Hot Air: The Real Identity Politics

Here it is almost three weeks to the day after the 2020 election and as The Loved One and I took our traditional Sunday drive through South Central Indiana we both were struck by how many people in these rural environs still are proudly displaying their Trump flags and yard signs. It brings to mind a meme I saw a couple of days ago that went something like this:

Okay, I voted for Biden, but I’m not going to keep a Biden sign up in my front yard for the next four years like a freakin’ idiot.

And, the truth is, many, many, many of those Trump signs we still see in the hinterlands have been there since 2016. A lot of them are faded and tattered from having weathered four goddamned frigid, windy winters and four sun-baked summers. Isn’t the whole idea of putting up yard signs and other candidate paraphernalia an attempt to persuade neighbors and passersby to vote for the person you think is best for the job? That argument needs only to be made every four years, not every day of every year from now until the end of time.

I guarantee you the vast majority of the Trump signs on display today will still be there the day Joe Biden gets sworn in as the 46th President of the United States as well as the day, November 5th, 2024, of the next presidential election, whether there’s a Trump running or not.

So, what’s the deal, what’s the argument these people are trying to make? My answer: They’re not making an argument at all; they’re making a statement. They’re telling the world who they are. These people now have a rock-solid, distinct identity. Before, they were just anonymous schlubs, mowing their lawns and reclining in front of the the TV to watch American Idol like every other schlub on the block or down the country road. They are somebody now because they’ve seen and attached themselves to an idol of their own, someone who talks like them and thinks like them and maybe even messes up like they would if only they had a billion dollars and didn’t have to give a shit about anybody else in the whole wide world. For all Donald Trump’s sins and peccadilloes, any and all of which should have precluded him years ago from any consideration as the leader of the last remaining superpower on Earth, for his ridiculous dyed combover, for his ballooning backside, for his contempt for the authority of experts, for his utter un-interest in books or reports or studies, for his proud ignorance of the needs and wants of anyone who’s not directly related to him, everything about him is exactly how tens of millions of people in America would see themselves if they suddenly woke up one morning with an unimaginably huge fortune and the keys to the White House in their pockets.

He is me. That’s what they’ve been saying when displaying Trump’s flags and signs every day for the last four or five years.

And there, finally, is the answer to the question, How can people still back Trump after all the shit he’s pulled? After he’s screwed up this nation’s relationships with its allies, after he’s dismantled the government’s environmental protection apparatus, after he’s rammed through tax cuts for hundred-millionaires, leaving the middle class to pick up a greater share of the burden of supporting America, after he’s defanged all the federal consumer and workplace protections he could find, after he insulted and demeaned handicapped people, fat people, brown people, foreign people, Muslim people, urbanites, immigrants, asylum seekers, women, veterans, prisoners of war, and everybody who, again, was not Donald J. Trump or anybody related to him?

The answer is they still back him because he is their avatar, their icon, their god, for chrissakes. Throughout human history, people have created gods in their own image, created them to validate who they were, to tell everyone else who and what they were. They still do it today. And their new god is Donald J. Trump. He is me.

That’s why you can’t argue a Trumpist away from the outgoing president. You’re asking them to deny who they are. You’re asking them to admit the identity they’ve assumed is warped. Nobody wants to lose their identity.

To tens of millions of Americans, He will always be me.

Hot Air: Melange, Olio, Medley, Miscellany…

And The Answer Is

In the wake* of the death of host Alex Trebek, I’ve learned the correct Jeopardy! answer is, “What is robbing the cradle?”

Jean Currivan (L) and Her Husband, Alex Trebek.

[ * You’ll pardon the pun.]

Customer Service

When I worked as a bartender for Club Lago, a delightful Italian family restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, one of the owners, Guido Nardini, said to me one night, “There’s a reward beyond money in serving people.”

Now, a cynic might respond that’s a boss’s way of saying “You should learn to be happy with the peanuts I’m paying you,” but, no, I earned a nice chunk of change pouring drinks at Lago. No complaints there; from the sheer volume of customers to the fact that a lot of people used to love to throw c-notes around as tips, I was able to stash big piles o’cash in my home safe.

Guido meant what he said because he and his co-owner bro., Giancarlo, loved to serve customers well. And, yes, it did please me to please my customers. I treated everybody with great respect and care regardless of what I thought their largesse capacities were.

At the Book Corner ( ✯ more on that later) I continue to take great pride in going out of my way to satisfy customers and nobody (except for one guy — I’m looking at you, J.D.) tips me. I like to call myself “the book detective,” often standing on my head to find something rare or out of print or unheard of for customers. When they tell me they appreciate my efforts and I see the looks on their faces, that’s a reward in and of itself.

So, I’m particularly attuned to people’s customer service skills. The following are some encounters I’ve had recently. I’m not complaining or indicting, simply observing.

“COME HERE OFTEN?”

I saw my oncologist last week. As an aside, I’m right at the time when I should be declared cancer-free. It’s been five years since my bout with squamous cell cancer leading to malignant lymph nodes. You may recall my long series herein called My Olive Pits™. For five years I’ve existed in a limbo the docs call remission. Once my latest PET scan results are in, it is to be dearly hoped, I’ll get my parole. Anyway, there’s an impromptu check-in desk positioned down the hall from the oncologist’s lair where a masked receptionist takes patients’ temperatures and grills them about possible COVID symptoms. I wheeled up (Aside #2: Yes, I use one of these⬇︎ now because my hip arthritis has reached crippling dimensions)…

…and presented myself to the woman at the desk. The first thing she said was, “Do you come here often?”

Well, jeez, that’s a straight line if I’ve ever heard one. Besides, I’m always nervous as hell when I visit either my oncologist or my ENT doctor so I look for any excuse to lighten the mood. I responded, “Ha! Is that a pickup line?”

The woman stared at me.

Being met with a stony face is the ultimate negative feedback when delivering a joke. And, sure, the joke was lame and predictable. I wasn’t looking for reassurance that I’m the liveliest wit in South Central Indiana, just an acknowledgement, a sign of bonhomie, I guess. So I doubled down.

“That was a joke,” I said.

The woman continued to stare at me.

Rather than retreat then and there, I pushed further into the realm of red-faced-ness.

“Which you didn’t get,” I said, nearly sotto voce but not quite.

Her stared bored a hole through me.

Somehow we got on to the business at hand. My temperature was normal and I swore I had no coronavirus symptoms, so she passed me through.

In her defense, I’ll admit it’s a little more difficult these days to tell if a person is smiling or grimacing under the mask. But a smile is as readable in the eyes as it is by bared teeth. The woman’s eyes were not smiling.

Someone might say, “Well, maybe she thought it inappropriate that you were coming on to her.” Which is utter nonsense. I’m a crippled old goat with hernias galore, a bald head, barnacles on my scalp, and an implanted defibrillator in my chest. Only the most neurotically sensitive 20-something could interpret the joke as a come-on from the likes of me. Here’s a bit from Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry tells an attractive receptionist he’s talking to her because human-to-human contact is the goal, not because he’s hitting on her. (Go to the 1:30 mark of the clip for the exchange.)

Have I ever mentioned I believe Larry David is a dybbuk that resides in me and that my growth as a human depends on expelling said dybbuk?

On to the next encounter.

GO WHEREVER YOU WANT

Last week was an orgy of doctors for me. I’ve finally been okayed to go into surgery for my right hip total replacement. I’d originally been scheduled for surgery on June 8th, only a cancer-related CT scan the week before revealed I was suffering from pulmonary emboli. These obstructions in lung arteries usually are caused by clot particles that travel up from the legs. They are life threatening and usually cause breathing distress and syncope. Sometimes the first symptom is the sufferer simply drops dead. Serious stuff. Mine apparently were caused by my inability to walk much anymore so clots formed in my legs. That’s all cleared up now, thanks to a daily regimen of an anticoagulant that has turned my blood into something more akin to a fine mist. At this point I begin to bleed simply by thinking about blowing my nose.

So, I visited my orthopedic surgeon last week to get the ball rolling again. He turned me into a pretzel to see where things hurt the most (answer: everywhere) and then brought out a model of the hip joint as well as the prosthetic ball and socket joint he’d be hammering into me. His nurse then came in and gave me a new date for surgery (December 21st) and told me about all the things I’d have to do before and after. Included is a month or two of intensive physical therapy with my new hip in place.

“You can do your physical therapy here,” she said. The IU Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine complex just off Sare Rd. on the south side has a big gym/PT center. The she added that if this particularly facility was too far away from my home I could do my PT elsewhere.

“Well,” I asked, “what are my alternatives.”

“You can go anywhere,” she said.

I resisted the urge to quip, “So, can I do it at the library?” I’d already struck out once with mild humor in a medical setting. Still, I pressed on.

“Where are other facilities?”

“They’re everywhere.”

“Okay, I live off SR 446. Which one would be closest to that?”

“Oh, they’re all around. Go wherever you want”

We were getting no place fast. “Fine, I’ll do it here,” I said, and she duly marked that down in her notes.

All the way home, I fixated on the exchange. Why wouldn’t she tell me where another gym/PT center was?

I chewed over this for a few days until it occurred to me that all these different IU Health facilities are run as discreet little revenue centers. Individual doctors, or groups of them, have ownership stakes in their facilities. In the interest of fairness and convenience for the patient, the nurse felt compelled to tell me I could get my physical therapy anywhere but she really, really, really wanted me to do it at her place because that’s where the insurance payments would be sent.

Okay, fair enough. But it wouldn’t have hurt for her to say, “Y’know, we like to keep everything in-house. It’s easier for insurance and for record-keeping.” She might even have admitted her facility had an interest in getting the insurance payments. I’m an adult; I know how business works, even if that business calls itself nonprofit.

Instead, I was left wondering why she couldn’t tell me where other gym/PT centers are. Like Larry David, I obsessed over that question for far too long. I told you he’s a dybbuk inside me.

✯ Farewell, Book Corner–For Now

I’m taking a leave of absence from the Book Corner because 1) the pain in my hip has become unbearable and 2) I don’t want to catch COVID and have to reschedule surgery again — or die.

Both The Loved One  and Patty, the manager, have told me time and again I’m deranged for going in to work three times a week with this hip. TLO has shared horror stories about people suffering from the coronavirus with me in an effort to scare me off going in. At last I’m listening to them.

You won’t see me at the store until February at the earliest. I’ll miss the hell out of the books and the people. I’ll also miss the rush and madness of Christmas there. A big family comes in every Christmas Eve. Each member, from grandma and grandpa to the littlest arrival, gets to pick out a number of books as their Christmas present for the year. It’s become a tradition. And grandma always brings in a huge stash of holiday sweets and treats that I do my best to take an unfair share of home with me. I’ll miss the hell out of them, too.

But, truth is, I won’t cry too many tears over it all because by the 24th, I’ll be sitting on a brand new hip and I won’t be a crippled old goat anymore.

Hot Air: Torture & Tyranny, Happy Monday!

Two things, today. First:

Stuck

Back when I was a kid, I’d heard of Sérgio Mendes and Basil ’66. It was a small combo featuring a pair of female singers that produced a few bossa nova/jazz/funk singles and some LPs that the kind of self-identified sophisticates who read Playboy had on their hi-fi’s.

I didn’t pay much attention to the group because I was too busy listening to the Beatles and the Stones and even the Turtles. Or, I should say, especially the Turtles.

The Turtles, the Coolest Geeks Around.

Over the ensuing decades, my musical tastes have broadened and I’ve become extremely partial to the Brazilian sounds of samba and its stepchild, bossa nova. I delve regularly into the recordings of Joāo Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Walter Wanderley, Elis Regina, Gilberto Gil, and Gal Costa, among many others.

So, the other night, I was surfing through YouTube looking for new songs and came upon something called “Pretty World” by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66. Hmm, I thought, let’s give it a spin. I did and the thing turned out to be the biggest earworm I’ve experienced in years.

It’s the most insipid tune imaginable, in terms of lyrics, melody, and arrangement. Here’s a sampling of the words:

Why don’t we take a little piece of summer sky,

Hang it on a tree.

For that’s the way to start to make a pretty world,

For you and me.

And for the sun we’ll take a lemon bright balloon, You can hold the string.

Oh, can’t you see that little world of ours will be,

The prettiest thing.

I want to scream!

Later, the two female singers harmonize that in this prettiest of worlds, “Nothing must be made but breakfast and love.”

I want to break things!

There’s a little one-measure keyboard bridge, repeated twice, that’s about as musically vapid and inane as the tinny canned calliope in a carnival merry-go-round.

I’ve got to control myself!

Turns out Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 churned out a kind of Disney-version of South American music. It’s sort of like the real thing but, all in all, it’s not really. That’s no sin. All I have to do is not listen to it — and I haven’t.

That is, I haven’t clicked the play button on my laptop. But the damned song has been playing over and over and over and over and over in my head for the last week! It’s insane, I tell you.

Get out! Get out! Get out!

Earworms are torture. It’s no wonder the US Army used blaring music to drive Manuel Noriega out of his compound back in January, 1990. Apparently George Orwell never thought of it, preferring his character O’Brien to torture Winston Smith to the point of madness via a face-cage containing a rat rather than, say, playing for poor Smith over and over and over again something like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me).”

I believe I’ll survive this bout of psychosis. “Pretty World,” one day, hopefully soon — very soon, dear god please! — will be forgotten. But, honestly, what a bizarre thing it is for us to flagellate ourselves so.

At least nine noted researchers and psychologists have studied and written about earworms, Oliver Sacks among them. There’s even a formal medical term for the phenomenon: Involuntary Musical Imagery, or INMI. Some 98 percent of people experience earworms. A study sponsored by the American Psychological Association actually found that the most common earworm among those polled was Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” I’ve never heard the song, thank goodness.

One group of scientists suggested in a paper doing anagrams or Sudoku puzzles can break the cycle or even reduce the occurrence of earworms. Another group actually advises sufferers to chew gum.

I’ll try anything.

Second:

Baby Steps

All great advances come incrementally. The electric lightbulb wasn’t invented without the discovery and understanding of electricity, the means to generate electric power, the ability to create a vacuum inside the glass bulb, the resilience and brilliance of a charged tungsten filament, etc. The automobile depended on the discovery and refinement of petroleum, the interworking design of pistons, rods and the camshaft, the transfer of torque energy though the drive shaft to the wheels, etc. That is, is if you consider the age of the automobile an advancement. As the planet warms and species die off and the weather becomes a horror show, we really have to reconsider whether it was all worth it for every-damned-body to have an SUV so they can go four blocks to the Kroger for fifty-five pounds of steaks and ground beef, which itself is destroying millions of acres of rainforest and arable land that might otherwise produce a healthy grain or two.

Whatever. Countless seemingly insignificant inventions and developments precede any great achievement. Nothing happens like magic, like a miracle, popping into existence so suddenly, so unexpectedly that people gasp in shock. Yeah, they may gasp in awe at, say, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module landing on the Moon in July, 1969, but no one was surprised because humankind had been toying with rockets for warfare and fun for the previous half century.

Robert Goddard and the First Liquid-Fueled Rocket, 1914.

Same goes for horrible happenings. Hitler didn’t climb out from a cave. Wars don’t start in the snap of a finger. And, of course, climate catastrophe has been racing toward a climax ever since the first internal combustion engine was built.

This year, today, the President of the United States is refusing to acknowledge that he lost the general election, both by popular vote and in the Electoral College. He’s tweeting and pouting and raging and suing everybody in sight. His federal administrator in charge of presidential transition is refusing to get to work. He’s moaning about voter fraud without producing any evidence. He’s shrieking about some huge, vague conspiracy involving the Democratic Party and the mainstream media and everybody else up to and including the Mexicans, BLM advocates, and Tom Hanks.

His gambit is not going to work. He will vacate the White House at noon, January 20th. We’ll say, Hurrah, democracy works!

But Li’l Duce, as he has in countless ways since he won the presidency on a technicality in 2016, has moved the bar, lowered the standard, muddied the waters. Pick a metaphor; it doesn’t matter. What does is the next guy who comes along and thinks himself greater than the nation, greater than the very idea of democracy itself, will stand on Pres. Gag’s shoulders and bring us even closer to authoritarianism, to tyranny than the outgoing president. He may very well push us over the edge.

So, yeah, cheer nine and a half weeks from today when Joe Biden swears out the oath. But don’t think we’re home free. The term of the disgraceful 45th President of the United States very well may be merely an incremental step toward a glum and alarming development.

Hot Air: Food?

I suppose I should have taken a picture but I’m not one of these people who click every damned thing they see. As George Carlin famously advised before he died, I actually use my memory.

Typical Slice of Cheese.

Anyway, I was getting out of the hot rod yesterday morning. I’d parked in the first spot on the east side of Walnut Street, just below Kirkwood. I put my foot down on the pavement and there it was: an almost perfect slice of some kind of yellow-orange cheese, probably American but quite possibly cheddar. Point is, it either dropped out of some knucklehead’s sandwich or some knucklehead had simply tossed it on the asphalt, for god knows whatever reason.

But get this: the slice of cheese had been run over by a car. There were tire marks on the thing, distorting it a little bit and discoloring it in the pattern of the tread. Yet the slice still retained much of its identifiable overall hue and regular quadrilateral symmetry.

So, let’s recap: a piece of cheese somehow made its way to the pavement and was squished by a metal and plastic machine weighing anywhere from 1800 pounds to two tons. Despite this, an old crank getting out of his car at an hour when he hadn’t had his normal dosage of coffee and was still bleary-eyed could readily peg it as the comestible it once was.

Typical Block of Velveeta™.

Because of that, I’m tempted to say the slice was actually Velveeta™ but, as far as I know, V. doesn’t come in slices. I really wouldn’t know because when it comes to food I only consider edible things as such, and Velveeta™ is decidedly not edible.

I’d like to think the slice came from some McDonald’s or Wendy’s burger, although my experience with those things tells me once the slice of cheese is laid therein, it becomes an inseparable part of the entire unholy mélange. I really have no idea where the slice of cheese came from, only that it had been squished by a car and somehow retained it’s essence.

That slice of cheese, it can be said, was the Rasputin of its oeuvre. Either that or all such slices are able to withstand extraordinary crushing pressure. All I know is it’ll be a long while before a jam a square slice of yellow-orange cheese into my trap again.

Hot Air: War

I got myself involved in a minor kerfluffle on social media today, Veterans Day, 2020.

My sensibilities about war and the military were honed in the late 1960s when I, an unusually aware almost-adolescent, watched the Vietnam War spin out of control and the anti-war protests that followed. I counted myself kindred with those who took to the streets to call for peace even though I was too young to actually take to the streets myself. Since that time, I’ve become even more entrenched in that viewpoint because I’ve delved deeper into the history of that war, not only our participation in it but that of the French in the late ’40s and into the ’50s.

Vietnam.

Even from a purely pragmatic, unsentimental angle, Vietnam was a tragic boondoggle. It couldn’t have been played worse by the American generals and politicians who executed it. That’s not even taking into account the utter immorality of killing so many hundreds of thousands of people for the sole purpose of forcing a country to adopt an economic system we approved of.

I’ve said all along, this holy land has committed a number of mortal sins, among them slavery, the Native American holocaust, and Vietnam.

So I always feel a little out of balance on Veterans Day. I mean, I have scads of friends (real life friends, not just the soc. med. ones) who served in the American military and some who even saw action in Southeast Asia and they are all good human beings. (I’ve weeded the no-so-good human beings out of my life.) Those vets remaining on my friends roster, though, represent a cross section of the pop. that was torn by the call to duty, the wish to believe our country stood for right and good, and the realization that the war could be described as farcical, only a human endeavor that results in piles upon piles of dead bodies and severed limbs can never be trivialized by calling it a farce.

And yet, every single war results in piles and piles of dead bodies and severed limbs, even the “good” wars, the “just” wars. I’ve never fully grasped why we’re so giddy and adoring of people who’ve fought in wars. I suppose I never will.

Anyway, a dear friend (a real life one as well as a soc. med. one) posted a simple line this AM:

Happy Armistice Day.

His point? Let’s celebrate the peace that Veterans Day originally was intended to mark rather than war and warriors. I commented:

More like, Happy Let’s Put Our Weapons Down For About 20 Years Until We Can Develop the Technology and Stoke Our Hatred For Each Other Enough To Go About Killing 60 Million of Our Fellow Human Beings Day.

Another guy jumped in and said we’d all be speaking German if it wasn’t for warriors, etc. It didn’t become particularly contentious — no insults were flung and no one accused anyone else of being an agent of Satan — and I was glad of that. But I was moved to comment and I’ll share it here. I hope it more completely represents my feelings about war and military service:

War is a stinking, rotten, dirty, sick business that decent people sometimes have to engage in. The US entrance into WWII was the turning point for the entire conflict. We chose to side with a country (the USSR) that we viewed as slightly less horrifying than Germany. We also sided with a dying colonial empire (the UK) that was desperate to remain in existence. Neither of these was an easy, straightforward decision. But such is the case in all human affairs. Soldiers aim to turn other soldiers into putrid hamburger. There are no referees or Marquess of Queensbury rules, despite national leaders pretending to honor the Geneva conventions. One of the reasons we were on the winning side in WWII was we had in our leadership (LeMay, Patton, Bomber Harris, etc.) officers who were willing to kill an unspeakable number of people, civilians and children included, in order for us to win. Had we been on the losing side, they — and many others — would have been executed for war crimes. That is simply the way of war. I’m pleased the Allies won WWII. But we must also always remember that the entire war was a tragedy of the highest order. Simply throwing parades and roses at the feet of returning soldiers is only half the story. The other half is a commitment to finding ways to peace, all the while knowing we might have to depend on the most bloodthirsty of our fellow citizens to protect us from bad guys once again. And, as (the original poster) rightly points out, nothing we’ve engaged in since 1953 can correctly be regarded as “just” war so we’re at a point where our soldiers for more than a half century have been fighting unjust wars. I don’t want to throw parades and rose petals for that even though I feel for the people in our military and sympathize with their plight. They are humans, too, and deserve respect.

Like almost all things in adult life, war and warriors, to me, are subjects that engender conflicting, often contradictory, feelings.

Hot Air: The Aum Bomb

I re-read books all the time, especially when, because of depression, discouragement, or the phase of the moon, I find it difficult to concentrate on new stuff. Of which, I might add, I have an awful lot. New stuff, that is. My reading queue stands about as tall as me and, even though I’m bent over by hip arthritis, I still reach an altitude higher than the average bear.

Anyway, I’m just finishing up Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country for the umpteenth time. Bryson‘s perhaps my favorite author; he specializes in wry, witty takes on travel and words, two subjects upon which he’s ruminated in numerous books. Sunburned is his travelogue to Australia, a weird, distant, mysterious, alluring place. He opens the book by telling the tale of the demise of the country’s prime minister in 1967. The PM, a fellow named Harold Holt, went out for a casual walk along the Victoria coast where the Indian and Southern oceans and the Tasman Sea all three seem to collide. Holt got a sudden urge to dive into the surf — and was never seen again.

That’s it. The leader of a world nation jumped into the water and…, well, was no more. His body was never found. Conventional wisdom has it he immediately became dinner for any of a number of toothy predators the moment his head dipped below the surface.

It’s a fate, I’m sure, many of us — me. for one — would befall at least one contemporary world leader who’ll remain nameless.

Australia’s so huge and so empty that extraordinary things happen there and then are quickly forgotten, even things that make the disappearance of the nation’s prime minister seem a trivial side note.

Take, for example, the strange case of Aum Shinrikyo. The name means nothing to anyone under the age of 30. Hell, it likely means nothing to anyone older. Yet, in 1994 and ’95, members of the group garnered worldwide attention when several of them took it upon themselves to release deadly sarin gas in two Japanese cities, first Matsumoto and then Tokyo, killing some 20 people altogether. That the death toll wasn’t many times greater can be attributable only to dumb luck. From 1984 through the next dozen or so years, the gang perpetrated any number of biological and nerve gas attacks and carried out some kidnappings and murders.

Aum was a Japanese doomsday cult led by Shoko Asahara, nee Chizuo Matsumoto, although he preferred to be referred to as the Lamb of God and fancied himself a second Christ. The world, Shoko or Chizuo or Christ II or whatever, had become so irrevocably sinful that it had become time for the prophesied Biblical Armageddon. He envisioned it as a nuclear war launched by the United States and that would engulf the world. The only survivors would be he and those who followed him, natch.

Problem was, he apparently surmised, the US was dragging its feet in getting on with its end times big boom. So he and his gang, numbering about a thousand at the time, opted to push things along with terror acts. They also (I clasp my hands together in prayer as I type this, even though I don’t believe in the practice) may very well have gotten their hands on nuclear material and, in 1993, might have tested a nuclear weapon in the otherwise empty Great Victoria Desert in the state of Western Australia.

Here’s what we know. In late May of ’93, seismologists notice a huge disturbance emanating from a point in that desert. It was so extraordinary, many suspected an enormous meteorite had struck the Earth there but no crater ever was found. The seismological disturbance did not indicate an earthquake and, anyway, a bunch of long-distance truckers and prospectors reporter seeing a brilliant flash, followed at an appropriate remove by a concussive boom.

The evidence, scant though it may have been, pointed toward a nuclear detonation. Lo and behold, the Aum gang just happened to own a big spread adjacent to the point where the world’s seismographs indicated the shake had taken place. And, it must be added, several renegade Soviet nuclear scientists had joined the group.

Eek.

Funny thing is, nobody really cared about the incident. The New York Times in 1997 ran an article, buried deep in an inside section, recounting the incident in the desert, but otherwise no other news agency, including those in Australia itself has bothered with it. The Wikipedia page for Aum doesn’t even mention the affair. Bryson writes: “This is a country… that is so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world’s first non-governmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years would pass before anyone noticed.”

In the ensuing years, Aum has split and reformed a few times. The founder has been sentenced to death for various crimes as have a dozen other cult members. And — wouldn’t you know it — whatever sects or spin-offs exist to this day, and there are a number of them, are attracting new followers all the time because, as The Japan Times reports, young men who can’t stand the direction society’s headed in and have difficulty finding their place in it “identify with the cult.”

Anthropologists tell us modern humans may have evolved as far back as 300,000 years ago, probably more. Many millennia more. That’s a good long time. And stories like this make me wonder if we Homo sapiens can survive past sunrise tomorrow morning.

Hot Air: It’s People, Not Dirt

Longtime Bloomington city council member Susan Sandberg has found a terrific image illustrating where people live in this holy land and why all those dumb maps that show Democratic voters segregated in tiny little enclaves here and there while Republican voters are spread over enormous tracts of land are, basically, full of shit.

Republicans often refer to those latter-mentioned maps to make the logically insupportable point that these tiny ghettoes of Dems somehow have connived their way into sharing power with the vast coast-to-coast swathes of GOP-ers and Trumpists. And, honestly, those maps do look alarmingly unbalanced. Let’s watch as the map Susan found transforms from a land representation to a population one:

 

Truth is, thanks to the Electoral College and the Republicans’ extremely effective efforts at gerrymandering and voter suppression, that party has garnered power far beyond its numbers. To wit: Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight United States presidential elections. If this were a true one-person, one-vote democratic republic, there’d have been a democratic president for 24 of the last 28 years. And, truth be told, the one prez race the Republicans actually won was the reelection of the incumbent in 2004. People, remember, tend not to like to throw leaders out unless there are dramatic or extenuating circumstances. Plus, we were still involved in two wars at the time, another reason voters wanted to stay the course. Had Al Gore been declared winner thanks to the popular vote in ’00, he’d have been the incumbent next time around and he’d have been the wartime C-in-C. (Of course, if Gore were the boss at that time, the Afghanistan war would have been wrapped to one extent or another without having been left undone by the Iraq war, a strictly Republican gambit.)

Not only that, if one totals all the votes earned by Senate and House candidates, the Dem vote far outnumbers the Republican even though the GOP has run Congress in part and wholly for the last ten years. Democratic candidates for the US Senate, for instance, in 2016 outpolled their Republican rivals by 53.8-42.4 percent, yet the Republicans held a firm grip on that chamber. That same year, Democratic candidates for the House bested their Republican counterparts, nationally, by 49.1-48.0 yet, somehow, the Republicans retained control of the House after that election.

Truth is, this is a Democratic nation.

Then again, throwing a bucket of ice water on this argument is the fact that some 70 million people have voted for Li’l Duce in this year’s election. That’s about 49 percent of the participating populace.

Here’s the biggest truth I’ll share herein: when it comes to President Gag and his fans, I’m baffled.

 

Hot Air: Our Two Faces

The 2020 presidential election is still up in the air as I type this.

Old Joe Biden is about 3 million actual votes ahead of Li’l Duce and leads the incumbent by a 248-214 Electoral College count.

From The Guardian at 4:20 PM EST, Wednesday, November 4, 2020.

Nevertheless, it’s nearly 24 hours after many polls closed and we still don’t know who’ll be taking the oath of office next January. A candidate needs 270 EC votes to win. The actual vote count is relatively irrelevant, something we have to remedy but won’t until a Republican wins the popular vote but loses the EC. Then we’ll see some action.

Anyway, President Gag already has amassed 4 million more votes than he did four years ago. This despite everything he’s done during his term in office: withdrawing from the Paris Accords; quitting the Iran-nuclear pact; dismantling many, if not most, federal agencies; trying to throttle the Postal Service; calling for a return to the darkest days of the nuclear arms race; voiding or annulling hundreds of environmental protections. The insults. The bizarre behavior. The obsessive tweeting. The pussy grabbing. The mocking of the handicapped reporter. The utter lack of respect for John McCain’s prisoner of war experience and the Muslim family’s tragic loss of a US soldier. The comical, if it wasn’t so awful, mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.

Some 67.7 million people at this hour have iterated that they want him as their leader, him as the symbol of America, him to steer the course of this holy land.

Perhaps Old Joe is on his way to victory. The Democrats will keep the House and just may take control of the Senate (although I wouldn’t bet on it).  Even so, more people went for P. Gag than did in 2016.

All this proves one thing: we are a divided nation, almost irreparably so. There are two Americas right now. One that says, beaming proudly, when they cast their gaze upon Li’l Duce, “There goes my leader.” The other, discouraged and fretful, says, “There goes my country.”

Hot Air: A New Perspective

Our long national nightmare may be over and done with after the polls close tomorrow. National? Hell, it’s been a planetary nightmare, for pity’s sake!

Then again, let me tweak the above statement a bit. Tomorrow may signal the beginning of the end of the nightmare, something I’ve been warning about for months. My pal Jeff Isaac cites this piece, making the same point in the conservative-lite website The Bulwark.

The point is even if Li’l Duce gets his well-deserved ass-whipping tomorrow, he’ll still be in office for another 89 days, plenty of time for him to dismantle our democratic republic even more than he has already.

So, to torture the analogy further, for the next two and a half months we may be trying to rouse ourselves out of the the troubled sleep we’ve been in since 2016 even as the gremlins and ogres and monsters and swarms of rats and bees, the falling from an airplane, the drowning in the backyard pool, the being caught naked outdoors, the looming high school semester final you’re not prepared for — all the beastly terrors that torment us as we repose in the arms of Morpheus — continue to flood our half-awake imaginations.

But, beginnings are good. Throwing President Gag’s sorry carcass out of the White House tomorrow at the polls will only be a start but, of course, a journey of a thousand miles…, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I realize I’m about to stun into catatonia the loyal followers of this global communications colossus but the hellish Trump regime just may have done something good for us. Not good in the sense of, say, ending world hunger or curing one or another of the cancers but, like the journey that begins with a first step, even the slightest good is a net positive.

Here’s the good thing: the presidency of one Donald John Trump has put politics in perspective for those of us who reside, metaphorically, on my side of the fence. See, when I first came to this bizarre state back in 2009, the Democrats, the liberals, the progressives and everybody else to the left of Dan Quayle (Hah! Bet you hadn’t thought of that name in decades.) viewed the relatively innocuous likes of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as the second coming of Joseph Stalin. Then, when Mitt Romney, Barack Obama’s white clone, challenged the incumbent president in 2012, we all gasped in horror that he’d take a page from Pol Pot and turn America into a westernized Killing Field. I’m exaggerating, natch, but not by as much as you might think.

Brethren?

We ran around like chickens sans tetes, worrying about the hell in a hand basket we were surely falling into under the malignant watch of Daniels or the putative reign of Romney. And what of John McCain, who ran the first broadside against Obama in 2008? He was close enough to his opponent on the political spectrum to flash him a subtle wink yet, in our petrified eyes, a win by him would surely have turned this holy land into a tyranny, or at least into another c. 1960s Alabama.

It must be conceded, though, that McCain selected as his running mate an unprepared, incurious, anti-intellectual dingbat of a half-term Alaska governor — and a wannabe beauty queen and aspiring small potatoes TV talking head at that. Sarah Palin was the Republican Party’s failed experiment in creating a franken-candidate, although they did learn from their mistake, bringing us to their successful model, our current president.

And herein lies the aforementioned good thing. Now we know what happens when the American electorate elects on a whim the worst possible person to take the reins of government. We get a vengeful, impulsive, ignorant, corrupt, pathological liar who appeals to all the worst instincts in humanity.

This, my friends, is what we should have been living in terror of for the last 25-50 years. The likes of Mitch Daniels and Mitt Romney were merely guys whose philosophy of governing were different than ours. Yet we shrieked and moaned about them as if they were sexual predators, tinpot dictator wannabes, and Constitutional vandals. Sickos. Terrorists in business suits. Family dynasty progenitors. All of which, BTW, we wound up getting in one package, known unaffectionately herein as Li’l Duce.

My guess is as P. Gag goes down in flames tomorrow, his party (if they have any sense about them at this point, which is a consideration after all) will commence to mend their ways and revert to something resembling a norm.

And, should that occur, mirabile dictu, we won’t have to live in panic at the prospect of every single Republican coming down the pipe. I say this even though I am deeply committed never, ever to vote for one so long as the party refuses to back the ERA, continues to appeal to white supremacists, pretends climate catastrophe hasn’t begun yet, and fights tooth and claw against universal, single-payer health care.

From now on, it is to be profoundly hoped, we won’t view all Republicans as a Stalin, even if their current top dog fancies himself a Putin.

Brothers.

Hot Air: Show’s Over

I’ve been so petrified by the rise and rule of Li’l Duce, fearing a hostile takeover of the US by him and his family, that the only logical outcome of his arrival on the scene escaped me. His people are getting tired of his act. They want to change the channel.

He’s never been anything but a cheap TV star, the 2010s version of Milton Berle. The TV audience ate him up and snickered in everybody else’s faces when he did the most outlandish things. But even his base is falling asleep in front of the TV (that is, except for the radical militia terrorists and the dyed-in-the-wool racists — they’re with him until the end of time). More people tuned in to Biden’s snooze-fest than Trump’s burlesque show. That’s just one piece of evidence bolstering my argument. Another is the long, long, long, long, long long, long lines at polling places across America.

Nobody in my lifetime has driven more people to the polls than President Gag. I’d like to kick them all in their asses for voting for him in the first place in ’16, or opting to sit that election out, but let’s bygones be bygones. We’re seeing a national cancellation of the show.

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