will get a jump start later. I will call Uber. That is what Uber is for, right? So, I rushed upstairs to the main lobby where I feverishly tapped in my cellphone all the information for an Uber ride and was relieved that a driver was not far away; but instead of seeing “approval” pop up on the screen, Uber denied payment. (My card had been stolen and I remembered that I had failed to provide the information on the  new  one.). By this time, I was starting to become a tad worried. I typed in another credit card.  Denied. Then two more. Both denied. Now my hands were starting to shake. I concluded I must  be blacklisted from ever using Uber.

Just then –around 6:15 AM– a resident of the apartment house where Embry and I live—and a good friend from our neighborhood Episcopal Church–was walking out of the lobby headed for work. He noticed I was in distress and immediately offered to help. Now how lucky was that?

“No problem,” he said, “I’ll just call a cab,” which he did on his mobile phone. Still plenty of time, he assured me. Then his smile faded into a frown.

“Yellow cab said they could send a cab,” he said, “but it would be an hour or more before one of their cabs could get here.”  

Plenty of time but not that much time.

My friend assured me everything would be ok and then called an Uber on his mobile phone, which worked: Driver in the area. Problem solved. Except Uber cancelled the 5-minute pickup and changed drivers to an 11-minute pickup time and then back to an 8-minute with yet another driver. At 6:40, finally an Uber driver arrived.  I hopped in the cab, thanked my guardian angel friend, and told the Uber driver to step on it since we only had 20 minutes to make what Map Quest said was usually a 45-minute ride. The driver obliged by going over 80 in light traffic on I-270 and passing two cop cars, as I held my breath. We made good time, but it was still 7:20 when we pulled into the Kaiser driveway.

Doomed, I thought. I would surely be turned away.

But no, after hearing my sad story, the receptionist took pity and put me in the queue. The only glitch was that before the nurse could put me into the MRI torture machine, my blood pressure had to be at a certain level. “Oh, my God!” the RN exclaimed, “I think we should rush you to the ER. I have never seen blood pressure this high.”

When I explained the stress involved in getting to the appointment, she understood and was patient. Twenty minutes later my blood pressure had gone down to the normal range, and in I went into the dreaded MRI tube. And it turned out that the MRI experience was not so bad after all, though it did make a bunch of very weird noises.

After the hour-long procedure in the machine that looks like a prop from  a Star Wars movie, the nurse said it was ok to leave, wished me a happy Thanksgiving, and called a cab for me, which I took to the nearest Metro stop where I took the subway back to my neighborhood—a $15 total charge compared to the $45 it cost for Uber to get out there.

The next challenge was to get the car motor/electrical system fixed. I thought it was a battery issue and just needed a jump start since this issue had happened a couple of times before, although this time all sorts of emergency warnings were flashing on the instrument panel. I even had received an email from Subaru about the warnings. (Somehow Subaru mysteriously monitors real time information about the car over the internet.)

I decided I would deal with that the next day, Wednesday.

We keep our car in a large parking garage under our apartment building. I called the manager of the garage for help. He is very savvy with cars and assured me that there was no car he could not jump start. He opened the hood and hooked up the starter device on the battery. No luck. Then several more times, still no luck. He then hopped in the driver’s seat and tried to see if he could start the car. Nothing worked.

No choice: I would have to get the car towed. But how could a tow truck get into a garage with  low ceilings?

Subaru has an emergency service so that when you get into trouble all you have to do is press a button on the ceiling of the car, and someone comes on the line immediately and offers to assist you. I was very impressed with the help they provided, which resulted in scheduling a tow truck, which arrived on the scene a couple of hours later. The big question was whether the truck could make it into the parking garage. When the Subaru operator first asked me how high the ceiling was, I replied that I didn’t know but thought it was at least 10-12 feet, to which she replied, “Really? Well, that won’t be a problem.”

Then after she had hung up, I got out of the car and realized that by standing on my toes I could almost touch the ceiling. Oops. I immediately called her back and told her the clearance was well under 10 feet. She replied that she had doubts herself about the 10-12 feet and had told the towing company that the truck had to clear eight feet. Any clearance below that was problematical.

I spent the next two hours worrying about how high the ceiling was.

When the driver finally arrived at the front of the building–an affable Latino guy with a beard, broad smile, and strong accent– I hopped in front seat of the tow truck, still wondering how much clearance the truck would need, and guided him down the steep driveway to the garage entrance.

The driver edged the truck cautiously toward the entrance. I held my breath.

The truck made it with about two inches to spare.


But the next challenge was how to get the car on the trailer that the truck was pulling and how to maneuver the two or three sharp turns, pulling a disabled car. I could not see anyway this could be possible and was curious as to how he could pull it off.

But I never got a chance. He immediately hopped in the driver’s seat of the car, hit the start button, and the car started up immediately. I stared at him in disbelief. After a brief pause, we both looked at each other again and burst out laughing. How could this be? I thanked him profusely, gave him a tip with all the cash I had in my pocket (not a lot), and drove the car myself to the dealership where it will remain until repaired.

Would the tow truck driver have been able to get the car out of the garage? I suppose the answer is yes, but for the life of me  I can’t figure out how. Before he left the driver confessed that he was worried about it. In any event, I will never know and I surely hope that I never have the opportunity again to find out.

Guardian angels, miracles, weird happenings—is there an explanation for this? As I think I mentioned in a previous blog post, I read somewhere that a coincidence—and “good luck” and unexplained mysteries– is simply God’s way of remaining anonymous.


Thanksgiving followed the next day in our apartment where we hosted the refugee family from Afghanistan that our church, along with two other Episcopal churches, has been sponsoring for almost a year: A young mother and father and three kids ages seven, four and almost two. They have been in the U.S. almost a year, and the three churches have been providing them financial and social support for over ten months. The father and his brothers worked for their dad whose company was a major contractor to the U.S. military. They got out of the country by the skin of their teeth when the collapse happened, crossing the border into Pakistan in a caravan of several cars when there was no hope for getting on the airlift. Two of the families eventually made it to the U.S. The rest are still in Pakistan.

Our Afghan family is doing remarkably well. The father now has a full time, $16/hour job, the mother is getting much better with her English, and oldest kids are in one of the excellent Arlington schools and are now almost fluent in English. They have a decent apartment in a good neighborhood in Arlington. We have applied for long term housing assistance to help with the rent when the church funding runs out in a few months.

But what a traumatic time they have been through!

This is the third Afghan family we have been involved with. The first two are now homeowners and well established. Both men have well-paying jobs. The family we were most concerned about now lives in Houston where the father, a long haul truck driver, now owns an 18-wheeler and is the owner of his  company, “Shiny Transportation.” I have no doubt that this family will experience the same success as the two others. The courage and resilience of immigrants is extraordinary.

The dinner was a great success—their first Thanksgiving meal in our country. Despite the extreme hardships they have had, they are upbeat, optimistic, and hopeful—and very grateful for the help they have received from the coalition of churches.

Happy ending to a Thanksgiving week I will remember for a long time.














Mystery and Wonder: Where Science and Religion Intersect

Last week I had the privilege of leading a discussion about religion with a men’s group I belong to (about 25 of us, mainly old codgers, smart—eight with PhDs– and interfaith, though for the most part, secular. In fact, toward the end of what was a vibrant discussion, I asked anyone who believed in life after death to raise his hand. There were no takers.) This post is inspired by that discussion dealing with the big questions which we humans try to understand in our feeble effort to make sense out of our experience living on this fragile planet.

How do we humans make sense of our lives and the world around us? Science and religion have been the methods used in the past but often have seemed at odds. I believe we find ourselves now where the approaches may be coming closer together. The common denominators are mystery and wonder.

Here is what we have learned from science: The universe began with the “Big Bang” about 13.8 billion years ago. The planet we live on came into being about 4.5 billion years ago, at tad later than our sun and about the same time as the rest of the planets in our solar system. The first humanlike creatures on our planet appeared about two million years ago. Homo sapiens, our species, only 200,000 years ago. And “modern writing” only about four to five thousand years ago.  And for the “modern era” as we call it, just a few centuries ago. All the stuff we are learning in the first part of the 21st Century amounts to less than a second if human time on this planet is perceived as a 24-hour day. But goodness gracious!  Think about all we are learning in the digital age. Who knows what is store for us next?

For many thousands of years, the human population of the planet Earth remained steady at around 300-400 million. During most of this period, we humans were in the middle of the food chain, an easy meal for large predators. Then someone discovered fire. Somebody else figured out how to make weapons using rocks and how to make spears from trees; and when others discovered the benefits of human families and relatives sticking together as “tribes,” that was the end of the dominance by lions, tigers, and big elephants. We grew and multiplied. This past week the planet’s human population just passed eight billion.

We also have learned from science that Earth is not the only planet and that we are not at the center of the universe. From time immemorial we humans have looked up at the night sky and have been enthralled by the flickering lights we call stars. It was not until Copernicus and Galileo in the 1500s proved that celestial objects—including our sun–did not circle the Earth, but rather it was the other way around.

We now are on the cusp of even more extraordinary discoveries regarding those flickering objects in the night sky. This we do know: The planet Earth is a run-of-the-mill planet (though special for us) that circles an average star in what we call the Milky Way Galaxy. While no one really knows for sure, the consensus among astronomers is that there are at least two billion stars in our galaxy. Many believe there are at least twice as many.

Can you comprehend that? Now that the new telescopes can identify planets circling other stars, estimates are that there are at least 350,000 rocky planets in the Milky Way Galaxy about the same distance as from their star as we are from the sun. We are a tiny, almost invisible grain of sand in a vast desert, a mere drop in a magnificent sea. What is going on out there where trillions of stars and planets make their home? Will we humans ever know?

In 1924 Edwin Hubble, using what was at the time the world’s largest telescope, identified a fuzzy light in the night sky that did not behave like a normal star and was thought to be a cosmic cloud of gas– a “nebula.” With more examination it turned out that this nebula—the Andromeda Nebula–was a vast cluster of stars circling around a dark center and was actually another galaxy!   And how many other galaxies are out there? Well, thanks to the space telescope named after him and now the James Webb telescope, it turns out there are a whole bunch—like two billion. Maybe more. Some astronomers have put the number as high as a trillion. Of course, no one knows. I read somewhere that almost half the astrophysicists involved in space discovery today speculate that our “universe” may actually be only one of perhaps an infinite number of universes that are part of a “multiverse.”

Can anyone get their minds around this? I can’t.

And I would argue that neither can scientists or anyone else living on the planet Earth. We humans may be smart, but we are not that smart. Humans do not have a definitive answer to why the Big Bang happened or why there are trillions of stars and planets out there or why our lives come to an end or if there is life after death. These questions fall into the realm of religion, which from the cave paintings thousands of years ago we know has been part of human experience for a very long time. It seems we are hard wired to seek answers to the big questions involving why.  Religion, of course, involves faith in what we humans believe is real but can’t be proven—the spiritual dimension of human existence. It also embraces the ultimate mystery and wonder of life.

And given what we are learning about the vastness of the universe, I believe science must now surely embrace this awareness of the mystery and the wonder of what it all means. It seems the more we know, the more we realize how much we do not know.

The best part of the discussion in the men’s group was a statement made by my best friend in the group, who is also my partner on weekly walks around the neighborhood. He is a scientist and a retired professor in the Department of Engineering at the University of Maryland, an active member in his synagogue, and a cantor on High Holy Days in another. He said this:

“Spirituality involves an awareness and appreciation of our connection to a larger world, to the Divine and all of creation, to all humanity, an awareness of the mystery of life.  It involves letting go, not always trying to be in control of ourselves and the world, being open to unexpected experiences.  It involves being open to being touched and being changed by these experiences, not distancing ourselves from them.  It means responding to the mystery simply and directly.”

I have nothing more to add.








Hey, Joe, Just Say No!

Dear Mr. President,

Mr. President, first, congratulations on the strong mid-term showings. We Dems beat all the odds due in part to your campaigning and championing the cause of democracy. You also get kudos for  the success you have had in getting significant legislation passed in a divided Congress and a divided country—against all the odds. Yes, I know your approval ratings are low because food and gas cost more, rents are up, the stock market is jittery, and some fear a recession,  but you got us through the 2020-2021 covid outbreaks and helped millions of companies and people avoid bankruptcy . You also championed progressive legislation on infrastructure, combating climate change, lowering prescription drug prices, and raising taxes on large corporations. These are huge accomplishments. Unemployment remains at historic lows and wages are up. You have been a world leader in the opposition to Russia in its war on Ukraine. You have restored respect by world leaders for the office of President of the United States.

I know you have a lot on your to-do list to accomplish in the next two years and despite hostile Republican opposition to basically everything you will propose, I am confident that you will continue to move our country forward.

Bottom line, Mr. President, you have been and are a great President. The historians will be kind to you, even if you are not able to get as much done in the next two years. While it is true that you are not the most charismatic President we have ever had, your humility, common decency and ability to relate to the average American are welcomed traits not often found in a President of the United States. Your empathy for those in distress—due in part to the personal losses you have experienced—resonates with others and has helped many who have suffered personal loss. In my book you are a hero.

Now I know that you are contemplating whether you will  run for a second term and have hinted that you are going to announce that you will. Mr. President, with respect , I plead to you: Don’t do it. Just say no!

Here is the reason: You are too old. In a couple of weeks you will turn 80. I can say this because we are almost  the same age. You were born November 30, 1942. I was born the same year on April 1. I am eight months older.

Anyone our age knows that there are issues associated with old age and aging.  When we were born in 1942, our life expectancy was 77. We have outlived more than half the people born that year. I know social class, gender, race and income also affect longevity; and for this reason I note that  about two thirds of of my high school and college classmates also have beaten the odds and are still alive. But that does not mean we are in great health. Many of my friends are dealing with serious health issues—like Parkinson’s, cancer, strokes, heart disease, melanoma, and dementia.

Look, I just got a physical this week and I am grateful to report that I am in good health for an 80-year old. I still get in my 15-17 miles of walking (albeit slowly) every week and with one exception (not life threatening), do not have any serious health issues. However, if I am sitting in a low chair or seat with no arms, it is a challenge to get up. My balance is not what it used to be even in my 70s, and there is no way without risking my life that I can manage to climb or descend stairs without hanging onto a railing. I still have my marbles but forget names occasionally that I should remember. Hey, this is normal aging.  This is what we octogenarians have to deal with. Certainly, you know what I am talking about.  This is the way it works on the planet Earth. We humans—like all animals—have a beginning and an end. For someone in their 80s, the end is getting closer. Sure, you may feel ok now, but things could and often do change in a heartbeat.

The four factors I think that you need to keep in mind as you make your decision to run again are these: energy level, stamina, mental acuity, and judgement. Committing to run again would mean six more years in the hardest and most demanding job on the planet Earth. No former President has been that old or even close to it. If you win the next election and finish out your second term, you will be 86 when it is time to retire. Ask your team of doctors what the chances are that someone who is in pretty good shape for his age at age 80 will sail through until his mid 80s with no changes to overall health and capabilities. I am not a doctor, but I would suggest the answer is zero. Just spend some time at any retirement community and check out how the 70-somethings are doing compared to the 80-somethings. That is the business I  was in. Trust me, there is a big difference.

Mr. President, to put yourself through this and to put the country through this as they wonder, as is natural, whether you are still playing with a full deck, just does not make sense. And what about other world leaders as they monitor every move you make and ask the same questions about the leadership ability  of someone in his early to mid  80s. It is not fair to yourself or to your country. A statesman—which you are—would say thanks but no thanks. It is time to pass the baton to a younger generation.

Now to put this in perspective, I checked out on the web the ages of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 Companies. Their jobs do not begin to compare to yours in terms of stress, stamina, and the need for good judgement. The average age of a Fortune 500 CEO is 57. Only one is older than you are now—Warren Buffet and that does not really count (He is 91.). Only a handful are over 70. Most retire at age 65, as is required by many companies. The reasons for this  I have just spelled out.

And for those who argue that age should not be a factor, I also checked out the life expectancy on the internet  of a white male, age 80. The answer is seven years. Hey, some would argue that proves there is no risk associated with serving a second term, right? After serving another four years, you will still have a full year to spare. No problem. Why worry?


There are three other final reasons that you should not run again. The first is that you probably will  not win a second term. Now if Trump  wins the nomination, which I think is now unlikely, you may have a chance, but God help the country if Trump is the Republican nominee. Your opponent would more likely  be DeSantis or  perhaps another Ivy League renegade like Cruz  or a fake moderate like Youngkin. DeSantis, now considered to be the most likely, is young by comparison (44), smart, vigorous, charismatic, and very conservative though not a total  Trump wannabe. DeSantis would likely beat you. So would  Youngkin (55) or someone like him. Mr.President, it all has to do with age, not political positions or qualifications. A vigorous candidate in his or her 40s or 50s is very likely to beat an old guy who is in his early 80s unless the younger candidate is a nutcase, which is certainly possible in the Republican Party, but you can’t count on it.  

The second reason is that second terms are for most presidents more challenging and less successful than their first. Think about your eight years with Obama. The second term was spent mainly trying to preserve the ACA and putting out fires. George W. had the disastrous Iraq insurgency to deal with. Bill Clinton had his Lewinsky affair. Johnson’s experience with Vietnam was so bad he chose not to run again. Reagan had his Iran-Contra scandal. Lesson learned: quit while you are ahead. If the next two  years of  your first term are as good as your first two, there will be a favorable place for you in the history books. Don’t risk a second term.

The third and perhaps most important is that it is not fair to your party. It is time for a younger generation to step up to the plate. There are lots of younger, fabulous leaders in the Democratic Party, with intelligence, compassion, good judgement and fire in the belly. They are dedicated to the same progressive ideals that you are. I think of past Presidents like John Kennedy, Obama, Clinton—they were  all young when they were first elected and all strong and (for the most part) successful presidents. It is that time again now.

In fact, if you did decide to run, it could have a devastating  impact on your party if you were challenged in the primary. Many loyal Democrats feel the same way I do. It could happen.

It is time to pass the baton to a younger generation. It is their turn now. Make it happen, Mr. President. You can do it. I hope and pray you will make the right decision.

If you will indulge my informality, allow me to close with this unsolicited but fundamentally sound advice: Hey, Joe, just say No!

Your admirer,

Joseph T.  Howell

Fellow Octogenarian







Dodging A Bullet

Because Embry was away election night attending a convention, I was so apprehensive that I could not survive the evening alone that I invited three couples here at the Kennedy-Warren to help me through what I thought was likely to be a wake. They all came, armed with liquid medications, prepared for the worst. Their presence made a huge difference for which I am grateful.

Friends, it could have been a disaster. My acquaintance, Swarthmore, had warned me that this might be  the beginning of the end of democracy as we have known it if the outcome was a Red Wave with election deniers and MAGA Republicans winning most of their races. But occasionally life brings pleasant surprises. This was one of those evenings. The election results of the 2022 mid-terms will be written up in the history books and read by future generations.

No, we can’t call the results a total success, and two Senate seats are still up for grabs, but what could have happened did not happen. We dodged a bullet.

What could have happened was that the fanatical Trumpers and election deniers got elected across the board, and we Democrats got thrashed. Afterall, when there is an unpopular president, the mid-term elections historically have been catastrophic for the party in power. Democrats in Obama’s first mid-term election lost several Senate seats and over 60 House seats. Bill Clinton’s experience was not much better. Pundits on Fox News were predicting the greatest thrashing in U.S. history with the “Red Wave” decisively taking over both the Senate and the House with huge gains, setting the stage for a Trump comeback and essentially bringing the Biden Administration to its knees.

What  did happen was this: The Senate is likely to hold as Swarthmore predicted and the Republicans will gain at most only a handful of seats in the House. Even more important very few of the election deniers and avid MAGA Republicans got elected. This is true not only for governors and representatives in Congress but, even more important, for state secretaries of state, and state attorneys general, the people  who are responsible for conducting future elections and doing the vote counting. A majority of the candidates Trump supported did not win. Democracy survived. The fingers in the dike held—at least for now.

The other factor that has not gotten much attention is that none of these Republican losers are calling the election fraudulent and rigged—at least not yet. If this holds, it could be the brightest sign of all that our election process will survive the Trump onslaught. It certainly should dawn on some people as ironic because the same election procedures were in place for the 2022 mid-term elections as for the 2020 presidential election. Will we get past these false claims about the “big steal” and move on? Anyone’s guess, but surely a big deal if the false accusations about election fraud remain dormant.

So what happened?

According to most of the post-election analyses that I have read or listened to, what distinguished the 2022 mid-terms from previous elections was the  large increase in the number of women voting and an even larger increase in voting from younger voters, the  Gen Zs. The reasons for this are due mainly to three things—the Dobbs Decision by the Supreme Court on abortion, the threats to democracy caused by January 6 Insurrection, and the Maga Republicans claims of election fraud. I would add a fourth factor—the fear of accelerated climate change if the Republicans are calling all the shots. Were it not for this increase in the voting block of women and younger people, the election results would likely have been much closer to the Red Wave most Republicans were predicting.

For this I suppose credit goes to the Supreme Court for its outrageous decision on abortion  and to Trump for his continuing  in-your-face lies, outrageous claims and accusations on line, and his stirring up the pot. While his base will probably never abandon him, more Republicans appear to be getting tired of his antics and weary of  the chaos that goes along with it. His base is not enough to get him reelected. Could this mean he will fade? Probably unlikely, but we can always hope. But then there is DeSantis waiting in the wings, but I am not going to let that spoil the stew for now.

So, yes, election night was a good night for us Dems—especially when compared to what it could have been. Are we home free? Hardly. You can count on the Republicans even with a tiny majority in the House to pursue the hearings on Hunter Biden and anyone else they can come up with in hopes of embarrassing the President, the  impeachment of President Biden on the chaotic exit from Afghanistan, and using the debt ceiling issue to coerce the Democrats into submission on issues like fighting climate change and trying to level the playing field when it comes to race and class inequalities. It will be nasty. But it won’t be as bad as it might have been and for that we can be thankful.




Are You Ready For The Midterms?

To the reader: introducing Swarthmore (“Swarth”) Gilligan. Mr.Gilligan is a fictitious resident at the Kennedy-Warren Apartments where Embry and I live, who I recently learned is an agent of the British Intelligence Agency, who is in charge of analyzing countries the Brits consider at risk of losing their democracy. Before coming to the U.S., he was in Turkey, Hungary, and Poland. He has spent the last several months interviewing experts and I thought would be a great person to talk to if he would agree, which he kindly did reminding me that our meeting had to be clandestine. What follows is a transcript of the imagined conversation that we had on a park bench in Dupont Circle where the very British Mr. Gilligan was wearing a trench coat, dark glasses, and a Dick Tracy hat.

Me: So, Swarth, thanks for granting the interview, and my first question is  how serious a situation do you think the U.S. is in now right now, and is there a chance that we are on the verge of a civil war as some are warning?

Swarth:  Very serious, and, yes, while I do not believe that a civil war is certain, democracy as you have known it in the United States is certainly in danger. January 6th was just a shot across the bow. You have two political parties that demonize each other. One of these political parties supports an autocrat for “supreme leader” of the country, refuses to accept election results when the opposition party wins, and turns a blind eye when violence is used to achieve their ends. Furthermore, many on that side are fueled with religious fervor and believe they are doing the will of God. I have studied similar situations in other countries, and the ingredients are all in place for a toxic stew leading possibly to the end of democracy in the United States. The other political party is trying to play by the old rules and is being outmaneuvered.

Me: How important will the midterms be in determining what happens next?

Swarth: What happens in the midterm elections will have a huge impact on the future of your country. This election is one of the most important in the history of the United States.

Me: So, what do you think is going to happen?

Swarth: Well, I have spent a lot of time studying the situation, thinking about it, and reporting back to my government, and here is my assessment regarding your midterms and what will follow:

There will be a stalemate, but the seeds leading to disaster will have been planted. The Republicans will take the House by a dozen or so seats, but the Democrats will hang on by the skin of their teeth and keep 50 seats in the Senate. It will be a mess, and nothing which you would call “progressive” will get done for the next two years. Hearings will begin immediately in the House where Hunter Biden will be the first focus of attention in order to humiliate your President. The Republicans in the House will then go after Merrick Garland and a host of others including the President of the United States, whom they will impeach. Tit for tat, you know, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The House will pass all sorts of legislation– making abortion illegal under federal law, cutting taxes on the rich and big corporations, cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and most social programs, rolling back initiatives on climate change, blocking the IRS in its efforts to nail billionaire tax cheats, killing what is left of affirmative action, spending more money on prisons , and trying to kill virtually everything that Biden accomplished in his first two years. But little will come of it because they will not have the votes in the Senate; and even if they do win a majority in the Senate, the filibuster would keep onerous bills from passing. Biden would veto the terrible bills that got through Congress. Because of the filibuster and the presidential veto, nothing too bad will happen on the legislative side.

Me: Well, that makes me feel a little better.

Swarth: Don’t mistake my comments as suggesting that the Republicans can’t cause serious trouble. The hearings and the legislation I just mentioned will hurt—plus, they will find many other ways of making life miserable for Biden and the Democrats. They are already threatening to use the debt ceiling as a way of forcing the Democrats to surrender because if the House does not vote to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. will be forced to default on paying Treasury obligations putting the entire global financial system in disarray. Believe me, my country is very concerned, but I do not believe it will come to this, which could be called the nuclear option.

Me: Not a happy situation, if you ask me.

Swarth: But here is the thing: All eyes will turn immediately to the 2024 election, and the focus will be gearing up for the showdown. Trump will run again and likely so will Biden, but this time it will be different because Trump will win, along with more right-wing extremists and sycophants, who will be running for House and Senate seats, and this time the election will be stolen.  It will be stolen because following the 2022 elections the foxes will be in the chickencoops. Watch the races for governor and secretary of state in the battleground states. These seeds of disaster are just surfacing now at a time when your Democrats can’t do much to stop them. Democrats have been outfoxed. Red state legislatures and some purple states will pass laws giving more power to states and localities to make their own rules regarding voting and vote counting.

Republicans now control two-thirds of all legislatures in the U.S. Most Republican candidates for the offices responsible for running elections are Republican election deniers and avid Trumps supporters, who believe the 2020 election was stolen and probably will fight the results of elections where Democrats win in the midterms. They are already saying that if they win in 2022, they will replace voting machines with paper ballot counting. And whom are they going to choose to count the ballots? Super-partisan Republicans, of course.

Game over! Plus there is already evidence that vigilante efforts are being organized by 2020 election deniers to intimidate voters from the opposing side to stay away from the polls. It is a frightening picture. 

These actions will shake your country at its roots and tear it apart. It will lead to what I call “the Great Reckoning”—the existential moment when your country must deal with these actions and take decisive steps that assure that your democracy survives. If the voting process becomes rigged–which is not the case now but will be in 2024 if the foxes remain in the hen house– democracy in the United States of America is doomed. I have seen this happen in other countries. Look at what just happened in Israel. Look at Turkey and Hungary and even Poland.

Me: Oh, my goodness! But what about civil war, which you hear so much about nowadays?

Swarth: There are three scenarios regarding the 2024 election, each very different with different outcomes that could happen. I have already predicted a Trump victory in 2024, not because he will win fair and square but because the election process will be compromised. If it is not Trump, you can be sure it will be a Trump wannabe– DeSantis, Cruz, or Hawley or worse.

First scenario: Trump wins. This will not cause a civil war because the guys with the guns will be in power. What it will cause is a police state. There will be turmoil with the Left pushing back with lots of demonstrations and some violence. Trump will declare martial law, deputize  militia armies like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and others as his personal “presidential guard”; and since he will have control of both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, he will be able to get pretty much what he wants. What you thought were Constitutional guarantees like free speech and the right to assemble will slowly disappear. The rigged voting process will lock in Republican control for the foreseeable future. Democracy over! Efforts to curb climate change will come to a virtual halt. You can understand  why my country is very concerned about that.

Second scenario: Biden–or some other Democrat–wins. Even though I am not predicting this, it could happen.  But this is when civil war in your country breaks out. It will make your January 6th rebellion look like a church picnic. I know from my intelligence gatherings that this is what the Right Wing militias are preparing for now. They are stockpiling large arsenals and beginning intensive training for an insurgency. Some are reported to be trying to secure nuclear weapons.  Your FBI knows a lot about this as does British Intelligence. The problem is you can’t do much now to stop it, given the lack of gun control laws in most states. How the civil war turns out will depend mainly on what the U.S. military does. Since we know that many in the military are already Trump supporters, it is an open question. If the military and national guards do not bolt to what I would call the Dark Side, then ultimately I believe democracy in your country would survive, but it would be bloody.

Third scenario: America comes to its senses now. You might call this the Liz Cheney scenario. Enough elected Republicans come to realize that their country is on thin ice and that very bad things could happen. The two parties agree to a temporary truce to put in place guardrails that will keep the United States from crashing over a cliff. The guardrails are these:

  • Passing federal legislation requiring all states to follow strict guidelines that prevent voting fraud and prevent limiting voter access for all federal, state, and local elections.
  • Passing federal legislation outlawing false information on all social media relating to all elections and all candidates.
  • Passing federal legislation limiting the amount of money that individuals and “nonprofit” groups and PACs can spend on elections, way too much of which you Americans call “Dark Money.”
  • Taking tough governmental actions now against violent extremist groups that are planning to overthrow the government. I know that this is difficult given your Constitution; but unless you can get on top of this, you won’t have a Constitution.

Also it would not hurt to ditch or at least reform the electoral college process and gerrymandering. You are supposed to live in a democratic republic where individual votes are supposed to make a difference. That is not always the case in your country.  I know that it is a bit of a stretch to think that all these reforms could happen. But some of them must happen–especially the first one, if you want to avert disaster. Long term all of them need to happen.

There are probably more things that could be done—like addressing the root causes of your national discontent– but if your country does not put in place tough laws and rules now that assure free and fair elections going forward, you are on the path to losing your democracy, and the whole world will suffer. My country is surely concerned as are many others.

Me: So what are the odds that we will come to our senses and do something about this?

Swarth: Sorry, got to go. See you at the Kennedy-Warren bar sometime soon?