When fire arrives

When fire arrives

Before this week, we knew a thing or two about fire. We’ve lived in the west for more than twenty years. We’d felt the hot breath of the Santa Ana winds, predictably whipping through our section of California in autumn, the devil winds that added a sixth season to the calendar: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fiesta, and Fire. Some years the dry downslope wind was just a sand blasting hurricane, tearing leaves from trees and trees from their roots.  A mess and scary.  In the Sierras, a Santa Anna roared through Mammoth at more than 175 miles per hour.  As the region experienced year after year of drought or near-drought and the temperatures rose to hellish extremes, the winds were almost certain to fan flames, as they did in the terrible Camp Fire in northern California, just below our new home in southern Oregon.  

And, I’d long been transfixed by reporter Timothy Egan’s account of the Big Burn, also known as the Devil’s Broom and the Big Blow Up, a conflagration that torched more than a million acres in Montana, Idaho, Washington,and British Columbia.  That fire in 1910 played a significant part in the development of the US Forest Service and the National Park System.  I even used the book in a class offered through our local university, inviting regional experts on wildfire to add perspective to our conversations.  

All of this was very interesting and of absolutely no use when a hot dry wind swept through our valley overnight, leaving debris widely scattered, and carrying a wall of fire lashed by the winds, gorging on dust-dry vegetation, creating its own microclimate and pushing wind speed to even greater extremes up the Greenway, an overgrown trail running through Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, and Medford, .

We irrigate our pasture and dog agility field on Tuesdays, dragging pods to every corner the hoses can reach, hoping to keep the fields alive.  I’d been messing with hoses, picking up tree limbs scattered during the night, and trying to get ahead of the plums and pears falling untended from the few fruit bearing trees on our property when the air around us changed.  We’d been working in the heat every day for weeks, but had never felt everything but heat drop away.  The sky in three directions was deeper than blue, a cerulean blanket so thick that it seemed artificial.  On the eastern side, grey and black plumes of smoke stood still for moments then bowed and sprang like the ubiquitous inflatable man, growing fatter, and taller.  The air grew heavier still, and we heard the thrum of fire in full flight, followed by a hollow boom that came as flame found the 76 Gas Station about two miles from our home.

It was in the next ten minutes that everything I thought I knew about living with fire proved to be wishful thinking, a pleasant but absurd fantasy. We shoved the dogs in the car, grabbed leashes and kibble, whatever clothing was immediately at hand, razor, deodorant, toothbrushes, and with perhaps two minutes to spare, grabbed the computers, the case of important documents, a few photos from the wall, one photo album, and my Martin New Yorker parlor guitar.  

I stood in the middle of the living room surrounded by things I treasured, many of which were connected to people I love.  No time to say goodbye or thanks.  No time for regret.

I don’t know why I thought fire would announce itself, give fair warning, and take its time moving through a valley. It doesn’t and it didn’t. I don’t know why I thought we were ahead of schedule in leaving before evacuation warnings had been delivered. Within minutes of leaving our driveway, we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic facing bumper-to-bumper traffic heading the other way. Had we waited even five minutes longer, many of the roads away from the fire would have been closed or blocked.

The Egan book is terrific, and the account of the fire of 1910 is told with immediacy and power.  In teaching an adult-ed class, using the book as the primary text, we talked about fire as an essential and natural part of the environment in the west.  We townspeople argued that it had been folly to encourage incursion and extensive buiding into the wilderness in which fire was bound to occur.  Million acre fires happen in forests.  

As I write this piece, more than a million acres in Oregon have burned, and fire still rages across the state.  Our home is safe, so far, and we were able to evacuate without injury.  We are among the 500,000 people who have been evacuated in the last week, many of whom were barely getting by and now have lost what little they had.  

In the three minutes since I began the last paragraph, we have been advised that the fire has changed course. We thought we were moving on to clean-up and restoration.

We thought we knew something about fire.

GOP Platform

GOP Platform

The Republican Party has opted not to present a platform this time around, which would seem a serious tactical error in any other season, but in this curious chapter of the nation’s history is not even a blip on the screen.

 “Platform?  We don’t need no stinkin’ Platform!”

And, in fact, they don’t.  

The Democratic Party does have a platform with all the usual pie-in-the-sky, socialistic, crime inspiring, nation crushing blather about protecting Americans from Covid-19, building a stronger and fairer economy, achieving universal health care, reforming the criminal justice system, combating the climate crisis, creating a 21st Century immigration system, providing quality education to every zip code, renewing America’s leadership in global affairs, and healing the soul of the nation.  Not in the actual platform, but pretty much a given among most Democrats is the expectation that the party still believes in science, the First Amendment (and it may have to be said, the entire Constitution), adherence to the laws of the land, and not colluding with foreign powers for personal or political gain, and in governing the Republic.

 Apparently just not very interesting.

The wrinkle, perhaps, is that when one candidate holds nothing back in promoting himself as a strong man willing to eat those who fail to knuckle under, the other candidate, acting with moderation and the sort of composure we used to expect from those who spend a lifetime in pubic service, is made out to be sleepy.  It’s a tough sell. We like bright shiny things, sparkle, glitter and tinsel. Fireworks. Oh, and train wrecks. 

So, just to level the playing field, here are five unstated policy initiatives that flamed between the lines at the RNC Convention.

  1.  The formal establishment of the Trump family dynasty begins with reelection in 2020, the repealing of the 22nd Amendment (sets term limits for the presidency), and coronation at the end of the fourth term, at which point, Trump will be 86 and still the most physically fit president of all time.
  2. New Cabinet departments acting in the executive branch of government will include Director of Media Punishment, Director of Hotel and Resort Reservations, Director of Athlete Behavior, Director of Hair and Makeup, and Wall Czar.
  3. The creation of a National Task Force on the use of Cleaning Products as alternative to universal health care.
  4.  Creation of National Bureaus of Anarchist Investigation (NBAI), Bad People Investigation(NBBPI), and Democrats Eating Babies Investigation (NBDEBI).
  5. Federal mandate against the term “Climate Change” and conscription of Smokey Bear and Woodsy the Owl in campaign to end climactic speculation. The lyrics of “The Ballad of Woodsy Owl” will have to change of course, but the crack team of presidential advisors is already hard at work on revision- the current and proposed versions are presented below:

“Smokey Bear has got a pal who is always on the prowl

Woodsy is his name, you know.

he’s the anti-pollution owl.”

To be replaced by:

“Smokey Bear is mining coal

to beat those solar blues

and Woodsy’s brand new pipeline

goes right through Santa Cruz.

Even the most thoughtfully crafted party platforms tend to get lost in the frenzy of the first months following an election, but in this case, the unarticulated may have more punch.  Actions carry considerable force in an era of alternate facts, ok, alternate realities.  Let’s just wait and see.

New Trump pandemic advisor pushes controversial “Herd Immunity”

New Trump pandemic advisor pushes controversial “Herd Immunity”

Round ‘Em Up, Knock ‘Em Off

The advisor is Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist … ok, let’s pause right there.  The choice of pandemic advisor might include an epidemiologist, which is to say, an expert in the study of epidemics.  Mais non, mon ami.  Atlas is one of the Hoover Institution conservatives who thinks the business of America is business and that getting on with post-pandemic life is a hurry-up proposition.  There are some interesting observations a neuroradiologist could make after seeing Coronavirus survivors, as we’ll see in a moment, but that does not seem to be part of Dr. Atlas’ expertise.

The premise is that the best way to calm a pandemic is to let people get sick, develop immunity, and allow a return to normal (economic) life. 

One obvious caveat is that infected people would have to survive.  The proponents of herding admit that there would be loss of life, manageable, they argue, if we keep an eye on vulnerable people.  I’m no epidemiologist, or neuroradiologist for that matter, but most of the folks who have spent time looking into the Covid-19 pandemic seem to be saying that we have no real idea how this thing works, who it targets, or what the likelihood is of re-infection.

Which is to say, while we are aware that those particularly susceptible to any contagion are at risk, we actually don’t know who is vulnerable.  Grandparents?  Grandchildren?

Ah well.

Today’s cautionary note arrives after having seen CNN’s Chris Cuomo interview a “Long Hauler” like himself, a young woman who is struggling with lingering issues following survival of Coronavirus. Cuomo was quick to identify himself as fortunate to have survived, but like his guest, a former physical trainer who has lost feeling in her legs and is in pain throughout the day, Cuomo’s continuing symptoms include both physical and mental disability.  An article in the NY Times on July 1, 2020 describes physical problems survivors have presentedThey include: lung impairment, blood clotting, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, nerve damage, and … wait for it … cognitive impairment. 

Here’s a more inclusive range: Fogginess, emotionality, muscle weakness, loss of sensation, hair loss, headache, mood disorder … ok, now moving into the truly terrifying symptoms – structural changes to the heart, heart attack, delirium, hallucination, stroke, psychosis, dementia.

Cuomo has been ridiculed by critics who use his admission of “mental fogginess” as permission to ridicule him and discount his acuity as a journalist; he anticipated that sort of response and has been reluctant to discuss his own infirmity while allowing others to describe their own struggle.  He’s pilloried for adding what he can from his own painful personal experience.  That seems unkind, but kindness is at a premium as the economy limps further into distress.

What is clear is that there are virtually no certainties in assessing the probable outcome of herding the population of a nation in a pandemic involving this virus, no telling who will be affected in what way.

Wait,  just for old folks, right?

Uh, no.  

“One study* examined the cardiac MRIs of 100 people who had recovered from Covid-19 and compared them to heart images from 100 people who were similar but not infected with the virus. Their average age was 49 and two-thirds of the patients had recovered at home. More than two months later, infected patients were more likely to have troubling cardiac signs than people in the control group: 78 patients showed structural changes to their hearts, 76 had evidence of a biomarker signaling cardiac injury typically found after a heart attack, and 60 had signs of inflammation.”

*Outcomes of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Patients Recently Recovered From Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – Journal of American Medicine

OK, but, like just a very few people?

“We would say that perhaps between 30% and 50% of people with an infection that has clinical manifestations are going to have some form of mental health issues,” said Teodor Postolache, professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The “Herd Experiment” killed 40% more people per capita in Sweden where it was introduced in order to prevent damage to the economy. Oh, and it did not prevent damage to the economy.

Round ‘Em Up, Knock ‘Em Off. Not the best idea yet.

SHAMELESS

SHAMELESS

No, not just the President, although this morning the daily propaganda mill brought these assertions from the Gaslighter General:

  •  A planeload of “thugs” in dark uniforms were headed to the RNC to do “Big Damage”.  
  • A peace officer shooting an unarmed man in the back is roughly the same as missing a three foot put.  He used the word “choking”, which given the practice of neck kneeling seems insensitive, shall we say?
  • The 17-year-old shooter in Kenosha was defending himself against the dark forces fomenting a riot
  • Firing paint balls into the face of protesters is relatively benign
  • People in “dark shadows” are controlling Joe Biden
  • Corey Booker is in charge of the Democrats plan to destroy the suburbs
  • The pandemic death toll remains overstated
  •  The Big One!  Protests against police brutality were actually a “secret coup” trying to take down the President

I don’t know what term best describes inciting violence against the citizens of the United States.  I’ll go with treason today and leave it at that.

No, today’s screed is directed toward any Republicans who have vestigial backbones.  Mitt Romney can’t be the only Republican who knows that self-serving lies have already cost lives.  

The most recent estimate is that roughly 145,000 lives would have been saved had we followed the course of action taken by most European nations.  Not Sweden, by the way, which adopted the “herd” response and which reaped 40% more deaths per capita than the misguided and globally mocked United States.  Oh, and had no expected economic bounce back. This experiment ought to have ended discussion of the strategy, but … you know.

Willful obstruction of information (lying) during a pandemic is pretty bad.  Frenzied fear-mongering which includes fomenting violence against political adversaries is essentially the same crime against the same citizens, only up-close and in the hands of the deluded.  Both perpetrators and victims are simply props in managing a political campaign; like the hundred thousands unnecessary deaths from Covid-19, they are just political  collateral damage. 

To each Republican Senator and Congressperson:  Silence in this moment is a betrayal of the people you were elected to serve. Silence in this moment is shameless. 

Some of you are among the deluded, drinking presidential Kool Aid; most of you know in your heart that reckless fear-baiting can only bring tragedy.

This is not about an election; this is about the courage to prevent chaos.

Lest We Forget, The President Offered To Buy Greenland When the Puerto Rico Swap Seemed Unlikely

Lest We Forget, The President Offered To Buy Greenland When the Puerto Rico Swap Seemed Unlikely

The Democratic National Convention ended on a high note as decent folks spoke about decency, which is all well and good, but let’s not forget that the playing field has been tilted considerably past even.  For example, this week Louisiana enacted a law which removes the votes of any protestor arrested on federal property, this from a governor who has already prohibited mail in ballots for those whose only excuse is not wanting to die of Covid-19.  Ah, but the suppression of votes has really only just begun, leading those of us with a taste for the ominous to imagine the course of the next four years under the current administration and to remember the Trump initiative to swap Puerto Rico for Greenland.

Absurd, you say?  Legit Wackiness?  Bushwacking press sniping at the Leader of the Free World once again?

Yeah, no.  The former Director of Homeland Security leaked a 2019 conversation, not merely identifying the President’s resilient next-best idea when cautioned that he could not swap Puerto Rico for a different territory, but introducing the President’s view that people in Puerto Rico are “poor and dirty”.  Let’s leave aside the reminder that those people are American citizens under the care of the President, and that in time of terrible need following a devastating hurricane, his idea of a photo op on the island involved tossing packages of paper towels to a crowd of people, many of whom were homeless and starving.  Yup, that aside, the Greenland idea has been in the back of Trump’s mind for some time.  His earlier hope had been dashed – that Norway would send their tired, their poor, their huddled masses yearning to be free; Greenland looked like the next bet bet, so, yes, he tried to buy it.

Against all odds, the Prime Minister of Denmark, to whom the offer was floated, indicated that the idea was absurd.  Once again, leaving aside the degree of sovereignty actually enjoyed by Greenland, the artful dealer was put out by the Prime Minister’s comment, cancelling a trip to Demark and warning that those who tossed “nasty” comments at the President of the United States were insulting the entire nation. In his words:

“I thought that the prime minister’s statement that it was absurd, that it was an absurd idea was nasty…I thought it was an inappropriate statement.  All she had to do is say no, we wouldn’t be interested…She’s not talking to me.  She’s talking to the United States of America.  You don’t talk to the United States that way, at least under me.”

Let’s try not to get stuck on the “all she had to do is say no,” version of global diplomacy. There’s more to contend with here than the simple “dump-the-shithole” foreign policy the president imagines his right to explore for us.  Uh, for some of us.  It’s the idea of the swapping that piques the imagination.  Outright sale?  Absurd.  Swap for a devastated post-colonial vestigial territory?  Equally unlikely.

But, Oregon, where I live, is some pretty nifty acreage.  We have mountains, farmland, orchards, and ocean views.  The western part of the state’s climate was once considered Mediterranean, but as the planets heats up, not even the Mediterranean is Mediterranean any more.  The Eastern part is known as cold semi-arid; it’s been compared to the climate of Australia’s interior.  You’ve probably seen Mad Max: Thunder Road, so ‘nuff said.

In any case, the coastal western strip includes Ashland, Eugene, Corvallis, and Portland, which is to say, it constitutes the densely populated predominantly liberally voting majority that has made Oregon a decidedly blue state.  Not a shithole, but one of the pesky “nasty” areas that could bring a tasty swap in the hands of a master dealmaker.  Keeping eastern Oregon, also known as “Almost Idaho”, would turn this part of the West notably red, and the addition of Greenland or Iceland would provide a gene pool necessary to turning the surging tide of ethnic influence in the body politic.  Big thumbs up for the current administration.

As I consider the possibility, it strikes me that were the president able to pull off the swap with Denmark, my part of Oregon would then be an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark.  We’d have a monarch and a female prime minister.  Seventy-five percent of Danes have a paying job, college students are given a $900.00 a month stipend with no student loans, Danes walk without fear in every city or town, health care is free, and Denmark is at the top of all European nations in the Gender Equality Index.

I’m not counting my chickens here; it’s not easy to traffic in autonomous land masses.  Even so, as the Republican National Committee pulls together the convention that will agan nominate Donald Trump, let’s keep an eye on all the provisions of the party’s platform.  The press may not be invited to Charlotte as the convention opens, but I count on intrepid journalists to nose out the deals under the table.  If the Greenland swap is still alive and Oregon is in the mix, I gotta say it looks pretty sweet.

It Just Doesn’t Matter

It Just Doesn’t Matter

Republican Convention  

Breaking News

Look, I’m going to take the time to take snarky shots at the Trump campaign and at the Republican National Convention, maybe you’ll take the time to read it, but in terms of presenting the candidate and the plan for the next four years, nothing about the event matters.  I’ve written about this as the Fifth Avenue Campaign, referring to Trump’s breathtaking assertion that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote. A terrifying sequence of interviews of Trump supporters conducted by the Daily Show’s Jordan Kepler demonstrated the unshakable loyalty of the President’s supporters (and the terrifying gap between an informed and responsible citizenry and overweight white zombies in MAGA hats), pretty much validates the Fifth Avenue thesis.

Would it matter WHO Trump shot in the middle of Fifth Avenue?  Nope.  The folks who are his base operate on a closed loop.  Trump good, no matter what.  Anyone who questions him bad, no matter what.  Very bad.  A gigantic and elaborate mix of conspiracy and viral enmeshment operates to protect Trump from accountability.  So, not only is his nomination assured, the tone of his campaign will come as no surprise. 

Although many of the details of the upcoming convention remain undisclosed, a few key points are now emerging.

The press is not invited as the convention will kick off on Monday with the official business of the convention carried out in Charlotte. N.C.  A bold statement of the Party’s conviction that re-election has very little to do with what pencil necked geeks in New York think of the party and its nominee. 

The more celebratory moments begin on Tuesday with an address by former model and holder of the Alien of Extraordinary Ability visa Melania Trump who will speak on “The Land of Promise”, followed on Wednesday by the effervescent former radio and television talk show host,Vice President, Mike Pence, who will speak on “The Land of Opportunity” , and on Thursday by the President speaking on “The Land of Greatness”.  Pence will speak from Fort McHenry, the Trumps from the White House, despite the provisions of what is known informally as the Hatch Act, passed in 1939 as “An Act To Prevent Pernicious Political Activities”.  

Some would argue that as the Hatch Act is Federal Law, and as it specifically prohibits the use of public works for political purposes, the President has chosen to accept his party’s nomination without regard for the rule of law, a bold statement in 2020.

In addition to the President, his wife, and the Vice President, speakers are scheduled to include his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Mark and Patricia McLoskey, who waved firearms at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis.  

“It  Doesn’t Matter What We Do Or Say”, the unofficial theme of the campaign.

The RNC has decided that the platform presented in 2016 will remain unchanged.  The document, presented at the last convention by Senator John Barrasso, Governor Mary Fallin, and Representative Virginia Fox, begins with a statement of American exceptionalism then identifies the failures of the Obama administration.  Although there is much to be said for using work that already exists, there is some concern that the recycling of the document leaves some room for misinterpretation, as it might in this passage:

“The President has been regulating to death a free market economy that he doesn’t like and doesn’t understand. He defies the laws of the United States by refusing to enforce those with which he does not agree.  And he appoints judges who legislate from the bench rather than apply the law.”

I am reminded of the film Meatballs, the breakout film for both Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray and the highest grossing Canadian film distributed in the U.S.until Resident Evil: Afterlife blew past it.  Set at Camp North Star, a bargain basement camp located in the north woods, the film draws its title from the affectionate term Murray, as head counselor Tripper Harrison uses in speaking with the young campers placed in his care.  There are many camp pranks and mildly romantic after hours liaisons, but at the heart of the tale is the annual and entirely expected drubbing Camp North Star will take at the well manicured hands of Camp Mohawk.  

The kids find the expectation of taking a beating disspiriting, but Trapper delivers an inversion of the “Win One For The Gipper” exhortation, reminding the children that no matter how hard they try, no matter what efforts are made, the Camp Mohawks of the world will always triumph over the proles at Camp North Star.  Leaping into action at the bonfire, Murray as Trapper introduces the camp’s new rallying cry: “It Just Doesn’t Matter”.

Ghastly, hurtful, and perhaps untrue things will be said as the convention endorses Trump’s presidency.  Sensitive souls among us, including this battered blogger, will reel in disbelief and pain as the counter-reality of life in America is trumpeted.  

The convention will be a Fifth Avenue coronation, and no matter how egregiously the speakers slaughter factual evidence of presidential malfeasance  …

It Just Doesn’t Matter

Inside the Trump Campaign: August 20,2020

Inside the Trump Campaign: August 20,2020

 Inside the Trump Campaign:  August 20,2020

R.P.  How are we doing on that cease-and-desist with CNN.  The fake poll numbers?

L.C.  They aren’t ceasing or desisting.  We’re still suing.

R.P.  Are we still suing Brad Parscale over the numbers?

L.C.  Brad was running the campaign.  Our campaign.

R.P.  Yeah but the numbers weren’t good.

L.C.  I can see that.

R.P.  What about the other CNN suit?  The one with the NY Times and Washington Post, you know the libel suits?

L.C.  That was an opinion piece, right?  That Mueller should have charged the President?

R.P.  Libel.

L.C.  Not libel, but, no, nothing.

R.P.  We’re suing New Jersey about the mail-in ballots.

L.C.  Hadda do that.

R.P.  What about Goodyear?

L.C.  What about Goodyear?

R.P.  They don’t let worker wear MAGA hats.

L.C.  Can they do that?

R.P.  They say they have a policy against wearing politically affiliated clothing.  Black Lives Matter is ok, apparently, but MAGA hats specifically not ok.

L.C.  We’ll probably sue Goodyear.

R.P  We may have to sue Akron and Ohio too.

L.C.  For what?

R.P.  Well, after the tweet, the Mayor of Akron got all feisty, threw in LeBron, and since Ohio is a swing state, if we don’t have the numbers in November, Ohio would be …

L.C.  What tweet?

R.P.  Perfectly understandable.  Just said … wait, I’ve got it here.  “Don’t Buy Goodyear tires…”

L.C.  Hang on!  he said what?

R.P.  Sure, “Don’t Buy Goodyear Tires. They banned MAGA hats.  Get better tires for far less.  (This is what the radical Democrats do.  Two can play the same game, and we have to start playing it now!)”

L.C.  I can’t help myself.  I’ll come back to the swing state issue in a second, but I was an English major.  “This is what radical Democrats do”?  ‘This’ is an unclear referent.  What is that radical Democrats do?  Not buy tires?  Get better tires?”

R.P.  Ban hats, obviously.

L.C.  OK, but …

R.P.  Don’t get all pencil necked on this.  Big Picture.

L.C.  Uh, the big picture is that the President of the United Sates just asked Americans not to buy tires made by American workers.

R.P.  I don’t think that was the message.

L.C.  “Don’t Buy” is pretty clear.  Other tires are better and cheaper?  

R.P.  The issue is the hat thing.

L.C.  Not for people working at Goodyear.

R.P.  Now you sound like the Mayor of Akron.

L.C.  What did he say?  

R.P.  Talk about over the top wacko reaction!

L.C.  Harsh?

R.P.  “First you came to destroy American decency.  Next, you came to destroy American institutions.  Now you’re coming to destroy the American economy and heartland jobs.  Luckily, you seem to fail at everything you do.”  I’d call that harsh.

L.C.  Yeah, but “Don’t Buy Goodyear”…

R.P.  You gotta draw the line somewhere.

L.C.  Maybe not in Ohio during an election year?

R.P.  I get it.  You think this is like a normal campaign.

L.C. Uh, it’s not?

R.P.  This is a Fifth Avenue campaign.  Remember?

L.C.  What does Fifth Avenue have to do with …

R.P.  “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.  It’s like incredible.”

L.C.  Incredible.

R.P.  So, you ready to start the Kamala suit?

L.C.  For …?

R.P.  Libel.

L.C.  Uh…

R.P.  She called him a predator.

L.C. You do know what libel is, right?

Falling In Love With America Again

Falling In Love With America Again

The opening of the 2020 Democratic National Convention was a revelation.

Until I heard the National Anthem sung by the Commonwealth Youth Choir, children from every state, the Cheyenne Nation, and five US territories, I had not realized how completely I had protected myself from the weaponized politi-patriotism peddled in the service of silencing voices that oppose the current administration. Just as the President did at his inauguration, when I enlisted in the Navy I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I am not the enemy; I do not hate our country, but over the course of four years, I felt I lost the flag, the anthem, the Fourth of July as they became celebrations of personal power. Athletes protesting police brutality by kneeling during the anthem were called sons-of-bitches, and we who support them bad people. Veterans and active military became props, like tanks, jets, and the Bible. I no longer recognized my country.

Those children gave our anthem back to me.  

I cried, of course, because I recognized the degree to which I had tamped down hope and because I understood that I still have an obligation to hope. These were voices asking only for hope. Their perforance of the anthem ought not to have been the surprise that it was, but the expression of love of country, the best of our country, by the many faces and voices of children was a confession of faith I had almost forgotten.

The theme of the convention, “We The People”, seems an obvious description of how the work of a democracy begins. Once again, however, somewhere along the way, the rule of law has been ignored, special interest has run riot, national security compromised, and honesty abandoned. The Constitution of the United States is a living document, a charter of government that begins with the assertion that We the People have an obligation to work toward a more perfect union.  That work ended slavery, secured the right of women to vote, and put into the Supreme Law of the Land a fifteenth amendment to ensure that neither race nor color be used to decide which citizens may be allowed to vote. That work continues.

The voices that introduced the Constitution last night included Khizr Khan, the Pakistani American Gold Star parent whose son, killed in Iraq, had been awarded the Bronze Star, Ady Barkin, the Israeli American founder of the Center for Popular Democracy and Health Care advocate whose long fight with ALS has affected his ability to speak, Megan Rapinoe, Olympic athlete and advocate for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, Robyn Seniors, national chair of the Historically Black College Students for Biden, Major General (ret) Frank Vavala, Agnes Moore, one of the surviving Rose Riveters, Peggy Flanagan, Lt.Governor of Minnesota and the second Native Woman to be elected to statewide executive office, and many others reflecting the rich diversity of people who live under the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States of America.

So, I fell in love with America again last night, even though I’ve seen the ugly turns we have taken at times.  We the people do deserve a better nation.  We can’t sing it into existence, but we can believe in it enough to do all we can to make it real.

Yo Semite

Yo Semite

I’m no longer keeping track of Presidential gaffes.  Try to number the stars or the droplets of Covid-19 still hanging in Tulsa.  Too much for the limited mind of man to hold in one lifetime.  So, but, how do we avoid pausing in reflection upon witnessing the recent celebration of the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act, a scripted, and yes, fumbling recitation of platitudes which almost obscured the relative enormity of actually getting a bill of any sort through the Senate much less a bill that has to do with the public good.  A grand moment for those who believe that the nation’s national treasures are worthy of recognition and support, made yokelish by the mispronunciation of Yosemite, among the first national parks to be established, and perhaps the most celebrated, you know, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Ansel Adams, those guys. 

We know the President goes off script whenever he can, not only to indulge in the fanciful landscape of his counterfactual reality but to avoid stumble bumbling with reading.  He’s not the first public figure to mispronounce or manufacture words.  Former president George W. Bush is in competition with Yogi Berra for the greatest number of unintended but magically evocative malapropisms.  Who has not wished to be the author of, “They misunderestimated me,” as Bush said in Arkansas, or “I just want you to know that when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.”?  I personally have been misunderstimated more times than I can count, and even Tolstoy put war and peace in the same title.  No, the twice repeated “Yo-Semite” is of another order of misstatement.  Had the President had difficulty and pronounced the park as one would a mineral, Kyanite, or Ammolite, there’d be a few scratched heads, but separating the word as he did, putting an emphasis on Semite, well, that was just not great. 

And, of course, the President is not helped by the current use of the “Bro”ist greeting, Yo.  The etymology of the use of Yo as a salutation is entirely up for grabs.  I ran into a fellow  who argues that Yo is used among the Dravidian languages, and we’d have to travel to the Kasaragod district of Kerala to see if it pops up among those who speak Tulu.  I didn’t run into him more than once, but you can see where the problem lies if you believe, as I did, that it popped into contemporary usage when a blooded and sweat laden Rocky Balboa cries out to Adrian, Paulie’s sister – “Yo, Adrian! I did it!”  Competing claims come from a variety of sources including veterans of many military roll calls whose “YO” rang clear as an indication of their presence.

No matter how it arrived, we hear a fully articulated Yo as an invitation to turn and greet the speaker.  That said, Yo-Semite does invite consideration of a park greeting those of Phoenician, Akkadian, Hebrew, or Arabic lineage, and, since the most common contemporary usage is the term anti-semetic, referring specifically to Jews, and given that there has been the unfortunate description of Nazis as among the good people on both sides arriving in Charlottesville, we can be forgiven for indulging in some snide-lite questioning of the President’s remarks.

A sign of the times?  To be sure, as is the struggle of the online store of the American Museum of American Jewish History to keep up with demand for the Yo Semite T shirt they have sold for  years, “reminiscent of the shirts your own beloved summer camp provided”.  I find myself strangely moved and heartened by evidence that humor and resilience still endures after the relentless thumping of the past four years.  As I sit in isolation, the purchase of new clothing has not been a priority, but my shirt is backordered and will appear on zoom screens wherever I travel as a statement of faith in the human spirit to rise above the tumult.

Side Effects May Include Astral Sex

Side Effects May Include Astral Sex

In the midst of a global pandemic in what was once considered an advanced first world nation, we have demonstrated a level of moronitude that beggars the imagination.  Prevention would have been good, but we worked with great diligence to discount the verified reports of hellacious disease and death.  Perhaps you will have seen my earlier attempt at satire: “Democrats’ Hoax Inconveniences Hundreds of Thousands in China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea”?  Perhaps not. In any case, we not only could have seen it coming, dammit, we did see it coming.  

So here it comes, refrigerated trucks are stacking bodies in New York, and the stream of misinformation, disinformation, and sheer lunacy becomes a raging torrent.  Apparently saying, “It ain’t happening here” had to give way to, maybe it would be good to inject patients with disinfectant, the application of hydroxychloroquine, and to the most recent as-yet-unproven palliative, using the dna of aliens.  That’s a stretch, but if other accounts are to be believed, and they are believed, astral sex with demons is a major health risk as is the vaccination against religion.  

I may have strayed from the point.  Back to unfortunate Presidential endorsement # 6145.

“Dr.” Stella Immanuel, spokesperson for a group calling itself America’s Frontline Doctors, delivered an address in front of the Supreme Court (the building, not the august jurors) in which she ranted about the silly and unnecessary precautions, such as wearing masks or maintaining distance, as the cure for Covid 19 is right in front of us as the President has been saying all along.  She stated that in her practice, happy patients have danced away from her clinic in great good health following treatment with hydroxychloroquine.

Immanuel’s other and perhaps equally demanding job is as a preacher at The Fire Power Ministries Christian Resource Center located in the same strip mall in Houston as her “treatment facility”, the Rehoboth Medical Center, a walk-in clinic advertising the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine.  The actual wording of the message posted on the clinic’s door demands attention.

“Dr. Stella Immanuel MD.  We Screen and Treat Covid-19 Patients.  Early treatment is key!  Call and come in.  Don’t wait until you get too sick.  If you have flu-like symptoms its(sic) probably Covid-19.”

 Probably.

The first section should be warning enough, but here’s the meat of the promo in language that defies parsing:

“FDA(sic) had revoked its emergency use authorization restricting the use of hydroxychloroquine in hospital setting only.  It was not found to be effective in sick hospital patients.  Doctors can use it however outpatient(sic) where early treatment is ket to its effectiveness, off label to treat Covid-19.  That will also release the stock pile.”  

Stella Immanuel attended the Calabar College of Medicine in Nigeria where one assumes she was taught to use off label hydroxychloroquine in order to release the stock pile.  Her role in addition to taking a prominent role as the face of the American Frontline Doctors, a group sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots Action, includes her self-proclaimed position as “God’s battle axe and weapon of war.”  It is from that pulpit that she has preached and written about the dangers of “serious gynecological problems” caused by tormenting spirits.

This is where the astral sex comes in, and if you have been practicing astral sex on the sly, you won’t need her description of the phenomenon.  If you are new to the game, here’s Immanuel’s thoughtful observation:

“Many women suffer from astral sex regularly. Astral sex is the ability to project one’s spirit man into the victim’s body and have intercourse with it. This practice is very common amongst Satanists. They leave their physical bodies in a dormant state while they project their spirits into the body of whoever they want to have sex with,” 

Again, there are peculiarities of construction here, but the point is that this apparently GOES ON ALL THE TIME!

The person once known as the Leader of the Free World liked her support of his theories, and suggested that she’d had great success in her practice while simultaneously disavowing any knowledge of her medical credentials.  

Any port in a storm.

It’s only appropriate to end by quoting a man whose commandment that the German emperor go to Rome to be shot and the Pope jailed came from his conviction that it was he who had created the world.  It was Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote, “Madness is something rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.”