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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

Your MAGA Overlords

The November 8 mid-term elections will be hugely consequential. The Republicans are perfectly willing to trade democracy for fascism, if it helps them retain power. That lunacy needs to be stopped.

The right wing already controls the Supreme Court, many lower courts, and most statehouses. If the GOP takes over the House and Senate, America won’t be America anymore. And that isn’t hyperbole.

The rest of us need to rise up and vote against every Republican, in every race, at every level of government. They aren’t worthy of a single vote.

Since the Reagan era, conservatives have been veering steadily to the right, becoming more and more a grotesque caricature of themselves. The right-wing extremists — the homophobes, racists, misogynists, bigots, fascists, white supremacists, autocrat-lovers — have gravitated to the Republican Party.

The GOP has been thoroughly unsavory for some time, but it got worse when Trump came along. With his willingness to lie like a rug and to violate any democratic norm, Donald Trump emboldened and enabled the wackos. He turned the GOP into a rancid cesspool.

Today, Republicans come in two varieties. One is the above-described extremist nutjobs. The other is the people who side with the crazies, or remain silent because of tribalism; they blindly identify as Republicans and want their team to win.

Let’s be real. The Republican Party is a collection of damaged people united by vile beliefs and determined to win by any means. They don’t believe in democracy. They believe in lying and cheating to get their way. Which tells you all you need to know about their character and integrity.

The occasional Democrat who gets in trouble — Al Franken, Anthony Weiner — always pays the price, but GOP politicians do not. And only the Republican Party would field candidates like Herschel Walker and Mehmet Oz.

The current GOP is beyond redemption. It is the party of MAGA thugs storming the Capitol to sabotage an election. It is the party of armed goons intimidating voters at ballot drop-boxes. It is the party of people evil enough to crack the skull of an old man with a hammer, while Fox News and GOP politicians vilify the old man.

We can’t reason with people like that or change their minds. But we can overwhelm them — vote them out of office, replace them with rational people, and drive the MAGA crowd underground again.

It’s a sad fact that two-thirds of eligible voters don’t vote. If enough non-voters don’t wake up and get themselves to the ballot box, this democracy may damn well be over.

And your MAGA overlords will be teaching our children to goose step.

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The Questions…

1. What is the world’s oldest continuously-inhabited city?

2. In the art world, what is bricolage?

3. What was the first country to give women the right to vote?

4. No major league baseball team uses the number 24 to honor what legendary player?

5. What does BMW stand for?

The Answers…

1. Probably Damascus, Syria. Evidence of habitation there dates back 11,000 years.

2. Bricolage is art created from non-standard material — junk, metal parts, etc. — or mixed media. A collage of photos, for example. The word bricolage comes from the French verb bricoler, which means “to tinker.”

3. New Zealand, 1893.

4. Jackie Robinson.

5. In English, Bavarian Motor Works. In German, Bayerische Motoren Werke.

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Ethics

Museums are wonderful things, except for their ugly history of acquiring artifacts through illegal or disreputable means. Countless items in museum collections were obtained by theft, coercion, bribery, deceit, etc.

Colonialism had a lot to do with it. For centuries, the European powers felt free to help themselves to the treasures of the countries they occupied, and regularly did.

But now, hopeful signs are appearing. Museums here are there actually are returning purloined artifacts to the rightful owners.

A new policy adopted this year by the Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum complex in the world, is especially welcome. The Smithsonian now is actively working to identify and return objects that were wrongfully obtained.

First on the list is a group of Nigerian plaques and sculptures known as the Benin Bronzes. Hundreds were stolen by the British in the 1890s, and over time, some found their way to the Smithsonian. The museum has identified 29 items as among those looted by the British and plans to return them to Nigeria.

Refreshing.

Booze of Choice

In 1994, on my first raft trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, I observed that four of the five river guides drank alcohol, and all four drank the same thing: Jim Beam Original white label bourbon.

Not Jim Beam Black, or Jim Beam rye, or the bonded or single barrel versions, or any of Beam’s (yuck) fruity liqueurs. The guides drank Jim Beam Original white label.

I’ve now rafted Grand Canyon four times with two different outfitters. On all four trips, the pattern was the same: the guides who drank alcohol drank Jim Beam white label.

Every evening, after the passengers were fed and the chores were done, the guides usually gathered somewhere to relax, chat, and have a nightcap or three. The nightcap was always Jim Beam white label.

Although I didn’t inquire while on the trips, I can imagine how Beam became a thing. Maybe the alpha male guides preferred Beam — relatively cheap, fairly smooth, a reasonable 80 proof. Peer pressure kicked in, and, voilà, a tradition was born. When new guides were hired, they naturally followed the tradition.

I should mention, too, that after my 1994 raft trip, I switched from Jack Daniels Old No. 7 black label to Jim Beam Original white label. Which remains my booze of choice to this day.

Being Real

In the early 1800s, most runaway slaves in the US famously went north to freedom, but many fled south to Mexico, where slavery was newly banned. Mexico readily offered asylum, and Mexican troops were quick to confront slave catchers who pursued the runaways.

Back then, the Mexican territory of Texas was mostly populated by Anglos, and its economy was deeply dependent on slavery. Slaves not only worked farms and plantations, but also served widely as tradesmen and household servants. The economic importance of slavery was a key reason why Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836.

Mexico’s opposition to slavery and willingness to protect runaways isn’t well known, but it had consequences. It prompted more slaves to escape, and it aggravated friction in the US between north and south. The Civil War probably came sooner as a result.

I didn’t learn all that in school, but I know it now because I’m curious and open to the facts.

As we all should be. Conservatives get apoplectic when anyone challenges the comforting myths about America’s exceptionalism, superiority, and glorious history. As usual, the conservatives are full of it.

Fairy tales are a waste of time. Better to view the past honestly and try to understand how and why things happened. If it hurts your feelings, that’s probably a sign you learned something.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Thomas Edison held a total of 2,332 patents worldwide. Today, the president of a semiconductor lab in Japan holds the world record — 5,843 patents and counting.

● English has more words than any other language.

● The average human sheds some 600,000 particles of dead skin per hour, or about 1.5 pounds per year.

● When viewed from the Earth, the Moon goes through eight phases as it progresses from new moon to full moon and back to new moon, as shown below. (The word gibbous refers to being more than half lighted, but less than full, which is the opposite of a crescent.)

● British author Agatha Christie (1890-1976) featured her famous detective Hercule Poirot in 33 novels, 50 short stories, and one play. Christie was honest about the character. She once described Poirot as “a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep.”

● The word karaoke comes from the Japanese words karappo, which means empty, and oke, a shortened form of okesutura, which means orchestra.

● July 4 is the day in 1776 when the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. However, the vote to do so took place on July 2. John Adams and several other founding fathers believed that we chose the wrong day to honor.

● The average adult bald eagle weighs 14 pounds and is about three feet long. Its wingspan, however, is a full seven feet.

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Kate Chopin (1850-1904) was a supremely gifted writer. A superb talent. I’ve featured three of her short stories on this blog, most recently this one. That post has information about her, plus links to the other stories.

Below is another Chopin gem. My hat is off in admiration.

———

Dr. Chevalier’s Lie

By Kate Chopin
Published in Vogue Magazine, October 1893

The quick report of a pistol rang through the quiet autumn night. It was no unusual sound in the unsavory quarter where Dr. Chevalier had his office. Screams commonly went with it. This time there had been none.

Midnight had already rung in the old cathedral tower. The doctor closed the book over which he had lingered so late, and awaited the summons that was almost sure to come.

As he entered the house to which he had been called he could not but note the ghastly sameness of detail that accompanied these oft-recurring events. The same scurrying; the same groups of tawdry, frightened women bending over banisters — hysterical, some of them; morbidly curious, others; and not a few shedding womanly tears; with a dead girl stretched somewhere, as this one was.

And yet it was not the same. Certainly she was dead: there was the hole in the temple where she had sent the bullet through. Yet it was different. Other such faces had been unfamiliar to him, except so far as they bore the common stamp of death. This one was not.

Like a flash he saw it again amid other surroundings. The time was little more than a year ago. The place, a homely cabin down in Arkansas, in which he and a friend had found shelter and hospitality during a hunting expedition.

There were others beside. A little sister or two; a father and mother — coarse, and bent with toil, but proud as archangels of their handsome girl, who was too clever to stay in an Arkansas cabin, and who was going away to seek her fortune in the big city.

“The girl is dead,” said Doctor Chevalier. “I knew her well, and charge myself with her remains and decent burial.”

The following day he wrote a letter. One, doubtless, to carry sorrow, but no shame to the cabin down there in the forest.

It told that the girl had sickened and died. A lock of hair was sent and other trifles with it. Tender last words were even invented.

Of course it was noised about that Doctor Chevalier had cared for the remains of a woman of doubtful repute.

Shoulders were shrugged. Society thought of cutting him. Society did not, for some reason or other, so the affair blew over.

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Quotes o’ the Day

Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength.

Eric Hoffer

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The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Dante Alighieri

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The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.

P. J. O’Rourke

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The best revenge is to be unlike he who performed the injury.

Marcus Aurelius

Hoffer

Aurelius

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Thoughts du Jour

Mummies

Humans have a habit of believing preposterous nonsense — embracing ideas that defy evidence and common sense. I could point to the behavior of today’s conservatives, but instead, consider the ancient Egyptians. They decided that the soul could not live on in the afterlife unless the body of the deceased was preserved. Seriously. Hence, their obsession with mummies.

The Egyptians traditionally buried the dead in the desert sand, which conveniently mummified the bodies. It was fine just to drop common folk in a hole, but it was inappropriate if you were important. So, for the rich and powerful, the Egyptians began building monument-style tombs.

The first such tomb was a mastaba, which in ancient Egyptian means “eternal house.” Mastabas were rectangular structures with inward-sloping sides and flat roofs, constructed of bricks made from mud. They protected the body from animals and grave robbers, but the absence of sand meant no mummification and — drat — no soul living on in the afterlife.

So they developed artificial mummification. For bigshots, of course. In time, the bigshots also concluded that mastabas weren’t elaborate enough, and pyramids became a thing.

In summary, the concept arose that your soul is doomed if your dead body decomposes as nature intended. Egyptian society seized on that idea and focused on it for several thousand years. You can’t make this stuff up.

The Island

For four years in the 1950s, my dad was stationed at Tyndall AFB, Florida, and we Smiths lived in nearby Panama City. In 1956, Dad got a one-year assignment as base commander at Thule AFB, Greenland. No dependents live at Thule, so Mom and us kids remained in Panama City.

Dad called, wrote, and sent photos regularly, which kept us up to date about life at Thule. One fact about the place that got a snicker from my 14-year-old self was the story of a small island within sight of the base named, in the Inuit language, Iganaq.

Due to its appearance in profile, people at Thule called the island the Witch’s Tit. Dad got a snicker, too, from telling us that.

In 1958, Greenland changed the name of the island from Iganaq to Dalrymple Rock. This was to honor Dr. Paul Dalrymple, a geographer and meteorologist who spent a good part of his career in Greenland.

Despite the name change, I’m sure the island remained Iganaq to the Inuit. And to the people stationed at Thule, it’s probably still the Witch’s Tit.

Unexpected Journey

When I stopped for lunch in Commerce recently, I had no way of knowing I was about to drive a mom and two preschoolers to the next county.

As I arrived at the Wendy’s parking lot, a female voice called out, “Sir! Sir! My car broke down, and my boys are with me, and my phone is dead! Can I borrow your phone to call my Nanna?”

The mom was in her late 20s and understandably stressed. I handed her my phone. She called Nanna, who didn’t answer, probably because it was from an unknown caller. So the mom sent a text. Still no reply. Nanna was MIA.

The mom thanked me and told me to proceed with my lunch. She said Nanna probably would respond soon. So I proceeded with lunch.

After lunch, I checked, and still no word from Nanna. I couldn’t just leave them stranded, so I told the mom I would drive them to Nanna’s house, which was about five minutes away. The mom protested feebly while transferring the boys and their car seats to my car.

She spent the drive trying to set me up with Nanna, who was described as healthy, active, attractive, and a widow. I was politely noncommittal.

Nanna was home, working in the garden. The mom wanted me to give Nanna my phone number, but Nanna (indeed a handsome woman) steered the mom away while waving a thank-you over her shoulder. I drove back to Commerce, where I bought some dog treats at Marshall’s.

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The Questions…

1. What flower bulbs once were used as currency?

2. What is a fipple?

3. The best-selling novel of all time was written in Spain in the early 1600s. What is it?

4. In ancient Egypt, what served as pillows?

5. What is the largest known cave system in the world?

The Answers…

1. Tulip bulbs. In the Dutch Republic in 1634, tulips were a new thing, and a wave of “tulip mania” swept the country. Certain varieties of tulip became coveted luxury items that soon were accepted as currency. The speculative bubble burst in 1637, and the fad fizzled.

2. The mouthpiece of a wind instrument.

3. “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes. Over 500 million copies sold.

4. Chunks of wood or stone.

5. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. People have explored 400 miles of it, and national park officials believe another 600 miles is out there. Also, scattered around the region are some 200 smaller caves not connected to the Mammoth system.

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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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Time Does Not Bring Relief

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, — so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

———

Always Marry An April Girl

By Ogden Nash

Frederic Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true —
I love April, I love you.

———

The Summer Day

By Mary Oliver

Mary Jane Oliver (1935-2019)

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

———

A Question

By Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.

———

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

By Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886)

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

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