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Archive for January, 2017

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.

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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.

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“-42% of Trump voters think he should be allowed to have a private email server to just 39% who think he shouldn’t be allowed to. Maybe cyber security wasn’t such a big issue in last year’s election after all.”

(Finding from a Public Policy Poll: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2017/01/americans-think-trump-will-be-worst-president-since-nixon.html#more).

 

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No Picnic Today

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 Trep’s back porch.

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Knee Deep

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A cool little machine like this one–only much used–spent most of yesterday afternoon chewing up my yard.

Several days ago I realized that I had never had the septic tank on my property pumped out. I did some research on the net and discovered that most sites recommended this be done every five to seven years. This term can be stretched a couple of years if the owner conserves water and/or never puts grease down the garbage disposal, and/or if only one or two folks live in the house. If the tank is not cleaned out, eventually it will back up into the shower, or a toilet, or a sink, or all these at once.

Yikes! Even though I meet all of the criteria listed, I have lived in this house for seventeen years.

So yesterday morning I called around and found a company who does this work and who claims to be environmentally conscious. A couple of hours later two robust young men appeared in my street, one driving a huge pumper truck and the other a pickup and trailer on which a small back hoe rested. They were cheerful enough, given the job they do. I asked what they do with the stuff they pump out of a septic tank, and they assured me that it goes into an environmentally approved treatment plant, emphasizing the point that this costs the company largish fees. We dickered a little over price and the available options beyond pumping, all of which I declined, and they got to work.

They began by using a digital gizmo perched on a stick to hunt for the tank. The gizmo looked like a divining rod to me, and I suddenly remembered the scene in Jurassic Park where the geologists use a digital camera to find buried dinosaur bones. I thought about asking if the owners of their company ever went to movies, but thought better of it. They were robust, after all.

220px-ferocactus_cylindraceus_12Finally they gave up on the gizmo and measured fifteen steps from the pipe cap. Then they fired up the back hoe and dug several largish holes, each about a foot wide, four long, and three deep, looking for the tank. In the meantime I stood guard over a nearby ferocactus, hoping I had the guts to oppose the back hoe’s progress if the cactus were threatened. All the while I wondered why all this hunting was necessary to find a tank that must be sizable, given that it holds a thousand gallons of shit.

And then Eureka! With a loud scrape the back hoe announced that it had found something–not a another large rock, as I had feared, but the tank. The lid proved to be buried about two feet under the surface. The pumping didn’t take long, but during it I was disabused of any notion I might have harbored that my shit doesn’t stink. Soon enough the hose was put away and all the holes covered up. The robust young men were kind enough not to charge me for the time they spent digging and filling in large holes in my yard.

As we enjoyed cookies and tea (rhetoricians call such things non-artful proofs) one of them told me that I had narrowly escaped from disaster–the tank was very close to full. A thousand gallons of shit. Wow! Didn’t know I had it in me. Har har.

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pyramid-b-kilbanNow we’re down the rabbit hole!  This morning the Hairball’s captive spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, disagreed with those who counted people attending his inauguration. She had the chutzpah to claim that the media relied upon “alternative facts” to make their count. To his credit, moderator Chuck Todd blew a gasket when he heard the phrase “alternative facts” (you can watch at MSNBC’s website).

Back in the day when I was still doing heavy scholarship, I often drew on the work of Jacques Derrida. Now Derrida was often accused by (conservative) literary critics of authorizing an “anything goes” attitude toward reality. The irony of this claim was that Derrida’s work was steeped in historical detail and fine-tuned historical analysis.Using history both as source and illustration, he argued that one’s reading of reality is–must be–influenced by one’s point of reference;  that is, judgements about reality are colored by one’s immersion in history, both a personal history and what can be known of larger histories at any given moment.

Derrida’s analysis, then, suggests that claims about “what is” always need to be adjudicated and/or adjusted. This is why there are histories of history. For example, we can trace the evolution of historians’ treatment of the Middle Ages, which has now moved away from characterizing this period as “Dark,” a reading adopted by Renaissance thinkers who wished to distinguish their era from that which preceded it. Or take the case of the history of American slavery, whose historians have slowly and quite recently come to appreciate the role played by black people in securing their own freedom.

Yes, I am describing a relativism. But it has both feet firmly planted in what can be known. Another way to think of this epistemological position is to compare such thinking to the claims made by science. Scientists base their work on careful and repeated study of the natural world. Still, given the limitations imposed on them by perception, the available equipment, or their operative assumptions–whatever–they long ago decided that their work would be more sound if they relied upon observations made by other qualified people in order to accept or reject it.

Hence scientific knowledge evolves, just as history does.This is pretty much what’s necessary given human limitations.

Such embedded relativism is VERY DIFFERENT from lying, which is what Conway was doing this morning. A person can lie out of ignorance–that is, because she does not have access to relevant information and interpretations. When honest people are asked to make judgements based on ignorance, they say something like “this is my best guess” so they can’t fairly be accused of lying. The only other way to lie is to knowingly misrepresent what happened. The point of doing this, of course, is to hide the truth. As far as I can see, there is no way around this conclusion (see how it’s done?) Anyone who suspects that lying has occurred has to look for a motive–why is is necessary to cover up, erase, give an alternate explanation, in this case?

The obvious answer (to me at least) is that for immediate political gain, Conway and her lying-ass cohort want to make the Hairball look more popular than Obama, more popular than he in fact is. On a larger historical level, however, they are doing the sort of dirty work that in the past has shored up authoritarianism and autocracy.

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Now This Is A March!

gty-womens-march-washington-4-jt-170121_12x5_1600I failed to register for the sisters’ march in my neighboring resort town, and hence was turned away. My bad, but then again who knew? that limits would be put.

So I came home to watch Joy Reid, who was interviewing committed women and generally having a great time. Then, suddenly, MSNBC cut away (over Joy’s protest) to show us Trump (looking bored) sitting in some droning prayer service. The first time I’ve ever felt sorry for him–but I fervently hope he has lots more moments where he’s trapped and uncomfortable.

So I’m watching the marches on Free Speech TV and streaming on, of all places, Al Jazeera. Good stuff–Michael Moore urged the crowd to call their Senators and Reps. He gave out the phone number and helped the crowd to memorize it. Gloria Steinem, who, as we all know, has been there and done it, gave a GREAT speech. She is STILL full of energy and determination, speaking at YET ANOTHER women’s march. Actress Ashley Judd brought down the house, wondering why pads and tampons are still taxed while Viagra is not, along with other great stuff.

And it looks like the turnout is HUUUGGGGE, all over the country. Go America!

UPDATE:  Maybe 500,000 people marched today!

A couple of great photos:

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