Category Archives: Politics

A Mystic Christian – “Baffles ’em with BS”

Was Obi-Wan Kenobi the original Mystic Christian? (As in, “May the Force be with you“)

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

I’ve been struggling with what to call myself in the current, ongoing Culture war.

I despise the Radical Right – as heartless – but they don’t understand it when I respond, “Liberal my ass, I’m an Independent.” I tried that label back in July 2016, with The Independent Voter, and in 2019’s A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter).” I also tried “Contrarian,” back in a November 2016 post, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian. Then there was the February 2021 post, “I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey.” That one talked of me being “one of those people suffering from Trump fatigue.” 

So what am I? “Independent?” “Contrarian?” Somewhere between Radical Left and Wacko Right?

A week or so ago I tried the “Independent” label once again with my current lady friend. (Another conservative who voted for Trump; they’re all over the dang place.) But it didn’t go over – it “didn’t compute” – possibly because the label was too complicated. (For “those people.”) So I decided to “baffle them with BS.” (From a Quote by W.C. Fields, detailed in the notes.)

Put another way, I’ve decided to take the high road, to get away from talking politics altogether. (On Facebook, or dealing personally with Right-wing Wackos.) I turn the tables and use the Bible against them, saying things like, “How does that save souls?” It drives them crazy – which is worth the price of admission alone – mostly because “those people” have been using the Bible to advance their reactionary political agenda for decades now.

(There’s more on that radical agenda below…)

Besides, using “Mystic Christian” bring up the title of my new. soon-to-be-published book. The full title is “On Mystic Christians – (You know, the real ones?)” It follows up a book I did in 2018, “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” (Under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”) It was designed as a bit of payback, or “turnabout is fair play,” a way of evening things out, mostly in response to Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008 that there’s “no such thing as a liberal Christian.”

The point is that logic and reason are mostly wasted in addressing the Wacko Right, “those people” who generally have no sense of humor. Which brings to mind an earlier mystic – and devout Roman Catholic – Thomas Merton. Someone asked him how you could tell if a person is “enlightened.” (Having gone through an inner, spiritual transformation.) He smiled and said, “Well it is very difficult to tell but holiness is usually accompanied by a wonderful sense of humor.” And such a sense of humor is noticeably lacking in the Radical Right.

On a related note, here’s another by-the-way: If you think I was being too political back in 2018 – when I published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian” – check out Televangelist Pat Robertson says God told him Trump will win. (Or Google “pastor God Trump win,” for similar results.) Either way, I’d say Robertson’s message from God got “garbled in transmission.”

The point is, if I was way too militant back then, I wasn’t the only one.

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I originally planned to have this post feature early pages in the ‘Mystic Christian’ book. I included those pages in the notes, but here are some highlights. Like how conservative Christians interpret most of the Bible literally, but not – in one glaring example – “The Bible’s ‘erotic love song:” But why don’t such Literalists interpret “Song of Songs” literally? Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

Some Bible Literalists become snake handlers, based on a too-literal interpretation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.” But I would say: “Be consistent. If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, you should do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3: ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels… Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

On a more serious note – and speaking of using the Bible to advance a political agenda – there’s a question, Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah? (From early in the ‘Mystic’ book.)

The article opined that initially many Evangelicals supported Trump because they thought he shared the same politics and values. But then it seems that some Evangelicals – and other Christians – “supported him because they thought he was a Messiah. They saw Trump as infallible and became his disciples.” Which led one pastor (Franz Gerber) to worry that many in his congregation seemed to idolize Trump more than they worshipped Jesus.

“Nothing good can come from putting any single person on a spiritual pedestal. No one is infallible, no one is free from bias, and no one is honest all of the time, no matter how hard they may strive…”

Returning to “Trump-Messiah,” it noted the seeming hypocrisy of evangelicals who insist that Trump’s “morality” was nobody’s business but God’s, “while also casting great judgment on non-believers or those who don’t believe as they do.” Then came the matter of media coverage:

“What makes a good president is the ability to survive our constant scrutiny and the scrutiny of the free press. Through this process, which is critical, we can get a better sense of whether a politician is trying their best, and whether or not they generally have Americans’ best interests in mind…”

And speaking of borrowing a page from the Trump playbook – “baffling them with BS” – try this on for size. (Demonstrating how a mystic – Christian or otherwise – sees things differently.)

By his own admission, Donald Trump is: 1) a very stable genius, 2) a master negotiator, and 3) a true American patriot. Aside from that, he’s the only American Putin will allow into Russia.* With all that in mind, Trump could accept Putin’s invitation and negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine. By doing so he could end the needless suffering of millions of Ukrainians, and bring down the price of gas in America as well. If he did all that he would probably win the Nobel Peace Prize, which would certainly get him re-elected in 2024.

I wonder if he’ll do it? (In other words, “Fish or cut bait.”) 

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The upper image is courtesy of Obi-wan Kenobi Alec Guinness – Image Results. See also Obi-Wan Kenobi – Wikipedia.

Re: “Mystic.” For more see What is a Mystic and What Traits do they Typically Possess? One definition: “an individual who is born into a very specific role. Gifted with a deeper understanding of spirituality, and possessing psychic gifts and abilities, their role is one of guidance. In essence, mystics are here to use their powers to show humanity the correct way to live.” Merriam-Webster defines mysticism as “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight).” But see also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, noting the “mystical practices and theory within Christianity:”

Mysticism is not so much a doctrine as a method of thought. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic Church (including traditions from both the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches) and Eastern Orthodoxy… The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied. They range from ecstatic visions of the soul’s mystical union with God and theosis (humans gaining divine qualities) in Eastern Orthodox theology to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e. Lectio Divina).

Re: Thomas Merton (1915-1968), “arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.” See also Thomas Merton – Wikipedia. His books included Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Mystics and Zen Masters, and the more conservative Praying the Psalms:

According to Merton: “To put it very plainly, the Church loves the Psalms because in them she sings of her experience of God, of her union with the Incarnate Word, of her contemplation of God in the Mystery of Christ….If we really come to know and love the Psalms, we will enter into the Church’s own experience of divine things. We will begin to know God as we ought.”

Re: The Force be with you. See Idioms … Free Dictionary, referring to the catch prase adapted from “Star Wars,” in which it is used as a blessing, “to protect or guide the other person.” See also 1st Chronicles 22:11, “The LORD be with you, and may you have success,” as well as Dominus vobiscum – Wikipedia. The latter noted that the phrase “the Lord be with you” is an “ancient salutation and blessing traditionally used by the clergy in the Catholic Mass … as well as liturgies of other Western Christian denominations, such as LutheranismAnglicanism and Methodism.” The response is Et cum spiritu tuo, meaning “And with your spirit.” 

And speaking of “Wacko Right,” Donald Trump was among the first to use the term, back in 2000. See THE STAUNCH-RIGHT WACKO VOTE – The Fleming Foundation, noting how in an early run against Pat Buchanan, “Trump told America that Buchanan’s supporters were the ‘staunch-right wacko vote.’”

Re: “Baffle them with BS.” According to Goodreads, the line is attributed to W.C. Fields: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” See also idioms … Free Dictionary: “In lieu of concrete facts or exceptional wit, you can convince people with artful, flowery, or misleading speech.” See also the Phrases website, which noted that the maxim has “been proven true, repeatedly, one need look no further than the American Republican party for evidence. Facts and logic have been swamped by absolutely preposterous nonsense.

Re: Putin’s invitation to Trump. See Russia bans 963 Americans from the country including Biden, Harris, Zuckerberg. But not Trump. For a different take, search “putin trump russia” for some interesting comments.

The lower image is courtesy of Fish Or Cut Bait Images – Image Results. Wikipedia explained that this is a common English language colloquial expression, dating back to the 19th-century United States, which among other things, “cautions against procrastination and/or indecisiveness.” Or in this case, saying you’re a very stable genius, a master negotiator and a true American patriot, but not doing anything with those sterling qualities. See also “Put up or shut up.”

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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Here is the complete cut-and-paste from the first part of the new “Mystic Christian” book:

On the other hand there was my post, St. James … and the 7 blind men. It included the “parable of the Blind men and elephant,” and this thought:

Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other –in the good sense.(The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

And a heads up for this book: I’ll haveSt. James … and the 7 blind menas a separate chapter later in the book. Before that though, it might help to review some parts of the “No Such Thing” book. (Then came the part about “rounded thighs, followed by:) – In the process of trying to find a less militant and more Christian title for this revised book, I originally came up with one that included “Evangelical” in quotation marks. I did that mainly because the word “Evangelical” these days means something way different than it used to.

To see what I’m talking about, search “trump and evangelicals today.” I did that and got 167,000,000 results. (That’s 167 million.) Those results included: 1) Trump Is Tearing Apart the Evangelical Church – The AtlanticThe Evangelicals’ Trump Obsession Has Tarnished Christianity, and Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah?

Taking them in order, Trump Is Tearing Apart said the “aggressive, disruptive, and unforgiving mindset” so much a part of our politics has “found a home in many American churches.” Put bluntly, too many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics:

When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith.

Then there’s The Evangelicals’ Trump Obsession Has Tarnished Christianity. It talked about how the Trump era has affected the ability of Christians to share the good news about Jesus in a diverse and skeptical world:

If you believe … Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” then it makes sense to share the good news with everyone… But what happens when so many of Christ’s messengers have sacrificed their credibility and moral high ground by allying with a controversial political figure[?]

The author concluded, “Trumpism, I would argue, has damaged the Christian brand, as well as the conservative brand.”

(Then came the reference to Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah, followed by:) – Which brings us back to my struggle to find a better title for this new, updated, less hostile and more Christian re-write of the 2018 book.

That struggle started back even before I published the 2018 book. I went back and forth on what to call it, and once tried, “Not all Christians are Right-wing Wackos.” That certainly was direct and eye-catching, but way too hostile. (Again, I’m trying to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.)

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Donald Trump – the newest “Undead Revenant?”

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

In my last post I promised more posts on my September ’21 European adventure. (Including a 17-day hike over the Pyrenees section of the Camino de Santiago.) But I also noted that I’ve been working on another project, an E-book about turning 70 in 2021. (Adding that I have to finish soon, “because turning 70 is like losing your virginity: ‘You can only do it once!‘”)

On that point, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the book is almost ready to publish – in E-book and paperback formats. (Which I hope will happen this weekend; no later than November 21.*) The bad news is that I haven’t had a chance to do another post at all, since after last October 30. (Almost three weeks ago, and that was on Holden Caulfield.) So “What I’m gonna did” – as Justin Wilson would say – is review a relevant post from the past.

It didn’t take long to find one, and a troubling one at that. In a post from last January 10, 2021, I asked a rhetorical question, “You DO understand that Trump is temporary?” But after reviewing that post – and events of the last few months – I then had to add, Or maybe not?”

That’s “maybe not,” as in Trump seeming to rise from the political ashes, not unlike the proverbial Phoenix. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say rising again, like a &^%$ Zombie. (Which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as a frightening creature, a seemingly dead person “brought back to life, but without human qualities.*” And Zombies are said to be unable to think and are often shown “as attacking and eating human beings.”) But on to that last-January post…

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I posted “You DO understand” on January 10, 2021, just four days after the events of Wednesday, January 6, 2021. That day Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) called them the “‘Banana Republic Crap’ Capitol Riots,” and asked Donald Trump to stop the chaos. “You are the only person who can call this off. Call it off. The election is over. Call it off.”

I wrote that the following days – Thursday and Friday – things started looking up. That former Trump allies were saying “enough is enough,” that 52 rioters had been arrested, and that even some staunch Republican Senators were “open to impeachment or use of the Twenty-fifth Amendment.” I also noted, “Right now I wouldn’t want to be in Donald Trump’s shoes.”

Why? Because the metaphoric “noose” is tightening around his neck ever so slowly, but surely, in an agonizing foretaste of what’s in store once he leaves the protection of his office. (See “The rope has to tighten SLOWlY,” vis-a-vis what “Deep Throat” told reporter Bob Woodward about the 1974 conspiracy investigation against then-president Richard Nixon.)

But alas, I may have been premature.

For example, I wrote almost a year ago that there might be a positive note: That the reaction to Trump’s presidency might “provide the foundation for an era of democratic renewal and vindicate our long experiment in self-rule.” Which hasn’t happened yet.

I also noted that the number-crunching on the 2016 election showed “how fragile Trump’s hold on the public is.” To which I added, “I’ve been saying the best weapon against Trump is his own big mouth.” Not to mention his hubris. (“What? You mean I can’t tell supporters to storm the Capitol, and not be held responsible?”) But so far, he’s dodged the bullet on that one too.

As far as our “long national nightmare” being over, there’s the fact that Trump’s star seems to be rising once again. See for example, Trump trounces Biden in new Iowa poll. (From November 16, 2021. But here’s a note. In the 2020 election Trump won Iowa by eight points, so in fact over the past year he’s only gained three point. I’d hardly call that a “trouncing,” given all that’s gone wrong over the past few months. And three years is a long time in politics.)

All of which raises the possibility that Trump just might get elected to a second term. Which might also have happened if the attempted January 6 coup had been successful. But once again I tried to look on the bright side. That “freed from a need to pander to his wacko base,” Trump might develop a conscience and start thinking seriously about his legacy.

[W]ho knows?  If:  1) Trump did get re-elected in 2020, and 2) no longer had to worry about throwing raw meat at his wacko base, and 3) started seriously thinking about his legacy (or developed a conscience, or started appreciating that he’s “closer to the end than to the beginning”), he might actually evolve – as [P.T.] Barnum did – into a “humane, effective and ethical politician.”

On that note, on last January 7 GOP Representative Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said Trump’s legacy was ‘wiped out’ by the Capitol riot. But again, that may not be true. “In light of the foregoing,” I had to go back and re-write the “You DO understand” post. I noted the sleepless nights I had before the election, which have since returned.

But all might not be lost. Like I said before, three years is a long time in politics. For example, in 2019 – just before the COVID hit – “Donald Trump was riding high, and looked a shoe-in for re-election.” Just like Joe Biden nearer the beginning of this year. In turn there is the specter of Conservatives taking control of both houses of Congress, and clogging things up even more. But that in turn could sour voters on the Republican party even more. (Here’s hoping.)

And here’s hoping the idea of Trump as “only temporary” doesn’t turn out to be a pipe dream...

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Pipe dream

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The upper image is courtesy of Undead Image – Image Results. See also The Undead (film) – Wikipedia, on the  1957 horror film directed by Roger Corman and starring Pamela DuncanAllison Hayes, and Richard Garland. The film was inspired “by an interest in reincarnation during the 1950s.”

Also a side note: There are some signs that Trump won’t run again, out of fear that he may become another “Adlai Stevenson.” See for example, The Complicated Truth About Trump 2024:

If Donald Trump tries to run for president again, one of his former campaign advisers has a plan to dissuade him. Anticipating that Trump may not know who Adlai Stevenson was or that he lost two straight presidential elections in the 1950s, this ex-adviser figures he or someone else might need to explain the man’s unhappy fate. They’ll remind Trump that if he were beaten in 2024, he would join Stevenson as one of history’s serial losers. “I think that would resonate,” said this person, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to talk more freely. “Trump hates losers.”

See also Stunning 58% of AZ Voters Say Trump Should Not Run in 2024, Majority of voters overall oppose Trump running for president (71% opposed), and – from the National Review – Trump 2024 Poll: 73 Percent Of Independents Don’t Want Trump To Run For President in 2024. (According to the same poll, that includes 40 % of Republican adults. And a reminder, the National Review is the semi-monthly conservative editorial magazine with many contributing writers “affiliated with think-tanks such as The Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. Prominent guest authors have included Newt GingrichMitt RomneyPeter Thiel, and Ted Cruz.) Then there’s Trump says he may not run in 2024 for ‘health’ reasons. Then too there’s this from Adlai Stevenson – Slate:

Today we’re quick to banish presidential losers… Yet one White House loser—a serial loser, at that—still haunts the political landscape: Adlai Stevenson. Every political season the pundits find some reason to resurrect him, invariably in a flattering light… Stevenson not only lost nobly; he made losing seem noble in and of itself.

It’s hard to imagine Trump making a second presidential-run loss seem “noble in and of itself.”

Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come” by [James B. Ford]

And a note about that book project. I published it on Saturday evening, November 21, 2021, and it became available the following day. Check it out by clicking on Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come.” Under my Nom De Plume, “James B. Ford.”

Re: Zombies. Wikipedia: A “mythological undead corporeal revenant created through the reanimation of a corpse.” Which is where the title came from. Further, the undead “are beings in mythology, legend, or fiction that are deceased but behave as if they were alive.” In folklore, “a revenant is an animated corpse that is believed to have revived from death to haunt the living.” From the Old French, revenant, related to the French verb revenir, meaning ‘to come back.'”.

Re: My September 2021 adventure. In that last post, Holden Caulfield – Revisited Again, I wrote this about that: “Back on September 25, 2021, I flew back from Madrid and a month in France and Spain. As told in Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally, the trip centered around a 17-day hike on the Camino de Santiago. It covered the section from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and over the Pyrenees Mountains that I failed to do in 2017, when my brother Tom and I first hiked the Camino Frances. (He hiked over the Pyrenees but I met up with him in Pamplona. From there we hiked and biked the remaining 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.)”

The lower image is courtesy of Pipe Dream – Image Results, which I borrowed from the “only temporary” post. The site Pipe dream – Idioms by The Free Dictionary defines the term as a “fantastic notion or vain hope.” The idiom is an allusion to the “fantasies induced by smoking an opium pipe …  used more loosely since the late 1800s.”

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

A reminder: Great politicians STILL sell hope…

PHOTO: Chris Matthews of MSNBC waits to go on the air inside the spin room at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino after the Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Chris Matthews didabruptly resign,” but his truth still remains: Great politicians sell hope…”

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I just got back from a lightning, one-week mini-vacation. First to Rockville Maryland for my grandson’s wedding, then to Pigeon Forge Tennessee for a family get-together. (Including a day-visit to Dollywood, illustrated at left.) I got back home late last Thursday (6/10/21), and over the course of a Recuperation Weekend, checked on my blogs. My last post on this blog – “(Some of) the music of my life” – happened back on May 20, 2021. So another blog-post is long overdue.

Looking for an easy past-post to review, I went back to June, 2015. There I found “Great politicians sell hope,” a post based on a 2007 Chris Matthews book, Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success.

Unfortunately, Chris himself has run into some hard times since then. Some of the gory details are in the notes, but suffice it to say that even though he had to resign under a cloud, what he said in his 2007 book still rings true. The truly great politicians still sell hope…

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Now, about that idea that “Great Politicians Sell Hope:” When I first heard Matthews make that claim – back in 2015 – I thought, “What rock have you been living under?“ But in his book Chris noted that our best presidents – including John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan – were able to “sell themselves” by giving Americans a sense of hope for the future.

So back In 2015 I asked, “What happened? What happened to those presidents who gave Americans a sense of hope for the future?” But since then one big thing happened. (And maybe two or three.) After four tumultuous years of Trump, Joe Biden’s election seemed to offer a glimmer of that hope. And despite ongoing conservative guilt by insinuation TV ads – that they were Socialists, creeping or otherwise – Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock painted Georgia blue.

But we digress. Back to the Chris Matthews book. The 2015 post told how I reviewed it, which led me to think this: “Maybe today’s politicians seem especially nasty because so many voters they’re trying to woo are turning nasty.” Maybe today’s politicians just reflect the “nastiness that seems to have taken hold of a large part of our population.” Then came this quote:

C. P. Snow believes that Western society has become an argument culture (The Two Cultures). In The Argument Culture (1998), Deborah Tannen suggests that the dialogue of Western culture is characterized by a warlike atmosphere in which the winning side has truth (like a trophy). Such a dialogue virtually ignores the middle alternatives.

That quote came from a link in the post, and seems as good an explanation as any, and especially the part about ignoring “middle alternatives.” Today’s politics do seem to trend to the extreme, and in the process avoid any middle or compromise alternatives. On that note, the Amazon blurb for Tannen’s book said “in the argument culture, war metaphors pervade our talk and influence our thinking. We approach anything we need to accomplish as a fight between two opposing sides.” Rather than the traditional American spirit of compromise

Former President Ronald Reagan (right) talks with House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) in the Oval Office of the White House in November 1985. | AP PhotoHowever, not that long ago even great political arch-enemies Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan – at right – could meet over a drink when the day’s battles were over. And Ted Kennedy could do the same. Even though the two were political arch-enemies, Kennedy admired the fact that Reagan “knew how to manipulate symbols for his causes yet could sup with his enemies:”

He’s absolutely professional. When the sun goes down, the battles of the day are really gone.  He gave the Robert Kennedy Medal, which President Carter refused to do… He’s very sure of himself, and I think that people sense that he’s comfortable with himself… He had a philosophy and he’s fought for it. There’s a consistency and continuity at a time when many others are flopping back and forth. And that’s an important and instructive lesson for politicians, that people admire that.

Which is another way of saying O’Neill, Reagan, and Kennedy all personified that traditional American spirit of compromise: “If politics is the art of the possible, compromise is the artistry of democracy… In a democracy, the spirit of the laws depends on the spirit of compromise.”

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Which brings us back to that 2015 “hope” post. It went way long – almost 2,000 words – and talked about things like George Wallace repenting his racism, and how Harry Golden handled the troubled years between 1942 and 1968. (Years which included McCarthyism Vietnam War protests, and the Civil Rights Movement.) And how through it all, Golden “kept a sense of hope and a sense of humor.” And how Carl Sandburg once wrote that it must have been someone like Golden who was “in the mind of the Yankee, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote:  “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” (Words that I try to live by…)

And finally, that 2015 “hope” post started and ended with the wisdom noted in the cartoon below, that in “bad times or hopelessness, it is more worthwhile to do some good, however small, in response than to complain about the situation.” And to the article, Better to light a single candle. And that great bloggers – like great politicians – should also work harder on “selling hope.”

Which is just what I’ll keep trying to do…

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The upper image is courtesy of Chris Matthews abruptly resigns from MSNBC following controversial comments, with the subhed, “The anchor apologized for sexist remarks before unexpectedly signing off.” See also Chris Matthews resigns from ‘Hardball,’ apologies for inappropriate comments. (Both from March 2020.) The gist of story is summarized in the Wikipedia article, including:

In October 2016, political journalist Laura Bassett appeared on Matthew’s program to comment on sexual assault allegations against then candidate Donald Trump. In February 2020, Bassett alleged that prior to that program, Matthews made inappropriate remarks about her makeup, clothing, and dating life. As she was having her television studio makeup applied, Matthews purportedly asked her: “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?” Bassett claims that when she laughed nervously and said nothing, Matthews followed up to the makeup artist with: “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.” 

All of which seems pretty tame these “A.T.” days (After Trump), compared to both comments and actions by recent politicians. (And tame as well to some comments I used to make when I was young and obnoxious.) The article added, “Following his resignation, Matthews garnered well-wishes from professional colleagues in the news media and others, including from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who noted Matthews’s willingness to “criticize the neocon pro-war agenda.”

Another note: In researching this post I temporarily got Chris Wallace mixed up with the Chris Matthews, the actual author of “Great politicians sell hope.” In the process I discovered recent stories about Chris Wallace, including Fox News’ Chris Wallace Confronts Mike Pompeo on Trump Admin Not Being Tough on Russia, and Chris Wallace Challenges Pompeo: You ‘Had Almost a Year’ to Prove Lab Leak Theory. Which means I may be doing a new post on Wallace himself…

Re: “argument culture.” The full title of Deborah Tannen‘s book is The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. Tannen wrote an earlier book, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (1990). According to Amazon, in that earlier book “Tannen showed why talking to someone of the opposite sex can be like talking to someone from another world.”

The lower – “stupid darkness” – cartoon image is courtesy of You Stupid Darkness! | Kurtis Scaletta’s Site, with links to comics.com/peanuts, “one of the most amazing but little-known Internet resources.”  See also lightasinglecandle.wordpress.com, and The 5 Greatest (newspaper) Comic Strips Of All Time.

See also Better to Light a Candle Than to Curse the Darkness – Quote, and Better to Light a Candle Than Curse the Darkness | Psychology Today. The former noted the saying may be attributed to numerous sources, including – but not limited to – Eleanor Roosevelt, Confucius, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, and/or Charles Schulz. The latter offered three ways to overcome anxiety and find greater hope: “As we face the COVID pandemic, political unrest, economic challenges, and multiple crises, many of us are feeling anxious, uncertain, lost in darkness.”

“I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey…”

“Quiet, shy, moderate, nicey-nicey?” That doesn’t work in the face of armed insurrection

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I started this post back before the January 6 Capitol riot. That pre-riot post started, “Now that the Trump Era is almost over.” Which apparently isn’t quite true. Given the events of January 6 and after, we may be hearing a lot more – from or about – “the Donald.” (And maybe for a good long time to come.) But the quotation-and-link actually referred back to a post I did even before then. That is, on December 7, 2020. And early in that 12/20 post I added this:

Or at least now that his first run-through as president is almost over… (But see Trump’s Possible 2024 Bid Leaves Other GOP Candidates in a Bind.) So to repeat, “Now that at least the first incarnation of a Trump Era is almost over,” it’s time to start looking back. 

The post went on to talk of “Year-End Reviews” and how helpful they can be. For one thing It’s that time of year to both look back and look forward. To look back at the Trump era – and especially at this past year – and to look forward to a new beginning.”

Donald TrumpAs to going back, I noted a post from November 8, 2016, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian. (With the image at right.) I’ll get back to that one, but there was another from November 13, 2017, This time last year – 11/8 and 11/13/16. And believe it or not, the latter started out: “It’s mid-November [2017], and so time to start taking stock of the year just past. (And what a year it’s been!)”

Which was pretty much what I planned to say when the year 2020 finally came to an end. (And in hindsight, 2020 was more “a crazy-ass year” than 2017.) But getting back to 2016, here’s what I wondered, back in that long-ago November, right before Election Day 2016:

I wondered if Trump might “evolve into something neither his ardent supporters nor his rabid opponents expect.” I also wondered if “Showman Donald Trump” had actually played his “far-right conservative” supporters “like a piano.” And finally, I wondered if – given “Donald Trump’s chameleon-like shifting political positions” – he would “eventually be seen as an ‘effective elected official,’ or a funhouse showman?”

I supposed that the jury was still out on those questions. But four years later, “to be honest – I’m one of those people suffering from Trump fatigue.”  (And that was even before the January 6 Capitol riot.) I was – some months ago – “ready for it to be over.” And now it is over – more or less – so I’ll focus on some good thoughts, from some past posts…

Which means getting back to Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian.

To finish that thought: It’s been a long haul, but over the last four years I’ve evolved, from being a “moderate” (all “nicey-nicey”), to a Contrarian, and from there to an Independent. (Used in a sentence, “Why would anyone not want to be an Independent, like Moses and Jesus and me. (Oh my!)”)

By the way: I never would have said anything like that four years ago. Which is another way of saying that over the last four years I’ve grown more outspoken. Which was part of the process of struggling with how to deal with Trump supporters. Especially since one of them was “Mi Dulce,” now an ex-BGFE with whom I am now still in regular contact. (And using the term “girl” loosely.) As I often ended up saying to her – trying to get a word in edgewise – “I used to be all quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey. But not no more!*

I.e., I had to learn to speak up and speak out with her, if only to get a word in edge-wise.

Which is one big benefit of Trump’s four years as president. (Along with making George W. Bush look like a frikkin’ genius, and making Obamacare popular again. As opposed to the arch-conservative plan, “let ’em die!”) Not mention proving how strong we are as a nation. (Like, we can elect someone totally unqualified as president, and not only survive but prosper… Well, aside from all the mass-shooting deaths,* not to mention a fumbled COVID response.)

But we’re digressing. Back to my personal development, based on four years of Trump. The point is, “No more ‘quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey.'” At the beginning of that journey, I found out that calling myself a moderate ended up sounding too wishy-washy. (As in “average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.”) So I tried calling myself a Contrarian, in the mold of Ralph Waldo Emerson. (“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”)

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpgOr this: As someone who “takes up a contrary position, especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be.” But that didn’t sound quite right either. I wasn’t always opposed to popular opinion. (For example, look at the “popular opinion” of 81 million American voters in the last election.) So eventually – over the last four years – I ended up changing from being a Contrarian to an Independent, “just like Moses and Jesus.” (See July 2019’s A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter),” featuring the image above right. And which included a note that – to me – the word “Contrarian” translates to something like “pissed-off moderate.”)

Meanwhile, back to where it all started, with Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump making me an Independent. That post from November 2016 started, “It’s the eve of Election Day, 2016, and thus a time for reflection.” I said that no matter who won the election, the “’war for the soul of America‘ will go on. It will continue largely unabated.” As we have discovered.

I added some words of explanation: For one thing the Internet says Mi Dulce is Spanish for “My Sweet,” and that’s what I called “the lady I’ve been ‘dating’ some time now.” (As well as after we parted ways for good, at least “that way.” Example: As of November 2016 she had “broken up with me at least 10 times,” in part because of her “ardent conservativism.” (A more polite term than “Trumpie,” “Trump-humper,” Trumpanzee,” or “right wing wacko.” RWW for short.)

Getting back to Mi Dulce: When we first met, I was “moderate and nicey-nicey.”  (Like Aristotle.) I used to say – or at least think – things like, “Let’s not rush to judgment!”  Or, “Let’s wait until we get all the facts before we say anything that might be taken the wrong way!” However:

The problem is that in my neck of the woods – especially with … Mi Dulce – that moderate, reasoned, common-sense approach will get you nothing but bowled over. [As in] hearing something so “whacked” that you are rendered temporarily speechless with disbelief.  

And I learned one more thing about RWWs. They tend to use the 8-track mode of public discourse. If you’re under 65, you probably don’t remember this “magnetic tape sound recording technology,” popular in the U.S. from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. (That’s when “the Compact Cassette format took over.”)

The thing about 8-track tape-recordings was that they never stopped. You never got to the end. They used a “continuous loop” system. That’s why they didn’t have a rewind option. As long as you played the tape, you got the same thing over and over again. The same “data,” the same songs played in the same order over and over again. Which I thought was “pretty much like trying to have a meaningful conversation with a right-wing wacko…”

Which I thought at the time should make it easy to figure out how to best an RWW in an argument. (In the good sense, as in a “form of expression consisting of a coherent set of reasons presenting or supporting a point of view.” Note the operative word, “coherent.”)

But I was wrong. Those RWW’s never cease to amaze me. Like if I get stuck watching some FOX News – ordering my morning iced coffee at a local McDonald’s – I find myself thinking, “Do you guys ever get tired of lying?” The answer? Apparently not. See for example, Donald Trump Has Told A Truly Disturbing Number Of Lies Since Taking Office, and since the 2020 election as well. And his attorneys have taken up the “creative lie” method as well. See Trump’s Impeachment Defense: One Long String of Lies (Broken Up by Madonna Clips.) With one note, “In fairness, their client is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, so they didn’t have much to work with.”   

Which means the rest of us have to adapt or perish. The good news? We – the “rest of us” – already know how to adapt. As Darwin said, it’s not the strongest or smartest people who survive. It’s those who can best adapt or adjust to a changing environment. Which spells bad news for Trumpies, Trump-humpers or Trumpanzees. They are the people least able to adapt or adjust to changing circumstance. (For example, refusing to wear masks at mass rallies.)

All of which could be great news for the rest of us! 

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on the January 6 Capitol riot

Another note from “the eve of Election Day, 2016… Whatever the outcome tomorrow, we’re in for more turmoil.  The “war for the soul of America” will go on. It will continue largely unabated… [W]hoever becomes the next president, he or she will face rabid hostility from close to half the American population.  Which means in turn that he or she will face the prospect of impeachment, or at least a realistic threat of impeachment.” Emphases in original.

The “lions and tigers” image is courtesy of Lions And Tigers And Bears Wizard Of Oz – Image Results.

Re:  “I used to be all quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey. But not no more!” I used the vernacular improper English for emphasis.

RE: “W” as a genius. See Bush says Trump ‘makes me look pretty good’ by comparison.’

Re: Mass shooting deaths. See An update on “Trump’s” mass shootings, from May 2019, with numbers updated on August 20, 2019. (“BC,” or “Before Covid.”) The post noted a total of 652 mass shootings in Trump’s first two years, “four times greater than Obama’s eight years, in one-fourth the time.” (Four times as many mass shootings in Trump’s two years than in Obama’s eight years.) Which brings up another benefit: Thanks to Covid the number of mass shootings went way down in 2020.  

Re: War for the soul of America. I noted that Googling “war for the soul” got me 13,400,000 results.

Re: “Adapt or perish.” The link is to Adapt to Change or Perish. Because those are your only options. The full Charles Darwin quote is below, but the article added the saying by H. G. Wells“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” The full Darwin quote:

“It is not the most intellectual or the strongest species that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to or adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

It’s a pretty good article on the constancy of change, something “we” need to be reminded of. (Especially those of us turning “the Big Seven-Oh” next July.) With added thoughts like: “Progress keeps picking up speed…the complexity of our world keeps on increasing…and the rate of change keeps on accelerating.” And “Let’s just accept the fact that our careers will be lived out in a state of constant transition.” And that we should therefore “prepare for a work environment that is fluid, fuzzy, and fast.” And finally that we will “forever be surrounded by uncertainty and instability.”

Which is why I love blogging. “It’s so frikkin’ educational!”

Re: Trump supporters not wearing masks. See Trump supporters say masks are harmful, would wear if Trump said so. Or ‘Magically protected’: Why hardcore Trump supporters won’t wear masks at rally: “‘It’s not going to touch you at the rally,’ author Jeff Sharlet says of hardcore Trump supporters’ belief in the divinity and ‘spiritual protection’ of a Trump rally against coronavirus, ‘You’ll be sort of magically protected.’” Some people have said that’s “God’s Way of Thinning the Herd,” but I would never say anything so inappropriate. See also Urban Dictionary: Thin the herd

As for that “great news for the rest of us” comment. It was a joke. See 11 times Trump’s offensive comments were ‘just a joke.’ Including “Trump floats injecting disinfectent as coronavirus cure,” “I am the Chosen One,” and “Obama is the ‘founder of ISIS.'”

The lower image is courtesy of Trump Fatigue Syndrome | National Review:

A large part of the country suffers from Trump Fatigue Syndrome. This is related but not identical to Trump Derangement Syndrome. The sufferers of Trump Fatigue aren’t driven mad by the president. They are just tired of having to wake up every morning to another of his sudden attacks, reversals, exaggerations, and boasts. They want the show to end.

As to that fatigue, the link in the main text is to Trump fatigue is setting in hard at the worst moment for his campaign, posted two weeks before the 2020 election. But see also the thoughtful piece from November 8, Democrats counted too heavily on ‘Trump fatigue,’ to explain why and how “former Vice President Joe Biden’s expected landslide turned into a grim, nail-biting election.”

“You DO understand that Trump is temporary.” (Or maybe not?)

A note from the future: Is Donald Trump the newest Zombie? ” (The newest “undead revenant?”)

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November 18, 2021 – After the events of January 6, 2021, the good news appeared to be that Donald Trump was gone for good, and that our “long national nightmare was over.” But times change, just as they did in the year before the election of 2020. As I once wrote, in 2019, just before the COVID hit “Donald Trump was riding high, and looked a shoe-in for re-election.” As did Joe Biden, this year that started with such hope, but before the latest round of national disasters. Which raises the specter of Conservatives taking control of both houses of Congress, and clogging things up even more. Which could in turn be followed up by Donald Trump being re-elected in 2024. Which brings back those sleepless nights I wrote about in the original post, not quite a year ago. Which prompted me to edit the original post, including this first paragraph, leading in to those sleepless nights:

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The Great Democracies, 1958 (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Book 4) by [Winston S. Churchill]Beginning in February 5, 2020, and extending up to the election that November, I quite often had trouble staying asleep. (Worrying about the future of this country.) I wrote back in February 2020 that “at night – when I can’t get back to sleep around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. – I’ve taken to reading Winston Churchill‘s The Great Democracies. (Volume 4 of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples.) And it’s given me great comfort, helping me focus on the long view of our present political divisiveness.” (See Take the long view – Idioms.)

Which I tried to do last Wednesday [January 6, 2021], after hearing of rioting at the U.S. Capitol. (Otherwise known as the “‘Banana Republic Crap’ Capitol Riots,” according to one Republican member of Congress.) And I largely succeeded – in taking the long view – mostly because I don’t have cable TV. And then, lo and behold, on Thursday and Friday things started looking up. Former Trump allies were saying “enough is enough,” 52 rioters had been arrested, and even some staunch Republican Senators were open to impeachment or use of the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

Which brings up another point. Right now I wouldn’t want to be in Donald Trump’s shoes.

Why? Because the metaphoric “noose” is tightening around his neck ever so slowly, but surely, in an agonizing foretaste of what’s in store once he leaves the protection of his office. (See “The rope has to tighten SLOWlY,” vis-a-vis what “Deep Throat” told reporter Bob Woodward about the 1974 conspiracy investigation against then-president Richard Nixon – and his minions – as told in the book, later a movie, All the President’s Men.) But we digress…

Getting back to the long view (and being able to sleep better at night): Back in the February 2020 rough draft, I also noted reading “One nation after Trump,” then reviewing it. (That is, I reviewed the book back in August 2019.) That post talked about the prediction in 2016 – by Professor Allan Lichtman – that Trump would be “impeached within two years.” (Note: It actually took three years, but the issue is now being raised again. Does that count?)

One positive note? That the reaction to Trump’s presidency “can provide the foundation for an era of democratic renewal and vindicate our long experiment in self-rule.” I also noted that the number-crunching on the 2016 election showed “how fragile Trump’s hold on the public is.” To which I added, “I’ve been saying the best weapon against Trump is his own big mouth.” Not to mention his hubris. (“What? You mean I can’t tell supporters to storm the Capitol, and not be held responsible?”)

Third, I noted something I’d written in a previous post, Belated 4th of July meditation:

Whether by vote in 2020 or operation of law in 2024, Trump will end up leaving the White House. What happens then? Aside from the cheering, the dancing in  the streets, the fireworks and parades, a new nightmare will begin – for Donald Trump.

“And when it might be said – yet again – ‘Our long national nightmare is over.'”

And finally – getting back to that year-ago rough draft – I wrote that Trump wants – more than anything else – to be seen as a winner. Yet that when he leaves office there will almost certainly be an uproar of cheering, celebration, fireworks, and dancing in the streets, both in America and throughout the world. (And based on the past week, that seems even more likely, with the celebrations to come on January 20 even more raucous and heart-felt.)

Moreover – I wrote – that virtual certainty will gall Trump no end, in both the near future and to the end of his days. So in a sense Trump was doomed to be viewed as a “loser.” Unless! 

Unless – if he was elected to a second term, and so freed from a need to pander to his wacko base – Trump were to develop a conscience and start thinking seriously about his legacy.

[W]ho knows?  If:  1) Trump did get re-elected in 2020, and 2) no longer had to worry about throwing raw meat at his wacko base, and 3) started seriously thinking about his legacy (or developed a conscience, or started appreciating that he’s “closer to the end than to the beginning”), he might actually evolve – as [P.T.] Barnum did – into a “humane, effective and ethical politician.”

It now looks like that last thought turned out to be a pipe dream. (See GOP Rep. Mace: Trump’s legacy ‘wiped out’ by Capitol riot.) A pipe dream is an unrealistic hope or fantasy. Moreover, “The phrase ‘pipe dream’ is an allusion to the dreams experienced by smokers of opium pipes.” Or in the alternative, a “plandesire, or idea that will not likely work; a near impossibility.” Which is kind of like the thought that an impeachment, conviction and removal from office can all happen within the space of 10 days. But not to worry. January 20th is coming…

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Pipe dream

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The upper image is courtesy of Zombie Image – Image Results. Another note, I originally posted this on January 9, 2021, right after the events in Washington on January 6. But it was based on a rough draft from February 5, 2020, a draft that remained unfinished for almost a year. In turn, going back and revisiting the post in November 2021, I found I had to also re-write the beginning, in part because the original upper image had disappeared, and because that opening two paragraphs were confusing. The original upper image was “courtesy of Trump News – Image Results. With an article, Aides shaken by Trump’s behavior during riots – One News Page.” But when I re-checked the original post, the image was gone. For more on the subject of al undead corporeal revenant see also Zombie – Wikipedia.

On the subject of today’s political divisiveness. See Why Has America Become So Divided? | Psychology Today. See also my post from August 2, 2019, On “why it might be better…” (Gasp!) That is, why it might be better if Trump did get re-elected. On that note see also Make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – Idioms. (To “fashion something beautiful or valuable out of poor materials.”)

Re: Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It deals with presidential succession and disability, and says the vice president becomes president if the president dies, resigns, or is “removed from office.” It also allows a “temporary transfer of the president’s duties to the vice president, either by the president alone or by the vice president together with a majority of the president’s cabinet. In either case, the vice president becomes acting president.”

For more interesting reading – somehow tied in with the February 2019 rough draft – see Trump Is A Liberal – Arc Digital, a fascinating discussion of why he’s both “liberal” and dangerous:

As a public figure, Trump … seems constitutionally incapable of metaphysical commitment; he might even be constitutionally incapable of thinking about the good of other people. He is, in other words, a typical product of American society. He is, like nearly all of us, a liberal.

The writer’s point was that “liberalism, which both the Republican and Democratic parties endorse, has slowly eroded the foundation of our society until communal stories, bonds, and shared goals have been washed away, leaving our society fragmented and uncertain of itself.” 

Joel Looper – who wrote the piece – is according to his articles, “Editor and Founder of thecommonpolitic.com. Senior fellow in theology at tdbi.org. Bonhoeffer’s America (forthcoming from Baylor University Press.)” Beyond that there’s not much about him and his views, although he does seem to specialize in the plague on both your houses school of thought. Thus his conclusion that Trump is a liberal: “And that is what makes him dangerous.”

Further, by its own admission “The Common Politic exists in order to build trust and fruitful political dialogue among people of faith. While we hold many different political commitments, we aim to foster in this community a common politic, a way of interacting with others that Christians might call ecclesial or perhaps Spirit-empowered life.” Still More: “Joel Looper has a PhD from the University of Aberdeen. His first book, ‘A Protestantism without Reformation: What Dietrich Bonhoeffer Saw in America’, is forthcoming from Baylor University Press.” Other articles by him include Sex Was Never Safe. Why consent is not enough in the post-Weinstein eraThe logical, and theological, problem with Red Letter Christians, and To Change The Church. Ross Douthat’s war with Catholic Liberalism. I thus conclude that he is at the very least thought-provoking, and so I may be reading more of his essays…

The lower image is courtesy of Pipe Dream – Image Results.

Now that the Trump Era is almost over…

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Now that the Trump Era is almost over…

Or at least now that his first run-through as president is almost over… (But see Trump’s Possible 2024 Bid Leaves Other GOP Candidates in a Bind.) So to repeat, “Now that at least the first incarnation of a Trump Era is almost over,” it’s time to start looking back. Which is what many of us do near year’s-end anyway. I Googled “why do we do year-end reviews” and found these two: How to Conduct a Year-End Review and Why You Need to Do it, and Why You Should Do a Year-End Review for Your Writing. Here’s a bit from the first one:

Ever since I began writing personal goals, December has been a month of reflection and planning. I tend to slow down, take a step back, and think about how I feel the previous year went. I take time to reflect on what I accomplished and what I want in the upcoming year.

Then there’s the Review for Your Writing article. (And since I’m a writer I paid special attention to that. E.g., read about my recently-published e-book in “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) Anyway, this is what the writer  said about such year-end reviews:

A year-end review is about experiencing gratitude … that we made the choice to write instead of watch television or procrastinate… It’s important to note that this isn’t just a feel-good exercise. You can’t move forward – with your writing, your life, or anything else – if you haven’t made peace with where you’ve been.

Which is what I’ll be doing a lot of in the remaining three-or-so weeks of this eventful “Year of Our Lord2020. But we were talking about “Now that the Trump Era is almost over…”

Which makes this a good time to go back and review some early posts I did on Donald Trump. And – possibly – some of the hopes I had for him. Like that he might turn out to be the “closet liberal” Ted Cruz once suspected. (See Cruz: Trump [is] a ‘rich, New York liberal,’ 2/26/16.)

One early post with an allusion to Donald Trump came in October 2016, “No city for Grouchy Old White People.” (Part I.) In it I described a summer visit to New York City, with a family-base in Staten Island. One thing I noted was that – in that summer of ’16 – the City was a “refreshing reminder that there’s more to this country than just the right-wing wackos so prevalent back home.” (Trump’s campaign was heating up.) I quoted a Facebook post from September 22:

Ever since last Saturday, September 17, we’ve been taking the Staten Island ferry into and back from Manhattan Island. So that’s eight times – twice a day for four days now – that we’ve seen the Statute of Liberty, off in the distance…  And I don’t remember ONCE seeing a sign that said, “the heck with your tired, your poor,” those “wretched refuse … yearning to breathe free.”  WE’RE GONNA BUILD A FRIKKIN WALL!

Which was either irony or sarcasm. (I often get those two confused.) Anyway I ended Part I by noting that with all its diversity and relative tolerance, “the Big Apple is ‘No city for Grouchy Old White People.’” (Who seemed to be so prevalent, “back home” and elsewhere.)

I followed that with “No city for Grouchy Old White People” – Part II. I noted that on our many rides on the subway and Staten Island Ferry, “we did a lot of people-watching, of the ‘passing panoply.’” And especially on the crowded subways, we listened “to all kinds of languages spoken by all kinds of different people.” Which was one thing making the visit so refreshing…

And just as an aside: The day we left to go our separate ways – Thursday, September 22 – I kayaked across the Verrazano Narrows. Mostly following the Bridge of the same name, and here’s a picture “down below” to prove it. I took it half-way back to Staten Island. Note that the waters are choppy, and in fact WAY choppier than when I started. It only took 20 minutes to get from Staten Island to Brooklyn, so I toyed with the idea of cruising along the Atlantic side of Brooklyn awhile. But I headed back while still fresh, as detailed in “Part II.”

Anyway, getting back on topic: I ended Part II with a zinger about the kind of people – I feared – who would end up voting for Trump as president. I took the photo below during our visit to the Museum of Natural History, on September 19. And added, “With all the talk of politics lately, I figured this would be a good one size fits all insult, for whatever political opponent you may have in mind.” (Though I knew the kind of political opponent I had in mind.) I then wrote:

“So here’s my gift to you, a souvenir from my recent [2016] visit to New York City:

Here’s a typical [- fill in the blank – ] voter!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Looking Back The Past Year – Image Results. The image accompanied an article, “Inspiring Quotes to Start Off the New Year in 2019.” (How innocent we were…) 

I took the above picture on September 19. Note that I reviewed this Summer of 2016 visit in Looking back on “the summer of ’16,” last February 2020. One final note: I’ll be doing more Trump’s-end and year-end postmortems in the remaining weeks of December 2020, and possibly beyond! 

On “270 to win” – August 2020…

The Making of the President 1960 – or is this the year to be “the unmaking of the president?”

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One thing that surprised me – greatly – about the 2016 election was the disconnect. That is, the difference between pre-election polling and what finally happened. (In other words, “so many forecasts were off the mark.” In further words, I wasn’t the only one surprised; see the notes. )

In plain words there was huge “disconnect” between pre-election perception and reality. (“What actually happened.”) For example, one friend said confidently a day or two before the election that Trump would end up conceding by 11:00 p.m. election night. On the other hand, many state-by-state polling – while showing Clinton ahead – were well within the designated margins of error.

Heading in to Election Day 2016, I kept track of the polls “religiously.” (After all, there was a lot at stake, wasn’t there?) All that summer and into the fall I kept tracking. And to be honest, I drew some comfort from polls showing Clinton leading. But I wasn’t nearly as confident as my friend about when – and if – Trump would concede. (Remember the hubbub about his saying he wouldn’t accept the results if he lost?)  In fact I was so surprised – on election night and many days after – that I was reluctant to start keeping track again for this time around. (See jinxing.)

But here we go again… This time I want to keep track of pre-election polling – In black and white – so that if there is another “foul up” I may better understand why, and “what Happened.” (But I’d much rather enjoy the celebrating, the fireworks and the dancing in the streets.) 

But seriously… For starters we can recognize that national polls are meaningless. The president is not elected by popular vote. What matters is the number of votes he (or she, eventually) gets in the Electoral College. For example, I remember reading Ted White‘s book, The Making of the President 1960. It mirrored what Wikipedia called a “closely contested election.”

But it wasn’t really “close,” even though – as both White and Wikipedia emphasized – Kennedy “won the national popular vote by 112,827, a margin of 0.17 percent.” (And some say Nixon should have been credited with the popular vote victory, because that “popular vote was complicated by the presence of several unpledged electors in the Deep South.”) But – as happened in the 2000 and 2016 presidential election – the popular vote didn’t matter in 1960. It didn’t matter who won what has now become a near-worthless consolation prize.

Where it counted – in the Electoral College – Kennedy won by 303 votes to 219.* Or you could say 84 more Electoral votes. In plain words, Kennedy won with 38 percent more electoral votes than Nixon, not “0.17 percent.”

And so it may be in the 2020 election. Which means I started researching four websites that track state-by-state polls in the Electoral College. First, 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map. Next, 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map – Electoral Vote Map. That’s a product of Political Wire, founded by Taegan Goddard and “one of the oldest left-wing and most influential political blogs and news aggregate sites on the internet.” (See also Political Wire – Wikipedia.) A third site is ElectoralVote(Electoral-vote.com, and yes it can be confusing.)

As of August 29, ElectoralVote – the third one – had Biden with 388 electoral votes, Trump 132 and 18 “ties.” (I’m assuming the “ties” are in the most recent polling.) That includes 213 “strongly Dem” and 90 votes “likely Dem,” which puts Biden over the top with those two alone. “Likely Dem” votes include Wisconsin’s 10 with Biden leading the polls 50-41; Michigan’s 16 split 50-42 Biden; Pennsylvania’s 20 split 49-43 Biden; Florida’s 29 split 49-43; and Arizona’s 11 split 47-38.

And for purposes of comparison, as of August 29 Trump had 81 electoral votes “strongly GOP” and 39 “likely GOP.” So his combined “strongly” and “likely” total of 120 is about half – 56% – of Biden’s “strongly Dem” standing alone. But again, that’s according to ElectoralVote.

According to Goddard’s left-wing Presidential Election Interactive Map, Biden has 320 electoral votes to Trump’s 125, with 93 “toss ups.” But Goddard has ElectoralVote‘s Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona all solidly Democrat, while ElectoralVote has those states “likely Dem.” And incidentally, Goddard’s map is “based on the consensus” of forecasts, including but not limited to Cook Political Report, and Inside Elections, along with “the latest polling data from FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics and Electoral-Vote.com.”

Then there’s 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map. That site has Biden with 278 electoral college votes to Trump’s 169. But it includes a proviso, “Democratic candidate wins in your scenario. No combinations remain for Republicans to win.” The problem is I clicked on some of the states, thinking that might give better information about percentages, and that may have messed up some of the figures. That is, it’s not my scenario that I’m interested in. I’m interested in the reality of what’s happening in each state, as that affects the electoral college vote. So the fact that it’s Interactive – and that I interacted with it, though inadvertently – concerns me a bit.

Then there’s a fourth website, Biden vs Trump: US presidential election 2020 poll tracker. I found it much more user-friendly because it listed the solid, leaning and toss-up states by name, not on some “stupid map.” Further, it listed and/or ranked those states in order of the number of electoral votes each had, with California’s 55 leading the list. And that website showed – as of August 27 – Biden with 203 solid and 95 leaning electoral votes, while Trump had 80 solid and 39 leaning votes. And 121 “toss up” votes.

So even if Trump won all the “toss-ups” – according to this site – and Biden held his 203 solid and 93 leaning, Biden would still win. And in four of those toss-up states – Florida (29), Michigan (16), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10) – Biden has a polling lead of five points or more.

So the Electoral College polling math definitely favors Biden, regardless of what national-polling figures may show. For example, August 29th’s New poll shows Biden’s lead over Trump shrinks.

It led with a note that right after the Republican convention, Biden’s “lead” dropped from nine points at the end of July to six points after the convention. But check “yougov’s” website and you’ll see the lead thought, Explore what America thinks | YouGov. But again, it’s not what America thinks as a whole that matters. It’s not a “national popularity contest.” What matters is what Americans think in their individual states. Further, that article added:

The new Yahoo News-YouGov poll shows that nearly every voter in America has made up his or her mind, with 96 percent Biden and Trump supporters now saying they have decided how they will vote — up 2 percent from when the same voters were surveyed in late July. Only 8 percent remain undecided.

And it looks like Trump will need every one of those “eight percenters” to vote for him to get re-elected. (But then even that may not be enough.) But still it’s only the end of August, and there’s a little over two months left before the election. Meanwhile, I’ll keep tracking state-by-state Electoral College polls, looking for any major shifts.  It’s called prognostication

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Another prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil: How will Phil feel this next February 2?

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The upper image is courtesy of Book Making Of The President – Image Results. The image is part of an ad in Etsy – Shop for handmade, vintage, custom, and unique gifts: “Find things you’ll love. Support independent sellers. Only on Etsy.” The caption: “Collector’s [Edition?] The Making of the PRESIDENT 1960 Theodore H White Illustrated American Past Book of the Month Club Collectible Book Decor Table.” See also The Making of the President 1960 – Wikipedia. The book “recounts and analyzes the 1960 election in which John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States.” Further:

The book traces the 1960 campaign from the primaries … to the conclusion of the general election contest against Richard Nixon. Much of the narrative is written in an almost novelistic style, describing politicians’ looks, voices and personalities. But it also contains thought-provoking discussions of various trends in American life and politics.

Also about that 2016 election: I read an article of interest, Polls Versus Reality in 2016. Numbers: The Good and the Bad. Some conclusions: 1) “[T]hat so many forecasts were off the mark was surprising, given the increasingly wide variety of methods being tested and reported via the mainstream media and other outlets.” (So I wasn’t alone.) 2) “Most national polls had Clinton winning the popular vote by a fair margin, and that turned out to be fairly accurate.” (But irrelevant, as noted.) And 3) the “Shy Trumper effect… Voting for Trump is considered socially undesirable by some people… they don’t want to admit it either to an interviewer on the phone or to pollsters … and then when they get in to the voting booth, who they actual vote for is not the same person they told pollsters they were going to voter for.” (Ellipses in original.) Though it’s hard to imagine “shy Trumpsters” this time…

Re: “Kennedy won by 303 votes to 219.” For math majors and others of that ilk, that totals 522 electoral college votes, not the current 538. As to what accounted for the “missing 16,” I researched the issue but was unable to find a definitive answer, as of press time mean.

The lower image is courtesy of Prognosticate – Image Results. it was accompanied by an article, “Spring is coming: US groundhogs prognosticate during polar vortex.” (Washington Examiner, February 2019.) See also Groundhog Day – Wikipedia, on the American tradition based on the “Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; but if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.” 

An early post-mortem – and “a look at last year…”

Independent voters try to keep the Ship of State from keeling over – here, ‘too far to the right…'”

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My last post was On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, back on July 5, 2020.

Canoe on Manitou Bluffs regionMy “Adventurous Brother” and I completed the trip. (115 river miles down the Missouri River, from South Sioux City to Omaha, Nebraska.) We left South Sioux City at 2:30 the afternoon of July 9, and got to Omaha at 5:00 the afternoon of July 12. In between – and before, for that matter – there were distractions, complications and near-disasters. (An 80-mile-an-hour windstorm for one.) But we came through, “Mission Accomplished!” The only problem is that a full postmortem account will take time, and I’m long overdue to submit a new blog-post.

So, I decided to take a look at “this time last year.”

What I found was three year-old draft-projects that I never finished, so here goes. One project was “On partisan gerrymandering,” on the then-just-released Supreme Court case, Rucho v. Common Cause. (Of which more later.) The second unfinished project was the start of a new book – composed of a series of posts herein? – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” Of which the recent Missouri River canoe trip was an example. Meanwhile, the original title of this post was supposed to be “Wanna beat Trump? Laugh at him!” And it featured the “Independent voters … Ship of State” lead image and caption at the top of the page.

That unfinished post was based in part – and was a partial review of – a book, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, by Sean McFate. (“82nd Airborne veteran, former private military contractor, and professor of war studies at the National Defense University.”) 

The book offered ten “new” rules for victory, and Rule Five is “The best weapons do not fire bullets.” And one of those non-bullet new weapons was – humor. There’s more on other such weapons in the notes, but the key point came in this set of observations:

Google “humor as a weapon,” and you’ll get sites like Humor is a weapon – so you better learn how to use it. Which offered the following quotes:  “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter,” by Mark Twain. Also “Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly.”  (Michel de Montaigne, the French writer (1553-1592) “one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His work is noted for its merging of casual anecdotes and autobiography with intellectual insight.) Then there’s this full quote:

Authority is a natural target the world over for comics. Remember it, cherish it, use it. People all around the world hate their leaders, their systems, the powers they have to labor under.  This humor is nihilistic – no one is too powerful or too pure to be beyond reproach. Just remember lots of people have sympathy for the underdog, so direct that hostility upwards.

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Now about that draft post – from a year ago – tentatively titled.”My adventures in old age.” It had links to past posts on such adventures as my canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi, and into the Okefenokee Swamp, as well as hiking the Appalachian Trail (in small part) and the Chilkoot Trail. In toto, that is, all 33 of the “meanest 33 miles in history.”

For the full set of links see the notes below, but I wanted to focus on one link I found. It’s on the adventures of other people in Old Age, The Top Ten Late Bloomers Of All Time | Psychology Today. And from which I draw inspiration. (Heck, I just turned 69 years old. Or young!)

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And finally, the third draft post from a year ago had to do with “SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES (Rucho v. Common Cause). The main question: “Is North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander?” The Supreme Court basically punted, saying the issue was one for state courts. I concluded in turn that the net holding was not to allow such partisan gerrymandering in all cases. It merely “kicks the issue back to the states.” (“Much as would be true if the Court overrules Roe v. Wade,” which remains to be seen.)

And – I wrote – some states were beginning to do just that. (Outlaw partisan gerrymandering.) I cited Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering doesn’t directly affect Florida: “In its majority opinion Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court referenced Florida’s Constitution in asserting that states have the ability to solve this issue themselves.” I also cited Another View: Florida’s amendments thwart partisan gerrymandering.

Which made me thankful that our 50 states are now just the “laboratories of democracy” that may yet save this country. The phrase was popularized by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann (1932). The phrase describes how “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” See Wikipedia.

It springs in part from the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “all powers not delegated to the United States … are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That is, the 10th Amendment “assigns most day-to-day governance responsibilities, including general ‘police power,’ to the state and local governments.” One positive result? Because of the “diverse patchwork” of non-federal governments, the several states and/or localities are free to try different public policies to solve problems. In turn, ” If any one or more of those policies are successful, they can be expanded to the national level by acts of Congress.”

Now, if we can just get a state to kick COVID‘s ass. Or get those Feds out of Portland

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Did the 2016 U.S. presidential election create a  monster? Time will tell…

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The upper image is courtesy of Yachting Keel Over – Image ResultsAccompanied by an article “Real-life Bond performs daring boat stunt off the Isle of Wight.”  See I’m 007 and I won’t keel over! Real-life Bond performs (March 2012, but also ‘Show-off’ businessman caused Isle of Wight boat crash, BBC News, from March 2017).  Click on I’m 007 and I won’t keel over!  Then the “Read it” icon.

Re:  Ship of State. See Wikipedia, noting the “famous and oft-cited metaphor put forth by Plato [circa 400 B.C.] in Book VI of the Republic (488a–489d).”  But which can also be traced “back to the lyric poet Alcaeus (frs. 6, 208, 249), and it is found in Sophocles’ Antigone and Aeschylus‘ Seven Against Thebes before Plato.”  Sophocles appeared to be a relative contemporary of Plato, while Aeschylus and Alcaeus (“c. 620 – 6th century BC”), appeared to predate him by 100 to 200 years.  

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Re: “There’s more on other such weapons.” Here follows – down to the next four asterisks (****) – a lot of notes on McFate’s book that may confuse a reader or lead him astray – if not set off by the aforementioned asterisks. But note too that the next set of notes, including the source of other images, will begin with the next set of four asterisks. 

First, for our purposes, McFate noted the “declining utility of force” (as in Russia’s Putin “weaponizing refugees rather than threatening firepower,” indirectly, by bombing Syria, which drove tens of thousands of refugees into Europe and “stoking anti-establishment policies across the continent…  Right-wing nationalist parties, once shunned as neo-Nazis became popular … for the first time since the 1930s”.) Then McFate moved to “Warriors of the Mind.” As in, Get a Mac – Wikipedia, and Case Study: “Mac vs. PC” Advertisement Campaign – Hannah’s Media Leap BlogThe campaign had a huge impact, tripling computer sales and becoming iconic “to this day.” How did Apple do it? “The secret is simple: denigration. Going negative is powerful, but the trick is to make the target look like the wrongdoer… It’s beautiful ridicule, highly manipulative, and it works.”

From there McFate spoke of the “humor” weapon against ISIS, and others:

ISIS and its successors would shrivel like the Wizard of Oz if the Muslim world could belly laugh over them…  Putin’s cult of personality would whither [sic] under the power of denigration.  In fact, he’s easy pickings, given his naked bear-riding habit…  This works especially well against autocracies because they are often built on a cult of personality and the infallibility of leadership.  Make such leaders fallible.

He went on to note that one key is gaining information superiority, first through monitoring (“know your enemy”) and second through discrediting:  “pinpointing fake news, alternate facts … false narratives, viral memes and negative frames, and then exposing them.  Myth-busting must happen, otherwise people may start to believe the spin.  This task is especially critical for democracies…” And finally, counter-attacking, “and this is where Western countries grow weak in the legs.” (For that matter so do “polite” liberals and moderates.) Again, the prime method of counterattack is denigration, while looking like the good guy, conveying empathy, aligning with “preconceived knowledge” and being “funny but not stupid.”

For other reviews Google “the new rules of war sean mcfate.” Of particular interest: The new rules of war. Sean McFate – The Junior Officers’ Book Shelf, and Reviewing The New Rules of War – The Strategy Bridge (“A critical reader might also find inspiration here. As McFate presents them, however, the new rules are a starting point and far from the last word on victory or how to get there”).

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Re: “For the full set of links see the notes.” The first one listed in this post was Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.) That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015. See also On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part I and On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part II, on an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. I’ve written about my Okefenokee adventures in several posts: Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17). And see Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”

The lower image is courtesy of Laboratories Democracy States – Image ResultsThe image is accompanied by an article, If States are the “Laboratories of Democracy,” Then Young Frankenstein Runs California. The article was from Legal Insurrection, “one of the most widely cited and influential conservative websites… Our work has been highlighted by top conservative radio personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.” But see also Legal Insurrection – Media Bias/Fact Check: “These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.” Note the article was written before the “Covid,” so for an alternate view see California coronavirus: What the state is doing right – CNN

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And finally, the original “laugh at him” post contained notes from an apparent “cultural elites” file. It was about those “cultural elites” that Trump supporters love to hate. The notes below are in rough form, include some personal observations, and are included solely for purposes of completeness:

acts of deliberate transgression against what many Trump supporters have come to view as the supposedly stifling ethics of our cultural elites

sending ” those damn media types into a tizzy”

a given act is actually praiseworthy and brave if it draws condemnation from the despised left-wing media.

just another handy weapon for triggering the pearl-clutching libs.

Send Her Back! Send Her Back! – The Bulwark

That portion of American society that has pretty much ruled America during the latter half of the 20th century, and the 21st century as well, up to Election Day, 2016.

Since the end of World War II, the rest of the world has looked at America as that “city on a hill” it has claimed to be since the beginning.  And America has responded – by and large – by accepting the mantle of world leadership.  And because America is a land of such promise, people from other countries keep trying to come here.  But – by and large – they are no longer white, English-speaking and mostly European.  Which frightens a large segment of American society.

Aside from that the mantle of world leadership is heavy.  It means not going off half-cocked.  It means being responsible, and thinking through what we say and do.  And many Americans seem to think we should act more like Russia, imposing our will on the rest of the world by sheer force.  Which – from all accounts – is what we used to do in the days of Teddy Roosevelt.

And it could be that the Americans who support Trump would love to see a return of a bit of American imperialism.  (On the other hand, if that’s true, why did Russia try so hard to get Trump rather than Hillary elected?)

Class warfare between workers and elites explains Trump …

What’s happening in America is an echo of what’s happening in democracies around the world, and it’s not happening because of Trump. Trump is the symptom of a ruling class that many of the ruled no longer see as serving their interest, and the anti-Trump response is mostly the angry backlash of that class as it sees its position, its perquisites and — perhaps especially — its self-importance threatened.

Trump’s dislike of — and desire to be a part of — the ‘elite’

Trump has since made a name for himself — in New York City and, more unexpectedly, in Washington. As he reminded his Minnesota supporters, he won the presidency — which by one definition automatically puts him among the elites: “a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group.”

By all accounts, Trump supporters – or as Hillary called them, “the deplorables” – exercise the major share of authority and influence within the Republican Party, which is the governing party in the United States. The group’s values on racial issues, the economy, immigration and other cultural issues has a louder and bolder advocate in the Oval Office than at any other time in recent history.

But perhaps the reason it is difficult to embrace that definition is because Trump and many of his supporters believe that winning isn’t all that matters.  It matters that you be viewed as a winner.  And for a president who has been quick to lob the label “loser” at those with whom he didn’t find favor, knowing that there are many Americans who don’t want him in their club is a great source of anger.

Elite – Wikipedia  a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, the “elite” are “those people or organizations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type

a relatively small, loosely connected group of individuals who dominate American policy making. This group includes bureaucratic, corporate, intellectual, military, media, and government elites who control the principal institutions in the United States and whose opinions and actions influence the decisions of the policymakers

Why a lot of Americans resent the cultured “New York City elite.”

I think this feeling was shared by some of the voters who went for Trump – as well as Brexit beforehand.  Trump, a masterful populist, has manipulated this very real bitterness, raising his 18-carat pitchfork against “liberal elites” for his own political gain.

a cultural elite may be disliked for reasons that are as not particularly economic: college professors, experts, NGO staffers and psychotherapists are not corporate titans, after all. It’s a new variation of an old-fashioned populism that is anti-intellectual and anti-expert.

Trump and his family may be mining this anti-elite anger, but they are, of course, preposterously upscale, living in Trump Tower, attending expensive private schools, flying about in private jets (now with in-flight Secret Service) and dining in five-star restaurants.

Republicans are benefitting from the cultural resentment of their non-elite electorate. They also aren’t proposing anything that could make life better for the people who actually live in small towns or in “flyover” states.

Random thoughts (on “Socialism,” etc.) – from March 2020

One random thought about “Socialism,” from back in March – before the Floyd protests began…

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We’re now in the “12th full week of Covid-19.*” And aside from that, we now have the George Floyd protests to process. (Based on his May 26 death.) Which is another reason I  haven’t checked Facebook lately. (Who needs more aggravation?) But I do try to post on a regular basis, and my last post was on May 24. In it I harked back to This time last year – in Jerusalem! (Featuring the photo at left.) And yes, I suppose it was an exercise in escapism.

But back to those “random thoughts – from March 2020…”

This past fall I got in touch with some former students in my high school class of 1969, through Facebook. And was surprised at how many of them had become grumpy old geezers. As evidenced by the many grumpy, whiny and negative posts that way too many of them put on Facebook. (Which is why I learned the magic of “unfollowing” rather than “unfriending.”)

For example, many former classmates – once all full of happiness, hope and hormones – now refer to any political persuasion to the left of Attila the Hun as “Socialism.” Yet another favorite Facebook topic has to do with Social Security. And how it’s not an entitlement. One typical comment:  “I earned it, I paid into it, and nobody is going to take it away from me!”

Which led me to do a little research…

I learned that back in 1970 – the nearest census year to 1969 – the average American life expectancy was 71 years of age. But now, in 2020, the average life expectancy is “78.93” years of age. (See In 1970 what was the average life expectancy for Americans, and U.S. Life Expectancy 1950-2020 | MacroTrends.)  Which we can round off to an even 79 years of age.

Which brings up the difference between life expectancy in 1970, compared to 2020: A full “extra” eight years. Which means that  you – my typical Old Geezer high-school classmate – are getting a “free” eight years of Social Security benefits. In other words, for at least eight years of your life – assuming you make the “expected” life span – YOU’RE GOING TO BE A SOCIALIST!

In other words a mooch, a freeloader, or whatever other label you want to use…

Which led me to ask whether Social Security itself is a form of socialism. One answer:

it seems fair to call the Social Security program a form of socialism. The program requires workers and their employers, along with self-employed individuals, to pay into the system throughout their working years. The government controls the money they contribute and decides when and how much they get back after – and if – they reach retirement age.

See Are Social Security Benefits a Form of Socialism? On the other hand, there’s the Libertarian view, if not the “traditional conservative” view. See for example The Socialism of Social Security – The Future of Freedom, an article by .

Hornberger started off noting the irony of Trump and his fellow conservatives “excoriating” Democrats as Socialists, when he and his Republicans, along with their “Democratic cohorts, are fierce advocates of America’s premier socialist program, Social Security:”

Our American ancestors … understood that once people go onto the government dole, they become dependent on it. Many seniors today are convinced that without the dole, they would die in the streets. Many of them have also become docile and passive in the face of grave government wrongdoing because they fear that the government will cancel their dole if they protest governmental misconduct too vociferously.

Hornberger concluded, “Freedom and voluntary charity versus socialism and mandatory charity… Which one is better? I’m a libertarian. The answer is a no-brainer for me.”

And incidentally, Hornberger noted that conservatives don’t like “us Libertarians.” Why?  “We make them confront their life of the lie. We make them see that they are just as socialist as the socialists [Democrats] they love to decry.” Which sounds about right to me.

Also incidentally, just this past June 2 Hornberger posted Trump and His Standing Army.

He started off noting President Trump’s “warning to state governors that he is prepared to send his military forces to quell violent protests in cities across the land.” Which – he said – was precisely “why our ancestors had such a deep antipathy toward standing armies.” Another warning: “When it comes to shooting American protesters, make no mistake about it: Soldiers will do their duty… If their commander-in-chief orders them to fire on protesters, they will fire on protesters.” (But see Trump Privately Backs Off From Sending Troops Into States Amid Unrest.)

 included quotes from both our Founding Fathers and President Eisenhower, on the original intent of a limited-government republic, with No Standing Army. “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”

He concluded, “Under President Trump, the American people might yet experience the hard way what the Framers, our ancestors, and President Eisenhower were so concerned about.”

And he may have a point…

Two days after Hornberger’s Standing Army post came this: Unidentified prison agents patrol DC amid protests. Put another way, “Heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves are patrolling the streets of Washington, DC. They were sent by the Bureau of Prisons.” And by the way, that’s from the Business Insider, the financial and business news website founded in 2009. (A side note, “In January 2014, The New York Times reported that Business Insider‘s web traffic was comparable to that of The Wall Street Journal.”)

That’s just in case you thought I cited a pointy-headed liberal-media outlet as a source. Said one observer, “it’s like Russia’s little green men have taken over the nation’s capital.” Or:

Some people on social media discussing the identity of the mysterious officials compared them to the “little green men” Russian President Vladimir Putin sent to annex Crimea in 2014 who wore no insignia identifying them as members of the Russian military.

Which – finally – led me to this bit of research on the definition of Fascism:

[The political philosophy or regime] that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Which is also starting to sound familiar. Suddenly, Social-Security-ism doesn’t seem too bad…

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Free stuff? Like not having 106,000 dead Americans? Or “8:46?” Or “little green men?”

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The upper image – and the lower image – are both courtesy of Socialism For The Rich Capitalism The Poor – Image Results. Incidentally, the “Monopoly Man” image at the top of the page is a take-off of a poster of Che Guevara, the “Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.” An “original” is below right. See Wikipedia, and also Che Guevara Poster – Image Results.

As to “weeks of the Covid-19 shutdown,” see On Week 8 of the Coronavirus shut-down. I calculated from Thursday, March 12, “when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled,” and thus that the first full week “has it starting Sunday, March 15 and ending Saturday, March 21,” 2020.

The “incumbent freeloader” image is courtesy of Freeloader – Image Results

The photo to the left of the paragraph “Hornberger posted Trump and His Standing Army” is courtesy of Russian Little Green Men – Image Results

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For more on Social Security as “socialism,” see Is Democratic Socialism Alive and Well in U.S.? It’s subtitled, “America is socialist, dummy[:] Let us count the ways.” Some key points:

“[A] dispassionate glance at American history shows that Uncle Sam has already gone a long way down the road of democratic socialism.

“Every American state decrees that all its children shall be educated at state expense, no matter how rich or poor.

“Second, the entire American highway system is built, paid-for and maintained by the state and federal governments.

“Third, estate taxes were introduced in 1916, in the name of equality and to prevent the children of successful parents from becoming a parasitic leisure class.

“Fourth, in the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal established the principle that the federal government should intervene on behalf of distressed citizens everywhere.

“Americans, once they begin to enjoy the benefits of a government program, are no more likely than Europeans to favor losing them. Cutting big government sounds great in theory, but few lobbies support the principle of giving up government-conferred benefits, whereas hundreds of lobbies fight to keep and enlarge them.

“Government on both sides [Democrat and Republican] is committed to protecting vulnerable populations, to educating them, to promoting opportunities and to intervening in the economy for the sake of stability, efficiency and high employment. In other words, in America, as throughout the developed world, democratic socialism is alive and well. Bernie Sanders is unusual not because he believes in it, but because he actually says that he believes in it and isn’t afraid to use the words.”

“Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook…”

File"-Saint Paul Writing His Epistles" by Valentin de Boulogne.jpg

“… can be a great learning experience!” (As St. Paul might have said, if he did Facebook…)

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Image may contain: one or more people, child and outdoorThings have been hectic since I got back on September 25 from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. (See “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino!”)

For one thing, I got hired back as a supervisor at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful(Supervising mainly young folk doing community service.) For another thing I got back from Portugal in the midst of the “High Holy Season.” (The season of college and pro football. See Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”)

Which means that – since the regular college season is now coming to an end – it’s time to get serious about posting more regularly. And what better place to start than some reflections on what I’ve been seeing and doing on Facebook since I got back home?

The thing is, on the Camino in Portugal – and later Spain – I did post on Facebook every day. But those were on my daily adventures in a “country far away.” (And for some reason I wasn’t bombarded by daily updates on the partisan politics back home in the U.S of A.) Then too the feedback to my posts from Portugal was mostly positive. (To a shared travel experience.)

Once I got back all that changed. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by politics, including some unsettling posts by former high school classmates. That is, I graduated in 1969, and so this year was our 50-year high school reunion. (Scheduled for the weekend of October 11-13.) So before I left for the Camino, I got in touch with many former classmates, largely through Facebook. (Illustrated at left.) 

That’s when I discovered something “definitely amiss.”

I found out that way too many of those former bright-eyed youngsters – full of hope and hormones (not to mention plans to “change the world“) – had turned into grumpy old arch-conservative, geezers whose sole purpose in life now seemed to be venting their spleen on Facebook. (A note: The old geezers were male former classmates. I saw no ladies from the Class of ’69 being so grumpy and arch-conservative. I’m thinking that maybe they’re going out and doing something positive with their lives, unlike their male counterparts.) 

The dark sideThe point being: I felt I had to try and correct some of their distortions, and maybe to bring them back from the dark side(For reasons including Ezekiel 3:16-21.) Which turned into quite a project.

For example, one conservative post from a former classmate said President Obama had fired “every single Bush ambassador.” (i.e., every ambassador appointed by President Bush, as if it were a big deal.) The claim seemed pretty shocking, so I decided to check.

I ultimately found out that new presidents get rid of political ambassadors from past administrations on a routine basis. That nugget was courtesy of PolitiFact and its article No, Obama didn’t fire all of Bush’s politically-appointed ambassadors. Politifact rated the claim “mostly false,” but the exercise in rebutting that claim turned out to be very instructive.

So I posted – on Facebook in response – that Obama had indeed “let go some political ambassadors, which is standard procedure. Plus Bush asked some of his POLITICAL AMBASSADORS to hand in their resignations. And most CAREER DIPLOMAT ambassadors stayed on.” (Emphases in my original post.) That led to a response – not from a classmate but from a another arch-conservative – “do not mean to dispute what you say, but if that is true how could all the ambassadors be liberals when Obama left office?” (Another claim worth challenging?)

That response was met at first by a fellow free-thinker (“John”), who posted, “As demonstrated in the impeachment hearings most career Ambassadors are non political.” 

Four shovels standing upright in dirtWhich turned out to be true. I.e., Politifact noted there are “two breeds of ambassadors: political appointees and career diplomats. Political appointees are usually stationed in countries that are U.S. allies or desirable locations, like the Bahamas.” (illustrated at left.) And also that it’s standard practice to “cycle out” such employees. Which led me to respond that was “pretty much what John said. The point being that anyone who raises a hubbub about either Trump or Obama firing ‘all ambassadors’ is making a mountain out of a molehill. And distorting the facts.”

In other words, I learned something in this exercise in combating right-wing distortions. That led me to the conclusion, “Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook can definitely be an educational experience. (Also known as a “teaching moment” or “teachable moment.”)

At this point – and just to clarify – I consider myself an Independent. (“Like Moses or Jesus,” the subject of a future post. But for now see A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter.)“)

And like many such Independents, I’m puzzled at how many conservatives still support Trump, in the face of what seems incontrovertible evidence of his – shall we say – “shortcomings?”

Which led me to do another post, on “an interesting online article, ‘Why conservatives are more susceptible to believing in lies.‘” It too was very instructive, and led me to post some sample passages. Like the fact that conservatives are “less introspective, less attentive to their inner feelings, and less likely to override their ‘gut’ reactions and engage in further reflection to find a correct answer.” (Which led me to observe too that they are “‘less so’ than other people, like liberals and Independents. You know, ‘Independent thinkers’ like Moses and Jesus?”)

Watts.JPGThen there was this little tidbit:

Baptist minister and former Republican congressman J. C. Watts [at right] put it succinctly. Campaigning for Sen. Rand Paul in Iowa in 2015 he observed, “The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good.”

I responded in part that “few people are ALL bad or ALL good. The tendency to think in such black-and-white terms is also called ‘splitting,’ or cognitive distortion.” (Concepts I also had to research.)

Also – according to my research – such simplified thinking is a “common defense mechanism in which the individual ‘tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).'”

Then too I noted the incongruity that conservatives think THEY are all good, while liberals – as well as anyone else who doesn’t buy into their brand of magic – are by definition all bad…

Which led me to yet another conclusion: That “having a good enemy” is essential to personal and spiritual growth. As part of that learning experience, I Googled “having a good enemy.” And got 204 million (204,000,000) results. One example of such wisdom came from Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” See also, Top 10 Reasons Why we all must have Enemies. Some examples? “Competition between the enemies is good for the society.” And “Enemies will keep you focused.” And finally, “Enemies will make you a better person as a whole.”

And finally, again, I should note that having good enemies – which includes trying to “bring them back from the dark side” – is an excellent way to ditch Black And White Thinking!

And by the way, I’ll be using those “good enemy” quotes on Facebook, whenever arch-conservatives start attacking those darned liberals… (“You need a good enemy!”)  

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The upper image is courtesy of Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’ by Valentin de Boulogne.” 

Re: Facebook. See History of Facebook – Wikipedia, which includes the photo of its founder. The caption: “Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his Harvard dorm room.” The article expands on the theme of learning experiences. And the article includes interesting tidbits like: 1) The social networking service was launched as TheFacebook on February 4, 2004; 2) membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, then to most universities in the U.S.and Canada, until by September 2006, it was available to everyone with a valid email address; and that FaceMash, Facebook’s predecessor, opened in 2003 as a type of “hot or not” game for Harvard students. “The website allowed visitors to compare two female student pictures side by side and let them decide who was more attractive.”

Re: The song “change the world.” The version I thought of when I writing this post actually came from Chicago (Graham Nash song)See Wikipedia, which said this:

Chicago” (often listed as “Chicago / We Can Change the World“) is a song written by Graham Nash for his solo debut album Songs for Beginners. As a single [in 1971], it reached number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and 29 on the Cash Box Top 100… The title and lyrics of the song refer to the anti-Vietnam War protests that took place during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the subsequent trial of the Chicago Eight, where protest leaders were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot. 

The song included these lyrics, near the end: “We can change the world, re-arrange the world, it’s dying, if you believe in justice, it’s dying if you believe in freedom.”  But this song is distinct from “Change the World,” a song written by “Tommy SimsGordon Kennedy, and Wayne Kirkpatrick whose best-known version was recorded by the English singer Eric Clapton for the soundtrack of the 1996 film Phenomenon.” See Change the World – Wikipedia, which serves as another example of how combating right-wing distortions can definitely be instructive. 

Re: Ezekiel 3:16-21. Summarized as Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman, it basically says that if you warn a fellow citizen of the error of his ways and he fails to listen, he’ll be in trouble but you will at least have saved your own spiritual butt. But if you don’t warn him, you’ll both be in trouble. 

The person who posted the “liberal ambassadors” response was – as noted – not a former classmate, but he used to attend my church and comes back every now and again. “John” – my fellow free-thinker – is still a member of my church, and in fact is a fellow member of the choir. 

Re: Combating right-wing distortions, etc. Then there was this Bible passage from Sunday, November 10, concerning the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus: 

Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. (E.A.)

Again, that was from the New Testament reading for November 10, from 2d Thessalonians, Chapter 2, where Paul wrote about Jesus coming back “and our being gathered together to him.” Which led me to this bit of possible good news: “Jesus might be coming back really really soon!”

An almost-final text note. On Facebook I posted another irony: That today’s conservatives say people who want to come to this country have to “follow all the rules.” Which led to the question, “Why don’t they say the same thing about Donald Trump? It’s incongruous is what it is.”

As to the benefits of having a good enemy, see also The Benefits of Having an Enemy – The American Interest, and The Benefits of Enemies – The Bible Meditator.

The lower image is courtesy of Ditch Black And White Thinking – Image Results.

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A final final note, on a possible standard response to right-wingers attacking “libs” on Facebook. “God bless liberals! What would you do without them? See the online piece, Top 10 Reasons Why we all must have Enemies. The reasons include: 1) competition between enemies is good for society; 2) enemies keep you focused; and 3) enemies will make you a better person as a whole.