Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Misplaced Power

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

———

Once again, it’s a Merry Christmas for the defense industry.

The US House and Senate have approved the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, and, as always, the extent of our military spending is obscene. For the military-industrial complex, it means riches beyond the dreams of avarice.

For 2022, the Biden Administration had asked for the breath-taking sum of $753 billion in military spending, the same as our 2021 spending. The House bumped it up to $768 billion, the Senate concurred, and that was that.

Those billions will go toward our spectacularly costly and largely unnecessary military machine; will buy still more jets and tanks and bombs; and will further fatten the defense industry contractors that have been leeching on the taxpayers for lo, these many years.

The US has spent insane sums on the military for decades. Consider our spending for the last 10 years:

The last time the US authorized less than $500 billion in military spending was 2004.

It’s true that the rest of the world lavishes billions on its military, too. But no country comes close to matching us. Here are the world’s 10 leading countries in 2021 military spending:

Our spending was more than that of the other nine countries combined.

Among rational people, one school of thought is not to spend those billions at all. Another is to use it in more worthwhile ways. Considering our many chronic problems, the latter seems a reasonable choice.

Some version of Medicare for All would be a godsend. But that would cost trillions, not billions, and is another conversation. Instead, consider a few other options I’ve read about recently for the best use of our wealth:

For $36 billion a year, we could expand Medicare to include dental, vision, and hearing coverage.

For $80 billion a year, we could make all of our public universities tuition-free.

For $15 billion a year, we could have free, nationwide, publicly-owned broadband.

For $55 billion a year, we could give every working adult in the country 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave annually.

For $150 billion a year, we could create a system of free Pre-K and free childcare for working parents, nationwide.

All pipe dreams, I know. As always, the politicians will continue to serve the military-industrial complex.

In 2022, the Air Force plans to buy 12 more F-15EX jet fighters from Boeing for $1.4 billion. The jets are needed, they say, because the fleet of F-15C fighters is aging.

Only a few scattered politicians in Washington — Democrats, of course — will say no to that.

Read Full Post »

A case can be made that democracy is in trouble today because of — I’ll just tell it like it is — widespread stupidity and ignorance.

In general, people are not very bright. That’s reality. And nowadays, the dumbness of the population is amplified and inflamed by social media, Fox News, and that ilk.

As for ignorance, the story is just as bad. The Department of Education reported in 2019 that literacy in the U.S. stood at 79 percent. Which means 21 percent of the population is functionally, if not fully, illiterate. One in five.

Further, DOE said the literacy of 54 percent of American adults is below the sixth-grade level. Half the population. Below sixth-grade level. Stunning. We are demonstrably stupid and ignorant.

But an equally strong case can be made that democracy is reeling because of the rise of hatred. Toxic stuff, hatred.

A recent psychological study in Canada suggests that hatred, especially hatred of particular groups or institutions (immigrants, black and brown people, those evil socialists, etc.) is a powerful motivating force that gives haters the sense that their lives have purpose.

Does this imply that the haters’ lives lack purpose otherwise? Or that they experience feelings of inadequacy? Hey, I’m just a journalism major. What do I know?

The study was conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and involved extensive interviews with over 800 participants. The researchers found that hatred of individuals was motivating, but far less so than hatred of groups.

Hating specific individuals, they said, indeed gives the hater feelings of heightened purpose. But the fact that the hated person is real gets into all sorts of uncomfortable complications and negatives.

Conversely, hating on groups allows the hater to focus on a simple enemy more easily portrayed as a generic evil. It presents an “us vs. them” scenario and an enemy that needs to be stopped.

In other words, according to the study, flawed people are drawn toward hate because it makes them feel better about themselves. That’s both pathetic and perverted.

Honestly, I don’t hate a single group or institution. I don’t even hate the haters. They certainly anger, aggravate, and exasperate me. But I feel sorry for them. And I’m amazed at how people can end up so psychologically damaged.

The truth is, a vast sea of haters is out there, a combination of mental midgets and the mentally screwed-up, and they represent a genuine, alarming threat to democracy as we know it.

And let me point out that damn near 100 percent of those haters are conservatives. Republicans. Right-wingers.

Let’s tell it like it is.

Read Full Post »

Backsliding

Last week, a prestigious think tank in Sweden issued its annual list of “democracies in decline.” For the first time, the United States is on the list.

Let that sink in.

The think tank, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), said the U.S. is backsliding as a democracy because it is yielding to “authoritarian tendencies.”

Specifically, the Institute cited the issue of Trump’s lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen. That fabrication has been accepted, naturally, by the Republicans — in fact, by an overwhelming majority of them.

IDEA also cited the shocking wave of restrictive state voting laws passed by the same nefarious Republicans.

The Institute did applaud the U.S. for passing a new monthly child tax credit. It said the credit likely will cut the U.S. poverty rate in half and in 2021 will lift four million children out of poverty.

The child tax credit, mind you, was 100 percent courtesy of Biden and the Democrats. As for the Republicans — who voted against the tax credit, and who are the direct cause of our backsliding — I offer this photo in lieu of words.

For this photo, words fail me.

Read Full Post »

Coming Attractions

It’s truly fascinating how, in just a few decades, the political center has evaporated, and the country has divided itself into two polar opposite camps.

The left and the right. Liberals and conservatives. Or, to be more specific, those who possess a sense of empathy and compassion, and those who don’t. Those who want to use our resources for the common good, and those who don’t. Those who believe we’re all created equal, and those who don’t.

It’s as if we entered some magic portal and were examined, categorized, and separated. In one corner, the Democrats, who in large part are normal and rational. In the other corner, the Republicans, who are mean, selfish, and wrong-headed.

Although I do consider virtually all Republicans to be deplorable, I don’t see all Democrats as admirable. Democratic politicians tend to be weenies — weak, cautious, and hesitant. But, my God, compared to the conservatives of today, the lefties are angels.

The conservatives have abandoned integrity, honesty, and American democracy. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be claiming that Trump won the 2020 election, or trying to rig elections.

On every issue, conservatives invariably come down on the wrong side.

Hold that thought about villainous Republicans while I turn to another subject.

One popular category of Hollywood movies is historical films — stories based on real people and actual events. Some such films portray events accurately, while others apply a Hollywood flourish. It depends on the filmmakers, the event in question, and the available historical record.

Think of movies such as Gandhi, All the President’s Men, Schindler’s List, Apollo 13, Patton, Glory, and The Alamo.

(Re The Alamo: I’m referring to the version from 2004, not the one with John Wayne. One historian commented that Wayne’s movie didn’t have “a single scene which corresponds to a historically verifiable incident.”)

I bring up this subject to note that, sooner or later, Hollywood will begin to make movies about our time.

Films will be made depicting Donald Trump and the MAGA crowd. The Republican voter suppression tactics. The stacking of the federal courts by the GOP. The politicization of the Supreme Court by the right wing.

These movies are inevitable, people.

It’s true that a few documentaries already have been made. In 2020, Frontline took a look at the records of Biden and Trump for a PBS special. But those aren’t full-blown Hollywood historical movies.

Someday, films will document and dramatize Trump’s life as a rich, insufferable New York brat. They will follow him through his nightmare of a presidency, the 700,000+ COVID deaths, and the storming of the Capitol by white supremacist goons. The films will end with however the sorry saga of Donald Trump ultimately ends.

Some movies, I expect, will focus on Trump’s presidency, his collusion with the Russians, and his criminal mishandling of the COVID pandemic. Featured will be the MAGA morons, the anti-mask morons, the anti-vax morons, and nutjob groups such as QAnon, the Proud Boys, etc.

Plenty of screen time will go to Republican politicians who either stood with Trump or said nothing. Nor will Hollywood be able to resist bringing up Trump’s icy relationship with Melania.

A movie of two will reenact the assault of the Capitol in great detail. (Doing so won’t be difficult. Most of what happened is thoroughly documented.) The story will depict the role of Trump and many Republican politicians in planning the attack, and it will follow the actions of rioters, the police, and members of Congress.

Obligatory scenes: surging crowds of insurrectionists screaming and fighting police; members of Congress cowering inside the building; the demise of domestic terrorist Ashli Babbitt.

Trump will be presented, accurately, as an Adolph Hitler type demagogue. His followers and enablers will be likened to the Nazis of Germany in the 1930s and 40s.

One interesting feature will be the casting of actors to portray Trump, Pence, McConnell, Cruz, Bannon, etc.

How long before Hollywood starts making these movies is hard to predict. But you can be sure that not a single film will portray any conservative in a positive light.

That would be fiction.

Read Full Post »

Adios

Just for kicks, I collected a sampling of headlines in which victims of COVID, largely vaccine deniers of the conservative persuasion, expressed “regrets” about not getting vaccinated. In some cases, the regrets were reported by family members after the victim croaked.

I know it would be charitable of me to feel sympathy and compassion for these folks. But, speaking as someone who is thrice vaccinated for COVID, and, as an intelligent adult, trusts science and medical authorities and other genuine experts, I feel sympathy and compassion only for the family members and other victims of the bonehead vaccine deniers.

To the multitudes of sick and deceased people represented by the headlines below, I simply say “adios, gente estupida.”

Here are the headlines I rounded up.

———

Hospitalized right-wing radio host in ‘very serious
condition’ regrets not being ‘vehemently pro-vaccine’

Alpharetta police officer recovering from
COVID-19 regrets not getting vaccine

Texas anti-mask organizer dies from COVID-19

‘I feel foolish’ — Florida mom shares regret
about not getting COVID-19 vaccine sooner

Alabama mother who lost son to COVID says
not getting the vaccine is her biggest regret

Man regrets snubbing vaccine
after ‘staring death in the eyes’

Anti-vaccine activist and QAnon
supporter, 64, dies from COVID

North Dakota man regretted not getting
vaccine before dying of COVID: family

Alabama man and wife who posted anti-vaccine
videos on YouTube are both dead from COVID

EMT stricken with COVID-19 and
pneumonia regrets declining vaccine

Infected Texas doctor regrets not getting vaccinated

Conservative U.S. radio host and
vaccine skeptic dies of COVID-19

Mom regrets not getting family vaccinated
after 13-year-old daughter is put on ventilator

Man who spent four months in hospital with COVID-19 and had
double lung transplant said he regrets not getting the vaccine

California woman, 40, who said she was ‘unmasked,
unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid’ dies from COVID

Talk radio host hospitalized with COVID
regrets vaccine hesitancy, brother says

Israeli anti-vax leader dies from COVID-19

4-year-old girl dies of COVID after
unvaccinated mom contracts virus

Florida dad regrets not getting vaccine
after daughter, 15, dies of COVID-19

Family pleads for people to get vaccinated
after 45-year-old father dies from COVID-19

Unvaccinated high school coach dies of COVID

Anti-vax radio host who mocked AIDS
victims dies of COVID-19 complications

Husband of GOP state representative
declines vaccine, dies of COVID-19

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »