So Many People To Screw Over

I feel really, really sorry for Republicans these days. So many priorities, so much to do. Is it time to soak the poor by reducing tax rates for higher incomes and making the poor make up for the lost revenue by increasing consumption taxes? Or is it time to reverse social trends by enslaving women and forcing them to be considered only as vessels for the unborn? Or is it time to embrace all of the autocrats across the world, waiting with bated breath for their turn to implement such a structure in the American federal government?

I remember the origins of the first part of this turn towards Ayn Randian selfishness. Trickle-down economics were supposed to unleash huge benefits when they gained ascendancy in the Reagan administration. And boy, did they deliver. They delivered for the ruling class, enabling the concentration of wealth in the far right-hand segment of the income distribution bell curve. What is amazing is how ingrained this belief system is within our political classes. A gospel that must not be questioned.  So this mantra even shows up as one of President Trump’s singular legislative achievements – a massive reduction in corporate and partnership tax rates. Enacted with the assurance that such a gift to the capitalist class would supercharge the economy through new investments in capacity and raising wages. So much for predictions. Most of the benefits from the reduced tax rates showed up in dividend increases and stock buybacks, which is what a corporation does when its main interest is increasing its stock price. Indeed, the stock markets engaged in a frenzy of price appreciation after this legislation went into effect. Only in the recent past when inflation in consumer prices became evident, and fears were raised about slowing in consumer spending, did the markets take a pause. Personal note: due to saving my entire working life, and my fortune at working at a company where the vestiges of paternalism still existed, I have been enabled to benefit from the continuing asset price increases. So in essence I am arguing against my own interest.

Of course, when you cannot tout the economic benefits of your priorities, you must engage the suckers voters via another means. For Republicans this means revving up the culture war engine, and nowhere is that more evident than the events surrounding the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Finally, the Republicans were able to grab this shiny object, and deal with women as objects who are unfortunately necessary in creating the next generation. Now it is apparent the legislators do not care whether the products of pregnancy show signs of inbreeding (no exception for incest) or act as reminders of violent crimes (no exceptions for rape), or force children to bear children (no exception for minors). No, what is obvious is that only the power to implement a single religious viewpoint will suffice to sate the appetites of male legislators. After all, it was a mistake to give women the vote originally, right? This is another example of constitutional rights that were not evident in the original document at the founding of the nation.

Oh, you say the right for women to vote was included in an amendment to the Constitution? Well, have we an answer to that. Let’s call forth a brand new constitutional convention where we can clear up that little indiscretion, along with a lot of other things we don’t need. Social Security? That’s socialism by another name. Medicare and Medicaid? Socialized medicine at its worst. We ought to live back in the days when a day in the hospital cost only a few dollars. We were a better country then. And we don’t need government-sponsored death panels, insurance company death panels are much more compatible with the intent of the founders of this nation.

Don’t get me started on the deliberate misinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment. For a document whose intent was clear when this nation faced enemies who objected to the taking of their lands, we now have interpreted this amendment to mean an inalienable right for all residents of this nation to own and use whatever product of killing technology is available for sale. And woe to anyone who dares to put up any sort of barrier to this God-given right! Such imposition of barriers is the clearest evidence ever of government overreach.

Now we see the true objective come out in the Republican agenda. Install an autocratic regime modeled after any number of countries serving as examples for us to emulate. And of course, we must rail against anyone standing up against these autocratic regimes. Ukraine dares to fight against the mighty Russian forces. Therefore, Ukraine must be evil, and corrupt, and in the hands of the globalists. Russia? Pure as the driven snow in the Urals downwind of Chernobyl.  We see the hand of the autocrats with every bill in the state legislatures enabling said legislators to ignore election results and declare whomever they wish as winners. We see the hand of the autocrats in the announced plans to strip many thousands of federal employees of Civil Service protection, only to backfill the positions with Trump loyalists. Who needs a voter mandate when no one counts less than a voter.

No, I pity the poor Republicans. So many targets they have now, now that they’ve convinced enough people that they are the protectors of individual rights. If their victims supporters could only see their elected legislators laughing at them. Well, maybe it wouldn’t matter. Certainly the example of Donald Trump as President should have been eye-opening to the cult members. But that’s just it. We have a full-blown cult constituting the bulk of the Republican party. And it is doubtful the Democrats can mount an effective offense against the offensive policies the Republicans seem intent on foisting off on the rest of this country. Combine all of their wonderful traits together, and it seems the country is near the end of its experiment in self-governance. No, what we seem primed to accept is a dictatorship ready to tell us all of the things we can’t do anymore, since they have taken power.

Yosemite Sam? Meet Slimey!

I was slumped over sitting on one of the benches overlooking the Tidal Basin. Work recently had taken quite a toll on me, being as I had finally been forced into appearing in person in my office. For too much time during the pandemic, I silently was grateful for being able to sleep until just before my scheduled work hours, and commute into the spare bedroom where my desktop was stationed. Having to physically go down to an office in dress attire took far too much out of me, considering how reasonable that request really was.

Anyway, I was lost in thought as I sat on the bench, letting the occasional tourist pass by me as they surveyed the murk of the true Washington swamp. As I allowed myself to be distracted, I suddenly was aware of the approach of my old friend, Slimey. Now Slimey is one of the most unforgettable creatures you will ever see. Eight foot plus, a reptile with razor sharp claws but who managed to walk on his rear legs, he kind of grabbed your attention and never let it go. Since I was so familiar with him, my eyes were drawn towards his new belt, with dual AR-15’s stuck in his holsters. I can’t imagine who the leather worker was who created this for Slimey, nor could I imagine what the source of the leather was, knowing Slimey’s propensity for taking out anything within reach of his claws. But I had to know why he felt it necessary to open carry such weaponry.

“Slimey, it’s been too long since I’ve seen you,” I greeted him as he approached.

“My friend, it has been a long time. Good to see you.” Slimey sidled up alongside me, then suddenly turned and tilted one of his long guns, pointing it at seemingly no one. Fortunately, he didn’t fire, but his sudden move alarmed me.

I thought long about how to broach this subject, since I did not want to become the object he decided was a threat. “Slimey, why is it you find it necessary to carry such a wondrous arsenal?” I finally said. I figured a bit of flattery might disarm my friend, so to speak.

“My friend, you just cannot count on anyone in this town. So many people want to stab you in the back, I finally found it necessary to go armed.” Slimey reached down to caress his left rifle, while giving his right rifle an affirming pat. “Now I feel naked if I go out without my trusty friends.” And he swung around, scaring a tourist couple who were strolling along the basin. He withdrew his clawed hands, and the rifles swung back to their neutral position.

“You’ll have to excuse my friend” I said to the still shell-shocked couple. “He’s still getting used to open carry.” They turned around and walked rapidly away.

“Slimey, I would never have thought you would need to carry heat. You’ve always seemed like someone capable of defending yourself.” I was really wondering what caused my reptilian friend to change so suddenly.

He reverted to the low growl I had heard before. I engaged my own senses, knowing his lightning fast reflexes could overwhelm me before I even knew what hit me. And now he had two weapons to extend his reach! Things were definitely not looking good for me.

The moment seemed to pass for Slimey, and he actually lowered his girth onto the other end of the bench. I was glad for the sturdy construction, and I relaxed just a bit.

Slimey inclined his head towards me. “You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve already had to use these things.” Here he patted his side arms. “Of course, so far I haven’t had to hit anything, people tend to take off as soon as I fire off a clip.” He gave off a low rumble I recognized as his laughter. “I’ve even seen their rear ends turn brown as they try to get away.”

Only Slimey could laugh about human defecation. Probably since his kind did that always in the water, where it was not normally visible. But I let his joke pass.

Slimey still seemed agitated. I had to ask. “Has someone threatened you? Why did you suddenly decide you needed protection?”

Slimey stood up, and I understood our interaction was near its end. “It’s just everywhere in this town. It’s gotten so much worse since the last President left. I knew he had a soft spot in his heart for me. But now, I’m not so sure.”

I knew I was not going to get much more out of him. I’d had enough interactions with Slimey to know he was a reptile of few words. And armed as he was, I didn’t want to see any more of his actions. As he prepared to leave, I said, “Don’t be a stranger. You know where I live.” It was only after I said that, I realized it might not have been the wisest thing to say to an 8’ reptile armed with dual AR-15’s. But it was already too late, and Slimey was already striding down the path, heading towards the Memorial, ready to take on the next interloper on his path.

Instant Justice – Just Add Justices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only 7 Years Ago? Seems Like Yesterday

Trump tower escalator. Photo credit by AP Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Nation’s Selective Hearing

AP Photo -John Minchillo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exceptional? I Think Not!

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

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

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

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

Feed me, feed me now.

Feed me, feed me, feed me now.

Why are you so slow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epitaph

Cover of In The Court Of The Crimson King. Art by Barry Godber

Confusion will be my epitaph. These words, written by Peter Sinfield, and found on King Crimson’s first album, perfectly sums up 21st Century life. All we had believed in the past is now wiped away as society changes around us.

Women being able to govern their own bodies? Sorry, that is now obsolete. It is necessary for the State to coerce women to have children with no options for surgical solutions. See, it is all about saving the life of the unborn. Of course, coming up with solutions to enable         women to combine a working life with a family life is beyond the capacity of any politician, so undoubtedly the result of restrictive abortion laws will be more child abuse, more child poverty, and an increase in those who violate the law coming down the pike in about 16 years.

Confusion will be my epitaph. I believed it impossible for politicians to repudiate their own words caught on tape. That was before the current generation of politicians found it possible to disown their own statements of the recent past. Same holds for commentators on cable news shows who preen to the camera with unparalleled ability to regurgitate positions completely in opposition to what they said a few days or weeks ago. All in order to chase elusive voters or viewers, depending on which profession they practice. In all of these cases, their disdain for the public is palpable, since they believe only their current utterances represent their beliefs. Anything they said in the past is no longer germane, or even rational, and they definitely should not be held responsible for any past comments. And if anyone took their words seriously, and acted on them? Well, the politicians and commentators didn’t actually pull the trigger, so linking their words, and the actions of others is not fair.

I had a faith that the increased ties of commerce would assist in consigning international war to the trash heap of history. That faith was shattered with the invasion of Ukraine. So we are now to believe only in the force of arms which enables those with power to impose their will through the miracle of explosives. We may marvel in the ability of the people of a country to resist overwhelming odds, in order to retain their freedom. Maybe too many of us who marvel, no longer have beliefs we would die for. And no, wearing a surgical mask is not tyranny. An invading army consisting of soldiers who have no compunction against killing civilians is true tyranny.

 Confusion will be my epitaph. I did not hear the words spoken that deemed hatred of others as a Christian virtue. I was not prepared for a society where racism was considered a virtue, fully consistent with Christian principles. I was not prepared for a society where celebrity is worshiped as the only value worth celebrating, and those who have obtained celebrity are incapable of doing bad things, since, after all, they are celebrities. I was not prepared for a society where all values are deemed relative, and only the end matters, especially when it benefits me. I was not prepared for leaders who embodied the worst human attributes, and were proud of those pitiful attributes.

I believed advances in science would always be valued. I had forgotten how bitter the struggles were in the past for new scientific truths to be accepted if they challenged the status quo. I see echoes of Copernicus and Galileo in current issues around global warming, and humanity’s role in altering our planet. I realize now how difficult it is to convince others of facts they cannot verify through their own experience.

Confusion will be my epitaph. When the original Soviet Union fell, I believed mankind had dodged an enormous threat by removing the danger of nuclear conflict. I was not ready for the rise of an autocrat, who could threaten the use of what was considered unthinkable. I now realize that even if we escape this round of conflict without nuclear detonation, it is inconceivable we will emerge from the scourge of nationalism without some exchange of nuclear weaponry. Certainly the political discourse heard in many countries leads me to believe this exchange will happen sooner, not later.

I can go on, raising other issues where the promises of a brighter future now seem dimmed by the intransigence of the human race. But I want to leave the last words to Peter Sinfield, who penned them back in 1969:

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl, a cracked and broken path
If we make it, we can all sit back and laugh
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying
Yes, I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying

What It Takes To Get That R

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applicant:  Dogcatcher of Big Ugly.

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

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

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

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

Forget-Me-Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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