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Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

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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I need to vent about an incident that’s been stuck in my craw for a while.

In 2017, I wrote about my granddaughter Maddie’s budding career in volleyball. Back then, she was about to enter 8th grade, the last year of middle school. She had been playing volleyball for several years and was so talented that she was about to be invited, as an 8th-grader, to play on the JV team at Jefferson High School.

A lot has happened since then, some of it good, some otherwise.

Maddie indeed played on the high school JV team while still in middle school. In fact, she was a starter, playing as a setter and the opening server. Maddie has a killer serve.

When she entered high school as a freshman, she advanced to the varsity team, again as a starter, a setter, and the opening server. Maddie was a genuine phenom. She was nominated for Freshman of the Year in the region, and she got an honorable mention for the All-Area Team.

In 2019, her sophomore year, she was elected team captain. Jefferson was loaded with talent that year and went on to become region champ. Maddie was named to the All-Area team, was a Player of the Week, and was nominated by her teammates as the season MVP.

In 2020, her junior year, she was team captain again, and the Jefferson Dragons were region champs for the second year in a row. Again, Maddie was named a Player of the Week, and she was nominated for Player of the Year.

Maddie was scary good, as a server, a defensive player, and a setter. Late in the season, she passed 1,000 assists in her career at JHS. She was the clear favorite to be named MVP and probably a member of the All-Area Team.

Then, at the close of the 2020 season, everything changed.

Maddie has mad skills, but not the classic physique of a volleyball player; she doesn’t have the height. Offense dominates, and volleyball players who advance to the college and pro levels almost always are tall — approaching six feet, preferably more. Maddie is a perfectly normal 5’6”.

Understanding that reality, Maddie told her coach at the end of the season that she would not seek a scholarship to play volleyball in college. Because the awards and accolades are closely tied to being recruited and getting scholarships, the coach turned her attention to girls who aspired to play volleyball in college.

That year, with Jefferson so talent-heavy, the awards took on even more importance. When the end-of-season awards were announced, all the honors and recognition, from team MVP to All-Area honors, went to the girls seeking scholarships. Maddie was shut out completely.

Although most of the winners were deserving, Maddie, the heart of the team, was far more so. But the importance of the awards to recruiting took precedence.

Now, I’m a realistic guy. I understand how the awards system is used. I understand all that.

But the JHS volleyball coach, the coaches at the other league schools, and the school administrators failed Maddie miserably. They coldly disregarded her talent, her contributions, and her feelings.

It would have been simple and painless to arrange some kind of special recognition to honor Maddie’s stellar 2020 performance, with her senior year still to come. It would have been so easy to do the decent thing. They did nothing.

Maddie has been in the gifted program since kindergarten. I like to say she has been an adult since age 4. She knows perfectly well when she has been insulted and disrespected.

So she quit volleyball. Walked away. Did not play for JHS her senior year. Nor did she play club volleyball again.

In the 2021 season, overflowing with talent, the Jefferson team won its 3rd straight region championship. Had Maddie remained on the team, she would have been a major part of it, no doubt as team captain — although aware that no achievement awards were likely to come her way. Instead, she is enjoying her new free time.

As steamed as I am at the adults who treated Maddie so callously, I don’t think they’re awful people. They just have tunnel vision and problems with empathy. Some people never fully mature.

But Maddie is a grounded and confident person, with a degree of integrity her coach and the other adults wouldn’t understand. Maddie was treated badly, and she reacted appropriately.

This winter, she served as an assistant coach for one of the club volleyball teams in Gainesville. She said teaching the younger girls was a delight.

At a tournament earlier this month, her team took second place.

That’s my girl.

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Problem, Solution

On our daily walks around Jefferson, Jake and I observe all sorts of things.

For example, at the corner of two residential streets north of downtown is a house with a nicely-manicured yard. The lawn and shrubbery are immaculate. These people take pride in their home’s appearance.

Not long ago, I was surprised to see deep tire ruts in the grass at the edge of the yard, caused by a vehicle cutting the corner during a hasty left turn.

The homeowners responded by posting a “Keep Off the Grass” sign beside the ruts. But the next time Jake and I passed the spot, the sign itself had been run over, and fresh ruts were visible in the grass.

Game on.

The homeowners countered by placing three massive boulders at the corner — giant, immovable things that can foil any vehicle. And actually, the boulders add a nice decorative touch.

Game over.

Feet and Chair Legs

In 1498, Leonardo da Vinci completed his painting The Last Supper on the wall of a convent in Milan, Italy. 150 years later, inexplicably, residents of the convent found it necessary to punch a door in the wall, which eliminated a chunk of the bottom center of the painting. Gone were the feet of Jesus and some chair legs.

But the missing swath wasn’t exactly lost to history. Around 1515, two of Leonardo’s former students had painted (on canvas, not a stone wall) a reasonably close reproduction of The Last Supper. It shows the lost feet and chair legs basically as Leonardo painted them.

In 2020, the Royal Academy of Arts in London hired Google to digitize the reproduction in super-high resolution and made it available online.

This is Leonardo’s original, door and all.

And this is the reproduction.

I’d really like to know why that door was necessary.

Entitlement

Apparently, Steelers quarterback Ben Rapistberger is nearing retirement. So long, Ben. I wish you all the worst.

You remember Ben Rapistberger, who in 2009 was credibly accused of raping a casino hostess in Nevada. But then, the man is a rich and famous athlete, and the charges were dropped.

You remember Rapistberger, who in 2010 was credibly accused of raping a college student in the bathroom of a Georgia nightclub while his bodyguards, two off-duty state troopers, watched the door. But then, the man is a rich and famous athlete, and the charges were dropped.

Why those incidents got under my skin so much, I can’t say. But I was indignant enough after the Georgia incident that I vowed never to watch the Steelers again as long as Rapistberger was on the team. A silly and useless gesture, I admit, but I kept the vow, and I’m not sorry.

Funny thing, though. Out of all the current fawning on the sports channels about Rapistberger and his illustrious career, I haven’t heard one mention of the casino hostess or the college student.

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Tune o’ the Day

I read a sarcastic comment somewhere that David Bowie’s 1983 hit “Modern Love” probably was made up in the studio on the day he recorded it. Maybe so. The lyrics are baffling and don’t seem to go anywhere. Drugs, maybe?

On the other hand, the tune is catchy, danceable, and well-regarded. Bowie said the lively arrangement was inspired by the sound of Little Richard. It does have a sort of manic feel to it.

In 2006, the alt rock/folk/country band The Last Town Chorus slowed the tempo of “Modern Love” to a crawl and released what is, in my humble opinion, an excellent cover.

The Last Town Chorus, by the way, started out in 2001 as a duo consisting of singer Megan Hickey and a guitarist. After a year or so, Megan ditched the guitarist, and she still tours as LTC today using hired backup.

Modern Love

By The Last Town Chorus, 2006
Written by David Bowie

I catch the paperboy,
But things don’t really change.
I’m standing in the rain,
But I never wave bye-bye.
But I try. I try.

There’s no sign of life.
It’s just the power to charm.
I’m lying in the wind,
But I never wave bye-bye.
But I try. I try.

Never gonna fall for modern love.
It walks beside me.
It walks on by.
It gets me to the church on time.
Church on time.
It terrifies me.
It makes me party.
It puts my faith in God and man.
God and man.
No confession.
No religion.
It don’t believe in modern love.

It’s not really work.
It’s just the power to charm.
Still lying in the rain,
But I never wave bye-bye.
But I try. I try.

Never gonna fall for modern love.
It walks beside me.
It walks on by.
It gets me to the church on time.
Church on time.
It terrifies me.
It makes me party.
It puts my faith in God and man.
God and man.
No confession.
No religion.
It don’t believe in modern love.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2021/11/modern-love-ltc.mp3

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