Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, May 1, 2021

MVNews this week:  Page 12

12 Mountain View News Saturday, May 1, 2021 OPINION 12 Mountain View News Saturday, May 1, 2021 OPINION 




Susan Henderson 


Dean Lee 



Patricia Colonello 


John Aveny 



Stuart Tolchin 
Audrey SwansonMary Lou CaldwellKevin McGuire 
Chris Leclerc 
Bob Eklund 
Howard HaysPaul CarpenterKim Clymer-KelleyChristopher NyergesPeter Dills 
Rich Johnson 
Lori Ann Harris 
Rev. James SnyderKatie HopkinsDeanne Davis 
Despina ArouzmanJeff Brown 
Marc Garlett 
Keely TotenDan Golden 
Rebecca WrightHail Hamilton 
Joan Schmidt 
LaQuetta Shamblee 

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This past 

Monday, April 26. Was 

my 77th Birthday and, 

although I tell myself 

and everyone else 

that I don’t care about 

such things, I had a 

kind of wistful feeling 

that the day was going 

to pass without any 

notice by the rest of the 

world. On Saturday I 

mentioned to a friend 

in an email a couple of 
days before that I was already kind of sad that my 
birthday was coming and it seemed to be forgotten 
by the rest of the world. My friend replied that it 
was physically impossible to forget something that 
had not as yet happened, but I guess I was doing the 

On Saturday, I got together with 
my daughter and almost twenty month old 
granddaughter, Justice, for a pre-Birthday breakfast. 
We get together every Saturday but this was kind of 
special. My daughter urged Justice to sing Happy 
Birthday to me but as is typical, I think of that age, 
Justice said no and gave me her unique rendition 
instead of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. My daughter 
said she had to get something at the market and I 
asked if I could accompany her. Rather than simply 
staying in the car with the baby I went in with both 
of them into the Giant Ralphs Supermarket. 

It was overwhelming. Believe it or not; you 
probably believe it, I had not been in any kind of 
market since December of 2019 when I had surgery 
which was soon followed by sheltering in place 
Covid Virus restrictions. The size of the market, 
the many options, even the lighting, placed me 
into a forgotten different world. Justice now walks 
well but to make things easier we placed her, with 
a little difficulty, into a market shopping cart. I 
became aware that I wanted to purchase beet borsht 
as a remembrance of my parents and my childhood. 
Up and down the aisles I pushed the shopping cart 
and, believe it or not, this giant market had no beet 
borsht. My wife, who generally does everything 
for both of us, claims a revulsion to it and other 
Jewish delicacies of my past like schmaltz herring. 
Her Mexican background understandably did not 
contain a familiarity with such Eastern European 

Anyway as we proceeded along I did pick 
up a couple of cans of mushroom soup, also a 
long forgotten dish of my childhood. On a high 
top shelf I spotted a large transparent package of 
yogurt raisins. These yogurt rains are one of my 
granddaughter’s favorites but she has only seen 
them before in small little Sun Maid Raisin packages 
which contained smaller raisins. Anyway, I made 
the mistake of allowing my granddaughter to hold 
the large transparent container full of yogurt raisins 
which were probably too big for her to chew anyway. 
She gleefully held on to the package as we made our 
way to the check stand. Arriving there, with the 
transparent package still held tightly in her hands it 
became quickly apparent that she was not going to 
give up the package without making a huge fuss. I 
did not want to risk that so I cleverly leaned toward 

her while wearing my baseball cap. As I predicted 
she reached for the cap and took it off my head and 
began to play peek-a-boo with the cap which allowed 
me to grab the raisins such that the purchase 
could take place. This was my major adventure 
prior to the day of my birthday. By the way, when 
my daughter brought me back home I wanted to 
prepare the mushroom soup which involved finding 
my glasses and reading the directions. Alas, we 
had no milk and have not had milk in the house for 
years. The mushroom soup had to wait and is still 

We now proceed to the Big Day, Monday, 
my actual birthday and the day of President Biden’s 
first 100th day in office. I awoke at 5:00 a.m. and 
after first struggling to a successful completion of 
the online New York Times Spelling Bee Game I 
experienced a kind of hollow victory. I read an email 
from my ex-neighbor now living in Australia where 
the time zone is almost a full day ahead of us. My 
birthday had almost passed there but he described 
the great celebrations that had already had taken 
place in Australia as part of a three day national 
holiday celebrating Anza. The celebration involved 
continuous drinking, smoking and reveling together 
with roasting whole pigs on a spit. In the morning 
people went swimming surfing and bicycle riding. 
I thought hooray for them but this had nothing 
to do with my birthday and anyway what the heck 
was ANZA Day, (eventually I looked it up, and 
you can too if you care. It is a commemoration of 
the combined Australian and New Zealand Armies 
(ANZA) combatting the Turks and the Ottoman 
Empire during World War I). 
It was now about 6:00 a.m. and with a continuing 
feeling of being forgotten, I quietly opened my 
bedroom door so as not to awaken my wife and 
SURPRISE- SURPRISE what did I see. There was 
my wife, already dressed outside the door and there 
across the downstairs was a huge banner proclaiming 
HAPPY 77TH BIRTHDAY. I would like to include 
a picture of that banner but there were even more 
surprises. Inside a large wrapped package was a 
huge multi-colored striped caftan, something I had 
been lacking and missing without ever knowing it 
for my whole life. (My wife said she was motivated 
by a comment from a psychic who mentioned 25 
years ago that I would be wearing robes in my later 
life) Who knows, but right now I absolutely love 
wearing the caftan together with a large feathered 
straw hat which was another present. I wore the 
hat and caftan all day as we met first my son and his 
girlfriend for breakfast, taking advantage of the now 
relaxed Covid restrictions. At lunch we met another 
friend, who upon being informed that it was my 
birthday suggested that I wear something jaunty. 
We met him, he in his customary Ralph Lauren Coat 
and handkerchief and me in my wonderful caftan. (Ido hope that at least one picture of me in my caftan 
will be included in the paper with this article).

Anyway, it has been a wonderful Birthday 
Week filled with other memories. I wish that I 
had more space but I am happy to remind you that 
later in the day I, customarily, defeated my wife in 
Scrabble. A rare victory! Who knew being 77 could 

be such fun!! 





It’s hard these days to 
keep track of all the decrepitude 
in public life, 
so forgive me if I highlight 
some new sleaze 
that has likely escaped 
your notice. 

In the waning days of the Trump dystopia, 
a group called Americans for Prosperity 

– which is bankrolled by conservative billionaire 
David Koch – spent more than a 
million dollars on what it called “a national 
campaign” to ensure that Senate Republicans 
jammed Amy Co-ney Barrett onto 
the U.S. Supreme Court. Then, earlier this 
week an affiliated Koch group – the Americans 
for Prosperity Foundation – asked the 
high court to overturn a California law that 
requires charities to disclose the names of 
their biggest donors. 
In other words, Amy Coney Barrett, who 
owes her seat in part to the secret dark 
money that was spent on her behalf, decided 
to sit in judgement of a Koch request to 
protect secret dark money. And she made it 
clear, during oral argument, that she’s prepared 
to do just that. 

Hang on. Isn’t there a concept called “conflict 
of interest”? Isn’t a judge with a conflict 
compelled to recuse him/herself from such 
a case? 

It would seem so. The Code of Judicial 
Conduct, embedded in federal law, specifically 
re-quire that “any justice, judge, 
or magistrate judges of the United States 
shall disqualify him-self in any proceeding 
in which his impartiality might reasonably 
be questioned” – by a rea-sonable, objective 
person. In fact, the high court applied 
that standard back in 2009 when it ordered 
a West Virginia supreme court justice to 
recuse himself from a case that involved a 
coal company CEO – precisely because that 
CEO had donated $3 million to the justice’s 
election campaign. 

But here’s the catch: The U.S. Supreme 
Court exempts itself from that federal law. 

There is no Supreme Court code governing 
conflict of interest. There are no ethics 
rules. There is no accountability. The high 
court justices police themselves, which of 
course means that, in practice, they do not 
police themselves at all. The court defies the 
traditional legal principle of nemo judex in 
causa sua (nobody should be a judge of 
his own case). It deems itself exempt from 
the code of conduct that governs the lower 
federal courts. Aside from the nine justices 
at the top of the pyramid, all other federal 
judges are inhibited from putting themselves 
in any situation that might convey an 
appearance of impropriety. 

This outrage has been obvious for a long 
time. Eleven years ago, Clarence Thomas 
sat in judgement of Obamacare despite the 
fact that Virginia Thomas, his conservative 
activist wife, earned roughly $165,000 
working for several groups that fought and 
lobbied against Obamacare. 

A bipartisan coalition of 107 law professors 
from 76 law schools asked Congress 
to require that all federal judges with perceived 
conflicts at least explain in writing 
the reasons why they’d refused to recuse 
themselves. A tepid reform, yes. But right 
now the Supremes don’t have to explain 
anything. So when Barrett joined the rest 
of the court during oral argu-ments on the 
Koch empire’s dark money plea, she didn’t 
need to explain anything. 

Actually, during her Senate confirmation 
hearing last fall, she was asked about the 
impend-ing Koch case and whether she 
was planning to recuse herself. In response 
she said that it would “not be appropriate 
for me as a judicial nominee to offer an 
opinion about such ab-stract issues or hypotheticals.” 
Which was a word-salad way 
of saying “No.” In a separate written answer, 
she stated: “I commit to faithfully applying 
the law of recusal if confirmed” – a meaningless 
promise, because in practice the Supremes 
ignore that law. 

So, for the Koch empire, it’s clear that Barrett 
was a cost-efficient investment. If she 
joins her conservative colleagues to nix the 
California donor-disclosure law (highly 
likely), that will embolden the dark-money 
forces to challenge the many state and federal 
laws that cur-rently require political 
groups to reveal the names of their donors. 

There once was a time when conservatives 
argued in favor of transparency, claiming 
that unlimited campaign donations would 
not corrupt politics as long as the public 
knew who the donors were. As one prominent 
conservative thinker declared in 2010, 
“Requiring people to stand up in public 
for their political acts fosters civic courage, 
without which democracy is doomed.” 

So said Justice Antonin Scalia. But that credo 
was so 11 years ago. 

And it sounds especially archaic now, with 
Amy Cony Barrett having been bought and 
paid for. 

Dick Polman, a veteran national political 
columnist based in Philadelphia and 
a Writer in Residence at the University of 
Pennsylvania, writes at 
Email him at 




During his anything-but-typical address to a joint session 
of Congress on Wednesday night, President Joe 
Biden used the word “democracy,” over and over again. 

Some were run-of-the-mill evocations, as was the case 
when he spoke of “revitalizing” our democracy – a 
promise made by more than one more president, and a 
bromide meant to soothe the nation’s soul. Others were 
more grave, as when he spoke of the Jan. 6 sacking of the 

U.S. Capitol, calling it “the worst attack on our democracy 
since the Civil War. 
But one mention of democracy in Biden’s prime-time address really stood out. 
It came to-ward the end, as he spoke of the challenges facing the country as it 
stares down geopolitical allies who are hoping for our failure as a nation. But 
he could just as well have been speak-ing of the forces at home who similarly 
are hoping for his administration to fail, abetted by the aspiring autocrat in 
exile in south Florida. 

“Can our democracy deliver on the most pressing needs of our people? Can 
our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us 
apart? America’s adversaries, the autocrats of the world, are betting we can’t,” 
Biden said. “But we have to prove them wrong. We have to prove democracy 
still works, that our government still works, and we can deliver for our people.” 

It’s no secret that democracies around the world are under siege, and that the 
promises of authoritarian regimes are appealing to a certain segment of the 

Look no further than the surging popularity of French presidential candidate 
Marine LeP-en. On Capitol Hill, there are such Trump-aligned Republicans as 
Rep. Scott Perry of Penn-sylvania, who recently pushed the repulsive “replacement 
theory” during a House commit-tee hearing. 

Future historians will judge how democratic governments around the world 
respond to these threats. And the price of failure is high. 

During his speech on Wednesday, Biden again appealed to Republicans to join 
in working to find compromise on the sweeping reimagining of the economy 
that’s been the hallmark of his first 100 days. But he also made clear that he was 
ready to move on without them. 

“I just want to be clear, from my perspective, doing nothing is not an option. 
Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition 
that we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century,” he 
said, warning that Chinese President Xi Jinping is “deadly earnest on becoming 
the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others, 
autocrats, think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies, 
because it takes too long to get consensus.” 

He made the same appeal to Americans, particularly those who did not vote 
for him, to join in that effort, evoking President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he 
did so: ” … in America, we do our part. We all do our part. That’s all I’m asking. 
That we do our part, all of us. If we do that, we’ll meet the central challenge of 
the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. Autocrats will not 
win the future. We will. America will. And the future belongs to America.” 

In any other time, an American president would not be required to make such 
an emotional and urgent appeal for his fellow citizens to rally around, and support, 
the foundational val-ues of our nation, the ones that we drum into our 
children’s heads in civics class. 

But as the last four years, capped off by the eruption of violence and treason 
at the Capitol on Jan. 6, have shown, these are not ordinary times. And while 
Biden evoked the memory of America’s 32nd president to make his case, I’ll 
evoke the memory of another, the 16th, from whom Republicans, who have 
wandered so far, to make mine. 

Speaking in Gettysburg, Pa. on Nov. 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln exhorted 
Ameri-cans to ” … highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in 
vain – that this nation, un-der God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and 
that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish 
from the earth.” 

That’s the debt we owe those we’ve lost during the pandemic; for the American 
service members who laid down their lives to preserve our democracy. That’s 
the democracy that Biden bet on Wednesday. And then, as now, it will take all 
of us to make sure that American democracy survives. 

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