Slimey Bids Adieu?

The swamp around DC

Slimey turned towards me, eyes pleading. “What should I do?” he exclaimed.

Slimey, as you may know, is a 9′ tall reptile with typical claws and sharp teeth as you might expect from a creature of the swamp around DC. Yet somehow he is capable of blending in with others, and indeed, had served in lobbying firms dealing with this past administration, now in exile.

I let him in through my door and he ducked his head as he entered. “Slimey, I wasn’t expecting you. Last time I saw you, you were working for QAnon. What happened with that?”

Slimey carefully maneuvered his tail around so as to not knock over anything found on low surfaces in the room. “Q? The market for that kinda petered out after the election. I could see the writing on the wall. So I had a good offer, one that I really would like to accept. I’ve been offered a position with the Secret Service!”

“Why, that’s great,” I said. “I figure you would snap up an opportunity like that quickly” You know, it’s amazing how many times my words around Slimey focused on one of his overwhelming physical characteristics.

“It is great. It would involve working security for an ex-President. But it is contingent on something.”  Slimey swung his ponderous head from side to side, seemingly indicating his conflict concerning this offer.

“What’s the contingency?” I asked.

Slimey set his bulk down upon a sofa before replying. “It’s contingent upon my being willing to relocate to the town of Ossining, NY. And it is contingent upon the New York court system acting first so that there will be someone to guard there.”

Slowly I realized the central part of Slimey’s dilemma. “You’ve been offered the job to guard President Trump in Sing-Sing.”

Slimey looked up at me. I could see a tear forming in one of his eyes. I thought about crocodile tears, but quickly put that thought away before it escaped my mouth. “Yeah, that’s it. I could be one of the guards who would keep him safe while he’s in prison. You just don’t know what that would be like. I’d have to be kept there myself in order to prevent someone from taking him out.”

I thought for a minute, then I said “I’ll bet there’s some times when you wished you never left the swamp.”

“You don’t know the half of it. The problem is I’ve gotten addicted to having this stuff called money around. I can exchange it for things I never knew existed when I was down there. But the more I keep trying to get it, the worse it is for me. I mean, I have my standards. I just don’t know if trying to keep the ex-President from being shived is worth it. I mean, if the word got out, nobody respectable will want to talk to me.”

Part of learning how to relate to all kinds was knowing when it was best to just listen, and not offer any guidance. So I sat down myself, and just made a little noise of affirmation.

Slimey thought for a long moment, which seemed like a really long time when you are dealing with something as large as he is. You hope that the reptile portion of his brain wouldn’t grow active and take over, and slash out with his deadly claws and massive tail. Even if I didn’t lie in a pool of blood with my entrails scattered, he could make a real mess of the upholstery if he tried.

Finally, he stirred, and gathered his limbs to stand. “I know what I have to do. I have to go back to the swamp. I just can’t deal with this human world any more.”

I realized that our time together was near an end. Not just this meeting, but probably any meeting in the future. Once Slimey had re-acclimated himself into the murky waters, I couldn’t see any chance of him re-emerging and trying another round at taking part in human society. And I certainly had learned my lesson, and would steer clear of the Tidal Basin so as to avoid any accidental contact. I counted myself fortunate that I had managed my relationship with Slimey and still had all of my organs intact.

Slimey went towards the door. “Friend, I don’t know if I’ll see you again. Thanks for listening to me and helping me decide what to do.”

I held the door open as he once again ducked his head on the way out. I said to him “I’ll miss you.” And then he was gone.

Time Is Tight!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

There is an illness stalking the inhabitants of this nation. No, it is not the illness caused by the corona virus, although that is still running rampant among our population. Instead, it is the illness of selfishness and ignorance that is causing so many who consider themselves Republicans to refuse to distance themselves from this President. Indeed, there is a hard-core constituency who still refuses to believe in the recent election, and cling to their fever dream of having Donald Trump remain in power as President.

The illness has taken hold over decades. It goes back to the belief that Senator McCarthy was correct, and members of the deep state (he never enunciated that phrase) were undermining the US by covertly inserting communistic beliefs into this nation’s consciousness. The stereotype was so engrained that a character in a 1964 movie, Dr. Strangelove, was a parody of the supporters of McCarthy and the John Birch society. General Jack D. Ripper spoke the beliefs that we were being undermined by fluoridation (amongst other things). So the belief system resulting in this illness began before 1960. It has taken this long for it to gain power in the nation.

I sincerely hope that the brazen display of those infected with this disease that took place on January 6, 2021, shows the rest of the nation the folly they would inflict upon us all. We needed something to burst the bubble of infection, and allow the pus of this disease to be excised from the body politic. Seeing the so-called patriots who believed they were defending the virtues of this nation, seeing them swinging the US flag and its attached pole against the skulls of those outmanned officers should disabuse anyone who is not fully infected with this disease from ever believing in the purity of their cause.

Now there is a great hue and cry among the fevered victims of this disease about having their constitutional rights violated by the banning of their chief from social media. They claim a tyranny of the left is being waged against those who espouse “conservative” views. If only they stuck to true conservative values. No, those who are missing their on-line forums were the ones that would institute true tyranny, and their leader was showing them how it is done. January 6, 2021 serves as an exemplary case study in how their leader used his voice to inflame a crowd already dripping with sweat from induced fever, into taking action on his behalf. And of course, he would be with them. Except, of course, he wasn’t. He was acting as his own executive producer, and watched the reality show he produced unfold on TV. His only regret was that the forces he unleashed did not achieve their objectives of capturing and executing those he had decried as enemies.

Now we are cleaning up the aftermath of the Capitol invasion of January 6. Chief among these aisle clean-ups is the action to impeach and remove this President. Know that this effort will never result in the removal of this President, because the majority leader of the Senate will not allow it to happen while he retains his powers. It still is a worthy action to take, although I am myself of the opinion that impeachment in the House should take place before the end of the presidential term, but the trial in the Senate would be better if we allow a couple of months for passions to die down before it proceeds. Then the full results of the invasion will be known, and some of those who were infected victims of the cult disease might have broken their fever, and realized the folly of their ways. The facts won’t change.

Indeed, one of the most severe symptoms of the disease afflicting so many in this nation is the inability to discern fact from fiction. They insist their fictional accounts of events is real. They believe that the doctored videos offered as conclusive proof by the President’s Keystone Cop lawyers showed a vast conspiracy aimed at silencing their views forever. It will take a long time for these fevered victims of the cult to realize the error of their ways. If we are fortunate, the cult victims will regain their senses by ones and twos, and realize how close they came to unraveling the fabric of this nation. If we are not fortunate, then we will have future fever outbreaks across this country, and the death toll of these outbreaks may exceed the toll of January 6 by orders of magnitude.

Be prepared for the fever to not subside with the change in administrations. The disease is deeply entrenched in the soul of this nation, and will resist control as violently as the corona virus is resisting our so-far futile efforts to contain it.

Exponential Decay Curve In Politics – Post January 8, 2018

Way back in March 2017, when this blog was barely a month old, I penned a post titled Experimental Decay Curve In Politics. That post was intended to show that the effectiveness of Donald Trump’s tweets was likely to follow an exponential decay curve. In May of 2019, I wrote an update of that post that showed the frequency of retweets of his posts, seemed as if it were following an exponential decay curve. In order to keep the same impact from his account, he had to post more tweets to counteract the lessened effectiveness of any individual tweet.

Even though I had tried to update my original post with new data, it is the older post that keeps getting read across the globe. Many of my “hits” on this blog go back to the first post. Well, as of January 8 2021, it will no longer be possible to measure the “effectiveness” of Trump’s tweets, since he has been banned from the platform. In some ways this is the logical conclusion of this administration, with its pledge to bypass the media and speak directly to his followers through his social media platform. After much deliberation, and perhaps the threat of removal of the safeguards of Section 230, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all banned posts from Donald Trump as long as he remains in power. It has become clear that since the election, where he was effectively repudiated, his own posts had increasingly become reflections of the violent fringe of the internet rather than any sort of meaningful posting.

So there will not be another post discussing the further decay of the effectiveness of Donald Trump’s tweets. It is obvious that the ones that he had been posting were adequate to inflame the fires of passion of his most ardent supporters, and provided the fuel that energized the crowd that overwhelmed the outmatched security forces at the Capitol. I for one am hoping that the interim time till Joe Biden’s inauguration passes without further violence, either aimed at domestic enemies, or directed at foreign adversaries in misguided attempts to justify his own sense of power. Then I do hope that the much-maligned justice system in this nation does hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions of this week, and by extension, for his actions since he was inaugurated on that dark day in 2017.

Here again is the text of my original post.

Today’s topic concerns exponential decay curves. This is what happens when “something” declines over time. A classic exponential decay curve is shown here:

Exponential decay curves are often found in nature. The classic one that is taught in classrooms concerns radioactive decay. For a given radioactive isotope of an element, the half-life of the isotope determines the shape of its decay curve. A half-life is defined as the amount of time for 1/2 of the radioactive decay for an isotope to have occurred. This can vary among isotopes from fractions of a second, up to 4 billion years in the case of Uranium 238. Half-lives are very important when calculating the potential radiation exposure to a radioactive isotope. Isotopes like Cobalt 60 are powerful radiation sources that are used industrially to examine welds and metals for defects. They provide plentiful gamma rays since the half life of this isotope is only 5.3 years. That is why there is concern about the use of this isotope in a dirty bomb, since the radiation from an explosive dispersal of Cobalt 60 would cause significant exposure to high powered gamma radiation.

Exponential decay curves may be found in other natural and also artificial systems. A new example of an artificial system that appears to be following an exponential decay curve is the Presidential tweet. The response to a Presidential tweet appears to be following a typical decay curve function. It is too early to get an accurate measurement of the half-life of tweet effectiveness, but a preliminary estimate is that the half-life of the response to a Presidential tweet is about two months.

Since this system of Presidential tweets is an artificial system (one not normally found in nature), it is uncertain as to what the response of the originator of the Presidential tweets will be to an ongoing decrease in tweet effectiveness. Most observers believe that the originator will greatly increase both the frequency and objects of tweets so as to continue to receive a total response to the tweets that approximates the effect of the first tweets.

However, it is nearly certain that since the effectiveness of any individual tweet will continue to decline, eventually the response to all Presidential tweeting may approach zero. There is a school of thought though, that maintains the belief that we may begin to see an inverse function develop for the tweet response. That is, instead of receiving a positive response to tweets, each subsequent tweet may result in a negative response. It is possible that the magnitude of the negative response may increase with additional tweets, so that Newton’s third law may be given a test in the political arena. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Observers of politics will be watching this process with rapt attention.

A Final Temper Tantrum?

Donald’s sad, very very sad. What a sad day Donny had.

This was a verse I used to sing to my children when they were pouting or crying for what I perceived to be inappropriate reasons. It seems appropriate now to sing it to our pouter-in-chief as he concludes his tantrum against the foundations of democracy. How is it that he could deceive as many people as he has into believing it was impossible for him to lose, because he had all of the visible energy of his fraction of the electorate. How could he lose when he got more votes than all of the previous successful candidates?

Easy. The energy that was stored in those who voted for his opposition was potential energy, waiting for the opportunity to be released through the ballot. And thus, an even greater number of citizens voted for Joe Biden, and the primary reason why they supported him was because he was not Donald Trump.

We’ve run our little experiment on what it would be like to withdraw into our own borders, and not interact with anyone else. What have we learned? We’ve learned that the vacuum that develops from our withdrawal gets filled. The Chinese in particular have stretched their legs and made inroads across the globe, especially in what used to be considered the non-aligned world. But in Europe, a recognition has grown that the US is not to be depended upon, since it is capable of electing such an imbecile as has graced the White House for the last four years. The enduring image from this administration will be Trump sitting at a table, arms crossed in the body language of rejection and defiance, while Angela Merkel leaned across the table as if lecturing the wayward boy while the rest of the western leaders stood by in support of Merkel.

Photograph: Jesco Denzel/AFP/Getty Image

But now we see the last stages of the four year long temper tantrum, and the desperation in Donald’s demeanor is coming out in droves. “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”  Begging, pleading, threatening. All of the behaviors we have expected from this excuse for a President coming to the fore in a single perfect phone call. Well, after the final card is played on January 6 with the official declaration of the Electoral College vote, and no miracle is forthcoming to overturn the will of the people of the US, then Donny can go off and sulk in the corner. Just so he doesn’t do further damage to the fabric and substance of this nation on his way out.

I hope this is the last post I have to write denouncing this abysmal President, but I fear he is capable of much mischief not only while he is still officially in power, but in the political wilderness he will descend into after January 20. There are still tens of millions who believe he is the rightful winner of the election, and who will not recognize the legitimacy of the Biden administration. There are still tens of millions who believe that the ultimate evil has been unleashed upon this nation, and we can expect another batch of child abductions and dismemberments at the hands of the satanic Democrats. There are still tens of millions whose image of Trump is as a ripped man holding the automatic weapon of vengeance ready to pounce on those who object to his manifest greatness. It is obvious that all the facts in the world will not change the mind of a single one of these true believers. What we must be ready to do is make progress while we step around those who are screaming and holding their breath as they denounce the unfairness of the world.

The real problems we face as a species have not gone away over the past four years. In cases like climate change, they are now worse, and we have squandered a significant chunk of time in a futile attempt to recapture our past fossil fuel greatness. In others like pandemic preparedness, we’ve seen only too vividly how important it is to have early warning systems in place, and respond appropriately when a true signal is sounded. There are many other problems that can cause our intricately constructed house of economic cards to collapse. Supply chain issues come to mind as demonstrated by the pandemic, but it is our electric infrastructure that is most vulnerable to attack, either from nature, or from cyber threat. We must make it feasible for these problems to be addressed. The four years we spent on a circus sideshow now appear as a wasted opportunity.

When I used to sing this verse to my children, I would repeat the first line.

Donald’s sad, very very sad. What a sad day Donny had.

The second time through, it was slightly lower in pitch. Then I’d break into the following final line, raising the pitch:

But then he got happy! He really got happy!

When I sang that, usually it caused the boy who was pouting or crying to forget what he was mad about, and get mad at me for making fun of him. In Donny’s case, I’m afraid he is congenitally unable to become happy. If four years of near absolute power cannot make him happy, then there is not a thing in the world that will work to make him happy. That is undoubtedly the curse he will take with him to his grave.

We Keep Facing The Wrong Enemy

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Once upon a time, there was an inhabited planet where the inhabitants had divided themselves up into little enclaves, and pretended the divisions were there by divine right. They looked out into the heavens, and even gained enough knowledge to perceive thousands of planets in our little corner of our galaxy, but so far had not received confirmation that we were not alone in having life.

The inhabitants focused on differences in skin pigment, on the languages spoken, and even on the differences in how the inhabitants dealt with their beliefs about divinity, and were convinced they were the only true representatives of a civilized species. All others were part of the “other” and were dismissed as unworthy. Nowhere was there a recognition that the elements of commonality were much, much greater than the tiny amounts of differences.

The inhabitants worked themselves up into frenzies, and when they did not have other differences to fight over, they invented them. When faced with a need to battle a viral vector by wearing a face covering, they created yet another division, where covering your face (or not) became a declaration of what political camp you lived in. Nowhere was there a recognition that the true enemy was a novel virus, one that happened to find refuge in the respiratory system of the inhabitants. Nowhere was there a desire expressed to unite in opposition to the littlest invader, one like others we had battled over millennia.

The inhabitants grew their number explosively over the decades. There was no recognition that the planet of the inhabitants had any limitations whatsoever. So the contents of the seas were vacuumed up, for use as direct sustenance for the inhabitants, or for feeding the domestic companions of the inhabitants, or for addressing a dietary / medical need for the inhabitants. Since the surface of the seas were translucent, the changes in the population of the denizens of the deep were concealed from the gaze of the inhabitants. Likewise, many of the inhabitants believed they could not influence the chemistry of the atmosphere. Surely the spirit of he who created this planet would not allow for his creations to violate its limitations. So in the interest of not disrupting the economy, no plans were made to establish a world where providing heat or cooling, or enabling transportation, would not cause damage to the planet.

Certainly there were those who decried these trends. Some of those who spoke for the deity cried out in the wilderness for a critical need to actually become stewards of their little ball floating in the true wilderness of space. But many other voices drowned them out as they called for a continuation of their divine right to consume and possess everything within reach.

At some point, there will be a reckoning. That reckoning will come when a tipping point is reached, and there can be no mistaking what is happening. It may be that the seafood catch plummets catastrophically, and the skeletons of sea birds and seals and whales bear mute testimony to the lack of sustenance below the surface. It may come when ice shelves collapse at both poles, and for a few years, immense icebergs pose an ongoing hazard to shipping. It may come when the number of tropical storms within a year require use not only of the western alphabet, and Greek letters, but also some other nomenclature system in order to keep track of the increased number of cyclones. Once those tipping points are reached, will it be possible to ratchet back our influence and change the set point for our planet? Or will there still be those in positions of power who continue to deny the evidence staring them in their face, and exclaim a moral right to continue their pathway of greed and ignorance.

When will we recognize how unique and precious this life we share is? How few places in this galaxy are habitable, and how important it is for us to band together as a species, instead of battling unwinnable fights to keep the “others” from affecting our comfort? How long will it be before we learn how to share the bounty we’ve been given rather than covet what others have?

Given the unfortunate diversion over the last four years I’ve witnessed in my own nation, I am not optimistic. That it took a massive display of incompetence during this pandemic to even convince a small majority of this nation to vote against the current inhabitant of our Maison Blanche, it seems like it will be a slow battle to realize we do have common enemies – just not those that one party declares as the enemy. The true enemy is the emptiness of space. If we do not recognize that, and work to make our lifestyles sustainable, then the emptiness of space will win. Eventually, in billions of years, that will happen anyway. But we as a species, having been given reason and knowledge, must use those faculties to prevent our ultimate fate from overtaking us well before our time.

You Will Be Visited By Three Spirits

jacob marley

One of the advantages of having had a blog for several years, it allows you to revisit past posts. Here is one originally put up in September 2018 that has maintained its relevance in the world today. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

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?

One Problem Ending? Another Yet To Be Faced

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We may be finally nearing a solution for the current version of the pandemic facing this nation. A vaccine is being distributed across this nation, and if there are enough doses, and enough people are convinced it is safe to take, then it may be possible to begin relaxing the constraints felt by many across this nation. Felt by many, but by no means felt by all people. For there are still significant numbers who remain convinced that all of the past year represented a mere distraction orchestrated by shadowy forces intent on bringing in a new world order under the pretext of a global pandemic.

Such a view was represented in Washington this past Saturday when the newly elected representative for Virginia’s 5th Congressional delegate spoke before people who were holding yet another demonstration in favor of Trump’s claim of winning the election. He said, “It’s a serious virus, but it’s a virus. It’s not a pandemic,” said Good (R). Now one may quibble about semantics, but the degree of ignorance in his comments remains incomprehensible to me and to many who have recognized the dangers of viral spread since the beginning of this epidemic. Congressman-elect Good mentioned how good it was to see so many people rejecting the tyranny of the mask and showing their faces in public. I swear that far too many people in this nation will not recognize the seriousness of this medical situation unless we have someone going through our streets with a cart, calling “Bring out your dead”.

The voters in the 5th Congressional District had a choice in the general election, but also had a choice in the Republican primary. For in that election, the incumbent Denver Riggleman was defeated. Congressman Riggleman had the audacity to conduct a same-sex wedding while in office, and for that sin, he was expelled from his job. Bob Good, who was the athletic director at Liberty University, then faced Dr. Cameron Webb, who serves as a hospitalist at the UVA hospital in Charlottesville, and teaches at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. And, horror of horrors, Dr. Webb happens to be African-American. Can’t have that. So in a district that stretches along the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge parkway, from the Potomac to the North Carolina border, the voters rejected someone who has personal knowledge and experience in dealing with health matters, and selected a Republican instead who would follow the current President over the precipice.

But then, this is the conundrum that we face in this country. We are seemingly a nation that refuses to acknowledge the value of knowledge, and instead insists upon fealty to a single person as head of a party that is increasingly intellectually bankrupt. Though we have now seen the risk of turning over the reins of government to someone who disdains competence, still we have a significant percentage of this nation that refuses to give any credence to any statement coming from the government. Well, we do not live in a world where we can pull up our drawbridge and retreat to our island stronghold. Britain is trying that and in a couple of weeks, when the reality of Brexit hits them, they will soon wish they had never cast a vote to leave the EU. Maybe we can learn from their mistake, and from the mistakes we’ve lived through over the past four years.

We know that the world is now interconnected in ways inconceivable a few short decades ago. Supply chains for international corporations require seamless transfer of materials and funds across national borders. Any disruption of those flows increases the overall costs. In essence, we’ve traded lower-skilled jobs, for lower inflation for the nation. That has resulted in economic losers in many rural and ex-urban regions, where the current strength of the Republican/Trump party now resides. But the discussion about whether we are willing to pay higher prices in order to move manufacturing back to the US has not happened. And on the Progressive side, we’ve not discussed how consumers will respond to paying higher prices for fast food, and pizza, and child /elder care if we institute a higher, livable minimum wage. Face it, part of the bargain we have made over the last several decades is we’ve traded lower prices for the loss of economic security for the lower class of workers. Whether it is the displacement of main street retail for the low prices of big box retailers, or whether it is an assembly operation that can be done for $0.25 less by an overseas supplier, this nation has willingly chosen the lower price.

Maybe we have gained a slight awareness of the value of local enterprise through the course of this pandemic. Personally, we have made the choice to forego any chain restaurant during this time, and spending our dollars on takeout or outdoor dining at truly local restaurants. But we are only one small bit in the economy even of the small town we live in. We are long overdue on having a discussion about acceptance of higher prices in exchange for better economic conditions at the domestic level. Until I see a political party willing to discuss this, I won’t take any efforts they make as being serious efforts to improve the economy.

When Will This Election End?

Narcissist In Chief

So the drama keeps on keeping on. The narcissist-in-chief refuses to give up that title as he vainly attempts to influence state legislatures to do something totally outside of their powers – mainly, to overcome the will of their state’s electorates and declare the narcissist as the winner in the Presidential election. Many of the narcissist’s followers have latched onto this quixotic quest and have begun a new pasttime of harassing state electoral officials. Doesn’t matter whether they are democrats or republicans, these officials have run afoul of the narcissist’s need for official affirmation.

I had hoped by this time in the election cycle, we could diverge from the path of the last five years, and begin to discuss the issues we face as a nation. Unfortunately, the most recent election will not recede into the past. We are given the images of the narcissist’s lawyer conducting press conferences in a gritty north Philadelphia neighborhood, accompanied by images of a porn shop and a crematorium adjacent to the Vivaldi concerto (The Four Seasons). We were treated to the unforgettable image of the narcissistian bimbo addressing the Michigan state senators with a performance seldom seen before this year. For once Saturday Night Live didn’t have to exaggerate their impersonation in order to lay bare the total ludicrousity of the testimony of this woman.

Still, this monstrosity of an administration is ending the only way it could – dissolving into an utterly chaotic pool of recriminations flavored with the virus de jour. Now let me say that I don’t know absolutely that a different approach could have engendered less death and misery upon this country. What I do know is that due to the propensity of the narcissist-in-chief to minimize the impact of the virus upon this nation and its economy, we squandered the time we had available to mobilize an effective plan to produce and distribute protective equipment and testing supplies. By relegating all responsibility for virus response to the states, we were treated to the spectacle of states bidding against each other for scarce resources. And of course, the price for these supplies escalated significantly, causing wasteful spending to fall upon the states. We had the image of a republican governor essentially negotiating an international trade deal with Korea, and bringing in testing supplies on a charter flight that was unloaded within the sovereign territory of his state, rather than risk it being seized by Federal forces if it were to fly to the normal international airport of Dulles.

It is seldom that you can see evolution happening in real time, but if the behavior of republicans and democrats were to be perpetuated over several generations, it seems that the human population within the US would tend to be more educated and more likely to support science. Because the population that pooh-pooed science and its response to the virus will be more likely to diminish, since so many of them will die. But their freedom will be maintained.

Once more we see how the US Constitution that we have relied upon for over 200 years as the model for our behavior, is incapable of guiding appropriate responses in our modern world. The need to maintain the common welfare comes into direct conflict with the desires to maintain the freedom to conduct all manner of activities, whether it be to crowd the stage at a narcissist’s rally, or get sloshed at a neighborhood bar, or sing to the Lord a new song in an unmasked sanctuary. At the same time, long-festering wounds within the social structure had their scabs ripped off, and the nation had to address the reality that life has never been equal for those who are in the minority within our states. For many of the narcissist’s followers, since they do not live in cities where the grievances are strongest, those grievances are by definition not real. Any voice raised in support of those who expressed outrage was castigated as being un-American, and traitorous.

If this nation is to remain whole, and not splinter into irreconcilable geographic factions, we must come up with a new social contract. This social contract must define our responsibilities towards each other, recognizing that the shrinking of the globe that has happened over the past few decades must be taken into account. The existing Constitution served us well during the time when there was always a frontier that we could move to if life got too constrained within the cities. Well, now it is the cities that are constrained by the stultification they find outside of their borders. We no longer have the ability to declare unconstrained freedom to pursue our own desires, if in by so doing, we cause damage to the well being of many others. The unfettered ability to use one’s own property as you desire, or pursue unrestrained commercial activity, or exercise religious freedom, has now run up against the limitations that flow from having a much larger population. How do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory human needs?

I’m not sure, but I don’t believe that armed mob intimidation attempts, at state capitols, or at the residences of state officials, is a useful way to resolve these issues. Shouting past each other does not, and will not ever work. What will work? My hope is that efforts like the Problem Solver’s Caucus will turn out to be more successful than such entities as the Freedom Caucus, who seem intent on fanning the flames already turning this nation into a firestorm of hatred and vitriol.

It’s Called Exponential Growth, Stupid

corona-4912186__340

The world and universe we live in operates according to scientific principles. That governs things like the rates of infection from a virus humanity has never before encountered. The response from humanity to exposure to this new virus is similar to when Native Americans were exposed to viruses like smallpox where there was no community immunity. It decimated the native population.

When this sort of illness is unleashed upon our population, mathematical relationships and principles become extremely important. In this case, the two figures are the infectivity rate, or Rowhich is the number of people that each carrier of the virus may be expected to infect, and the mortality rate, or fraction of people who will die once they contract the virus. In the journal Nature, this chart shows how the new virus stacks up against some of the other diseases feared by mankind.

Nature chart

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00758-2

This chart shows that the infectivity is estimated to be both much higher than the seasonal flu, and that the death rate is far, far higher. Higher even than the 1918 pandemic flu which was the last time humanity faced a global pandemic. Given these estimates, and observing the exponential growth in infections, it is the height of folly to believe that we will be able to “open up the country for business” in just over two weeks.

But that is what is being peddled by those who value money more than life. We face an enemy that has the potential to inflict more casualties than all the foreign wars the US has engaged in, during the timeframe of a few months. This wave of potential chaos sweeping across our nation’s health care infrastructure will finally open the eyes of this nation to the raging incompetence of the current administration.

It is certain that this administration has deliberately taken an approach that is aimed at protecting the popularity and electability of this President instead of focusing on the public health crisis we face. And now the evil is oozing out of those on the right on a daily basis, resulting in people saying that the “cure” (social distancing, closure of businesses), will have worse effects than the pandemic will cause. Thus we rescue our economy at the potential expense of millions of victims if we relax our social controls.

Only in an administration where the leader is violently anti-science would such virulent nonsense be allowed to be even breathed as potential policy. Only those who value the economy over the lives of so many future victims would dare to utter such folly. But that is the world we live in at present, where the fear of the deep state has overwhelmed the ability to respond to a real crisis that will not be bullied.

The real pity is that even with the duplicity and incompetence of this President on daily display, support for him is actually growing. Maybe part of that is a desire to pull together, and take common action against an invader. Maybe the naming of this virus by its location of origin is playing at the xenophobic gene, allowing us to turn against that country and all of its residents. Why blame our lax and inadequate response to this virus on the actions of our leaders when we can blame the Chinese?

It is not the bluster and false statements coming from this President that will decide the final outcome. Even if we do everything perfectly, and are able to slow the curve, we will likely have hundreds of thousands dying from this virus. But if we yield to the voices of incompetence and evil, and relax our vigilance just at the time when it matters most, we will be smothered by millions of bodies as the coronavirus tsunami withdraws from our shores. The difference between these future courses will be directly determined by the actions that our leaders take over these next few weeks and months. May we have the wisdom to choose the right course.

A Note In Farewell

Brothers Katamotzov  Blinky and Napoleon

He was a gentle giant. Napoleon Dynamite Kitty came into our family nearly 15 years ago, when our neighbor across the street alerted us to the existence of two kittens who had taken up residence in the engine block of his car that was about to be junked. He and his brother (later named Blinky) had apparently been abandoned and found a bit of shelter inside the car body. We took the two black cats in, and after receiving a clean bill of health from our vet, they joined our other two cats, Attack and Meezle. Unfortunately, the former alpha cat Attack was never able to adjust to the stress of having this usurpation of her domain, and she developed nervous system problems. So much that we ended up having to give her kitty valium for several months. But her problems persisted, and she eventually had a stroke and died just before the next Christmas.

We never knew if it was that he was looking for Attack, but Napoleon went missing right after we buried Attack in the back yard. He just flat out vanished. We put an ad in the paper (back in those ancient days when the classified ads still meant something). On New Year’s Day morning, we received a call from someone who said he thought he’d been feeding our cat. We checked the map, and though it was several miles away by road, it was only over the hillside and less than a mile away. So we hauled ourselves out of bed, and searched the area where Napoleon was spotted. We came away empty handed, and my wife and younger son eventually went on to church, where our then 11 year old son prayed for Napoleon’s return during the prayers of the people.

It was the following Tuesday, and my wife was in the den, when motion caught her eye. A black form was coming down the neighbor’s driveway, and making a beeline for our door. Carrie went into the living room, saw that Blinky was asleep on the sofa, and went to open the door. Napoleon came right on in, trying his best to tell her all about his horrendous adventure. He went directly downstairs from there and commandeered the cat feeders. We never knew for sure, but we suspect it was this period of deprivation that caused him to begin to bulk up. He was always a big cat, but he grew into quite a chonky cat after that, weighing over 25 pounds at the high point of his weight. We eventually went to an automated feeder to keep the amount available to them at a reasonable level, but since we had other cats, we couldn’t dial back the food by that much.

The one time you could really tell that Napoleon and Blinky were brothers was when they went downstairs to the basement together. They moved in synch, differences in body mass notwithstanding. You also could see their familial relationship when they fought. Every so often, one would begin to groom the other. The grooming grew more and more aggressive until we had a full-fledged KWF (Kitty Wrestling Federation) match going on. Napoleon, being larger, usually won these matches.

The brothers liked to tag-team hunt as well. Out in our yard an endless supply of voles, mice and chipmunks lived, and we often could see them pairing up against a hapless critter, until either they tired of the chase, or the animal became an extra meal. Carrie quilted a wall hanging of two cats in a room with a fish in a bowl, and I provided the title of the Brothers Katamotzov Pondering Their Next Crime. Blinky and Napoleon were the Brothers Katamotzov.

Napoleon had his way of demanding lap time. I would be in the den working on the computer, when I felt an insistent head butt on my leg. Looking down, Napoleon would be looking up at me, going “Aren’t you going to go someplace where I can join you?” Then I would get up and move to a recliner, and this fat blob of a cat would race across the room to jump up on my lap. But I am not pretending that Napoleon was my cat. No, he was definitely Carrie’s cat. While my lap time was in the morning, hers was in the afternoon, and he blessed innumerable quilts that Carrie made. He would sit patiently on her lap while she sewed down the binding, putting up with the periodic movement of the quilt as she turned yet another corner, and had to readjust the quilt. Napoleon would fall asleep, paws outstretched to provide a bit of purchase against the edge of the loveseat. It was even better when Carrie decided to join him in a bit of a snooze herself. I would come downstairs only to see the two of them providing each other warmth and fellowship.

Both boys developed thyroid issues at the same time. We had noticed that Napoleon was losing a bit of weight, what we didn’t realize was that the weight loss was due to an overactive thyroid. We faced the choice of active treatment, including the possibility of killing the thyroid glands with radioactive iodine, or active pharmaceutical treatment, or a passive approach of adjusting their menu to provide only food that did not contain iodine. Such pet food does exist, at a cost of over $50 for an 8 pound bag, and a similar amount for a case of 24 cans of wet food. We elected that option, since by this time we only had the two brothers with us, and we could easily control the food choices. What was difficult was weaning Blinky away from table scraps. He had grown used to sharing our meals, and could be quite insistent in requesting his share. What we compromised on was giving the boys a bit of a can of their special food at night. Soon the begging for table scraps was greatly reduced, but both cats grew to expect and love their extra meal at night.

As they grew older, they became less adventuresome. A few years ago, their supremacy in the neighborhood was challenged when our neighbor across the street got married, and as part of the package deal, an indoor/outdoor cat named Harold was part of the entourage. Well, Harold did not recognize the neighborhood pecking order. In fact, it took Napoleon getting little notches out of both ears before he ceded his local reign as top cat. Both brothers decided it was better to stay inside than to challenge the interloper.

Both boys were due for injections this September. Just before they went in, I noticed that Napoleon seemed to be breathing differently. Shallow, with more frequent breaths. So I brought that up when we were at the vets. A quick x-ray later, and we discovered that the lungs had filled up with fluid and he was only breathing with the bottom portion of his lungs. We had fluid drained the next day, and he improved, but the x-rays now revealed shadows on his lungs. The vet said that it was likely cancer, but that we could help deal with the symptoms with lasix and an herbal preparation that dealt with excess lymphatic fluid. Otherwise, we could try invasive treatment at a veterinary hospital 150 miles away, where he might be subjected to chemotherapy or surgery. For a 15 year old cat, that would not be fair to put him through that. We agreed to the fluid draining and to squirt pharmaceuticals into his mouth. The first round of fluid was relatively clear, and Napoleon’s breathing improved significantly.

 

But it was only a little more than a month later that we could see him laboring again to breathe. We took him in again, and could see still more fluid in the x-ray. This time, the fluid they took out looked turbid, with reddish color hinting at blood as well. We had to leave him for a couple of days while we visited our son in Richmond, and it was with trepidation that we returned that weekend, not knowing whether Napoleon made it through the time alone. He had survived, and was just as loving as ever. What was different was that he now needed assistance to get up onto the sofa. He was weakening before our eyes. Our next appointment was the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and that weekend, he blessed two quilts, one for Andrew our younger son, and one for a great-nephew. But on that Tuesday, we took him in knowing that he likely would not be alive when we came back. The x-rays revealed that not only had fluid filled the outside of the lungs, but there was now fluid inside the lungs as well. Very shortly he would have drowned on dry land. We asked for a few minutes to call our sons so they could say goodbye. One never knows for sure what an animal is thinking, but he rubbed his head against the phones where familiar voices appeared. Then they took him back and gave him a sedative, before bringing him into the room with us for the final injections. His end was peaceful, and I could not help but think that we were easing him across the rainbow bridge, rather than trying to hold on for another few days of life that would have been increasingly stressful and painful. That’s the one thing I noticed, is that he never seemed to be in pain. For that, I will always be grateful.

Farewell, our gentle giant Napoleon. His brother Blinky still soldiers on, but we realize that we may be on borrowed time with him as well When a cat gets to be over 15 years of age, you never know when something will come up that marks the end of your time with your faithful companion. Enjoy them while they are around.