Thursday, November 5, 2020

Some Post Election Thoughts

 What a strange night we had this week. As has been my custom of late, I sat out the evening's fireworks, laying my head down to sleep at about 2000 hrs after reading some colonial American history by the fire. I intended to sleep through until four or five, but at one AM, I woke and saw that the Kitten was there next to me. This meant one of two things: that Biden had won Florida and it was all over, or that something had gone wrong. I decided to wake to see which it was.

Had I checked my text messages before turning on the television, I would have had my answer, as the Kitten had written me an abrupt missive critical of my usual enthusiasm and telling me that I was "wrong again".  That I had only a few hours earlier told her that the most likely outcome was a very close election with no declared winner by morning, but Biden being on a path to victory that would be in the can within ten days--did not seem to matter because I had said that the second most likely outcome was a Biden runaway. 

I sat down and for 2.5 hours, took in all the information that was available to me, including the execrable spectacle of the President claiming victory like a banana republic caudillo, only to have his VP speak of the results as a sane individual only feet away. Around 0330, I had all the information I needed. Given where things were and what was left, Biden would have at least 270 and I can go back to sleep. As I write this, the same conditions apply, and I believe it to be only a matter of time before this thing is in the history books, save for whatever boorish behavior history's least gracious President decides upon during his last weeks of freedom before being indicted by the New York Attorney General. But, I digress.

The only way that I could have been more wrong about this election would be if Trump had won. My skills as a prognosticator continue to underwhelm, but more importantly, my understanding of the country I live in and its voters revealed itself to once again be unequal to the task. To wit: I was metaphysically certain that Donald Trump's share of the vote would decline in virtually every state. I mean, We've had four years of the shitshow, there was no "lesser of two evils" thing anymore. We had evidence that he was bad at his job , we had hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, we had daily reminders of what a terrible person we had elected. OF COURSE he would lose share.

But that didn't happen. In fact, quite the opposite. I did some random sampling this morning of state results (as of now) vs 2016, and in virtually every single one, Trump's share of the vote increased. Even in states that flipped or seem to have flipped. This may entirely be a factor of less convincing third party candidates this year, but that would just be something I told myself to comfort my tender ego. The bottom line is that as big of a dumpster fire that this administration was, MORE AMERICANS THOUGHT IT WAS WORTH KEEPING THAN VOTED FOR IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. I could not have been more wrong, and my error leads me to think very differently about the future.

Now--am I over-reacting? After all, all summer long I told my woke older daughter that the rioting is going to hurt Biden, that apolitical people think that the Democratic Party supports not only the just causes behind the peaceful protests, but also the chaos and violence that seemed conveniently to accompany them. Should I have listened more closely to my 85 year old mother who really despises Trump, but who saw Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as Trojan Horses for socialism, family destruction, and chaos? Did I have an inkling that this was coming, that there would be no Blue Wave and that half the country is scared shitless about what the left might do when it has power? I did--but I ignored it.

I ignored it because I thought there was no way the pollsters could get 2020 as wrong as they got 2016. And at this writing, it looks like that may have done just that. We heard so much about "shy Trump" voters this cycle, but I think it is worse than shyness. I think there was yet another spasm of the aggrieved collective unconscious that ties Trump Nation together--and that there was simply a good deal of lying to pollsters. That's right. When you support a man who has zero regard for anything even approaching institutions or norms, you have no problem adopting his well outlined penchant for lying and manipulation. There's nothing wrong with the pollsters--there is something wrong with the polity. Shyness wasn't the issue. Dishonesty was. 

So what now? Darling of Republican nationalism Missouri Senator Josh Hawley tipped his hand yesterday with this tweet: and not far behind, never late to jump on a trendy train Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted this

So if the two darlings of the new right are to be believed, the GOP is going to become a working class party, presumably without the baggage of all the identity politics and unions (good) but also without the emphasis on capital, management, business, and growth (bad). What it looks to me like is that the GOP will try to turn itself into the 1950's Democratic Party, with updated features to include more diversity and presumably, policies devoted to the working class, however that might be defined.

I wish them luck. But this will be a permanent minority party, in no small measure because in order to cater to their new electoral targets, they will have to increasingly demonize wealth and capital, something Republicans have always pointed to as a sin of the Democratic Party. I suppose now everything old is new again. 

So where is a deeply conservative, pro-business, pro-trade, pro-success, pro-growth, pro-American Exceptionalism voter to go?

I suppose it will be right where I've been since 2016, party-less but unbowed in devotion to a set of ideas for governing a large, free people. 

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. But then again, I'm so bad at predicting things that this may all be BS.  We'll see. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Concerning Forgiveness

 Addicted as I am to both binge-watching and foreign language programming, I have been slowly making my way through a Danish production called "Herrens Veje" or "Ride Upon the Storm". This is essentially a family drama in which the father is the latest of a centuries long dynasty of ministers in the Danish Church. He is a very, very flawed man, a husband and father to two grown sons, one of whom has followed him into the ministry, the other having dropped out of seminary before ordination. The relationship between the father and sons is fraught, and both sons deal with it in their own ways.

The one who dropped out of seminary eventually finds himself in Nepal, and he is taken in by a group of Buddhist monks after falling from a steep trail upon which he was traveling. In the course of his time, he is befriended by one of the monks who serves to help him confront the anger he carries, most of which is aimed at his father. The monk is particularly wise, and I suspect the dialogue is influenced by real Buddhist teaching, but having no background therein, I cannot be sure. 

The monk at one point talks with the recovering man, and talks about anger and forgiveness. While I have always understood the essential message he conveys, it is one I have been unable consistently to practice. He tells the man to let go of the anger. That the only person he is punishing by holding onto it, is himself. That only he is carrying the burden of his anger. He should learn to forgive his father, to let go of the anger.

Cut to this morning. On many quiet pre-sunrise days, when I arrive on station at my computer to begin my labors, I start by calling up an app on my phone called "Calm". It is a wonderful resource, with relaxing music, stories to put you to sleep, and the thing I use it for the most, which is "The Daily Calm", a ten-minute guided meditation conducted by one of the stars of this realm, Tamara Leavitt. Since I am very unlikely both by demeanor and activity level to be in this Zen state again during the day, I tend to value this ten minutes of reflection to start things out. Today's meditation was on "Forgiveness", and the message conveyed was pretty much the same as what the Buddhist monk passed along during my binge-watching.

This concept of forgiveness, at least this Buddhist conception of it, is something I've been wrestling with. You see, I carry a lot of anger around with me, anger created and sustained by the Trump presidency. And I'm having a really hard time "letting go" of the anger, and I think it is because of my understanding (or perhaps misunderstanding) of forgiveness in the Christian sense of the word. Now I am not a fundamentalist, or even a very serious Christian. I am however, shaped by the Catholic Church, its teachings, and my own sense of connection to that which there is no greater than. 

I am angry with a lot of people. Some of them know it. Some of them don't. Most don't care, far as I can tell. But I'm angry with them nevertheless. I am angry at them for supporting the President and embracing his divisive, lawless, uncivil, unconstitutional, embarrassing, and dangerous approach to his awesome responsibilities. I am angry at them for appearing to have an ideological base and then exchanging it for power, fame, or something as prosaic as the belittling of those on "the other side". I am angry with them for not maintaining the level of moral and ethical standards and basic humanity that is the baseline for my friendship. Many of the people with whom I am angry were beside me in the GOP foxhole for years. Many were close friends. And then there are the family members. 

The Daily Calm and my TV Buddhist monk would tell me, let go of the anger. Forgive. You (me) are the only one suffering with this burden, so let go of it. 

I see people on social media writing about how they don't let politics get in the way of their friendships/relationships. I'm sure they believe this. I suspect they are also virtue signaling, as most of the time they are very much fans of the President and are potentially rationalizing their choices.

But here is my problem with all of this. Where is the atonement? If I am to forgive, for some odd reason, I have this sense that there should be atonement. I have the strange idea that the ledger should balance. Given that the likelihood of these people ever seeking forgiveness or atoning for their behavior approaches zero (more likely they will double down even as the consequences mount), this (perhaps misinformed) application of Christian forgiveness fates me to the burden of this anger. 

It is obvious that the burden of carrying this anger is entirely my choice. Or at least that part of my conscious being over which I exercise dominion. But deep down, I am having trouble taking the (eminently wise, kind, and clearly therapeutic) Buddhist approach. 

I guess we'll see how it turns out. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Some Things I'm Not Sure About

I spend a lot of time in this space pontificating on all manner of subjects with a sense of metaphysical certainty. For instance, I know that Donald Trump is a fool. And I know that many of his followers are dark, troubled people with as well-honed sense of privation. 

But there are a lot of REALLY IMPORTANT things about which I am unsure, and about which I occasionally cluck with disapproval when I read someone opining about them with great assurance, knowing full well they are less informed. What are some of these things?

Should Schools Open in the Fall?

I really don't know. Part of me says yes. School age people appear not only more resistant to the ravages of COVID, they recover more quickly. I know, I know--we are treated to stories all the time about how the young REALLY ARE AT RISK, but the numbers don't back that up (in a sane world of how risk is assessed). Additionally, some of the more well-publicized instances seem to be feature pretty obvious co-morbidity situations

But young people aren't the only people in schools, and while they don't suffer at the same rates, I'm unsure about how efficient they are as carriers and spreaders. And there are a LOT of people at schools all the way through college, who are NOT as chronologically privileged as the students they teach. 

Then there are the parents at home. Some are really concerned about their children's health, and some are really concerned about the economic well-being of the family the child is being raised in. These are cosmically huge problems, and likely seem not to lend themselves to "one size fits all solutions". 

Bottom line? I don't know what the right answer is.

The Deployment of Federal Law Enforcement to Protect Federal Property

I'm torn on this one.

On the one hand, I am pretty much a law and order guy. When I see thugs destroying property not their own--public or private--I am moved to discomfort. Chaos and lawlessness are not good things.

So when I see the pictures from (name the place) showing largely white, male, agents of chaos (as opposed to what some would have us believe, aggrieved victims of oppression) destroying federal property, I expect an effort be made by law enforcement to 1) stop the destruction and 2) hold those responsible--you know--responsible. 

I would prefer that law enforcement in these situations come from local authorities. I understand that sometimes, local authorities are overwhelmed and State power is brought in. I am wary of federal law enforcement being employed, but my wariness is somewhat relieved when it is requested by local and State authority.

It appears that a good bit of the federal response to these situations lately has not been requested. Not good. There are reports that local and state law enforcement have not assiduously provided protection to federal property. This too is not good. 

Bottom line? I don't know what the right answer is.

Climate Change

I wish I were as smart as my 21 year old daughter on the subject of climate change, or at least as certain about my opinions. But I'm not. I'm all over the map, and I'm amazed at how many people aren't.

I think the climate is changing. But then, it always is. I think humans are contributing. I think humans can do a lot more to contribute less. 

I think many climate change advocates are attempting to rework economies and capitalism, and that climate change is as much a religion as Catholicism. I think the market, free enterprise, and corporations have a role to play in addressing climate change. 

I think that many climate change advocates overstate both the speed at which deleterious changes are happening (and consequently, the speed at which humans need to react), and the degree. I think there are a lot of people who are whistling past the graveyard by considering this all a hoax. 

I think there are pro-growth strategies that can address human behavior. I think there are flat out Marxian proposals that utterly misunderstand human nature.

Bottom line? I don't know what the answer is.

What are some things you don't know the answer to, but which people around you seem absolutely certain?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

So, I've Dropped a Little Weight. Here's How.

Somewhere around the middle of April, a few weeks into the COVID lockdown and after a gluttonous period of comfort eating, I participated in a family Zoom meeting in which we wished Catherine's nephew a happy birthday. I sat in from of the computer in her office transfixed by the person looking back at me, a cartoon character like moon face playing along with the frivolity while I considered how bloated I was.

I think the eating spree was born of a sense of uncertainty about COVID--that there was no way the lockdown was going to last very long, so I might as well make hay while the sun shines and eat things I love that aren't that good for me. I was exercising each day, but pretty much lying to myself on that front too.  More on that in a second.

As the lockdown continued and so did my expansion, I think I realized that we were in this for a long haul, and that I needed to get my act in gear. So, on April 19, I weighed in at 198.7 pounds, tied with a late autumn 2014 measurement of the same magnitude. I keep a spreadsheet with weight measurements from much of the last 20 years, but this photo from my phone tells the story. 

In it, you can see the earliest entries from late October 2014. At the time, I was anticipating an early 2015 (second) hip replacement operation, I had ceased exercising due to the discomfort, and I ate myself through the holidays. Shortly after Christmas 2014 and in conjunction with the year of my 50th Birthday, I settled on a plan in which I was shooting for "150's by 50"-- that is, by June 27, 2015, I would once again be 159.9 lbs or less. I worked hard, cataloged some of it here in this blog, and was successful in reaching my goal.

Weight loss is a funny subject, as losing it is sometimes the easy part, with keeping it off more difficult. That said, I spent the vast majority of the next three years between 155 and 175, not great, but not horrible either. Then from the fall of 2018 through April of 2020, it was a steady climb back to all time rotundity.

Obviously, the question worth all of our consideration is whether five years from now, I will have another graph that shows yet another five year climb and attempted decline. I hope not. So, in response to absolutely no one's request, here's how I have lost 30 lbs during the COVID outbreak, with no real sense of what the eventual goal is. 

Take the Long View. I don't think any diet goal horizon worth pursuing is less than six months. I said to myself, "I am going to do this and stay with it through mid-September and see where it leads." By keeping my eyes on the far horizon, I am less tempted to fixate on predictable, constant, setbacks that happen along the way. 

Weigh Myself Every Day. This may seem counter-intuitive based on what I just wrote, and it is the source of considerable angst due to fluctuations, but it is another part of the discipline that I have to impose on myself to make this work. Yes, I have had NUMEROUS two or three day periods in the last 90 days in which my weight actually INCREASED--even though I had done the diet and exercise consistently. I don't know why this happens. Lots of people have views on it. But it happens--so you just have to ACCEPT IT and keep your eyes downrange on the 6 month point. But--and this I know from my spreadsheet--I cannot find a single one week interlude in that 90 days where I did not lose weight. PERIOD. No matter what day you pick, look a week later, and there is loss. So you may say, why not weigh yourself weekly. My answer is that the daily reminder is part of the discipline and is part of the inducement to stay the course.

Buy a Good Scale. They aren't that expensive, and none of us have the eyesight we once did to enable precise weight estimates on analog scales. Get a niche digital one that weighs to tenths of pounds. Mine has personal settings so that I get what I weigh, what the average of my last 3 weigh ins DIFFERENCE from what I weigh is, and what the average of my last 7 weigh ins difference is. Then it shows me my Body mass Index (BMI) and how many net calories I can eat at this weight in order to maintain this weight. I love all of these things because as I lose, I get to see multiple signs of it--weight (obviously), BMI (a slower/less responsive measure, but worthwhile) and calories. The number of calories to maintain body weight declines as your weight does, and you need to factor that into your eating. Weigh yourself at the same time every day. Every day. Every day.

Record every calorie. I use It really doesn't matter which you use, although some have better databases than others. Most have the ability to use a product code reader if the product isn't in the database. Again, not a big deal which you use, but use one. Account for everything. If I eat five cherry tomatoes while making dinner, they get counted. Weigh stuff if you don't how much you're eating (we have a little kitchen diet scale). Don't lie. If you've had four dinner rolls, claim four dinner rolls. The more honest you are with yourself, the better. I tend to lie more when I am not trying to diet, than when I am dieting, because when I am not dieting, I am a pig.

Eat Less. Any of these diet programs will give you a guide. You'll enter some combination of your current weight, your goal weight, and a time horizon. The program will then give you a recommended number of net calories per day that you can consume to lose weight on the slope that you have determined. Some people say, I want to lose a pound a week. Some people say they want to lose 20 pounds in four months. Whatever you enter, the program will tell you how many calories you must eat (net, after exercise is accounted for) in order to track to that weight goal. When I say eat less, this is where the trouble comes in--as there are tons and tons and tons of different diets out there that will result in lowered caloric intake. I truly believe that you have to pick one that you can sustain. I really love pasta and bread. A diet that restricts them is somewhat difficult for me to sustain, but not impossible. If you told me that the diet I had to pursue dramatically reduced red meat, chicken, fish, seafood, pork, lamb etc--I would be unable to pursue it. Period. I know myself, and I won't live without those things. Therefore, I pursue a low carbohydrate approach, with less than 10% of my calories each day coming from carbs, with the rest coming from fat and protein. To the extent that I eat carbs, they come from vegetables. I don't want to be a missionary for low-carb eating. I only want to point out that this is a way for me to eat the things I REALLY like -- although less of them -- while dramatically cutting out carbs and sugars which I like, but can live without. In order to remain below my daily caloric intake goals, portion control is necessary. Here's how it works. Yesterday at lunch, I ate 8 old bay chicken wings (I skipped breakfast, don't @ me), and was looking in my freezer at the steaks available. I knew I was having roasted eggplant and asparagus, and so there was budget left for the main course. A 12 oz ribeye brought me in under calorie budget by 100. A 19 Oz cowboy ribeye would have busted it by a couple of hundred. I picked the 12 oz. I was one tenth of a pound less this morning than yesterday morning. Bottom line, I don't care what you eat, just eat less of it and eat enough less of it to get under your calorie budget. There are other important reasons to eat a low carb/sugar diet, but then I sound like an AMWAY salesman and so I'll leave it at this.

Move More. For the longest time as I gained weight...I walked on my treadmill. More days than most, but I missed plenty. I can alter both speed and elevation, and so I did, for a combination that (with my weight entered into the machine's computer) produced a 300 calorie burn in 30 minutes. And so I would dutifully add 300 calories burned into the afforementioned MyFitnesspal program, and then eat as desired. But--I was lying to myself and the program. Because when I was at 3 degrees or six degrees or any elevation for that matter, I held onto the safety rails of the machine. It changed the free-body diagram suggested by the exercise (thank you Mr. Evangelista 12th grade Physics) and so the energy I was using was considerably less than the machine was telling me. I knew this. It is no different than the calorie lies I was telling myself. But when I got serious again about dieting, I let go of the rails and walked as long as was required to get to 300 calories. This took about 40 minutes, rather than 30. As I lost weight, I began to add in periods of running, first a minute, then two, then five, then ten and now I run for 20, take a one minute walk, and then run for nine more--burning 350 calories or so along the way at zero elevation the whole way. I get that I have two metal hips and you're not advise to run after getting them, but there is give in the treadmill and it is far less stressful than road running. Point is, you can burn calories that enable you to eat a little more and still be under your daily net requirement. So move. Move more than you do now.

It Has to Work for You. My calorie budget today is 1580 calories to maintain the weight loss slope I am on. I will eat probably 1100 of them at dinner. I love dinner food (we've discussed this already) and so I "save up" calories during the day. I'll have an apple for breakfast. A little chicken salad on some greens at lunch. And then two nice pork chops, roasted brussels sprouts, and salad (no dressing) for dinner. Catherine cannot eat like this. She's more comfortable with more, smaller meals during the day. Do it however works best for you, but stay under your budget. Now, I am prone to "hangriness" and so mid afternoon I'll have a few cherry tomatoes, or a hard boiled egg, or something to cut the edge off. Also, I eat dinner around 5 or 5:15, so I don't extend the agony (Catherine has kindly decided decided to join me at my dinner, so I have company). I'll return to the kitchen later on when the Kittens gather to make whatever vegan joy it is they are making, just to participate in the family dinner hullaballoo. But I'm not hungry anymore, and I don't get hungry throughout the evening. Of course I'm usually abed by 10PM, so there isn't a whole lot of time to be hungry. Again, do what works for you.

Why not start today on your own plan? Maybe you won't do it at the pace I'm on, maybe you'll eat a lot of grains and lean meats, however you decide to do it is ok with me. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Getting on the Record About A Biden Presidency

As we approach the November election with Donald Trump's re-election increasingly looking improbable, I want to take this opportunity to get a few thoughts into the record. This effort is mainly aimed at providing an easy, go-to hyperlink that I (and you!) can insert into other social media when, after I invariably criticize the Biden Administration, some wag decides to come out from under his or her Trumpy rock to remind me that "I own this" because I voted Biden. 

My vote for Joe Biden is as much a vote against Donald Trump. Trump's unique blend of corruption, pathology, and malevolence would ordinarily be enough to justify voting against him, but foremost in my decision is the degree to which he has threatened the Constitutional order. He has at various times, advocated for  unconstitutional limits on speech, the press, and peaceable assembly. His attempt to re-allocate execution year budget resources from the Department of Defense to construction of a border wall violates separation of powers and the Article I prerogatives of Congress. Additionally, his early attempts to prohibit the entry of Muslims into the United States violated the 14th Amendment. Whatever disagreements I have with Joe Biden's policy positions, I do not see him as a threat to the basic constitutional order.

So in voting for Joe Biden as a measure against anti-constitutionalism, am I voting for Joe Biden's policy positions and preferences? Assuredly not. First, there is the whole issue of what electing someone means. Biden's ascension to the Oval Office will not mean that every policy he ran on accompanies him into authority. More to the point, his election is the FIRST move in the process of policy becoming legislation, and my voice--along with millions of others--in opposition to those policies can have the benefit of shaping them into more acceptable proposals or creating additional opposition to truly damaging ideas. 

Second, I am, and have remained, a conservative even as the GOP turned toward personality-based populism. I will continue to resist government encroachment on individual liberty (including religious liberty), federal accretion of powers and authorities properly allocated to the States or society, and expansion of the welfare state. I will resist isolationism and protectionism. I will advocate for a strong military as one of the tools of national power. 

So, if a President Biden puts forward any of a number of proposals that he has floated on the campaign trail, I will use this platform and others to bring attention to their unsuitability or their lack of wisdom, and when the Trumpenproletariat suggests my fault in it, I'll just link to this post. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

What in God's Name Are They Thinking?

Last night, the President commuted the 40 month jail sentence of his friend and co-conspirator Roger Stone. Stone has not been shy about wishing for this outcome; in fact, he quite bluntly reminded the President in public many times how valuable his silence has been. For it, he was amply rewarded by the plenary power of the Republic's first Mafia Don Chief Executive. 

Some who read this will fall in line with the President's rationale--witch hunt, procedural crimes, no underlying offense, politically motivated, yada...yada...yada...  I doubt there will be many reading this who think this way, as by now, most of them have decided I'm not worth reading anymore, anyway. We'll discuss them in a moment. 
Roger Stone, criminal
Roger Stone, felon

But there is simply no substance to this defense. This is an abuse of power, and it puts to rest ANY suggestion that an actual crime has to be committed in order for something to be impeachable. In fact, the power the President exercised here is HIS AND HIS ALONE, and it cannot be undone. 

Some may point at the ongoing kerfuffle over the General Flynn prosecution as evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Flynn lied to the FBI in an official statement (and then lied to the Vice President) about the subject of his pre-inaugural conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. And though it is very difficult to conclude that Flynn was clean in this case, if one skews their sense of justice, one can be convinced that Flynn's prosecution was unjust (I don't believe this. I think he was guilty of what he was charged with).

But Stone? Stone is so thoroughly and deeply guilty it is not even funny. And yet he will walk. He will walk because the man exercising this unquestioned authority is so thoroughly corrupt as to 
set a new standard of misconduct in this office. 

I woke today and scoured my Twitter feed and the newswires for any evidence that even one Republican of note had publicly commented on the miscarriage of justice Stone's commutation represents. Not one. Not a single, elected Republican.  (Editor's Note: Mitt Romney rose to the occasion while I wrote this). But its worse than that. The folks I used to huddle in the (metaphorical) foxhole with as we tried to get what I believed were principled conservatives and civilized human beings elected to the Presidency....people who turned their backs on integrity and honor in the pursuit of ephemeral political power, personal financial gain, or some combination thereof....are also uniformly silent. These are not reticent people, mind you. They are happy to speak out on what the view as Chinese perfidy, the hypocrisy of the NBA, or the Marxism of BLM (each of which by the way, they are correct about). But across the board, fear of Donald Trump and his incompressible base has rendered them limp, silent, feckless, and beside the point.

When I see them spouting off on social media about everything under the sun except the ONE BIG THING that they ignore, two things come to mind. One general, one personal.

First, I wonder if they realize how much damage they are doing to their own ability to be seen as competent and reliable voices of opposition when someone of the other party occupies the White House? They have so often surrendered the high ground to the man they've tied their fortunes to, that when the time comes for arguments to be made from it, they will not know where to go to find it. This is a serious point. Joe Biden and his team are going to have to be constrained from the right...but upon what principles will or can these people stand? Putting aside the emergency money voted as part of an economic rescue this year--this crowd silently assented as Trump knee-capped Paul Ryan and other voices calling for entitlement reform. When the inevitable call for increases in entitlement spending come, upon what arguments will they draw? Where will they find credibility? On free trade, they have willingly given the issue away. How can they reclaim it, in the light of 3.5 years of sliming it? Given the level of constant flat out corruption that they have enabled, how ever will they have the moral standing to point it out in others? 

The second thing I think about--and Catherine would be shocked if she knew I were writing this--is that I wonder what they think about me? I get a lot of mileage around the house with my "I don't really care what people think about me, I only care what YOU think of me" line, and Catherine appears to have bought into it--thinking that I am just stubborn and pigheaded (and occasionally exhibiting a little jealousy in my approach). But it isn't entirely true. I do wonder about this. When these people see what I write, what do they think? Has my raving for four plus years convinced them that I am an unserious and unsophisticated person, that there is important work to be done and someone has to do it, that I am a naive waif who simply doesn't understand how the game is played? Have they long ago muted me so as a result? Has my constant reminder to them that not everyone turned their back on conscience and principle, caused them to question even one iota of their descent, or has it more likely caused them to tune me out as their self-image was strained? 

As I've written here before, I've lost friendships over all of this. There are some who consider this "sad", and an overreaction. They ask "why can't we all just get along?" and "is it really worth losing friends over?" My answer remains the same--my standards for friendship are so much higher than my standards for political affinity. You cannot be my friend if you shill for this, you cannot be my friend if you enable it, you cannot be my friend if you are so inconsistent as to repudiate core beliefs in pursuit of personal gain, you cannot be my friend if you defend the corruption and dishonesty and incivility and chaos. By doing so, you by definition do not possess the basic character necessary for being my friend.

I get it. My friendship wasn't worth that much to begin with. I have to agree with you. I get that my pompous, self-aggrandizing, preening about principle and integrity is tiring. I get that my reminders about founding documents and bedrock beliefs are out of step with your fungible ideology and your personality-based loyalties. 

But...and I mean this with all sincerity...I hope it was worth it. I hope your time in the sun was all that you'd hoped it would be, and that when President Trump rides off into glory after his term is over, you are satisfied with what you have accomplished and the price you paid. I hope the hobbling of the GOP was worth it. I hope the reinforcement of the GOP as a white, racist party...was worth it. I hope your repudiation of 20th century American conservatism was worth it. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

America Is Headed In the Wrong Direction, But Be Not Afraid

I am not normally prone to morosity, quite the opposite. The Kitten accuses me of irrational optimism, and she says that I tend to look back across the failures and setbacks of my 55 years through the lens of how each actually set me up for some future good turn. She isn't wrong. I imagine that were she not so very patient with me, I could tend to be annoying. 

I spent the first two hours of consciousness this morning with my tablet-app version of the Sunday New York Times, reviewing the news of our world. Fellow denizens of the political right may upbraid me for my choice of reading material, but there really is no equal to a deep dive into the Sunday Times for nice beginning of the week base-lining. Afterward, I spent some time on Twitter. 

The sum total of these two immersive experiences is that I sat down to write this blog tending toward morosity. There really is quite a bit of bad news. Our President retweeted this little gem this morning. Should he at some point delete the Tweet, a short summary follows. What we have is two minutes of video in which anti-Trump and pro-Trump demonstrators at a senior citizen village in Florida hurl insults and general upleasantries at each other. Included in these generic vocalizations is the ironic cry--from the driver of a golf-cart piloted by someone who presumably owns it in order to conserve his waning energy--of "White Power". Ordinarily, something of this nature would muddle around the cesspool of alt-right Twitter without great distribution, but the President of the United States chose not only to retweet it, but to praise his supporters there. I suppose the only good news I could take from the exchange was the possibility that folks in this demographic may be learning from their 2016 mistake

Moving on to the global pandemic (you like that segue?), it appears that the United States is leading the world in how poorly it has responded, with the President simply deciding there was no electoral profit in, you know, being President during a time of global pandemic. And so he has moved on to other pursuits as the nation slips into another phase of this disease, one in that APPEARS somewhat less fatal, but which is nevertheless clogging up ICU's with aplomb. We here on the farm aren't quite as locked down as we used to be, but we're not far from it. We practice social distancing (though the presence of Gen-Z daughters and their insatiable need for social interaction stresses this), we wear masks on any trip out of the house, and we continue to watch and wait. 

Don't get me wrong. I am absolutely onboard with those who said we could not stay in quarantine forever. Opening up in mid May made a lot of sense as a way of looking at how we might arrive at a more manageable approach to the pandemic without destroying our economy. But what has happened across broad swathes of the country--aided and abetted by the most irresponsible leadership imaginable from the White House--is absolute entitled recklessness. I'm not an epidemiologist, so forgive me if I am skating on your ice, but it occurs to me that IF WE ALL JUST WEAR OUR DAMN MASKS WHEN WE ARE AROUND PEOPLE OTHER THAN THOSE SHARING LODGING WITH US, THE VIRUS WOULD BE A GOOD BIT LESS VIRULENT and we could all carry on as homo economicus, in effect, walking and chewing gum at the same time. But no. Wearing a mask is an affront to Karen's Civil Rights (or Corey, in the case of her male counterpart), and led by our adolescent President, a common sense approach to public health has now become a loyalty oath to The Bad Orange Man.

As it is nearly July, thoughts turn to autumn, and football, and Saturday home games in Charlottesville. But you know what? I'm beginning to think all these mid May/mid June predictions of a return to normalcy on campus--may be JUST a tad bit premature. We'll see--clearly the demo in college is among the more resistant to the full damage of this virus--but six weeks from now, parents across the country are going to be making a very important risk decision in whether or not to swim out into what by then, could be a full-blown re-emergence (not that it ever de-emerged) of the virus.

I guess what I'm getting at here--and where when I sat down, I had believed would be the point of this piece--is that there is a lot to be morose about.  

But then I thought about an email exchange I had a few days ago with a friend in which I tried to cheer HIM up from a bit of crushing morosity. It goes like this. If we look back at the years from roughly 1972-1984, it plays out like a complete disaster. We lost our first war and high-tailed it out of there. The Arabs woke up and realized that they had us "over a barrel" (so to speak) when it came to our reliance on oil. A man who was already considered somewhat corrupt by many, resigned his presidency over corruption, and then was pardoned by his successor. We learned what "inflation" was. We elected the second most inept President in our history who then (quite rightly) told us we suffered from "malaise". Iranian thugs took 52 Americans from our Embassy and held them for 444 days. The Russians invaded Afghanistan. Our economy faced double-digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rates--all at the same time. The Japanese were cleaning our clock, and American cars came to suck like no other time since cars existed. 

And a fellow from California came along and told us our best days were ahead of us. And he was right. He led us for two terms with effectiveness, honor, and dignity. And then his Vice President led us for one term of honor and dignity. And then a fellow from Arkansas came along and led us for two terms with somewhat less dignity, but no less of a position of hope and effectiveness. American ingenuity and productivity--always there, returned.

My point is--we can, and will, get through all this. No, there is no land of rainbows and unicorns on the other side, but there is a time of more peace and civility, of love and honor, of respect and admiration, of health and stability. As dark as things seem now, it will one day be light again. I am certain of it. 

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