We Have Toys

Finally, after two trips into the wilds of computer land, I have my new scanner, all set up and ready to go. Below it my first scanned image.

 

I will get better at this, once I learn the various buttons on the new ‘chine. This is an old image, a 4 X 5 negative. To my pleasant amazement, the detail is still astounding in these things.

So in the space of a week, I have the ability now to once more make use of my (huge) library of negatives (only 50 + years of photography), and I have sold a new story—a novella, no less—to Analog. Not a bad start of a year that could have turned out a lot worse.

The Day After The Rebellion

Mark Twain (presumably)* said that if one does not wish to appear foolish, it is best to keep silent rather than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. Sound political advice as well.  Advice far too many Republicans failed to take.

I say “failed” but really, they didn’t fail in this—to fail at something implies you tried to do something but just couldn’t make it work. No, they never intended to do anything else.  They’ve been riding high on a rhetorical wave assuming their quasi-populist Everyman shtick would stand them in good stead with the voter, who they clearly believe is an idiot.

Trump appeared to be a godsend to a category of charlatan that believes the voter should be ignorant, unaware, preferably stupid, so that the voter will never interfere with what the charlatan intends to do.  In this case, conduct business that excludes the average voter from any say whatsoever. Partly, this is a species of elitism, assuming the average person cannot possibly understand the things done at a high level. Mostly, this is a desire to act without oversight, rule without criticism, and enjoy power without accountability. Behind the screen Trump supplied, the GOP has become a party of clerics tending to the mysteries of the temple, jealous of their access to the secrets of state and success.

The average American, if I may speak generally, wants very simple things—security, a feeling of place, and access to degree of self-determination.  It is, I think fair to say, a slate of expectations neither party has been adept at supplying, because the one thing that underlies all of this is a recognition of human equity and the rights incumbent thereto. Equity and rights, in the simplest terms, are power. And power is the one thing the powerful will not willingly share.

But we’ve been trying to move in that direction.

Since shortly after World War II, the powerful have been trying to maintain their privilege. They found a method and have been applying it consistently, basically fomenting resentments between groups of people in order to create the conditions whereby their mouthpieces could win elections and achieve positions from which to serve the powerful. Too abstract? Let me put it this way: the Koch Brothers and their associates have seeded resentments and aggravated disparities (many of which they themselves created) in order to achieve their tax agenda. They finally produced a block of Americans who consistently voted against their own best interests because they were convinced they were voting to preserve their “values” and their “country” and their “heritage.” All the powerful (i.e. the rich) wanted was lower taxes.

Which translates into power.

They probably did not wish to foment a rebellion.  Rebellions are fickle things and as likely to get the powerful killed as anything else. No, they wanted to keep the country at a simmer, disrupting coalitions that might become effective counters to their agenda.

Now, this does not require conspiracy.  All it requires is a set of common interests and goals. No secret meetings to lay out complex plans, just dinner and conversation and tacit agreement among equals, as it were. We tend to overcomplicate such things here as a matter of narrative consequence, that things which can unfold of their own accord must necessarily be done by the machinations of a cabal.  The reality is more banal and harder to manage, which is the nature of institutional predisposition. This is the basis of institutional racism. Institutional sexism. Institutional classism.

They were managing. Since Reagan, the flow of wealth has gone pretty much in one direction, till today it is, without exaggeration, obscenely uni-directional.

But then it went a step too far.  The simmer went to a boil and now we have a mess.

What we witnessed in the Capitol is the result of finally losing control of that narrative. In recent years we have seen a number of the primary movers pull back, deny they wanted this. Trump was supposed to be their puppet, but once off the leash, so to speak, he was anything but. And he fed the beast till it came to our political doorstep and demanded meat.

There are those who argue that this is all a matter of style—look at what he has accomplished rather than at the façade. Fair enough. But then we must take the next step and ask:  have these accomplishments happened uniquely because of him? Would they have happened under anyone else? The hallmarks—his brag points—have been the Wall (failed), Muslim ban (mostly failed), the tariffs (not complete failures but hardly raging successes), and the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. Did any of these depend wholly on him?

A response to China has been in the works for a long time. The hammer blow he brought down did as much harm as good. But any president with congressional support could have begun this. He started a trade war which has had, at best, mixed results. The Wall was one of the most ill-advised acts in recent memory and served nothing but to feed the resentments and prejudices of his base, at exorbitant costs, diverting moneys in possibly illegal ways from other projects that would have had more efficacy. It will fall down of its own (sections of it already have) and overall fail to address a problem that has been allowed to fester because of the optics and campaign material. Withdrawing from the Middle East has become fraught with ethical and moral peril, but again, the draw-down was begun by Obama. The ban on Muslims….well, that was simply pandering.

Everything else, most of which goes on beneath the surface of the public gaze—not because it is secret but because it is complicated and not very sexy and only bores people—in any administration, depended on a civil service that he has decimated by categorical firings, departmental closures, and the appointment of sycophants who have no clue how to run the bureaus they have been charged with overseeing.  Betsy De Vos?  Her entire purpose was to hamstring the Department of Education and lay the groundwork for private education for profit.  Why is this bad? Because the one place where some kind of egalitarian recompense can start and possibly succeed is public education. Private education doesn’t care about that, whether admitted or not.  It cares about who can afford it, which is by definition anti-egalitarian.

In summary, the only thing that has made Trump unique is his vitriol and his “populist” cheerleading of the worst aspects of our culture. The proof is in what has happened in the Capitol. He egged them on with false claims of voter fraud (the most debunked lie of recent times) and when it got out of hand he urged them to go home with a familial “We love you.” We love you? Who, may I ask, is this “we” of which he speaks?

Trump has always been about the brand, the optics, the soundbite, and the ratings.  He has run his office like the set of a reality television show and as long as the news was covering something that was consequent upon his actions, this was success. It didn’t even have to be favorable coverage, in line with the old adage that even bad press is good. Armchair diagnoses abound regarding his personal problems—sociopath, narcissist, what have you—but it all comes down to someone who cannot abide being ignored. The price we’re paying for his insatiable need for attention is an unstable union, an endangered democracy, the humiliation of the country in the eyes of the world, and the highest debt in history.

And at the end of the day, he is the de facto leader of a cult that has no point. The mob broke into the Capitol, drove congress out, did some pillaging, and then…what? They had no plan, no goal, no end game.  Nothing but the clichéd rantings of the self-afflicted burdened with illusions of oppression. Like their idol, all they seem to want is to be noticed.

I knew a man once who before our eyes became a Nazi. He had stepped onto the path of conspiracy-driven alternate-history myth and little by little it ate into him. He could not seem to grasp where the lies and reality parted. He was not unintelligent. In fact, he had gifts and had he applied himself in more productive pursuits he could have been a success at life. But he chose a path that for some reason fed his insecurities, teased his suspicions, and made him feel, however absurdly, that he Knew The Truth. It empowered him in a way he could not reject, like a drug addiction. Going any other way would have meant…I was never sure, but perhaps dealing constructively with reality was simply too mundane. It would not have made him feel special.  Finally, his wife left him, took the children, he lost his home, and the last I saw of him he was handing out Nazi pamphlets outside a Steak’n’Shake poorly-dressed and wearing an armband with a swastika.

Such delusions eventually empty the soul. Like a narcotic, they seem to make the user feel wonderful, in control, superior. Then slowly it becomes apparent there is nothing to sustain the user and little by little vacancy supplants substance, stupor replaces awareness, and decay overcomes growth.

Listening to the “protestors” it is clear they have nothing but the moment.

It would be easy to see them as victims, but we should not. Victims have no choice, their circumstances overwhelm their will. These people chose this path.

False comparisons abound. Blame is being heaped on Antifa, BLM, all the social justice movements. This will not stand scrutiny.

But scrutiny is being assiduously avoided.

We have tolerated a condition wherein legitimate authority has been conflated with demagoguery, disinformation, and jingoism, to the point where we see that a significant part of our society has simply been allowed to reject reality in the name of their well-nurtured grievances and unexamined prejudices. We have seen idiocy and delusion take the stage with reason and responsibility as if they are equal. We have primed ourselves for this moment, perhaps thinking that somehow in the contest, that which is worthy of trust will somehow emerge, like a boxer from the ring. Well, it doesn’t work that way. Left to its own, idiocy and delusion can outpace and overwhelm reason and, for a time, displace reality, unless we choose the latter and confront the former.

Finally, Trump, in my view, represent—embodies—everything we must stop admiring and see for the destructive perversion of American values he is.

With that said, I believe he should be forthwith removed from office and his enablers stripped of their powers and charges of insurrection and sedition be made against the perpetrators of the four year fraud we have lived through.

And those who turned out in record numbers to vote this election cycle, do not ever fail to show up again.  This has been enabled as much by the apathy of the voter as by anything else.

Have a better 2021.

____________________________________________________________

  • My mistake. Abraham Lincoln said this. But I will leave the original as an example of what to do when one misspeaks.

 

Onward

We stayed up till past midnight, so heard the revelry, stepped outside in the cold and saw some beautiful firework bursts, and retreated back inside where we toasted each other, wept, laughed, and made stabs at promising to have a better year. Some excellent bourbon and he late hour and I feel a bit…strained.

But it is the first of a new year, and while I am not much for symbols, I respect them to the degree that they enable rather than encumber.

This morning, we had this:

 

Tomorrow? Who knows?  I exhort you all to find beauty, turn away from bitterness, do something fine in the world, and indulge your dreams (where possible).  Harm none, smile a lot, and be the solution rather than the obstacle.

May we find ourselves on the far end of this year with our friends, homes, and sanity intact.

And So It Is Christmas

Late thoughts on one of the strangest Christmas Days I’ve experienced. Strange in that the world has become strange and yet, in here, inside our home, it is so warm and normal, that the strangeness is made even more so.

I worked Christmas Eve, which is not unusual. Short day, not much business, which turned out to be usual, too. But the store is still shut to foot-traffic. We who worked gathered briefly before closing and just exchanged looks and a few wishes for good weekends, all of us sharing a sense more of having been through battle than merely holiday retail. The barrier between us and our customers took a toll. All of us were immeasurably worn. We have done good work, we served, we filled expectations, and provided…but my word, are we beaten up.

But we are also fortunate. Left Bank Books is still open, and we survived. So many other places have not. I have no idea what 2021 will bring, but we are going to be there to see.

I count myself fortunate that I have my partner. We have each other and a home and in so many ways have found ourselves lucky.  So many others are not.

No matter what happens in the coming year or two, it is clear that we must remake our collective appreciation of community. We will weather this time, but I suspect it is not a one-off. More of this is ahead. We will have to confront it in ways which 12 months ago may have been unimaginable. Things Have Changed.

But we have what we need to manage and do well. We have an abundance of each other, no matter where we are, and this year, today, perhaps was the time to look at where we are and take account of what we have and construct a better way of being.

In any event, no matter what label you use, what name you give it, my wish is for all to be well and embrace love and banish the fear, which is only a symptom of feeling abandoned. We may be isolated, we may be spending today in company with fewer people, but we are not alone.

And as long as we believe tomorrow is worth greeting, we will find each other and all the ways we can create wonder, for ourselves and each other.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace, Joy, and Fearlessness.

Forward

The electoral college has confirmed Biden as the new president. With all the carping and challenging and spleen-venting of the outgoing administration, one must pause for a few moments to consider their reaction had this much drama been generated when Hillary lost. It was certainly possible for the electors then to vote in defiance of the outcome announced in the November election. It is so constructed that they could choose to take a stand and since Clinton did win the popular vote, there would have been nothing technically wrong with them saying “No, we’re not letting this one through.”

There have been close elections in the past where this might have happened, but another consideration comes into play, that of maintaining the credibility of our institutions. Nixon opted not to challenge Kennedy in 1960.  Gore let it go in 2000. Better to let things proceed even by such slim margins than risk shattering the balances in our systems.  However one may feel about that, it is not the worst attitude to take.  It leaves things in position for the next election.

The one variable that matters is voter turn-out.

It was recently pointed out to me that it appears votes don’t matter, because look at the polls. Seventy percent of Americans want MediCare-for-All, and have for a while, yet we don’t have it. Why? Well, when the average election only seems to get 50-some percent of people to the polls (and midterms are much lower) it hands the obstructionists the ability to deny a majority—a majority which failed to show up.

But we can rehearse all those arguments later.

The question now is, how do we move forward in this current situation? The Senate is still controlled by the GOP. Even if both Georgia senate seats flip in January in the run-off, the Senate will be 50-50, with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. The House is Democratic, but if something isn’t done to ensure high turn-out in two years that could change.  How does President Biden move us forward?

And to what?

I have been reading a new biography of John Maynard Keynes, the first superstar economist. Interestingly, he never started out to be an economist. He was a mathematician and a political analyst. He did not approach economics as a specialist field but as an underappreciated aspect of the total political and social landscape. One thing struck me: he for years attempted to make economics comprehensible to the average citizen. He pitched his language at accessibility. And the more he did that, the more he was shut out from the corridors of power. He didn’t get “in” until he changed tactics and started sounding like an academic.

He had to appeal to the priesthood.

This is the thing that grates on the sensibilities of people. The attitude that they cannot comprehend the complexities of government, of society, of the minutiae of civilization, of politics.  While there may be some truth in this, it is the attitude that is offensive. Here in my state, we have just seen a provision stripped out by the “elect” who chafed at the notion that the citizenry actual understood what they wanted.  Clean Missouri was an attempt to end gerrymandering.  People understand how destructive it is.  But too many people in the state legislature knew this would eat into their power, so they finally coupled its repeal with another measure that made it easy for voters to undo what they had already voted for.

This kind of thing infuriates people.

We should demand changes in procedure. One thing, it would be worthwhile to stop the practice of adding riders to bills. Riders are often poison pills. Even when they aren’t, if something is a good idea, it should be recognized on its own merits. Adding unrelated measures to bills muddies things up too much and risks the voice of the people being muffled.

I find myself beginning to agree with term limits. I’ve often felt these were antidemocratic, but I’m beginning to think they might cause people to pay more attention instead of just trusting that the officeholder who has been there for umpteen years is doing fine simply because nothing has happened to bother you. Times change, situations change. Representation should change to keep up.

I dislike filibusters, but I see their usefulness at times. We should however require that more than one politician is required to mount one. If an officeholder can’t get two or three colleagues to support it, then perhaps it should not be allowed.

Usually, I believe, fairly innocuous and simple changes will suffice to make things run better.  We have gotten so used to looking for the blockbuster change, the hammer, the bunker-buster, thinking that only Samson in the temple can make things better.  We forget that Samson was blind and that huge changes are often less effective than they purport to be.

Among the other things I would like to see, is prison reform. We should rid ourselves of private prisons. That has become one of the worst ideas we’ve ever embraced. When profit is at stake, justice takes a back-seat.  I would like to see comprehensive drug reform. Drug addiction is an illness, just like alcoholism. We should treat it as such. In places where this is becoming the accepted wisdom, prison populations, crime, and death by overdose have all gone down.  Treatment not punishment.

Of course, we love us some punishment here.  For a self-proclaimed nation of freedom-lovers, we punish like crazy. Punitive measures to address social problems have been with us practically since the beginning. And of course, it’s not universal. People with enough money don’t receive punishment.  So in a way, what we really want is for people to keep their bad behavior hidden, clean up their own messes.  Combined with a toxic love of retribution, this has given us the largest per capita prison population of any so-called free nation in history. And we’re willing to pay for it. Solving the problems that create the conditions that lead to this state of affairs would cost a lot less than we pay for policing and the courts and incarceration.

Of course, that would require us to view communities as entities, whole and diverse, and get over this balkanizing idea that Different People don’t belong. But that might lead to immigration reform that makes sense and a retreat from this persistent evangelizing that sorts people into categories and makes us all vulnerable to manipulation.

Just some thoughts. But for now, we have a new president.  Let’s see what we can do to make the next four years constructive rather than keep indulging the blame game.

This

I know people who defend Trump and think he’s right and, more, a marvel, but here is the problem in one presentation. This shit-show has gone on long enough. This is the price of what has been allowed to happen.

 

 

Sifting Babel

Richard Nixon lost the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy by basically one vote per district across the country. Contrary to the popular myth that grew up around JFK, he was not even close to a landslide, and had Nixon challenged the outcome in court, which many of his advisors were urging him to do, history might have been different. Nixon demurred. He said he refused to be the cause of a constitutional crisis, took his loss, and congratulated Kennedy. Despite who he was and what he later did, he had a line he would not cross.  For the good of the country.

Nixon’s later administration set the conditions which eventually brought us to this year.

Nixon was still part of a culture that embraced common goals between adversaries. Simply put, both Democrats and Republicans believed in the same basic principles, they simply differed on the appropriate paths forward. Oh, certainly there were disconnects, but there had been a core of ideas and aims held as givens.

That no longer seems to be the case.  For large portions of the electorate, it would appear there are wildly different outcomes desired. The possibility for working across the aisle, compromise, and envisioning a common future has fractured. The exaggerations fueling the animosity are becoming more pronounced, to the point where at times it seems two completely separate languages are being spoken, languages which share vocabularies and even syntactical and conceptual similarities, which are becoming more and more unintelligible to each other. What the two sides mean by things like Progress, Patriotism, Tolerance, Law, and Rights require interpreters.

I have been wondering for years now just what some people want to see happen. What do they want their country to look like if they win?

With the era of Trump, I think I know what those who support him, even now, want. Partially anyway.  If I’m even close to correct, I can definitively say it is nothing I want. More than that, it is not something they’re likely to get even if they somehow get their way politically.

When one works through the rage, the foul language, the insults, the chants and slogans, it sounds like the goal is an American Empire that acts entirely by decree. But decree that is almost entirely directed outward, at the rest of the world. The Mexican border wall is exemplary of this. Keep the world out. Keep what is American in, at least in terms of ideology, wealth, and community. Tariffs go hand in hand with this.  Certainly much of this has to do with jobs.

Following upon this is some vague desire that the economy be one which supports a large middle class that is somehow self-sustaining. One based on high wages and low prices and rests upon the dominance of American manufacturing, which should be mostly if not entirely contained within the borders of the country. It should be robust enough that some version of the single-income household can re-emerge so the culture itself ceases to be whipsawed by questions of equity fueled by low wages which require segments of society to seek work when that same culture wishes them to labor inside the home.

And all of this is to be achieved without regulations or unions or systemic wealth redistribution.

There are pundits and ideologues aplenty telling us all this can be done, but for liberal influences which privilege multiculturalism, globalization, and a variety of individual empowerment programs that seek to hamper industry, destroy the family, and deny American Exceptionalism. Charts, graphs, power-points, and pedigreed lectures reinforce the belief that we have lost our way because some of us are at heart anti-American.

The possibility of achieving this utopia of nationalist privilege is unquestioned in this instance. Facts, theories, projections, and basic reason notwithstanding, the aesthetic triumphs because accepting anything else is terrifying.

The possibility of sitting down with those so frightened is small, because fear impedes the ability to reason, which is itself terrifying to those trying to reverse damages seen as suicidal in their unchecked eventualities.

The point, though, is that we are confronting less a set of principles than an aesthetic movement. I have suggested for years that a certain element of rightwing malcontent is not doing this for sound economic or political reasons so much as it hates what the country looks like. Momentum has been gained because opportunists have fed them on their own bile for a long time. So much so and so effectively that now some of them are all but apologizing for what they did because they didn’t think it would go this far. The manipulations are not, therefore, theoretical—the Kochs and the Murdochs have admitted it—and were done for simple greed and power.

The simple reality is that people make poor decisions when they’re afraid and buy all kinds of stuff along the way. Keeping the pipelines open has been the primary aim of these people. Pipelines? The ones the money flows through.

Wartime economies run hotter than peacetime economies. We have been operating on such a footing since Vietnam. Well, since WWII really, and that military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about is anxious to maintain the flow of capital.

It is an absurdity to suggest that someone, anyone—say, Jeff Bezos—“earns” seventy billion dollars in five months. It only goes to him because that is how the system is set up. This is hydraulic capitalism and it has nothing at all to do with “deserves” or “earn” or “make” or, really, fairness. But by keeping enough people frightened of the world more or less constantly, the political and social will to change it simply never coalesces.

And now add to that this aesthetic element fed to people about what America “ought” to be, and the confusion multiplies.

But wait. Such a machine cannot operate as well as it does without a certain truth to its claims.

Globalization has impacted our economy, in some ways negatively. When you are losing your business it is difficult to look at the so-called bigger picture. And both political parties have for a long time served the same masters at the expense of the middle and working class. And the poor? Individual politicians have cared, here and there and from time to time, but the poor have been disenfranchised as a matter of course and thus do not vote, at least not in sufficient numbers to be heard. This is the unfortunate legacy of those days when both parties shared broader goals and only argued over the details of how to Get There. It is easy to understand, if we care to, how someone like Trump can come along and persuade a lot of people to vote for him when he poses as their champion against a common enemy—Washington. We cannot forget that many who voted for Trump in 2016 would have readily voted for Sanders, who is about as opposite as one can get from Trump, but who represented the same possibility—overturning the D.C. applecart.

The utility of that possibility was and is debatable and we will discover in what ways in the coming months and years, but both were lightning rods for a basic frustration.

What we have now is a roiling mass of inarticulate dissatisfaction that has grown into a social movement, and social movements are often aesthetic as much (if not more so) as political.

Aesthetic?  Look at the targets. LGBTQ rights; separation of religion; the rage over immigration; the dichotomy between demanding one set of social conformities be put into place while others be rejected, often with extreme prejudice. And, as always in this country, issues of race. Any one of these can be demonstrated to be strawman issues, but appearances—ah, appearances, and what they say about who we want to be.  Or at least be seen as. Absent the concrete aspects arising from analysis and an understanding of the components of social dynamics, the aesthetics become the binding commonalities of what amount to tribal affiliations and roll onward as if all the rest needed for cogent response to civic policy were already part and parcel of the call to action.

Unfortunately, this makes it all the more difficult to address, because it is very like ( a perversion really, but still) of matters of taste.

For my part, I reject the basic aims of this mass of inappropriately-named conservative ends. They are illusory for one thing. Hollywood codifications of far more complex phenomena. For another, we long ago passed the point of comfortable isolation. We no longer live in a world where we can ignore each other. Globalization may have been poorly handled (although I defy anyone to explain how something that dynamic can ever be “handled”) but it is inevitable. We all live on a single planet, and we have run out of room to run away from the effects we have on each other. We can’t behave like lone gunmen anymore.  Too many people will get hurt, killed, and our own legacy will be one of ignominy and ruin. We here cannot close the borders, either physically or culturally, and hope to survive, and if we keep trying the world will abandon us and we will not be part of a better future.

We have for a long time been reversing the shambles of Babel, but recently it seems some of us are trying to reinstate the fear of that idea, when everyone was utterly alone and terrified because no one could speak to each other.

Reality vs Not

The image of Trump that says all one needs to know about him came during the so-called Million MAGA March, when his SUV drove through the crowds that had assembled in D.C. on his behalf. We see him pressed against the window, hand raised, grinning, and scooting on by to their cheers. He did not stop. They came for him but he did not stop. He knew they were coming, so something could have been prepared for him to at least give a short speech. But he did not stop. He hurried through, grinning at them. Where was he going that he could not stop to give something back to his supporters?

He was going to golf.

Jokes have been made about a lot of presidents and their golf, but in this case it long ago ceased to be funny. He may or may not have spent more time on the golf course than any other president, but his personal jaunts have cost the taxpayer more than any other.

And the fact that this makes no difference to his supporters speaks to the more cultish aspects surrounding him.

Disclaimer: I have never found anything appealing or even mildly amusing about Donald Trump. He struck me as a fraud back in the Seventies and his string of mismanaged endeavors since has done nothing to convince me otherwise. The best I can figure, he’s one of those people who has financial support because he owes too much to too many and letting him go to live in a trailer park would be too costly. I tried to read his book, The Art of the Deal back when it came out and found it a kind of secular version of an occult magic text based on illusion and bad psychology. I didn’t finish it.

So when it appeared he was going to have a shot at being elected president, I, along with many others, thought, well this is the end of the Republican Party. They’ve put a shyster in the running.

A shyster who has managed to pull the same trick politically as he did financially—too much rides on him to just let him sink, too many careers, too much political capital.  Not because he’s such a great politician but because he has managed to make too many people dependent on him in unhealthy and frankly undemocrtatic ways.

I have been told to look at his accomplishments. To be fair, there are a few that aren’t all that bad.

But it doesn’t matter. Consider Nixon. It can be unapologetically argued that he did quite a lot that was good for the country. The EPA for one. And one might be excused for arguing that had he been left alone, even better things might have emerged. And while that may be true, it is also true that he subverted the institutions he swore an oath to uphold, created a shadow government, bypassed Congress, and committed crimes.

Nothing excuses that.

We do not here rely on cults of personality and because we have tried to be a nation of laws it is implausible to excuse someone who did so much damage on the basis of a few “good” things he may have done.

Because for one thing those good things were not and could never be all of one person’s making.

Nixon damaged our democracy. Trump has possibly broken it.

I don’t care what he might have done that in the next several years we might find laudable. Those things could have been done by anyone and he could not have done them alone in any case.  We have to ask, at what cost?

Suggestions of a sharp intellect behind the clownish veneer are frivolous.  The result of four years of this administration are in the streets. Discord, distrust, confusion, and distortions of right and wrong.

We could go down a list of the campaign promises he failed to deliver on, but why bother? The Trump Cult will excuse them in any of a dozen ways.

The frightening thing is, without the COVID pandemic we might have re-elected him, because he has managed to call so much into question that we are second-guessing ourselves about who we are. But 200,000 deaths from a mishandled public health emergency are impossible to ignore. His claim that they had no playbook for this has been shown to be false. Obama’s people left a detailed playbook behind. His people were smart, they knew what might happen, and they fulfilled their civic duty by trying to prepare the country.  Trump did nothing but shut down clinics that gathered data because he wanted the numbers to be different, which he stated, up front, in public.

I have been challenged to see positives in this.  Sorry.  Even in the broad policy strokes that in some wayu I might agree with, the management of them was so hamfisted and sophomoric that it has made things worse.

Trump has made the world a more dangerous place.

I am not exaggerating.

One might argue that pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords was questionable, but that was largely symbolic.  But pulling out of the WHO was criminal.

For a long time it has been clear that the GOP has become the party of wishful thinking, of appearances, of denial. The moderates are mostly gone, the base isn’t interested in rights so much as privileges, and too many people just want the country to look a certain way and to hell with social responsibility, demographic reality, and evolution of technical change. These are people who want people in church praying to Jesus and no one else, women to stay home and be mothers, men to be straight (and white), and business to lead the way. They want America to be at the forefront of everything but refuse to fund education or support labor in any meaningful way. They think Trump exemplifies their vision of America. A draft-deferred, womanizing, tax evading, subliterate conman who knows one thing—appearances are all that matter.

This is not Trump’s problem.  It is ours.  We bought into that image, enough of us that he actually made it into the White House. Like George W. Bush said almost 20 years ago, “I don’t do nuance.” But the world is nothing but nuance and those who refuse to deal with that will always make a mess.

Messes are costly.  We have one now.  And this obdurate refusal to concede the election, even when every reliable institution says it is legitimate, is the final evidence we need to see that this mess, one of our own making, is all Trump was ever going to provide.

Enough. It is time for him to go and it is time for his supporters to sit down and shut up about it. If I may remind them of their reaction four years ago, “He lost, get over it.”  And finally, “Fuck your Feelings.”

Fine legacy, that. I hope they’re proud.  Oh, wait. They are.

And that’s our problem.

This Instead Of That

I do not want to write another political post today. Yes, I have some string opinions, but they’ll wait. So. In lieu of that, this: