Category Archives: Resist

Hot Air: Only He Could Fix It

I’m guessing there’ll be fewer than 1.7 million deaths in America as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, unless something unexpected happens *. At this early date, the CDC estimates 160-240 million Americans will catch the bug and 200,000 to 1.7 mill will die from it.

[ * “Unless something unexpected happens”: That’s the most dangerous thing to say regarding such a fluid and unprecedented state of affairs. Hell, COVID-19 itself was something unexpected as recently as last Fall. Anyway, as I was saying…. ]

A good bettor’s policy is always to choose the most prudent option. Wagering on either of the tapering ends of a bell curve of probabilities is a sucker’s game, usually resorted to by someone on a long losing streak hoping to recoup his losses in a single strike.

So, yeah, I’m going (right now) with fewer than a million fatalities in the United States, prob. somewhere around 750,000. That’s horrifying enough but it’ll be a welcome outcome after these days and weeks of scary headlines.

And if things should play out that way, Pres. Trump, who’s getting battered by critics right now, will declare himself responsible for saving nearly a million lives. Oh, you bet he will! He’ll trot out the CDC charts and point to that 1.7 million figure and say, “That didn’t happen and it’s all because of me!” Of course, everything is because of him or can only be fixed by him. His bizarrely loyal base, natch, will eat his words up, something they’ve been doing since he descended that golden escalator in 2015 to declare his candidacy for President of the United States of America. For chrissakes, if Li’l Duce‘s words had calories, his base’d be 100 percent morbidly obese by now.

Who knows if more people than just President Gag’s base will buy it? People act and think funny when they’ve been scared to death. It may appear to some that this public health crisis will be the downfall of the Trump presidency. OTOH, it just may get him reelected.

And wouldn’t that be a horrifying outcome.

Trump On A Shrink’s Couch

BTW: Via a comment thread started by my pal, Jeff Isaac, professor of political science at Indiana University, I caught wind of a very compelling, recently published book entitled The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning. Authored by Northwestern University professor Dan P. MacAdams, the book is a series of his essays written over the last four years peering into the psychological makeup of (my words) the most whacked-out M-Fer ever to sit behind an Oval Office desk.

From an NU PR article written by Hillary Hurd Anyaso:

Trump, McAdams asserts, may be the rare person who lacks any inner story, something most people develop to givetheir lives unity, meaning and purpose.

A life story provides a moral frame of reference because it grounds your experiences in basic values and beliefs, according to McAdams, a narrative psychologist who pioneered the study of lives. 

Trump, McAdams argues, can’t form a meaningful life story because he is the “episodic man” who sees life as a series of battles to be won. There is no connection between the moments, no reflection and no potential for growth when one is compulsively in the present. 

Donald Trump is a “truly authentic fake,” writes McAdams, professor of human development and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy. “Trump is always acting, always on stage — but that is who he really is, and that is all he really is. He is not introspective, retrospective or prospective. He does not go deep into his mind; he does not travel back to the past; he does not project far into the future. He is always on the surface, always right now.  

“In his own mind, he is more like a persona than a person, more like a primal force or superhero, rather than a fully realized human being,” McAdams adds.

Sure enough, right now Trump sees the COVID-19 situation as an assault on him, as evidenced by his continually referring to himself in newsers on the outbreak as well as his blatant statement, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” when he was pressed by reporters on why there are so few available tests in this country. Any other effective leader would at least give lip service to taking responsibility for everything that happens on his watch, but not the poor, aggrieved Victim-in-Chief.

I don’t blame Trump for the COVID-19 crisis. I only blame him for being himself.

Hot Air: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Lockdown

Anthony Fauci, a guy who actually knows something, as opposed to the president, the vice president, and several of their handpicked point people blathering about the COVID-19 pandemic — oh, and all your Facebook friends who suddenly are PhDs in virology — is recommending this morning that we start dramatically reducing doing things outside the house and in the presence of other human beings who don’t live with us. Fauci, of course, is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Those of us of a certain age recall him as a reasonable, expert voice during the AIDS crisis/panic of the 1980s.

And the we I mention above, it must be said, are Americans. That’s important because Fauci also said he’s leaning toward a national lockdown that would affect restaurants and bars in this holy land. That’d be a sort of lockdown-lite in comparison to the total lockdowns being imposed in other countries trying to get ahead of this rapidly spreading infection.

Lots of folks are calling for just that here, a general lockdown wherein no one would be allowed to leave the house and everybody resorts to leaning out their windows and singing to each other…, no, wait, that’s Italy. Let’s see, now, what would we do in such a confined state? Oh, I know! We’d probably fire guns in the air from our windows or we’d stand on our balconies and shriek about what the hell ever conspiracy theories had popped into our heads within the last 15 seconds or so.

I highly recommend not betting on a general lockdown here. This is, after all, a country wherein it is impossible to stop people from carrying weapons of war into Sam’s Club or even a public library! Yeah, that’s right. We are so in thrall to an extremely narrow interpretation of the meaning of freedom that we consider strapping one or more AK-47s or Beretta AR-70s on our back and, as an added display of our devotion to sweet liberty, carrying in waist holsters Glock G43s and/or Springfield XD-Ss — with an ankle holster containing a SIG Sauer P-365, because you just never know — as patriotic statements.

That Woman Sure Looks Suspicious.

If you can’t convince loons — and the legislators who pander to them — that such an array of armament is a tad overkill for dashing down to the store to stock up on lemonade that’s on sale for two for five dollars, you sure as hell aren’t going to force them to stay inside so as not to help spread a microorganism that might kill the elderly and the sick. After all, what kind of a trade off is my precious freedom against the lives of people who, quite frankly, aren’t representative of the best, strongest, and fittest in Great-Again-America?

My gut tells me we won’t have a general lockdown here. Maybe in a college town or some other blue bastion here and there, if that’s even legally permissible, but not for this mighty nation as a whole.

Let freedom ring!

Hot Air: Real Stories

Ready for a Conspiracy Theory?

I just came up with one. This COVID-19 scare is a plot by the supermarket-industrial-complex to get us to spend twice and three times more than normal on groceries.

Ready, Go!

The Loved One and I stood in the checkout line at the Kroger Theme Park for 45 minutes this afternoon. I mean, everybody on Earth was there, cramming everything on the shelves into their shopping carts. It was like that old game show, Supermarket Sweep.

Usually, I’d be griping and moaning and TLO’d have to bite her lip not to blurt STFU at me but this time I made sort of a joke about it all. And TLO actually left the line at one point to fetch a bottle of wine for a woman who was busy keeping her little baby in her cart’s kid seat from starting to bawl because, judging by the kid’s eyes, she was long minutes past her nap time. That TLO can be a sweetheart now and then.

So, there you have it. This coronavirus is a hoax. Hey, me and Sean Hannity, baby!

Holiday Boys

If you missed yesterday’s Big Talk (if so, shame on you!) here’s the podcast link for my interview with Addison & Lewis Rogers, the music- and mirth-making brothers who make up Busman’s Holiday.

It was Part 1 of the interview with the second part to air next Thursday, March 19, 2020, at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Scary Books

I’m not going to win myself a ton of friends by writing this, especially in this college town bastion of rigid righteousness but a couple of recent developments in the publishing industry are really scaring the bejesus out of me. Plus, I don’t give a good goddamn if the fetishistic moralists-slash-presentists hate me or not.

Here’s what happened:

  1. Protesters raised holy hell over the publication of Jeanine Cummins’ novel American Dirt. It’s the story of a middle-class family that has to flee Acapulco after the husband, a journalist, writes a story about the local drug kingpin. The family dashes to the US border and meets scads of other individuals and families who are also fleeing from something in both Mexico and the other Central American nations.
  2. Protester’s again raised holy hell when Woody Allen’s memoir was due to be published. Allen, the septuagenarian, highly decorated film director who has been accused of child molestation by several of the children of his one-time live-in partner Mia Farrow.

The protesters in the first case said, basically, that Cummins had no business writing a fictional book about a Mexican family’s experience because she is not Mexican. In the second case, the protesters said, again, basically, that Allen had forfeited his privilege to recount in print his life because he’d been accused of such a heinous offense. (Allen was investigated but never charged with any crime; some say he was given a free pass by the state prosecutor. Two of Farrow and/or Allen’s other children present at the time of the allegation have spoken up in Allen’s behalf, saying they don’t believe it happened.)

In any case, Flatiron Books, the publisher of American Dirt, cancelled the author’s book tour in response to the protests. This despite the fact the novel was an Oprah’s Book Club selection and it was rocketing up the bestseller lists. Allen’s memoir, Apropos of Nothing, was scheduled to be published by Grand Central Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, next month. When word of it got out, protesters pressured Hachette to the point that it has decided to dump the book.

I suppose it’s good we have a constitutional First Amendment that prevents the government from exercising prior restraint or otherwise punishing people who write things that aren’t violations of national security, but in practice we have hyper-moralists who do the censorship themselves. Oh, and weak-kneed publishing executives who can’t stand the idea that anyone might be offended by a book or an author.

Don’t get me wrong, Allen creeps me out. His eventual affair and subsequent marriage to Soon Yi Previn, Farrow’s adopted daughter whom Allen served in something of a paternal capacity when she was a child, still makes my hair stand on end. That romance alone made me never want to see Allen’s movie “Manhattan” again even though it was one of my favorite films of the 1970s. In it, Allen’s character Isaac, who’s 42, has a torrid affair with Tracy, 17. At first I thought the age-thing was a joke, an exaggeration in service of the plot. After Allen’s relationship with Soon-Yi was revealed, the plot device began looking uglier and uglier. As for the charge of child molestation, suffice it to say Allen’s behavior was described by the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital as “grossly inappropriate” despite its report finding no solid evidence of sexual activity. The guy was, at the very least, way fucked up.

Since these incidents, I haven’t seen another Woody Allen film, even though in my early 20s I saw Allen as something of a role model. I shudder to think of it now.

No matter. He is a world renowned artist. His memoir would have been fascinating. For chrissakes, Richard Wagner’s memoir probably is fascinating, despite the composer’s vile anti-semitism. For that matter, the king of anti-semites, Adolph Hitler, wrote a fairly riveting memoir, considering who he was and how he came to be.

But protesters have made sure we won’t see Allen’s opus (for now).

Protesters similarly made sure Jeanine Cummins wouldn’t get the satisfaction of meeting her literary fans because she authored a work of art depicting characters that weren’t her. Hell, Stephen King isn’t a murderer but he wrote a story about a guy named Jack Torrance. And King — ever more vociferous these days — in response to the Cummins imbroglio, said, “We don’t threaten writers with violence. Not in America.” Oh yes we do. Both Cummins and booksellers who dared defend her right to write whatever fictional story she wishes, have received death threats.

Then again, in this third decade of the 21st Century, the death threat has become the new normal way of saying I disagree with you. But I that’s another matter entrirely.

King, as well, has said the dumping of Allen’s book makes him “very uneasy.”

For my money, we need to know a person can be a monster and still be capable of making great art or even coming up with a cure for cancer. We childishly see people as either angels or demons when in truth the vast majority of us are a bit of both.

Anyway, I’m going to read American Dirt as well as Allen’s memoir, should it ever be published, simply to make the statement that I can. I’m no longer a First Amendment absolutist now that hate groups are ascendant and, for all intents and purposes, blessed by the president. But short of people calling for harm to groups of people or the curtailment of their liberties, I’m fully in favor of letting people write and say whatever in the goddamned hell they want.

And, yeah, the fact that I can’t see Jeanine Cummins read from her book and that I flat out can’t read Allen’s, scares the living hell out of me.

Hot Air: So, Anything New Happening?

Look, I’m your friend, right? So let me repeat a bit of advice I gave you a couple of days ago. Stay the hell off social media during this public health crisis! It’s a cesspool of terror and misinformation. It’s Panic City.

Once again, here are your indispensable and authoritative resources for information on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak:

Criminal Mouth

So shoot me. In the car today I had to tune to Louisville’s NewsRadio 840, WHAS. From my time living in that town I know the station carries the likes of Rush Limbaugh and a bunch of other even more delirious Right Wing bleaters (if that’s even possible). I was dying to find out how they’re treating this development. I was in time for the start of the second hour of Limbaugh’s program. Natch, he was blathering about the pandemic.

And, trust me, not in your wildest imagination could you conjure a more irresponsible and hateful rundown of the crisis we face.

First, I lost count of how many times he characterized the virus as something “foreign.” I guess that’s the watchword right now, thanks to our Dear Leader who himself employed the term during his crazy, mixed-up nationally televised speech Wed. night. Then, Limbaugh went on a rant about how, if this thing were a hostile foreign power with guns and airplanes and nuclear weapons, we would all be banding together to fight it tooth and nail but, No-o-o-o-o! the goddamned liberals are politicizing this thing and hamstringing our great president from acting as swiftly and effectively as he can.

Then, as if someone flipped a switch, Limbaugh started ranting that the virus is really nothing. Golly gee, only 39 people have died in this country! Why isn’t the fake news media headlining that key fact, huh?

So, after a few minutes, I had to flip the radio off before I had a brain aneurysm. In fact I did one of those annoying bend-your-fingernail-back thingies because I hit the button so hard. Anyway, I was left confused: Is the virus the equivalent of a war against a vicious opponent armed with the most destructive weapons ever conceived or is it no big deal at all?

How luxurious it must be to have everything both ways.

COVID & Me

Here’s what I’m doing for the next few weeks:

  • Laying way low so I don’t infect anyone
  • Avoiding all gatherings of more than three people (me included — and I have to be assured the other two are healthy as horses)
  • Shunning everybody with the slightest sniffle, not to mention any sneezing and/or coughing
  • Washing my mitts as often as I normally do (which has long bordered on an OCD symptom)

BTW: let’s stop telling each other not to touch our faces. It’s flat-out impossible. Every single time I touched my face today, I thought, Oh yeah, I shouldn’t have touched my face. I won’t reveal how many times that happened.

In any case, if this thing gets into me and I end up checking out, well…, it’s been occasionally nice and occasionally miserable. Life, right? For pity’s sake I’ve been figuring I’ll likely take my leave sometime within the next 20 years anyway, considering how certain maladies have kicked the shit out of me of late. A COVID-19 death’d just be an unexpected moving up of my sell-by date.

Let’s Do It The Right Way

Bunches of people have been saying they hope President Gag catches COVID-19 and dies from it.

Me? I figure that outcome would cheat us out of the opportunity to gleefully vote his no-good ass out of office come Nov. 3rd

 

Hot Air: Wise?

Catch the Busmen

Addison (L) & Lewis Rogers: Busman’s Holiday

Before I begin pontificating, I want to hip you to a fun Big Talk airing this afternoon at 5:30. I was joined Tuesday in the studio by Addison & Lewis Rogers, the brothers who make mirth and music under the sobriquet, Busman’s Holiday.

Dang, I hardly had to edit the raw recording because we three got on so well and made for such a compelling gabfest. In fact, we went on and on so long that I decided to turn the interview into a two-parter. Part one airs today on WFHB, 91.3 FM, with Part two slated for next Thursday, March 19th.

And, for goodness sake, throw some money down and cop some of the boy’s music. You’ll thank me.

The Owls Vs. The Workers

Let’s talk about the people on my side of the fence. Call us what you will (liberals, the Left, bleeding hearts, tree huggers, socialists, commies, queers, perverts, weaklings, losers, et cetera — I prefer to think of us as one great big unhappy family), the truth is you can’t call us the voice of the working person anymore. Much of it has to do with the Reagan Right’s clever strategy of crushing labor unions starting some 50 years ago. Labor was the Democratic Party’s biggest financial benefactor up until the 1980s. Reagan and his allies recognized it and for that reason (among others) stood on their heads to demonize and then break up unions. W/o their biggest sugar daddies, the Dems had to begin cozying up to Wall Street and the corporate world for their financing, changing the philosophical and practical positioning of the party.

But that’s not the only reason the Democrats and the Left lost the working class. It also was the fact that we stopped listening to people who were afraid of losing their jobs. We had much more important things to consider than your financial well-being, you fools. Chief among them was the environment. Let’s take as an example the Northern Spotted Owl wars.

The Northern Spotted Owl.

Northern California was one of the primary homes of said raptor. Environmentalists and their celebrity spokespeople in movies and pop music were aghast that continued logging in N. Cal. forests was on a trajectory to essentially destroy much of the natural habitat of Strix occidentalis caurina, as well they should have been. Northern spotted owls are particularly sensitive to adverse changes to their habitats. The logging industry up and down the northwest Pacific coast in the post-war era was clear-cutting woodlands at an alarming rate. The number of spotted owl pairs in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California plummeted concurrently. The dramatic decline in the population of the owls moved environmental activists to take the creature’s cause up in a big way. In 1973, responding to pressure, the US Dept. of the Interior put the bird on its Endangered Species list. All good so far.

Nevertheless, by 1990 the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the owl a threatened species. By that time, the protectors of the spotted owl had added legal remedies to their public relations campaign in an effort to save the owls (in fact, that very line, Save the Owls, became a popular bumper sticker not only on the northwest coast but around the nation). Lawyers for environmentalists went to federal court to get the government to curtail logging by private companies in the affected areas. The companies responded that the curtailment would hurt their business and so the fight became one of hardy, noble, nature lovers battling against greedy, monolithic corporate overlords. And because the overwhelming majority of Democrats at the time loved the environment and was justifiably suspicious of big corporations, why, there was nothing more needed to be said about the issue.

They were wrong. The number of working class people who lived in the northern spotted owls’ territories and whose livelihood depended upon the logging industry numbered into the hundreds of thousands. Many of those people might well have had concern for the birds but of more pressing urgency was the fact that they might be losing their jobs. Whole towns grew up around logging centers. Grocers, movie theaters, work clothes outlets, doctors, lawyers, cab companies, hardware stores, restaurants, and any number of other businesses concurrently grew up around those towns, serving people whose money came from logging. The operators of those businesses, too, began quaking in their boots.

Logging industry flacks warned that tens of thousands of people would lose their jobs if clear-cutting were to be curtailed there. The US Forest Service estimated some 30,000 people would be put out of work should clear-cutting in the affected habitats be slashed.

There were tons of reports and estimates that disputed these figures — primarily the fact that mechanization already had reduced the number of logging jobs by up to 90 percent since the end of World War II — but I’m not interested in arguing that point further here. Perception creates its own reality and as long as those hundreds of thousands of logging workers were scared to death their jobs might be in jeopardy, they needed to be heeded by the then-putative party of the working people.

But no, the environmentalists — and by extension, the entire Democratic Party — gave the big finger to them. By god, we gasped, how can you prioritize your paycheck over the loss of a species? What kind of a heartless, greedy bastard are you?

All we had to do was listen to those terrified people. Listen to their concerns. Take them into consideration. Try to allay their fears. Work with them. Compromise. Uh-uh. We ignored them, sending them running into the arms of the big business, anti-environment Right. They no longer felt at home in the Democratic Party.

That same scenario is playing out today. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people work in the private health care delivery system. More than half a million Americans alone work in health insurance administration. They tend to believe — rightly or wrongly (it doesn’t matter) — that Medicare for All or single payer, universal health care will put them out of work. And then there are the millions of people who are reasonably happy with their employer-based health care coverage. Again, rightly or wrongly (and, again, it doesn’t matter) they’re afraid they’ll be shunted off to some doctor or hospital that they don’t want.

Are we listening? Of course not! We’re saying, once again, fuck them. And when a preeminent charlatan like President Gag tells them, hell no, there’ll never be Medicare for All, he becomes mightily attractive to them.

It’s so simple: All we have to do is listen. All we have to do is let people know we care about their fears and concerns. All we have to do is sit down and craft some kind of bargain with them. But no. Better to tell them to fuck off because, for god’s sake, we’re in the right!

Hot Air: Social (Media) Distance

Suddenly, social media has become jam-packed with epidemiologists and virologists. Every other person posting on FB & Twizzler is offering urgent advice on how to avoid getting snuffed out by COVID-19. And half the tips are repudiations of previous posters’ tips.

That’s why I’m staying the hell off those hive mind ghettoes right now.

All I need to know is this: the virus is mainly — almost exclusively — transmitted by droplets. That means stay away from bunches of people who may or may not be sneezing or hacking. That’s why sports leagues, etc. are cancelling tournaments and games and businesses are telling employees to stay home.

Oh, and wash your damned hands. If you haven’t been doing that as a matter of routine before this public health crisis started, what in the hell have you been doing?

And — for chrissakes! — why in heaven’s name would you turn to social media for such vital information as what you should do as this epidemic spreads? Here are the online resources you should consult:

Qualified experts in fields of disease and public health know things; your Facebook friends do not.

Meet The New Boss

Lots of people — and I’m one of ’em, believe me — are fretting about humanity’s embrace of strongmen these days. The raised voices usually come from my side of the fence — the Left. I mean, take a look at the bossmen of Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Brazil, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, India, China, and, yes, these United States; not a one of them’d be considered a Leftist. Yet, more and more of humanity is embracing the tough talkers because they offer facile, faux-bold platitudes and promises. Effective leaders understand the world is a dizzyingly complex place and answers to problems will only be arrived at through mental and moral gymnastics, hard-won compromise, and an understanding of the sciences of history, psychology, sociology, ecology, games, and public relations, with smatterings of nuclear physics, biology, epidemiology, and human evolution throw in to further confuse those who seek simple, simplistic solutions.

We in this holy land like to position ourselves as some kind of bastion of freedom. Is that true or not? I don’t know the answer but I do know this, every goddamned country in the world advertises itself as the one real home of freedom. Every single one. Hell, even Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR bragged about their freedom.

Anyway, let’s just assume the United States is the world’s paragon of liberty. And one might get the impression that the most freedom-loving among us are those advocating for Bernie Sanders.

Funny thing is, when we get down to cases, many, many, many in the Sanders crowd (and, don’t forget, I voted for him in the 2016 Dem primary and plan to do so again this year) are just as in thrall to the strong man as those who go gaga over Li’l Duce or his wingman, V. Putin. Read enough and listen enough to Sanders backers and you’ll come away convinced they’re certain that as long as their boy gets in the White House, we’ll have Medicare for All; the wealth gap will be narrowed; everybody will have a home and enough to eat; college debt will disappear; our cars and factories will run exclusively on wind and solar power; every working person will earn a living wage; and corporate tax loopholes will disappear.

Just like that. In the snap of Bernie’s fingers.

Only They Can Do It.

The president, I might remind them, is not a dictator, not even if s/he’s benevolent. All the above grandiose plans and aims and more must be accomplished with the full cooperation of healthy majorities in the Senate and House as well as the statehouses, the governors, and even local officialdom. We’re talking tens of thousands of elected officials who have to get on board with Bernie’s ideals.

This, by the way, under the putative administration of a man who turns off half or more of the members of his own political party (well…, the political party he sorta plays nice with every four years). What’s he going to do? The man — should he become president — will go to work with a Congress that pretty much despises him. What’s he going to do? Threaten his opponents with expulsion? Keep enemies lists like Dick Nixon did or Presdient Gag is now doing?

Lots of Bernie folks want him in because he stands for all the right things, never mind that there’s a towering variety of wants and needs and philosophies in today’s American electorate. A variety, of course, that must be navigated by a leader who understands even those s/he opposes must be placated.

Bernie and a large swath of his backers imply to hell with them. We’re right and that’s that.

Isn’t that what a strongman and his followers say?

Hot Air: Same Old, Same Young

It took me until I was about 40 to really understand that all the olds I came into contact with were once young, vibrant, healthy, hopeful, and not shriveled-up prunes.

Now that I’m a shriveled-up prune with a body breaking down in more ways than I care to inventory, the knowledge that I and everyone else of superannuated condition am/are the same person who used to dance and drink until four in the morning, could play centerfield w/o feeling the need for a heart/lung transplant, and could express myself, shall we say, physically vis-à-vis other human beings at any time of the day or night just a few short decades ago seems an immutable given.

A commercial photographer named Tom Hussey has come up with a gorgeous, ingenious way of showing how those two seemingly disparate folks — the young one and the old — are actually the same soul. His photo series “Reflections of the Past” was inspired by a comment Hussey heard from an old bird who actually served in the military during World War II — which, I might add, would shock a ton of old-timers to consider is some 75 years in the distant, foggy past. That veteran, who was 80 at the time, told Hussey he couldn’t believe the ancient relic who stared back at him from the mirror was indeed himself. “I feel,” the guy said, “like I just came back from the war.”

So Hussey created a series of photo montages wherein he contrasted current images of people with old images of them, as if they were looking in the mirror and seeing themselves magically transformed into pups.

Here are a couple of examples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more, go here.

[Once again, thanks to Maxxwell Bodenheim for the tip.]

One And Done?

I find it interesting that so many people are scared to death that President Gag is on his way to winning a second term as president this coming November, when so much evidence points to as popularly weak an incumbent since…, um, oh…, Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Recall, of course, the fact that the 39th President of the United States lost to his Republican opponent in a landslide, 489-49 in the Electoral College and by 8.4 million votes. OTOH, that Republican opponent was indeed Ronald Reagan, as sainted a figure as either party has managed to dig up since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Nobody on the Dem side this year carries the cache that Reagan did, so there’s that.

Still, a healthy majority of Americans feel Li’l Duce is a joke of a president — except there’s little to laugh at, really, in his actions, carriage, manner, and deep within his dark heart.

Anyway, 2016 taught me not to be at all sure of anything anymore when it comes to the will and whim of the American electorate. Were I compelled to bet on the outcome in eight months, I’d tend to want to shoot the moon on P. Gag being a one-termer. Then again, I’d only risk my dough on that outcome if someone was holding a gun to my head.

Few Americans Express Positive Views of Trump’s Conduct in Office

Hot Air: Stacey & My Mother

That’s The Ticket

Should Joe Biden win the Democratic nomination for president this year, he’ll have to — have to — select a black woman for a running mate. Stacey Abrams comes to mind. That move would create a bit of excitement in women, blacks, and the young — three groups that right now are not exactly doing cartwheels. As for me, I’d be a hell of a lot more happy to vote for him as long as he’s running with Abrams.

The Ma Factor

The current narrative among Bernie Sanders supporters runs like this: The fix is in.

See, lots of Bernie backers think the Democratic party rigged the primaries in 2016 and is even more sly and sneaky this year, all in an effort to thwart the candidacy of a man who, frankly, scares the bejesus out of Wall Street, the Goldman Sachs crowd, and whatever plutocrats toss scads of dough the Dems’ way.

The wealthy are petrified of Sanders, it is true. As they should be. The deck is stacked in their favor these days, and has been at least since 1980 when Ronald Reagan took office on a promise that every rich guy could keep his money so long as the allowed a couple of pennies every once in a while to “trickle down” to the 99 percent of us who actually have to live from paycheck to paycheck.

Sanders essentially calls for a wealth redistribution not unlike FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society programs. The Right and the Republican Party have magically transformed those sorta-controversial-at-the-time ideas into radical, revolutionary Molotov cocktails so effectively that most of the people who’d benefit from them are against them at this point. Anybody who even hints at wealth redistribution is immediately branded the second coming of Leon Trotsky, or at least Fidel Castro.

Anyway, many Bernie supporters are certain the Democratic leadership is forcing anti-Sanders-ism down people’s throats, to borrow an image that was so popular with Right Wing radio talk show hosts not terribly long ago. This theory holds that an overwhelming majority of Demcrats are four-square for Sanders, but the will of the people is being abrogated.

Bunk.

These particular Bernie supporters aren’t taking into account the fact that vast numbers of voters really are loath to a profound change in our economic system these days. A guy calling for such a dramatic rewriting of the economic rules of the game is terribly unsettling to a lot of folks.

I use my late mother as my model for this. She would never in a million years have been tempted to vote for Bernie, had she lived past the year 2014. She would have been a staunch Joe Biden supporter. Here’s why: She’d remember Biden as Barack Obama’s vice president. During the eight-year Obama term, Biden made few if any gaffes. He wasn’t caught robbing the public till. He didn’t drop the N-word. He was a good and loyal lieutenant to the first black man ever to occupy the Oval Office. Ma would feel good about him.

Ma & Dad in the backyard, circa 1964.

And Ma was a hell of a lot more in tune with the average Democratic voter than I am. I voted for Sanders in the 2016 Indiana primary. I’ll vote for him in this year’s primary too, unless by some miracle Elizabeth Warren remains in the race for the next eight and a half weeks.

Scads of Bernie people are convinced everybody wants Sanders but only some nefarious archvillain billionaires meeting in a secret cave have conceived an elaborate plot to stop him, including running a half- to a full-dozen pseudo-candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard in order to confuse poor us.

Again, bullshit. That kind of a complicated maneuver seems entirely out of character for a party that — for chrissakes — couldn’t win a national election against an unqualified, unprepared clown four years ago.

No. Sanders scares too many people. Not me, but — as I’ve said time and again these last few weeks — I in no way represent anything within a light year of the average American voter.

Hot Air: Labor & Women

My old favorite hometown newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, just signed a fab new contract with its reporters’ union. Columnist Neil Steinberg summed it all up quite nicely:

“Baby’s got new shoes!” I said, looking up from the Sun-Times this morning, where I learned that I, and everybody else at the paper, just got big ass raises. Cool.

When I was a kid my parents only brought the Sun-Times and the then-Chicago American into the house. Both were Democratic newspapers. We wouldn’t be caught dead with the Tribune in the house. And the Daily News at the time was pretty much on life-support so it really didn’t matter, although it did have Mike Royko before he began a Windy City newspaper tour to end his career. An aside: some time after Royko went to work for the Sun-Times, Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch bought the paper. As soon as the announcement was made, Royko walked a couple of blocks to the east and went to work for the Trib. He said, “”No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper.” How prescient; Murdoch, of course, went on to bankroll Roger Ailes’ bastard child, Fox News.

Anyway, Sun-Times staffers will get a sweet raise, improved health care, paid professional development days, the commitment that the newsroom will be more diverse and equitable, and a few other things. I’m more than happy Chi. is still a multi-newspaper town. In addition to the Tribune and Sun-Times, there are the Daily Herald out of Arlington Heights and another daily suburban paper owned by the Tribune. There remains some real newspaper competition in what was once America’s premier newspaper town.

Newspapers have changed radically in the last 15 or 20 years. You used to turn to the paper to find out which pols were indicted yesterday, how many people died in the house fire, what the Cubs did last night in LA (and who hit the home runs, etc.) Now, all that detail-y stuff comes to your handheld device every freaking moment of the day so newspapers have mutated to something like the wise (or fatuous, as the case may be) old relative who comments on what you already know. I find that frustrating since I elected a couple of years ago to give up my handheld device. Now when I turn to the paper to find out who won or which alderman is going to jail this month, I have to tear through the whole thing before I can snatch a hint of detail. But that’s me.

There are local online daily news sources. In Chi., there’s Block Club Chicago, among others in that city. Here, there are a couple of noble attempts at local online news, Jeremy Hogan’s Bloomingtonian and Dave Askins’ B-Square Beacon. Ron Eid’s Limestone Post (for which I’ve been a contributor for years) has been (and Eid certainly hopes will continue to be) a several-times-a-week long-form news source. And, yeah, the Herald-Times still puts out a daily edition, but golly…, enough said about that. I was hoping to turn this communications colossus into a real news source at one time but my desire to do other projects, make a couple of bucks here and there, and my own lack of patience with…, well, people, caused me to jump off that train a while ago.

In any case, despite what nay-sayers say, journalism seems to be alive, if not exactly the indispensable pillar of democracy it once was. The profession is in a transition phase, to put the best spin on it. And the new deal between the Sun-Times and its union gives me a needed shot of optimism.

The Invisible (Wo)man

These stories just keep on coming and, in one sense, it’s heartening to see women of great accomplishment finally getting some measure of their due but, OTOH, it’s depressing, for pity’s sake, to think that so many brilliant, imaginative, hard-working women got screwed out of credit, plaudits, and even dough that they deserved while they were alive.

Here’s the tale of one Elizabeth Williams, a mathematician whose painstaking labor was responsible for the discovery of what at the time was considered the ninth planet, Pluto.

Pluto (foreground) and one of its moons, Charon.

Pluto was a wild card, its odd orbit messing with the then-accepted clockwork of the rest of the solar system. Sometimes Pluto is nearer the Sun than Neptune, sometimes, farther. It’s little chunk of ice and rock smaller than our Moon and so, back in 1930, just before it was officially observed and tracked by powerful telescopes, it was impossible to detect.

Williams worked for the astronomer Percival Lowell who, in 1905 noticed perturbations in the orbits of both Uranus and Neptune that couldn’t be explained. Lowell mulled on the problem and concluded there must be some body floating around way out there some three billion miles from the Sun. His “computer,” as female mathematicians were called in those days, amassed all the figures of distance and deviation for years and eventually predicted precisely where the unknown body would be. It was left to visual astronomers to strain their eyes against the lenses of the most powerful telescopes of the day to finally spot the dot. Pluto is so distant form the Sun (and us) that its surface temperature hovers around the -375ºF mark. Hell, that’s even colder than Ft. Wayne in January.

Some of Williams’ computations on the unknown planet.

Lowell had died by 1930 so it was left to the fellow who took over for him at his observatory, Clyde Tombaugh, to be the first human to eyeball Pluto. The newspapers and newsreels of the day went gaga over Tombaugh for expanding the solar system by one planet. No one mentioned Elizabeth Williams who, y’know, did all the goddamned work!

The vanishingly small pinpoint that moved in the two plates was Pluto.

Pluto was downgraded to dwarf planet status a few years ago. If we were to call all round objects of a size similar to Pluto orbiting the Sun planets, we’d have hundreds or even thousands of them. For now we have to be satisfied with eight major planets. Then, you have to take into account all the even smaller asteroids and comets spinning around the Sun here and there, a number that would reach into the millions.

Nevertheless, Pluto was a major discovery and, for chrissakes, Elizabeth Williams was the person who told everybody where to look. Should any women you know seem resentful or cranky when discussing their status, historical and current, keep in mind scads of people like Elizabeth Williams were ignored or worse simply because they possessed vaginas.

Elizabeth Williams

[NOTE: Another female was responsible for naming the then-ninth planet. An 11-year-old British girl named Venetia Burney, who was fascinated by classical mythology, suggested the name Pluto, the Greek god of the underworld, to her grandfather, an Oxford librarian, who in turn passed the suggestion along through a string of astronomers until it reached Tombaugh. An asteroid and a crater on Pluto have been named for her. Burney died in 2009.]

Hot Air: Fun & Doom, All In One Package.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say it: I just had the best birthday weekend ever.

The Loved One planned a surprise regional tour for Friday through Sunday. Surprise, not in that I didn’t know it was coming, but as to the destinations she’d booked for each day. Several times in the weeks and days leading up to it, TLO asked me if I wanted to know what we were going to do and each time I said no. At first, she interpreted that to mean I wasn’t looking forward to the weekend. I reassured her that, no, I was anticipating it greatly but I really relished the idea of giving myself over the to the unknown of it.

In fact, that explains a lot of the difference between us. TLO is a planner whereas I love to see which way the wind will blow us.

Anyway, Friday, we drove up to Fairmount, Indiana for the James Dean Gallery & Museum. Fairmount a small town of just under 3000 inhabitants and was the birthplace of the iconic movie star. Funny thing is, he only ever appeared in three movies, East of Eden, Rebel without a Cause, and Giant. he was killed in a car crash after having shot all his scenes in Giant, although the movie was still in post-production when he died.

But those three movies established him as the icon he’d be to this day. Now, by and large, I’ve never thought much about James Dean but I love Americana and there are few things more American than the deification of a tragic movie star. Think Rudolph Valentino or Marilyn Monroe. You can buy seemingly any and every item ever invented, cerated or fashioned by human hands emblazoned with the image of one of Dean’s famous poses — or several images, for that matter.

Fairmount hosts a couple of annual James Dean bashes including a September event that draws some 30,000 visitors to the town. Our host at the bed and breakfast we stayed in Friday night told us she’s booked up for that event through 2021 already.

We went to the cemetery just north of town to see his headstone. Turns out the stone had been stolen twice. After the second theft someone came up with the bright idea of anchoring it with iron rods sunk ten feet into the ground. Once that was done, people started chipping pieces off the stone as souvenirs. To this very day, visitors still leave handwritten notes, flowers, and other mementoes at Dean’s gravesite. Dean’s cousin continues to live in the home he was raised in and, acc’d’g to those in the know, isn’t all all bothered by people driving up and snooping around the place. His birthplace home in Marion, just north of Fairmount, was razed long ago.

The next morning we crossed the state line into Ohio on our way to Wapakoneta, the birthplace of Neil Armstrong, the first human being to step on the Moon. The Armstrong Air & Space Museum house all the expected memorabilia of his childhood in addition to some beautiful exhibits on NASA’s Gemini and Apollo projects. TLO and I are space geeks so this kind of thing gets us all hot and bothered. We did learn that Armstrong was the first civilian to be accepted and certified by NASA as an astronaut. He had, though, served as a US Navy aviator and test pilot in the 1950s before leaving the service.

It still amazes me that the Moon landing occurred more than 50 years ago. That’s half a century, for pity’s sake. Around the time Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins flew in Apollo 11, I was 13 years old and watching on TV and reading in the papers as they soared to the Moon, Ted Kennedy blew his chance to become president, the Manson Family did their deeds, Woodstock and then Altamont took place. Oh, and one of the great tragedies of my youth (my entire lifetime, really), the storied collapse of the Chicago Cubs who watched as the goddamned New York Mets won the World Series that year, stealing from me something that would take 47 years for me to get over. What a freakin’ year 1969 was! To me at that age, anything that happened 50 years in the past may as well have taken place in the time of the dinosaurs. Let’s see: a half century before ’69, World War I had ended the year before and the Black Sox Scandal was about to take place. Both those things, to my adolescent mind, were of a temporal piece with the Dark Ages and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Now, something that took place 50 years ago is just another of my memories.

Wait, let me amend that. The Moon landing is far more than just another memory. It’s perhaps the greatest single human achievement in history. It cost some $25 billion-plus, the equivalent of $152B in today’s dollars, and the work of tens of thousands of people from various private companies and a number of federal departments and agencies to land a couple of people on the Moon.

The Moon, for chrissakes!

For the longest time, there was a Moon rock on display in a window at the Tribune Tower on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago and every single time I passed it by — sometimes several times a week — I’d stop to gape at it. And every single time, I wanted to shout at passersby Jesus Christ, people, that’s a piece of the Moon! One day I was with a then-14-year-old relative and I pulled him toward the window  and said, “Look! That’s a piece of the Moon!” He shrugged and said, “Yeah, so?” I was stunned into silence.

Okay, I’m a geek but — I have to say it again here and now — that’s a piece of the Moon!

Saturday afternoon TLO directed me to drive to Dayton, Ohio. We stayed in a hotel adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the massive National Museum of the United States Air Force. I’d sent TLO a link to the place several months ago saying it’d be cool to visit there one day and, lo and behold, she kept that in mind, the dear girl.

We were pretty wiped out by the time we checked in to the hotel so we decided to do the museum the next day, Sunday. That night I stood in our second floor window and gazed out at the museum complex and the huge airbase and thought, “You know what? If nuclear war breaks out this minute, we’ll be among the first to get fried.” I’d just finished reading The Bomb, by Fred Kaplan, the story of all the United States nuclear war planning over the decades by generals, Defense Department academicians, presidents and cabinet secretaries. Funny thing is you’d be shocked by how much misinformation, corporate lobbying, paranoia, irrational hatred of communism, personal ambition, and inter-service rivalry drove the build-up of our nuclear arsenal. I mean, guys were perfectly willing to push us closer to incinerating tens of millions of human beings simply to get the upper hand on a competitor for a military or cabinet promotion. Anyway, Kaplan tells us that American planners targeted some Soviet air bases with four or five multi-megaton thermonuclear weapons — an insurance against one or more missiles or bombs failing to hit the spot — in order to make sure we’d finish them off. I figure the Russians today still have places like Wright-Patterson in their sights, also with multiple missiles and bombs so they, too, might guarantee the destruction of our air forces.

There’d be a flash, I thought as I stood in the window, and then I’d be instantly transformed into a shapeless cloud of my constituent atoms. Hell, at least there’d be no pain.

We woke up the next AM to a brilliant, piercing sunrise, coincidentally emerging from the horizon at the likely X-marks-the-spot point in the middle of the air base that Russian generals, war planners, and Putin-ites have keyed into their computer programs. We grabbed the free breakfast on the first floor of the hotel, all the while listening to a table-full of young men of military service age bragging to each other about bar fights they’ve enjoyed over the years. Then we drove around the air base and were sufficiently overwhelmed by the width and breadth of the place. We saw the airfield where the Wright Brothers built and flew the first viable airplanes in human history. A couple of Indiana and Ohio boys whose parents had eventually settled in Dayton, the Wrights elected to test flight their first successful flying machine at the site of present-day Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina for the area’s strong winds and soft sands. It was in the Dayton area that they perfected mechanized flight and would run the very first flight school in history. Ergo half the name of the air base.

The Air Force museum is enormous. It’s laid out chronologically, so the first exhibits you see are of hot air balloons used by the Union Army in the US Civil War and then on to the rickety biplanes of World War I. Truth be told TLO and I only made it as far as the World War II gallery, less than a third of the entire layout, in the two hours we spent there. I was especially drawn to the B-29 called Bockscar, the long-range bomber piloted by US Army Col. Charles Sweeney in 1945. US air power was split between the Navy and the Army during World War II — the Air Force wasn’t established until 1947. Bockscar was the plane from which the second nuclear weapon ever used in warfare was dropped upon the city of Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. Nagasaki, it should be noted, was selected by Sweeney and Commander Fred Ashworth, the weaponeer, because their primary target, Kokura, was covered by clouds and smoke and sight bombing couldn’t be carried out there.

The Bockscar bomb bay doors opened around 11:00 AM, local time. The bomb fell for 43 seconds as the B-29 banked hard to get away from the detonation point as quickly as possible. Some 43 second later, the Fat Man exploded with the3 force of 20,000 tons of TNT at a height of 1650 feet, instantly killing tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, Mitsubishi Munitions plant workers, and about 150 soldiers and 2000 Korean slave laborers. All told, up to 80,000 total human beings perished as a result of the Nagasaki bombings, taking into account those who died days and weeks later from injuries and radiation sickness.

Perhaps the unluckiest — or luckiest — human being in history was a fellow named Tsutomu Yamaguchi. He was a resident of Nagasaki on business in Hiroshima three days earlier and lived through the nuclear bombing of that city three days earlier and subsequently returned to his hometown just in time to endure a second nuclear bombing there. Believe it or not, Yamaguchi died in 2010 of stomach cancer, unrelated to his exposure to to the two doses of harmful radiation.

Even though the b-29s were the biggest bombers ever  produced by 1945, the aircraft looks surprisingly modest in the display hall at the museum. You can see into the nose canopy where the bombardier sat. His chair and controls all look…, well human-sized. As do the access doors for crews members in the fuselage and even the tires and external equipment labels painted on the Silverplate skin of the plane. I suppose I was expecting to see a Leviathon, a gargantuan machine, responsible for one of the two greatest mass killings at one moment in human history.

But, no, Bockscar was just an airplane crewed by 13 regular guys, 12 of them members of the United States Army and one, Ashworth, of the US Navy. A decommissioned Fat Man-type bomb sits next to Bockscar and it, too, looks unprepossessing. The thing is 128 inches in length and 60 inches in diameter. This particular weapon actually was a once-loaded nuclear bomb whose core had been removed so, conceivably, it could have been dropped on another Japanese city had the war gone on. According to Army records, two Fat Man-type bombs were due to go online sometime later that August and three more in September. And with Gen. Curtis LeMay in charge of the strategic bombing campaign against the Japanese home islands (and nicknamed Bombs Away LeMay, The Demon, and The Big Cigar) it’s a sure bet those bombs would have been dropped.

What made Fat Man and those like it objects of awe were the plutonium “pits,” just 3.62 inches in diameter that, when compressed, burst into a chain reaction precisely similar to what happens in stars, producing an energy release undreamed of.

I sat in front of the Bockscar, staring at it and imagining it soaring around Nagasaki as the mushroom cloud reached 40,000 feet into the upper atmosphere. I peered at its Silverplate skin and thought of the blinding flash bouncing off it. I imagined its crew looking at the nuclear fireball through their welders’ glasses, the only adequate eye protection at the time. I supposed many in the crew were gleeful that the long, most terrible, war in history would soon be over. I also thought at least some of them might have been cognizant that countless people below had simply ceased to exist and other countless people were experiencing terror and agony unknown to humans before that very moment. I sat there for long moments, imagining.

For some odd reason, no country has ever used nuclear weapons against another, although it can be said that the thousands of nuclear tests conducted since 1945 by the nine nuclear weapons powers were actually pre-war shots meant to scare the living hell out of potential enemies. One estimate has it that the nations of the Earth possess more than 16,000 nuclear bombs today.

How in the living hell have we gone this long and this far without there being another Hiroshima or Nagasaki?

Perhaps it’s a testament to the essential decency of human beings or maybe it’s just dumb luck. And can a species that has developed the technology to kill hundreds of millions of its members at the press of a button ever be considered decent?

I thank The Loved One from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to muse on these existential questions this past weekend. I have faith she and I aren’t the only people on this planet who wrestle with them. Perhaps it’s our strain of thought that’ll ensure some kind of survival for our kind.

[Images and links to come — I just wanted to get this essay up as quickly as possible.]

%d bloggers like this: