Wednesday, October 31, 2018

lobster boom, lobster bust

Ted Ames, a former commercial fisherman who became a scientist and helped found the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, is worried about lobstering’s future here.
The thriving crustaceans have created a kind of nautical gold rush, with some young lobstermen making well into six figures a year. But it’s a boom with a bust already written in its wake, and the lobstermen of the younger generation may well pay the highest price. Not only have they heavily mortgaged themselves with pricey custom boats in the rush for quick profits, they’ll also bear the brunt of climate change – not to mention the possible collapse of the lobstering industry in Maine as the creatures flourish ever northward.
It's nice to read something about people with an honest profession, whatever the dangers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

choosing life companions

Of all the companions anyone might choose in life, I vote for attention and responsibility. Setting aside the snuggle-bunny philosophies of classroom discussion, these two, while not perfect, are as close as I can figure to something like common sense.

This thought dropped in on me again last night as I watched a documentary about the treatment/internment of Nisei in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. The attack prompted a willy-nilly, outraged and in some sense understandable rounding up and interning of anyone who looked Japanese at the time of the attack.

I watched the show and felt my 20/20 hindsight kicking in.

Every sweeping and sometimes 'democratic' action has collateral damage. Innocent or guilty, a generalized guilt was imputed to those linked in any way to the perfidious Japanese. Mob rule... if we all agree, that's democratic; democracy is a good thing; therefore interning those tarred with the 'enemy' brush deserved it ... no need to think about it.

I found myself, not for the first time, suspecting egregious agreement. Easy in hindsight ... though it did make me wonder a bit about the Me Too movement of late or the clerical abuse in the Roman Catholic church, among others. So much that is innocent and beyond undoing is thrown to the wolves in an effort to punish the guilty. Lord knows the pain is real and wracking, but is that an excuse for forgetting a variety of less-crystal-clear backgrounds? ... as for example that the bird-dance of sex is, well, fun or part of the human skein ... yes, yes ... and potentially cruel and manipulative.

So on the one hand, I distrust what often passes for democracy. Someone's got to straighten out this easy-peasy group hug.

And that someone is, as often as not, those group-hugging in the matter of exclusivity. Dumb-bunny hoorahs need a few smarts and there is always someone around to claim those smarts ... often to the point of demagoguery and dictatorship.

So, on the other hand, I distrust exclusivity and smarts.

As a personal matter, as I say -- not just as a classroom philosophy. Everyone would like a rock-solid solution and direction, but it simply does not exist: You cannot embrace the honey if you cannot likewise embrace the raw wrecking ball of the shit. Those laying claim to exclusivity -- America is the best; smart is better than dumb; a college education counts; a 17-year-old war in Afghanistan is good for a few more years, etc. ... ah, a rock-solid support and applause section in which participants seldom do the bleeding.

Looking back on the Nisei and their travails, I am once again horrified. But so many agree that suddenly democracy/mob rule/man is a social animal is suspect. And likewise suspect are those who toot their own Pied Piper horns: "We'll make it better/kinder/more compassionate ... maybe."

I dislike the stupidities that hurt others, which, as often as not, means the intelligently-confected bits of wisdom. Winston Churchill (is often said without proof to have) observed, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest" in an effort to cover the collateral damage that comes with every good and caring idea. It didn't work.

Bit by bit, I slip back to my own best (which is not to say it is best) experience: Attention and responsibility are the best companions. To agree is OK. To disagree is OK. But to agree merely because others agree is highly suspect and is bound to leave you in tears. Naturally, an assured (winner's) payoff is longed for when taking up a cause or course of action. I want to be at peace with my own oh-so-peacefully-inclined decisions. Gimme the silver bullet. Gimme plaudits and hugs.

But only attention and responsibility can do that ... and that not fershur. If things are a crap shoot, it's better to make it your own crap shoot and not just some warm and fuzzy classroom crap shoot. True, it's exhausting. True you can never get it "right." But you can stand a little straighter for having owned what you have chosen to own ... the action from which there is no turning back.

Yes, I do things because I think they are right. But likewise, I do things -- often the very same things -- that I know are wrong.

Monday, October 29, 2018

coal miners back Democrats

Is it possible that Trump supporters are getting it and that talk is cheap?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. coal miners union has put a larger share of its campaign donations behind Democrats ahead of the Nov. 6 elections than in 2016, as dimming hopes for a coal industry revival led by President Donald Trump reinforce fears about the safety of worker pensions.
The United Mine Workers of America has donated nearly 84 percent of its money to Democratic candidates and committees in national races, according to a Reuters analysis of campaign finance data. That is a roughly 20-point jump from 2016, when Trump courted coal miners with promises of an industry comeback....
While the Trump administration has rolled back some environmental protections in its first two years, the promise of a coal comeback has yet to be fulfilled.
Instead of the war chant directed at Hillary Clinton -- "Lock her up!" -- perhaps a new chorus and signage will read on behalf of the Liar in Chief: "Full of shit!" Just because someone is stupid doesn't mean they have to be stupid.

a little Burma Shave doggerel

Sleep and sleep
And sleep some more.
What is now is
What was yore.
Not much difference
At the core
Less to work with,
More to soar.
Lambs are bleating,
Lions roar.
Things implode
In neither-nor.

Quoth the raven, "Burma Shave."

Sunday, October 28, 2018

getting acquainted with "mook"

Reading a pretty good cop-shop novel called "The Force," I run across the word "mook."

"Mook" seems to mean a show-off, an asshole, an incompetent loudmouth ... something along those lines. Slang being the apex of any language from where I sit, a part of me wants to incorporate "mook," to learn its appropriate uses and not just run around like some daft teen who has discovered the word "fuck."

But there are so many meanings and permutations to "mook" that I am not sure I am swift enough to catch up with its eddies and waves.

Maybe that makes me a mook.

Anyway, I like its flavor and leanings ... mook.

good worker

Yesterday's plopping rain drops -- drops that seemed to beg for a degree or two more cold so they could turn into sloppy snow -- have moved on today. Splunge, splunge, splunge -- the non-word tickles across my mental tongue. Skies are grey today. Lowering. But the splunge is elsewhere, I guess.

Out back, my neighbor Joe's son Matt has been doing a good job shoring up the deck I no longer have the wherewithal to attack. The uprights are slip-sliding off the concrete pilings. A good job means he is thinking of the best options, the ramifications of cost, and a willingness to do well what he promised to do at all. Thinking on my behalf and then delivering -- that's a good worker.

I am at pains to pay him well for a job I am pleased with -- a job in the middle of a middle-class-and-better community that construction workers are not shy about gouging. None of the work is exactly rocket science, but those around here willing to make rocket science out of simple repairs seems unending.

It's happy-making to find a good worker and not just someone with a cap-toothed smile and a fruit suit who talks about a project and uses phrases like "moving forward" ... but lacks the understanding/willingness/sweat glands that go with a hammer.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

robots to make robots

Humanoid robot YuMi conducts the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra performing a concert alongside Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (unseen) at the Verdi Theatre in Pisa, Italy September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
Was there ever a question that this was in the offing?
ZURICH (Reuters) - Robots will make robots at a new ABB (ABBN.S) factory in China, which the Swiss engineering group said on Saturday it plans to build for $150 million in Shanghai as it defends its place as the country’s largest maker of industrial robots.
The factory, located near ABB’s China robotics campus, is due to be operating by the end of 2020 and will produce robots for China as well as for export elsewhere in Asia. China is ABB’s No. 2 market after the United States.

the 0.00215384615385% immigrant caravan

Lost in the racist subtext of a Central American caravan of migrants to the U.S. border these days is the simple math NYTimes columnist David Brooks referenced tangentially on the Public Broadcast System last night ... we'll survive such an influx he said. I looked up the numbers:

The caravan numbers are put at something like 7,000.

The population of the United States is 325+ million.

Donald Trump and his allies have referenced -- and will continue to do so, I imagine -- the illegal immigrants (but suggesting that the only crime of the caravan is being poor and brown) who may pepper the caravan stew. Like the illegal voting that barely exists in the U.S. and yet is constantly used as a touchstone by Democrat-wary Republicans who fear the voting proclivities of minorities ... BLOCK THAT VOTE!... gerrymander them out of existence; require an ID that is complex to get; one-man-one-vote means white men and right-thinking one-women.

Donald Trump has labeled the caravan a national emergency worthy of calling up the National Guard ... purely in a support role, of course, since only the Congress can authorize a military action of this sort: Rile up the Trump supporters who live in the United States, a country of 325 million. Get your gun! "Defend" your country!

Reuters has noted a surge in Republican spending on mid-term election advertising that references immigration.

Seven thousand into a pool of 325 million.

And perhaps there are a few devious apples in the bunch. So what? We've let crooks in in the past ... look at the Kennedy clan, the Irish, the Italians, the Jews. Seven thousand people, most of whom want to work and be secure and bring up their families ... but 325 million cannot accommodate them? True, they speak other languages. True, they are largely other colors. And there are probably a share of drug-dealers and other criminals, but even if a perfect wall existed, the United States would already have its quotient of those.

Seven thousand into a pool of 325 million. That's 0.00215384615385%

And Trump supporters, if I had to guess, would be people who counted themselves as "Christians." Christianity, the last time I looked, is based in "caritas," a word sometimes too loosely translated as "charity" or "kindness." Please tell me how all the anxiety about immigrants, whether manufactured or home-grown, is not largely based in a racism that is unwilling to take responsibility for its leanings.

I wouldn't be happy having to whine with some liberals, "Can't we all just get along?" But there is no whining about the math and no whining necessary about history.

But whining about stupidity and the kind of bonfirey agitation that Trump and his followers dance around and promote?

I woke up this morning wanting to tip my hat to Donald Trump for inspiring some poor schlub to create a series of explosive devices sent to left-leaning high-profilers. My only complaint is that the apparent perpetrator was captured so easily because he was careless in his creations. If his efforts had been a little more wily, the what-did-you-expect outcome that can be laid at Trump's doorstep might stay in the news longer.

Immigrants are brown and they're illegal. Nuff said, I guess when it comes to supporting Donald Trump. They are fleeing what Trump has referred to as "shithole" nations and will turn the U.S. into something similar....

If Trump doesn't beat them to the punch.

Friday, October 26, 2018

looking back, I guess

From my constricted and increasingly-backward-looking point of view, it is a time of revisions and nudgings that don't sit very well.

-- Tattoos are ascendant with more and more people getting more and more of them. I'm still stuck marveling that people would actually wear shirts that advertised the shirt-makers ... Izod Lacoste, Under Armor, or whatever. Suddenly my identity is not good enough. My tattoo helps me talk louder and therefore more convincingly.
-- TV offerings include more and more survival-mode activities like fishing, hunting, making shelters. Which in turn suggests that hunting a fishing skills may be necessary in a financially-divided population.
-- The word "fuck" and its various permutations is increasing exponentially on various cop-show dramas.
-- Bare breasts are becoming routine as the line between porn and entertainment blurs. Who's got a clue that sexy isn't what you can see, but what is covered up?
-- Wan, harried and conflicted characters gain more and more traction on story-telling adventures. It's truer to life, to be sure, but many of the wan look a lot like the other wan's... same as with the previously well-appointed stars.
-- Marriage still pulls people in but increasingly spits them out as well ... a "blessed" union is a quaint and simultaneously magnetic notion. A resting place, a safe place is increasingly a dangerous constrictor as well ... just like always.
-- Religion takes a hit even as loneliness -- inspired by the likes of Facebook on the internet -- swells.
-- Everybody has rights, especially if that somebody is me.

Oh well, my kids will catch the brunt of it. As the playwright Dylan Thomas once wrote more or less, "Time passes. Listen! Time passes."       

Thursday, October 25, 2018

autumn leaves

fall foliage as once
Right around Oct. 10 used to be the time when the leaf-peepers descended on my neck of the New England woods. The hills would be alive with yellows and oranges and still-a-bit-greens and Hallmark calendar photographers would be out in force. A barn or small corral would be backstopped by a panoply of homespun color.

My wife and I took a drive the other day in search of leaves to photograph and send along to my son who is living in Georgia. They weren't there. There were yellows and browns and a spotting of evergreens, but the tourist-friendly vistas could not be found.

The color has, as it seems, drained away.

bombs added to balmy political times

Pepe Le Pew
It smells somehow callow -- a series of bomb threats against left-leaning politicians/players reported yesterday [10/24/18]. The threats were apparently short-circuited by canny federal watchdogs. None of the alleged explosive devices went off. But the collective announcement ratcheted up the tensions infusing a feeding-frenzy interest in the mid-term congressional elections in November.

Who benefits from bombs?

Who benefited?

It's not yet clear.

Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left) and Nicola Sacco.

Are we tip-toe-ing up to a latter-day version of Sacco and Vanzetti? ... hang-first-adjudicate-later.

And yet the fact that no explosive device went off suggests a half-baked plan intended to frighten but not actually hurt anyone. Alternatively, it speaks of stupidity. The whole thing seems to point to a need for centralized power.
NEW YORK (AP) — The discovery of pipe bombs targeting prominent Democratic politicians and CNN is raising the threat of election-season violence largely unknown in the U.S. — and prompting uncomfortable questions about the consequences of leaders’ increasingly vitriolic rhetoric.
Coming two weeks before midterm elections, the thwarted attacks Wednesday caused renewed soul-searching — and finger pointing — about whether President Donald Trump has fanned passions to dangerous levels. Democrats swiftly pointed to his remarks seeming to condone violence against reporters and belittling political opponents, including some apparently targeted by the devices. Trump decried all political violence and issued a broad call for unity.
Trump's divisiveness has been palpable so a call for unity basically means to vote for him and his agenda. His supporters more often than not take his word as writ. Life is easier when no proof is adduced and your point man ... well ... points: "Drain the [political] swamp!" "Lock her [Hillary Clinton] up!" In short, fuck 'em all -- listen to me. And the excuses run rampant when criticisms arise -- "well, he didn't exactly mean that. We know what he means and he's right because we agree with him."

But if you really wanted to deliver a pipe bomb, wouldn't you be more circumspect? The internet that may tell you how to build a bomb probably offers wily instruction about how to sidestep detection. Wouldn't you think? Don't make large-scale purchases in one place ... with a credit card ... etc.? No need to be dumber than you already may be... which suggests haste and carelessness of the sort that those who are merely angry might display. As I say, it smells callow and thereby, perhaps, useful to someone. "That'll show 'em!" "Make America great again!" "I'm so angry, I must be right!"

It is a confusing and on-edge-putting time. No one is ashamed. Everyone else is to blame. Resentment and victim-hood -- not bitcoin -- is the common currency. A drained swamp needs re-people-ing.

It is hard to remove the skunk's scent once s/he sprays you.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Thursday [today, 10/25/18] he was “bringing out the military” to protect the U.S. border as a caravan of Central American migrants continued a slow trek through Mexico toward the United States, but provided no details....
“I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the migrants.
As a matter of curiosity, I wonder how many legal Hispanic-origin immigrants will be scared off voting (often Democrat) for fear of federal reprisal. The "illegal voting" in the United States is demonstrably minuscule:
Sensationalist claims have circulated this election season about the extent of voter fraud, with some politicians going so far as to tell voters to fear that this November’s election will be “rigged.” Because electoral integrity is one of the elements necessary to making America the greatest democracy in the world, claims like this garner media attention, and frighten and concern voters. But putting rhetoric aside to look at the facts makes clear that fraud by voters at the polls is vanishingly rare, and does not happen on a scale even close to that necessary to “rig” an election.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Trump Tyranny is on a roll ... get used to it

As President Donald Trump continues to turn America into a "shithole nation" he once excoriated, a migrant caravan moves north through Central America ... headed for the United States. Trump suggests the Democrats may have facilitated the caravan's efforts, but there is no doubt that that march benefits Republicans who may think building a wall along America's border with Mexico (the caravan's likely exit) is what the United States should have done long since ...  à la Trump's encouragement.

Racism is never far from the mid-term elections due next month and cranking up Trump's sub rosa racism helps to keep uncertain immigrants who may have the right to vote away from the polls where they might be labeled and perhaps, under a Trump regime, sent back to lands they fled. Trump sends the message: "Blacks and browns, stay home. Don't even think of voting Democrat or for anything remotely smelling of labor improvements."

The Democrats are keen to win back a majority in the House of Representatives. They may ballyhoo a "blue wave," ("blue" indicates Democrats or so-called liberals, while "red" denotes Republicans and so-called conservatives) but never put it beyond Democrats' reach to screw up their own advantages. And re-balancing the Senate is even a more implausible likelihood.

The Trump Tyranny has to be ranked, on my odds chart, as an unqualified success. As was once the rallying cry, "Hoch der Kaiser!"

It is hard not to agree with the notion that the press is interested in funding the press rather than 'preserving democracy' or some similar high-flying-but-dimly-defined principle. Ad revenue is down, fewer people read, much less think; and the volume-spells-veracity touchstone has taken root with two years of Tyrant Trump at the helm. Who but Trump could manufacture as much "fake news" as he generates ... and then debunks as if he had not manufactured it? As of Aug.1, 2018, with 558 days of Trump rule, the president has made 4,229 false or misleading claims -- an average of 7.6 claims per day, according to the Washington Post. And...

Judy Woodruff (pbs News Hour) I should say that ...The Toronto Star ... keeps track, has been for many months keeping track of the president's statements. There are other news organizations doing that.

Did you have any idea when you were assigned to cover the Trump White House that you would be doing something like this?
·         Daniel Dale (Toronto Star bureau chief):
So, I started this in September 2016, two months before the election, because he was just being so incessantly dishonest then as well, that I thought that there needed to be a way to focus attention on this, separate from the day-to-day news coverage that I was doing.
And then, like many people, I erroneously thought that Hillary Clinton would win the election, and that I would be freed from this task. Of course, the president surprised many of us and won.
And I thought his dishonesty continues to be a central feature of his rhetoric. And so, therefore, I had to continue as long as he's in office.

There is something almost quaint after almost two years about the thought that a lying president might be worthy of news coverage. At least in the United Nations there was a grown up in the room who laughed when the president of the United States made his assertions.

And here I sit -- dumbass liberal that I am -- still wondering and whining about how it can be that Trump supporters are routinely unwilling to consider the propositions Trump hosts and they stand behind. And the money-starved media fall dutifully into lock-step, covering and thus further elevating this Big Daddy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

stop and frisk

Joe, my good-natured and decent-hearted-Christian neighbor from across the street, recently returned from a trip to Europe, largely in Italy. He came back with a bit of a tan that contrasts nicely with his full head of white hair and white beard that flows downward over part of his throat. Joe is 5'6" to 5'8" at a guess and has a pot belly that allows kids to imagine he is Santa Claus. He loves that. He's in his early 70's, and shuffles a bit from the elements of aging that the two of us occasionally bemoan together.

"Did I tell you what they did to me in London?" he asked this morning. Not that I recall, I replied. Well, what happened was that he was taken out of the airport line, asked to strip to his skivvies and then asked to remove his "trainers," which, as it turned out, referred to his sneakers or running shoes. The difficulty lay, as it seemed, in the fact that his passport showed him without a beard and the beard now clearly on his face was ... well ... apparently suspect. And he was sort of tan.

Joe the bomber ... my neighbor.

Joe told his tale while laughing. A more unlikely 'terrorist' you couldn't pick ... which was why, of course, he was picked. You just can't tell, can you? Kindly old men are the perfect cover for dread 'terrorists' who provide fodder for a lot of police state jobs.

Needless to say, the authorities looked him up one side and down the other and he did, eventually, make it home. He and I had grown up in another era. But that era is not this one. We agreed that our scare-'em-silly president will deploy troops to the Mexican border to ward off the mass migration from central-American countries the U.S. helped destabilize ... make more dangerous ... and prompt a flight away from the violence.

Last night, on public television news, a commentator noted that after two years in office, Donald Trump's approval ratings are almost exactly as the same as they were when he won the presidential election in 2016. Men, women and whoever else feels left out of the gravy train still lean towards his brash, racist agenda. And Trump is doubling down on that plurality as the mid-term elections near -- traveling to parts of the country to stump for those who voted for him in the past... betting that the magic is still there.

I am afraid he is right.

In the then-Communist U.S.S.R., a young fellow once told me in 1968 that a lot of Russians favored a strong (dictator strong) leader. Look at Stalin, he said. Even an insane daddy is still a daddy.

In the meantime:
A white woman accosted a family speaking Spanish at a Virginia restaurant, demanding they show their passports and shouting vulgarities in the latest incident of anti-immigrant sentiment to go viral on video.
The incident, which comes as Donald Trump has injected a stream of invective against immigrants into the midterm election campaign, happened at Andy’s restaurant in Lovettsville, Virginia, on Friday.
The video, obtained by Telemundo 44, shows a sunglasses-wearing white woman wagging her finger and shouting at the family to “show your passport” and “go back to your fucking country.”
When it comes to beards, I've got to say I feel uncomfortable. But I don't mean it by race. If I cannot see a person's -- any person's -- face, I feel short-changed. It feels like brinksmanship and I really don't want to play. It's like people with aviator sun glasses -- kool cops, that kind of thing -- who fail to take them off when addressing me. How do I go about trusting anyone whose first implicit presentation is one of hiding and one-upsman-ship?

The simplest explanations are not always the best, but oftentimes they'll do. And in that regard, I will stick with the Somali security officer who observed when addressing the pirates who targeted oil tankers off his shores, "If you do not share your wealth we us, we will share our poverty with you."

who's your daddy, Donald

NEW YORK (AP) — He's booked hotel rooms and meeting spaces to them, sold an entire floor in one of his buildings to them and, in desperate moments in his career, gotten a billionaire from the country to buy his yacht and New York's Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park.

President Donald Trump's ties to Saudi Arabia run long and deep, and he's often boasted about his business ties with the kingdom.
Now those ties are under scrutiny as the president faces calls for a tougher response to the kingdom's government following the disappearance, and possible killing, of one of its biggest critics, journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi.
"The Saudis are funneling money to him," said former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub, who is advising a watchdog group suing Trump for foreign government ties to his business. That undermines "confidence that he's going to do the right thing when it comes to Khashoggi."
In the Constitution, the word "emolument" is a fifty-cent word for what dime-based guttersnipes like me call a "bribe."
Unless you were paying very close attention, you may not have seen that Trump’s legal difficulties worsened considerably while the eyes of the nation were on his embattled Supreme Court nominee.
For the longest time Donald Trump has been flagrantly flouting the Constitutional proscription on taking gifts from foreign governments in exchange for services rendered.  He knew that maintaining direct control of his business empire while serving as President would subject him to potential impeachment proceedings, which is why he promised to put all of his holdings into a blind trust managed by his family.  He, of course, did not do that and instead brought his daughter and son-in-law into the highest levels of the government. He simply made the bet that Democrats and the law itself would never be able to hold him accountable for it.
The biggest challenge in bringing a suit over emoluments (outside of impeachment which is a political function) is that of “standing.”  Is there any entity that can prove it is sufficiently directly harmed by Trump’s behavior to bring a civil suit?  That question has been open for the better part of two years now.
Yesterday [Sept. 28, 2018], that obstacle was blown to bits: 
A federal judge has ruled that 200 Democratic members of Congress have legal standing to sue President Donald Trump for allegedly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments while in office.
The emoluments clause bars presidents from accepting gifts from foreign and domestic interests without consent from Congress.
 A president of the United States points out in the presence of a benefactor some of the 'benefactions' (above photo)... and he even does it in front of the camera .... with pictures ... and the benefactor feels himself secure enough to let this guy with a wig talk up a storm. Who's your daddy, Donald?

Don't get me wrong -- I appreciate the $40 annual pay rise for those of us receiving Social Security. It ain't exactly the tax cuts for the wealthy that it might yet be walked back to fund, but it's a whiff of the green ... not a taste, but a whiff. And I surely am grateful to all the upstanding virtue mongers who were so notably slow to call out the emoluments they themselves might yet get. Don't worry, guys and gals, the Saudis have something like $1.4 trillion in to buy out those who feel they have been overlooked.

Monday, October 22, 2018

migration wave boosts Trump agenda?

What a boon for the forgiving and frantic Trump supporters -- as a thousands-strong caravan of Central American migrants make their way to the U.S. border even as the mid-term elections near and Trump's promise of a wall along the border remains in limbo. The migrants are largely brown people, poor people, and they're out to suck America's wealth dry ... dontcha know. We don't do poverty (except we do) and we don't do brown, right guys? Forget about the Irish. Forget about the Italians. The Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Russians, Poles ....
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Monday he has told the U.S. military and border authorities that a migrant caravan heading toward the United States from Central America represented a national emergency, as he vowed to cut aid to the region.
“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” Trump wrote in a series of posts on Twitter.
Since Trump became president last year, the United States has already moved to sharply decrease aid to Central America....
“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States,” Trump wrote in a tweet, adding: “I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy [sic].” 
A 19th-century federal law restricts using the Army and other main branches of the military for civilian law enforcement on American soil, unless specifically authorized by Congress. But the military can provide support services to law enforcement and has done so on occasion since the 1980s....
Later in April, Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis authorized up to 4,000 National Guard personnel to help the Department of Homeland Security secure the border if four Southwestern U.S. states.
Some specific statutes authorize the president to deploy troops within the United States for riot control or relief efforts after natural disasters.
The mass migration appears to have been fomented by U.S. actions in Central America, but who among Trump supporters will scratch that surface? You can almost hear the support rising: "You see? If we had built the wall, none of this would have happened."

It's another wonderful case of misdirection -- don't worry that the jobs, to the extent there are any, being created, are low-wage jobs; don't worry that the president of the United States brags that the Saudis who probably murdered a columnist in Istanbul have personally propped up his fiefdom; don't worry ... look over here ... I told you we should build a wall against this impending flood... which we, it seems, enabled.

And call out the army.

While Congress sits on its hands.

Trump fires up his base with the help of people fleeing the insecurity and violence fired up by the country he is more than willing to sell out.

Drain and re-people the swamp seems a likely avenue of attack ... sort of like the repeal-and-replace health agenda Republicans once promised during the 2016 presidential race.

Call out the military to avert an emergency ... sort of like the early 1900's and 1930's when cops and soldiers were called out to quell the coalescing workers outside the socio/industrial gates... precursors to the "too-big-to-fail" agenda.

In Australia,
SYDNEY (AP) — Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a formal apology Monday to Australia’s victims of child sex abuse, saying the nation must acknowledge their long, painful journey and its failure to protect them.
Morrison’s emotional speech given in Parliament before hundreds of survivors followed the conclusion of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the nations’ highest level of inquiry.
Owning up to errors may not lessen the vileness of the past, but at least there is some decency in it. I suppose I can wish till I'm blue in the face before I see a similar decency and ownership in my own country ... whether it be church-oriented or migration plea.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Trump pays back his Saudi handlers

Khan al-Ahmar
In the midst of Donald Trump's apparent efforts to soften and deflect the murder allegations against its monied ally Saudi Arabia (columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashogghi entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul Oct. 2 and never came out ... not to mention how many millions Saudis have funneled to Trump personally), there have been mentions of Trump's cozy reversals on behalf of other various dictators and dictator-wannabes -- Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un among others.

Trump claims to love these guys and is sure he can make a deal with them -- him being the deal-maker who said there would be thousands of good-paying coal mining jobs if he became president. Saudi Arabia has placed arms purchases ($110 billion's* worth with more to to come) in the U.S. that stand to benefit those for whom Trump's tax bill was passed. One man, millions and millions in arms sales ... just do the math, which is Trump's ruler when measuring rule. Hell, what's one guy? A little dictatorship never hurt anyone. Just ask Donald Trump.

Putin's a pal.
Kim Jong Un is a pal.
Oh, and by the way, Benjamin Netanyahu is a pal.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Sunday it would put on hold for “a number of weeks” its threatened razing of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank amid international calls to drop the plan, saying it would try to negotiate an evacuation....
The European Union and the United Nations have urged Israel to abandon the plan to demolish Khan al-Ahmar and relocate its 180 residents to an area about 12 km (seven miles) away next to a landfill in the West Bank.
Foreign pressure was ramped up on Wednesday when the International Criminal Court prosecutor said in a statement about Khan al-Ahmar that population transfers in occupied territory constitute war crimes. Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war.
How 'reasonable' this ally seems to be -- after due consideration that can hardly match the 3x1 kill ratio Israel holds over Palestinian and other heads at the behest of ultra-right-wing Jews and a political corruption investigation nipping at his wife's heels. Netanyahu is Trump's kind of guy. Get in trouble, find some wiggle room, deny you did anything and bask in the applause of those who feel angry and endangered or marginalized.

OK, the Israelis will not relocate homeowners to a place closer to a landfill. The Israelis said this on Sunday (today) according to Reuters.

Also on the same Sunday ...

The very same Sunday
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin praised investment opportunities in Israel on Sunday and said Washington would increase its participation in infrastructure projects there....
“We are going to make sure we do more infrastructure investments here,” [Mnuchin] added, without elaborating, in remarks alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Why does this all feel a bit like the black-widow wife who, upon 'finding' her rich dead husband in a pool of blood on the floor, places her first call to her lawyer to assure that her pre-nuptial agreement is up to date?

A patch of land is about to become available -- count on the 'reasonable' Israeli government for that. The current residents of the land 'inexplicably' would prefer to live closer to a landfill. There's Saudi money to assure construction if needed. What could be more of a win-win situation?

*   PS. As a small addendum to U.S. arms sales and slavering before the Saudi millions:
"President Trump's claims about the economic benefits of arms sales to Saudi Arabia are greatly exaggerated.  Signed commitments so far are around $14 billion, a small fraction of the $110 billion "deal" he claims to have struck.  In fact, the $110 billion figure is largely a wish list, composed of deals made under Obama, a few new sales, and a long list of prospective deals that may never materialize. And deals that are made will play out over many years, limiting jobs impact in any given year substantially.

The biggest potential beneficiaries of the U.S.-Saudi arms trade are the nation's largest weapons makers -- Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. But these sales may be better at generating profits than promoting jobs, as Persian Gulf states increasingly demand employment and technology transfer as a condition of buying U.S. systems." -- William Hartung
PPS. I feel that my mind is now so weak that an apology is necessary to any who sift the sands hereabouts. I simply haven't the energy or acuity to string the beads on the necklaces I might like to make. Donald Trump is a sorrow to my country. An enraging sorrow, much like the enraging sorrow Trump tapped into when running for president. Since he knows no sorrow, the sorrow is entirely mine. Pushing uphill against such an immoral bully ..... Mediocrity seeps in under the door like smoke in a house fire and the losses mount up, as I see it.

I wish I could say it better.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

John Oliver on Saudi murder

Not his best, but here is late-night-host John Oliver's take on Donald Trump covering up traces of the Saudi (probable) murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Kashoggi

Commenting on the Public Broadcast System last night, NYTimes columnist David Brooks wondered whether the Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections next month should not lean a little less on health care as an issue and more on the norms being whittled away in the United States:

I think there is something to be said for Brooks' plea, but sympathize with politicians who cannot frame it in a way that will hit home as clearly as health care. "Decency" and "norms" -- how do you make that seem important when one man's death at the hands of autocracy (in exchange for arms deals for American companies and real estate deals for the president) is somehow acceptable. It may be an abomination, but so many abominations depend on those viewing the blood bath ... oh, and did I mention the longing to get re-elected?

enhanced by association

Sitting beneath the trees on a sun-dappled terrace, there were only two couples as I recall it -- my mother and I, and an older man with a woman a couple of tables away. The terrace let on to a steep decline that flowed into the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea below. Even at 11, I had a sense that it was very beautiful.

And as we sat sipping on something to wet our whistles, my mother indicated the man and woman at the other engaged table and encouraged me to go over and ask the man for his autograph. That was Walt Disney, she told me, the man behind many of the comic books and movies I enjoyed at the time. And I wouldn't do it. Why should I? What purpose would it serve? I didn't like the idea of importuning an adult I did not know for some result I could see no purpose in. My mother, no doubt, saw the kool in it. I saw nothing but embarrassment. I liked the results that Walt Disney produced, but those results were just the results and a signature would not improve them ... or me either. Also, I was shy.

What did I know of the ways of the world -- its heroes and heroines, creators and creativity? Even today, I sympathize with the child in that Italian cafe. The idea of puffing out my chest because once I had crossed paths with someone famous .... well, the acronym did not exist then, but WTF?

Some time later, when the world-renowned violinist Yehudi Menhuin played for a school assembly at the boarding school I attended, I got several signatures from him by the simple means of asking his son, whom I then considered a best friend, to get them for me. The signatures did not seem to improve the music which the school assembly sat dutifully still for ... but what the heck, he was Krov's dad, my friend's dad, so I sat through the violin-ing, however famous. I can remember not liking the music much and I have no clue what ever happened to the signatures.

Fame by association. What a peculiar idea.

Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut and I suppose there were others: Did brushing up against any of them make my pecker longer, my persona more magnetic, my step more assured, my wallet more full? Did I get more of the girls I once pined for so piteously as a teenager? "If you've got it, flaunt it!" -- but flaunt what, precisely? Could I really love myself better based on some tenuous proximity?

Yes, there was the stink of privilege, I suppose, but to what end? Most of the famous and privileged people whose orbit I briefly entered seemed about as blessed or cursed as the rest of us. Were they not living examples of "be careful what you pray for ... not because you may get it but because you will?" They seemed to fill the bill for the German dictionary I would later own -- Wildhagen -- which translated the phrase "unrasiert und fern der Heimat" (literally, "unshaved and far from home") as meaning, in slang, "fucked and far from home."

Maybe there would be some benefit from knowing a criminal, but that has its obligations and down-sides as well. I had and have no desire either to stuff someone in a car trunk or to ask an acquaintance to do it for me. Still, I suppose it would be nice to have a tough and toughened friend. Would Donald Trump fit in a car trunk? With or without his toupee?

Ah well ... idle thoughts.

Friday, October 19, 2018

if you won the billion-dollar lottery

What would you do with $1 billion? Nobody "needs" a billion dollars. It is an obscene amount of money and yet it is hard not to get swept up in tonight's drawing in the American lottery "Mega Millions."
(Reuters) - The U.S. Mega Millions lottery reached nearly $1 billion on Friday, the day of the drawing of what is now the second-largest lottery in U.S. history....The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 302,575,350.
But what-if, what-if, what-if ....

I wonder if, assuming I won, I could offer it to Donald Trump in return for his leaving office now, today, no Tweets allowed. He is a man who clearly thinks in terms of money, so ... I wonder if he'd do it... move to Madagascar or something.

Yes, I will buy a couple of tickets: An occasionally-obscene possibility is not to be sniffed at.

untended deaths in Japan

A fragmenting Japan ... or so it seems. If fewer people buy into an obligatory veneration of the dead, spiritual institutions which help inter the remains will see a dip in income ... and so the dominoes tumble?
YOKOSUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Unclaimed urns containing ashes of the dead are piling up by the thousands across Japan, creating storage headaches and reflecting fraying family ties and economic pressures in a rapidly aging nation.
Isn't Japan one of those places that venerates its "ancestors?" What came before is precursor to what will come later? The "then" of the past ... the "then" of the future? And there is money to be spent in between.

Tradition carries the load, but when the energy to shoulder the load dwindles, then what? The waves of tradition rise up and the waves of tradition fall away. I suppose everyone would like to think there is meaning in a life thus-spent, but can anyone really know that meaning and thereby honor it?

Flowers in the spring, stubble by the fall.

Who will capture that beauty?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

"childhood home"

I asked my younger son yesterday if he'd like to hold onto this house after my death. "Yeah," he replied tersely, "it's my childhood home." From there I went on to encourage him, if this were really his wish, to keep an eye on things -- bushes, structures etc. -- to make sure they didn't wear out and collapse.

A "childhood home." What does that mean? I guess it means a place in which the circumstances felt more or less safe and stable. I never had such a thing, so I rolled it around in my mind. How nice it would be to feel safe. Not go hungry. Supported to the extent possible. A part and parcel with the surroundings. And perhaps feel entitled and as if nothing really had to be done in order that such a safety net might remain in place.

Is a childhood home, ipso facto, another version of Santa Claus -- a fairy with a magic wand? What kid would feel otherwise since this waxing being is a blank slate on which habits and rules were written?

A childhood home.

Hey Donald! Cover me, will you?!

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Currently, there is news-column anxiety over the fate of Washington Post columnist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, a Saudi-born journalist who has been a liberal thorn in Saudi Arabia's conservative side. Khashoggi entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul two weeks ago in pursuit of documents for his planned wedding. He never came out and in the between times, two jet planes disgorged apparent Saudis who included a forensic pathologist. The Turks allege there is a video of Kashoggi's murder and dismemberment inside the Saudi consulate.
A Turkish official told CNN on Tuesday that Khashoggi's body was cut into pieces after he was killed two weeks ago at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The claim, which was first made to the New York Times earlier in the investigation into Khashoggi's fate, comes after Turkish officials searched the consulate for nine hours on Monday night. The Turkish official would not comment on the disposal method for the body.
U.S. President Donald Trump has soft-balled the heated suspicions surrounding Kashoggi's disappearance. A tape of the murder "if it exists" would be welcome, Trump has said without much fervor.

Are there reasons to go easy on the minor matter of dismembering a single American when so much history and so much of the future hangs in the balance? A $110 billion arms deal? The purchase or propping up of Trump-linked properties at a time of financial distress?

  • President Donald Trump tweeted that he had "no financial interests in Saudi Arabia" after criticism for his response to the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • The Trump Organization does not have any buildings in Saudi Arabia, but his businesses have accepted large amounts of money from the Saudi government.
  • For instance, Trump's hotel in New York City saw a huge financial boost from the visit of Saudi crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in early 2018.
  • Additionally, Trump has had ties to Saudi investors for over two decades.

The whole things reminds me of the expression on George W. Bush's face when he was allegedly informed of the World Trade towers demolition ... he was reading a book to a grades school class when an aide bent over and whispered something. His face remained unemotional as if, perhaps, it were old news.

With Trump, everybody pays, everybody plays .... And the collateral damage? A little collateral damage is to be expected where the deals get sweeter and sweeter.

PS. The Saudi royal family wealth is guesstimated at $1.4 trillion. Donald Trump has got to be chump change in their bookkeeping annals. Still the U.S. makes most of the guns and other armaments and loves those right-wing Israelis ... best to keep them on the payroll.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

maybe it takes a witch to stymie a warlock

Oh my aching Aunt Fannie!

Things have gotten so fractured and frustrated that 'witches' have been called to the rescue.
A coven of witches will gather in an occult bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday to place a hex on supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh. Tickets to the event, which cost $10, with half the proceeds going to women’s and LGBT charities, have already sold out.
The event is not out of the ordinary for Catland Books, which describes itself as “Brooklyn’s premier metaphysical boutique and event space”. They have previously held ceremonies to hex Donald Trump as well as a “hex your ex” ceremony on Valentine’s Day....
Bracciale says that the store also organises more traditional protests and voter registration drives, but using the language of occult has been more effective in riling up their opponents. “It strikes fear into the heart of Christian fundamentalists. That’s one of the reasons that we do it. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. We don’t subscribe to this bullshit, pacifist, love and light, everybody just get along thing. If you want to hijack the country, if you want to steal the election, if you want to overturn Roe v Wade, if you want to harm people who are queer, well guess what, we’re not doing civility. If you’re going to be these awful bullies, you have to understand someone is going to punch you back and it might as well be a bunch of witches from Brooklyn.”
Sure, it's probably the money, but the notion that things require witch-ery feels also as if a sense of desperation and fury has devolved into the Brothers Grimm. If you could pay ten bucks and find an outlet for a reaching sense of malaise, would you take it? I'm not sure that I would. On the other hand, I'm not sure I wouldn't.

Monday, October 15, 2018

meanwhile, back in the realm of politics

I guess I must be in a 'political' frame of mind this morning: Read a Guardian article about creating political billboards here in the U.S. and actually made a donation to the project. I seldom if ever donate to political causes, but the article's hum got under my intellectual kool.

Coincidentally (after I had made my old-retired-fart's donation) I did send in the encouragement that popped up in my mind a while back:


What individuals think does not impress me as much as that they think ... or anyway I think so.

"The Republican Club"

There's art and then there's art: Passed along in email today was this -- "The Republican Club:"
President Donald Trump liked a painting of him having drinks with Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon and Teddy Roosevelt so much that he called the artist on the phone and then put a print of it in the White House.
It seems to me that the gathering deserves some sort of cut line. Make up your own. Mine is along the lines of, "Why are these men smiling? Someone just mentioned tax breaks and trickle-down economics in the same sentence with "democracy.""

It's not quite fair, obviously, but this is not an era of fairness.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

so ... where does it all go?

Sometimes I wonder, but not too hard, where it all goes. All that experience or lack of experience. I'm not prone to imagining that my life was so noteworthy as to warrant a heaven, much less be deserving enough for hell, but where does all that jigsaw puzzle stuff of experience go in the post-facto-ness of things?

Up? Down? Sidewise? Does it somersault?
Is it ironed and folded and placed on some meticulous linen shelf?
That seems improbable ... and messy, come to that.

Sometimes I imagine taking a slip-sliding step backwards into a previously-overlooked declivity in the walls I once plastered and anointed ... just back up and disappear... and find it's just the tails on the heads of a coin I have played with all this time. Where does it go? Does it get recycled? Is it recyclable? Does it get a respite or does it turn instantaneously into yet another Pepsi bottle?

There are people with answers to questions like this, but I haven't got 'em.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

making flour

I never did learn how to make flour -- what is harvested, what ground, what thrown away. Somehow that thought was waiting to greet me when I woke up this morning. Somehow it made me feel that my education was lacking in an important aspect. Making flour. Even after looking it up, I am stung, somehow, by what I don't know. Perhaps advancing age and/or a sense of things slipping away into a nobles-and-surfs domain had something to do with it.

Yesterday was my daughter's 31st birthday. How, for heaven's sake, did that happen? My 'favorite'/only daughter came by and this morning planned to meet with my wife at a casino that opened not long ago in Springfield to the south. A casino -- another way to siphon of money the surfs might otherwise have had. No need to raise "taxes," a word no politician is willing to whisper, even when necessary.

For the last couple of days, the press has been awash in alarums about a journalist (Jamal Khashoggi) who entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul and never came back out ... and the story seems to be that his writing had pissed off the Saudi hierarchy, who allegedly killed the man and dismembered his body inside the embassy. Human rights people are alarmed that journalistic criticism is under attack by autocrats (the Saudis in this case) who, as it turns out, have something like $110 billion in arms contracts with, who else, the U.S. Donald Trump has said he will get to the bottom of the case and if the stories are true, the U.S. reaction will be "severe punishment." As a canny aside, Trump mentions that Khashoggi is not an American citizen. I have a hunch that "severe punishment" means that the U.S. will wait a couple of weeks, let the audacity and cruelty wane from the headlines, and then press on with the business at which the U.S. is best. One casualty/$110 billion in arms sales... you do the math... the kind of math that is bolstered by the bailouts and red carpets Saudis have unfurled for, who else, Donald Trump.

A grey and rainy day. I think it may be a good day to make some flour ....

Friday, October 12, 2018

repositioning the stuff

Matt, the son of my across-the-street-neighbor Joe, came over this morning and used his good muscles to transport various boxes that had belonged to my mother before she died out to the zendo, now turned into a storage shed. Matt had the energy. I had some money. The boxes had sat in a corner, waiting to be attended to, for a couple of years. Now they are out of sight. I'm sure there is something important within, but these days I haven't got much energy even for the 'important.'

Perhaps future generations will, at birth, receive a tack-on bit of DNA that reads, "if you're going to add something to the household, find something to discard." Ours is a small house with little closet space and much of what openness there is has stuff in it. Just the stuff that comes with three kids, school projects, and a passel of half-hunches that "we ought to save that."

Stuff. Once I was quite a stuff guy. Now I'm not so much any more. But things seem to work out more or less: The stuff that was once a zendo is now a perfectly good storage space. My wife and kids are pack rats, a bit. Their first inclination when something breaks is to get another one. My first question is, can I fix it and if so, is it worth fixing?

Different strokes for different folks.

Fox News trims Trump fawning

Fox News, a staunch agitation-and-propaganda link in Donald Trump's "fake news" onslaught, has decided to trim its interruption of other programming when the president holds a political rally.
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel has recently pulled back from airing President Donald Trump’s campaign-style rallies during prime time, a move that could put a crimp in Republican efforts to reach voters in the weeks before midterm elections.
During much of the late summer, Fox would pre-empt its lucrative nightly lineup of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham in order to air the rallies. None of its rivals did so. It was an important platform for the president and his supporters, since Fox’s opinionated hosts are generally their first choice for political coverage.
Once it might have been thought that a news outlet would target the informing of the electorate. Now, it seems that the luster is waning from the liar-in-chief. When even his most obvious supporters pull back from the focal point of today's waxing oligarchy, what's a poor president to do?

Depressing, depressing-er, depressing-est.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

the right to be an idiot

As a powerful hurricane dubbed "Michael" attacked the panhandle of Florida today, rescue workers could only watch and pray with the rest of the population. Residents had been warned. Some heeded the warning. Others did not, prompting Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson to observe via his Twitter account on the internet:
While it might be their constitutional right to be an idiot, it’s not their right to endanger everyone else! (boldface added).
Two days ago, the newspaper USA Today ran what is being described as an oped piece by President Donald Trump. A Washington Post fact checker observed that almost every sentence in the piece was guilty of either misrepresentation of facts or bald-faced lies.

Perhaps it is time to add the sheriff's observation to the U.S. Constitution.

where maps don't work

In these fractious times, it may be only fitting that the British Library should publish a book of maps whose beauty is admired but whose accuracy was not, uh, very authentic. Eg.:
The maps of the past, often used as touchstones of human agreements and presumptions seem to be going awry. What can any longer be agreed? What is actually known and agreed to? Europe slides sideways as Great Britain votes itself out of the European Union. China bides its time as the second greatest economy after the United States. And the United States seems to fly apart like a watermelon under the stage-set sledge hammer of the performer Gallagher.

At the United Nations recently, even Donald Trump seemed taken aback when someone in the General Assembly laughed at what he was boasting about.

What can be agreed to? Maps then do not map now. Trump's map, my map, your map. As a comedian might say, "you can't make this shit up." Only of course you can. In fact, in the face of disintegration, it is what is required. Make it up. Make up Ireland. Make up the maps from here to there. It's all terra incognita and Trump's fragmentation of the United States is working. Facts don't count on this map. Only what individuals make up and believe and applaud.

And don't call it "stupid." Nine of the presidents of the U.S. lacked a college degree (if that can be called a marker of intelligence) ... which is not to say they lacked vision. Harry Truman was the last. But Harry Truman had been to war. Harry Truman did his homework. Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk: "The buck stops here." Donald Trump has no plaque, but he does have a college degree. He is capable of taking children from their parents, of rousing up antipathies, of picking on but not improving health care, and of making sure tax breaks are permanent for the well-to-do but only good for a couple of years for the so-called middle class.

Facts don't count. Feelings do.

One of the maps that used to work pretty well was the one pointing out that everyone, bar none, is stupid in one way or another. The smart, the stupid, the college degree and the lack thereof, the wealthy and the poor ... everyone's got a streak of stupid and, in some cases, is not afraid to use it. Everyone has a stopping point -- a point beyond which they haven't the energy to go, an over-arching umbrella of protection and surrender. Whatever it is, it's as good as it gets for the moment -- maybe it's God, for example. It may be flawed, but it's the best flawed thing I can summon.
Donald Trump is a “good moral person” and an example to the nation, according to one of the most prominent evangelical Christians in the US.
Jerry Falwell, who is credited along with other evangelical leaders with delivering a huge Christian vote for Trump in 2016, said he had “no doubts, no hesitations” about supporting the president. “He is like Ronald Reagan on steroids.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Falwell also described the Democrats as fascists and “Brownshirts”, and said the US would be engaged in civil war if this was the 18th century rather than the 21st century.
And that's not to mention "The Trump Prophecy," a low-profile film an assessment of which was passed along in email the other day. The stronger and richer the person, the closer to God. This is not as insane as it sounds: Around the world, the strong leader is a beacon and a relief. God favors the wealthy ... anybody knows that.

Yesterday, I was talking with a nurse about a local ballot question that seeks to limit the number of patients hospital nurses would be allowed to care for. What did she think? And she said she had mixed feelings ... anytime something gets improved here, it tends to get tangled up there ... like a kitten in a ball of twine. Reduced patient levels would probably lead to higher costs (as detractors claim), but something must be off-kilter if nurses got it onto a ballot.

A map might be handy, but terra incognita looms. No one knows what the future holds (remember the stupid part) and pretending the future can be known is pretty damned stupid .... however much anyone might wish it.

Fractious, fractured times. Healing and poverty and mercy and kindness are all possibilities ... just like their shadow-shadow-shadows.