Monday, January 25, 2021

The Shape America Is In

How are things in The Shining City on the Hill? Not very good, I'm afraid.

We did manage to pry that nest of vipers out of the White House. Now we wait to see what will be done about getting him out of our hair for good. I'd love to see Trump impeached, and stripped of his benefits, and screwed into the ground by one prosecutor after another, but I doubt if anything like that will happen. America prefers to sweep mistakes like Trump under the rug. This is done in the name of preserving confidence in our democracy. Or, God forbid, “unity.”

Watch carefully...I'm going to say this with a straight face, “Joe Biden is our president now.” Whew! That wasn't easy. If you had suggested to me in, let's say, 1998, that when the year 2021 came around I'd be happy that Joe Biden had just been sworn in as president, I would have laughed myself silly. The very notion would have seemed like a cruel joke. But, as luck would have it, the world loves cruel jokes. I am, indeed, happy to see Joe and Dr. Jill in the the White House. It means that the vipers are gone, and that was cheap at any price.

I'm planning on giving Joe an unlimited “Get Out of Jail Free” card for as long as he's in office. That's right, it's Endless Honeymoon time in Fred World for our new president. It's the least that I can do under the circumstances. The viper is gone, but the wolves are still hungry. Honeymoon, you say? The wolves gave good old Joe less of a honeymoon than they gave President Obama. At least Obama got a few hours, maybe even a day. Joe got zero minutes. The wolves, Fox “News,” Rush Limbo, One America whatever it is, and the truly Satanic Newsmax, swung into high gear immediately with the same old “Democrats want to kill Republicans,” and “they want to start a war against white people,” and “Venezuela,” and innuendo about that poor asshole Hunter Biden. But what they say about wolves is true: when they get their teeth deep into the haunch of a prey animal, they never let go. They'll be back on “Bengazi!” within a week.

Trump is down in Florida, staring down the barrels of numerous dangerous situations. Just as he had decided on an attorney to represent him in his pending impeachment (!), his tax lawyers quit the pending case in the Southern District of New York. Technically, he's only allowed to “live” at Mar A Lago for seven days at a time, for a maximum of twenty-one days a year. He got some slack on that deal as president, but his neighbors do not seem to be very warmly disposed to him as a failed, disgraced EX-president, and a suspect in many potential prosecutions, not to mention a defendant in multiple civil suits.

Trump's bully act worked for decades on stiffs in the real-estate business, accountants, small-time lawyers, contractors in the building industry, and various poverty-stricken public officials in various cities and countries around the world. I wonder it the sheen has worn off, however, now that he has failed so spectacularly as president. He tried to bully his way to winning reelection. Failing by a wide margin, he then tried very hard, and failed abjectly, to bully his way to remaining in office despite having lost that second election.

Even those poor fools who had fallen under the spell of “Q” are beginning to wonder if Trump will become the God-Emperor of the earth after all.


There has never been a single definitive version of this country that we simply refer to as “America.” Change is the rule in these United States, it is not the exception. The changes have often been revolutionary, causing divisions in society along the lines of who is benefiting from the changes, and whose ox is being gored. The great tension in American society has been the one between ordinary working people and the super-rich investment class. For purposes of convenience and obfuscation, it is usually presented in terms of differing values, or in racial terms. Anything that keeps the working stiffs in their places and lets the investment class keep all of the money is okay.

The yawning chasm between the stiffs and the billionaires is growing by the day. I'm seeing ads on YouTube for private jets. Not just renting them, ads from a company that makes and sells them. A whole catalog of them. If that ad can be so casually placed on YouTube, you know that there are way too many people in the world who have way too much money.

The original set up was that only white men over twenty-one who owned property could vote, and the entire Senate was appointed by those rich white men in the various states. To make that original situation worse, the mere presence of the totally disenfranchised slaves in the south was added to their population numbers for political purposes, enabling the south to wield power far beyond their voting numbers, populations, and economic importance. That nonsense went on until the Civil War.

The intersection between the expansion of the country towards the west and the expansion of the voting franchise to include just any damn white man over twenty-one caused the first real revolution. That was the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. He achieved his majority from the solid support of the low-rung working people in the western territories. What a party that was! Literally. Old Andy invited everyone back to the White House for a party, and they all showed up, too. Drunk as skunks, they wrecked the place and stole whatever wasn't nailed down. That class of person still votes! Those were the same Yahoos who “took back” their Capitol building last week.

Then there was our Civil War. That brought about some revolutionary changes. A bloody revolution, it was.

It went on like that, along those lines anyway, and there were more and more people, and there was more and more money, and the rich investment class grew in numbers along with the working class, and as has happened so often in the history of the world, the worst aspects of human behavior began to control the actions of the rich people. Give those people an inch, and they take a mile. Give them the moon, and they long for the stars.

By the turn of the Twentieth Century, America was a place of poverty, filth, disease, child labor, and early death for working people, along side the mansions made of marble and gold for the rich. Medical care, such as it was, could be had on an ability to pay basis. Poor women died in childbirth; poor babies were still-born; workingmen injured on the job received the cost of the first emergency ward visit if they were lucky, and then got the kiss-off from the job. For many readers, this will have been the history of their own families. It is the history of mine.

The Roaring Twenties! That was a wild example of “irrational exuberance” in the financial markets, and it ended like they often do, with wiped out investors landing hard on Wall Street. I mean landing on the street itself, or the sidewalk, or a passing taxi. 1929, wasn't it October? Republicans caused that, lest we forget, and they were responsible for the financial disaster that spread around the world over the next couple of years. And then, in 1932, a ray of sunshine appeared in American politics. He was elected to a total of four, four-year terms as president, and he personally saved us from two horrendous tragedies: the Great Depression, and World War II. Franklin Delano Roosevelt! He was a one-man revolution, and a friend to the poor.

The modern Republican Party is a revolution unto itself. Those Goddamned Republicans fought Roosevelt tooth and nail at every step. They opposed every stimulus program. Austerity was their mantra. They opposed every step necessary to prepare the country for the coming war. America first, they said. Those lousy bastards would have put the children back in the factories and coal mines, and made deals with the fascists and militarists to keep us out of the war. Where would we be then? A second rate power in a world of three huge totalitarian regimes? We all owe a debt of gratitude to old FDR, but what does he get? Those anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-worker, Republican bastards are still trying to unwind everything that the New Deal did to help working class Americans. They still live and breath to take back everything that was “stolen” from them and their rich benefactors for the good of the country.

Those 1930s Republicans had their own wolves to help them, by the way. About five families owned all of the most influential newspapers in the country. There were multiple “special” editions every day in every major city, all with their teeth firmly planted in FDR's withered thighs for his entire thirteen years in office.

And now we are forced to watch this constant struggle between good and evil play out in real time, on a daily basis. Do I complain too much about Republicans? Oh, excuse me. The Democrats for the last forty years have been going wishy-washy about helping anyone but their own individual greedy selves. They beg for their share of the scraps that fall from the tables of the billionaires. They've been busy trading away New Deal advances in the name of unity. Let's overhaul welfare! Let's save Social Security! They have become “Republican Light,” joining the Republicans in their quest to steal every last advantage from working people in the name of globalism, competitiveness, or neoliberalism. As we speak, they are only slightly better than the Republicans. As we speak, they are once again talking about “unity,” so best keep one hand on your wallet.

What's a poor working man to do?

Your vote: Are you happy with the power of your vote? The single happy result of the presidency of Trump was that Americans learned about the true power of their votes. The lack of power, I should say. You only get to choose between the two survivors of primary season. Experience tells us that neither of them will be a particularly worthy candidate. The vote of one person in Wyoming is worth about five times as much as the vote of one Californian. The Senators representing about thirty million people can control all of the important decisions to be made by the Federal government. Winning the popular vote counts for nothing in our system. No, we are blessed with an Electoral College. Etc.

Your medical care: Are you happy with the quality of the medical care that you and your family are receiving? The entire American medical establishment now exists for one reason: to maximize short-term profits for various corporations. Wealth generation has completely overpowered health results on the to-do list. Here too, the single happy result of COVID-19 has been to shine a bright light on the total inadequacy of our health care system. America spends twice as much money on health care compared to the other fully developed countries, and American medicine is achieving third-world results.

I'm horrified by the stories that I read about people's experiences. Not just people with very little ability to pay and junk insurance, no, I'm talking about Yale professors with Platinum Plans and no limits. Big-time New York lawyers with doctors for brothers-in-law. Ours is a system where doctors are misdiagnosing; doctors are making mistakes; doctors are ignoring symptoms; doctors are failing to order tests, or ordering the wrong tests. Don't even get me started about disparities in billing, or surprises in billing. If you are happy with that situation, you, my friend, are easy to please.

Your children's education: Educational opportunities for working class children have been drying up for a long time now. People's memories are so short that it's ridiculous. “And how about that new zombie show on Netflix!”

Here's a shocking statistic for you. I graduated from law school in 1991 (yes, I was a late bloomer). My tuition was $14,500 per year (minus 25% as a merit-based scholarship). By 2011, that tuition had risen to $42,780. Same school. By 2020, tuition at my alma mater was $57,560. Okay, it was thirty years, but recall that for all of that time, our leaders have been telling us that we live in a “low inflation” financial environment. That was their excuse for the stagnant wages.

Just for laughs, I looked up the current tuition for resident students at my undergraduate university. That was Queens College of the City University of New York. I received my BA in 1985. Tuition for my last year there was $75 per semester, and most of that was a Student Union fee. That was $150 for the entire year. Now tuition, for residents of NYC, is $6,930.

Beyond questions of money and access, the quality of a typical American public school education has gone steadily downhill. All that our children are learning now is how to pass standardized tests, and forget music classes, or a chess club.

In the meantime, our growing class of rather rich people, as opposed to the super-rich, send their children to private schools, where the education is excellent. Those children perform superbly on entrance examinations, and many of those families can afford the new sky-high university tuition.

Your “retirement” security: Anybody out there trying to make it on Social Security? I didn't think so.

Your air and water quality: Trump has been driven into the snow since I started this piece, and good old Joe Biden has already reinstated the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Is it just me, or is support for fossil fuel subsidies fading? This subject is closely tied to the climate crisis.

I'm afraid that our failure to deal with the rapidly degrading climate will be similar to a couple of the people who came to my law office seeking help with something. They needed help alright, and they had big cases that were clearly winnable. They had, however, waited too long. I would always make a couple of calls to ensure that I was figuring the dates right, but in the end I had to tell them, “if only you had come to see me six months ago.” There are some dates that you do not want to blow.

Your taxes: Will Joe also be rolling back last years titanic give away to the rich masquerading as a tax cut? Will he return the corporate taxes to the old levels and preserve the cuts for the wealthy classes? Or visa versa? Time will tell.

Your wages: Many European countries feature fair wages and fair taxes. The media wolves in America love to harp on Scandinavian taxes. The choice should be an easy one though. Would you prefer: A) pay 30% of your wages in taxes and get nothing in return; or B) pay 50% of your wages in taxes and receive free medical care, a life free of worrying about paying for retirement, five weeks of vacation every year, no worries about job lay-offs or periods of unemployment, etc. Oh, and bear in mind that you'll be receiving wages thirty or forty percent higher than you're getting paid now. Yeah, I'll take the higher wages and taxes, please.

Before tackling a final edit of this post, I watched a nice video on YouTube. Several minutes of overconfident assholes dumping their mostly bullet-bikes up on Mulholland Drive in Malibu. High side, low side. One guy went off the road and up the steep hillside. He made it thirty or forty feet in a rather entertaining wobble before he hit a lump that might have been a boulder. One guy was saved from a flying lesson by a guard rail. I was a regular up there myself for quite a while, and I learned a few things that these guys should have spent more time studying.

I chose my roads, and my days of the week, very carefully. I liked roads north of Malibu. Fewer motorcycles and cars, and usually no Highway Patrol. On a weekend day, I might head over to the Crest Highway. Almost no traffic; almost never any police. I would always go over a piece of road slowly and carefully first, checking for gravel, oil patches, bad road, or speed-traps. I picked my spots. Then, having satisfied myself that it was safe enough, I'd go over it a couple of times way too fast. Those were good times.

Why would I talk about that now? My system applies to other things just as well. I want to remind you that nothing is stopping you from leaving America if you're getting sick of being talked down to and treated like a dog. There are plenty of nice places in the world to live. Where, and doing what, will depend on your particular profile, but the approach to the research is the same. Look around; take your time; keep notes; find good ex-pat chat rooms for different countries. Don't rush off somewhere because one YouTuber says it's great.

You'll still be American; there's nothing unpatriotic about moving out. More and more people are doing it every year. Mexico is getting popular, and a new “retirement community” industry is growing there to make it easy. They're close to the border, so you can drive across to Texas to use your Medicare. It sure beats working seasonal jobs in Amazon warehouses and on farms. If you've been lucky to build up some wherewithal, you might find that you prefer luxury to mere prosperity.

It's worth a thought. It's going to take our dimwitted politicians a long time to straighten out the mess that they've made. You might as well be comfortable.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Clair de lune (Debussy): Alexandre Tharaud, Yoann Bourgeois - piano & dance

Jackson Browne - These Days

This song has a world-weariness to it that greatly appeals to me at this world-weary time of my life. I'll admit that Nico's version from some movie that I've never seen was the first to reach my ears. I love Nico's version, and Nico in general, and I thought that it was curious when I discovered that Jackson Browne had written it. 

This is his version from the LP, For Everyman. (1973) That fact I have only discovered today. I was sure that this song would be part of his more mature catalog. I mean, this is almost "near death" sentimentality here. 

It turns out that Mr. Browne is a couple of months younger than me. I downplayed him when we were in our twenties. I thought that the stuff was good, but I preferred music that was much louder and faster, or more electronic, or funky, or foreign, nothing personal, I required more stimulation in those days. He and I turned twenty-five-years-old in 1973. Isn't it miraculous that he could convey this sentiment so accurately at that age? 

Then it gets even weirder. At the age of eighteen, he recorded the first version of this song to reach wax as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They were so far off of my radar that the echo was too feint to read. Then, in a comment to the above video, someone points out how remarkable it was that Jackson Browne wrote this song WHEN HE WAS SIXTEEN! 

Brother, I think I need a witness for that one. 

One Depressed Man's View Of America

William Butler Yeats, “being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

Don't mind me if I get a bit cranky sometimes. It's just a mood that comes over me. There's a tightness to it that doesn't seem to originate in the muscles. It arises from deeper than that. It doesn't come very often now, and I'm very happy about that. I remember when it came several times every week, or every day for a spell, or for years, like all of my teenage years, and most of the days that came before that. It harms a body, this clenching, and the cumulative effects will kill me when that day comes.

I try not to complain, though. I've been luckier than many. I grew up, didn't I? Not everyone gets that far in life. I got married and raised children, and I enjoyed those things. I've never taken my own life, have I? Even though it's mine to take, and there have been times when the idea seemed reasonable. I have survived by learning how to act like a happier man than I actually am. It's like putting on a mask and adopting that relaxed posture that puts people at ease. I don't like it when the mask cracks, as it inevitably does. One incident is enough to drive most people away, and even family and close friends can only take so much.

The times that we live in make things hard for a man like me. Through my reactions, the difficulty is passed on to the people that I live and work with, people in shops, strangers, whole communities of people that I love, and who once loved me. It's tragic.

I read the news. Even twelve time zones away, it's very accessible. Alas, America! What the hell are people thinking? So many people actively wrecking everything in sight, and so many more acting like nothing is going wrong. Rights and prosperity down the drain. I've said it before, and maybe it's worth hearing again: the only good thing about it is that it takes the sting out of impending death. At least death is peaceful. If I'm right, death is four-corners peaceful, wall to wall, all the time, for the rest of time.

That will be a blessing.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Les McCann & Eddie Harris Compared To What

Les McCann was a versatile pianist and Eddie Harris was a unique and exciting sax player who attracted people to jazz who had never thought about it too much before. (Like me, for instance.) Both men have always seemed like real get-along, naturally friendly types. They also made sure to get their two-cents in about the struggle. I value all of those things, and I love the two of them very much. 

This cut was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in June, 1969. I don't know much about direct sound recording, but it does sound to me like a very good job with the relatively primitive soundboards that they were using then. 

What would America be without our black brothers and sisters? Not just the musicians and the athletes, I mean all of them. It would be dead-boring for one thing. We should be nicer to them, maybe take our knees off of their necks for a start. They didn't ask to come here, but they have been an important part of the fabric of America since the beginning. We should all try harder to make sure that they get the respect that they deserve. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Allman Brothers Band - Blue Sky (Eat A Peach, February 12,1972)

I've never been quite sure of the order of the solos. Dickie first? It's his song. Dwayne first? I had been leaning towards Dickie first most of the time, mostly because of that little across the strings blip that the second player puts in very soon after the turnover. That sounded very Dwayne to me. 

I was just reading around the Google, and the consensus seems to be Dwayne first. 

The point, I believe, is that they were both fine players, and they played so well together that it's still makes me smile to listen to them. This whole band was first class, all the way. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Blogging Is Like Shouting Into A Bucket

Start a blog! It might be fun! That much is true, with proper weight given to the “might be.” There are many factors involved. Blog about something that interests you! Blog about something that will go viral and get you a million hits a day! Blog about something that is socially relevant! It gets complicated as soon as you set any goal for the blog other than spending some quality time by yourself with your computer.

Something that interests me? That's a tough one for me to focus, because I'm interested in too many things. The only common thread in this blog is the music, but I do try to keep a personal aspect to those choices. The shared song must be: a) one that I love; b) a song or an artist that I believe to be underappreciated; and c) a song that I may be able to further illuminate by adding a personal touch. After those songs, the subject matter goes scattershot, big time.

I was not interested in politics at first. The start date for the blog was in mid-2008, the tail end of George W. Bush's presidency and the run-up to the election of Barack Obama. It was all so dull and, let's face it, stupid. Clinton was an embarrassment to himself, his family, and the country, and politically he did more to help the Republicans and the clampdown than he ever did for average Americans. What's a Democrat in name only? A DINO? I suppose that he did balance the budget, but the credit for that probably goes to the Soviets, for going tits-up and all. The great economy in the 1990s was due to the tech bubble. That leaves Clinton as a footnote to history. “You gonna finish those fries?”

W. Bush was a stooge and a front man, much like Reagan, but without the acting chops. Several expensive new wars, giant tax cuts for the usual suspects, nightmarish banking and real estate scams, the destruction of the world economy, blah, blah, blah. Who could stand it? Not me.

I liked Obama, and I was very happy about his election, but I wondered if he had what it was going to take to straighten this mess out. What was needed was an LBJ, a total son-of-a-bitch who could smile and aw-shucks above the table while he performed unnecessary surgery on your liver with a stiletto under the table. I didn't think that Obama was that guy, and I was right. He went with that “hands across the aisle” thing for way too long. He ended up with his honor and his reputation intact, and not much else to show for his time.

Hillary knew the game, and she does have a vicious streak in her, but we'll never know what she might have accomplished. So many things got in her way. Her essential unpopularity, for one thing, and her unlikeability, and her mediocre public speaking skills, and her lazy campaigning, and her big “basket of deplorables” mouth. In the end, some asshole legacy from a once successful real estate family who was making a living as a TV host at the time beat her in a highly dubious election.

I did, however, become fascinated with one aspect of Obama's presidency: his blackness. We knew what kind of opposition we could expect from watching Clinton getting knocked around by the Republicans, and that started up right out of the gate with Obama. But the fire burned a lot hotter for Obama, people went nuts before he was even sworn in, because, if you haven't noticed, Mr. Obama is BLACK. That window onto the fragile state of race relations in my country became one of my favorite subjects over the next eight years.

Then came the asshole, and the racism just got worse as he poured gasoline on the fire daily. He poured gasoline on all of the fires. The post-Reagan media went to town manufacturing lies and conspiracies that were all presented as “fair and balanced” news. The Internet became a very special kind of double-edged sword, where the edge that was useful was rarely used, and the edge that was cutting our throats was wielded mercilessly, creating great wealth for some. The asshole, a newly-minted Republican, and the rest of the Republicans, broke all records for self-interest and corruption and spent four years in a sincere attempt to destroy every democratic institution in America.

At some point in that process, I fell again into my boredom with the whole sordid mess. There's only so much a man can stand. Stacy Abrams is the only real bright spot in politics right now.

You may be taking heart from the results of this year's election. The House; the Senate (by a hairsbreadth); the Presidency. The results in Georgia were particularly encouraging, I will admit. After the events of the last week, I wouldn't get too excited.

Let's not get carried away by a couple of small successes in the face of total insanity. Consider a real world example: guns are very powerful devices in the right hands, but unless they are properly maintained, loaded, aimed, and fired, they are harmless. Let's say that guns are the recent successes. But a gun lying on a table is a mere objet d'art. A gun in the right hands is deadly. Extending this metaphor to today's political situation: which one do the Democrats possess? The deadly weapon or the objet d'art?

Do you trust the Democrats to pull the trigger?

I didn't think so. They're going to leave it laying on the table until some new asshole comes along to use it on them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Rare - Frank Sinatra sings "Angel Eyes" on Tonight Show 1965

When I was younger, I wondered if I would ever get old enough to like Opera music. That hasn't happened yet, but I have lived long enough to learn to appreciate Frank Sinatra. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Who Will Follow Trump In The Republican Circus Parade?

Lists are appearing that are intended to suggest Republican candidates for president in 2024. You can practically guarantee that the lists that are compiled today will appear naive two years from now. Here is the list of the top five as it appeared in this morning's Raw Story feed.

Nikki Haley==Really? Nikki Haley? It has become hard to tell when people are being serious, and when they are pulling your leg. It does seem like the primary requirement for being included on this list was abject, dog-like loyalty to Trump, so there's that. Otherwise, does Nikki, I'm going to go ahead and call her Nikki, because she's such a lightweight, does she have anything to recommend her as president otherwise? I can't think of anything, although I'm sure that she's a fine accountant.

One more thing. Can we make a rule that anyone running for president is required to run under their real name? No more Mitt, no more JEB! No more Beto. Her name is Nimrata, and it's a perfectly good name.

Mike Pence==At this point in the list I'm already beginning to lose confidence in the person that wrote the article. Although who knows? An eighty-two year old Joe Biden might make an attractive candidate, if he has really accomplished things, and if he has managed to avoid touching women inappropriately and smelling young women's hair. More likely he'll be well beyond his “sell by” date. He may have seriously embarrassed himself somehow, or become seriously ill, and the Democrats will have to find another candidate, an exercise at which they have never excelled.

People might then think, sure, Mike Pence, what the hell?

Tom Cotton==I am already actively terrified of Tom Cotton. We've all had our fun mocking Trump for his ignorance, and his lack of curiosity, education, or a work-ethic. Trump doesn't know any more now about the workings of government than he did when he came down that escalator. Trump showed us that someone truly dangerous could be elected, someone who's dearest wish was to get rid of any restraints on presidential power and run the country by fiat as a true authoritarian dictator. Our good fortune was that Trump was too foolish and inept to make it work. Tom Cotton is neither foolish nor inept.

Senator Cotton is the one that scares me.

Ted Cruz== Ted Cruz was born in the city of Calgary, in the province of Alberta, in the country of Canada. Forgive me if I haven't been paying close enough attention, but is having been born in the United States no longer a requirement for the presidency?

Ted also violates the alias rule. His name is Rafael Edward Cruz. Another perfectly good name.

He is also Ted Cruz. Doesn't everyone hate Ted Cruz? You rarely hear a good word spoken about him. People are not known to sing his praises at the drop of a hat. He seems like a real jerk, doesn't he? Yes, he does, and he always has. Like the rest of them, he fell into the roll of Trump lap-dog without much prompting.

Josh Hawley==His name actually is Joshua Hawley, so he has that going for him. He is one of the senators from Missouri, and he has been for about two years. He doesn't seem to be a fool, nor particularly lazy, but like the rest of this list he lacks charisma and likability. He is a graduate of Stanford University, and received his legal education at the Yale Law School, where he was the editor of the law review and a member of the Federalist Society. This week he is making himself the leading member of the “Trump Forever” club. On Wednesday, January 6th, Congress will meet to certify the election of Joe Biden. This is really a formality, a rubber-stamp situation, a way of standing up and cheering for the good old U S of A, that bastion of democracy, that Shining City on the Hill, proof that once again there has been a peaceful, proper, and lawful transfer of power in our great country. Except that this time Joshua Hawley will be leading a charge seeking to overturn the results of that election, ruining the whole rah, rah, rah effect.

This event is neither a ratification of the people's choice for president, nor a separate election process. It is a pro forma certification. There was a popular vote taken last November, and all of the votes have been counted. Those votes have received the closest examination for propriety that has ever been carried out in all of American history, and they have consistently been judged to be valid and legal in every way. The Republicans, and a team of Trump's Keystone Kop lawyers, have filed and argued something like sixty court challenges in various state and federal courts across the country, and in every case the votes have been found to be valid and the law suits have failed to persuade any court. The Supreme Court simply refused to hear the matter when the Texas Attorney General filed a suit of original jurisdiction there, along with seventeen other States Attorneys General and over one hundred Republican members of congress. That's a real slap-down.

The electors from the Electoral Colleges of all of the states have been certified by their respective states, have met, and have voted, and that is the vote that is to be acknowledged on Wednesday. Publicly, you know, as a show of our truly democratic form of government. Winner, no doubt about it, Joe Biden, Democrat, the people have spoken. But not this time. Oh, no.

(You may have to cut-and-paste this, but you know what to do: This article contains a link to a short video of Mr. Hawley explaining firmly why he is exactly wrong in the actions that he plans to take on Wednesday.)

This time, Mr. Hawley, until recently thought to be a reasonable man, will be leading a last ditch attempt to overturn the lawful results of this last election, an election which from all of the considerable evidence seems to have been run fairly and by the rules. Mr. Hawley has decided to join the other four-legged, furry stooges crowding onto Trump's ample lap. Why would anyone do such a thing?

    It's almost too foolish to consider, but it really does appear that all five of these listed mediocrities are after the votes of the 71,000,000 Americans who voted in November for Trump. They may see it as wanting Trump's support in the 2024 election. As though in three or four years Trump can wave his Harry Potter wand and put 71,000,000 votes in their column. As though there will still be 71,000,000 votes there to award, like money listed in a bank-book. As though nothing will happen in the meantime to unbalance our current state of affairs. As though time will stand still, as it were. That would be a terrible delusion to labor under.

Trump will be seventy-five-years-old in June, 2021. That will make him seventy-seven in June, 2023, when the race for the nomination starts to heat up. Hell, that's younger than Joe Biden is now. Trump may want those votes for himself! After all, he wouldn't be the first person to labor under the delusion that nothing has changed.

Or he may be dead. Even healthy septuagenarians who exercise regularly and eat a good, balanced diet are liable to drop dead at any moment. I speak as a member of the club. We are fragile creatures.

It's worth noting that Mike Pompeo thinks that he should be president, and he thinks that he will be president some day, probably very soon. He is probably livid at having been left off the short list. Mike is a morbidly obese and girly voiced religious fanatic, a shambling hulk of a man whose suits are so big that they could house refugee families, and a failed West Point graduate who did the minimum five years, only made Army captain, and quit just as his unit was shipping out for the Gulf War. That's not why men go to West Point, Mike. Men go to West Point to become generals. If I had to guess, I'd say that he got tired of trying to make the weight. Yes, the service has maximum weight requirements, and officers who get carried away with the fork and the spoon get culled. He is a comical figure and should be regarded as one. If he keeps eating incessantly, his “Rapture” might come sooner than he thinks.

Funky Broadway Part 1

The original, by Dyke and the Blazers. A Phoenix band that played clubs on, you guessed it, Broadway! 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Latin Is Fun!

Only kidding. There is a series of books called “English is Fun” that is used by most Thai grammar schools. I would joke with the students about it when I did English camps. (All in Thai.) “English is fun, right! Who thinks that English is fun? (seeing no hands raised.) Right! English is hard. Studying English is not fun. But being able to speak and read English already is a lot of fun! And you can make more money.”

I was forced to study Latin for two years in high school. I hated it with a passion. They taught us the old fashioned way, the Etonian way, ordering us to magically memorize all of the conjugations and declensions, plus the vocabulary. Tests consisted of translations in both directions and fill-in-the-blank questions seeking proper word endings. Latin was definitely not fun. It was enough to make anyone hate language study in general.

Much later on, I was considering a change in career and thinking about teaching. I figured, let's test the water. I found a place that supplied substitute teachers for private schools in Los Angeles, and they were happy to send out a lawyer. I was overqualified as a substitute in private schools. I did in once, maybe twice a week for a year or so. I discovered that the best private high schools were teaching Latin. At first I was appalled, but after they sent me to Crossroads to sub in Latin classes a couple of times I saw what they were up to.

It wasn't exactly “Latin for Dummies,” but they did completely leave out the Latin grammar. The focus was on learning Latin vocabulary, upon which, you must admit, much of English vocabulary is based. The tests consisted entirely of translating Latin sentences and short paragraphs into English. Don't worry about the endings, all of those tenses and the six cases of nouns. Just learn the words. They were using this abbreviated “study of Latin” as a way to build English vocabulary for the standardized tests that were soon to follow, the SAT etc. The students did not seem to mind it at all.

I have come to enjoy Latin to some extent. We learned a lot of Latin phrases in law school, and by then I knew enough about English to see how many words Latin had provided to English. Res ipsa loquitur! “The thing speaks for itself.” How loquacious of it!

Latin can be fun. This morning, a UK friend of mine published a running gag of his on Facebook. He enjoys inventing high sounding mottoes for his family, and I thought that this was a good one:

Sed sem facere potui concitari solitum.”

(I could make salad but I won't.)

Studying Latin, grammar and all, might be a good idea for 2021. It would at least distract us from these vicious, confusing times that we live in.