You Will Be Haunted, By Three Spirits

jacob marley

Donald lay in bed, waiting for the gastric discomfort caused by the double cheeseburger and fries to settle down a bit. He had his comforter in his hand, and was just about to send out a tweet denouncing all NFL players who ever spoke out about any social issue ever, when his comforter buzzed. On the screen popped up an image of Richard Nixon, and his words were spelled out in the form of a text.

“Donald, I have come to warn you of the path you are on.”

“Donald, if you do not change, you will wear the chains of disgrace that I bear.” With this text, the image on the comforter drew back to show the entire body of Richard Nixon, shrouded in chains binding his arms and legs.

“Donald, I am sending you three messengers, to show you how you have come to this point in life, and to offer you a chance to repent. If you ignore these, your fate is sealed.” And with this last text, the image of Richard Nixon faded from the screen and only the unsent tweet remained.

“That was strange,” thought Donald. He looked up and Hannity was still on the television. Nothing around him seemed to show that he had just had a virtual visitor on his comforter. He put it down and reached for the television remote control. Better to try to sleep than to have to think about what had just happened.

Sleep was hard to come by, but eventually his mind calmed, and he was able to doze off. That is, until about midnight when his comforter suddenly began buzzing uncontrollably. Donald shuddered, then groggily reached over to the nightstand to pick it up. When he did, the visage of his old mentor, Roy Cohn, appeared on the screen. Donald sat up and looked dumbfounded at the screen, and as he looked, Roy began to speak. He was clad in his trademark robe, seated in his old apartment, and he said “Donald. Remember those days we spent together in the ’70’s? What is it that I taught you then?”

Donald replied to the image. “You taught me to never settle, never surrender. To counter-attack and counter-sue immediately. And no matter what happens, claim victory and never admit defeat. I’ve tried to follow your advice. Look where it’s got me!”

Roy’s cadaverous face nodded in agreement. The image was of Roy just before he died of AIDS, and he was hollowing out what was already a slender body. “Let me show you what you missed while we were together.” Roy’s face dissolved, and a pier on the waterfront appeared. A huge car was parked on the pier, and two men were approaching the trunk, which they opened. They hauled out a bundle shaped like a human, totally concealed by cloth wrapped tightly around it. They took chains and wrapped them around the bundle, securing the chains with a padlock. Then they lifted the bundle up and tossed it into the dark water. After the loud splash, the bundle sank beneath the surface without hesitation. The scene dissolved again, and Roy’s face appeared once more. “You see what happened there? I got Fat Tony off on that charge. We used my technique and it worked. It’ll work for you too. Keep that in mind. These times are tough and you need to be strong.” And Roy’s face disappeared from the screen, and the comforter went silent.

Donald turned the light on, then pulled up twitter. He wiped out the post he had intended to send about the NFL, and instead wrote yet another condemnation of his attorney general. He ended it with “Where’s my Roy Cohn!” and sent. Many would wonder about the tweet sent at 12:45 in the morning.

Donald turned the light back off, and tried to resume his sleep. He was just entering REM sleep when …. his comforter began buzzing uncontrollably again. He picked it up, and this time he was face to face with one of his nemesis MSNBC commentators, Rachel Maddow. She spoke not a word, but pointed with her long fingers at a monitor to her side, and his attention was drawn to it. He recognized the Oval Office, and saw himself seated at the desk, with papers cluttering the surface. He got up, and left the office for a state function, the meeting with the Emir of Losewhatchakan. Not five minutes after he left, he saw a hooded figure enter the room, and that figure crept over to the desk and pilfered two pieces of paper. Looking around to see if he had been observed, he crept cautiously away. When Donald saw himself returning to the office, he never noticed that the papers were missing. Rachel’s face reappeared as the scene dissolved, only this time he heard her say in that annoying way she had, “And to think that all of your staff is laughing at you behind your back. Never has a President been treated with so little respect that his own staff would sabotage him – and never has there been a President who would not notice that he was being thwarted. Now, watch this.”

She indicated the monitor beside her. On the screen appeared an image of an immigrant detention center. The chain link partitions indicated this was a serious place. He saw his agents approach one woman who was surrounded by three children. The agents took possession of the children, actually pulling one from the mother’s arms. Though there was no sound, the anguish of the mother and the children were apparent as unheard wails could be seen coming from each of the family members. The mother was escorted away to yet another place of confinement as her children disappeared down a corridor. The scene dissolved again, and Rachel pointed up once more with her long, long fingers. Longer than Donald’s, that’s for sure. Rachel said, “Your program was more successful than you could have imagined. But there were people who didn’t like what they saw in this scene. They actually thought this was cruel to separate the family in this way. But you know better, don’t you?”

Donald was confused. He could not force a coherent word out of his mouth, but did manage to shake his head in assent. His mop of comb-over flopped back and forth, deprived as it were of its binding chemicals.

Rachel had one more thing to say. “If you don’t crack down harder on those who disagree with you, your reign is in peril. Remember what Roy said,” and then her visage faded away.

Unable to truly focus, the only thing he could think of tweeting was “The FAILING NBC network keeps showing FAKE NEWS.” The tweet appeared at 2:30 on the time stream. Soon Donald was back snoring peacefully amidst the soft pillows.

But there was one more interruption on this endless night. His comforter began buzzing louder than ever, and he again reached over to grab it. When he did, what appeared was a stylish blonde covered totally in white fabric. Her body appeared to be similar to his daughter’s, but he could not tell because only her eyes and a wisp of hair protruded from the eye slot that showed flesh. She spoke not a word, but held her finger up to where her mouth would have been, and extended her other arm in an open invitation to follow. Donald did watch as the scene changed to that of a crowd of white-clad people marching along a street. Slowly the camera panned back to reveal that the crowd of people extended as far as the eye could see, an endless mass of pilgrims walking, walking, walking. The crowd was even bigger than at his inaugural. Who were these people? Then the camera pulled back further, and he realized there were tall spires around the crowd, and that all of these people were MUSLIMS! So! Many! MUSLIMS! If he didn’t act soon, they would be all over our country, flooding our streets, turning our daughters into abaya-clad disciples of Allah! Something must be done! But as he felt resolve entering his limbs, the scene dissolved into yet another scene. Now he could see a camp of some sort, with thousands and thousands of tents, and even more people milling about, aimless, idle. He recognized that this was some sort of refugee camp, the people looked like they were Asian, and there were just so many of them. He could see them storming our border as an unending horde. He must do something to prevent these hordes from overrunning our civilization. Then the scene changed once more, and he saw a dreadful looking ship, in danger of foundering on the ocean, crammed to the brim with dark-skinned people. He saw the ship list, and saw people fall or jump off into the ocean without any survival gear, hundreds and hundreds of people. He knew then that this was a vision of the future, that all of these people were intent on invading our shores. He tried to stir himself, but found his muscles frozen.

He awoke from this last vision at his normal hour. He was determined to share his lessons from the visits of the evening. He would be ruthless in his pursuit of those who denigrate him. He would be unceasing in the efforts to keep the nation pure by banning all immigrants other than those who had enough money to buy citizenship. He would keep the faith of Roy by striking out through the legal system at all who had wronged him. He turned to his comforter to begin to share his lessons of the night with his many followers.

 

What? You believed that the visits of the spirits to Donald would result in a transformation? That he would grow a conscience and his heart would grow three sizes? That he would show charity towards all, and malice towards none? You don’t know him very well, do you?

 

Sustaining the Swamp

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I was sitting on a bench next to the Tidal Basin when bubbles erupted in the water before me. Slowly, my old friend Slimey, the slime monster emerged from the water, dripping from the moss and algae clinging to his arms and scaly torso. I noticed he seemed a little heavier than when I saw him last fall. He nodded to me and motioned at the other end of the bench I was sitting on. I motioned my arm to say, “Come on.”

He waddled over and plopped down on the bench. I could feel the balance shift slightly as his mass pushed down on the far end of the bench. I said, “You look like you are doing well lately.”

He looked at me and in his sibilant hiss, he said “You don’t know how good things are going for me in the DC swamp. All my fears about them draining my environment – they’ve vanished. I’ve never had it so good.” He paused to brush a strand of algae from his left eye, then continued. “I mean, Pruitt is everything we could wish for. He’s let loose a huge slug of rulings that are helping to feed me and my family. Thanks to him, all of the sludge from mountaintop removal is still flowing downhill to the Potomac, and let me tell you, that selenium is mighty tasty. But it’s not all Pruitt and EPA.” He paused.

I asked something that has been bothering me. “Do you get anything from the changes on the finance side? I know for us humans, the swamp is more than just what’s in the water.”

Slimey tossed his snout up in the air, seeming to laugh. I’d never seen his kind laugh, but the snortle was unmistakable. “Oh, my yes. I never wanted to admit this before, but when all of these tax changes support trickle-down, quite often the trickle-down misses all of the humans without money, but the trickle is a torrent by the time we get it. I mean, once that Dom Perignon is filtered through the kidneys, it gives a kind of rush to us when we taste it. And I’ve got to say, there’s been one heck of a lot more of it in this area since December. Live the good life, that’s what I say.”

I pondered on his statement for a while. “So for you, it all comes down to what’s going on with the water.”

Slimey shook away a dragonfly that was flitting around his head. “You might say that we notice things here in the water a bit more intensely. That’s why I’m so happy about getting rid of all those horrible programs aimed at slowing global warming. You don’t know how uncomfortable this place can get in January. I remember those times when ice would cover most of the water, made it damn hard to find a place to grab a breath. But now, we’re not shivering as much in the winter, and in the summer, it’s like we’re in a hot tub. I’m getting older now, and it feels so much better when I lay back and soak.”

I found I had another question that had bothered me since our first meeting last fall. “How is it that I’ve never heard of any other sightings of you, except for me, and now twice?”

Slimey dragged his long tail back and forth in the water, not ready to answer. Then, he admitted “Not everyone can see us. The way everything is polarized now, folks only see what they want to see. What they’ve been conditioned to look for. Now, look at me.” He pointed to himself with one immense claw. “What is it that you see?”

I weighed my words carefully. Though he had not given me any cause for alarm during our two encounters, he still was a massive reptilian figure with claws capable of instant evisceration and teeth capable of instant decapitation. I did not want to draw his ire, as I sensed I could not outrun him either. I finally said, “I see … someone we’d have had as a movie star in the 1950’s.” Slimey actually looked like he was honored by that, though it was hard to discern the exact expression on his face.

“You know,” I said to him. “You know, I think you might have a future in this administration. I think if you liked, I could float your name to him as an undersecretary of the Interior for wildlife management. What would you think of that?”

Slimey smacked his lips as he thought of the possibilities the position would provide. Unlimited snacks! But then he slowly shook his head back and forth, and he said “Thanks, but no. I don’t know if I could stand the cold-blooded nature of the folks I’d have to work with. You see, we never learned how to lie out here in nature. It seems like that’s a job requirement for anyone in this administration. No, I’m better off on the outside.”

Our conversation dwindled away. Finally Slimey got up, waved to me and started to slide down into the waters of the Tidal Basin. Just before his head was ready to go underwater, he turned back to me and asked. “What happens if he loses the House in the mid-terms?”

I thought for a brief moment before replying. I said “I don’t think it’ll make a bit of difference for those in the swamp. I think their fate is safe.”

He nodded his head, then slid under the murky water once more.

 

A Day In The Life Of The King

game-of-thrones-1722710__340 For those who are fans of the Game of Thrones, my condolences on presenting this work. You will need to be familiar with that series to capture the flavor of this post.

The King sat up in bed. Once more, he could see the opponents to his rule taken down by his favorite soothsayers from Weasel. They just demolished the arguments of his opponents in the court by simply saying that his opponents were namby-pamby wusses! Serves them right.

The King decided that he’d had enough time in his royal bed and went instead to his throne room. There he brought out his royal proclamation device and sent his wisdom out to his masses of adoring fans. He thought for a brief moment, “What should I say today?” Then he bent over on his throne as he strained to remove yesterday’s cheeseburgers, and it became clear to him. He proclaimed, “Best movement ever. Economy is reely going now. Only the lame-o’s who are haters can’t see it. SAD!” He dispatched this brilliant thought bubble out to the world, and prepared for his very active day of kinging.

The Queen was off again in the winter castle. She seemed to be staying down there, where the oranges were fresh, more often than not. Maybe it was all of the other noble ladies who kept harping on the King’s indiscretions that were driving the Queen away. Whatever. It did make the King’s daily life easier if he did not need to pretend to care about Queen number 3. The King idly thought about someone who preceded him as a King. Something about six wives. “At least they can’t accuse me of locking her up”, he thought as he saw the photo of the current Queen on the wall.

The King sat down to his breakfast. He was careful to make certain he got fruit with his meal. The apple Danish should suffice, he thought. Washing the pastry down with his first diet Coke of the day, he got dressed in his royal robes. He paid especial attention to his cravat, as it bore his blood red color. Making certain it extended down below his waist, he ensured it created a commanding presence. His servant held out his royal jacket, which he slid his arms through the sleeves, letting it rest loosely upon his fantastic frame. Thus armed, he strode down towards his round room, arriving just after 10.

Scarcely had he sat down when he was consumed by a desire to use the electronic raven. He picked up the voice piece and instructed his servant to contact his counterpart in the Kingdom of the Snows. When the connection was made, he spoke into the voice piece. “Vlad? I just had to let you know, it was not personal when I threw out your jousting party.” He listened for a brief period of time. “Yes, I know they had been looking forward to our tournament later this year.” Vlad apparently was making quite a point in reply, and the King pulled the voice piece away from his ear and his face assumed a grimace, before he returned the voice piece towards his mouth and ear. “I know, Vlad. You know how it is when you have to appease the court, right? If it was up to me, I’d start lopping off some heads, but my advisors have told me some bad things might happen if I did that.” Once more, he waited while Vlad continued with his side of the  discussion. Finally, the King said “I’m glad you understand. You and I, we understand each other. That’s good. I wish I could convince my advisors that it would be better if we just got along”. He hung up the phone, then sat back in his throne chair, leaning back and flexing his fingers against each other while he assumed a pleased expression.

After a brief period of reflection, he flicked on the sound box to summon his assistant. “Send in my jester.” It took a while for the jester to appear, so the King used the time wisely to practice his ball stroke, trying to coax the white ball into the hole on his green carpet he had placed atop the tapestry of power that lay on the floor of the rounded room. He heard his assistant open the door, and say “Sire, Jeff the Jester is here.”

“Good, send him in.” The King laid down his stick and went back to this throne chair behind the desk. Jeff the Jester came in, dressed not in motley but in a subtle blue suit. Only his projecting ears and small stature evinced his true nature as a member of the King’s assemblage. “Jeff, share with me something that will give me mirth,” the King commanded.

Jeff smiled as he cantered up to the desk. “Sire, we just stuck it to California. We told that libtard mayor of Oakland she was an embarrassment to the nation as she warned the alien wildings of the upcoming raids.” Jeff did a quick twirl of joy, then followed with “But what was best, I fired McCabe. I fired McCabe just two days before he was set to become a mooch off of the taxpayers by qualifying for a pension. Sire, I just wish I was around to see his face when he realized that his plans for a comfy life were in vain. I just wish.”

The King broke out into a broad rictus smile. “Jeff, I knew there was a reason why I kept you around. You really made me smile.” The King summoned his assistant. “Fetch me another diet Coke, and bring one for our Jester as well.” The King turned to Jeff. “So what will you be working on next?”

Jeff picked up the balls that were in the cup on the floor and began to attempt to juggle. Since he was an incompetent juggler, they soon were scattered all over the room. He looked back at the King. “I’m trying to come up with a way to silence the imp,” he said.

Just at the mention of the imp, the King’s expression totally changed. “Out. Out I say,” and he stood up, pointing at the door. “If you hadn’t said you had no power over the investigation, we never would have had that imp appointed. I should take you out and flay you.”

Jeff the Jester cowered as he backed away towards the door. When he reached the door, he bolted through it, knocking over the servant who bore two cans of diet Coke on a silver platter. The brown nectar fell and soaked the carpets. The King’s rage extended to his servant. “Up. Up you clumsy oaf. Go get something and clean up the mess you made.”

The King strode out of the room and went down the hall to consult with his hand. “Jared, where do we stand on getting the Palestinians to agree to peace?”

The King’s hand stood as the King entered his office. The King had begun bellowing his request while he was still in the hallway, so Jared was not certain he had heard the whole question. Through long experience, though, he knew better than to ask for clarification. Asking for more information was a sign of weakness, and would bring the wrath of the King down even on him. So he gave a non-committal response. “The Palestinians are not talking to us now. But I expect things to be better soon.”

“Hmmph” was all the King said, as he strode out of the room and went back to his round room. Once there, he summoned his assistant. “Go get me that guy with the name like a king, deals with diplomats. I need him.”

The assistant quaked while he dared to deny the King’s request. “Sire, you fired Rex a couple of weeks ago. The Senate has not confirmed his replacement. Do you wish to talk to the deputy?”

The King looked up, with a perplexed look on his face. Then, “Oh, that’s right. I forgot. Ok, then, fetch me my hound. And bring me another diet Coke.”

The assistant said, “Do you mean the Mad Dog?”

“Yeah. Have him come here. I’ve a question for him.” Since it would be a while before the Minister of War made it to the office, he decided to watch his mouthpiece speak for him on Weasel. He’d had several mouthpieces since he became King. Seems like none of them could deal with the questioning throng like he wanted. But this woman, she seemed like she was better than most. The King wondered what this woman would look like in armor, since she had a frame that looked suited better to plate than to Dior. But he soon grew bored listening to the questions that kept coming, even though his mouthpiece parried each thrust away.

The Minister of War arrived in the office. He carried a folder full of illustrations should any of them be needed in order to make the King understand. The King was gracious. “Sit, sit down. How’s the wife?”

The Minister spoke, “She’s do…”

“Good, good,” the King interrupted. “Look, the reason why I called you here was that I keep hearing about these dragons that this King of Poverty has developed. I hear tell that these dragons can even reach our shores. Is that true?”

“Sire, we believe that it is possible that a dragon unleashed from their kingdom could reach our shores. They have hatched several dragons over the years.” The Minister opened his folder to show a map with dragon tracks flying across the open waters. “We’ve analyzed the potential, and here we show…..”

The King interrupted again. “I don’t care about any analyses. I use my gut to analyze. We can’t have this King of Poverty threatening us with his dragons. Why can’t we use our own dragons to neutralize him?”

The Minister was taken aback. “Sire, we would not want to unleash our own dragons, even upon our worst foes. Do you know what sort of damage a dragon would cause?”

The King snorted. “Why do we keep on breeding them if we never unleash them. I want a proposal in two days about how best to unleash our dragons on the Land of Poverty.” He waved his hand, indicating that the audience was through. The Minister of War backed out of the room, and turned to go away through the door.

The King sat back in his throne chair, and drummed his fingers atop the desk. He glanced at his watch, saw that it was already after 4 o’clock. “Not much point in getting into anything else” he thought. He summoned his assistant and said, “I’m going back up to the royal chambers for some sovereign time. Have me paged if there is a matter of great import.”

Once up in his royal chamber, he summoned his meal. Two cheeseburgers today, with fries. And two scoops of ice cream for dessert. He donned his royal bathrobe and awaited his sumptuous repast. He turned on Weasel, but they were blabbering on about some weather emergency that didn’t mention him by name, so he grew bored. He switched to another channel which was showing a story about another kingdom, one where they kept out the alien wildings by means of a 700′ wall of ice. He was tempted to use his royal proclamation device to extol the benefits of building the wall out of ice, out there in the desert. Oh, heck, why not. “Build the wall! Use ice to keep the evil alien wildings out! And it’ll create free air conditioning for the border! SMART!” His last royal proclamation went out just as he finished the last of his ice cream.

The King went to sleep fully content. He’d had many strokes of luck that day: He hadn’t been sued by one of his now forgotten flings; he hadn’t needed to face the scribes; he’d had an extra scoop of ice cream at dinner … He’d thought of a new way to build the wall and enjoyed doing it… A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy one. There were one thousand four hundred and sixty-one days like this in his term. From the first swearing in to the last turnover to his successor. One thousand four hundred and sixty-one days. The extra day was for the next leap year.

A Sad Case of Stockholm Syndrome

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The grizzled detective pondered the crime scene laid out before his eyes. He pushed back the brim of his hat, bent down, and reached out to touch the cooling body of one of the victims. He rolled the body over, and it was apparent that the victim had fallen upon his own sword. Same posture as all of the others who spread drying blood into the exquisite carpets of the cabinet room. The detective looked over to his assistant, who held a notebook and pen, awaiting the wisdom about to come from the veteran crime solver.

“It appears to be a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome,” said the detective. “Notice how all of these Cabinet Secretaries, Senators, and Congressmen, all managed to off themselves with what was available to them.” The detective pointed over to one of the victims, who obviously had a difficult time in offing himself. All he had was a letter opener, and it was clear that he had fallen repeatedly upon the less than sharp point until it pierced his heart.

The detective turned away from the scene in front of him in disgust. “We’d best go and take a look at the scene as it played out.” Fortunately for posterity’s sake, all of the meetings in the cabinet room were now televised live. The cameras ran unattended, which kept the lying media from having a presence in the room. The cabinet room’s new nickname was Soundstage 3, befitting the experience of the resident of the house. For the resident understood a good show, and slowly his administration became the highest profile reality TV show ever scripted. You can assume a regal posture if you only have to be on your best while the cameras are rolling.

The scene was cued up for the detective to peruse. At first, nothing was different from many of the previous meetings in this room where both cabinet members, and Republican members of the House and Senate gathered. They each took turns heaping unadulterated mounds of fetid praise upon the personage of the resident of the house. One after another, each speaker offered their undying gratitude towards the resident, the whole session an attempt at one-upmanship, where the trick was to employ the most cloying and excessive adjectives and lay them at the feet of the resident. The resident sat in his chair in the center of the gathering with his arms folded against his expansive torso, and occasionally favored a particularly exceptional offering with a bit of a nod and a slight upward twist of his mouth.

Finally, the last person offered up his praise. As befitted the established tradition, that was the Vice President, who set a new record for the number of times he compared the resident of the house with the greatest humans who had ever set foot upon the planet. He extended his own record for the number of times he declared his undying gratitude at having the opportunity to serve the resident. With that, the resident of the house uncrossed his arms, and began to enunciate the reason for the meeting.

“I was just in a meeting, they were telling me, it was impossible to get to 270, but we did it, a massive things even though there was no collusion, no collusion with the Russians, though the Democrats did have collusion, they got that dossier, they used it to spy on me, no way that we had collusion with the Russians, but those Democrats, they took Hillary’s e-mails and sent them to the server which they bleached. I mean, can you believe they poured bleach all over the server?” As he spoke, he picked up several ball bearings that were arranged in front of the resident, and began to turn them over and over in his hands.

He began to speak with more urgency. “Now, the Democrats want us to open our borders, want us to stop spending money for defense, they want us to surrender. SURRENDER!” He slammed his hand down on the table and the ball bearings scattered all over the table. Several people hurriedly chased after the rolling bearings, and gathered them and placed them back in front of the resident.”And there’s good people on both side, both sides, nothing wrong with being in favor of your race, those blacks have their own organizations.” He looked up and down the table, watching the exaggerated nodding of the heads of the meeting participants. He really had them in the palm of his hand. He looked down where his hand had found the ball bearings and was twisting them around, again and again.

“We don’t need those rapists, those criminals they are sending from their shitholes. No way they’ll ever want to go back to their mud huts, we need more Norwegians here. And we can make it happen. Now my people have told me of something that happened a long time ago – long ago. They wanted the people sent back over to Africa, to Liberia. That’s what we can do, get all of them sent back to Liberia or some other country over there. They won’t be taking a knee while our anthem is playing if they’re back home in Africa. We can do it!”

There was a stunned silence in the room. But slowly, a murmur began to emerge from the throats of the meeting participants. It swelled and was amplified as everyone joined the chant that became a coherent call. “We! Can! Do! It!” The chant echoed off of the walls, and soon even the staid Republicans were dancing around their chairs, arms linked as they circled around each other. The crowd was psyched. They were enraptured. They were prisoners of the resident, sharing in his delusions, unaware that what they had just committed their own political suicide. They had just been shown on live TV agreeing to a new proposal to forcibly re-segregate the country by expelling their fellow citizens.

There was one participant in the room who had thought this through. His voice called out to the resident. “Do you think maybe folks will think this is racist?”

The change that came over the resident’s face was startling. A flush of red colored his visage, and his mouth extended forward as spittle flew from his lips as he shouted. “How dare you! How dare you question my plan! My plan is the greatest plan ever made. I am the greatest! And who are you to question me? You all can kill yourselves for all I care. Come along, Mike.” The Vice President sprang to his feet and quickly followed the resident, who was storming out of the room. Soon afterwards, the cameras captured the images of the Cabinet secretaries, Senators, and members of the House all began to fall over themselves, searching for the tools to effect their own demise, which played on and on until there was no movement left in the room save for the slow spread of blood across the table and the rugs.

The detective turned off the replay of the scene, and turned towards his assistant. “I can remember when the resident started. There were Republicans who would stand up to him. They told him when his conduct was unacceptable. They claimed they’d never work with him. Then he won. And they slowly, slowly fell under his spell. You could see it with Graham. He’d been quoted as saying that he was a kook, was unqualified. But recently, he said the problem with the press was that they were calling him an unqualified kook. He’d been captured. It happened to all of them. They realized this was there one, best chance to implement their goals of cutting taxes, pleasing their donors. They never understood they were selling their souls in the exchange.” The detective stood up, and got ready to leave the room. “No point in investigating further. It was obvious that these prisoners grew to believe whole heartedly in his mission, so much so that they were willing to follow his off-hand suggestion to its logical conclusion.”

He left the room and the medical teams came in and started to remove the bodies inside of the cabinet room.

 

Why Bother With Those Pesky People?

Delivery drone

I have seen the future, and in it I have totally freed myself from the need of having to interact with anyone at more than a superficial level. I need not familiarize myself with the grocery clerks at the local supermarket, because I have a service that takes my on-line order, and delivers it into my house when I’m not around since I gave access to my house through Amazon.

No longer do I need to go outside and venture into a restaurant for a meal. Instead, I can scroll through menu listings from hundreds of restaurants and select a meal, then wait for the service to come deliver it directly to my door. Still have to interact with a delivery person though – can’t wait for drone delivery to come so I don’t have to interact with anyone.

I never see my friends because I am so busy keeping up with my facebook friends, my twitter following, my instagram buds, who has the time to keep up face to face. Besides, if I went to see someone, I’d have to change out of my robe and slippers. No, online connections are so much better than having to put up with actually interacting with others.

Gas stations? Who needs gas stations? You can pay someone to deliver a set amount of gas to your car. Use Yoshi, and arrange for weekly fill-ups at work or home. It only costs a small delivery cost in addition to your gas purchase. Of course, I haven’t interacted with someone at a gas station for a long time since they put credit card readers out at the pumps. And I can arrange for someone to come to my car and do my basic maintenance, like oil changes. Pretty soon I won’t have to use a car at all.

Unless I really need some money to pay for all of these delivery charges I’m racking up. Then I can use my car and drive for the ride services. Yes, I do have to deal with the people I carry, but I never have to interact with a supervisor or co-workers. I don’t even have a supervisor, and I don’t know who my co-workers are, since we are all contractors.

I can’t remember the last time I set foot in one of our local stores. In fact, I was surprised the last time I drove through one of the shopping areas in town. Looks like most of the stores are either closed or are having going out of business sales. Well, no wonder. They can’t compete on convenience with ordering things on line and receiving it within one or two days. I do wonder what I’m going to do with the mountain of cardboard I’m accumulating.

My insurance company has this great new service. If I have a cold or some sort of minor issue, I don’t have to go to a doctor. I can connect with the service and go through a series of questions, then have a brief conversation with a doctor, and then they will arrange for an antibiotic to be delivered to my door for my sinus infection. How wonderful! You do know that 67% of all communicable diseases are transmitted through doctor’s offices. Not having to go out  – that’s wonderful.

I can get my dog walked, even if I’m home. Just have to pay that service. One thing I haven’t gotten rid of though – still have to make it to a vet. No remote app for that – yet.

I’m living the good life.

 

Note: It seems like the purpose of most technology advances and technology business offerings is to eliminate the need to interact with other individuals. Soon we’ll flit through life like dragonflies, unaware of any other life form. Maybe we hook up and have a brief fling in the air, but then it’s over and we can fly off to our doom unbothered by any other human contact.

Scholarly articles are written pondering whether technology is fueling depression and loneliness. I don’t need a graduate degree in sociology to enable me to say, hell yes it is, and the race to the bottom is accelerating. Just look at how many folks check out of the moment where they are, and look at their phone to catch up with the latest text or facebook post. I’m sitting in a choir rehearsal, and if there’s a break of more than 30 seconds, my neighbor pulls out his phone and gets an update. I will admit, I have looked for a sports score sometimes, but I’m not guilty of seeking constant status updates.

With the social media movement, business has finally found something more addictive than slot machines. We the users gleefully allow ourselves to be parsed, analyzed, and monetized for our commercial exploitation. We voluntarily expose our natures and our most personal thoughts and expressions, and release it willingly, just so we can see how many likes we got on our last post.

You know, I’m really amazed that Twitter expanded their character limit recently. With the ongoing shortening of the national attention span, I figured they’d cut it down to 100 characters (and you can have 20 additional emoticons in order to make up for the loss of bandwidth in cutting the character limit). How many folks have the time to read 280 characters! Sad!

 

Draining the Swamp

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“Pssst – Do you think they’ve given up?” The slime monster arose from the fetid waters of the Potomac swamp, trailing tendrils of foul-smelling algae from its scaly skin. “Do you think they’ve stopped trying to drain this wonderful environment?” the creature asked me, as I was sitting alongside the tidal basin on a fall afternoon.

“That’s difficult to say,” I replied, only slightly startled to be addressed by a creature that should have been typecast to come out of Tokyo Bay instead of DC. “It looks like their plan is proceeding very well, and succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. By using a master of distraction to rivet the nation’s attention, no one seems to be paying heed to all of the shenanigans happening behind the curtains.”

“That’s good to hear,” said Slimey (or so I named him, though he had not referred to him (or her)self as having a name). “Mind if I sit beside you? It gets a little cold down there in the water this time of year, and it’s good to warm my bones.”

“Help yourself,” I said, though I did scoot down a bit towards the end of the bench, as much to get away from the drips streaming from Slimey’s arms and torso instead of out of concern for Slimey’s clawed limbs. I said, “You know, we don’t often get to see your kind around here. What brings you out of the depths?”

Slimey stretched, wrapped his tail over the side railing of the bench, and sat silently for a bit, as if pondering the question. Then, he shrugged and said, “Last year we heard they wanted to drain the swamp in DC. Kept hearing it again and again. When he won, we figured that we needed to move somewhere else where we would be appreciated, like maybe lower Manhattan. But then, we heard about the people he brought in, and we kept going, that fellow isn’t going to drain the swamp. He’s going to expand it. We just didn’t get it.”

I nodded, understanding the confusion. I told Slimey, “We were surprised as well. He kept talking about how the nation was being taken over by Goldman Sachs during the campaign. Berating Ted Cruz for his and his wife’s ties to Goldman. Complaining about Hillary being beholden to Goldman since she gave a speech to them. Then, POW, onto the Trump team comes Cohn, and Mnuchin, and Bannon, and other underlings, all from Goldman Sachs. The art of deception. Say one thing, then quietly implement the opposite.”

Slimey sighed. “Then there’s all that talk about how bad the banks were during the campaign, how they were getting away with murder after the financial crisis, and he was going to break them up. Do something good for the little people. But once he took office, all we hear about is breaking up the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and freeing up the banks from Dodd-Frank. ” Slimey held up a front limb to shield his eyes from the sun. “Don’t the “little people” see that he’s helping their enemies, and destroying their friends?”

I turned my head for a moment, looking back over the monuments of our nation’s history. I realized that never had our founders anticipated such a bizarre disruption of our national character when the avenues of this town were laid out. Then, realizing that Slimey was looking at me in anticipation of my answer, I said “Those “little people” don’t see it. They are used to only listening to their leaders on TV and the radio, and following what they say. They’ve lost their ability to analyze what they are hearing and seeing, they only believe what comes their way on Facebook. How else can they keep believing their ears when their eyes see the opposite?”

Slimey nodded, his crest flapping loosely atop his head. He turned to me and said, “There’s one thing I’m glad to see, though. That Pruitt guy at EPA, he seems like he’s our best friend.”

“How so?”, I asked.

“Well, he just seems to be turning the clock back on all of the environmental regulation of the past. We figure it’s just a matter of time before he rescinds the regulations on pollution in the Chesapeake watershed, and when he does, we’ll get all that luscious nitrogen and phosphorus coming back downstream. You wouldn’t believe how good that is for all of the green glop we love.” Slimey licked his chops as he thought of the bonanza he expects to come sliding on downstream in a year or two.

I pondered what this basin would look like festooned in green and blue growths of algae in the turgid waters. The odor it would create would match the mood in the city. Suddenly I grew tired of the conversation, and straightened my body against the bench. Slimey sensed my mood.

“Friend, I’m going to go on back to my kind” he said. “But before I go, there’s one thing I wish you’d help me to understand. Why was it that all of those evangelicals, who oppose the sins of the flesh, supported someone who cheated on his ex-wives, who curses in public, who oozes greed and lust? Someone who waxes wrath on twitter any time he’s criticized. I’ve never seen someone who epitomizes all seven of the deadly sins at once. And he’s the one with the control over the most massive military force the world has ever seen? Can you explain that to me?”

I nodded, finally having an answer that I know would satisfy this creature. “He wasn’t Hillary,”

Slimey stood up, bowed stiffly to me, and said. “Of course. That explains everything.” Then he stepped off into the tidal basin, disappearing into the dark waters, never to be seen again by me.

 

Make! America! Great! Again!

Trump's world

 

Let’s make America Great! How do we do that? First, let’s piss off every ally we’ve had for the past 75 years by insisting they all are out to rob us blind, and they don’t have the guts to fight terrorism the way we do. Next, let’s make it way harder for others to come to the US by implementing half-baked bans against certain religions to enter this country (we have to be oh so careful to be politically correct and not call them bans or the namby-pamby courts will rule against us, as if they actually are a co-equal branch of government).

We can make America great by creating our own sense of reality, where only what we say is the truth. And we can convey that sense of reality directly to the American People (We do love the people. They voted for us hugely.) in our tweets. Someday the tweets we make will be the basis for a little red book like that Chinese guy used to have. Everyone will wave a copy around to show how much they adore us.

We can make America great by leaving a lot of these government positions empty. Who needs all of these folks anyway. I can fire all of the US attorneys and not nominate anyone to fill the slots, and no one will notice. And diplomats? Do we really need diplomats, except for our favorite countries?

We can make America great by showing America how great leaders work. Like this guy Duterte in the Philippines. Wonderful how he’s leading by enabling those mobs to kill all of the druggies. Wish we could do something like that here.

We can make America great by cutting back on a bunch of silly spending. Why in the world do we need to invest in scientific research? What has science ever done for us? It’s not like our lives are longer than they used to be because of medical research. Or how is it that we gained anything from research into solid state physics. What a waste of time and money! Losers, all of them. Can’t wait to use my cell phone to post a tweet about not wasting money on basic research.

We can make America great by showing America how fake the media is. They won’t acknowledge our greatness all the time, so they are fake. Fake, fake, fake. We’d be better off if everyone just used my twitter feed to learn all they need to know about the world. Boy, I wish they wouldn’t keep asking those damn questions. Why do they keep harping on all of these things we did with our friends the Russians? You’d think they thought someone out there in the mid-west actually cared about selling out to the Russians. Love the mid-west. They voted for me when no one ever thought they would. Led to my huge electoral college victory. Biggest one ever for a Republican. Did you know I’m a Republican? I used to donate money to Democrats.

We can make America great by passing the biggest tax cut in history. I can get the Congress to do just what I want. Just give them the talking points and they take it from there. That’s Leadership! We haven’t had leadership in this country since Andrew Jackson. Tax cuts. Get rid of that stupid death tax. Do you know how much that would cost my children if we don’t get rid of that? Of course, I plan on living a long time. Did you see how my doctor said that I had the best health of any President EVER! No, we can just keep cutting the taxes and watch the money pour in. I can see 5%, 6% growth coming just because of these tax cuts. Just watch and see.

We can make America great by getting rid of that terrible thing Obamacare. Just get rid of it and we’ll have the greatest health care ever. Costs will go straight down. People won’t have to spend money on insurance since we will get rid of the requirement to have it. Shoot, I’ll just tell the IRS not to enforce the requirement. I can do that you know. I love to sign executive orders. I can get a huge crowd in the office just to hold one of these signing ceremonies. I love ceremonies. It’s like a parade, only just in one room. Did you see the parade for my inauguration? Biggest Parade and the Biggest Crowd ever! And those executive orders. Sometimes I read them before I sign them. Sometimes not. But we’re not going to cut Medicare or Social Security. That’s my pledge to the American people.

We can make America great by getting us out of all of these agreements and treaties with other countries. We never do well in these things. Get taken advantage of bigley. Like that NAFTA thing. Or was that the NATO thing? Both of them – worst treaties ever. Tear them up, start over, we’ll show them that you can’t take advantage of the United States! Did you see about those children over in Syria? I showed them who’s boss. Gave them a dose of Tomahawks! Just wait till that fat little punk in North Korea tries something. I’ll show him. Of course, it’s hard for a young kid to be running a country. I can understand why he’s had to be tough with folks, shooting them with anti-aircraft rounds. I know I could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, and my supporters would cheer.

 

Whew! I’m sure glad that Donald Trump didn’t get elected as President. What a horrible dream! Can you imagine someone thinking and acting like that? Wait. What’s that you’re saying? All of the things in my dream – they’re real? And all have taken place in less than 5 months? And we have 3 years and 7 more months to go? Where is that alternate reality we were talking about? I think I’m gonna need to live there in order to stay sane.

 

Are You Calling Me A Socialist?

Disgruntled Republican Voter: I’m sure glad that I’m not one of those takers who expect the government to subsidize their health care. Everyone who takes a subsidy from the government is lazy and needs to get a better job that covers them.

Disembodied omniscient voice from above (think James Earl Jones): I’m glad you don’t want your health care subsidized by the government. So you will be in favor of having your health care from your employer being declared as income, and then you can pay taxes on it, right?

Disgruntled: I say – what are you talking about?

Disembodied: Health care benefits have never been considered as taxable income. This is a historical artifact from the time that health care was first provided to employees in WWII as a way to skirt wage controls.

Disgruntled: So what difference does it make who pays for it?

Disembodied: If businesses had to declare the value of health care as income for their employees, then the employees would be liable for taxes on this income. You just said you’d be happy to pay the taxes, right? Just so you wouldn’t be taking a subsidy from the government.

Disgruntled: I’m not sure … how much are we talking about here?

Disembodied: Let’s just use average figures here. You have family coverage, right?

Disgruntled: Yeah.

Disembodied: Average employer cost for a family policy last year was $12,600 per year. Now you are pretty successful, you make between $19,000 and $75,000 per year, right?

Disgruntled: Yeah.

Disembodied: Then you are in the 15% tax bracket. So if you had to declare $12,600 more in income, that means that the federal government is giving you about $1900 in tax subsidy for your policy from your employer. The one that distinguishes you from the moochers who get a government handout, right?  But then there’s more.

Disgruntled: More?

Disembodied: You live in a state with an income tax, right? Say the tax bracket for your state is 5% for your income. Then the state is giving you a tax subsidy of over $600.  That brings your total tax subsidy to about $2500 per year. But then, there’s the FICA tax to consider.

Disgruntled: What?

Disembodied: Since your taxable income just went up, you owe social security and medicare tax on this new income. So for $12,600, your tax that you don’t have to pay at all is almost another $1000 per year.  And your employer also avoids another $1000 per year that they’d have to pay to match your contribution.

Disgruntled: Ouch!

Disembodied: I calculate that due to the way that health care is accounted for in the tax code, your avoided tax is just about $3500 per year, and your employer avoids paying an extra $1000. So I’m glad that you’ve decided not to be a taker of government money, because your government could sure use the extra $4500 that you said you’d be willing to pay.

Disgruntled: Now wait a minute, I never said …

Disembodied: Oh yes you did. You said that you’d never want to be one of the takers who takes a subsidy from the government. That means you want to correct this problem in the tax system. Of course, if you were in a higher tax bracket, like 25%, you’d be getting even more free money from the government.

Disgruntled: You’re using fake facts. You’re probably part of the lying media. I’ve never seen anything about this on Facebook.

Disembodied: Believe what you will. Reality does not change based upon your beliefs. The facts are that you get money from the government to subsidize your health care benefit that you earn. Of course, you still pay all of the out-of-pocket and shared premium as well.

Disgruntled: And they keep going up and up. It’s all due to Obamacare.

Disembodied: Health care costs have been going up faster than inflation for decades before the ACA came into being. One reason is due to the screwy way health care gets paid for. We spend over 25% just on the administration. Funny thing is, when you have a single payer system like Medicare, that administrative burden goes down to about 5%.

Disgruntled: You mean single-payer would cost less? Why don’t we consider it?

Disembodied: Because the 1% class you put into the government believes that only moral reprobates who have immoral habits get diseases or have accidents, and they are the ones who drive up costs for the superior class of folks who have employer-paid health care. Besides, the 1% gets a hell of a lot of tax cuts when the taxes that supported the ACA are backed out.

Disgruntled: Yeah, but isn’t single payer socialism?

Disembodied: You mean the current system that gives free money to taxpayers and employers to have employer-based coverage isn’t socialism? Isn’t that government picking winners and losers? You’re a loser if you work three part time jobs and 60 hours a week but none of your employers provide health care and you don’t deserve any government subsidy? You’re a winner if you work for someone who provides health care as a benefit?

Disgruntled: Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.