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Wash and Wax

Friends, you may ask yourselves, what do old retired guys do every day? Well, in my case, I stay as busy as if I were gainfully employed.

Every day, tons of stuff needs doing. And sometimes, the things that need doing catch you off guard.

That’s because life hurls all kinds of unpredictable pitches at you. Fastballs, curveballs, sliders. All you can do is step up to the plate and address the ball. (No, wait. That’s a golf metaphor.)

Swinging away at the random pitches life serves up — that’s my job now. Well, I also have the blog.

———

– Slippery When Wet

Last winter was especially wet, and it was unkind to the Rocky Smith residence. By spring, unwanted stuff had begun to grow on various outdoor surfaces.

The concrete — driveway, sidewalks, and patio — was coated to varying degrees with a yucky layer of blackish-brown something that turned slippery when it rained.

Several walls of the house were afflicted with an unpleasant green mold or mildew or whatever.

And, instead of being a cheerful white with natty blue pinstripes, my RV was a depressing gray with blue pinstripes.

When Paul the yardman showed up to cut my grass for the first time, I asked, “Do you do pressure-washing?”

“You bet.”

I told him the concrete desperately needed cleaning. He gave me a price, came back the following week with a behemoth of a pressure-washer, and did the job in half a day.

When he finished, I asked, “Do you do houses?”

“You bet.”

He walked around the house to assess things, gave me a price, came back the following week, and did the job in half a day.

When he finished, I asked, “What about RVs?”

“You bet.”

He gave me a price, came back the following week, and spent an hour or so pressure-washing the van with unexpected thoroughness. It looked almost as good as the day I bought it.

– Prohibited by Law

My next task was to give the RV a protective coat of wax. Being retired from washing and waxing vehicles myself, I took it to a full-service car wash. I wasn’t after any fancy detailing. I just wanted a basic wash and wax.

Last year, I found a place that does good work at reasonable prices. It’s a big operation, part of a chain. While you wait inside watching TV, a dozen or so young guys are outside swarming like ants over the vehicles. A thorough, buttoned-up operation. I stopped to ask them about the RV.

The response was a knuckleball.

“Sir, we can wax the RV for you, no problem,” said the earnest young man at the counter. “But you’ll have to wash the vehicle before you bring it in.”

Say what?

“But… you’re a car wash. You wash cars. Why do I have to wash it before bringing it to you?”

“State regulations, sir. We recycle our water. The drains under the building collect the wash water so it can be treated and used again. Your vehicle won’t fit inside the building, so we would have to wash it outside. And that’s prohibited by law.”

“Prohibited by law.”

“Yes, sir. But I have an option you might want to consider. I do jobs on the side all the time. I could do the wash and wax at your place.”

Aha. A sensible solution. I gave him my phone number, and he said he would call to work out the details.

The week wore on, and the little so-and-so never called. Time to explore other options.

– Mr. Clean

I’m a relatively intelligent guy, and this was a relatively simple problem. I needed to find a car wash designed for larger vehicles.

Trucks, for example. Trucks need washing, right? People out there are in the business of washing trucks, right?

Indeed they are. In fact, truck washes are everywhere. I didn’t know that because truck washes were never on my radar screen.

One place that had good online reviews was Mr. Clean Truck and Car Wash in Athens. I stopped one day to check them out.

Mr. Clean was a little more bare-bones than I expected — basically, just a small shed that served as an office, two more sheds stocked with supplies, lots of ladders and hoses, and a paved parking lot full of trucks and busy workers.

In the office was a middle-aged black guy sitting on a stool, staring at his cell phone. “Can I hep you?” he asked without looking up.

“You wash trucks, so I’m betting you can wash my RV,” I said.

“No problem,” he said, still focused on the phone. “Just bring it in. No appointment necessary. We’ll fix you up.”

I described the RV and asked the price of a wash and wax.

“Won’t know till I see it,” he said, still staring at the phone.

I said okay, but I need at least a rough idea of the cost.

“Well, I’ll tell you what I tell everybody,” he said, looking up finally. “Bring $100 cash, and that should more than cover it.”

– 32 Minutes

A few days later, I drove the RV to Athens and pulled into Mr. Clean’s parking lot. Four employees were busily cleaning a semi. Two others big trucks were waiting their turn. I went inside the office where the black guy was sitting on the stool with his phone, still supervising.

“I brought my RV for a wash and wax,” I said. He went outside, took a look, and returned.

“We use liquid wax,” he said. “Sprayed on, not hand-rubbed.” I took that as implying that spray wax is inferior. But I’m not picky. I nodded in agreement.

“75 dollars,” I understood him to say. I got out my wallet, took out four $20 bills, and handed them to him.

“What the hell is this?” he barked. “I said 35 dollars.” He handed back two of the bills.

“Sorry, I misunderstood,” I said. “This is my first time.”

Stone-faced, he gave me $5 change and said his boys would be ready for me directly.

The four guys doing the actual work were an interesting bunch.

One was a large, muscular black guy who was suffering mightily in the 90-degree heat. He kept gesturing to the others to hose him down.

Another was a young white guy who was so heavily tattooed — arms, legs, back, torso, face, neck, even the top of his shaved head — that he looked like a Maori tribesman.

W&W-1

The other two were tall, lean white guys, typical Southern dudes. Somehow, their cigarettes stayed lit even though their clothes were drenched.

All four worked at high speed, but were surprisingly thorough and meticulous. The trucks ahead of me took half an hour each to clean. By that measure, I figured the RV would be done in 10 minutes.

Wrong. By the clock, they spent 32 minutes climbing over, under, and around the thing, scrubbing, spraying, and rinsing at a frenetic pace.

W&W-2

When they finished, it looked better than the day I bought it.

W&W-3

The boys moved on to the next vehicle. I stuck a $20 bill in the tip box and headed home.

– Reality Bites

Back in Jefferson, I learned why sprayed-on liquid wax is inferior to the hand-applied variety.

For one thing, the RV was wet when I left Mr. Clean, and it air-dried on the way home. Thus, the glass and chrome ended up covered with water spots.

For another thing, the lower half of the chassis was covered with streaks where the wax dripped down and dried. From a distance, the vehicle looked great; up close, it had issues.

Mr. Clean’s wash and wax job accomplished what I wanted, but alas, fell a bit short. Live and learn.

With a sigh, I got out some rags and glass cleaner and cleaned off the water spots.

Next, I put some wax on another rag and began buffing out the streaks on the body. The buffing wasn’t hard, but it took a while.

Finally, I put a coat of Back to Black on the bumpers, door handles, and trim. The treatment worked well, but will need redoing in about a month.

It also occurs to me that, if next winter is as unkind as the last, I’m destined to do this all over again.

W&W-4

 

Quotes o’ the Day

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

###

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

— Ambrose Bierce

###

Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.

— George Gordon, Lord Byron

###

By the time a man realizes his father was right, he has a son who thinks he is wrong.

— Charles Wadsworth

Roosevelt E

Roosevelt

Wadsworth C

Wadsworth

 

Ad Astra

One of the stalwart writers who kept science fiction booming in the 1950s and 1960s was California native Alfredo Jose de Arana-Marini Coppel (1921–2004), who wrote as Alfred Coppel. A fighter pilot during World War II, he published his first sci-fi story in 1947. Over the decades, he wrote almost 30 novels and twice that many short stories.

“Turnover Point” is set in a future Wild West period of planetary exploration, when uncelebrated spacemen make a living hauling freight from Mars to the moons of Jupiter and beyond. They’re like long-haul truckers, forever on the road. Coppel’s description probably is how life in space will be someday.

The story is bleak, but in the end, satisfying in its own way.

———

Turnover Point

By Alfred Coppel
Published in Amazing Stories, April-May 1953

Pop Ganlon was no herohe was only a spaceman. A spaceman and a father. In fact, Pop was rather no-account, even in a profession that abounded with drifters. He had made a meager living prospecting asteroids and hauling light freight and an occasional passenger out in the Belt Region. Coffee and cakes, nothing more.

Not many people knew Pop had a son in the Patrol, and even fewer knew it when the boy was blasted to a cinder in a back alley in Lower Marsport.

Pop went on eating and breathing, but his life was over after that. He hit the bottle a little harder and his ship, The Luck, grew rustier and tackier, and those were the only outward signs that Pop Ganlon was a living dead man. He kept on grubbing among the cold rocks and pushing The Luck from Marsport to Callisto and back with whatever low-mass payloads he could pick up.

He might have lived out his string of years like that, obscure and alone, if it hadn’t been for John Kane. Kane was Pop Ganlon’s ticket to a sort of personal immortality — if there is such a thing for an old spaceman.

It was in Yakki, down-canal from Marsport, that Kane found Pop. There is a small spaceport there — a boneyard, really — for buckets whose skippers can’t pay the heavy tariff imposed by the big ramp.

All the wrecks nest there while waiting hopefully for a payload or a grubstake. They have all of Solis Lacus for a landing field, and if they spill it doesn’t matter much. The drifting red sands soon cover up the scattered shards of dural and the slow, lonely life of Yakki goes on like before.

The Patrol was on Kane’s trail and the blaster in his hand was still warm when he shoved it up against Pop Ganlon’s ribs and made his proposition.

He wanted to get off Mars — out to Callisto. To Blackwater, to Ley’s Landing, it didn’t matter too much. Just off Mars, and quickly. His eyes had a metallic glitter and his hand was rock-steady. Pop knew he meant what he said when he told him life was cheap. Someone else’s life, not Kane’s.

That’s how it happened that The Luck lifted that night from Yakki, outward bound for Ley’s Landing, with Pop and Kane aboard her alone.

Sitting at the battered console of The Luck, Pop watched his passenger. He knew Kane, of course. Or rather, he knew of him. A killer. The kind that thrives and grows fat on the frontiers. The bulky frame, the cropped black hair, the predatory eyes that looked like two blaster muzzles. They were all familiar to Pop.

Kane was all steel and meanness. The kind of carrion bird that took what others had worked for. Not big time, you understand. In another age he’d have been a torpedo — a hireling killer. But out among the stars he was working for himself. And doing well.

Pop didn’t care. His loyalty to the Patrol had stopped quite suddenly not long before — in a dark alley in Lower Marsport. This was only a job, he told himself now. A job for coffee and cakes, and maybe a grubstake to work a few more lonely rocks. Life had become a habit for Pop, even if living had ended.

“What are you staring at, Pop?” Kane’s voice was like the rest of him. Harsh and cold as space itself.

“At you, I guess,” Pop said, “I was wondering what you’d done — and where — and to whom.”

“You’re a nosey old man,” Kane said. “Just get me to Ley’s Landing. That’s what I’m paying for, not a thing more.”

Pop nodded slowly and turned back to the control board. They were above the Belt by now, and a few short hours from turnover point. The cranky drives of The Luck needed all his attention.

Presently he said, “We’ll be turning over soon. Want to get some rest?”

Kane laughed. “No thanks, old man. I’ll stay here and watch you.”

Pop eyed the ready blaster and nodded again. He wondered vaguely how it would feel to die under the blast of such a weapon. It couldn’t be very painful. He hoped it wasn’t painful. Perhaps the boy hadn’t suffered. It would be nice to be sure, he thought.

There wasn’t much for Pop to remember about the boy. He’d never been one for writing many letters. But the District Patrolman had come down to Yakki and looked Pop up — afterward. He’d said the boy was a good officer. A good cop. Died doing his job, and all that sort of thing. Pop swallowed hard. His job. What had ‘his job’ been that night in Lower Marsport, he wondered. Had someone else finished it for him?

He remembered about that time hearing on the Mars Radio that a Triangle Post Office had been knocked over by a gunman. That might have been it. The Patrol would be after anyone knocking over EMV Triangle property. The Earth-Mars-Venus Government supported the Patrol for things like that.

Pop guided The Luck skillfully above the Belt, avoiding with practiced ease the few errant chunks of rock that hurtled up out of the swarms. He talked to Kane because he was starved for talk — certainly not because he was trying to play Sherlock. Pop had long ago realized that he was no mental giant. Besides, he owed the Patrol nothing. Not a damned thing.

“Made this trip often?” Pop tried to strike up a conversation with Kane. His long loneliness seemed sharper, somehow, more poignant, when he actually had someone to talk to.

“Not often. I’m no space pig.” It was said with scorn.

“There’s a lot to spacing, you know,” Pop urged.

Kane shrugged. “I know easier ways to make a buck, old timer.”

“Like how?”

“A nosey old man, like I said,” Kane smiled. Somehow, the smile wasn’t friendly. “Okay, Pop, since you ask. Like knocking off wacky old prospectors for their dust. Or sticking up sandcar caravans out in Syrtis. Who’s the wiser? The red dust takes care of the leftovers.”

Pop shook his head. “Not for me. There’s the Patrol to think of.”

Kane laughed. “Punks. Bell-boys. They’d better learn to shoot before they leave their school-books.”

Pop Ganlon frowned slightly. “You talk big, mister.”

Kane’s eyes took on that metallic glitter again. He leaned forward and threw a canvas packet on the console. It spilled crisp new EMV certificates. Large ones. “I take big, too,” he said.

Pop stared. Not at the money. It was more than he had ever seen in one pile before, but it wasn’t that that shook him. It was the canvas packet. It was marked: Postal Service, EMV. Pop suddenly felt cold, as though an icy wind had touched him.

“You… you killed a Patrolman for this,” he said slowly.

“That’s right, Pop,” grinned Kane easily. “Burned him down in an alley in Lower Marsport. It was like taking candy from a baby…”

Pop Ganlon swallowed hard. “Like taking candy from a… baby. As easy as that…”

“As easy as that, old man,” Kane said.

Pop knew he was going to die then. He knew Kane would blast him right after turnover point, and he knew fear. He felt something else, too. Something that was new to him. Hate. An icy hate that left him shaken and weak.

So the boy’s job hadn’t been finished. It was still to do.

There was no use in dreaming of killing Kane. Pop was old. Kane was young — and a killer. Pop was alone and without weapons — save The Luck

Time passed slowly. Outside, the night of deep space keened soundlessly. The stars burned bright, alien and strange. It was time, thought Pop bleakly. Time to turn The Luck.

“Turnover point,” he said softly.

Kane motioned with his blaster. “Get at it.”

Pop began winding the flywheel. It made a whirring sound in the confined space of the tiny control room. Outside, the night began to pivot slowly.

“We have to turn end-for-end,” Pop said. “That way we can decelerate on the drop into Callisto. But, of course, you know all about that, Mr. Kane.”

“I told you I’m no space pig,” Kane said brusquely. “I can handle a landing and maybe a takeoff, but the rest of it I leave for the boatmen. Like you, Pop.”

Pop spun the flywheel in silence, listening to the soft whir. Presently, he let the wheel slow and then stop. He straightened and looked up at Kane. The blaster muzzle was six inches from his belly. He swallowed against the dryness in his throat.

“You… you’re going to kill me,” Pop said. It wasn’t a question. Kane smiled, showing white teeth.

“I… I know you are,” Pop said unsteadily. “But first, I want to say something to you.”

“Talk, old timer,” Kane said. “But not too much.”

“That boy — that boy you killed in Marsport. He was my son,” Pop said.

Kane’s face did not change expression. “Okay. So what?”

Pop’s lips twitched. “I just wanted to hear you say it.” He looked at the impassive face of the killer. “You made a mistake, Mr. Kane. You shouldn’t have done that to my boy.”

“Is that all?”

Pop nodded slowly. “I guess that’s all.”

Kane grinned. “Afraid, old man?”

“I’m a space pig,” Pop said. “Space takes care of its own.”

“You’re in a bad way, old timer,” Kane said, “and you haven’t much sense. I’m doing you a favor.”

Pop lifted his hands in an instinctive gesture of futile protection as the blaster erupted flame.

There was a smell in the control room like burnt meat as Kane holstered his weapon and turned the old man over with a foot. Pop was a blackened mass. Kane dragged him to the valve and jettisoned the body into space.

Alone among the stars, The Luck moved across the velvet night. The steady beat of flame from her tubes was a tiny spark of man-made vengeance on the face of the deeps.

From her turnover point, she drove outward toward the spinning Jovian moons. For a short while she could be seen from the EMV Observatory on Callisto, but very soon she faded into the outer darkness.

Much later, the Observatory at Land’s End on Triton watched her heading past the gibbous mass of Pluto — out into the interstellar fastnesses.

The thrumming of the jets was still at last. A wild-eyed thing that may once have been a man stared in horror at the fading light of the yellow star far astern.

It had taken Kane time to understand what had happened to him, and now it was too late. Space had taken care of its own. The air in The Luck was growing foul and the food was gone. Death hung in the fetid atmosphere of the tiny control room.

The old man — the boy — the money. They all seemed to spin in a narrowing circle. Kane wanted suddenly to shriek with laughter. A circle. The turnover circle. The full circle that the old man had made instead of the proper half-turn of a turnover.

Three hundred sixty degrees instead of one hundred eighty. Three hundred sixty degrees to leave the nose of The Luck pointing outward toward the stars, instead of properly toward the Sun.

A full circle to pile G on G until the Jovian moons were missed, and the Uranian moons and Triton, too. Ad Astra per Ardua….

With the last fragment of his failing sanity, Kane thought of how Pop Ganlon and the boy must be laughing. He was still thinking that as the long night closed in around him.

Turnover Point

Original illustration from Amazing Stories by Ed Emshwiller.

———

Coppel ended the story with the Latin phrase “Ad Astra per Ardua,” which means “To the stars through adversity.”

Usually, the phrase is stated the other way around: “Per Ardua ad Astra.” In that form, it is the motto of both the British Royal Air Force and the Mulvany clan of Ireland.

Why Coppel reversed the phrase, I don’t know. But as the story ends, the evil Kane certainly is on his way to the stars.

 

Trees at Stake

Well, I find myself at loggerheads with persons unknown, either with the City of Jefferson or the city school system, over a landscaping matter. Based on the facts, I’m right and they’re wrong, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

Let me explain.

Jefferson is a small town with a school system to match. This year, student enrollment in all grades is only about 4,000 students.

On the other hand, a cafeteria is a cafeteria, and a gym is a gym, which means that even small schools occupy a fair amount of physical space.

It’s also a fact that the grounds require attention. There are lawns to cut, hedges to trim, plants to water. Grounds maintenance is a universal task at schools everywhere.

The Jefferson Public Works Department handles the maintenance of all city-owned property, including the schools. Every day, you see city guys out there getting the job done.

And so, a couple of years ago, when 20-odd new trees were planted beside the tennis courts at Jefferson Middle School, I figured — no doubt correctly — that it was a routine beautification project by the city.

To my untrained eye, it seemed nicely done, with the added touch of several new benches. The trees themselves were young, so each was supported by stakes and canvas straps. It seemed to be evidence that the people responsible knew what they were doing.

As time passed, however, I became less sure of that.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Jake and I typically go walking at one of the Jefferson schools. No one is there, and the grounds are ideal for a stroll — large, green, manicured, quiet, and pleasant. Hence, we passed the new trees at the tennis courts regularly.

And finally, sometime last winter, the thought coalesced in my brain that, although the trees had been growing for a couple of years, they still were supported by the stakes and straps. That didn’t seem right.

Curious and a bit concerned, I took a closer look.

In practically every case, the canvas straps were super-taut because of the growth of the trees. Further, where the straps wrapped around the trunks, many had become embedded in the wood. A bad situation.

I knew full well what was going on. After the project was completed, the trees were out of sight and out of mind. The city moved on to other projects. Other than periodic watering, the trees probably get no care.

If they live, fine. If they die, they get replaced.

The fate of the trees wasn’t my problem, but it was unlikely anyone else was going to step up. I decided to take action.

First, I took this photo.

Stake-1

Then I went to see a friend who manages a plant nursery, a certified landscaping guy. I showed him the photo and described the embedded straps.

“I think those trees are big enough to stand on their own,” I said. “And I think those straps need to go.”

He agreed. “But where the straps are ingrown, don’t pull them out of the trunks,” he said. “That will do more damage. Just cut the straps flush with the wood.”

I learned that freeing 20 staked-out trees isn’t easy. The canvas straps were tough, much harder to cut than I expected. But eventually, after two lengthy sessions, the deed was done. The trees were free at last.

In retrospect, I could have done a neater job. Here, for example, is one of the liberated trees, where I simply cut the straps and walked away.

Stake-2

I should have tidied up instead of leaving a mess, but I was focused on helping the poor trees. And honestly, I didn’t think anyone would notice or care.

It seems I was wrong.

One recent Sunday morning, six months after the Great Liberation, Jake and I went walking at Jefferson Middle School.

When we reached the tennis courts, I did a double-take. The trees in question had been re-staked and re-strapped.

Someone at the school or the city took notice. Maybe they were indignant that some impudent vandal had the audacity to mess with their trees. Maybe they honestly think the trees still need the support. Maybe both.

I didn’t doubt the word of my friend the landscape expert, but I went online to learn more about the staking out of young trees. I found this pertinent bit of advice:

Generally, remove the stake the next growing season. If you add a stake in spring, remove in fall. If you stake in fall, remove in spring. Otherwise, the tree will depend on the stake and won’t stand on its own.

Ha! I was right, and those unknown city people, whoever they are, whatever the rationale for their actions, are knuckleheads.

Did I cut the new straps and liberate the trees a second time? No.

I’m no fool. Those trees could be under special surveillance by security cameras. Or the Jefferson cops might be in the woods on a stakeout (bada-boom), waiting for the perpetrator to strike again.

But no matter. The trees are okay for now. The straps won’t become embedded in the trunks again for a year or so.

Time is on my side.

Stake-3

Actions have consequences. So do inactions.

 

This Just In

NAIROBI, KENYA — In April, the officers on duty at a police post in western Kenya locked up the station and went in search of a place to watch the European soccer championships on television.

They took radios with them to receive emergency calls and ended up at a shopping mall, where they watched two quarter-final matches.

When they returned to the station, they discovered that thieves had broken in and stolen three rifles and several boxes of ammunition. Disciplinary action is pending.

Kenyan police

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — As the growing season began in Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s two royal oxen predicted a plentiful harvest.

In an annual ritual presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni, the royal oxen, dressed in ornate robes and headdresses, plowed a field and then were given offerings in ceremonial bowls.

A Hindu priest said the oxen ate 85 percent of the rice and beans and 90 percent of the corn offered to them, indicating that a bountiful harvest will ensue.

Royal oxen

SHANGHAI, CHINA — A China Southern Airlines flight departing Shanghai was delayed five hours after one of the passengers threw coins into the air intake duct of one of the engines.

As the passengers boarded, an 80-year-old woman tossed a handful of coins at one of the engines, which was not running. The woman told police she threw the coins as a prayerful gesture for a safe flight.

The passengers disembarked while the ground crew inspected the engine and retrieved the coins.

Police later said the woman, who was traveling with family members, had no criminal record or known mental health issues. The airline hasn’t decided whether to file charges.

Coins

 

Tune o’ the Day

The English poet George Gordon, Lord Byron popularized the phrase “time, the avenger” in the 1880s. If you’re like me, however, you probably think of Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders when you hear it.

Their song “Time the Avenger” is the story of a married businessman who has an affair, drinks to numb his feelings, eventually realizes that time is no longer on his side, and ends up on the street with his possessions in a briefcase.

The tune is from the 1984 album “Learning to Crawl,” the group’s first album after two of the four original Pretenders died of drug overdoses and Hynde had a baby.

The album, made with a new line-up, was a big success and, as you can imagine under the circumstances, heavy on retrospection. Chrissie had a lot on her mind.

Her daughter, by the way, was learning to crawl at the time.

Learning to Crawl

Time The Avenger

By the Pretenders, 1984
Written by Chrissie Hynde

Nobody’s perfect.
Not even a perfect stranger.
But, oh, what a gal.
She was such a perfect stranger.

And you’re the best in your field,
In your office with your girls
And desk and leather chair.
Thought that time was on your side.
But now it’s time the avenger.

Nobody’s permanent.
Everything’s on loan here.
Even your wife and kids
Could be gone next year.
And with what you have left,
You’ll be forever under pressure
To support her.
And a lover who looks strangely
Like time the avenger.

Time, time, hear the bells chime
Over the harbor and the city.
Time — one more vodka and lime
To help paralyze that tiny little tick, tick, tick, tick.

Nobody’s perfect.
Not even a perfect gent.
When your property took the A Train,
I wonder where your manners went.
You were standing at the station.
In your briefcase was your aftershave and underwear.
Can you hear the whistle blow?
Sounds like time the avenger.

Time, time, hear the bells chime
Over the harbor and the city.
Time to kill another bottle of wine
To help paralyze that tiny little tick, tick, tick, tick.

 

Do the Right Thing

The malignant influence of Donald Trump is growing. Metastasizing. We need to excise it.

Most people acknowledge that Donald Trump is a deplorable, disgraceful, awful human being. He is a shallow, petty, vulgar, vindictive man who has no skills of a positive nature.

He is not remotely qualified to be President and merely is winging it. For policy guidance, he watches Fox News, or asks his sycophants, always weighing how the issue would benefit him personally.

In front of a microphone, he is given to weaving wild, stream-of-consciousness tapestries of lies and exaggerations — the diatribes of a man who fancies himself to be suave and clever. The sheer madness of the Trump presidency is accelerating.

If he were not President, none of that would matter. We would be free to tune him out as just an obnoxious gasbag. Instead, his lack of character and qualifications affects us all.

Trump is a national embarrassment. To most of the rest of the world, he is a laughable clown, best avoided, but usually easy to manipulate.

Worse, his loyalties are not with this country. Owing to his long-time financial ties to Putin and the oligarchs, he is indebted to the Russians, literally and figuratively.

He also toadies-up shamelessly to the Saudis, who murdered and dismembered a journalist, because, as Trump admits without qualm, they are good customers.

Benedict Arnold had more class.

As for the Trump supporters, who are out there in disturbing numbers, they fall roughly into five groups:

— Cynical conservative politicians, from national to local level, who are beneath contempt with virtually no exceptions.

— People mentally flawed owing to nature, and whose reasoning abilities thus are out of whack.

— People mentally flawed owing to Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine, and whose reasoning abilities thus are out of whack.

— People with some degree of a persecution complex, who feel discriminated against and disrespected, and who applaud the fact that Trump can so easily infuriate the liberals.

— People who are nominally rational, but have some kind of grievance that they believe justifies supporting Trump as a protest. Maybe they are irritated by the bureaucracy, or coastal elites, or Hispanic day laborers waiting for jobs at Home Depot. (Hint: no grievance justifies supporting Trump.)

In general, except for the politicians, these are not bad people. They are damaged people.

But they have done genuine harm to the country. Integrity and honor are not in their makeup.

Nor are they patriots, as they like to claim. History will remember the conservatives of our time as misguided enablers. They deserve both scorn and pity.

But forget about the Republicans. They are easy to understand and unlikely to change. The question is, how do the rest of us address the problem of having a dangerous nut job, an erratic loose cannon, as President?

The question from Day One has been whether to impeach or wait for 2020 and hope to vote Trump out of office.

Some Democrats say we should have impeached him long ago, and they want to start the proceedings without further delay.

Others believe impeachment is futile because the Republican Senate would never convict. They believe pursuing impeachment would only inflame the Trump voters, and the Democrats risk losing their majority in the House.

You also hear that the Democrats diddled around too long, waiting for Robert Mueller to strengthen the case against Trump, and we have run out of time for an impeachment procedure. Our only option, then, is to rally the faithful and eject him from office in 2020.

For two years, I have vacillated on this subject, just as I have favored first one Democratic presidential candidate, then another, then another.

Well, I haven’t settled on a candidate yet, but I reached a conclusion on how I think we should deal with Trump. I believe the House Democrats should move forward immediately with formal impeachment.

Maybe the process will go nowhere. Even if Articles of Impeachment pass the House, they easily could die in the Senate.

Maybe it will, indeed, outrage the conservatives, and the Democrats will lose control of the House.

Maybe so.

But no one ever deserved to be ejected from office more than this President at this moment.

And further, more is at stake than simply getting rid of Trump. We owe it to future generations to stand up for fundamental principles established by the Constitution.

Too much has happened during Trump’s presidency that is unprecedented and dangerous. I could give you a laundry list of reasons why he deserves to be booted from office, but to spare us both, I’ll only mention two easy ones.

First, blocking the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, when we know the Russians helped Trump win, is naked obstruction of justice. Prima facie grounds for impeachment.

And second, refusing to respond to lawful congressional subpoenas treats Congress as subordinate to the Executive Branch. That can’t be allowed to stand.

The Constitution created three co-equal branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial. As a safeguard, it designed them so that each branch has the ability to limit the powers of the other two.

The Constitution also provides impeachment as a mechanism to stop a President who exceeds his powers and places himself above the law.

Maybe impeaching Trump is politically risky. Maybe it will fail. Maybe it will help his chances of being reelected.

But consequences and politics be damned, we have an obligation to protect American democracy from this malignancy.

History will remember Trump as a self-serving, amoral crook. It will remember his administration as a den of vipers feeding at the public trough. It will remember his supporters as frightened, gullible stooges.

History will revile us, too, if we don’t hold Trump accountable.

The solution to the problem isn’t complicated. Just do the right thing.

Impeach