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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

So I was not in the Christmas spirit, even with carols pealing from the National Cathedral. I live within the bells sound, but somehow my secular Protestant heart wasn’t moved.

Washington was unseasonably warm. Maybe that’s why it didn’t feel a lot like Christmas. Going to visit family in Santa Monica, there was zero climate change from the East to West Coast. Strange stuff. Ho hum, I felt about the holidays, as I waited by the crowded baggage carousel.

At home, I was not alone. Nobody in the house was up to speed on buying presents or sending cards. We set up a Christmas card operation on the dining room table in addressing envelopes outgoing to Wisconsin, Texas, New York. Especially Wisconsin, where my parents come from. Hopefully, they will have snow for a white Christmas.

With every Christmas card I wrote, it felt like there were less to send and fewer received. My parents confirmed that death had taken a toll among their friends; they have reached that age. I realized several friends, between 45 and 55, have lost a parent lately, two to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s relentless, cutting a swath closer to home. A Baltimore friend said her family is not giving its 48th annual Christmas Eve party, with gingerbread ornaments, because her mother’s mental state would be too “bewildered.” Sally Michel was a leading civic figure who befriended me when I was a rookie reporter.

And there were farewells from other maladies. Sitting down at the table, I reckoned with the loss of a magnificent editor in June, John Carroll, who hired me at the Baltimore Sun years ago. How kind he was when I once took ill, inviting me to go sailing with him and his wife Lee to get some fresh air in recovery. You remember that “kind” of thing even more than the many Pulitzers he won as the leading newspaper editor of his generation. Just 73, as handsome as could be. Writing to Lee, I faced that John was gone.

Invented in London, Christmas cards are a social mechanism to take stock and check in with each other, in a larger community over a vast piece of land, America. If you have a new baby, a new house, or a wedding to spread joy to the world, then have at it with a picture. Otherwise, skip the detailed mass-produced month-by-month family narrative that comes across as, well, a bit smug. We got our share of these incoming, as we were getting ready to ship out our 60 or 70 — (it used to be 100.) We don’t suffer them gladly. My father is one of the brave few men to write a personal line on every card.

Going to a performance of Handel’s Messiah changed us, nine of us. No more weary, dreary sentiments for an evening or two at least. To hear the Los Angeles Master Chorale nail every note under exuberant conductor, Grant Gershon, was tremendous. The passages range from elegiac to majestic within moments, fit for a king. They reason why all rise for the “Hallelujah Chorus” is because King George II did just that in 1743 — and so everyone rose.

Then the trumpet sounded in a duet with the baritone so that the post-modern hall, designed by Frank Gehry, seemed to float. My dad’s face alone told the story. That’s his high note, literally.

Soon we got “dready” for the holiday fest we always give. In family slang, that means “dreading getting ready.” Out came the punch bowl for the front hall, and we put out quite a spread on the dining room table. I lit the Christmas tree lights and the candles. My mother arranged her signature Rice Krispie treats. Yeah, it’s retro.

Soon a crush of 60 to 70 guests filled the rooms like a crazy quilt. Some have known me all my life. A college friend and two high school friends came. Neighbors showed, including a president’s daughter. My sister’s pals came. The children’s room rocked with marbles and screams of laughter. Having all generations under the roof made me merry.

“Are we in the holiday spirit now?” I asked my dad.

Said he: “Ho ho ho.”

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM

Photo: LenDog64 via Flickr

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]