Monday, April 24, 2017

A SWEET, SAD MAN


I have a young male nurse who occasionally visits me. Why he comes is not important to this narrative. Only he is important. He's an immigrant from Russian Siberia who's been in the United States for a good long time. He speaks nearly unaccented English and is diligent about his care of me. He has a wife and a couple of children and, by all appearances, is a sweet and caring individual. He is also a religious fundamentalist, fierce anti-communist and Trump supporter.

For his part Benjamin does not believe that the King James translation of The Bible is the one, true and inerrant word of god. He does, however, believe that belief in miracles is a prerequisite for being a Christian. He believes that all dictatorships are left-wing which means that both Hitler and Stalin were socialists as were Mussolini, Mao, Peron, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Kim Il Sung, Franco, and Castro. Benjamin believes that there's no difference between any of those dictators. When I suggested to him that he might want to do some reading of major sources on that subject and offered to lend him my copy of William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Benjamin demurred because he needed to do some research first. He said that it's very hard to trust "the media" and the fact that Shirer was present reporting on Hitler's rise still meant that he needed to vet Shirer's book with some source. I do not know what that source might be but the most frightening moment of our conversation was that moment when he insisted that he could not accept a source without making sure that it is approved in some way by an authority that he accepts.

Benjamin still claims that he listens to and reads different sides of an argument without the least understanding that, if he reads only approved sources, he will be getting a skewed version of the sides in the argument. He doesn't understand that he's saying that his mind is open to anything to which his authority allows him to be open.

Benjamin knows that I am an atheist. He asked and I would not lie to him. I am sure that my inability to believe in anything supernatural colors all I say and certainly my recommendations. Many years ago I lived in a building in which my landlord was a member of some fundamentalist sect. His friend and pastor was also a contractor. My landlord, Joseph Butler, hired his pastor to do some extensive work in my apartment which resulted in long delays and great inconvenience until I had to call in the local health department and get an order for, among other things, a working toilet. But in the midst of this construction project the man whom I've always referred to as Pastor Plaster phoned me one night during supper to beg me to put away from me my many books on "satanic subjects" like Richard Cavendish's The Black Arts, books on Norse and Greek Mythology and the like. Had Pastor Plaster opened Cavendish's book he would have found that it explains and largely debunks much of occultism but the title on the spine of the book was enough for Pastor Plaster to be assured that I was meddling with the forces of satan. Similarly, I expect that Benjamin feels certain that anything I might offer him is meant to lead him astray.

As political Liberals we think that we can persuade people on the right-wing with rational arguments and, to a limited extent that is true. A segment of the right-wing is open to persuasion, usually on the basic issues of services and money that government provides to them. Yet a much more significant section of the right-wing, the true neo-Fascists, the evangelical fundamentalists cannot be persuaded at all. Like Benjamin they will filter any argument through the authorities they have been taught to examine first. That may be some political preacher masquerading as a religious authority, Fox News, some ultra-right-wing web sites maintained by the scum of the "alt right". The fact is that such people are no more susceptible to reason than a doorknob. They are even insulated from having the lies of their authorities exposed because such exposure they see as just an attack by the satanic forces of the opposition to their revealed truth.

Benjamin is a sweet man. The care he provides is informed and freely given. Benjamin, however, is locked in a ultra-right-wing room from which he will refuse any opportunity to escape because he's been told that any escape only brings him to satan, communism and the uncertainties of having to decide for himself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

SAD AND UNUSUAL


Aaron Hernandez is dead, a suicide hung in his jail cell. That is a great sadness for his family and those close to him. It is all but unique in the annals of murderous and criminal sports figures protected by jock privilege that often even trumps wealth and white skin.

I am not going to rehash the specifics of Mr. Hernandez's crimes here. Those specifics aren't the point. What is the point and what no one will ever hear in the postmortems for Hernandez's life and career is the privilege that allowed him to feel that he was above the law and, like O. J. Simpson, nothing, even murder, would have consequences for him.

As a society we do some crazy things, few crazier than the way we treat exceptional athletes. We take young men, usually when they are still in elementary school, and begin grooming them for a possible professional career. We ignore the injuries they receive unless those injuries are "career ending" in that they impair the child's ability to move quickly and with great agility. If the injury is to the player's brain we don't care until and unless it manifests itself as physical impairment. Among the relative few with exceptional ability who make it out of high school, colleges recruit based on athletic ability and set up programs that keep athletes at an ostensible academic level that allows them to continue to play. Despite highly touted rules to that claim to prevent academic fraud, no college with a high level star player is going to allow him or her to fail courses regardless of how richly he deserves that failure. At the same time that the college is looking out for its star player the alumni and sports agents are looking out for him as well. That player gets perks that beggar anything afforded the greatest academic stars. Worse yet the local police and fans in business are there to coddle the player by overlooking his misbehavior. In protecting the player from consequences of infractions large and small both the academic institution's officers and local fans are complicit.

After a college career comes the draft for the professional sports teams. If this player has reached the highest level of performance agents and teams compete for his attentions by throwing money and perks at him or, far less frequently, her. So you have a person of age 21 or 22 lionized by all in his circle, protected from all negative consequences of his or her bad actions to whom suddenly fabulous amounts of money are offered. Toss 10 or 20 million dollars at a 21-year old and is it really so surprising that this person should get involved in drinking, drugs or even drug dealing? If the player has never had to face the consequences of his or her acts is it really surprising that he should molest children, commit murder or engage in horrific acts of domestic violence?

I have just listened to some people who know better pontificate about Aaron Hernandez's case claiming that, poor Aaron could never quite escape the bad influences in his life from Bristol, Connecticut where he grew up. I have some familiarity with Bristol, Connecticut. There are bad influences in Bristol but no more nor less than there are in any city of its size in any of the old industrial cities of the northeast and mid-west. Foisting the blame onto Bristol or Hernandez's friends from home is simply another way of avoiding the essential question of whether we are not creating the O. J. Simpsons. Aaron Hernandezs and Jerry Sanduskys along with a host of others by the essential way in which we treat sports stars. Until we address jock privilege and the institutionalized programs for creating it we will see many more such cases. What is unusual about Aaron Hernandez's case is that he had the decency to hang himself rather than loudly protest his unlikely innocence in the face of proven guilt.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

AHISTORICAL


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana

I play a game on line with people who are, for the most part, of the generations of my children and grandchildren. I am constantly surprised and appalled that my fellow gamers have no sense of the world before they reached the age of 8 to10-years old. Most of them know only what they have been told, not what they have read, especially not what they have read in an actual book as opposed to some on-line site. How much more appalling was the quintessence, the total lack of historical knowledge that White House spokesman Sean Spicer demonstrated when he claimed that Adolph Hitler never used poison gas and then compounded the ahistorical idiocy by insisting that Hitler never used gas against "his own people".

In the Orson Welles movie The Stranger (1946), Edward G. Robinson's Mr. Wilson, tracking a Martin Boorman-like Nazi war criminal is cued in to the fact that Welles' Professor Charles Rankin is the Nazi he's seeking when Rankin denies that Karl Marx was a German because he was a Jew. Spicer's statement that Hitler never used gas on "his own people" smacks of a statement that a significant part of the millions killed in the death camps weren't Germans because they were Jews. And, of course, Spicer had the exquisite timing to assert this right-wing nonsense on the day that Passover began.

However, Spicer's comsumate and and congenital ignorance is simply a function of the consumate and congenital ignorance of the entire administration from our Prevaricator-in-Chief through his whole family and closest advisors down to the lowliest White House gofer. And, moreover to the entire Republiscum Party.

One of the most important bits of context for Sean Spicer's idiot remarks comes from the neo-Fascists' attempts to distance themselves from their progenitors, the Nazis. There is a trope in right-wing circles that the Nazis, the National Socialist Party, was a left-wing party because it had the word "Socialist" in its name. That's like saying that Republiscum are patriots because they wear flag lapel pins. A party can call itself anything it wants. The actions of that party determine whether it is of the left or of the right better than any name created for public relations purposes especially when the creator is Roger Ailes hero, Josef Goebbles. When Hitler came to absolute power following the death of President Hindenberg and the Nazi orchestrated Reichstag fire the first people who were shuttled off to concentration camps were the actual socialists, communists, labor leaders and other leaders of left-wing parties. Our Republiscum would have us forget that so that they can artificially create a sliver of light between themselves and the Nazis. In that context Hitler never used poison gas against "his own people".

The Republiscum have long engaged in a project to rewrite history to their own satisfaction. That has accounted for morons like Ben Carson equating slaves with immigrants. It has led to text books that misrepresent slavery, the wars against the Native American population and completely fictional narratives of the founding of the United States and its fundamental laws. This fictionalizing of history tends to make history conform to John Wayne and other Hollywood movies or television shows as if they were history texts rather than fictional entertainments. The fictionalizing of history is an essential view of the farrago that claims that certain ultra-fundamentalist religious groups have a direct descent from the first Christain disciples without connection to the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches. Also, a denial of history informs the nonsense that the King James translation of the Bible is the one inerrant and authoritative translation despite all the huge fund of Biblical research that has happened in the last seventy-five years. Yet that fictionalizing of history comes easy because it is part and parcel of the efforts to deny science. Denying the plethora evidence for human evolution, the scientific evidence for human caused climate change, and any other facts that do not support their narrow, fictional, wishful view of the world.

On short one cannot deny historical facts with one hand without getting all historical facts wrong on the other. When the Texas Board of Education, the largest single purchaser of textbooks in the nation, demands history texts that assert the primacy of Jesus and Ronald Reagan, the whole of history is upset and turned into a relgio-political, neo-Fascist tract. The students who learn from such claptrap are doomed to a complete misunderstanding of history and, consequently, of their nation and its laws.

Let's take as another example one of the main lies spread by the fundamentalist neo-Fascists: that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. I think that a good topic for this Easter Sunday.

They point to the Jamestown Charter and the Mayflower Compact as evidence that the United States is a Christian nation forgetting that there was a little bit of time between 1606 and 1620 and the drafting of the U. S. Constitution in 1787. It may come as a surprise to those who prefer to torture history into knotty contortions but sometimes things change in 180 years. Just for the moment note that both the Jamestown Charter and the Mayflower Compact open with the invocation of "James, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith...." In the 180 years intervening there was some nastiness between James successor, George, third of that name, and his subjects in the American colonies. That nastiness removed the acknowledgment of a British sovereign from the new nation of the United States of America. Is it not possible that there might have been some rethinking of religious affiliations as well?

Consider, please that the people aboard the good ship Mayflower, one of whom was an ancestor of mine, came to the shores of what is now Massachusetts not so much to seek religious freedom as to flee from religious freedom. They were dissenters from the established Church of England who fled to Holland where they were guaranteed freedom of worship. The Pilgrims problem with Holland was that everyone else had religious freedom too. They knew for and absolute fact that they had the one true Christian faith and were sorely affronted by other who thought that they had the one true Christian faith too. To escape religious freedom they fled Holland for the wild coasts of America there to establish a colony in which they could persecute anyone who espoused a faith and creed dissimilar to their own. That's why Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were exiled from the Bay Colony some years later and why Quakers were hung as heretics on Boston Common.

The Puritans of England initiated the Civil Wars of the 1640s, beheaded King Charles I, exiled his son, held bloody campaigns against Roman Catholics in Ireland and then, following the death of Oliver Cromwell when their coalition fell apart, reverted to the rule of that son, Charles II. That reign also ended in a series of civil wars over the religious affiliation of British monarchs that resulted in bestowing the British crown on the Dutch Prince William of Orange and his wife, Queen Mary jointly. When their daughter, Queen Anne died without an heir the throne went to the German George of Hanover. Yet throughout the first half of the 18th Century wars between England and France continued in which one of the main objects was restoring the Stuart line of James and Charles to the throne of England. The British Parliament imposed much of the taxation to which American colonists so strongly objected to pay for those wars.

In the more than a century since the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth the intellectuals of the American colonies had seen their nation of origin torn asunder by religious wars both civil and foreign. They had also seen their colonies become a refuge for religious dissenters of many variations not all of them Christian.

 By 1775 the American colonists had had enough of religious wars. The men who lead our Revolution read Descartes and Spinoza, Rousseau and Voltaire. For them the worship of god in any form was less important than the rights of man, than being human and humane. It is that context that the diverse men who met in Philadelphia in 1787 drafted a Constitution for the United States of America, not in the context of the first quarter of the 17th Century. Yet the religious wrong would have you believe that their selective view of our nation is correct if you conveniently know a little history as Sean Spicer. For the neo-Fascists who currently run our nation selective, "alternative facts" tortured into conformity to their ideology are all that matter. They just hope that no one notices or. that when someone does notice that their "alternative facts" are really lies, the populace is too stupid or distracted to notice



Friday, April 7, 2017

THE MORONS


I think that all of the agonizing over how the utterly unqualified Donald Trump managed to rise to the United States presidency we have missed one essential factor. Trump is a moron and speaks like a moron. He knows nothing and sounds like he knows nothing. In every venue and on every topic he speaks like a 4th Grader trying to deliver a book report on a book he's never read. I believe that this manifest stupidity is comforting to a majority of Americans who, themselves, are 4th Graders who never read that book for the report.

We saw a similar factor with Dubya who also is a moron. Then it was described as Dubya being someone that a voter "could have a beer with". Yet the truth of the situation was that voters thought that Al Gore was the smart guy around whom they never felt comfortable. He was the guy in elementary school who'd read the book and, when the teacher said that he or she would postpone the reports to the following Monday if no one was prepared, Al Gore was the guy who said he was prepared putting the morons in the class in a deep hole. In short, Al Gore was the guy the morons had hated since they were in elementary school while Dubya was the guy who was dropping cherry bombs in the toilets with them. The same was true of Hillary Clinton and, worse yet, she was the girl so smart that it threatened the insecure little boys' developing sense of manhood.

Yes, I know that Hillary won more popular votes. We have the fact that nerd culture has reached a thin level of supremacy thanks to computers and the attendant information technology. However, let us not discount the many refuges for morons: right-wing evangelical Christian religiosity, right-wing talk radio, Fox News, Breitbart, the Drudge Report, and the pernicious neo-fascist "think tanks" that feed those down-scale flacks like The Heritage Foundation, The Federalist Society, Cato and Manhattan Institutes and their like.

I am reminded of a story about Adlai Stevenson that I may have related in an earlier entry of this Blog. When he ran for the presidency in 1952 against Dwight Eisenhower a woman stopped Stevenson following a speech he'd delivered. She said to him, "Governor Stevenson, you are the choice of every thinking American." Stevenson answered, "Thank you, ma'm, but I'd rather have a majority."

We may well have a thinking majority at the moment as evidenced by Clinton's popular vote tally but we still have a Congress skewed toward rural states and an electorate that doesn't like or trust people who are too well educated. Consider the opposition to Barak Obama. He was a Constitutional law professor constantly under attack for "violating the Constitution", violations that seemed to vanish like morning fog the moment that the moron Donald Trump became president. Where are the suits by Congress over Trump's governing by executive order? Hint: They are gathering dust with all the Benghazi reports that found that there was no malfeasance in that matter.

The point is that Trump is a moron. Dubya is a moron. They both became President of the United States because stupid people heard in them a reflection of their own stupidity and felt comfortable with that.

If you want to make the case that I am an "elitist", go right ahead. If being an "elitist" means being a person who knows actual history rather than Hollywood dramatizations, John Wayne movies and other fiction, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means thinking opinions through and questioning one's own opinions constantly in the view of verifiable evidence rather than simply reacting on a visceral level, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means being educated and valuing others with education and verifiable knowledge, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means questioning everything, especially religion and even more so the interpretation of religion by people with fantastical pronouncements and questionable motives, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means that I am not a moron and reject the narrow, pusillanimous, uninformed, beastial, mindlessness of morons, I enthusiastically admit to it.

As "elitist" as my argument may be, I place myself in good company. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were elitists who wrote The Federalist Papers arguing for the United States Constitution that they had just written. They are just three in a long line of elitists who have done their best to lead a herd of morons toward a higher level of existence and understanding. Unfortunately today the morons are triumphant. We watch and listen to them twist themselves into bizarre rationalizations to justify the imbecilic decision they have made in putting our Prevaricator in Chief into the White House. We nod and commiserate with the poor morons as it slowly dawns on them that they have been had in the most egregious way possible. We have some compassion for the morons because that is the responsibility of the elitist: to forgive and succor the morons because anything else would be both inhumane and inhuman.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

SINS OF THE FATHER


In 1978 I began working for the Social Security Administration in Lynn, Massachusetts. Lynn is an old industrial city along the shore north of Boston. In the 19th Century it was a centre of shoe and leather goods manufacturing. In more recent years its main industries have been the General Electric aircraft engine plant and crime. Along the shore front there are a number of seafood restaurants one of which was a largely take-out place at a traffic rotary not far from the water.

Not long after I started my job a well-dressed, balding man of about 65 came in to file for retirement. He was the owner of the seafood place at the rotary. He was certainly of retirement age but there are some special requirements for business owners who retire. Those requirements all centre on whether or not the person is truly retired from operating his business. The point of those regulations being that retirement from business should actually be retirement from business because if Social Security is going to pay you for not working you should not actually be working. It quickly became clear that this was about the third time this gentleman had filed. On each previous application he'd been denied benefits because he was actually still running his business.

I'd only just begun this job. My family was still living in Connecticut. I would hitch a ride back home with a friend from the training for this job we'd both just been through. Each Friday after work she would pick me up and then we would drive to our respective homes in Connecticut. We would then reverse the process and she would drive me back up to Lynn on Sunday evening. On the drive back to Lynn this one Sunday I was telling my friend about this guy without revealing any names. As we neared Lynn I asked, "Mae, are you hungry?" She answered that she was a little. "Would you like to get some clams?"

We stopped at the seafood place at the rotary. We went to the counter and ordered fried clam dinners from a fellow who looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s and waited for our food. While we waited the gentleman who'd filed for retirement was puttering about the kitchen area which was fully visible from the order counter. He had a clipboard and appeared to be completing a checklist of some sort. Two younger men, the one who'd taken our order and another who was a little taller though about the same age, kept after my retirement applicant with questions.

"Dad, how much of X should we order for next week?"

"Dad, when should be pay Y bill? Within the 30 days or 45?"

It was clear by the time we'd eaten at the array of tables in the dining room around the corner that my retirement applicant was running the business still and that his sons depended on him for the substantial decisions for the business. He left before we did. With a nod toward us, the only customers in the place, he shouted to his sons, "You can close up for the night in a few minutes!"

The next morning I denied his retirement claim. Lest you think I was being overly harsh this man could well benefit from the denial because, if he was filing relatively honest tax returns, his monthly benefits from Social Security would actually increase until he reached age 70, when his work or lack thereof would become irrelevant, or at some nearer point at which 0he actually did retire from running the business.

What brings this to mind nearly forty years later is Donald Trump's refusal to liquidate his business holdings and the claim that he's turning their running over to his sons. If you believe that then you are still looking up the chimney for Santa Claus, waiting for the Easter Bunny and believe anything you hear on Fox News.  The idea that Uday and Qusay...I mean Donald, Jr. and Eric...Trump are going to run the Trump businesses is laughable on several counts. The most important reason why that will not happen is that no one seriously believes that Donald, Sr. is going to relinquish control of anything to anybody without being forced to do so. The second is that there is no evidence that either of the adult Trump boys have any head for business at all given that they have spent their lives dining out on their father's name.

Of course, there is one member of the Trump family who does seem to have some business sense, Ivanka, his daughter. She, however, is in a very odd position. Donald, Sr.'s many sexual references to Ivanka have been the butt of comedians' jokes for the last year or more. Those intimations of incest are gaining a bit more of a serious look because Trump has relegated his wife, Melania, to Trump Tower in New York and is bringing Ivanka to Washington in the role of de facto First Lady. Such an arrangement is not unprecedented. President James Buchanan's niece acted as his first lady. Kate Chase fully intended to fill that role for her father, Salmon, if he'd ever become president and Alice Roosevelt was the effective first lady for her father, Theodore. So far as we know Buchanan, Chase and Teddy Roosevelt never called those women "hot", claimed that they would date them or that the thing they most had in common with one another was sex. Whether Donald, Sr. has more than inappropriate thoughts about his daughter no one knows but placing her in a position normally held by the president's wife unquestionably feeds into a narrative that ratchets his lascivious remarks about his daughter up a notch or two.

Regardless of the president elect's relationship with any of his children the point here is that Donald Trump's allegation that his sons will be running his businesses while he is president is a fairy tale and a fraud like most of what Trump has perpetrated on friends and enemies throughout his life. The voters who put this con man in the White House elected the swamp itself to drain itself. How likely is that?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

REFLECTIONS ON 2016



As the year ends we all look back a bit and try to see how we got to our current position. I'm not going to review what I have come to think of as the worst year for my nation since the horrible year of 1968. Rather I just have some miscellaneous thoughts to post.


  • Everyone gets exercised over Gerrymandering and now over the Electoral College ignoring the fact that the Electoral College issues can be entirely solved and Gerrymandering made more difficult simply by changing the number of members of the U. S. House of Representatives. We have two senators from each state to equalize the influence of small and large states. The House of Representatives is supposed to have a membership reflective of the population on a state by state basis though each state must have at least one Representative. The first U. S. Congress had 66 Representatives. The membership of the House increased with the admission of new states and increases in the U. S. population regularly until 1927 when the House set it's membership at 435. The population at that time was 119,035,000. For ninety years the membership of the House has remained at 435 while the population has grown to 325,269,040 a 273% increase. We do not need 1188 Representatives. However, a state like Wyoming with a population of under 586,107 has the same representation as the average district in more populous states with a population of about ranging from 710,000 to around 730,000. Constitutionally the people of Wyoming do not deserve to have 123% more of a say in the affairs of the nation than the people who live in New York's 10th Congressional District. If Wyoming's population were the standard we would have a U. S. House of about 555 members. Most of those additional 120 members would come from more urban areas reflecting the shift in population since 1927. They might not all be Liberal or Conservative. They certainly would be a mix of Democrats and Republiscum but they would reflect the current population better than the current make up of the House. It would require about 328 electors to elect a U. S. President instead of the current 270. While 555 Congressional Districts certainly could be Gerrymandered it would be a lot harder to create the bizarre districts we've seen recently when the population of each district must be a bit smaller. Instead of wasting time on a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Electoral College or fuming impotently over Gerrymandering that has been practiced ever since Elbridge Gerry invented it in the 1790s we should focus on making the House of Representatives more representative and stop wasting time on other crap solutions that will never make any difference.
  •  Jill Stein has managed to prove that she can siphon off votes desperately needed by a woman who actually had a chance to be president. Stein is otherwise a pointless footnote to the last two presidential elections. It's time for Stein and the Green Party to get the hell out of the way and let us get on with stopping America's slide into fascism.
  • I once had respect for Ralph Nader. He once was an important advocate for consumer's rights against corporate greed and criminality. Now he's just an annoying bug buzzing around that desperately needs swatting. He gave the 2000 election to Dubya and Cheney. That's bad enough but worse yet he's refused to accept any responsibility for the 2000 mess in Florida and insists on lecturing any people dumb enough to listen on how American democracy should work. He's lost the right to give that advice. Nader is the flip side of Donald Trump: all ego, impervious to the harm he's done and simply a prescription for disaster by other means. Nader needs to shut the fuck up and spend his days silently dusting the exhibits at his tort museum in Winstead, Connecticut.
  • Donald Trump has performed one verifiable miracle: turning The Fox News uber-blond bimbo, Megyn Kelly, into a journalist for a hot minute. Kelly has returned to the Trumpite bigot fold with her insistence that "Santa just is white." We all knew it couldn't last. There never was any "there" there. A thug may make one a victim but can't make a jerk a decent human being.
  • Donald Trump is both the apotheosis and the destruction of the Republiscum Party. It's coddling of all forms of hate and bigotry has gone on so long that at last the noisome, seething substance of the party has finally broken through and now appears in all its appalling deformity.
  • As the corollary to the comment immediately above, the Trump voters remind me of the moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Belloq, Toht and Colonel Dietrich have just opened the ark. Many, lovely airy spirits stream out of the ark and Toht remarks, "Beautiful!" just before those spirits become furies and melt off everyone's faces. The "drain the swamp" chanters haven't comprehended the bottom dwelling creatures they've got. I await the face meltings.
  • Every president creates a winning coalition by lying to people. He wants to bring them into that coalition long enough to win the presidency. I would argue that Barack Obama lied significantly less than most of his predecessors. Trump, on the other hand, has been nothing but lies. Most of the things he's promised to do are manifestly impossible and those that he seems likely to do are going to offend significant portions of his voters. We get to watch as the Trumpites' faces melt off but we also get to watch the disappointment of the white supremacist lunatic fringe (styled as the alt-right so that people won't immediately notice that this turd stinks) which is armed, ready for the immanent attack of all of the groups they hate and maybe a danger to Trump himself. I hope the Secret Service is training agents to duck.
  • Those people who were chanting "lock her up" about "corrupt" Hillary, they don't know what corruption is...yet.
  • Mike Pence has stated that he's "a Christian, a Conservative and a Republican, in that order." You will note that American, believer in democracy or supporter of the Constitution are not part of Pence's list. 
  • Republiscum think that patriotism means a flag lapel pin, democracy is a nice word but something to be avoided and the Constitution is something to be quoted if necessary but ignored, except for the Second Amendment as edited by the NRA.
  • In case you haven't noticed Trump has nominated ultra-right wing military men to control the two departments, Defense and Homeland Security, that control all the armed services of the Federal government. Note to all of you "Constitutional originalists" - all of the founding fathers thought that was a very bad idea. How bad, we're about to find out.
  • Glenn Beck has suddenly seen that his extremist lunacy has (mirabile dictu!) contributed to the rise of the out-right fascist Donald Trump and is now expressing his sorrow at his behavior. Perhaps I'm unkind but it all sounds to me a lot like the boy who's just murdered both his parents suddenly realizing that he's an orphan. Oh! Poor widdle Glenny! His fascists got too Nazi for him. Pardon my inability to shed a commiserating tear.
  • Trevor Noah's insight that Trump is simply the white-supremacist version of an African dictator is spot on and something that only he could bring to the conversation. Yay, Trevor!
  •  My admiration for Trevor Noah does not stop me from believing that both John Oliver and Samantha Bee are Jon Stewart's true successors. Both are better at the depth and breadth of political insight that Stewart displayed than Noah. That is not to say that Noah hasn't a place in the conversation or that in a few years Noah won't be up at their level.
  • Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyer are the best of Late Night television.
  • I miss Larry Wilmore. Sometimes his shows descended into silliness particularly when his guest for the discussion was some rapper more interested in promoting himself than anything else. Still Wilmore presented a perspective unavailable elsewhere that I now miss. 
  • It's about damned time that the United States allowed a U. N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building to pass. It's not an anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian resolution. It's a pro-reason, pro-justice and pro-peace resolution.
  • If the Netanyahu government decides to shun the United Nations then the United Nations might want to revisit General Assembly Resolution 181 and subsequent affirmations of Israeli sovereignty not because Jews do not deserve a homeland but because they deserve to share a homeland with the indiginous Palestinian population.
  • If my Democratic Party can't field a group of candidates larger than 3 or 4 and younger than 55 for 2020 we deserve to lose the presidency again.
  •  Watch what happens in the U. S. Senate over the coming months. John McCain and his shadow, Lindsay Graham, are no friends of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is all primed up for 2020. There are enough offended egos and counter-Trump ambitions to sink his presidency before it even gets out of the harbor and do so in common cause with Democrats though for different reasons.
  • While a lot of people will continue to obsess about Prince, and though I acknowledge that he was a great talent, I'm going to miss David Bowie more. The man was a class act all the way from The Man Who Fell to Earth to Labyrinth to The Hunger and The Prestige along with many more performances quite apart from his musical talents.
  • Deciding that Black Lives Matter is racist reveals that those claiming that it is are the true racists.
  • Some thirty years ago the very savvy politician and wonderful man, Barney Frank, quipped that, "Republicans believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth." I would add that Republiscum are opposed to abortion and birth control for women potentially affected by the Zica virus because without micro-cephalics where will the next generation of Republiscum voters come from?
  • If Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky all had strict laws governing gun purchases the murder rate in Chicago would drop significantly.
  • I don't expect anything but roller coaster action sequences from J. J. Abrams' Star Wars movies. Abrams is to directorial storytelling what Hayden Christiansen was to acting. Still I had hopes for a rich development of Leia Organa's role in the coming sequels. Now those hopes are dashed. Peace, Carrie Fisher, peace! As a fitting memorial don't watch a Star Wars movie. Instead watch the 1980 The Blues Brothers and enjoy her performance.

Monday, December 5, 2016

MY COUNTRY 'TIS...MY CRAZY AUNT HELEN


Let us start with a couple of trenchant observations from the Sage of Baltimore, Henry Louis Mencken:

Giving every man the vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

We all have a Crazy Aunt Helen. She might be your Aunt Sadie or Uncle Harry or Cousin Mike or your mother, Corinne. The name doesn't matter. The gender and precise relationship doesn't matter much either. He or she is the crazy relative who just has a bunch of loopy shit in his or her head which no amount of sanitizing can remove.

My Crazy Aunt Helen was born in March, 1911. She grew up in a semi-privileged home in Cheshire, Connecticut and, as she would do throughout her life, adopted wholeheartedly the image of the 1920s "modern girl" that we now call a "flapper". She went off to Crosby High School in Waterbury in 1922 and at some point got shipped off to Southern Seminary in Bowling Green, Virginia "because she was too interested in boys". That's the sole bit of information about her change of schools that ever escaped anyone's lips during the lifetimes of those who knew more. She came back north about the time that Lindbergh landed in Paris prepared with good manners, social skills and some secretarial training. What no finishing school or any amount of education could infuse into my Crazy Aunt Helen was taste. She had some but all of it was bad and not just red wine with Dover sole bad taste but day-glow orange and black fake leopard skin with plaid bad taste. That last skill, secretarial training, was probably her entree to the widower executive of a Waterbury manufacturing firm. My Uncle George was almost exactly the same age as Helen's father. He was a late-Victorian gentleman who's done well for himself, owned a fine home in a neighborhood that included public officials as neighbors and had enough good taste to, in most things, restrain the excesses of my Crazy Aunt Helen. His main failing of taste appears to have been in marrying my aunt.

When my Uncle George died in 1956 the restraints on my Crazy Aunt Helen's bad taste disappeared at just the point at which she came into a modest fortune left by my Uncle George.

I don't need to enumerate all the horrors into which a woman with no taste and substantial money can descend. Suffice it to say that she could never see the beauty in anything old other than husbands or potential husbands. The only things that attracted her were the new, the shiny, the hyped. Old things were trash to be thrown away. New things were treasures no matter how shoddy or misrepresented they were. She frittered away what money there was on an alcoholic second husband and, when he died in a fire he set when he passed out while smoking, a con man former contractor boyfriend who fleeced her on kickbacks on the new home he convinced her to build.

So let me suggest that a majority of American's eligible voters are millions and millions of my Crazy Aunt Helens. I include in that group even those who failed to get off their asses and actually vote in November, 2016. I would suggest that we should have seen this outcome coming in 1998 when the utterly unqualified Jesse Ventura became governor of Minnesota.

Earlier this year I ran into a woman who was an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter largely because he was "not part of the establishment". She was confident that either Bernie or Trump would make the change that the nation needed just like Jesse Ventura had done fifteen years earlier when she was a resident of Minnesota. At the time the linking of Bernie and Trump was a commonplace but a mystery to me. Tossing Jesse Ventura into the mix seemed even more deranged. Yet the more I thought about it the more it seemed in keeping with the ambient stupidity of most people.

More recently I bought a book from a used book dealer in Kentucky. A bit of right-wing propaganda he included with the book. I sent an e-mail that sparked several days of relatively pleasant exchanges in which he revealed himself increasingly insane. He was able to enumerate every real or imagined Hillary conspiracy but confessed to having little or no knowledge of Donald Trump's multiple verified frauds and criminality.

There had to be some point on the Venn Diagram of Bernie, Trump, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwartzenegger supporters that included that woman and the bookseller. I think that the catalyst was Dubya Bush.

Look back at the last seven presidential elections, please. After twelve years of Reagan-Bush, voters threw out the old and moved in the new Clintons. After eight years of the Clintons voters almost rejected their vice-president, Al Gore, for the new Bush Administration. And, yes, the voters did not reject Al Gore but the vote was close enough that a right-wing Supreme Court could make a semi-plausible decision in favor of Dubya. In 2008, preaching Hope and Change, voters threw out the Republiscum and brought in Barack Obama and now many of those same voters have brought in Donald Trump who's claimed that he's going to "drain the swamp" even as he populates the swamp with more poisonous reptiles than we've seen in many a year.

Just as my Crazy Aunt Helen would throw out a gorgeous 1930s modern bedroom set in bird's-eye maple as "old and ugly" to replace it with a cheap bit of pseudo-colonial crap in painted pine, American voters, angry and stupid, keep throwing out perfectly good politicians and policies in favor of people who provide a nebulous promise of change. There's no thought or study. No facts penetrate the desire to throw out the old and replace it with the new and shiny despite the fact that the glitz covers rot and criminal behavior.

So I would suggest that a corollary to Mencken's dictum about American's intelligence is that no one ever lost a presidential election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Though she's been dead these twenty year, my Crazy Aunt Helen's spirit  bad taste, bed decisions and all, is alive and well circulating throughout the land in search of something new and shiny regardless of whether it's good for the nation or not.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

SOON, SOON FROM NOW IN A THEATRE NEAR, NEAR TO ME....


The election of America's first avowed neo-Nazi president is so appalling that I'm going to take a short detour from politics to discuss one of my great loves, movies, and the descent into silliness of one of it's great franchises, Star Wars.

Back in 1977 when the original Star Wars was released I resisted having anything to do with it. I have a prejudice against pop culture: if it's phenomenally popular it can't be that good. For every Dan Brown novel that confirms my bias there's some other phenomenon that confirms that my prejudice, like all other prejudices, is foolish at best and stupidly harmful at worst but it's my prejudice. It keeps me from reading whole libraries full of popular trash novels and every self-help fad book ever written though it's also kept me from reading J. R. R. Tolkiens novels too. In any case, I resisted the original Star Wars movie for about a year. Finally, my then wife and I took our two daughters to see it at a theatre in Saugus, Massachusetts which no longer exists and were charmed. It was a popcorn movie clearly derived from the movie serials of 40 years before but it had fine acting and an engaging story line. I and my girls were hooked. We've been back to see all the sequels including the three, sad prequels.

Starting with The Phantom Menace my fervent wish was that George Lucas would simply butt the hell out and turn the writing over to Lawrence Kasdan and the directing over to the late Irvin Kershner who made The Empire Strikes Back the best of the first three films. The miscasting of Jake Lloyd, who lacked the strangeness that would allow us to believe he could end up as Darth Vader, and Hayden Christiansen*, who lacks everything necessary to becoming Darth Vader including talent, made it clear that whatever vision Mr. Lucas had for his saga was greatly lacking. Yet it was possible to write even Jar-Jar Binks off as the exposition for a scene whose outcome we already knew.

A few years ago when we heard that J. J. Abrams would be directing the new Star Wars sequels I was less than thrilled. Abrams knows special effects and pacing he doesn't know acting and his directing, stripped of the CGI, is plodding at best. His script writing is only inventive in setting up each new show piece for the computer imaging people. The new series suffers terribly from Abrams' banality. Take as one, and perhaps the most glaring, example of Abrams' bad writing and incompetence in dealing with actors the brief scene in The Force Awakens between Carrie Fisher's Leya Organa and Harrison Ford's Han Solo. They were lovers, married and estranged parents of a child who has gone horribly wrong. They haven't seen each other in years. They get a minute or two of screen time, a smattering of expository dialogue and then the CGI begins again. Their relationship in all its complexity was one of the drivers that made the initial three movies engaging but they might have been ordering pizza for all the time and emotional baggage they get a chance to display. I think it's one indicator of bad things to come that Carrie Fisher's name is nowhere in the cast list of Rogue One. I don't presume to know why but if her role in The Force Awakens is any indication of the attention her character is given and I were Carrie Fisher, I'd go back to collecting residual checks from the earlier movies and stay as far from the new incarnations as possible.

That said let me take The Force Awakens as the prime example of bad writing and direction since that is the only Abrams film we have in full release for the dissection.

First, thirty years have passed since the only emperor that the Empire ever had was killed, Darth Vader died and the rebel alliance destroyed the second Death Star. So why are the rebel alliance and the Jedi not ruling a restored Republic and fighting the occasional clean-up action against the remaining adherents of the old Empire? Did all those people longing for the restoration of an Intergalactic democracy just go into suspended animation for 30 years only to wake up to a restored Empire? That's the first great, gaping hole in Abrams' shoddy narrative.

Now let's get on to the second great fault in this new narrative. As partial, if unspecific  explanation for the resurgent Empire we have the deus ex machina, Supreme Leader Snoke (whose name always recalls for me William Faulkner's social climbing Snopes family of Yoknapatawpha County though I doubt any actual connection). Snoke we are supposed to infer is the Ur-Sith, the master who trained the Emperor, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, to become Darth Sidious. Unfortunately, Abrams leaves all that to audience inference and doesn't set up the background for Snope's appearance. Yes, I know that there are oblique references to another Sith master in earlier movies but they come in the more recent prequels and have no canonical origin in the first three films ending with Return of the Jedi. I don't mind the introduction of Snoke per se. He's a kind of anti-Yoda, but it's just plain lazy writing not to give us some set up and back story.

Speaking of story and laziness, let's acknowledge right here that Abrams cribbed the entire structure of The Force Awakens from the original Star Wars film. We have an abandoned child grown to adulthood who finds a good father figure who is ultimately killed by his, in this case actual instead of surrogate, son. A few details change along the way but The Force Awakens story line is so obvious and predictable that there is not single midi-chlorian of surprise when Kylo Ren murders Han Solo.

So we have a recycled story line, a poorly conceived and described major character who comes out of nowhere and a narrative line that has circled back on itself because the director and principle writer hasn't enough imagination for both big CGI set pieces and cogent writing. That's three strikes but this is not basball. There are more.

As the fourth glaring and utterly stupid fault, I give you Death Star Redux. It's bigger, meaner and that's supposed to make us think it's new as opposed to something actually recycled. The original Death Star was described as "a small moon". The new Death Star is planet sized. It sucks its energy out of nearby stars.

Can we get to elementary physics for a moment? We know of star systems that have one and two stars. We also know that it is not a trip to the corner 7-11 Store to get to the next star from any given solar system. So, even if we don't consider any of the other glaring improbabilities and impossibilities of this new Death Star when it sucks all the power from the nearest star that action will kill the entire solar system around that star. The solar system dies in the starless icy grip of space unless it's a binary system which will die a lot slower because it still has one star where its life forms are predicated on two. So what's the point? The point is that once the Death Star kills the nearby star to power itself, there's no need for the beam that explodes planets, Every planet in that solar system is now dead or dying. Mission accomplished, to borrow a lie used by another incompetent at his job.

However, that is just one of the idiotic problems with Death Star Redux. It's now planet sized. Consider please the amount of energy that would be required to move that large an object at a leisurely walking pace through space. Let's suppose that it's built in orbit around some star that it's going to gobble up one day. The gravitational forces keep it circling its star without any motors but the moment the Empire wants to move it to some new area it's going to need massive amounts of energy just to break out of orbit and keep moving through space at that slow walking pace. When it need to get to the next star system some dozens or hundreds of light years, it's going to be several thousands of years before it can threaten its next planet. Maybe Kylo Ren's thirty-second great-grandchild, still committed to the family business of planet destruction might come within range of its target which might by then be a friendly planet. Alternatively, let's suppose that the Death Star Redux could move at warp speed. Can we even imagine the number of sucked-up suns that it would require to move it that fast or the amount of heating that would occur on the surface of so large an object at speeds faster than light? The fact is that the Empire would be better served by building many smaller Death Stars than by building one humongous one. Just as a tank is more mobile than a fortress and a soldier more mobile than a tank, bigger and bigger Death Stars are nonsense.

Not only that but consider also the fact that so large an object would exert its own gravitational forces on everything around it. As it moved through space at any speed it would dislodge planets and moons from their orbits. In short, the Empire's science team are either idiots or con men boondoggling the Empire into buying self-defeating mega-hardware. Where have I heard that before and wasn't "Star Wars" attached to that con game?

Also, before we depart the theme of physics entirely, let us consider Newton's Third Law of Motion. If for every exertion of force upon an object there is an equal and opposite reaction, when the Death Star fires at a planet it is going to get kicked backward substantially. Maybe that's how the Empire expects to bounce the Death Star from solar system to solar system? I don't think so. Once again, the larger the Death Star the more problems in elementary physics it must solve and the less likely it is to be built.

So the lazy, unimaginative Mr. Abrams has stuck himself with a rehashed series of scripts and plot elements that make less sense than Donald Trump's promises and trickle down economics combined. Worse yet we are falling into the crass hole of the last two Harry Potter movies: Harry Potter and the Increased Ticket Sales I & II. The coming Rogue One is an interleaf in the Star Wars saga. It is Episode III.5, the story of the theft of the Death Star plans that Princess Leia feeds into R2D2 at the beginning of the 1977 movie. Other than the people getting fat off of box office receipts, who the hell cares? We know that Count Dooku sent the plans onward to General Grievous at the end of Episode II: Attack of the Clones and that those plans have survived to create the Death Star in the 1977 movie. The only reason that we need to see the machinations between Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars is that some of those involved need more cash. I don't begrudge James Earl Jones, the wonderful and much under-rated Warwick Davis or Jimmy Smits a penny. Hell, I don't begrudge any actors their paychecks. I do begrudge Disney every penny of profit and whatever cash the undeserving Mr. Abrams cons us out of.

Even as I make plans to see the coming Rogue One my heart sinks and I wish for a different director, writer and outcome. With a whole universe of problems to consider and a new generation of adults to confront or create them Mr. Abrams has chosen to feed his audience the meal they've eaten before jazzed up with some spicy CGI or, in this case, a meal that no one ever ordered. It's as if we'd come to a familiar mid-priced yet with pretensions to up-scale restaurant and have been told that we can order anything on the menu. We will be charged full price but we will only get the sorbet and salad from between courses and had better like it. Mr. Abrams taken us nowhere that we haven't been before, nowhere we asked to go while tossing some glitter in the air and hoping it distracts us from the fact that we've been on this ride before at lower cost and with better direction.

Ultimately, I have enjoyed the Star Wars saga though less and less so since 1983. This franchise is in serious danger of dying from lack of character rather than lack of energy. Fans are fans and will keep buying tickets regardless of the watered small beer and pablum fed them. Then there are those like me who can enjoy a good story with a coherent mythology told engagingly. Just as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull killed the Indiana Jones franchise despite the best efforts of Harrison Ford, John Hurt, Karen Allen and, above all, Cate Blanchette (the less said about Shia LaBeouf the better) we are verging on the point where Star Wars may well explode like a sabotaged Death Star and fade away forever without realizing its best potential. That would be sad. One more interleaf movie designed to con money out of my pocket and I will do what I do with most superhero films: wait until they appear on cable television and watch as much of them as I can stand before I change channels in disgust.

Finally, having distracted myself from politics briefly I would like to point out that I feel today that I may have been too harsh on the fact that the rebel alliance is fighting the Empire 30 years after its defeat. Seventy-five years ago we in America went to war against Fascism in Germany, Italy and Japan. By the time Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were thirty years behind us we had spent a decade between 1945 and 1955 fighting McCarthyist Fascism at home, succumbed to the neo-Fascism of Nixon and Reagan and now, thirty years after Reagan and Poppy Bush, we have elected a true neo-Nazi as president. We have taken the people who made the mess, impoverished the middle class and shipped jobs overseas and decided, exactly as the Germans in 1932 did, that the people who intentionally created the mess are the ones to clean it up. Now it's the obligation of all of us to destroy the Death Star. I wish us all luck.

* In Return of the Jedi Alec Guinness' spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Mark Hamill's Luke that his father, Anakin "Is more machine now than man." When the healed and reconstructed Darth Vader rises, Frankenstein monster-like, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, he is far less mechanical than Hayden Christainsen at any point in either of the movies in which he appeared.

Friday, November 11, 2016

DEAR HILLARY AND MY FELLOW DEMOCRATS


Oh, Hillary, I am beyond sorry that you are not going to be the 45th President of the United States. I supported you. I voted for you. I also knew that you were a hair's breadth from losing right from the start. It never mattered that you are unquestionably the most deserving, accomplished and capable person who ran for president in 2016. In fact, those positive factors worked against you.

Sure, I got all the positive poll results from the Daily Kos and other lefty sites and the optimistic projections of your route to victory. Even as I read them hopefully I suspected that I was stuck in a left wing echo chamber that wasn't hearing anything from the outside. I like to know what those on my side of an issue are thinking but listening only to them is no more useful or valid than the neo-Fascist spew for the likes of Rash Lamebrain's ditto heads.

The fact is that we proved in 2008 that you were never going to win the White House. When Barack Obama came out of the Senate with minimal national experience and beat you, he beat you for the same reasons that Donald J. Trump (it sickens me to write his name!) beat you: you are the past. You are carrying too much baggage, both your own and, unwillingly, Bill's, and you are not the kind of easy, comfortable, warm person in public that Bill or Barack always are.

I have followed Bernie Sanders' career since he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Bernie is a good man who fulfilled the very useful function of pulling you ever so slightly to the left of wishy-washy centre that you prefer to occupy. Even so I was never a Bernie supporter. He was never going to be president. For well over a century we in the United States have equated the term, "socialism" with all that's evil and antithetical to American democracy. It's a bum rap. Worse yet the neo-Fascists who make up the Republiscum Party have promoted the nonsense that because the Nazis, the German Nationalische Socialistiche Partei of Adolph Hitler, had "socialist" in their name they were a left wing party. No one with a decent grounding in history could possibly believe that but "decent grounding" is something that less than half our population has. Regardless of whether socialism is associated in many minds with communism or fascism, that term, weighted unjustly with the unimaginable heavy millstone of popular misconception, was going to drag Bernie down to defeat in any general election even if we ignore the fact that, for all his energy and mental acuity, Bernie was just too old. Those Bernie or Busters, the idiots whose choices were Bernie or Trump, or, worse, those who abandoned you for the shibboleth of the seemingly more ideologically pure Jill Stein or (please!) Gary Johnson were no better than the Trump mobs shouting "Lock her up!" The right wing does not have a monopoly on ignorance, stupidity or mindless fanaticism. Trust me on that one. I live in Washington State. I know where of I write first hand. Here in Washington we never miss an opportunity to kill the good because it is not the perfect.

Let me stop at this point to say I don't give a damn about the help that you got from the national Democratic Party leadership. I still respect Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Donna Brazile. Sure they got exposed for having their thumbs on the scales at various points but Bernie was going to lose and you were smart enough to answer the questions yourself regardless of anything fed to you surreptitiously. 

Nor were Lincoln Chaffee, Martin O'Malley or James Webb going to be president. None of them had the name recognition you had nor did they have the exciting personalities that Barack or Bernie have.

No, Hillary, the Republiscum had nearly 30 years to demonize you and you had all that time bolstering yourself against attack after attack to the point that you and your ego simply couldn't or wouldn't understand that nothing was going to keep you from losing this election. You looked in the mirror and rightly saw a woman who should be president. You saw a woman that the actual, existing, real and pernicious "vast right-wing conspiracy" insisted on putting down and told yourself that you were going to shove that back down their obscene, croaking throats. What you and many, many women failed to see was that you had already proved them wrong repeatedly and needed to step aside for the good of the nation.

I don't mean to lay all the fault on you. The Republiscum recognized early on that you were a force to be reckoned with and they have been tearing you down since 1992. The Whitewater/Vince Foster/Monica investigations were, as you rightly observed, a function of a "vast right wing conspiracy" to delegitimize any Democrat and you especially. Part of the reason that the Republiscum failed in the 2008 election was that they'd geared up to run against you and couldn't believe that they were running against Obama. No matter. They have continued to attack you in every way and at every opportunity. The farragoes of Benghazi and your private e-mail server are simply targets of opportunity. If they hadn't happened, they would have conjured up something else. The fact that you're better than anybody the Republiscum have run since Theodore Roosevelt made not a jot of difference.

Now, Hillary, excuse me a moment while I speak to my political party.

So, Democrats, would you, please, work on your backfield? As much as I love her as a great woman and a great political figure, Elizabeth Warren is 11 days older than I am. In 2020 she will be 71 years old. My baby boom generation is passing into history. There are still lots of us around and willing to vote for the kind of progressives who were our friends in the 1960s but we need leaders from a new generation. Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, the Castro brothers and other leaders in their 40s and early 50s are those to whom we should be looking for 2020. If there's a dearth of solid Democrats from that age group then, I ask you, whose fault is that? It's not Hillary's. It's not Obama's. It's the fault of out party, a fault infinitely more serious than anything revealed in any e-mail hack. My fellow Democrats, the person who can win the 2020 presidential election is someone from my children's generation. Someone born between 1965 and 1980 and wise enough to know that the corporate spokes-clown, Ronald McReagan, was not a great president despite all the Republiscum hagiography.

That said, 2020 is a long way away. In the interim we need to get through the 2018 elections and stymie the worst excesses of the Trump presidency. I understand that it's rhetorically correct to speak of insuring that we have a smooth and peaceful transition of presidential power but let's not carry that too far. For the last 25 years the Republiscum have been pursuing a policy cribbed from the Nazis. They have been stonewalling every piece of legislation, big and small, and then blaming Democrats when the legislation is "not bipartisan". The primary example is the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care).

We have conveniently forgotten that in 2009 the Democrats had a majority in both houses of Congress for exactly 6 weeks. The Republiscum kept Al Franken from taking his seat as Senator from Minnesota unto July 2, 2009 and 6 weeks later Ted Kennedy died. During that time the nominal Democratic majority included Joe Libermann of Connecticut who caucused with John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Obama Care got adopted wholesale from the Heritage Foundation plan put forward as a counter to the medical insurance plan Hillary Clinton developed with a coalition of advocates in 1993-94 and which Mitt Romney championed in Massachusetts while he was governor. It was a Republiscum plan from the start. Yet when the Democrats said, "O. k. Let's take this, make it work a bit better and make it a national plan, the Republiscum instantly demonized it. They also enforced a steely rigid party loyalty on all Republiscum senators so much so that when Olympia Snowe of Maine voted to pass the bill out of committee, she was the subject of infra-party retaliation. In fact the Republiscum hypocrisy was so egregious  Snowe, then the senior Maine senator, decided to retire from the Senate rather than continue in a body operated in that way. Of course, ever since the Republiscum have claimed long and loudly that the Affordable Care Act was passed without and Republiscum support. It was passed without a single Republiscum vote because the Republiscum leadership, Mitch McConnell in particular, informed his fellow senators that they would lose committee assignments and have farther right primary opponents if they voted for the legislation. The Republiscum forced some of the members of their caucus to vote against the Affordable Care Act and provision of medical insurance to millions of Americans simply because it would give a Democratic president a victory.

We Democrats are Liberals. In that Liberal tradition we see many sides of each question. We strive to see what may be good even in opposing positions. We empathize with both friends and opponents. Because it is our nature we have spent 25 years proverbially bringing a knife to a gunfight. We need to stop that shit. We need to bring a gun and when the Republiscum increase the caliber, we need to bring a cannon. Enough of this namby-pamby, kumbaya bullshit. We need to fight fire with napalm. The Republiscum have held up Merrick Garland's nomination. We need to hold up every neo-Fascist scumbag that Trump nominates to anything. We need to investigate and indict every Republiscum foolish enough to stick his head above ground. We need Chris Christie's head on a pike and Trump's as well. We need to make the Benghazi farrago look like a pleasant ladies' tea and indite, indite, indite! The Republiscum have been fighting a war against Democrats for a quarter of a century while we have been insisting that we are simply being political adversaries who can sit down over drinks at the end of the day. BULLSHIT!!!!

When Donald Trump spouted crap about "crooked Hillary" he was unquestionably the most corrupt person in the race. We need to expose that. Trump's crimes are certainly worse and more deserving of impeachment than any stain on any blue dress ever was. Barack Obama may graciously say that we want Trump to succeed because his success is the nation's success. That's fine for Barack to say. We need to make sure that Trump fails and fails, to borrow an ignoramus' phrase, "bigly". And we need to go after the jugular of every Republiscum who is even slightly vulnerable, high and low.

And, with apologies to the wonderful Michelle Obama, when they go low, no more of this "go high" bullshit. We need to go low or lower. We need to criminalize, demonize and destroy without mercy or a shred of decency. We need to be so effective in destroying Republiscum office holders that they, in an ironic twist to Gloucester's affirmation in King Lear, "cry out itself, Enough! Enough! and die." We simply cannot stand in the field before an army committed to a take-no-prisoners, scorched-earth policy and pretend that the force of our decency and ideas matter at all. Frankly, our fellows in the electorate have definitively demonstrated that they don't give a damn for ideas, ours or anyone else's. To insist on anything else is madness.

Trump has sown the seeds of his own destruction. He has promised to bring back jobs that no longer exist, to build walls that we can't afford nor ever intended to build, to revive industries that members of Trump's country clubs packed off to Asia a decade and more ago. When nothing comes of his empty promises the people fooled into voting for him will abandon him and their cynicism will deepen. If we feel that they were angry this year, they will be angrier in 2018 and 2020. The winners in those elections will be the people who have vented that anger by destroying those con men, like Trump, who have tricked them. We need to be the mean bastards tossing those angry voters all the red meat they can handle.

One other thing: let's stop the agitation against the Electoral College. Yes, it has subverted the popular vote twice in 16 years but that's not the fault of the Electoral College. And While we are at it, let's stop the pissing and moaning about Gerrymandering of Congressional Districts. The real issue is the fact that the House of Representatives has not increased in numbers since 1927. The Constitution mandates 2 senators for each state but representatives are supposed to be apportioned by population. In 1927 when the House became a 435 member body the United States had a population of 119,035,000 people or roughly 273,644 people per district. As of 2010 the United States has a population of 310,323,863 or a 261% increase over 1927 and placing about 713,179 persons within each Congressional District. We do not need a 261% increase in the number of Congresspersons. The number of Louis Gohmerts, Michelle Bachmanns, Anthony Wieners and Steve Kings is already excessive but retaining the 1927 distribution of Representatives does several things that subvert our democracy. First, the larger the population of the district, the farther from the individual people of that district each Representative becomes. Representatives only listen to the loudest voices and, usually, the ones that are most likely to offer the greatest amount of cash. The 1927 distribution of Representatives also cements a tilt toward rural America that has not existed since the end of World War II over 70 years ago.

The Constitution mandates that each state must have at least 1 Representative. The two states with the smallest population are Rhode Island and Wyoming. If we were to apportion based on the district with the least population (+/- 10%) we would be basing Congressional District apportionment on one of those states, probably Wyoming. That would give urban America a larger number of Representatives or a House of Representatives of about 550 members, an increase of 135. Rural America would not lose representation. In fact it would gain a few Representatives. However, urban America would gain significantly - as the framers of the Constitution intended, it should be noted - to reflect the 21st Century distribution of the population in the country. A 650 member Electoral College might still elect a know-nothing demagogue like Donald Trump but the way to that election would be harder if rural America's disproportionately high influence were leveled with that of urban America. It would also be marginally harder to Gerrymander districts in the extreme ways we see today.

So let's stop railing against something that is simply a symptom of the antiquated distribution of the number of Congressional seats and focus on the real problem which is reapportioning the House based on current numbers rather than on population numbers now 90 years out of date.

I have other ideas for elections. If we are to pass a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the wrongly decided Citizens United Supreme Court decision, let's reform the election system completely while we're at it. No, corporations are absolutely not persons for campaign contribution purposes. Further, let's prohibit candidates for Representative, Senator and President from announcing a run for office, campaigning or raising campaign funds before January 1st in any given Federal election year. Let's mandate that all primary elections must be held no earlier than January 20 of the year in which the Federal election takes place and no layer than June 15th of that year. And, while we're at it, since the public airwaves belong to the people and not to the radio and television station owners, require that during the campaign periods all broadcasters must air 2 full minutes of free political candidate advertising per hour. One 2 minute ad or 8 - 15 second ads are equally valid but any candidate who wants time and whose name is on the actual ballot may receive air time in 15 second increments. They can sell any other advertising they please but 2 minutes per hour isn't a great burden for the privilege of making money hand over fist for the remaining 58 minutes in that hour.

So, Hillary, you did your best. You won the popular vote. Now take you considerable influence and skills down to the local level. Start assisting and funding new, young candidates. Don't just tell those disappointed and dispirited girls out in the nether that they could be president one day, go out and find the next Hillary Rodham, the next Barbara Boxer, the next Elizabeth Warren. Find her. Find them. Nurture them. Fund them and set them on the path to the White House as the second, third and fourth women to be U. S. President.

And, Democrats, help Hillary find those women and men who will be our Presidents, Senators, Congresspersons and Jurists for the future all the while viciously, remorselessly destroying the Republiscum at every turn and opportunity.

The mantra I have used for a couple if decades now is paraphrased from a horrible, racist remark by General Phillip Sheridan: "The only good Republican is a dead Republican." Pete McClosky and William Ruckleshaus not withstanding there are lots of good Republicans but they are all dead: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root, Margaret Chase Smith, Millicent Fenwick, Elliot Richardson all lie a long time "moldering in the grave". There are quite a few above ground who are charming and personable but that matters nought. They are Republiscum and need to be rooted out and condemned to an outer political darkness so that their fellows learn, for a few more decades at least, that we can be as vicious as they have been and more so.

I doubt that you're listening. I'm sure that most will recoil in horror from my prescription with a high-minded, "O! We could never do that! We're better than they are!" Fine! Don't drink the medicine and watch the long slide into Fascism that resumed after World War II continue, gain momentum and destroy the nation that my children and grandchildren will have to live in into the next century.

Just remember, I told you so.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

HYP-HYP-HYPOCRISY 2016 EDITION

The big news a few months ago was that George Will, the shill for neo-Fascism who inherited William F. Buckley's "speak softly but carry a big swastika" philosophy and mantle, left the Republiscum Party because it was no longer his party. The fact is that the current Donald Trump manifestation of Republiscum politics is the quintessence and apotheosis of the party that Will and his less restrained fellows like Glenn Beck and Rash Lamebrain have been building for half a century.

There is really not a lot of daylight between the Buckley/Will genteel-right wing position and the howling mob of "alt-right" "deplorables" who follow Donald Trump. When Buckley with his Ivy League resume and urbane, polished, upper-class facade established the National Review in 1955 the ultra-right was coming off several of important losses.

The 1952 Republiscum Convention rejected both Thomas Dewey and Robert Taft to hitch its fortunes to Dwight Eisenhower. Dewey was what passed for a right wing moderate and Taft was the true right winger. Eisenhower was the war hero who could actually win. As usual for the Republiscum Party, having actual power trumped (you should excuse the expression) ideological purity. True, they did foist off onto Eisenhower the amoral, careerist, hard right wing Nixon as vice-president but for the Republiscum everything is fungible when it comes to winning an election. So the Republiscum right wing had one loss.

The next loss was the failure of Joe McCarthy and the growing realization that the anti-communist witch hunts were more destructive to their cause than constructive. As with any politically motivated fear mongering "McCarthyism" not only had run its course but, like the Clinton impeachment forty years later, it was dragging the Republiscum down with it. Screaming about commies under every bed was proving wrong. Even the rubes who initially thought they saw Stalin staring back at them from among the under-bed dust bunnies began to see that there was nothing there. That was the Republiscum's second loss.

The third loss was mostly a quandry. When the Supreme Court, newly headed by a reliably Republican former governor, Earl Warren of California, overturned segregation in schools in 1954 the Republiscum found themselves in a pickle. Yes, they were the "Party of Lincoln". Yes, they had freed the slaves. Yes, they had had reliable support from a majority of African-Americans for nearly a century but the black constituency wasn't of any significance to them.  The Republiscum had actually abandoned African-Americans in order to win the 1876 election for party hack, Rutherford B. Hayes. The elitist, plutocratic and oligarchic Republiscum Party just wanted the votes of "happy darkies". They had no desire to have those people actually asserting their inherent rights as citizens. The Republiscum Party sold out the African-American population in order to secure the presidency eighty years before and hadn't looked back. Faced with "uppity n*****s" the Republiscum Party took the easy option and decided to punt. They would ignore Brown v. The Board of Education and hope no one noticed. The loss was looming in 1955.

Into this environment stepped William F. Buckley with some very practical ideas. The most important was that Republiscum should never, ever, under any circumstances say what they actually thought. Sure, for example, they could oppose Social Security and want to destroy it but the program was so popular that they couldn't take it head on. The Republiscum needed to propose "free enterprise, market-based alternatives" to Social Security. Sure those alternatives would destroy the system. Yet knocking the pillars out from under the program would allow it to collapse and also allow the Republiscum to be watching from a distance rather than crushed under the rubble.

In the early 1970s George Will was a regular on the news round table show Agronsky and Company. In his capacity as the National Review spokesperson on the panel Will seemed reasonable in 1973-74 when he got behind removing Richard Nixon from office. Will's abandonment of Nixon was clearly right-wing damage control. The idea was to rid the party of the criminal Nixon to make way for the corporate shill, Ronald Reagan. Will went so far as to be one of Reagan's debate stand ins and must have been well aware of Reagan's progressive descent into Alzheimer's dementia.

So Spare me the phony self-righteousness of the "never Trump" Republiscum. They are the arsonists who run out of the building they've just set afire into the arms of the fire crew breathlessly gasping, "I barely got out alive!"

But the real prize in this 2016 election goes to the "religious right". I do so adore the CHRISTIAN fundamentalists. They are such a source of fun and unintended comedy. The fact is that the CHRISTIAN fundamentalist movement has always been a political movement cloaked in religion for tax purposes and to con the yokels. Pat Robertson, the Fallwells, James Dobson, Bob Jones, Paul Weyrich, everyone from the Southern Baptist Convention on the far right to the Westboro Baptists on the bat-shit crazy extreme right, like to cloak themselves in a gauzy-thin shroud of religion while being a political movement at heart. Gotta love that tax exemption and all the rubes you can con in the name of their (thank you, George Carlin) Big Imaginary Friend in the Sky.

Nowhere has the gauzy shroud worn so thin as in the endorsement of Donald Trump for president. For a bunch of self-proclaimed leaders of high moral standing to endorse Trump, the multiple-divorcing, multiple-marrying, casino-owning, creditor-evading, Putin-loving, pussy-grabbing, con-artist is absolutely hilarious. When these oh-so-upright far right-wingers say that they have looked into Donald Trump's black heart and found a true Christian one cannot help but fall down laughing. It gets even funnier when they declaim from their respective pulpits the excuse that Trump may be all the vile things he manifestly is but that "the lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to preform" thus making their manifestly political choise a stinking, flaming turd directly from heaven. The only things that Donald Trump has in common with the Robertson, Fallwell, Dobson, Jones, Weyrich crew is self-promotion, cynical exploitation of people's hopes and the big con. Oh! And, I almost forgot, an unwillingness to pay taxes.

Despite the farrago that these religiose con-artists promote of the United States as a Christian nation, our country was founded firmly on the concept of separation of church and state. Our concept of what that means has changed over time with the diversity of our population and of religious experience but the fact is that our nation's founders had seen quite enough of religious wars in Europe, persecution of non-conforming sects and taxation to maintain official religious institutions. They were forging a nation out of the Roman Catholics of Maryland, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, the reformers of Rhode Island, the Puritan Congregationalists of New England, the Dutch Reformed of New York and the mix of Episcopalians, Presbyterians and  Baptists in the South. Throw in some deists like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, multiple Jewish congregations salted around the states and the framers of the Constitution hadn't much choice but to separate church and state because it was impossible to assign a state church from amongst the many. 

And for those of you unsophisticated or simply stupid enough to think that "Christian" is one religion, just try to get a dozen Christians of different churches to agree on the "filioque" in the Nicene Creed. You have the Bob Jones fanatics claiming that they are not "protestants" because they were never Roman Catholics. You see those Baptist fanatics insist that they were pure Christians going back directly to the disciples, unadulterated by any other heresy. That claim is the kind of patent nonsense we used to see in the Weekly World News at the supermarket checkout counter but just see how well it flies when some Bob Jones nutcase tries to claim that all "Christains" are one in an ecumenical group.

No, the mask is off of the CHRISTIANS. They are no more a religious movement than some child wearing a sheet with eye holes cut in it on Halloween is really a ghost. They are and ultra-right wing coalition of fanatics who are stupid or crazy or both enough to believe anything that some preacher claims came out of the Bible.

Yes, this election has shown us the true nature of the Republiscum and the "religious right". It's brought them into their true context as in bed with the Ku Klux Klan, White Supremacists, neo-Nazis and other assorted lunatic fringe groups for a last stand. We can only hope that, come November 9, 2016 we have a new dawn and that this Trump election will prove to be for the Republiscum what the Little Big Horn was for Custer and Waterloo was for Napoleon's Old Guard. Either that or we will look back on 2016 as the equivalent of the 1932 election in Germany, those of us left to look back at all.