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Just Do It

Okay, it’s time. Donald Trump, the disgraceful, traitorous former president, was caught stealing government documents. Attorney General Garland needs to direct his minions to file charges. Just do it.

Here are the facts about Trump, the twice-impeached loser, and the stolen documents.

In August, after a year of politely asking for the return of missing documents, and doing a dance with the Trump lawyers, the FBI finally did the right thing, got a warrant, and raided Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s country club in Palm Beach.

There, FBI agents confiscated 20-odd boxes of documents, among which were over 100 marked secret and top secret, plus a boatload of unclassified files.

All of it was being held illegally. Under the law, when a President leaves office, his documents and emails, all of them, become the property of the US government and must be turned over to the National Archives.

Yes, a judge friendly to Trump wants a “special master” to review the confiscated documents. It was a ham-handed ruling that probably tanked her career. But the fact that Trump stole the material is not in question. He had no legitimate reason to be in possession of any government documents. He stole them.

For a year now, the conversation on the news has been about why Trump took the documents and what he did with them.

Did he sell secrets to the highest bidder? Was his goal to pay debts? Show off? Did classified information end up in the hands of foreign countries? Were people endangered or killed?

Critical questions all, and the answers eventually will surface. But the feds already have enough evidence to charge Trump with stealing the documents. And charge him they should.

Some of the documents confiscated at Mar-a-Lago were so highly classified that the FBI agents who found them needed additional security clearances to process them.

Which is why the Justice Department needs to charge and arrest Trump for theft. DOJ needs to get the process started now. Posthaste. ASAP.

After the filing of charges and the arrest, Trump no doubt would plead not guilty and post bail.

Whether he remains in the US or defects to Russia or Saudi Arabia, his trial should proceed. If he is convicted and sentenced, that’s justice being served, even if he flees and can’t be extradited.

At some point, depending on what their investigation uncovers, DOJ may bring additional charges. They probably will.

Lastly, if Trump’s Nazi goon fans object, well, we have police, national guard, and military forces that can deal with them as appropriate.

File the damn charges.

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Fully Nazified

You may be familiar with the handful of countries — Denmark, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland — rated highest in terms of health, safety, quality of life, and satisfied citizens.

The US is somewhere down around 20th place. That’s because we excel in other categories: mass shootings, bankruptcies due to medical bills, rate of incarceration, and black people killed by police during traffic stops.

When I was young, I remember thinking I was lucky to have been born an American. I was grateful and proud.

But that was then. Today, the US is a flailing, bumbling embarrassment. Thanks to the right-wing loonies and the wild-eyed, fully-Nazified Republican Party, we’re in the worst shape since the Civil War.

The MAGA crowd learned from Donald Trump, the orange gasbag, that lying and cheating are acceptable options and essentially consequence-free. (According to the records of the Washington Post, Trump lied or made misleading statements 30,573 times while President.)

In this new reality, the efforts of Democrats to play by the rules becomes a waste of time. And we are screwed unless enough normal, decent, rational people start voting en masse for Democrats, and we overwhelm the nutjobs.

In the past, Republicans were, by nature, merely the most cautious and conservative of us. They always were guarded and awkwardly weird, but largely were in touch with their faculties.

Not any more. Conservatives today are fire-breathing extremists whose creepy religious overtones are getting more unsettling. The Republican Party has morphed into a terrorist organization.

These are the people who put Trump, one of the most wretched, crooked, despicable humans alive, in the White House.

Trump is owned by, and financially beholden to, Vladimir Putin. Trump caused the death of one million people by bungling the COVID pandemic. He sent white supremacist goons to storm the Capitol and attempted a literal coup to try to remain President. We all saw it on live television, remember?

Why he isn’t already in prison is a disgrace.

The other bad news lately is about the radicalized Supreme Court and the efforts of right-wing state legislatures to ban abortions. Even when medically necessary. Even when caused by rape or incest.

AND they want to ban women from crossing state lines to get the procedure. AND they want to outlaw contraception. AND they want to end gay marriage.

The bible-thumping, neo-Nazi minority of the country will make our lives miserable, but they won’t win. The rational majority won’t stand for it.

Abortions will continue. Contraception and gay people aren’t going anywhere. Those genies are out of the bottle, folks.

So, what are normal people to do?

Vote. Vote only for Democrats in every election from now on. Do NOT vote for a single Republican in any race, at any level, period, full stop.

If you vote Republican, you reject democracy and embrace fascism.

If you vote Republican, you are no friend of this country. You want to end it.

If you think I’m being alarmist, then let’s talk about the uniquely American epidemic of gun deaths and the right-wing’s depraved obsession with weapons.

When you enter the voting booth, remind yourself that Republicans believe a 10-year-old rape victim should be forced by the government to have the baby, and Democrats think the very idea is appalling, obscene, and monstrous.

It’s that simple.

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Friends, I am a skeptical guy and proud of it. It pays to be skeptical.

I also have a healthy BS detector. BS detection is an essential ability.

Together, my skepticism and BS detector help me avoid being relieved of money by those looking to profit at my expense, whether illegally or by selling me something I don’t need.

The key in this respect is simple: just remember that no business or institution will offer a product or service unless they will derive an acceptable profit from the transaction. Period.

My mortgage company, for example, constantly reminds me that refinancing my mortgage, or taking out a second mortgage, will solve all my problems and improve my life immeasurably. It will be quick and easy. Give us a call.

Translation: borrow more money from us so we can collect more interest.

Another example is a relatively new entry in the insurance business: car repair insurance, aka mechanical breakdown insurance. It applies to repairs that are not accident-related and thus are not covered by your regular auto insurance. You’re probably familiar with ads for CarShield and others.

The fact is, most people never use the coverage — which is quite limited, not to mention saddled with deductibles. Ergo, repair insurance is a guaranteed money-maker for the providers.

And finally, my favorite: a truly artful scam, Medicare Part C.

Medicare Parts A and B provide basic, legitimate coverage from Uncle Sam. Part C consists of “Medicare Advantage” plans from private insurance companies. The idea was invented back in the 1990s by the Republicans under the second George Bush as a way for private industry to get on the Medicare bandwagon and make money.

In coverage as well as cost, Part C plans vary with the provider. The complexity is intentional. It creates a smokescreen that makes the cost and coverage unclear. Clarity does not serve the interests of the insurance provider.

Think about the barrage of advertising and mass mailings unleashed each year during the Part C enrollment period. The insurance industry would never, ever work so feverishly to sell Part C unless it yielded significant profits.

In reality, very few individuals benefit from buying Part C coverage. Experts say it may — may — benefit people who struggle to pay for real Medicare coverage under Parts A and B. Beyond that, Part C is a cash cow for the insurance companies.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

My advice: remember the key to skepticism and BS detection: no individual or entity will offer a product or service unless they will derive an acceptable profit from the transaction.

Period.

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Unsustainable

You realize, I presume, that the good old days never existed.

To be blunt, human history has been a random progression of events, mostly involving misery, suffering, cruelty, and death, intermingled with sporadic discoveries that were advantageous to our health and lifespans, plus allowed us to create more potent weapons.

And that history has carried us to a truly bad place. Humanity today is in dreadful shape, and we are dragging the planet down with us.

Earth is badly polluted and reeling from overpopulation. The polar icecaps are melting. While we sit here watching it happen, the greenhouse effect is leading us to our extinction.

Poverty and starvation are widespread. The rich and powerful control everything and everyone. Most people live under autocratic regimes.

In many ways, life for Homo sapiens (which ironically means “wise human”) has changed little since the Dark Ages.

Adding to the general unpleasantness, the Republicans in the US, all of them, have lost their minds. Their beliefs are closer to those of the Taliban or the Nazis than to American democracy.

A sad outcome for a political party founded to oppose the expansion of slavery.

Speaking of Republicans, I found this definition on Wikipedia:

Fascism is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and the economy.

That describes present-day Republicans as succinctly as it does the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler. Republicans see Donald Trump, one of the most deplorable human beings imaginable, as a kind of creepy father figure. Their very own Hitler. Incredibly, they put Trump in the White House and would do it again.

Moreover, after 50 years of trying, the right-wingers apparently have a Supreme Court willing to reverse Roe v. Wade. That should come as no surprise. Outlawing abortion has been at the top of the conservative agenda for decades.

The looming demise of Roe ought to shock great numbers of rational people into voting, but I doubt that it will. When the Access Hollywood tape didn’t end Trump’s political career on a dime, I learned an important lesson about my fellow citizens.

The difference between the political left and right is like day and night. Liberals, the normal people, want universal healthcare, a living wage, rational gun control, and action to save the planet. They want to protect women’s rights and voting rights. They want police to stop killing people.

Over on the Dark Side, the conservatives want to give tax cuts to billionaires, close the borders to non-whites, ban books, and put women in their place.

If, for some mysterious reason, you still wonder who the good guys are, consider this: of the 42 million jobs created in the US since 1989, 40 million — 95 percent — were created while a Democrat was President.

The Republicans, who haven’t done anything remotely positive in half a century, have managed to poison the Senate and the Supreme Court.

These are the people, for God’s sake, who stormed the Capitol when Trump lost the presidency. They literally attempted to stage a coup. Their low-life politicians are working nationwide to rig voting systems. They have nothing to offer, so, with no qualms whatsoever, they resort to lying and cheating.

This is unsustainable. When an entire political party decides to ignore the rules of governance, the country can’t survive.

The current GOP fascist cult is a minority. To defeat them, we need to end the filibuster so the actual majority can rule again, make sure the election system is protected from the cultists, and vote against every Republican on every ballot in every election, until they go extinct.

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Miscalculation

Even though the Republicans have gone full fascist, and will lie and cheat with no reservations, we are living, miraculously, under a Democratic President again. And we are moving past the COVID pandemic, despite the bonkers efforts of the conservatives at sabotage.

Many of them, by the way, still talk about jailing or executing Anthony Fauci.

But just when I had hopes that better times are possible, Vladimir Putin, the villainous, murderous dictator, started a war.

And yet, the villain miscalculated.

Unexpectedly — to me, anyway — Ukraine is holding its own. Putin believed his forces would declare victory within days, but they couldn’t. While the Russian forces seem curiously hapless, the Ukrainian people and armed forces have shined.

Putin miscalculated so badly, in fact, that more countries than ever are united behind Ukraine, NATO, the European Union, and the US. And more are imposing sanctions on Russia.

My reaction to Putin’s War was alarm and outrage, followed by puzzlement. Why did he do it?

The world is too small today, with too many complex interconnections and alliances, to send a ground army into another country and not expect major blowback. Putin underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian forces and the resolve of Ukraine’s allies, and overestimated that of his own. But why?

I think he is becoming more aware of his own mortality. The guy is 69 years old. Time is running out to resurrect the former USSR under his glorious leadership.

It’s possible, too, that he has health issues. An illness would speed up the timetable. Or cloud his judgment.

As you would expect, he threatens nuclear destruction if his enemies go too far and force his hand. It’s a dictator thing.

Everyone hopes Putin is not insane enough to start firing off tactical nukes, but we don’t know for sure.

Everyone hopes he will find a way to declare partial victory and go home, but we see no easy way out.

In whatever manner Putin meets his end, I hope it is sudden, unpleasant, and soon.

I have been genuinely impressed by the courage and fortitude of the Ukrainian people, and especially by the example of President Zelenskyy. I haven’t been this inspired and heartened in quite some time. It’s a good feeling.

It even distracts my thoughts, albeit briefly, from this maniac.

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Birds of a Feather

Spring is here, and, like the pine pollen, politics is in the air. Primary elections are approaching, and the candidates are going all out to inflame the voters.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in Nazi Germany. Most of the locals voted for Trump in 2016 and would again. They are lifelong, closed-minded conservatives, most of whom see outsiders, non-whites, and Democrats as menacing in a manner they can’t quite explain.

As you know, back in 2020, the Democrats won Georgia’s two US Senate seats, which stunned and enraged the MAGA crowd. Worse, a handful of GOP elected officials here, including the Governor and the Secretary of State, unexpectedly found the integrity to declare Biden the winner in Georgia.

To this day, cries of “RINOs!” ring out. The offending officeholders, now anathema to Trump and his minions, are being vigorously primaried.

In Georgia, Trump has endorsed candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and the one Senate seat on the ballot this year. Trump’s choices, I assure you, are deplorable.

One of them, hoping to challenge Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, is even mentally ill. Literally. Certifiably and admittedly.

Herschel Walker, the former football player, is a typical, fanatical, space-cadet Trump supporter. Walker claims — get this — that the January 6 insurrection in Washington was a false flag operation orchestrated by the Democrats.

More to the point, Walker has for years suffered from “multiple personality disorder.” The condition has a new name now, but the original is nicely descriptive. Walker wrote a book about his struggles with it.

Supposedly residing in his head are half a dozen personalities, ranging from benign to violent. Apparently, any of the personalities can emerge and recede unbidden. I assume he is being medicated to keep the various Herschels in check.

Some years ago, one of the more violent Herschels pointed a pistol at his wife’s head, threatened her with a knife, and held a straight razor to her throat. After she wisely divorced him, he threatened to kill her and her new boyfriend, whereupon a court banned him from owning guns.

There’s more. For years, Walker publicly claimed he was the valedictorian of his high school graduating class. His high school said they had no valedictorian during the years Walker attended.

He also claimed he graduated from the University of Georgia in the top one percent of his class; the University points out that Walker dropped out of UGA in his junior year to sign with the New Jersey Generals, never graduated, and had a B average while at UGA.

Walker later amended the story to say that, years later, he re-enrolled at UGA and then graduated in the top one percent of his class. The University says no, he never re-enrolled and never graduated.

So, this is the person today’s Republicans support for the US Senate — a lying, mentally ill conspiracy theorist.

Well, of course it is. Birds of a feather, right?

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Corruption

Corruption in government — all forms of government at every level — is inevitable. The reason: human nature.

Consider how the world’s major political/economic systems function, in theory.

Communism

Under the doctrine of communism, private ownership is forbidden. Rich big shots do not run things, and the concept of “I’m for me first” is off the table.

Instead, the economy is owned jointly by the people. Government is tasked with overseeing the distribution of resources and making sure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

There is a fatal flaw, however, in that last part about the role of government. No government ever, anywhere, has managed to handle the oversight as intended. For that reason, communism simply never works except in theory.

Nothing says it can’t work. Nothing says government officials can’t do the job. In truth, plenty of people — in all kinds of economic systems — want to do the right thing. But they cannot succeed because too many of their fellow officials use their positions for personal gain or other nefarious reasons. Inevitably, corruption wins.

Socialism

The doctrine of socialism is a sort of communism lite. It is a less fire-breathing, more civilized approach to achieving economic and social equality. Some variations of socialism even tolerate a smidgen of capitalism.

When Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, they described communism as a working-class movement designed to dismantle the power structure. As for socialism, Engels dismissed it completely.

He called socialism a middle-class movement touted by “social quacks who, by all manner of tinkering, professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances.” Socialists just weren’t bloodthirsty enough for Engels.

Capitalism

Capitalism is equally flawed, and maybe more susceptible to corruption than other political-economic systems. Under American capitalism, the ruling elite have become obscenely rich, and the non-rich fight over the scraps.

Today in the United States, virtually every level of government, local, state, and national, is owned by special interests. Most people who run for public office know perfectly well how the system works, and they intend to use it for personal or political advantage.

Even good people with good intentions know the system is rotten. Maybe they should be admired for their tenacity, but they can’t win. In time, the American form of capitalism will implode and be replaced by… something nasty and authoritarian, most likely.

Every form of governance since the Stone Age, I suspect, eventually succumbed to corruption and was replaced by whatever evolved next.

The Rise of Autocracy

On paper, five nations formally are communist-controlled: China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, and Vietnam. Russia is by no means a communist country. It’s an ordinary dictatorship that created a toothless, phony opposition and thereby claims to be democratic.

In the six countries aforementioned, de facto dictatorships arose because of the totalitarian power of the governments. All six have flipped from the left wing to the right and are, in fact, more fascistic than communistic.

Which helps explain why conservatives in the US, who for decades have bellowed about the evils of communism, have decided that Putin is a savvy, admirable guy.

You’ve probably heard them say, Well, if Putin wants Ukraine, why should we care? After all, Ukraine was part of Russia once.

It’s true that both countries once were part of the USSR, but things change. Empires rise and fall, and actually, Ukraine was here first. It emerged in the Middle Ages, and at one time, all of Russia was part of it.

But, facts and conservatives, like oil and water, do not mix readily.

Nothing is a bigger turn-on to the average Republican than an autocrat flexing his muscles, The soul of every right-winger craves a dominating father figure.

A corrupt one will do.

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A question that has long bedeviled theologians and philosophers is the “problem of evil.”

Namely, how does the concept of an omnipotent, benevolent God square with the existence of a world awash in pain and suffering. If God is good and all-powerful, why are people saddled with sickness, crime, war, suffering, and pain?

It doesn’t pay to pursue the issue very far, because it’s a philosophical rabbit hole. The question is unanswerable.

But deep thinkers throughout history have tried their best. One popular solution is to blame mankind itself. In other words, bad things happen because of our assorted misdeeds, which usually include the sin of impiety. The deity? Blameless and absolved.

Typically, myths, fables, and allegories have been used to sell the “it’s your own fault” message to the common folk. One example is the story of Pandora from Greek mythology. Pandora was the first mortal woman, created by order of Zeus, the king of the gods.

According to the mythology, humanity back then was a society of immortal males enjoying a Golden Age. Life was good. The guys worked hard and, of course, showed the gods appropriate reverence.

But things fell apart when Prometheus, one of the senior gods, gave the gift of fire to the mortals, an act that was strictly forbidden. For this transgression, Zeus had Prometheus strapped to a rock, and an eagle was dispatched to eat his liver. Every day, the liver grew back, only to be eaten again, ad infinitum.

As for the humans, Zeus punished them by creating Pandora, who, according to authority figures over the centuries, not only was hauntingly beautiful, but also was endowed with feminine wiles designed to make life miserable for the men.

The myth said she had a “shameless mind,” a “deceitful nature,” and the ability to wield “lies and crafty words.” She was “sheer guile, not to be withstood by men.” Take that, females.

In addition, Pandora possessed a mysterious jar given to her by the gods with a warning not to open it. Naturally, curiosity led her to take a peek, thus releasing into the world a host of evils and diseases from which humans previously had been spared.

(FYI, the popular term Pandora’s Box is a misnomer. It surfaced around the time of Homer when the poet Hesiod mistranslated an old manuscript. The container was not a box, but an urn or jar.)

So anyway, the Pandora myth is how the ancient Greeks explained away the “problem of evil.” They simply claimed that we deserve to suffer because we defied the gods. Vindicate the deity, blame the mortals.

That, and the mythmakers apparently couldn’t resist a chance to take cheap shots at women.

Pandora About to Open her Box” (her urn) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1881.

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Rock Bottom

For years, a guns and ammo store here in Jefferson displayed an American flag out front. Recently, a “Let’s Go Brandon” flag replaced it.

It’s a gun store, so the sentiment isn’t surprising. But it underscores a sobering aspect of life in the Trump era: knowing how many truly awful, deplorable people are out there. They’ve been there all along, of course, but under Trump and today’s GOP, they are emboldened.

The Neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, and others of that ilk are a toxic bunch that I manage to avoid in my daily life. It’s just depressing to know they exist in such numbers.

Most are insecure white men, and they try their best to come across as manly and menacing. But frankly, some of the ideas they espouse are silly. Downright laughable. It’s almost as if these knuckleheads are being trolled.

For example, the idea that horse dewormer protects you from COVID sounds like something liberals would float as a gag.

I realize the libs are not pranking them. The right-wingers are coming up with this stuff themselves. And, wow, some of it is at the extreme end of the crazy scale.

There’s a QAnon claim that Donald Trump is secretly working to bring down a worldwide cabal of child-sex-slavers.

Another conspiracy theory says Hollywood is controlled by pedophile cannibals, Tom Hanks among them.

Another is that COVID vaccines can cause female infertility. According to the science, the vaccines do no such thing, but COVID itself does.

Another, one of my favorites, is that the wildfires in California were set by a Jewish space laser.

Another is that JFK, Jr. didn’t die in a plane crash in 1999 and is still alive.

Another is that JFK himself was not assassinated and is still alive at age 105.

And the latest knee-slapper: drinking urine protects you from COVID.

If you’ve read a few of the Opinion posts on this blog, you know that I’m a liberal, and I have no patience for the conservatives, their Neanderthal beliefs, and their stupid behavior.

Half the population votes Republican because they are damaged people — frightened, selfish, mean-spirited, and easily duped — due to some combination of how their brains are wired, ordinary stupidity, and probably a messed-up childhood.

You may think my assessment is exaggerated. Are the Republicans really that bad?

Yes, they are. Their malicious, wacko beliefs are irrational and abnormal — the fever dreams of the malicious and the mentally unwell. At this moment in our history, conservatives contribute nothing positive to society. They are virtually 100 percent detrimental.

But let me go back to that urine thing.

Peeing is how the body eliminates waste substances that the kidneys have removed from the blood, plus excess water and salt. Urine contains stuff your body is anxious to get rid of. Ingesting it is a remarkably bad idea.

I’ll concede that urine probably is less dangerous than a dose of horse dewormer or bleach. But go ahead — ask your doctor if drinking urine is right for you.

Frankly, if I set out to peddle some outlandish proposal, I would at least try to make it sound plausible. Horse dewormer and urine? Too ridiculous to be believable.

But somehow, embraced by the moron community nonetheless.

Once, I asked a friend the rhetorical question, “Have we hit rock bottom?”

“Bottom?” he replied. “There is no bottom.”

Apparently not. Just look around at all the awful, deplorable people and their nutso beliefs.

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The United Nations has a thing called the Human Development Index, which ranks the nations of the world according to the well-being of their people. Primarily, the index considers income, life expectancy, and education level.

The 2020 HDI, the most recent, said the leading countries are, in descending order:

1. Norway
2. Ireland
3. Switzerland
4. Hong Kong
5. Iceland
6. Germany
7. Sweden
8. Australia
9. Netherlands
10. Denmark
11. Finland
12. Singapore
13. United Kingdom
14. Belgium
15. New Zealand
16. Canada
17. United States —Aha! There we are, in 17th place on the well-being of the citizenry chart.

Frankly, that stinker of a rating is no surprise to me. In spite of our huge wealth and abundance of potential, we rank poorly in most categories that genuinely matter to actual people. The US is:

— 13th in standard of living
— 20th in quality of life
— 24th in science education
— 29th in personal freedom
— 31st in delivering decent healthcare
— 34th in the actual health of the population
— 38th in math education
— 46th in life expectancy

But, by God, we do have some Number Ones to our credit. We lead the world in:

— Military spending
— Cost of healthcare per capita
— Incarceration rate per capita
— Number of guns owned by civilians

Is this a great country or what?

That’s a rhetorical question.

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