More Useless Pandering (From Both Sides)

Corn ethanol plant – image from Google Earth

Let the pandering begin. Since this is the summer before the totally useless and unrepresentative Iowa caucuses, we get to see politicians from both parties extolling the benefits of using corn-based ethanol in gasoline. Since we gained a legislative mandate to use ethanol beginning back in the 1970’s when it was pitched as a way of growing our own energy, this mandate has become the truly untouchable political position, even though it causes much more harm than good.

Ethanol from corn has been pitched as a way for the US to become less dependent upon foreign sources of petroleum. It still is argued that it is good for the US, since almost all studies show a net positive gain in energy production. But let’s look at corn ethanol in more detail. The studies that are available date back to the early days of this century. They show corn ethanol to be slightly positive in terms of energy made available per unit of energy input. For corn, this would include fertilizer energy, tractor diesel fuel, and energy used in extracting corn sugars which are made into ethanol. Here is a chart that shows the energy balance for most of the common sources of energy:

As can be seen, biofuels are on the far right hand side of this chart. Data from industry sources indicate that the energy balance has increased to 3-4 times as much energy produced compared to input energy for many facilities. This is to be expected as the corn ethanol industry becomes mature and has incremental improvements. But let me say that even at the high point of industry surveys, corn ethanol is a poor source of pure energy. A lot of inputs must go into ethanol from corn in order to gain the available energy.

First, please note that about 60% of Iowa’s corn goes into ethanol production. That means that the Iowa farmer, popularized by Grant Wood in his American Gothic painting, must continue to grow corn at a high rate in order to satisfy industries need to comply with the ethanol legislation. That legislation calls for 36 billion gallons of bio-based ethanol to be produced and blended with virgin gasoline. So what are the non-energy impacts of this amount of corn production? It would seem that this corn production is a significant contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as excess nutrients and soil flow down the Mississippi River to mingle with the Gulf waters. This dead zone keeps increasing in size, and by 2021 totaled over 6,000 square miles where the excess nutrients enabled blooms of algae. These blooms deplete the oxygen in the water, creating this dead zone where no other marine life can exist. All because what began as an effort to replace imported oil, has become an essential backstop for the farm economy. And nowhere is that more clear than in Iowa.

So politicians all pay homage to what is now the status quo, where overproduction of corn to satisfy legislated mandates are sacred. Since Iowa still maintains an outsize influence on the political discourse of the nation, no one who wishes to grab the brass ring of the US Presidency dares to question the advisability of using US corn to create a gasoline extender. We will see homage paid to the hard working farmer, and the discussion will be framed so that every gallon of ethanol produced displaces a gallon of oil imported from our enemies. Who could be against that?

Oh, wait a second. What happens with the electrification of the transportation sector? If more and more vehicles are electric, will politicians adjust the requirements downward to reflect lower gasoline production? Yeah, what planet do you reside upon? You expect politicians to reflect reality in their expounding? Or do you expect a continuation of what is now a well-established status quo, with political influence overcoming reality?

I will be watching the discussion this summer as the politicians pledge their fealty to maintain this ethanol mandate. If any politician dares to address the issue, and call for reduced ethanol production, I would be amazed (and would consider that politician for my vote). But I do not expect anyone to make a politically unpopular proposal in the most agricultural of all states, Iowa.

Before I leave the topic, there is one good thing ethanol blending has caused. Since ethanol is a good solvent for water, the issue of gas line freezing in winter has vanished. If you do not have a separate water phase, you will never freeze the lines, and this has reduced the advantages certain gasolines had in preventing gas line freezing.

Family Time In Baltimore

We just spent a weekend in Baltimore with our two sons. The event that brought us all together was the Pirates visiting the Orioles over Mother’s Day weekend. So we sprung for tickets and hotel room for the family, and spent time around the Inner Harbor.

Orioles Park at Camden Yards is yet another of these cashless places. Ostensibly, these venues have gone to all card transactions to cut down on germ transmission, an outgrowth of the Covid pandemic. But like many other businesses, I imagine they have gone to cashless in order to cut down on the sometimes hidden costs associated with handling of cash. I still like using cash for small transactions. It galls me to have to use a card for a seemingly minor transaction, although at major league parks, there is no such thing as a de minimis transaction. Unless you were fortunate enough to visit Montreal during the last year the Expos were there, and happened to come in on a Friday where adult tickets were $5 apiece for a slightly sight impaired seat. Since we had both boys with us, they were ticketed at $1 apiece, and to add to the allure, it was dollar dog and beer night. I doubt we will ever get into a major league park for a total of $12 again – and it was Canadian dollars, with each one only about 65 cents US at the time.

We were in different sections of the stadium each game. The first day, we were in the center field bleachers, and had the extreme good fortune to be seated a couple of rows behind some obviously under-age kids who had somehow managed to convince concessionaires to serve them beer. They could not handle their beer, and they became excessively noisy and obscene as the game went on. MF this, and MF that, and their taunts were aimed at anyone sitting around who was dressed in Pirates attire. My wife finally had enough, and stood up and chastised them, prompting a rebuttal about first amendment freedoms from one of the hooligans. She was supported by our neighboring crowd, because she was saying what most of us were thinking. What really caused the kids to face reality was that the beer vendor they abused brought back two security guards, and soon the entire row was removed from their seats. The worst offenders did not return, but eventually all but two of the group came back, and did not bother anyone else for the rest of the game.

The kids missed seeing the completion of a cycle by one of the Orioles (single, double, triple, and home run). For Pirates fans, it was not good since this hitter caused our Friday night loss. But just seeing a cycle was a rare sight – maybe not as rare as an unassisted triple play, or a perfect game, but still a rare feat. That was ok – two days later we saw Mitch Keller go 7 scoreless innings, striking out 13 while not walking anyone. As dominant as I’ve ever seen a pitcher in a game I attended.

We did spend some time in the Inner Harbor. We got to see a local celebrity – Mr. Trash Wheel (see picture above). This contraption was connected to booms which funneled floating trash to the collection zone, where the wheel would turn and toss the floating matter into a container which then was removed. We did not get to see the thing work, but our oldest son who works an environmental job in Henrico County Virginia, was very excited to see this machine that worked to keep the Inner Harbor clean.

The week following our trip was also exciting. My wife encountered her first case of blood clots in her leg, while the same son who was excited about Mr. Trash Wheel went through an appendectomy. Quite a bit of difference between the happiness we had at the ball park, and the trepidation we felt during the next week. It is true what they say – never take anything for granted, since it can all go south on you in an instant. We were just fortunate to avoid more serious consequences in the next week.

It’s All A Mental Health Issue!

So, we don’t have a gun problem in this country. Instead, we have a mental health problem where folks who suffer from mental health issues snap and manifest their issues by shooting up your local: food store; movie theater; house of worship; school (elementary, high school, public, private, university); shopping center; or workplace. Or wherever those who are wanting to make their mark choose to unload their magazines.

Let’s look at mental health and see how this could be used as a factor in limiting access to guns, thereby reducing the toll of mass shootings. In order to be effective, there must be some sort of test a prospective purchaser of a gun must go through. That test would provide an objective answer as to who should be forbidden from purchasing a firearm. And of course, this would imply that every purchase of a gun is considered, thus closing any loopholes on purchases made outside of a retail establishment that sells firearms. In one fell swoop, those on the right have just made the case for universal background checks as a prerequisite for gun purchase.

Ah, but for many folks who have committed mass murder, they have no interaction with the mental health system. Literally the first time they exhibit clinical signs of a mental illness, is when they make the decision to pull the trigger on a crowd of people. Perhaps they would have shown evidence of anti-social leanings by looking at on-line postings. So Republicans seem to be advocating for some sort of screening of all social media postings, with the aim of preventing those who show anti-social leanings from acquiring more weaponry. Just like that, the right is arguing about the virtues of big brother monitoring the public space, and making determinations about what is protected speech vs. what provides evidence of mental illness. Amazing how arguing against controlling gun purchases actually leads towards imposition of massive state control.

Of course, if you have a system for detecting those who would have a propensity towards shooting up a public space, you must have some system in place to treat those who fail the tests of mental stability. Maybe we could re-open those state mental facilities that were closed down over the last several decades. That certainly was a preventive way to keep the looney population away from the rest of us. I don’t know how this approach squares with the actions of red state governors, who have slashed spending for mental health recently. I’m sure those governors will be happy to dedicate tax funding for such a worthy cause in the future, once it becomes part of a comprehensive approach towards minimizing gun violence.

What I just don’t know is how this sort of intrusive clearance process will be accepted by those who only focus on the portion of the second amendment which mentions a lack of infringement on the right to bear arms. That first part about well-regulated militia? Must be just a lot of gobbledy-gook words we can ignore. No, a true patriot just will not accept this sort of clearance process interfering with the rights of citizens from procuring the most modern machines for causing death and grievous injury. Why, those who would propose such limits would make themselves targets for the next round of action from the liberated souls who have purchased their manhood tickets these past years.

What, you mean to tell me it’s all been a ruse? Politicians on the right are just mouthing platitudes about mental health in order to prevent having to take real action about controlling purchases of weapons? I’m shocked, shocked to see such hypocrisy in our elected representatives. You might think they are afraid of their voters, and the hordes of mass shooters they’ve unleashed in their quest to ensure everyone in this nation is armed to the teeth. Who’d have thunk it!

True Equality? Dream on.

Yeah, we’ve turned into a country where everyone has an equal opportunity for success. If you fail at life (poor job, turn to crime, become an unmarried mother) then it is your fault exclusively. The rest of society owes you nothing, and we are justified in looking down our noses at you, enabling us to ridicule you as useless eaters.

This is the mantra for millions of people in this country. We have an entire political party that believes in entitlement – for its members, since only its members are true Americans. Everyone else is a fraud, an unworthy person who really doesn’t deserve to share in the citizenship bestowed upon those who are truly exceptional.

Of course, one of the advantages (or curses, depending upon viewpoint) of living long enough is that I’ve seen how things used to be. And up until the early 1960’s, this country enabled overt racism. In the southern states, the famous Jim Crow laws governed life. People of color could not vote, and woe be anyone who stepped out of place and thought themselves to be uppity. I remember the infamous Bull Connor and the fire hoses aimed at demonstrators. After college, I moved to Memphis in the mid 1970’s and saw sharecropper shanties if I took an alternate road back to my middle-class white apartment complex. If I wanted to go to northern Mississippi, I saw rows of houses with sugar creeks of sewage running in front of the pitiful houses. This was circa 1985.

In the north, discrimination was no less odious. The practice of redlining meant that blacks were shunted into districts where they could be neglected. Neighborhood schools reflected the relative wealth of those neighborhoods. White suburbs have sparkling new schools, while the inner-city schools show nothing but the apathy of the governing classes, allowing them to deteriorate even faster than the housing projects they serve. When an attempt was made to make experiences more equal by instituting busing, we saw rejection of that practice in northern as well as southern cities.

Other governmental solutions saw poor results. Affirmative action rubbed those who believed in meritocracy, as a solution in search of a problem. Many refused to believe that talent could be found in all demographic groups, and that poor test scores were more a reflection of economics than a reflection of character. You saw much zero-sum philosophizing aimed at instilling rage among the privileged classes. Every hire of a minority was unearned, and took a job opportunity from a worthy white applicant.

So now, in the 2020’s, we are told to believe exclusively in achievement as the marker for advancement in society. We’ve achieved our color-blind society. And if you can’t achieve according to the norms accepted by white society, you are unworthy and never will amount to anything. But we are intended to believe none of the differences we now see between races and other groups represents the system being rigged. Why, all of these folks just need to accept their place in society, which of course is below those of us who had all of the benefits.

Reparations is suggested as a way we can even up the playing field. Unfortunately, I see reparations that are resented by those who would give them as a poor substitute for real equality. Instead, I would rather see an effort made to equalize opportunity by truly improving the one system we have to give people bootstraps to tug on. If we as a nation decided to spend the funds we are considering for reparations, and instead spent it on new educational facilities with teacher’s salaries aimed at attracting those residing in the right-hand side of the IQ curve, then I think we can expect better results in a generation or two.

But to say that, well, these people have had rights for 50-60 years with little to show for it so we should forget ever trying to give those ungrateful people anything. They will always destroy anything good we give them. These attitudes have always been present in US society. The political and social media changes over the past decade have enabled these attitudes to become respectable, and unleashed. Their vitriol poisons our public discourse, and now threatens to forbid the newer generations from even learning about how our nation gained the warts we still live with.

I cannot abide those who diminish the experiences of those in the lower, working classes. I have shown the national income distribution, where nearly 40% of the nation lives on an income of less than $50,000 per year. It is no wonder so many folks have trouble saving for the future – they are too busy working full-time jobs and trying to afford even a moderate life-style in the present. Look, there will always be those who game the system and are willing to live on the scraps left to them by the upper classes. You can consider them to be parasites. But so many of our fellow citizens are stuck in low-paying occupations, where any pathway towards success is iffy at best. To condemn those who are hard working to a life of poverty is not fair, and does not reward their efforts. Too many times we castigate those who find themselves in a life with few options for improvement. For once, I’d like to see us honor both hard work, and family formation, through governmental policies which actually reinforce values we would like shared across our nation. To impose only punitive policies is like providing only thoughts and prayers on the issue of guns and expect positive results. It just will not happen.

If You Keep Yelling, Folks Will Believe What You Say

Today’s number is 87,000. Today’s quiz concerns that number and its position in today’s political discussion. What does 87,000 represent? Is it:

  1. The number of new jack-booted thugs armed with assault rifles who will enforce the IRS’s evil mandates, shooting any who resist the decrees from the Federal government,


2 .  The number of hires the IRS will need over the next 10 years to off-set retirements, and    improve the response time for an agency that has been starved of resources for over a decade.

OK, I know that was an easy question. If you live totally in a right-wing cocoon, the answer is 1. If you have any relationship with reality, the answer is 2.

It really shows up the hypocrisy of the Republican party as to how they frame the issue around the increased resources for the IRS. What they don’t tell their gullible rubes is that a few of these 87,000 proposed employees will end up auditing high-income returns, making it less likely that overt cheating will avoid scrutiny. Look, a vast majority of taxpayers do not have any opportunity for not paying their fair share of taxes. They don’t have ownership of limited partnerships, where income and deductions are played with by accountants of mixed morality. They cannot play with depreciation of assets, since they do not own assets they could depreciate. It has been easier to look for those who cheat by playing with their eligibility for earned income tax credits. Certainly we do not want those who are benefiting from taxation redistribution programs to cheat and cause them to benefit excessively from taxpayer’s largesse. But to pretend that significant amounts of dollars can be recovered by keeping the IRS status quo, and mandating increased work requirements for benefit programs shows the true financial illiteracy of the would-be ruling class. Either that, or they are pretending to care about the true victims of our economy by appealing to moral instincts by lying about the unworthiness of those who are losing out in the national income race.

Over the last several decades, the mantra of the Republicans has been that any expenditures from the Federal Government are unjustified, and wasteful. Therefore, it is their bounden duty to reduce taxes on the productive class (themselves), while imposing strict limits on any redistribution of income to the wastrel class (those who are in the lower bounds of the income distribution). It is as if the belief system of Ayn Rand has sprung to life in their political pronouncements. What they have is theirs, since they earned it. No mention of them rigging the system to ensure their types of income is treated more leniently than income earned through participation in the labor market.

And now they would have us believe the proposed increase in the IRS budget is the number 1 evil they are fighting against. Well, I am of the belief that taxes are the rent we pay to live in a civilized society. Taxation does not represent evil taking. And when overt lying becomes a main form of political discourse, it is the responsibility of others to speak up against these lies from becoming embedded in the beliefs of those who drink the swill of the upper classes.

There has always been an element of wish fulfillment in Republican politics. They always represented the capitalists against the majority who do not have capital to play with. Their trick now has been to convince a substantial portion of the laboring class that they are being deceived by the evil of the social issues favored by Democrats. They have subjugated their economic pitches by wailing about the degradations they see in their culture war issues. Meanwhile, those who provide the political lubricant (money) in the Republican party are literally laughing on their way to the bank as they chortle over the tricks they are playing on the lower classes. It has been their dream to reduce the portion of national income going to those who labor for their living. That way, corporate profits can increase, and they benefit from the share buybacks and increased dividends accruing to those with capital.

I am one of the fortunate ones in this economy. I went to college and majored in a STEM field which was in demand when I graduated. I was able to save throughout my career, and through a combination of pension, and inheritance, I’ve been able to build up my share of capital. I look to deploy my capital in investments where dividends play a significant role in total return. But I see how unfair our income distribution is. Look at the graph of total US income:

Nearly 40% of households earned less than $55,000 dollars in 2019. And while that income may be acceptable in places like West Virginia, it is untenable to live on that amount in our urban centers. So for those who claim only the undeserving in society need assistance, I maintain it is the system imposed upon this nation which precludes many dedicated laborers from earning a decent wage. We either need a system which increases the value of labor, or we need a national program to aid those who find themselves at the bottom of the heap in this ongoing race to the top. Of course, since service worker wages are the foundation of the economy, rises in service worker pay is reflected in higher costs for the products of those service workers. And immediately, concern grows about the inflation those higher costs produce. Of course, blame is attributed to high spending from the Federal Government. And those Republicans who seek to deceive the foolish masses, trumpet their folderol loudly so people believe their words instead of seeking to analyze the situation for themselves.

An Assault on Intelligence

And the beat goes on. The beat goes on.

So the beat of mass shootings keeps on keeping on. No sooner have they reported on one shooting than news comes in of another shooting. Maybe it’s a Sweet 16 birthday party in Alabama. Maybe it’s a bank in Louisville where a soon-to-be fired employee decides to take proactive measures to protest his imminent separation from the bank by ensuring permanent separation for others and himself.

Oh, we see the responses. Crickets from one party, calls for complete regulation from another. But the genie is out of the box. When you have a country where the number of guns greatly exceeds the residents of the country, there is no way to prevent gun violence from being a major cause of death and injury. Still, I am struck by how many times in mass shootings, it is an assault rifle purchased recently that is the weapon of choice. So I add my voice to those who are calling for a ban on the sale of this type of weapon. If nothing else, it will cut down on the attention-seekers who decide to add meaning to their life by the way they leave it. Take as many as possible with themselves. God, I’m sick of hearing of these weaklings who have only the ability to kill, using these weapons of war.

Still, a question hangs in the air, asked by a Tennessee state representative. He asked what kind of gun would you prefer to be shot with. Well, my first smart-aleck response is to say a bb gun, since the muzzle velocity is not over 3000 feet/second, and the damage the little steel ball would do does not compare to the organ liquefaction enabled by weapons like the AR-15. Failing that, a 22 caliber handgun with about a 1000 feet/second muzzle velocity would be better than anything from an assault weapon.

I know, 2nd Amendment purists will claim that banning an inexact type of weapon will inevitably lead to banning and confiscation of all firearms, thus enabling the gestapo takeover by the jack-booted thugs of our overpowering government. That is the argument that still resonates within legislative halls. So now we are free to take our guns into bars, where everyone knows only sober, sane people ever get into disagreements. And those old laws that implied you had to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon? Shoot, that was an imposition on law-abiding ‘Muricans. What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand?

Since this is the era of revisionist Supreme Court rulings, where Roe v. Wade was “wrongfully decided”, what keeps us from revisiting other rulings. Surely Heller is something that should be reviewed. If the original intent of enabling keeping a weapon in the home was kept intact, we would not be seeing this plethora of gun violence. But the 2nd Amendment purists have twisted this ruling into a behemoth that mandates this nation turning into an armed camp. And the idiots who run roughshod over the desires of the citizens of this country in state legislatures and in Congress, have made it impossible to institute any sort of effective defense against armed intruders into our lives.

Look, it doesn’t matter whether the shootings come from gang bangers striving for control over the streets, or lone actors who try to bring meaning to their lives by showing how many innocents they can take out before they die, in both cases people end up with holes in them. Doctors try to repair the damage from these holes, but especially in the cases of rifles, the damage is permanent. Even if a shooting victim’s life can be saved, the victim will never be made whole. All because we insist that any regulation on guns will end up in the great civil war over gun confiscation. I’m quite sure there are many who secretly are hoping for this end. These faux patriots believe they are the only ones who can force an evil government from total domination. They call out, “Bring it on!” as they buy up the wares for sale in their local gun shop.  It doesn’t matter that they already have an armory in their house, there’s always a need for one more gun.

Those who decry gun regulation point to states with regulation where shootings still occur. Those shootings supposedly provide proof that gun regulation does not work. But let’s take the case of Illinois, where shootings in the city of Chicago happen frequently. Nothing prevents an aspiring criminal from purchasing their guns legally in a neighboring state, where gun regulation is nearly non-existent. Only nation-wide regulations will end up working, and even then, multitudes will try to game the system and obtain guns outside of the established legal pathways.

It seems to me that nothing we do will totally eliminate gun violence. But we now are at a frequency where any act that leads to a reduction in mass shooting events would be welcome. Surely we should consider closing the private sale loophole for background checks, a ban on the manufacture and sale of certain types of high-powered weaponry, and uniform red-flag laws across the country. If those measure could reduce the toll from guns, it would be worth it. And those who have fears about Federal Government overreach, I invite you to be satisfied with the pile of guns you already have. Maybe you could invest surplus monies for your retirement, rather than expect your idolatry to pay off.

Selma Lives!

Rep. Justin Pearson, Rep. Justin Jones, Rep. Gloria Johnson People hold their hands up as they exit the House Chamber doors at the Tennessee State Capitol Building, in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. April 3, 2023. Nicole Hester/USA Today Network via REUTERS.

Bull Connor was resurrected this week. It had been years since his name had crossed my mind, but after the events in the Tennessee house, he came back uninvited into my consciousness. He was also mentioned by cable news commentators, along with the images of the fire hoses being used against civil rights demonstrators. It was telling that it took images of 60 years ago to match what was happening in Nashville.

I spent 10 years in Memphis. The district that just got “unrepresented” was not one I lived in, but if I lived there now, it would be familiar to me. The 86th legislative district was the one that Justin Pearson represented, and now has no representation in the Tennessee house. That district was gerrymandered to include the industrial lands next to the Mississippi River, downtown Memphis, and a swath of land along the river and up into a county adjacent to Shelby County (home to Memphis). My old workplace along the Loosahatchie River is currently without representation.

As I watched cable news coverage, they were in split-screen mode. Those who were pontificating were on one side, while images of the speakers in the Tennessee Assembly were shown on the other. The sound was off in that chamber, but it was apparent through the shaking of fists, and the clenched jaws of the speakers, raw hatred was being expressed. Raw hatred against three individuals who dared to stand up and challenge the one-sided nature of legislative discussion after the murders in the Nashville church-based school. In the end, the two black males were on the losing end of the vote, and their expulsion from the chamber was completed. The white woman who had joined the two in violating the decorum of the house chamber? She received just enough votes to avoid being expelled as well. So the final score was one white woman allowed to stay, two young black males sent packing. As the remaining female legislator said, the result was probably related to the color of her skin.

My knowledge of Tennessee politics ended nearly 40 years ago when I moved away. I was there when the newly elected governor of Tennessee took over earlier than anticipated (three days prior to the scheduled inauguration day), in order to forestall then-governor Ray Blanton from selling any more pardons. Fortunately, he was held accountable for some of his multitude of crimes, although not for pardon sales. Yes, he was a Democratic party member, but I was very glad to see the Republican Lamar Alexander take over. Back then the crime and grift was equal opportunity, and all politicians were suspect regardless of party affiliation. Now, however, it does seem like one party is inclined to use their power for one purpose only – to maintain said power.

White privilege is debated often. States have gone to extraordinary lengths to deny its existence, so much so that in Florida, you may not discuss in the classroom anything that could bring discomfort to the youth of that state (those who just happen to be white). The party that decries cancel culture, is guilty of cancelling anything that presents a challenge to the lily pure image being presented by the dominant class. Snowflakes cannot stand any warmth of reality, else they melt away.

I am old enough to remember seeing the fire hoses used against demonstrators. I felt awful that a group of people had to put up with such vile hatred in order to gain a semblance of citizenship. At the age of 8, I was only capable of thinking that could not happen in the state of Nebraska, where I lived. I had to be older to learn that the same feelings existed even in my state, though they were expressed with less overt violence. Somehow I managed to live through learning of the imperfections of our nation. Still I retained the belief that things were getting better, and we would soon embody the post-racial world Dr. King discussed. But events like those in Nashville show how far away we are from truly becoming a post-racial society. They replace the images of Barack Obama with those of Bull Connor, letting us know we are drifting back to a world we believed we had left behind. Who will be the voices we hear in the 2020’s that will match that of Dr. King? If we continue to follow the racism as expressed in the Tennessee Assembly, it may be a long time before we ever can accept our ongoing participation in the American sin. There is a call for reparations now. Yeah, let’s go throw money at the problem. Seems like that is our answer to everything. Let me say now, reparations without repairing the schism in our hearts will not bring about true equality. We now see so many who do not want equality, who will not accept the founding principles of our nation. And they are the ones who are gaming the system to ensure their continued occupation in the lead coach. Unfortunately, if we follow their lead, it will be towards national derailment and ultimate ruin.    

Is He Really Naked?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The words of Charles Dickens reach out to us over the centuries and still hold true. Within the US, you will find both sentiments existing simultaneously among the political tribes we are sorted into.

You find those who bought a celebratory bottle of sparkling wine after the first step was taken towards holding a former President accountable for his actions. And you will find those in sack cloth and ashes moaning about the complete collapse of the legal system in this nation if they were supporters of the former President. Taken as a whole, this nation has cognitive dissonance in how the actions of the legal system in the State of New York are viewed. But both sides are utterly convinced theirs is the correct interpretation of events. Indeed, I now see where the concept of alternative facts can appear. The facts themselves are not much in question, but how they are viewed through lenses of partisanship varies greatly.

One side sees the status of this nation torn to shreds by having the audacity of indicting a former President. The other side sees the honor of this nation upheld by a demonstration of the commitment to the rule of law, a commitment other nation-states can only dream about. What-aboutism has reared its head as one side tries to equate events in the 1990’s with interns, to the events of the last decade where the price of dalliance was made clear. It takes a bit of historical perspective to view events in their proper context.

It is apparent this nation is not where it used to be. Regardless of the personal sexual habits of politically connected individuals, there used to be a red line that could not be crossed if one wished to be taken seriously by the electorate. That red line was paying at least lip service to the concept of moral consistency with the sexual morality expressed in countless pulpits across the United States. But as the moral exemplars of the church yielded to the temptations of the secular world, be they related to money or sex, the moral authority of our political leadership also became compromised. So much so that when a candidate for President discussed his own privilege and preferences, his supporters were not bothered with his confession. He grabbed them by the pussy, just like he could grab the pussy of anyone else who caught his wandering eyes.

He could not be bought. That was his original argument. His business empire threw off so much cash he could ignore the traditional high rollers of campaign finance. But with a political environment so corrupted with money (equivalent to speech), by the time the second run for office came about, he was less picky about who supported him financially. Sure, the small donor was satisfying. After all, a few million supporters averaging $30 per capita could exceed even the mega moneys of the privileged class. There were efforts made to crack open the aura of financial success, like the reporting of the New York Times. But by the time serious investigation into his business “successes” was made public, his followers had morphed into a cult incapable of hearing any flaws in their leader’s public persona.

So one group sees the Emperor in his gaudy clothes, while the members of another group is blinded by the glare of lights upon the gilded fixtures in his palaces. Meanwhile, his true business successes remain few and far between, and without a television series adding to his mystique, slowly his true nature becomes visible to many. But what is really wild, is that he still reigns over the wreckage of the party he appropriated. Once the Republican party was a party of ideas, and those ideas were discussed and debated on the platforms of this nation’s elections. By 2020 though, the Republicans actually committed themselves to “what he says”. Never have I seen a party completely abdicate its responsibility to enunciate its principles. Not until this last election where the dedication to a cult leader became absolute. It mattered not who objected to this charade. An entire party apparatus was usurped, with the added effect that anyone who disagreed with the dear leader immediately became subject to the charge of being a RINO. Good luck at trying to convince any of his true followers of their leader’s faults and foibles. Indeed, we are now in a world where attempts to hold the man accountable for his actions has become reinforcement for the cult member’s beliefs of unjustified political persecution. It may take shooting someone on Fifth Avenue before his true believers would open their eyes to the actual nature of their leader. But given his style, he would just suggest that someone should be shot, and one of his deluded followers will take it on themselves to execute the desire of the leader. That way, he can claim he was only warning about what was to come, not that he was responsible for nudging someone into fulfilling his desires. Buckle up, because the ride is just beginning.

What Did We Talk About Before 2015?

Again and again, the national discourse is being hijacked by an unworthy person. The gift of rotting fish just won’t go away. He obviously is incapable of taking a hint, or even 80+ million hints as of the last presidential election. No, what he insists is that he is incapable of making a mistake, and all of the past times when he was captured, in video or on calls violating the laws of the nation, those were just perfect human interactions. Perfectly normal for someone to insist they received five figure vote totals higher than he actually did. I am sorry he feels so persecuted and put upon by the citizens of this nation who were repulsed by this overweight hulk of a man who is nearly incapable of walking down an inclined plane. Surely people should have gotten the message (carefully crafted by his cabinet lackeys) that he was not guilty of collusion with Russia during his original political campaign. Maybe not guilty of legal collusion, but certainly he was intertwined with his Russian counterpart through less formal means of obtaining foreign assistance to help in his initial election.

It continues to amaze me so many still rush to defend this toddler. So many are caught up in his cult of personality, vulgar as it is. I guess that is his appeal. He does not avoid vulgarities, in fact, his entire adult life has been a series of vulgarities and they continue to this day. How can you stand to support someone who is the antithesis of all things patriotic. The image of him literally embracing the flag at some convention of losers was obscene on so many different levels. Perhaps the most obscene was that the person who wanted to claim the literal image for himself (hugging the flag) is the same individual who denigrated and denounced those who had actually sacrificed for this nation. When his generation’s opportunity for military service came about, he manipulated a physician to provide a diagnosis of bone spurs. That has to be the 20th century equivalent of paying someone to take their place, something wealthy New Yorkers were accustomed to back in the civil war.

I still subscribe to the quaint belief that a President should be a moral example to those he or she leads. As in so many cases, that belief was shattered when we elected a moral klutz, incapable of behaving in a consistent, upright manner. Looking at that perspective, it is not necessarily the recipient of the votes who we should be denouncing, but those who so willingly gave their votes. So we will call out those who are determined to be Old Testament and Letters of Paul Christians. They seem to love the tones of vengeance prevalent in the Old Testament, along with the homophobia and misogyny evident in Paul’s letters. The Jesus of the Gospels? Never heard of him. All of this woke, touchy-feely stuff about loving your enemies, and welcoming the stranger is not meant to apply in this day and age. No, if you can’t demand a good smiting of those you disagree with, what good is it to belong to an Evangelical congregation?

Unfortunately, those who feel ill-suited to exist in this nation in the 21st century have shown an ability to project their voices stridently and to shout over those who disagree with them. Since they found a hero who gave voice to their sublimated desires to express their racism, you hear expressions of racism spoken proudly in our public spaces. Those of us who are opposed to these cretins are dependent upon people being reasonable and thoughtful to sway them back to a shared reality. We keep running up against the vitriol of those who insist upon terrorizing anyone who deigns to disagree with the mob who denigrates wokeism. If their leader insists the election was stolen, then by gum, and by golly, it must have been stolen. Anyone who says otherwise is itching for a fight.

I consider myself to be a fighter in this war for the conscience of this nation. I pay for my own platform in the form of this blog to put my own thoughts into the public sphere. I realize I am influencing almost no one, since I have a small readership, and those who disagree with me often will not bother to read anything requiring an attention span greater than a typical Tik-Tok video. Still, I am able to express my thoughts and am willing to put myself out there for hearing opposing points of view.

We are in grave danger of totally losing this experiment in representative democracy. If those individuals who demonstrate antipathy to morality manage to find their way back into power, we will soon find ourselves in a dystopian world where Orwell’s creatures would be totally comfortable. “Who controls the past, controls the future”. “War is peace”. And “The best books … are those that tell you what you know already”. All of these are sentiments just waiting for reemergence in a new administration. After all, we’ve already suffered through alternative facts. We see the extreme efforts aimed at erasing the past, so that we can all read the books that only tell us what we already know. Once we have a totally ignorant generation brought up in these beliefs, it will be nigh unto impossible to reverse the downward spiral we seem determined to impose upon ourselves.

Sprung Spring

The daffodils began blooming on February 20. This was extremely early for Spring to appear in South Charleston, West Virginia. And it was not the little daffodils breaking forth first, but the hordes down the hillside where I have spread bulbs in the 30 years we’ve lived in this house. I am enclosing three pictures in this post, two showing the hillside in front, and one showing the blooming bulbs in back of the house. Not shown are the blooms around the gardens, the blooms in between our neighbor’s house and ours, or any of the blooms we have encouraged at the interface between mowed lawn and natural woodland on the side of our property. Indeed, at times like this when all of the bulbs burst forth simultaneously, you can see the thousands of blooms we have in our yard, and I have the pleasure of knowing I’ve placed a majority of these bulbs myself. I grin when I see the bees grabbing the pollen from these early flowers.

I have not purchased bulbs for years. The last virgin bulbs I planted were left over from Easter displays at our church, where the blooms we sponsored became available after everyone tired of the Easter joy. That’s where the small daffodils which normally pop out first showed up. Not this year. The only bulbs not showing up are the jonquils, which always come last, and have multiple flowers per stem, so they appear to keep the bloom parade on track. Instead of purchasing bulbs, I let the greenery die down naturally, and that leads to giving enough energy to allow the bulbs to bud with new bulbs. Since these new bulbs always are higher than the parent bulbs, eventually the bulbs crowd the surface, and show up when I am weeding the beds. That is my prompt to dig up the bulbs, and replace a few back into the original holes, where they begin to repeat the cycle. I’ve dug up hundreds of bulbs in some years, and distributed them to relatives across the country, and to many in this city. It is always good to hear others talk about the blooms they have each Spring due to our efforts.

We subscribe to the New York Times. One of the commentators I enjoy is Margaret Renkl, who is based on Nashville and sometimes writes on the nature she sees outside of her window. On March 6 her column was titled ”The Beautiful and Terrifying Arrival of an Early Spring”. She commented on what she was seeing (blooming bulbs, flowering trees bursting out into full color, and birds confused on what signals to follow as part of their annual routine). She mentioned the risk these early spring adopters ran from late winter cold snaps. Well, we are now in the midst of several days with lows in the low 20’s Fahrenheit, and we are running the risk of ruining the early blooms. So far the daffodils seem impervious to the cold, but we will see what happens to the Lenten Roses and the flowering cherry tree now bursting forth to declare Spring officially here. We just had a story about the storm of the century, back in ’93. We were here for that blizzard, so we know winter still can throw a nasty trick at us. But somehow, I think the plants and animals in this area will adjust to the vagaries of the weather, and even if some of the blooms are withered by the late cold, we can look forward to the days ahead where the daylight savings time change enables later afternoon, and soon evening work hours in the warmer temperatures of Spring.