Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Response to Just Ruin Things

 (See: Just Above Sunset : Just Ruin Things)

On voters moving away, and then later, back again to Georgia:

“Really? How many people do that?” Trump said. “You mean they moved out and then they said, ‘The hell with it. I’ll move back.’ That does not sound… very normal. You mean they moved out, and, what, they missed it so much that they moved back in?”

“Really” Indeed!! Has this guy never actually listened to the words? The concept of moving back is literally right there in the intro of Georgia's world famous State Song!

Melodies bring memories
That linger in my heart 
Make me think of Georgia
Why did we ever part?
Some sweet day when blossoms fall 
And all the world's a song
I'll go back to Georgia
'Cause that's where I belong.

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through 
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind. 
Georgia, Georgia, a song of you
Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

Other arms reach out to me 
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see 
The road leads back to you.

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find 
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

When I was born, my family was living in Los Angeles. Before I was even one year old, we moved to New York. Before I was five, we moved back to Los Angeles, and then when I was twelve, we moved back to the New York area again.

Why? Who knows! For one thing, I think my folks kept missing their friends back home. And I’ve met other families that did something similar, for that same reason.

Although I hear there are Georgia legal types looking into prosecuting Trump for things he said on the call, I have to disagree with many in the media who see that phone call as Trump obviously encouraging Georgia’s secretary of state to break the law, and to arbitrarily “find” 11,780 votes, I suppose by cancelling out some suspected “illegal” Biden votes.

But in fact, if you listen to the whole interview, you hear Trump being just good enough at being bad to never specifically ask Raffensperger to do anything other than find what Trump might actually have believed were legitimately illegal votes for Biden, and then just Sharpy them out of existence. What Georgia was supposed to do after that, of course, is unclear, since the votes have by this time been counted three times, then legally certified, and then sent down the assembly line to the electoral college.

If there’s a procedure to undo all of that, no White House person on the call ever says what it is, although Mark Meadows does suggest at the end that Raffensperger had agreed to simply rescind the old certification, in what Trump called a “recalculation”, but Raffensperger pushed back on that: “That’s not I said.”

Still, would trying to do that be "illegal”? I’m not sure, but I would think there’s not even a way of trying it.

What Trump never seems to acknowledge is, if Raffensperger were  as corrupt as Trump is — and also any good at it — then one might assume that Trump would have consequently won Georgia, in which case this silly phone call would probably not even have taken place. But since he apparently wasn’t either that corrupt or that good at it, this whole one-hour call was destined to be nothing but a time-wasting chatfest.

I wish I had been Brad Raffensperger on that call; I would have enjoyed giving Trump the kind of one-on-one counsel that he never gets from the yummies he surrounds himself with, and maybe even asked Trump directly if he thought arbitrarily zeroing out the votes of the 7,060,140 more Americans who voted for Biden than for him is really what the world’s most respected, continuously-operating democracy really deserves.

Then again, I might still have agreed to meet with them and see what evidence they think they have, but just to explain to them why what they have is nothing but rumors and not in any way evidence.

And it all comes down to what constitutes truth when it comes to who won Georgia. Maybe God knows the Truth, but since He’s not making phone calls to tell states which votes, and for which candidate, He wants counted, we'll need to jury-rig our own systems of deciding truth, and so at some point, after we exhaust checking into all the nutty internet claims that end up going nowhere, all presidential election nights eventually have to come to an end, and hopefully comfortably before twelve noon of January 20th.

And while I’m sure the president is a firm believer in that old presumption 
 that everyone respects a competitor who never gives up and who fights on, even after the janitor has finished sweeping up  I'd argue that that bullshit is grossly overrated. To make that point even pointier, I would imagine that, at some point, even the humble chicken stops running all over the barnyard once it finally comes to realize that its head has been cut off. I just have to wonder if Trump may not be as quick-witted as a headless chicken.

But I say, thank the gods (assuming there are any) that, at this point in our history, there are just too many of us “Deep Staters” in America to allow someone to get away with stealthily taking away the right of Americans to rule themselves, instead of just handing over the car keys to some strong-willed, though otherwise feeble-minded tyrant-wannabe with the gift of gab who happens to stumble by.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Response to Fed on Fantasies Forever

(See: Just Above Sunset : Fed on Fantasies Forever)

You still hear people claiming that Trump was, at one time in the vague past, a Democrat, but given the fact that he’s apparently willing to demolish the whole "self-governing" part of how our country picks its leaders, I would argue that he’s never been a Democrat, nor even been a small-d democrat.

I think these people may be confusing the word “Democrat" with a similar-sounding word, seen here in Wikipedia:

“Demagogue … a leader who gains popularity by exploiting emotions, prejudice, hatred, and ignorance to arouse the common people against elites, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues overturn established norms of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so. Demagogues frequently present themselves as populists, to the point where ‘populism' itself has now acquired a negative connotation.”

I wonder whether this was written before Trump was elected, or whether it was written since. It sounds too spot-on to be the former. But it’s strange we don’t hear this word used more often these days. Maybe it’s just too obvious.

Why do people follow a demagogue? For the same reason that more people watch fictional dramas, 
sitcoms or popular movies on television than boring news. Non-fiction may have the advantage of being factual and truthful, but slogging through it is just not as much fun, especially when it tries to teach you something you don’t really want to know.

Fiction has the same appeal to our senses that demagoguery does. For one thing, it’s filled with whiz-bang in-your-face excitement, designed to get your attention and entertain you, and for another, since every average American schmo knows that “being responsible” is totally overrated, there’s no real responsibility on your part to actually believe any of it.

But when you think about it, digging for the truth beneath all these fun-filled election-fraud claims is actually tedious work, and plunges us into the hazy realm of a certain boring philosophical topic that, back in the day, could be counted on to put kids to sleep in Philosophy 101, and that would be:


And just in case we forget what that is, here’s Wikipedia again:

"Epistemology ... is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, and various related issues. Epistemology is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with ethics, logic, and metaphysics."

(What’s that you say? You feel your eyelids getting heavy?)

It’s all well and good for you, along with every cable news anchor, to continually insist that, as every right-thinking person knows, Biden won that election fair and square, with there being no evidence of massive fraud, but don’t even try to explain how you know this to be true (mostly because most people will have dozed off by the time you get to the meat of your argument) except to say you know it’s true for the same reason you know two-plus-two equals four and not five.

But wait! How DO you even know two-plus-two equals four, and not five?

Maybe because you can demonstrate it’s true with sugar cubes, but more likely it’s just that you’ve always heard it’s true from people you trust wouldn’t lie to you.

Or maybe you could also demonstrate to the MAGAs, by nattering on in torturous detail about how states nowadays ensure that elections are virtually impossible to rig, and that had the millions of votes in all these various states been rigged, the fix would have had to be so massive and blatant that even astronauts could see it from space, and that nobody, not even the most biased Obama-appointed judges in all those courts could get away with denying it.

But the MAGAs still won’t buy it, because they don’t share your world view and don’t see evidence the same way you do, but also because, deep down, they’re more loyal to their dear leader than they are to their country, and don’t even see the worth of living in a country that won’t elect the guy they want to be president, so threatening officials who won’t join their scheme, and thusly destroying the country itself in the process, isn’t all that big a deal it might be to you and me.

And so, because it’s much more entertaining, they choose "Reality TV" over “Reality”!

And so maybe it’s not epistemology after all, since, with these people, it’s a case of — to paraphrase what people in the 1950s used to say about art — “I may not know much about truth, but I know what I like!"

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Response to As Good as Gone

(See: Just Above Sunset : As Good as Gone)

If all goes as it should, yes, Trump is as good as gone, but that’s becoming a really big “if”.

For example, if Texas scores a surprise win in SCOTUS — or worse yet, if Republicans somehow prevail in that joint session of Congress — I can’t see any way of this country surviving as a nation state. Can’t you already hear the dead-enders? “If Donald Trump is not kept on as president, then the country doesn’t deserve to survive!”

Then again, so what? Republicans have been working too hard for too long, and without noticeable success, to squeeze what they've wanted out of America as it is.

It seems hugely trivial now, but I can’t help but remember Trump and his poodles all yapping about 2016 
 falsely, that Democrats’ suspicions that Trump could not have won without Russian collusion was just Democrats not being able to accept that Hillary Clinton could have even possibly lost the election — as I now watch the Republicans sputter in dismay that there had to have been "massive” fraud involved in 2020, since how else can anyone explain Trump's loss?

In truth, Donald Trump’s whole presidency has apparently been a publicity stunt, and the fact that so many in his own party can’t distinguish between governance and this wicky-wacky clown show they’ve been putting on speaks volumes about their capacity to govern. We seem to have come to that point in our history at which — to borrow from my day as a platoon leader in the Air Force ROTC when I accidentally marched my whole platoon into a huge bush — the whole Republican party should simply all “halt, fall out, and regroup somewhere else."

But then, why even bother regrouping somewhere else? There’s nothing for them to do there that they haven’t tried already.

Back those many years ago when I was born in this country, little did I suspect it wouldn’t live forever.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Response to No More Pretending

First of all, from the
 Washington Post:

At a rally Wednesday in Alpharetta, a few miles north of Atlanta, pro-Trump lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell cast doubt on the legitimacy of any election held with the equipment and rules used on Nov. 3. It was, essentially, a don’t-get-out-and-vote rally...

“As far as I’m concerned, lock him up,” Wood said of [Governor Brian] Kemp, who certified Biden’s win in Georgia two weeks ago.

This is hilarious! Trump Republicans now find themselves sloshing through their own doo-doo!

I suppose someone needs to inform this "Boycott-The-Vote" group that that whole "fraudulent illegitimacy of the vote" business was only a useful myth, just some made-up story to fall back on to explain Trump’s election loss, but not really a real thing! To get the public to help us win the senate, everyone now has to switch gears, to put aside that old narrative of a broken voting system, and quickly, switch back to reality! 

"When I count to three and snap my fingers, you will wake up! You will forget everything we told you before about voting being a Democrat scam, and will now start believing that voting is safe! One! Two! Three!"

Maybe it hasn’t occurred to the Republicans that some right-wing brains just aren’t that agile! Once some brains sink too deep into the bullshit, it’s virtually impossible to pull them out.

Lying all the time, as a strategy, has its drawbacks. For one thing, it’s hard to get some people to stop believing your lies when you need them to stop.

But secondly, while I like your claim that Trump is not a Republican, in fact, after some thought, I disagree.

Yes, the Republicans ended up tolerating him mostly because of his judges, they had other reasons as well, such as tax cuts (that made rich people richer, but did nothing for anybody else, but still); cut back on regulations, including pollution; an imaginary Middle-East peace deal (that inexplicably forgot to include the Palestinians); cut ties with allies and weakened ties with international organizations (NATO, UN); we now take in no refugees, and scare away all other immigrants; he ripped up that Iran deal, which Republicans wanted for some reason; he may have gotten rid of Obamacare, pending a SCOTUS ruling, effectively leaving America with no national health care program whatsoever, which is what Republicans have been afraid to admit they always wanted; and lots of other stuff, including I’m sure lots we don’t even know about.

Yes, he’s damaged democracy, but that’s something else Republicans are afraid to admit they don’t really care for anyway. Yes, he’s a bit over-the-top in his wanting to kick everybody’s ass, which has been an embarrassment to the party, but also something conservatives have all secretly admired about him.

So come to think of it, yes, Donald Trump's the Republican that Republicans wish they themselves could be. He’s been the devil-may-care sugar rush of ice cream and cake, to the Democrat’s healthy green vegetables. He’s been just dumb enough to get away with what the rest of us would need courage to achieve.

He will be missed, but more importantly, probably emulated in one way or another for years to come.


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Response to After Thanks

(See: Just Above Sunset : After Thanks)

Okay, I’m no lawyer, and please don’t judge me, but after having now read the Supreme Court opinion, plus Roberts’ separate opinion, I find myself more or less (gasp!) siding with the Republican majority!

Except that I don’t think the dispute really has much of anything to do with religion at all — although if it’s not about religion, it shouldn’t be in the Supreme Court, right?

I suppose maybe the justices wanted to weigh in on this, but couldn’t do that without arguing that it involved the Constitution? I think they thought they couldn’t argue that these churches and synagogues can’t be treated worse than bars and restaurants without pointing out that those other places aren’t mentioned in the Constitution.

I don’t know. As I say, I’m not a lawyer. Whatever.

This case really seems to be just a question of whether churches and synagogues should be treated pretty much like everyone else, including “essential” and “non-essential” businesses alike — and from the looks of it, they’re not. In fact, some businesses seem to have no restrictions at all.

Also, I assume some huge church building that could normally accommodate thousands should be able to have more than ten (red zone) or twenty-five (orange zone) congregants in it at a time.

Plus, the dissenters’ argument — that the question is moot now because Cuomo has since relabeled the districts these institutions are in from orange down to yellow (no more than 50% capacity) — is silly, since that same color-coded system is still in effect, which means a district might still be flipped back in the other direction at a moment’s notice, and then we’re back to square one, but since this subject has now been breached, the justices might just as well deal with it now, when they have it, rather than later, after circumstances change back.

What I think should happen is Governor Cuomo should go back to the drawing board and see if he can find a way to design a more “equitable” system that loosens the restrictions, where all businesses (and please let’s not pretend religious institutions aren’t businesses!) are roughly on a level playing field, but without increasing the risk of even one more case of COVID than these institutions have already been racking up — which apparently is absolutely none (although that could be thanks to Cuomo’s help, for all we know.)

On the other hand, by the way, the reason I put “equitable” in quotes, above, brings up one more absurdity that gets hardly any mention in all this:

Pandemic restrictions shouldn’t be viewed as unfair treatment of some venue, they should be seen as necessary steps taken to keep human beings from getting sick and, in some cases, dying, not to forget passing the disease on, which would help create a gargantuan third wave of cases and deaths to levels to levels that tend to shock the rest of the world. 

In other words, it’s not about some state governor dissing Catholics or Orthodox Jews, it has more to do with Americans everywhere hiding in their homes and keeping their kids out of school, just to keep the family healthy and safe, and to keep this virus stuff from ruining our lives and economy for another two or three years or more.

The aim here should not be whether churches are being treated as fairly as hardware stores, the aim should be to make sure nobody, no matter if they’re singing praises to their god or purchasing a phillips screwdriver, catches a disease that not only could kill them but could endanger a member of their family or a friend or a stranger on the subway, who will then pass sickness and possible death on to others, ad infinitum.

But in fact, I see the court didn’t actually rule on whether the first amendment allows governments to tell religious institutions how to conduct themselves at all. In fact, if anything, it seemed to confirm that, yes, governments can do that, but that they just need to be sure they're “fair” about it when they do.

And while I did argue this decision isn’t about religion, the court itself might disagree with that, and I suppose may come back some day to revisit the question of whether or not we should be a theocracy after all, with governments being prohibited from even speaking to religious organizations at all, much less telling them they must obey our federal and local laws, just like everyone else.

At that point, I will rue the day that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, which was the day that conservative Republicans — who represent a minority of Americans, I must remind you! — finally took control over our nation's highest court, which is discussed in a recent issue of New York Times Magazine:

"Republican dominance over the court is itself counter-majoritarian. Including Amy Barrett, the party has picked six of the last 10 justices although it has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and during this period represented a majority of Americans in the Senate only between 1997 and 1998…”

If you’re interested in ideas of what we can do to fix the court, you should check out that article.

No, I’m not sure I'm in favor of “packing" the Supreme Court with my kind of judges — which could be undone in the time it would take the next president to snap his (or her) fingers — but I do think we are now at a point where we have to look into changing its structure and operation in a way that allows no one party to overwhelm the other, at the very least.

If we can't do something like that, along I suppose with a bunch of other things, this American ship might just find itself dead in the water.

But step one for Biden getting anything done next year might be for someone to pay Mitch McConnell a bucket of money to just go back home and leave America alone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Response to Too Crazy Even for This President

(see: Just Above Sunset : Too Crazy Even for This President)

Aha! So it turns out Trump was shocked by the election results!

And this indicates something we've known all along  that he isn't all that smart after all!

If he were smart, he would have seen it all coming and known what to do about it. And he would have seen it coming if he didn’t surround himself with yes-people. A smart person would known not to get rid of people who tell him the truth. He thinks he was being strong, but if he were, he would have had the guts to do smart things, instead of taking the easy way out.

We tend to forget that Trump is still a rookie in this country-running game, and has been making rookie mistakes, one after the other, but finally got stopped dead by a truth that he couldn't just imagine into non-existence. Dim as he is, I think he now realizes that his latest explosive lie comes with a lit fuse on it, and for once, he finds himself living in the real world, one that he didn’t manufacture inside his own brain, and he’s running out of time.

People who vote for him say they do it because he has business experience.

First of all, he doesn’t. Donald's dad gave him a bunch of money to do with what he wanted, which he then played with inside his own private sandbox, and despite his not being very good at what he was doing, he somehow never went broke. 

But because his company was pretty much just presented to him as a gift, he never gained the kind of invaluable knowledge one gets from working your way up from the bottom the way real successful business people dofalsely coming to believe he knew how to operate in the real world.

In fact, I’m pretty sure he never in his whole life even had to apply for a job. I'm guessing this White House gig was his first real job working for someone else, although I doubt that he sees it that way.

But second of all, by the way, from what I’ve seen of real business people, I don’t think we’d even really want one of those as president either.

To be a successful businessman, you often have to be pretty ruthless, maybe a bit of a scoundrel, and be ready to do whatever it takes to make a profit. After all, folks who make their living by selling don't work for you and me, nor for what's good for us; they work for the money they make.

Come to think of it, that is something Trump picked up throughout his years in ersatz business  an innate sense that money is somehow more important than human life, an assumption I’m pretty sure is not shared by the rest of us, and not something we would want to see in our chief executive.

I keep insisting Trump is ninety-eight percent ignoramus, despite his relative success as a conman and a grifter, but I keep getting pushback from people who assume that nobody that good at being that bad could be all that stupid. Still, I do think history may be finally catching up with him.

And I do believe that if we all work together in the lead-up to 2024, reminding the world of the lessons we've learned, we just might be able to prevent the next nasty autocratic Trump-like bonehead from taking America hostage again.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Response to Incompetent, Delusional and Retaliatory

(See: Just Above Sunset : Incompetent, Delusional and Retaliatory)

"Ah, but there was that rainy December day in Paris twenty years ago, when the world was a better place. That’s something to hold onto.”

No, it wasn’t really, and no, it’s not.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but your 1950s-esque film-noir memory  which I can’t help but picture in black-and-white, with some cheesy French accordion music wafting from some nearby smoke-filled cafe  was just a way-station on America's relentless slow-march to international oblivion.

Trump’s reality-bending superpowers seem to be deserting him, but if we thought that his Republican pals would be doing the same, we’d be wrong. Those poor lost souls seem to be still waking up in the recovery room, so we’ll have to wait to see how that sorts out.

They’re still in actual shock? They really did not see this coming? Go figure! All this time, I thought they were faking all that ignorance!

This could be the perfect illustration of the downside to being part of a cohort that refuses to pay attention to facts, especially of the "not-alternative" variety, which in this case means not checking 538 polls several times a day throughout this past year, like many of the rest of us did.

But yes, not doing that makes perfect sense to people who take way too seriously the ubiquitous "lesson" of 2016 — that political polls cannot be trusted and no attention whatsoever should be paid to them.

These people may agree with Trump when he claims “Science doesn’t know” this and that, but I’d put good money on my belief that science may seem sort of vague now and then, but it knows a lot more about just about anything worth knowing than these people's damn gut does!

I do like Jennifer Rubin’s “second option” as to when America's return to normalcy could possibly happen:

"Republicans’ bad behavior might bring on more losses in 2022 as voters decide divided government with a delusional, obstructionist party is worse than one-party government.”

I hope our government lives long enough to see that take place, although I do see it as probably happening after her "third option", which is this:

"Republicans will by and large insist Trump was robbed, use that to rationalize complete obstruction of the Biden administration, and limp along as they incite their base through one feigned outrage and fake scandal after another.”

But before we come to any of that, I strongly suspect that Trump, who prides himself on not being beholden to common decency and other societal norms of American life, is not quite finished leaving his mark on World history. He will, I’m sure, find some clever way to key our collective car on his final journey home.

And yes, I did mean collective. I realize it may only be liberals like me who actually take this phrase to heart, but I nevertheless mean this for all of us when I say that we truly are all in this together.