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gotosleep

The online dictionary I just consulted says the plural is of “hiatus” is “hiatuses.” It offers this in a snippy tone, as if any decent English word should form its plural by the standard English-y means. As an admirer of Latin (and like Elizabeth Warren) I persist in thinking that this perfectly good Roman word suffers from Anglicizing. Hence I prefer “hiati.”

I need the plural to account for yet another prolonged absence from this blog. My excuse is Trump-stress.

During the hiatus I’ve been desultorily reading/rereading stuff about authoritarianism–Arendt on totalitarianism, Richard Evans’ history of the Third Reich, Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarian Personality.* This stuff is scary. For example, here is Evans on Germany in the early 1930s:  politicians “began to tap lower-middle-class feelings of being overtaken by big business, the small shopkeeper’s fear of the department store, the male clerk’s resentment of the growing presence in business of the female secretary, the bourgeois sense of disorientation when confronted by Expressionist and abstract art and many other unsettling effects of Germany’s headlong social, economic, and cultural modernization” (3). Even though the details differ, the outline seems familiar enough: members of a class that cannot always protect itself become resentful and lash out at those they perceive to be villains.

Fiction about authoritarianism is equally terrifying. I’m halfway through Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, which imagines that Charles Lindbergh ran against FDR in 1940 and won the presidency using an “America First” platform. Roth did not make this up out of whole cloth: IRL Lindbergh actually was an admirer of Hitler and an anti-Semitic racist to boot. In order to sell the fiction (and to make a point) Roth depicts Lindbergh as a dashing figure: “the lean, tall, handsome hero, a lithe, athletic-looking man not yet forty years old arrived in his flying attire, having landed his own plane at the Philadelphia airport only minutes earlier” (15). This magnetism mesmerizes the crowds who flock to see, and later to elect, him President.

The Plot tempted me into ordering The Handmaid’s Tale (which I have not read in a long time) and Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. Atwood’s Tale is currently a best-seller at Amazon, along with Orwell’s 1984. Apparently I am not alone in my paranoia.

A couple of nights ago I watched “Denial,” a film about historian Deborah Lipstadt whose Denying the Holocaust I once taught to students of rhetoric. Her book condemned the work of holocaust deniers, chiefly that of David Irving. Irving famously sued Lipstadt for defamation and cleverly did so in Britain, where the burden of proof is on the defendant–that is, on Liptstadt, to prove that Irving was lying. The film is about the ensuing trial. “Riveting” may not be the most accurate way to describe this film for anyone who is not interested in argument; but for those who are, it demonstrates how easily history can be distorted to fit an agenda (which also goes, it may not need to be said, for “fake news.”) Tom Wilkinson, who plays Lipstadt’s lawyer, ends the film with an extended monologue, beautifully delivered, that is a searing condemnation liars like Irving and the cultural harm they do.

So that’s what I did on my winter hiatus.

*”Desultory” is one of my favorite words, in part because the emphasis falls on the first syllable, unlike most English words. That’s one (the only?) benefit of Trump-stress:  I have occasion to use the word “desultory.”

 

 

Is This It?

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Back in 2002 and for several years thereafter Desert and I inhabited offices that sat next to one another at the end of a small hall. Every morning, whoever arrived at work last asked the other: “Is this it?”

While the ostensibly required answer was “yes” or “no,” the question actually meant: has the Bush administration finally told a lie that is transparently false enough to awaken Americans to the fact that they always lie? About 9/11, about their attempts to find bin Laden, about WMD, about Iraq, about their purge of state attorneys-general, about torture–on and on and on.

It’s time to revive the question, this time about yet another dishonestly elected Republican president:  Is this it?  Is it clear enough yet to the Hairball’s supporters and enablers that the Russians helped him to steal the election? That the Russians may still have some hold over him and his administration? That they may, goddess forbid, be dictating policy to him?

Hillary tried to warn us during the third debate:

“But you are very clearly quoting from WikiLeaks. And what’s really important about WikiLeaks is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans.

They have hacked American websites, American accounts of private people, of institutions. Then they have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the Internet.

This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government, clearly from Putin himself, in an effort – as 17 of our intelligence agencies have confirmed, to influence our election.

So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before.” (ww.politicususa.com/2016/12/10/october-hillary-clinton-told-71-6-million-viewers-russias-interference-election.html).

You may recall that Hillary “won” that debate. Indeed, she won all of the debates even though the Hairball stalked her and called her names during each one. She also won the popular vote by almost three million.

I guess that’s what you get for telling the truth in America today.

Loss. Silence.

And yeah I’m bitter, and yes I’m holding a grudge, etc etc and every other trite claim that can be thrown up. Can you blame me?  My country is being stolen while the damned Thugs sit on their smug asses and tell us “Move along.  Nothing to see here” as they prepare to take away health care and deregulate the banks that brought us the 2008 crash and lower taxes on the rich, and, and ….

AGH!

 

 

 

 

The Man Who Would Be King

Students dive to the ground as the Guard fires on faculty and stTwo am. Yes, I’m awake. Can’t sleep for fretting about the future of our country. This last two weeks feel like–smell like–the Nixon era. Having lived through that, I remember when armed troops opened fire on unarmed students. Twice. Several deaths resulted. At a President’s command.

Is that where we are headed once again? People often say that the genius of the Constitution is that there are three branches of government:  executive, judicial, and legislative. What is left out of this sunny equation is the fact that the executive–that is, the president–controls the military.

Given that the military, and even scarier, the cops, are trained to carry out orders without questioning them, I’m scared.

I’m also dismayed, to say the least, by a result from a recent PPP poll which indicates that while most Americans disagree with the President’s immigration ban, a whopping 51% of Trump supporters agree with his barely disguised attempt to deny entry to members of a single religion. Which support belies a shocking ignorance of the American Constitution, as well as a failure to realize that the Constitution is the only thing that protects them, as well, from a President who thinks he is a king.

The Man Who Wasn’t There

I could have sworn the notice said “Office Hours With Jeff Flake.” For those of you who live elsewhere, Flake (yeah I know) is one of my Senators. The so-called “office hours” were to be held today in my home town at the library.

What’s not to like? I figured I would go early, take a book to read until people began to show up, and meet some of my neighbors.

When I arrived about 45 minutes early a small room was already full. So the librarian moved us to a bigger room, telling us we were the largest group who had ever congregated for one of these events (a sign of interesting times? the impending apocalypse?) Soon the larger room was full as well, and seats were being brought for those gathered in the children’s library next door. Most members of the audience were white-haired (no surprise given where I live). It was not too difficult to discern political stances by reading T-shirts: “RESIST!” and “Human Rights” sat a few rows away from “Trump/Pence.”

As we waited for someone to address us, an enterprising woman who works for the blood bank got up to tell us that local banks are dangerously short of blood. She gave us dates when the mobile blood banks would be in our neighborhoods, and urged us to donate. She gave out cards with the dates to remind us.

Maybe we should run her for the Senate?

About fifteen minutes late, three people in suits showed up, and one of them distributed forms on which we were to write our names and contact information, along with questions we wanted to ask Senator Flake. Clearly the woman addressing us was not the Senator. When asked, she told us that she is his Office Manager. His office manager!

Undeterred, audience members raised hands and posed questions. I heard one about immigration and another about water;  neither were friendly, IMO, to Thug positions on these matters. Finally someone asked:  are you going to answer our questions?

“No,” she said, looking surprised by the quite reasonable question. “I’m just here to gather your responses.” At that point, the crowd groaned their disappointment and began to disassemble.

The afternoon wasn’t a total loss.  I met some nice people and was pleasantly surprised by the generally center-liberal bent of the questions that did get asked as well as the occasionally quasi-belligerent tone in which they were asked.

If Flake ever does show up in Arizona to answer questions, he had better be prepared.

 

 

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A Comparison

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Woodrow Wilson shepherded the country through WW1; he was also prex when women achieved the vote. FDR got the country through a horrible depression by means of several progressive bills and programs–social security was one of these. He also saw us through WW2. He can’t easily be forgiven, though, for the incarceration of Japanese-American families.

My folks were enamored of Harry Truman, who established the Marshall plan to help Europe recover from the war, and who was instrumental in the establishment of NATO. He advanced the cause of civil rights for African-Americans by desegregating the armed forces and forbidding discrimination in federal hiring. But history has not been kind to the man who dropped atom bombs on innocent civilians.

Now we come to prexes that I remember. JFK had promise and joie de vivre, although the Bay of Pigs was a stupid error that brought us to the brink of nuclear war. (It’s not quite fair to blame JFK for this–he was probably misled by the CIA). In his short time as prex Kennedy furthered the cause of civil rights, although unevenly, and put in motion the plan to put a man on the moon. And he sure did class up the place.

LBJ was a superior wheeler and dealer: he installed Medicare and passed a voting rights act and the Civil Rights Acts against the wishes of the southern members of Congress. He was my hero for a time, and then he went and got us mired in Vietnam. Jimmy Carter brought environmental consciousness to the country well before this was mainstream; Thugs did everything they could to deter him, including endless mocking of the sweater he wore in the White House in order to encourage Americans not to waste energy. He was cheated out of re-election by Thugs who arranged an illegal deal with the Iranians to bring home some American hostages.

Bill Clinton presided over and encouraged the tech boom;  he brought the country out of a recession and into prosperity. He might even have passed single-payer health care, had he and his wife not been hounded and hounded by the Thugs, who impeached him, unsuccessfully, for having sex with a willing intern.

And you know all about Obama’s achievements: bringing the country out of yet another Thug-caused recession/depression, and passing the ACA, both of which achievements occurred before the Thugs took over Congress and stymied him at every turn. He did manage to appoint two tough women to the Supreme Court, free thousands of people from prison who were over-charged for small crimes, and, like Clinton, Obama created more federal lands to protect them from mining and logging.

Now I can hear you saying to yourselves:  “Doc, we know all this. Why are you repeating this history?” Because I want to compare these presidents to the Thugs who came in between them.

After LBJ came Nixon, who extended the war in Vietnam (ie he committed treason) in order to defeat the Dem candidate for prex, and who resigned to avoid impeachment for actual crimes and misdemeanors, like breaking and entering. He was followed by Gerald Ford, whose greatest accomplishment was to pardon Nixon.

Then came Reagan, who announced his candidacy in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where civil rights activists Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were murdered by the Klan. CLUE PHONE for those paying attention: Reagan and his goon Lee Atwater (Reagan’s Steve Bannon) did their level best throughout his presidency to set back the cause of civil rights. He also busted the air controllers’ union, thus marking the beginning of the end of unions in this country. He illegally trafficked weapons to conservative insurgents in South America, although there is some doubt about what he knew about this program, given that he was in at least the early stages of dementia during most of his second term.

Then the Thugs gave us Bush the first. This Bush, who was probably hip deep in Iran-Contra and lied about it, gave us Clarence Thomas. Then there was Bush the second, who brought us Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld who in turn most likely gave us 9/11, along with war with Iraq and Afghanistan, torture, Alberto Gonzales, Sam Alito, John Roberts, and finally, the Great Recession.

That is to say, Thug presidents in my lifetime have been a dreary catalog of cheats and inepts.

And now the Thugs have given us the Hairball.  The End.

Cat As Trump Voter

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Early this morning I awoke to discover that Sassy was nowhere to be found–in her usual haunts, at least. I put out some food, thinking the sound of a can opening would draw her out of wherever she was hiding. Nope.

I began a more thorough search, trying to think of places where she might have gotten stuck. I turned on the light in the garage, just in case, and there, peering out through the windshield of my car, was a sad little face.

How did she get in the car? Well, yesterday was a lovely warm day here in Geezerville, and the car’s windows were open when I last arrived home. I closed the drivers’ side window but neglected to close the passenger side before I turned off the ignition. Those of you whose cars have electronic windows know that the car must be running in order to operate the windows. There was a gap of about four inches from the top of the car, but I thought to myself that Sassy would never find it, let alone perform the gymnastics necessary to squeeze herself through it.

Wrong on both counts.

She was very happy to be rescued. I have no idea if she learned anything from this experience, so as she happily munched on tuna, I found the keys, turned on the car, and closed the offending window. Just in case.