Next week, Wal*Mart’s Konvenient Kliniks will assume the health care of our nation’s 9 million veterans. The Veterans Administration will be responsible for the upkeep of the U.S. Cemeteries here and abroad but all other function of that cumbersome agency will be assumed by proprietary corporations, whose efficient provision of cheap goods is universally popular.
Starting next week, all boards of education in all States and Territories are dissolved by Federal order. The education of all children shall be assured by the new Federal agency, H.S.N., the Home Schooling Network. Curricula for families is available through DJT Wine Club, complete with tasting notes. The new administrator of this new agency, replacing the Department of Education and its current boss, is the current CEO of the Home Shopping Network.
Work is already begun to transform all brick and mortar facilities of former institutions of higher learning into assembly and shipping centers for Amazon Prime order fulfillment. What has been known as Higher Education will now be universally available online from the University of Ajo, in southern Arizona. This is part of the MAGA priority of making broadband available to rural America.
These fantastic improvements will be available through a of doubling of Costco or Sam’s Club membership fees and a Value Added Tax at Dollar General Stores. Those making more than $170,000 annually, including U.S. legislators who cannot quite make it on so minimum a salary, will see their taxes reduced by 37% as the result of the savings in Federal spending. All other savings will go to boost military preparedness.
APRIL FOOL I hope!
Today is, in the Western Christian tradition, Holy Saturday. It is a day when no liturgies are observed, no vestments worn, no antependia adorn altars or pulpits. It is the Great Silence in which nothing is to be said, nothing can be said, in which there are no words, no noise. No activity is to disturb. There is nothing except dead silence.
For that reason I propose that this day be elevated in ritual status to be known as the most significant day of the year. There is nothing really significant that can be said in the face of the mystery that is our evolved humanity and in the face of the world that has responded under the influence of our having existed as a species. There are no words that can be uttered to frame where we are. There are no actions, other than simply being, that can respond appropriately to our cosmic situation. So this day should stand out from all others to point to saying nothing.
We can speculate about our species, its future. We can hold philosophical opinions about life. We can even develop theology. But this is all prattle before the awesomeness that is the 13 billion years of our planet’s existence. That awe is not precipitated by our being regarded as the pinnacle of life’s evolution. To posit us as ultimate or even penultimate is arrogance at best, more probably just silly.
‘We are,’ ‘this is’ is all we can say with mouth agape in wonder. This is the day to honor that mystery with dead silence.
From 2008 through 2013, my wife, Jane, and I served as volunteers at Big Bend National Park for three months each winter/spring. Today I came across a notebook in which I had written about a snow storm there in the southwest Texas desert. It follows:
I’m sitting here in the fire-blue Ford F-150 outside the laundry facility at Panther Junction in a snowstorm equal to any large-flaked, damp downfall I’ve seen in Ohio. Where the dry brown ground was warm enough to melt it and soak it up, the snow is not sticking. But in the grasses and beneath the scrub where the previous weeks’ sun seems not to have penetrated, about an inch blankets the desert terrain. The big black male Tarantulas that ranged across sand, rock and roads in search of mates weeks ago are deep in their holes. Rattlesnakes and the coral-colored Brewster County coach-whip snakes are coiled in their dens for weeks yet. As I wait out the laundry cycle, visibility is limited to several hundred yards.
Prickly Pear cacti that yesterday looked like nude sun worshipers, today have donned white scarves wrapped around their lobes by the wind. Creosote bushes have caught handfuls of white fluff and lack only the ability to transform their palmate leaf clusters into hands to be ready for a snowball fight.
The desert, in the space of a few hours, has transformed itself from a sun-baked playground where even in winter shorts and T-shirts were a necessity to a white wonderland that makes you wonder why you left your cross-country skis back home. Once again this fierce landscape has pronounced itself ‘unpredictable.’ It has once more spoken to say, “Your being here is on my terms.”
Far be it from me to question Edward Abbey about the desert, but I wonder about his insistence that “… the desert says nothing. Completely passive, acted upon but never activating. The desert lies there like a bare skeleton of Being …” While the desert may well say nothing, it is not mute. If it is passive, it is a passive aggression, in which its own indomitable self shakes our shoulders insisting upon being taken seriously.
Need I mention that I miss that conversation, sitting here this morning viewing the dreary, rain-soaked sameness of an Ohio Spring.
In his satirical poem ‘Don Juan,’ Lord Byron may have coined the phrase ‘truth is stranger than fiction,’ but sometimes it is the strangeness of the phony that makes fiction more powerful. Recently the Atlantic noted, “By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.”
The ‘study’ to which Atlantic refers was published in Science [http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146]. The abstract of that study informs us: “We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”
So, the more far-fetched fiction are the tweeted utterances from POTUS45, the more likely they are to penetrate to the substrata of our commonwealth. That fact/truth does not penetrate so exhaustively is obvious to the casual observer as well as to the scientific enquirer. Why else could the Liar-in-Chief maintain such a hold on so many in the substrata?
Since being a Boy Scout, I’ve been a birdwatcher. We ‘birders’ keep life-lists of our sightings among the hundreds of avian species. In looking at my life-list, one of the first birds I identified was the Killdeer.
Because this plover adapts t habitats it shares with humans, it is probably as numerous as it has ever been. It nests on open ground and is seen in fields, lakeshores, beaches, mudflats, dry stream beds, meadows as well as urban parks and open spaces.
You almost have to try not to notice a Killdeer because they announce themselves with loud ringing cries, after which they get their name “killdeer.’ Their Latin name, above, comes from their noisy behavior. Charadrius vociferus is indeed vociferous.
To keep you from discovering the location of its shallow depression nest, a piteous cry will be accompanied by feigned injury. Dragging one wing as though it might be broken, the clever little fellow will lead you further and further away from what it is trying to keep hidden. When you are sufficiently distracted, the injury will disappear and the bird will take flight.
There is an unusual primate with similar behavior. Chiefexecutivis vociferus tweets loud and frequently hoping to distract watchers from what he wants to keep hidden. The more threatened by discovery, the more irritatingly POTUS 45 issues loud ringing cries. His vociferous behavior is his attempt to decoy observers from what could be discovered if less attention were given to the noise. If you want to find the real crippling characteristic, stop paying attention to the piteous noise.
Follow the money!
Back in July 2017 I opined here that we need a ‘Newer Deal,’ one which took seriously the earlier New Deal of FDR and faced our deteriorating national infrastructure. In that brief blog, I asked ‘Is anyone listening?’ Apparently someone is trying to appear to listen. In the recent State of the Union Address the speaker touted a ‘huge’ infrastructure plan.
There are only a couple of problems with his plan. The spans will still be out for bridging the gap of improvements and the roads to any real progress will still be impassable. Trump does not want to spend Federal Funds on highways, bridges, electrical grid or communication networks. He wants to fund investors who will support private projects for toll-ways, toll-bridges and other profit-making ventures. And since he has no idea from where such funds will come, his plan will increase the deficit by billions.
This may well be a way to run a business, i.e., borrow money with little intention to re-pay in full and instead look to bankruptcy or some other scheme, encourage investors, and market it all with deceptive ads splashed with glitter, but it is no way to run a government. That is precisely the problem with our current administration, the chief executive knows almost nothing about governing and those he surrounds himself with are businessmen.
Now, Putin knows how to govern. If the Russian President wanted to make massive improvements in Russia’s infrastructure, he’d simply demand that his oligarchs see to the rubles to fund the project. But in our country, Government does not control our oligarchs, rather our oligarchs control the Government. So, in the State of the Union Address, the speaker gives voice to the preferences of the oligarchs.
The necessity for a ‘Newer Deal’ still cries out for attention. It is not rocket science, but it is the necessity for more Federal taxes to fund improvements; it is not a demand for lining the pockets of private investors.
Once again, is anyone listening?
Way back when I was a pastor and my brother and his family would visit us just after Christmas, my sister-in-law fussed and fumed that my post-Christmas homily always focused on a somewhat ugly part of the Silent Night narrative. It was my habit/discipline to preach from one of the texts assigned for that Sunday in the Common Lectionary. I could not help it if Matthew’s Gospel told the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Musing from ‘Bethlehem to Bedlam,’ I’d always have to wonder aloud whether Jesus grew up with almost no friends his age to play with. Oh, dear, why do liberal preachers have to expose parts of the story so as to take some of the edge off the cozy feelings?
Well, I haven’t preached for a very long time and I’ve got the itch to resonate in a very dissonant tone from “Silver Bells” on this Christmas Eve. It is time to remember that it was very dark that first Christmas and still is.
It is no slaughter but all of us are threatened. It is a worse plague than HIV-Aids; it is more of a threat than Ebola. It is trumpacardia, so named as it strikes the very heart of our Democracy.
The outbreak has been identified as recently as mid-October by our 44th President, George W. Bush, when he spoke openly of a “nationalism distorted into Nativism.” Senator John McCain, himself at the mercy of a life-threatening cancer, joined in the identification of this disease when he spoke of “half-baked spurious nationalism cooked up by people [he didn’t mention specific names] who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” Republican Senator Bob Corker aligned himself with this diagnostic team by pointing out an “utterly untruthful President.” Corker’s fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake signed off on the frightening diagnosis when he similarly characterized a “flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”
That trumpacardia is dangerously contagious is evident in its infection of military stalwart Gen. John Kelly, daughter of pious evangelicalism Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and even straight-laced convert from Roman Catholicism to Protestant fundamentalism Vice President Pence, who regularly calls his wife ‘mother.’ All three indicate by speech patterns as well as cognitive dysfunction, that their brain cells have been altered, as though by genetic manipulation, to patterns not imagined except by George Orwell’s prescient 1984. Apparently nearly half the population of the USA has been exposed to and is showing clinical signs of this deadly outbreak.
Do not panic! There is a remedy! Researchers with capability like that of the World Health Organization, but not limited by the recently truncated vocabulary of the Federal Center for Disease Control, have traced the source of the outbreak to a Republican nomination and subsequent election of a real estate entrepreneur become TV personality, Donald John Trump.
Surgical removal of the primary source of the outbreak, followed by vaccination, researchers assure us, will over time cure the infection and lead to the restored health of our People and Land. Do not let suspicious naysayers deter you from receiving the inoculation. There are no health-related injuries from receiving this vaccination; there is no mercury used in its manufacture and it is not a live virus. It is though a remarkable preventative. This vaccination is without cost and is self-administered. It is most effective when received in daily doses from MSNBC or NPR. A milder inoculation can result from a similar regimen from CNN.
The warning label on the inoculation cautions that recurrence of the disease can result from subsequent exposure to FoxNews and anything controlled by Sinclair Broadcasting. Both these sources are being sold as truly effective but are in fact, placebos at best, but more likely counterfeit or fake drugs.
My most memorable Christmas happened in the early 1950s, when I was 11 or 12. At the top of my list to ‘Santa’ was a Gilbert Microscope Set, with which I dreamed of discovering the wonders of the wee world cavorting below the range of my normal sight. Supposing this coveted treasure was in the largest package “Santa” had left under the tree, I saved it for last. I tried my best to hide my overwhelming disappointment when the microscope was not in the box, instead pajamas, slippers and a robe.
After we had devoted ourselves to the final rite of Christmas morning, burning the gift-wrap in the fireplace, I turned to open the can opener, screw-driver and broad blade of my new Boy Scout pocket knife, my second choice under the tree. As I laid it aside to enjoy a piece of candy from the sock hung on the mantel, my Dad, reaching behind the couch, uttered a surprised, “What’s this? Seems Santa has left something here!” It was, of course, the microscope set. My tears told Mom and Dad that I had, for however brief a time, been confronted with a lesson about expectations and disappointments.
By Spring the next year, the green, hinged case with the microscope, its glass slides and chemical reagents, was on a shelf in my room where it sat neglected until it was thrown/stored away probably about the time I graduated from High School.
This year an unexpected and new favorite present has arrived from the majority voters of Alabama. They have given us all the gift of hope that a republic being shredded by religious tribalism can begin to be restored by responsible citizens. They did not hide their gift from us though. Instead our own cynicism had kept their promise out of our sight. Our cynicism had insisted that a State that had not sent a Democrat to the US Senate for twenty-five years could not possibly put that nation’s best interest ahead of narrow party and pious loyalties. Their present shames our cynicism.
Now we must all make certain that we do not fiddle away our time with multi-bladed amusements but put to use the hope they have given us. We simply must not shelve their gift after a few weeks of marveling at it and let their bright hope drift into obscure memory. They have shown us that we can and must resist the further degradation of our values of justice and equality for all of us.
I’m still trying to find my voice, so again it has been a while since I filled this space with my thoughts. This morning I scribbled a couple of paragraphs into my Bullet Journal and with Jane’s (my wife’s) insistence, I’ll let you read over my shoulder as I ponder my Quixotic calling…
Our Republican Congress has passed a tax bill that steals from average people now and into the future and transfers the wealth to the richest among us. Sen. Grassley of Iowa says this theft permits real investment whereas folks like you and me would just be “spending every darn penny they have on booze or women or movies.” Here in Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, we have Representative Jim Jordan and Senator Rob Portman who apparently also think any increase in income we’d get we’d just “waste it on hookers and blow,” to quote former Hillary spokesman Jesse Ferguson.
There may be some change in this Tax Scam before it becomes law as it passes through the ‘conference process.’ If the process does improve the bill, it will be a miracle.
But miracles are the stuff of Biblical hocus-pocus. John of Patmos expected a miracle of apocalyptic proportion to bring down the Roman Empire in first century Palestine and his vision can be read in the New Testament Book of Revelation. Yes, that’s Revelation, not revelations. He did not intend to issue a time-line of futuristic events. He meant to give expression to his ardent hope that the Evil Empire would come to a fiery end by Divine Intervention.
We need no longer put stock in the superstition and magic of super-naturalism to wish and work for the destruction of an Ugly Empire that is ours. In fact, we must eschew all reliance on deliverance from Beyond. Whether by taking to the streets or to the ballot box, we must remove from power the Grassley/Jordan/Portman fascism and restore to our fair land a responsive, responsible republic.
Methinks that ‘booze, women and movies’ are more the pastimes of elected officials inside the DC Beltway than the entertainments of the working-class neighbors I live with. The vice-ridden hordes of Sen. Grassley’s nightmares probably belong the same tribe as the ‘Welfare Queens’ of the Reagan Era, that is to say, they are figments of fearful conservative imagination.