LENOX — The phrase “this isn’t who we are” is often encountered these days to describe our nightmarish national political machinations, which seem on track to unravel before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. By the way, he holds a margin of 5 million votes over the outgoing president, more than comfortable, if not a landslide.
But, the fact that 72 million-plus Americans chose to reward Donald Trump with four more years leads to another conclusion: “This is who we are.” And the potential Republican-led Senate, depending on the outcome of the Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia for two seats, bodes ill for the success of Biden’s ambitious agenda.
First, we have to endure the charade of multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and all manner of chicanery during the vote count, with zero evidence. Even the Republican judges nominated by Trump and pushed through the Senate by the Machiavellian mastermind Mitch McConnell are likely to laugh those empty suits out of court.
As longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove pointed out in The Wall Street Journal this week, Trump’s legal challenges in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Nevada — as well as the automatic recount in Georgia — “are unlikely to move a single state from Mr. Biden’s column, and certainly they’re not enough to change the final outcome.”
As Rove explained, “there have been only three statewide contests in the past half-century in which recounts changed the outcome: the 1974 New Hampshire Senate race, the 2004 Washington governor’s contest and the 2008 Minnesota Senate election. The candidates in these races were separated, respectively, by 355, 261 and 215 votes after Election Day.”
Biden leads in Wisconsin by 20,500 votes, Pennsylvania by 60,064, Michigan by nearly 150,000, Arizona by close to 12,000, Nevada by 36,400 and Georgia by just below 15,000.
“To win, Mr. Trump must prove systemic fraud, with illegal votes in the tens of thousands,” Rove asserted. “There is no evidence of that so far. … TV networks showed jubilant crowds in major cities celebrating Mr. Biden’s victory; they didn’t show the nearly equal number of people who mourned Mr. Trump’s defeat. U.S. politics remains polarized and venomous. Closing out this election will be a hard but necessary step toward restoring some unity and political equilibrium. Once his days in court are over, the president should do his part to unite the country by leading a peaceful transition and letting grievances go.”
The problem: “See ya in court” is also the essence of “who we are,” and here in the Berkshires, like everywhere else, the frequency of frivolous cases brought by disgruntled citizens, individually or in groups, causes the creaky wheels of justice to grind ever more slowly. At least my friends in the legal profession are well-rewarded as they either promote or fend off lawsuits that are the essence of frivolity.
Three long-running court cases here continue to confound the general public. One, utterly serious, is the ongoing legal struggle between the town of Stockbridge — specifically, its Conservation Commission, and the Stockbridge Bowl Association, an advocacy group for property owners and others who have a stake in the purity of the state-owned, 380-acre lake.
For a decade or more, the SBA has wanted to apply a herbicide, commonly used on lakes statewide and nationally, to disentangle invasive weeds from portions of the Bowl. The Berkshire Superior Court sided with the association, ordering a test cleanup on a limited portion of the lake, subject to approval by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP has now issued its “order of conditions” for the test in spring or summer 2022, and the town’s Select Board and Conservation Commission have voted to support that plan. Whether this will resolve the court case remains to be seen.
Two other legal battles are bewildering, if not frivolous. A $15 million downtown mixed-use development project in Lenox, approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals and supported by many town officials and residents, remains stymied by a lawsuit filed by a local architect who claims multiple violations of town bylaws. The zoning board, under a Superior Court directive to try to sort this out, will have at it again this Wednesday. Best of luck.
Finally, a new business catering to our canine companions just opened in Lenox under the name Berkshire Dogs Unleashed, offering day or overnight boarding, grooming, training and a few gift items.
The owner of a two-year-old business called The Berkshire Dog two towns away sued, claiming a trademark infringement and demanding that the new venture be renamed. The Berkshire Dog, which sells “organic, all-natural dog treats,” offers none of the services advertised by Unleashed. Besides, how do you trademark words such as “Berkshire,” “dogs” and “unleashed.”
Judge John Agostini at Berkshire Superior Court listened patiently to an hour’s worth of legal arguments Monday and promised a ruling.
Lee Kohlenberger Jr., the proprietor of Berkshire Dogs Unleashed, came up with an idea for an out-of-court settlement. He offers to rename his fledgling business Barkshire Dogs Unleashed. After he told me about the proposed solution and after I stopped chuckling, it seemed entirely reasonable.
Call it Berkshire or Barkshire, I have a feeling my canine companion would enjoy an overnight stay if we’re ever able to travel for pleasure again. Especially if the owner of The Berkshire Dog agreed to market her products in Kohlenberger’s gift boutique.
Now, there’s a potential court settlement worth chewing over!