Instant Justice – Just Add Justices

Should we now admit defeat? The country has to be turned over to the troglodytes who wish to institute a theocracy? It certainly appears that way with the current composition of the Supreme Court. For as long as I can remember, conservatives have wailed about legislating from the bench, in courts as long ago as the Warren court. The Miranda decision was supposed to be just one of the rulings leading to the unraveling of our national fabric. And the decision to remove prayer from school was undoubtedly the worst thing since sliced bread ruined the nation’s palate. Never mind the original sin of the courts, which was to desegregate our nation’s schools. Who’d have thought the constitution meant what it said, in all instances.

Now we have a group on the court who appear to be willing to be led by a pair of unrepentant ideologues who insist if a phrase is not explicitly in the Constitution, it must be eliminated from the nation’s list of options. Privacy is an easy target. This was something known back in the colonial days, and since it was left off of the list of enumerated rights, our founders did not consider it important. Gone! And all of the other rights that follow from a right to privacy? Just waiting now for the right Texas court case to come around to take up those nasty topics of sodomy, birth control, and miscegenation.  I can’t wait to see Justice Thomas take up the case of an anti-miscegenation law an eager southern state attempts to implement as a way of overturning Loving v. Virginia. We’ll see if he really is a consistent conservative, or if he is an opportunistic hypocrite. Let me say he epitomizes the old saying of opening his mouth and confirming his stupidity. He was much better when he was the silent member of the Supreme Court. Of course, there were many of us who saw through him when his confirmation hearings showed his inability to function in a truly integrated workplace without revealing his overt misogyny. Would that we could have turned Thomas into another Bork. But no, and now thirty years after his promotion to the bench, he is spreading his poison to generations yet to be born.

We now are held hostage by a Supreme Court majority whose legitimacy is questionable. From Trump’s first appointment, who is only on the court due to a feckless Senate majority leader’s refusal to accept Obama’s nominee, to Cavanaugh, shown to be a shallow thinker who is also a liar, to Amy Cony Barrett whose nomination and confirmation were rushed through even before her predecessor was fully in her grave, these three now form the core of an unbeatable majority willing to follow whatever their predecessors on the court wish to attack. Just think, these three justices will likely be on the court long after my lifetime, and they will continue to spew their anti-democratic venom and call it judicial rectification for poor decisions of the past.

If we now must accept that even 50 years does not represent a long enough time for a decision to be fully integrated into our nation’s culture, what else can we look forward to? Certainly we’ve had segregated education for longer than we’ve had integrated education, so of course Brown must be reversed. And we must accept the principle of police infallibility (much like papal infallibility) so the last vestiges of Miranda must be erased. Of course, our founders could not consider modern communications, so we must obliterate our rights to use technology in our daily lives. That too must go! Only allowable modes of transportation were those which existed back in the late 1700’s. There’s probably some writer in the distant past who equated flying on broomsticks with true evil, so all forms of motorized transport going faster than a horse has to be made illegal. In fact, I can think of many of elements of our modern life which must be banished in favor of our constitution.

I have in the past advocated for a new national compact, which would be ratified through formation of a revised constitution. The need for such a compact, representing the social contract between individuals and the state, has never been clearer. Unfortunately, the deck is stacked against any type of modernity coming out from such an effort, due to the requirement of individual state ratification. As we now see, the number of states who wish to remain back in some ill-defined period of time when America was great, overwhelms the wishes of the majority of the population. Because of this, any product coming out from a constitutional convention will likely continue the backwards trend we’ve seen and experienced.  

There are those who are rejoicing at the decision of the court, and in their mind, a great evil is being expunged from this nation. As we have seen on the discussion on guns and school shootings, the solutions being suggested from the conservatives would lead to turning schools into armed camps, and convert teachers to becoming executioners. Similarly, the solutions regarding abortion will lead to converting medical providers to becoming the eyes and ears of the prosecutors, so we can live under the fear that a simple miscarriage can be converted into a miscarriage of justice. Any solution that calls for spending real money to deal with the problems will be shelved as either being unrealistic, or viewed as an expansion of government which all can see is unjustified.

Let me speak to the unrepentant Republicans now. This nation, and indeed, the world, will not return to the quaint image of the evangelical Christians, where women and minorities knew their place, and where the sins of adultery were enabled for those in charge of their flocks. We now live in a world knitted together through commerce and through culture. Instead of retreating into the past, it is our moral duty to shape the future so it becomes more just, and true American values can be held up as examples of good for the world to emulate. As it stands right now, the rest of the world is not laughing with us. It is laughing at us.

Are You Really Pro-Life? Take This Quiz

I am turning over this blog to my wife Carrie. This column appeared in the Charleston Gazette-Mail Editorial page on June 25. I’d add a link but everything is behind a firewall.

So, you say you’re pro-life. You already had the bubbly of your choice chilling before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday.  Not so fast! Take the Pro-Life Quiz to see if you really are.

  1. Do you support pregnant women receiving high-quality pre-natal care regardless of the woman’s ethnicity, location, or income level, even if it costs you in the form of higher taxes?
  2. Do you support high-quality post-childbirth care for mothers and babies in the form of lactation consultants, visiting nurses, etc., regardless of the mother and child’s ethnicity, location, or income level, even if it costs you in the form of higher taxes?
  3. Do you support adequate paid family leave for all families with newborns regardless of the family’s ethnicity, location, or income level, even if it costs you in the form of higher taxes?
  4. Do you support high-quality childcare and preschool for all working parents regardless of the family’s ethnicity, location, or income level, even if it costs you in the form of higher taxes?
  5. Do you support a high-quality public education system in which all teachers are paid adequately for the valuable work they do, regardless of the school community’s ethnicity, location, or income level, even if it costs you in the form of higher taxes?
  6. Do you support the provision of high-quality healthcare for all families, regardless of the family’s ethnicity, location, or income level, even if it costs you in the form of higher taxes?
  7. Do you support debt-free post-high-school training for all young people who wish to continue their education, whether that be in a community college, vocational or trade school, or a four-year public college or university, even if it costs you in the form of higher taxes?
  8. Do you support reasonable gun safety legislation, enacted in an effort to help every baby born, regardless of the child’s ethnicity, location, or income level, stay alive long enough to complete school, even if that means you can’t have every gun you want?

If you answered “yes” to all the questions above, congratulations!  You are truly pro-life.  If you answered “no” to any question, then you are not pro-life.  You are a hypocrite, and you do not deserve the bubbly in your fridge.

Only 7 Years Ago? Seems Like Yesterday

Trump tower escalator. Photo credit by AP Images

It is hard to imagine, but it has been 7 years since a fateful trip down an escalator brought Trumpism into our national vocabulary. Now we will see if this political era was an aberration, or whether there will be an ongoing phenomena of selfish nationalism as a defining political belief. So many things have changed in the intervening years. For one thing, money was nearly free for much of the Trump era as interest rates hovered near zero. This nation and the world suffered from the most extensive viral infection we have seen in a century – though many people still do not think there was any unusual disease around them.

In many ways, the response to COVID provides an answer that Trumpism is not an aberration. If Trumpism is defined as a distrust of all forms governmental, along with a belief that our nation is better off going it alone and forgoing all international alliances, then no, Trumpism is not an aberration. An entire wing of the Republicans has always stood for isolationism, and a propensity toward conspiracy theories. As I grew up, it seemed those beliefs got segregated within self-contained enclaves, like the John Birch Society. We were able to laugh at those who believed in the imminent threat water fluoridation posed. But the Republicans writ large were able to subjugate this tendency since the existential threat of international communism seemed to be the primary motivation for foreign policy.

Once the communist threat imploded, the glue holding the Republican coalition loosened. Combined with downward economic mobility afflicting much of the nation’s interior, we emerged into a world where a significant portion of the population became convinced nothing good would ever come to them if the elites remained in charge. The wisdom of Donald Trump (gad – it hurts to write that phrase) was to reach out, if only in a superficial way, to that segment of the population and toss them a life preserver. That so many reached out for that life preserver, even when it was revealed to be covered with the slime of self-interest, carried Donald Trump to an improbable victory.

Once in office, he tried ineffectually to turn the levers of power to his advantage. Much to his chagrin, he found it was not possible to turn the ship of state, even in a single four-year term. He mistook this resistance to change to an entity he called the deep state. But he was able to establish his mark upon many of the governmental organizations, especially those with a conservative bent. Still, he found it impossible to totally restructure those portions of government with a liberal bias, and thus minimal change occurred in the groups who used science to govern their actions. Fortunately for us, the corruption and incompetence of Donald Trump enabled the deep state to survive a single term.

But if you view Donald Trump as someone who rode the currents to victory in spite of himself, the second generation of Trumpism offers hope to those who believe in the ultimate objectives of Trump. They come with the experience of running large organizations, and have survived the skirmishes politics throw up. Governors of Texas and Florida are well-positioned to ride the waves of anti-government sentiment still crashing on our shores. They are backed by legions of followers who self-segregate into media pools where only their own perspective is allowed. Nowhere was that more evident than in the decision of Fox News to not only ignore the prime time January 6 hearing, but in the secondary decision that organization made to forego any commercial revenue in the hopes of keeping fingers from switching inputs to other channels, where the hearing was playing.

So where we stand is at a precipice. It is still possible to convince a portion of this nation of the evil represented in the Republican position, while at the same time it is possible to evoke emotional support for those same positions in another segment of the population. But that is a key point. Only 20 million people watched the first January 6 hearing, and while those involved in television believed this was a huge crowd (it rivaled the audience for Sunday Night Football!), I myself was underwhelmed by an audience of 6% of the population of this nation who had enough interest to tune in for two hours. You must realize it will be the 94% who didn’t watch this coverage who will determine the outcome.

Those who will decide the course of this nation are not the people invested in politics. The ones who will decide are those who cannot see beyond their current economic conditions and view their vote as the only tool they have to right the wrongs they see in their own lives. You can try to convince them to vote in favor of principles, but high and mighty thoughts will be swallowed by the economic waves battering the shore. Many folks cannot see beyond those waves, and to persuade them of the impending death of democracy should they choose the party of autocrats is hopeless. What we must do is figure out a way to make more noise than the opposition. I am convinced it is necessary to yell, since it seems only cacophony can be heard over the drone of the trumpets. There’s a reason Twitter has such a small character limit to its posts – the national attention span can’t handle longer thoughts.

What this nation needs is not a better COVID vaccine. We need a vaccine against the idiocy and idolatry of Trumpism.

A Nation’s Selective Hearing

AP Photo -John Minchillo

We are at the dawning of the January 6 Committee public hearings. As one who lived through the Watergate hearings, I offer a little perspective. First, the hearings will reveal all of the ways in which our ex-President was complicit in attempting to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, which was a fair election and one he lost significantly in the popular vote. Second, it will lay to rest all of the pseudo claims about “legitimate political discourse” being an explanation for the storming of the Bastille which we saw the Trump supporters attempt.

Third, it will reveal we can believe our eyes, which for the most part were transfixed on the television as we watched the mob battle play out on that afternoon. It was not only as bad as we thought, it was worse. Plans were laid out weeks and even months in advance hoping for some way to circumvent the results of the election.

And fourth, our segregated media habits will result in no change in our contradictory beliefs, where a significant fraction of our population steadfastly refuses to accept the evidence of their eyes and ears. Instead, they will rely upon the soothing words of the Fox pundits as they decry the hearings as an attempt to cast aspersions on the perfect behavior of the last President.

Let me be perfectly clear here. The most recent President was someone who never accepted that he was the guardian of our constitutional system of government. Instead, he viewed the whole process as a way of enriching himself, his family, and his assorted cronies. Those around Trump either benefited financially (see Jared Kushner with his new wealth fund and its $2 billion “investment” from the Saudi’s), or politically, via the opportunity to serve as Senatorial nominees even though their terms in the administration were riddled with corruption and self-dealing. I remember the Cone of Silence that Mel Brooks Scott Pruitt had built to keep his discussions private. Now he nears admission to the Senate from the poor excuse for a state in Oklahoma.

The ex-President lost because many, many people rejected his attempt at instituting a dynastic regency. He did pick up more votes than his 2016 surprise success, but the opposition picked up millions and millions more. It was intended to be a personal repudiation of Donald Trump. Except, of course, he refused to acknowledge his failure. Here is a man (and I use that term advisedly) who managed to fail upwards in all of his endeavors. He mistook family money for self-worth, and he epitomized failure in American business, instead of the immense success his PR toadies insisted he represented.

Nowhere is there a clearer demarcation of the American populace than in the feelings surrounding our last President. Those who believe the gold-plated fantasy of Trump as business kingpin, still insist he performed admirably in office. Those who saw through the charlatan realize how fortunate we have been to emerge from the four years of incompetence and grifting this nation was subjected to.  

Now we still are under the man’s domination, as one of the two electoral parties of this nation cannot shake his influence. What is really scary is the rise of those who evoke Trumpism as their modus operandi, but with more competence. I remember Ron Desantis’s introduction to the nation, as his political advertisement ran showing him teaching his toddler how to build the Mexican wall with blocks. Unfortunately, since his election as Florida governor, he has shown how granting him power has unleashed his inner tyrant, with evil intent oozing out of every executive order he issues. At least with Trump we knew his staff did not understand how to wield the levers of power effectively. With Desantis, that is not the case. He is truly scary and a threat to all who revere the style of government we have inherited.

The worst part of the past administration is the complete lack of shamelessness, and lack of a sense of humor. It is impossible to get any member of the past administration to show shame, or a sense that they are subject to the rules governing all citizens. Witness Peter Navarro’s reaction to his arrest. And these idiots never seem to recognize that a substantial portion of the nation is laughing at them, not laughing with them. How you can come up with so many people who failed at basic humanity is beyond me. But that is the legacy of the prior administration, and we can only hope the upcoming hearings reveal the criminal faults with enough clarity that it at least possible to embolden those in charge of the justice systems, so we may finally see the Donald subject to a foreign concept – accountability.

Exceptional? I Think Not!

Once upon a time, there was a country that was exceptional. It was exceptional in all things, according to its politicians. And thus there could be no discussion of any way in which it did not achieve exceptional status, either in the past or in the present. To do so would be signing your own death warrant as a politician.

At one time, the statement was true. Immense common sacrifice made the contribution of this nation possible in the early 1940’s, allowing it to emerge from the second world war with its production capacity intact, and its people supercharged through education as they returned to this nation after their overseas tours of duty. But in the decades following this common experience, more and more of the people came to expect fealty from other nations as our due, since we were so exceptional once.

So now we find it impossible to demand common sacrifice. Indeed, we abhor the concept of sacrifice, and expect all our desires to be fulfilled in real time with no delays, and at the lowest cost possible. So now, when confronted by nature and the vagaries of the natural world, we expect scientists to have the final answer to the pandemic as soon as it emerges. Once the scientists admit doubt, or change their story based upon new learnings, the scientists become an object of scorn and ridicule. Why listen to them when we have our politicians telling us we don’t need to sacrifice in order to defeat a measly virus.

Of course, all of the supply chains constructed over decades which required continuous operation of each piece integrated with its downstream steps, became disrupted once any piece of the chain failed to deliver its cargo in a timely manner. Thus we found ourselves facing shortages, and increase in prices. But that would imply sacrifice! We cannot have that! We want it, and we want it now. In many ways, we are behaving like our cats who have no concept of patience. Here is the cat haiku:

Feed me, feed me now.

Feed me, feed me, feed me now.

Why are you so slow?

So we blame the current generation of politicians in charge, forgetting how abysmal the previous generation was. Since we now face shortages, heads must roll. Indeed, we must put the previous party back in power, and forget about the disastrous administration of the past. We must be an exceptional people, since we retain no memory of the past.

And now it is a necessity to prevent the youth of today from having any chance to learn about mistakes of the past. No, the only need is to call up the mythology of John Wayne to learn about the settling of the west. And of course, since we elected our first non-Caucasian president, we no longer have to deal with the sins of racism. All that is past. Never mind that the political and economic structures of this nation still reflect the infection of racism coursing through our bloodstreams.

Of course, we smile as we witness the fulfillment of our desires coming to pass. All concepts of sexual equality go by the wayside as we ponder a future without any opportunity for abortion. And we smile as we see the logical completion of the effort to liberate guns as yet another young man finds his fulfillment in using his newly acquired weapons of war to take the lives of so many innocent children.

Exceptional! We cling to our exceptional status even though the world has passed us by in so many ways. We are repelled by someone not of this nation, trying to get one of the members of the US Senate to even admit we might not be exceptional in the light of the most recent school shootings. To think that anyone could conceive of the idea we in this nation are not exceptional causes our politicians to blame it all on liberal bias. Thus we decry the violence while refusing to attack any of the causes, since, you know, no solution proposed would stop all gun violence. We must insist that the pursuit of perfection negates any possibility of incremental improvement, since this would imply someone must sacrifice.

So we wallow in an imagined period of time where we were great. The imagery evoked by this slogan bring us back to the white picket fences of US suburbia, where the women knew their place, all minorities were placid and pleased with their shards of prosperity, and our nation was feared by all evil doers in the world. To imply that the world has moved beyond the shallowness of that dream is to call into question the authority our would-be leaders call upon, as they try once more to rule us all.

Clinging to the shattered remnants of the ship of prosperity, we refuse the idea of life preservers. Insisting we are more moral since we tie health care to a certain class of employment, instead of acknowledging basic health care is a human right. Reliant upon yet another poorly decided lawsuit (Heller), we refuse to adopt any legislation placing limits on weapon procurement, since someone would need to sacrifice by having their rights infringed. Allowing our primary entitlement programs to run out of money, since any solution will result in some sort of sacrifice. All of this in the name of retaining our exceptionalism, except that more and more, we can see the holes growing in our sails, threatening our ability to navigate the shoals of the sea of life. But I predict, even when our ship of state is sinking, there will be those who will cry loudly, has anyone sunk in such an exceptional manner?

What It Takes To Get That R

The Scene: Local office of the Republican Party in Useless County, WV

The Players: Secretary of the local party Hugh Jim Becile; Applicant Seeking Office E. Ger Beaver

Secretary: So you’d like to run under our party label, right? Which position are you seeking?

Applicant: I want to run to be the dogcatcher for Big Ugly West Virginia.

Secretary: Is that so? Well, there are a few questions I have for you before we can allow you to share our label. You ready to hear them?

Applicant: Sure. I’m willing to do anything within reason.

Secretary: Ok. First, are you now or have you ever been associated with the Communist Party.

Applicant:  Of course not. Boy, I hope the rest of the questions are as easy.

Secretary: Do you believe that the Presidential Election was stolen in 2020? Do you pledge fealty to Donald Trump’s position?

Applicant: Uhm, I’m not sure. Didn’t Trump win this state by about 40%?

Secretary: We’re not going to get very far if you reject the core principles of the Republican Party. Let me ask you again, do you believe the Presidential election of 2020 was stolen?

Applicant: Sure, I guess so. If you say so, it must have been.

Secretary: Good. We can proceed with the rest of the questions. Do you think the inflation we are currently seeing is solely the responsibility of Joe Biden?

Applicant: Yeah, I can see that. Put me down as yes.

Secretary: Correct answer. Now, do you agree that LGBT is bad, and anyone who supports any aspect of LGBT is just another groomer preparing our precious children to violate their covenant with God by choosing to become homosexual?

Applicant: Now wait a minute. I’ve got a nephew who you could tell way back when he was 4 he was going to want to be a girl. Do you mean I have to denounce him or her to get your approval?

Secretary: Yes, that is exactly what I mean. Someone must have put that idea in that little boy’s head and turned him away from God way back then.

Applicant: Boy, I don’t know about that. Seems to me he was always that way. But if I have to in order to get approval, then yes, I agree.

Secretary: I’m not so sure I like your attitude. We’ve got a lot of folks who don’t hesitate at all in order to get our sign-off. Let’s see if you can show me how much you really believe in Republican principles now.

Applicant: Ok, go ahead and ask the rest of your questions.

Secretary: Do you agree that the media is attacking God-fearing Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and Madison Cawthorn, and because of that bias, they should be banned from covering any Republican events?

Applicant: I’m not sure I even know all of those folks. Are they Republicans?

Secretary: I’m losing patience with you. Of course they are Republicans, they are the up and coming stars of the Republicans in the years to come. You can’t bear our flag if you don’t recognize our leaders.

Applicant:  Oh, yeah, sure. I’ve heard of them. Yeah, those media folks are real meddlers. Keep ‘em out.

Secretary: Almost done. Do you believe that Donald Trump was divinely selected to be our leader, and anything he has done in the past doesn’t matter, because he only has our best interests at heart?

Applicant: Well, he doesn’t fit in with some of the folks I learned about in church. Seems to me he has a lot to be forgiven for. But yeah, I do agree with you.

Secretary: Great. It gives me great pleasure to give you the endorsement of our Republican party to run for, uh, which office was it again?

Applicant:  Dogcatcher of Big Ugly.

Secretary:  Yes, our endorsement for this office. You can have it as soon as you write us a check for $2500 so we know you are serious.

Applicant:  I ain’t got any money. I wanted to be elected dogcatcher so I could get a pay check.

Secretary: So let me understand, you refuse to donate to the Republican party? I’m sorry, this discussion is over. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Applicant: I wonder if there still is a Democrat party in this county so I can get on a ballot. I need a job.

Forget-Me-Not

I really feel sorry for the memory impaired. Especially those of the Republican ilk who are having such a hard time remembering the way DJT sucked up to Putin during his campaign and presidency. This includes DJT himself, since he is confident that no one was harder on Russia than he was. Somehow the painful memories of the aftermath of the Helsinki conference, where DJT couldn’t think of any reason why Russia would have interfered with our election process, have disappeared totally from the frontal lobes of this ex-President.

But he’s not the only one suffering from near total amnesia. Let’s tale the examples of our local legislative representatives in West Virginia, who are bound and determined to continue to relive the mistakes of the past by cutting taxes on the wealthy while piling on costs to those who live on the margins. Can you imagine the cheek of those people who have lost their jobs, being upset because the 26 weeks of unemployment they used to rely upon now becomes 12-weeks maximum unless the state is suffering high unemployment? Fortunately, this bill was moved to the inactive status on the penultimate day of the legislative session. But the priorities of our legislative Republican supermajority was made clear, we have too many people who want to mooch off of the state, and I have no doubt this bill will resurface in upcoming special sessions, or no later than next year’s session. How these Republicans have forgotten the trauma our state and nation suffered at the beginning of the pandemic, when a switch was turned off and employment took an immediate nose dive.

Our legislators at the Congressional level also seem to suffer from acute amnesia. Maybe this is really a contagious disease, with carriers like Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Madison Cawthorn being vectors of forgetfulness. Of these, Jim Jordan is the most practiced, since he has forgotten everything that happened when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1987 to 1995. He would have been shocked, shocked to learn of inappropriate behavior taking place under his watch. Since he’s had so long to practice his lying, it was a bit disconcerting to see his recent performance when he couldn’t recall having called DJT, or when he called him, or anything about his phone logs of 1/6/2021. His stuttering and obvious discomfort at having to answer the questions were unworthy of someone who has practiced the art of prevarication for such a long time.

Ah, but we’re forgetting the large group of Republicans who have forgotten their purpose upon being elected to Congress. I had always thought it was necessary to make a good-faith effort to propose legislative solutions to problems of the nation. Foolish me. I didn’t realize the real purpose of being elected to Congress was to completely gum up the works if our tribe does not hold a majority. That way we can depend upon a unified party in Congress to work seamlessly towards a common goal, like the Republicans did when they replaced the Affordable Care Act with their own much improved version of health care. What? You mean they were ready to throw out the Affordable Care Act without having legislation lined up to replace it? And they were stymied by the actions of a single Senator who had his Roman emperor moment by extending his thumb down disapproval?

Right now, the Democrats are no different than the Republicans, in that they have allowed the actions of two Senators to hold up a legislative agenda. At least the Democrats have an agenda, instead of the Republicans who failed to put forth a platform in the 2020 election. It’s “whatever he’ll have, that’s what I want.” He, of course, being DJT. The subjugation of an entire party to the whims of an individual who has never known the common good stands as one of the most abysmal failures in governance since the inception of this nation.

So we are left to suffer. Nay, not suffer in silence, since we still have the freedom to speak out about our beliefs and feelings in this nation. At least we are not like Russia, where standing in a public place with a blank piece of poster board can get you trundled into the 21st century Russian version of a paddy wagon, likely your first stop on the way to a gulag. We can and should celebrate the rights we still have, before the wanna be autocrats decide to remove the uncomfortable nature of dissent from our nation’s shores.

Stale? No I Won’t Believe the Act Is Stale!

Still the unwashed hordes celebrate the words of their master. Those who are absolutely convinced shenanigans were used to make it appear their savior had lost the election, when it was clear in their minds it was impossible for him to lose. After all, if all you hear day after day is an insistent drum beat about cheating, sooner or later you become convinced there was cheating. So as of today, he still can announce a campaign style event, pass out some t-shirts with pithy yet stupid slogans (Blacks for Trump), convince some of the few members of minority groups to don this new apparel, and direct them to sit in a photogenic position where they provide a totally unrealistic vision of the true diversity of the crowd, then he can recite the greatest hits of his displeasure (the election was STOLEN), and maybe intersperse some new statement like he’d pardon the January 6 Patriots, and his crowd will go home satisfied.

Yet now and then, around the fringes of the crowds, some are beginning to peel off. Maybe the human cost of standing around for hours, when the age of the average attendee is nearing 60, is testing the devotion of the true believers. We will see whether later in the year if he can keep drawing these overflow crowds, where those who are willing to drive for hours just to set up and camp somewhere so they too can see their savior. Will there be enough of them to keep coming and feed the large man’s swollen ego?

Perhaps some of those he has anointed in primary races end up losing, and the stain of their losses starts to stick to their endorser. Perhaps it is when the parade of prosecutions results in indictments against the man, his family, and his company. Although the veiled threat to his true believers to march against anyone who would dare to accuse him of illegalities stays above his prosecutor’s heads like a sword of Damocles.

There will always be a core of believers who are willing to overlook any physical evidence as being tainted, brought about by biased individuals who don’t drink the cult water. They are numerous enough to cause disruptions in multiple cities when the indictments are announced. And I do believe the indictments are coming. You can only do so many illegal things in plain view before the remnants of uncorrupted justice systems react. For four long years, he had immunity from prosecution, since the Justice Department believed it improper to charge a sitting President. That immunity has long gone, and the last shreds of it will vanish in the wind when final rulings are made about the lack of Presidential immunity in his conversations around January 6. I have a vision of the man dissolving into shards like Voldemort did at the end of the Harry Potter series.

Then, finally, we can deal with the fallout from this period of incivility caused by the lout. There is no doubt about the causative correlation between the era of hostility brought about by his words, and the actions of mobs at school board meetings across the country where the parents who do not want their children to feel discomfort are more than willing to threaten the lives of anyone who disagrees with them. We can appropriately deal with the human vermin who self-identify as Nazis and taunt society perched overhead on an overpass. We can actually deal with the humanity wishing to enter our country, and come up with an immigration system that works.

But until we get the human blob to exit the stage, we cannot deal with the problems he either created, exacerbated, or ignored. So however we need to proceed to let him know his act has gone stale, we must act and make that happen. Of course, he will never believe his act is stale just like he cannot accept that 80+ million voters repudiated him in the election. So unfortunately, he must forcibly be removed from the stage (unless we can figure out a way to cause him enough embarrassment so he voluntarily leaves). Once and for all, we need to figure out how to make the label of loser to stick to him, and by extension, to all who still stand by him. I’m not optimistic it will be possible to humiliate the man, and as long as his echo chamber only recites the greatest hits, many of his followers will remain willfully ignorant of his flaws.

You hear talk about an upcoming civil war enveloping the US. It is difficult to believe this could happen, but when one group of people believe anything they see on the air or on their Facebook feed, and willingly ignore all evidence to the contrary, you find the difficulty is in reasoning with those whose minds are closed. So the only hope I see is that people will come to their senses in ones and twos, unable to swallow the falsehoods and fantasies peddled by Fox, and Newsmax, and Q. The false beliefs must begin to lose traction, else we may indeed find ourselves with a simmering insurgency. Think about the violence at the end of the Vietnam war, only an order of magnitude worse. That to me is the danger we are seeing with the ongoing schism between those who see the world as it is, and those whose eyes have Trumpian scales tainting all they perceive.

Looking Back One Year

First floor plan for the US Capital as of 1997

It was the Sunday immediately before the inauguration in 2017. A fellow church choir member totally misread my leanings and said, “I’m sure glad we’re about to have an alpha male as President.” I don’t remember the exact words I said, but I left no doubt that I believed we were about to undergo rule by an Epsilon man, someone who was as far from alpha as it was possible to get.

Shortly after the inauguration, this choir member left our church. It may have been related to a dispute about him playing his bagpipes for a service intended to honor Ireland, but no doubt his disillusionment at finding himself in an ideological isolation ward was a piece of his motivation for leaving.

How did this nation get into the situation where so many were bamboozled into believing the bully in the White House represented the apex in evolution? Why is it that serial business failure and serial philandering were converted to symbols of strength and resolution? I guess PR is capable of overcoming just about any fault if the opposite is proclaimed often and loudly. At least there were enough credulous people to blindly support anyone who promises to bring back things the way they were, and they managed to overcome the will of the majority and install their favorite.

What is worrying is those who were on the short end of the stick in 2020 are feverishly working to prevent the “wrong” election results in the future. Wrong is defined as any election won by the liberal faction of the electorate. Supposedly the followers of Donald Trump are insistent upon attempting to reverse the course of history in order to bring us back into an age where women and minorities knew their places, and only right-thinking, alpha males glom onto the levers of power and wrench society back into its former trajectory.

So now any attempt at teaching facts about race and how it has affected the history of the US is viewed as brainwashing of innocent children in public schools. Never mind that most of the white population in the South withdrew their precious children from public schools back in the 1970’s when a challenge to white supremacy was made by integration and busing. Most of the children who were educated in religiously affiliated southern schools never gave up their view of their own superiority because they never had to face diversity. They now insist their children could not ever learn any facts about their country that were not passed through the John Wayne filter, lest it give their children distress.

One of the great benefits of living in the United States is the inclusion we offer. That inclusion is often far too gradual for the benefit of the original immigrants, yet it is true that the work ethics of immigrants often greatly exceeds that of native Americans of the correct race. Why is it so many restaurants are founded and staffed by immigrants? Small businesses form the springboard into the middle and upper classes, a path still largely unavailable to those in countries who provide these immigrants. We’ve had a little bit of exposure to a country where the flow of immigrants is suddenly cut off. The staffing shortages at many service industries is a taste of what life would be like without new residents filling the jobs deemed below the dignity of “true Americans”.

Supposedly this country gave away our manufacturing jobs in the previous decades. The anger of those who believe they are owed a living at a now rusted-out hulk of a factory is palpable, and helps to fuel the grievances of Trump nation. Nowhere is it acknowledged that the decline of international conflict allowed for money flows across borders, and it was the necessity of showing a profit which drove manufacturers to abandon the high wage and high regulations of this nation in favor of less restrictive and less expensive locations. If those who bemoan the current economic environment really wanted to improve their lot, they would mount an attack against those in the system who benefit from high return on investment. But instead, they have been coopted into believing an attack on the wealthy represents an attack on them, and thus they universally believe higher taxes equals communism.

It is the need to wave the cultural flag that drove the mindless hordes who attacked the Capital on January 6 of last year. So many of those hordes have now adopted an attitude of “we did nothing wrong. We were invited into the building.” The media facilitators go along with this farce, leading to a self-reinforcing do-loop of inane insanity. So when the House committee goes public with their hearings and report, it will make not a whit of difference to those who are fully invested in the fake universe they live in. No minds will be changed. No momentum will be gained by those who still view reality as something we have to adjust to. Well, now the reality we live in includes a minority who refuse to accept facts, and have proven a propensity to violence aimed at imposing their will onto those who disagree with them.

Will those of us who see the events of January 6, 2021 as symptomatic of a grave infection in the body politic of the US, be able to hold off the crazed minority aimed at domination of the US? Only if we are willing to share our perspectives across the political spectrum, so that those in the minority really do believe they are on the losing end of the arc of history.

I’m Agin It!

High tide pushed about a foot of water inland where Lockwood Drive and Broad Street converge on Monday, Sep. 21, 2020. Matthew Fortner/Staff Journal & Courier

With due respect to Time Magazine’s person of the year, they should have made the person of the year a composite image of an ‘aginer’. Someone who is against anything and everything that hints of progressivism. Vaccines that use science to prevent or moderate infections from COVID? Agin it. An extension of the child tax credit? One person may use that to buy drugs, so I’m agin it. Coming up with a way to provide incentives to use renewable energy? When God gave us all of these fossil fuels to mess up our nest? I’m agin it. Fossil fuels were good enough for my parents, they will always be there to fuel our needs.

In a way, the reason so much was packaged into a single bill was due to the intransigence of the “Aginner” party. After 10 years of total opposition to any legislation proposed by Democrats from Republicans, the Democrats recognized they had a brief window of opportunity to enact their priorities. Thus, all of the desires bottled up were packaged into a single bill, and this unwieldy device tottered through the legislative process.

But for some unexplained reason, legislators still seem beholden to Grover Norquist. Instead of admitting the faults with the trickle down philosophy governing our tax system, we seem to forget the days of balanced federal budgets coinciding with tax increases in the late ‘90’s. I still remember the wringing of hands on CNBC when they were worried about the impending dearth of treasury bills for those who needed an ever-increasing stream of debt instruments.  Of course, those tax increases were swiftly reversed during the reign of W. And thus we’ve had a string of deficits extending from the early years of this millennium to as far ahead as the eye can see. It is amazing the resistance to raising taxes which exists in our ruling class.

So we in this country value capital over labor. That is why the preference for capital is so entrenched in our tax code. I might actually be in favor of a flat tax, if it treated income from capital the same as income from labor. And if the rate were set so that it did balance our expenditures, and we were forced to change the rate annually to account for differences in spending rates. Like that will ever happen!

Meanwhile, we just keep on keeping on, leaving future catastrophes to overwhelm us in their time. Social Security being imbalanced? Well, as long as we have those fictitious bonds in the federal lockbox to balance the spending, we can continue to inflate the money supply to send money to seniors. (Full disclosure – I receive a Social Security benefit at the upper end of the benefit distribution). Climate change costing us more and more? Just let insurance cover the effects, don’t worry about the cause. All of those people living in poor countries on the margins of the seas? They never have mattered, so why worry about them now.

Ah, but those poor rich people in Miami Beach. Time to worry about blue sky flooding, where inexorable sea level rise is reflected in salt water intrusion under the expensive beach front properties. Even Governor DeathSantis is worried about flooding in Florida, enough to propose hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen the state’s infrastructure. But none of this liberal ideology sticking its camel’s nose under the state’s tent. No, this will be good ole concrete and drainage systems that will stop the sea’s rise in its tracks.

Miami. Charleston, South Carolina. Virginia Beach / Norfolk Virginia. The locations where clear sky flooding are the harbingers of sea rise to come in this country. Still, it is apparent that Republicans will continue to thumb their nose at the true causes of sea level rise, and instead choose to spend billions and billions of dollars to fight a vain and ultimately losing battle against the inexorable enemy of the sea. Meanwhile, an attempt is being made to make the national flood insurance program reflect the costs it incurs in dealing with not only tropical storm flooding, but increased floods upstream from unprecedented storms like my state of West Virginia suffer. The areas that flooded in West Virginia 2016 and Tennessee in 2021 were not highly flood prone areas, but when you are dealing with available moisture, a few degrees of dew point rise can unleash feet of rain in single storm events. So what will happen when the flood insurance premiums rise? The howls unleashed will cause legislators to force the federal agencies to rescind the increases, and one more cost will be amortized across the entire population of the nation.

It is very likely that control of the US Congress will revert back to the Republicans after the 2022 elections. What we’ve seen to try to counter that reversion is a flurry of legislation to attempt to alter the trajectory of this country, since the Reagan administration set the people against the Federal Government. As long as one side of the political spectrum only sees evil and laziness in the lower income brackets, we will continue to have policies that favor the fortunate few instead of policies aimed at improving the lot of the many who find themselves at the lower end of the income distribution. We seem destined to continue our trip into plutocracy, where those who are the true beneficiaries of government policies, convince the masses that cultural issues are all that matters, and it is the Godless liberals who are the true enemies. One wonders how long this misrepresentation of Biblical principles will continue. But in the famous words of H. L. Mencken, “No one in this world, so far as I know – and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me – has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people”.

Even one hundred years ago, the foresight of this sage stands out as describing our current situation perfectly. One may ask, who is the Mencken of today? And would anyone listen to that person and heed their words?