Archive for December, 2019

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  • December 27th, 2019

GETTING CEREOUS

By Joel M. Vance

 

Political idiocy prevails.  I can’t say that it is comforting to know the 2019 exits with a flurry of political incidents that border on outright lunacy, but I also can’t say that it is surprising.

 

In my home state, Missouri, a statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, has been hoisted back atop the Capitol after a year’s absence to be refurbished, buffed to an untarnished sheen not seen since she was installed atop the seat of state government, unsullied by the droppings of high flying birds (possibly commenting on the state of affairs in the legislative halls beneath her lofty perch where she symbolizes the importance of agriculture in the Show Me State) , after having been dulled by the inevitable tarnish of time.

 

Almost predictably, a state representative, almost predictably also a right wing Republican, objected to the presence of Ceres ’way up there, 230 feet above ground level, overlooking Jefferson City because she is a graven image. The outraged politician hails from the portion of the state often referred to as the Bible Belt.

 

State representative Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican, thundered “God commanded the Israelites to have no gods other than him.” He appealed plaintively to fellow Republican, Gov. Mike Parson, apparently channeling God’s word directly to the head of state, “do not make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God, Gov. Parson.  You and I have placed our trust in the same Lord, the God of the Bible. As such I appeal to your good judgment, as a follower of Jesus Christ, to direct the Capitol Commission to not return the false God Ceres, the Roman goddess, to the top of the Capitol dome.”

 

Although representative Moon seems to be in the camp of those afflicted by strange derangement during the full moon phase (i.e., werewolves and vampires) he may have a point—perhaps God, the real one, is less than enchanted by Ceres’ lofty position— she has been struck, mostly in the head, about 300 times by lightning since 1924.

 

Ceres stands 10’4” tall, weighs 1407 pounds and is constructed of bronze. She was grounded for a year, to spend time at the Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc., located in Forest Park, Illinois, a company which specializes in cosmetic treatment for items of historic significance. Dana Miller, chief clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives and a member of the Missouri State Capitol Commission, said “they call it laser ablation., conservation, not repair. So we’re conserving her.”

 

Apparently, Ceres was suffering from what you might call statuary zits. Although she is a bronze, she has a high copper content and when copper is exposed to weather, it can cause green freckles that tainted Ceres’ hair, body, outfit and base. Ms. Miller commented, “this coating that they’re putting on her will keep her looking good for a while. They didn’t even have to put a patina on her because she was so pretty,” she added.

 

So much for Missouri’s political hullabaloo over a statue. We’ll step over neighboring state Kentucky which already has its hands full with a political moon bat, not so much an obsession with graven images— Moscow Mitch McConnell, the Chinless Wonder who seems to feel that Donald Trump’s impeachment trial already is settled, perhaps in his hopeful imagination (and he hasn’t even been struck in the head by lightning once not to mention 300 times, even if he often acts like it). Throwing normal rules for jurors in a trial in the dumpster, McConnell has declared publicly that he has no impartiality and Trump is as pure as the driven slush.

 

However it is mandatory since 1849 according to the Kentucky State Constitution that every legislator, public officer, and lawyer must swear under oath that he or she has not fought a duel with deadly weapons. Presumably, Moscow Mitch has sworn that he has not engaged in duels—unless, of course, you count his mouth as a deadly weapon. Just you wait until Kentucky displays a statue or bust of a famous figure. I propose Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, but Moscow Mitch might be more inclined toward Vladimir Putin.

 

Let’s go another state south to Tennessee where a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest disgraces the state Capitol. Where General Robert E Lee has street creds as a historic warrior, revered to some extent by both sides for his role in what some unregenerate Southerners persist to this day in calling “The Late Unpleasantness.” By contrast Forrest was a sociopathic killer who, if he were living today, still would be a racist Ku Klux Klan stalwart and slavery defender. Forrest was a founder of the Klan. One might, if one were inclined toward the pun as a form of high humor, to call Nathan Bedford Forrest a “sheet head.”

 

The legislative proposal is to move the Forrest bust into the state Museum and (I swear, I am not making this up) replace it with a bust (and I don’t want to hear any giggles here) of Dolly Parton. Ms. Parton almost certainly is Tennessee’s most prominent citizen today and for the benefit of those who do not remember legendary episodes of the Johnny  Carson’s show, Ms. Parton once replied to an unspoken question by Carson by saying, “they are real!”

 

Lest you think that crazy state laws are the exclusive property of red states, especially those where people routinely eat grits as if they/it were actual food, Wisconsin, the home state of my mother, recently had a law proposed by State Sen. Glenn Grothman which would have required the state’s child abuse agency  to “emphasize” single parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.” A cosponsor, Don Pridemore, believes that spouses in abusive relationships should try to stay in them rather than divorce. Hang in there mama and ignore those bruises and broken bones— part of the price you pay for saying “I do.”

 

And far up in New Hampshire where the state motto is “live free or die,” a proposed law would have mandated that the cops would need a warrant before they could arrest someone for domestic violence. Quite possibly, the abusive husband could have shouted that slogan at his bleeding wife well before the cops came knocking at the door, legal paper in hand, responding belatedly to a “shots fired!” 911 call from the neighbors. Fortunately, the proposal died a-borning.

 

Nothing brings out the legislative indignation more than abortion. Had proposed laws been adopted (fortunately they died a- borning like that New Hampshire law), a doctor in Iowa performing an abortion could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. And in Oklahoma, State Sen. Ralph Shortey wanted to ban “food or any product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses.” This is the stuff of which horror movies and state legislation is created. In Delaware and, again, in Oklahoma, bills (quite possibly intended as jokes) occupied otherwise blank sheets of paper proposing that “waste of sperm” constituted “an action against an unborn child.” All across the country, teenage boys, surreptitiously studying anatomy in pilfered copies of “Penthouse” shuddered in terror at the prospect of jail time and resolved never again to be masters of their own domain. Yeah, right.

 

For many years I rode a bicycle to and from work, a round trip of about 10 miles. The exercise, considering Jefferson City’s Missouri River hills, kept me in tip top shape and all I had to worry about was a passenger in a car pulling up beside me and spitting on me (which happened once–it was a young woman holding a baby in her arms). Not once in all those years did I, while pedaling, quaff a cold one, or sip a cooling gin and tonic, even on a steamy summer day. Yet a burgeoning trend in cycling, mostly west of Missouri, is riding on so-called “brew bikes.”

 

These contraptions are an expansion of the historic “bicycle built for two” except that they support up to about 10 revelers, all pedaling in unison, while they throw down adult beverages. The brew cycles originated in Tucson, Arizona, back in the late nineteen nineties, after having been invented by a Dutch company. They now are popular in Europe where a number of cities allow passengers to drink while cycling.

 

A fellow named Robert Mayer owns and operates the wonderfully named Arizona Party Bike and Pedal  Crawler out of Tucson. He modified his bikes to include lights, a stereo, and a motor power system—apparently for when the multiple riders get too drunk to operate pedals. If you’re in the market for a pedal crawler, the starting price is about $38,000. In addition to Tucson party bikes exist in Dallas, Nashville, and Philadelphia.

 

Drinking while operating a motorized vehicle is pretty well accepted now as a violation of law, but for where there is a will there’s a way— I am reminded of the story of Ol’ Possum, George Jones, the wonderful late country legend who, when deprived of his car keys, drove his garden tractor to town to buy some booze. But cycling while drinking and/or drunk apparently has confused the lawmakers to the extent that what regulations do exist are…. Well, confused.

 

Even though the reaction to propose legislation often prompts citizens to exclaim, “what the hell are they smoking!” That very subject offers a rich opportunity  for lawmakers hoping to make a name for themselves, no matter how risible the proposed law.

 

Along with abortion, legislation over marijuana takes up an inordinate amount of time while, often, necessary legislation concerning public education, healthcare, and other apparently non-pressing issues languish. In a rare display of bipartisanship Republican Senators. Jacob Javits, Edward Brooke, and Democratic Senators Alan Cranston and Gaylord Nelson once proposed decriminalizing marijuana. But the issue still resounds in the halls of government nationwide and it is still illegal in most areas to go one toke over the line. The latest issue is a brand-new form of reefer madness— vaping with marijuana infused electronic cigarettes. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

 

While it isn’t proposed  legislative  language, the following quote from the nation’s Blowhard in Chief, the know it all who almost daily turns the English language into gibberish, could easily be the model for the next inane if not absolutely insane legislation to waste the time of the nation’s elected representatives. Here is Trump letting us all know how much he knows about wind energy generation:

 

“We’ll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody. I know it’s very expensive. They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none. But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything — right? So they make these things and then they put them up.”

 

There you go, wisdom from the top–talk about fumes spewing into the air!  We can always be thankful that they got Ceres back where she belongs atop the Missouri State Capitol before Trump mandated that she be tossed in the scrapheap and a statue of him in all his golden glory be installed in her place. On the other hand, maybe a few hundred lightning strikes to the head might knock some sense into him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Blog
  • December 19th, 2019

NORTHERN LIGHTS

By Joel M. Vance

 

“Merry Christmas!” Harvey Mirella muttered to himself, his mood as bleak as the cold moonlight filtering through the snow shrouded pines. The headlights dipped and dug at the snowbanks, briefly trapped a snowshoe hare faintly outlined by its shadow—white on white.

 

It was Christmas Eve and Harvey was on his way to the county seat to get his son out of jail in time for the boy’s  seventeenth birthday.  His wife was in tears at home, her tattered face incongruous amid the glitter of the Christmas decorations. The boy, Brad, was a late child, born on Christmas morning, when Harvey was 40 years old.

 

Harvey Mirella was impatient with the boy, who always had seemed clumsy and slow, unable to fit in. The boy was dreamy, intent on aimless study of leaves and grass, not books. Harvey didn’t see how Brad could make it in real life and this bitter Christmas Eve mission was proof of it.

 

Harvey hated his resentment, but he had been right about the kid— bad seed or some chemical insufficiency. Something.  Sheriff calling at near midnight to tell him his kid had been caught breaking and entering. Harvey gritted his teeth anger heating his face. Once he had felt blessed with a Christmas baby. Not now. Just another punk juvenile delinquent. His juvenile delinquent.

 

Brad had been sitting in a pickup and was fumbling for the keys when the police car pulled alongside. The town marshal flashed his light on Brad’s white face, knew with a cop’s certain instinct that there was more here than a kid out with a sixpack. He motioned for Brad to roll down the window, his breath fogging in the cold Wisconsin night.

 

“What’s going on here?” he asked.

 

He could smell the beer, but the acrid smell of fear was just as strong. Brad started telling him some story about getting stuck and trying to get out, volunteering much more information than he asked for— a certain sign the kid was hiding something. He made Brad get out, noticed he weaved from the beer. He flashed the light inside the truck cab, saw unopened candy bars, packages of potato chips and other snacks.

 

It didn’t take much deduction to associate the broken window of the gas station with the items in the truck and with a terrified youngster. Punk kid, the marshal thought sourly, comparing Brad with his own boy who had starred for the high school basketball team and then had been killed in Vietnam.

 

“Punk kid breaking into a gas station,” the marshal said. He pushed the boy, now numb with fatigue and fear, none too gently into the detention center. “Sit down!” He commanded roughly. Brad collapsed into a hard chair in the small entry area, his face white and frightened.

 

The marshal and the center custodian went back into a cramped office. The custodian, who knew what had happened to the marshal’s son said, “Don’t be too hard on him, eh?  It’s not the end of the world. He’s pretty scared.”

 

“He oughta be,” the marshal said. “If he was a year older, he’d be lookin’ at prison. Probably get off with a pat on the back and the next time he’ll be carryin’ a gun.”

 

The center custodian was a gentle person, who had survived his own wild childhood.

 

“No, I don’t think so,” the custodian said. “Not a criminal, no. Scared kid got some beer and did something dumb.  Probably never do anything wrong again. Didn’t you ever do something wrong and not get caught?”

 

“Not like this,” the marshal said.

 

Harvey passed the city limits sign. He knew where the juvenile attention center was. “Juvenile attention!” What a laugh! Like they were doing the kid some favor. Why not call it what it was. A jail, a lockup for punk kids. Like Brad. Harvey parked the car behind the attention center. He felt old and tired.

 

His wife had been asleep when the phone rang, her dream one of danger and fear. Later she wondered if the fright of her dream began on the first ring of the phone or if she actually had experienced a premonition. She threw back the covers, raced into the hall to answer the persistent ringing phone, her eyes wide, but her mind still trying to shed the confusion of sleep.

 

“Yes!” She said. The news made her go numb with shock. Her lips stiff, asking meaningless questions. The official voice was patient, dispassionate. He’d broken bad news—far worse than this—too many times to a parent and it always was the same. Shock, fright, outrage, sometimes from the fathers, poorly thought out questions, sometimes self recrimination.

 

She put down the phone her mind a jumble of frightened bird thoughts, fluttering in confusion.  Nothing like this ever had happened. She knew she shouldn’t have let him go out on Christmas Eve. He belonged at home, with his family. But he had promised to be home early. “You can’t keep them locked in the cradle until they’re grown,” she told Harvey as he growled and finally gave in.

 

She leaned weakly against the wall. She had to tell Harvey. He had heard the phone ring, but not until she’d already moved to answer it. He’d been tired from a long day at the Cozy Cup, the café he ran down town in Birch Lake, and was heavily asleep when the call came. He lost his sense of time and missed the note of alarm in his wife’s voice, heard only the murmur of the conversation.

 

Then she switched on the bedroom light and he knew something terrible had happened from her face, pitted by desolation. “That was the Sheriff’s office. They say Brad broke into a filling station and stole some things.” He shouted foolish questions at her, groaned with misery. How he hated what the boy had done to him.

 

Brad was sick and confused. The beer had worn off, leaving him only a dull headache, a leaden fatigue. He knew what would happen when his father found out about this. He hated himself, hated his parents for being there to receive and hurt and condemn.

 

“Common sense!” His father had shouted, the last time he been in a scrape—nothing major; he’d gotten some beer and drunk it and driven to see his girlfriend and on the way he ran in the ditch and split his lip. “Common sense! You don’t have a lick of it! What makes you do such things!” He didn’t know. If he knew he wouldn’t do them. The beer eased the ache that was always there, a part of him.  Then he was as good as anybody, as big as the biggest. He could cope with anything. He could be happy. He drank beer with the guys and told jokes and everyone laughed and he felt warm and wanted. “Hey man what you in for?” It was some scuzzy kid, looking about half wired.

 

Brad shrugged. “I got caught in possession,” the kid said. “You deal?”

 

“I don’t do drugs,” Brad said.

 

“Hey man, you smell like a brewery,” he said. “They say alcohol is a drug, you dig?”

 

“What’s gonna happen now?” Brad asked.

 

“Ah, you probably get off with a kiss on the ear,” the kid said “what you get picked up for— dropping a sixpack?”

 

“Breaking into a filling station,” Brad said.

 

Hey, wow!” Said the scuzzy one with respect. “That’s heavy, man! They probably gonna stick you away for a hundred years!”

 

Brad looked at him with fright. He realized he had been counting on his father to get it all straightened out so he could go home where it was warm and familiar and it would be another bad memory. He felt his punishment was in the terror of getting caught and dragged behind bars. That this desolation could be more permanent had not occurred to him. The marshal, growled, “you better enjoy this luck, kid. It’s about run out. Next time I see you here, you ain’t gonna be a minor.”

 

After Harvey had signed the paperwork, the marshal said, “you can have him. He’ll probably get a slap on the wrist and a kiss from the juvenile judge.” The marshal looked at Harvey as if measuring how much of Brad’s guilt could be assigned to his parent. Harvey was stiff with his anger. He moved jerkily across the parking lot to the car. He slammed the door on his side, making no effort to help his son. Brad barely got the car door closed before Harvey stepped on the gas, shooting forward, the tire spinning briefly on the snowpacked parking lot.

 

Harvey thought of a dozen bitter questions, rejecting them all, finally shouted, “why!” He pounded on the steering wheel. “Why!” He glared at the silent boy beside him. “I wish you’d been born a girl,” he muttered sourly. Brad looked out the window at the bright winter night. “I wish I had never been born at all,” he said softly.

 

Harvey realized Christmas music still was playing on the car radio. “Thanks for the Christmas present,” he said sarcastically. He looked at the boy in the wash of moonlight through the windshield and saw tears glistening on Brad’s face

 

Once they had watched the flair of northern lights when Brad was six years old and he had seen tears on the little boy’s face—tears of helpless joy. His heart had swelled, so filled with love that he thought he would burst. But that was then. It was after midnight. Brad was an adult in the eyes of the law, now, a year older…. And it was Christmas day.

 

Harvey felt the tire blow, a sagging and sudden thumping. He immediately slowed and let the car drift to the roadside. It crunched to a halt in the softer snow. Another frustration, but Harvey realized he was drained of anger. He knew only a cloying fatigue.

 

“You could maybe help out a little bit,” he said tartly, looking at the boy. The Christmas music was clear in the suddenly silent night. “Change the tire. Do something constructive for once in your life.” Brad nodded, his head down. He opened the door, felt the sharp bite of the cold, and stepped out into the snow, his boots crunching.

 

Harvey unlocked the trunk. He stood back, watching the boy. Brad wrestled the spare tire out, the cold of the metal and rubber numbing his hands. He shivered, put his hands under his armpits to warm them.“Come on!” Harvey said. “We haven’t got all night!” Brad felt a flare of anger, but it died quickly. He tried to make his stiffening hands work with the icy tools.

 

The lights blinded both of them and they squinted awkwardly into the glare. Where had the pickup come from? They heard nothing. “So you got dem flat?” The voice was rich with a meaty Swenski accent. The pickup truck’s door creaked and clunked as a man got out. Probably some Scandahoovian potato farmer heading home full of Christmas beer. The figure was indistinct in the haze of the truck lights. Harvey glimpsed overalls, broad powerful peasant hands.

 

“Looks like dat boy’s doin’ all right,” said the farmer. Harvey looked at Brad struggling with the heavy tire and felt unfamiliar compassion. The car radio was playing “Silent Night.” For all its familiarity, it fit the calm quiet of the cold winter night. Harvey remembered, with a sudden ache in his throat, other Christmases when Brad was little and innocent, a chubby baby.

 

“So, den, you need some help?” The Svenski asked.

 

“Thanks for stopping,” Harvey said. “I guess we’ll get going all right.”

 

“Everything’s going to be all right,” said the farmer “this is Christmas, sure. Dem troubles we got, dey ain’t nuttin.”

 

“Maybe not for you,” Harvey growled.

 

“For me most of all,” the man said. “You know dis is a time ven God’s son vas born? I’ve been looking at that fine boy you got an’ tink ain’t it good to have a son.”

 

“They’re trouble,” Harvey said, the dull ache of his anger pulsing again.

 

“De’re joy too, you gif them a chance,” the farmer said. “Look dem lights is comin, you betcha!”

 

Harvey looked to the north, where the farmer pointed. There was nothing but a lacework of stars. Brad finished with the tire and straightened. Harvey started to turn toward the farmer to say he saw nothing when the  first flare lit the horizon.

 

The northern sky pulsed with light. In seconds the entire sky filled with veils of surging light, throbbing with a fierce majesty. The northern lights strode from horizon to horizon like a parade of angels. There were shimmering robes of pearly light, fountains of fire. They swelled and bloomed soundlessly. They were so immense, so grand that neither he nor Brad felt the cold, though there was no heat in the lights. As abruptly as they had come, the lights ebbed. They faded to a dull fire on the horizon and the winter stars shone again.

 

Harvey found he was weeping.

 

The farmer had vanished. How had the old guy known the lights would flare? Who was he? Harvey turned to the boy who was pale faced in the moonlight. The boy, now a man, yet also was a six-year-old, wet eyed with wonder.

 

“Brad….” He didn’t know what to say. He held out his arms to his son and Brad stepped into them. Wordlessly they held each other. “Brad, I love you,” Harvey said. “I always have.”

 

“I love you too, dad,” Brad said. “I always have.”

 

In silence they headed toward the Birch Lake and Christmas morning.

 

 

 

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  • December 13th, 2019

GRETA AND THE GRINCH

By Joel M. Vance

I suppose you could call it a bonus blog if you’re charitably inclined but it is the first time in more than 350 posts on this website that I have posted two in one week. Rather than a bonus, I suspect it is more in the nature of a spillover of bile, like a bubble of stomach acid, belched after a heavily spiced taco salad. Possibly, before I finish writing this, the United States House of Representatives will have passed two resolutions of impeachment against Donald J Trump, sending his eventual fate to a right-wing dominated Senate which will fall in line and declare him as pure as the driven slush, rather than the playground bully he actually is.

 

The description of the quintessential bully ((and it almost always is a he) is one who picks on the weak and defenseless. Donald J Trump the presidential Pretender in Chief, is that bully. But he is so abysmally ignorant that he doesn’t have the mental capacity to carefully pick his targets so they can’t fight back.

 

If you recall the moment in “the Christmas story” when Ralphie has had enough from the bully Scut Farkus and totally loses control in a maniacal outburst which finds him pummeling the bloody nosed Scut, screaming four letter words, learned from his furnace fighting father.

 

Trump doesn’t have enough sense to realize that he is running the same risk as Scut Farkus when he verbally assaults a 16-year-old Swedish teenage girl who has more integrity in her little finger than Trump does in his whole corpulent carcass. In fact, he has no integrity anywhere in that bloated tub of guts that resembles nothing so much as it does a puff possum two steaming July days after it has been run over on the highway.

 

If Trump thought he was singling out a weak and defenseless person on whom to vent his inane pique at her having been picked as Time Magazine’s person of the year rather than him (an honor which he has long lusted after, so much that he created a fictitious Time cover with his photograph on it—a spooky demonstration of insanity), he was laughably wrong.

 

Greta Thunberg is as far from being weak and defenseless as moral strength and integrity are from Donald Trump. Weak? How about a kid on a crusade, sitting day after day in front of the Swedish Parliament, lobbying for action on global warming? Through her strength of purpose and her unyielding dedication, she has won well-deserved admiration worldwide and has organized a youth movement dedicated to forcing those in power to address climate change, the most urgent threat to global integrity.

 

Defenseless? Her defense is truth, the best defense of all.  She doesn’t need to stand toe to toe with the likes of Donald Trump and punch him out, although I suspect a couple of whacks in his flabby gut would have him groveling on the ground like Scut Farkus, shrieking for mercy.  Ms. Thunberg quickly responded to Trump through his favorite medium of communication, Twitter, by tweeting “if anyone thinks that what I and the science are saying is advocating for a political view–that says more about that person than about me. That being said some are certainly failing more than others.”

 

She went on to amplify her philosophy by saying “I’m sometimes called political but I’ve never supported any political party, politician or ideology. I communicate the science and the risks of failing to act on it. And the fact is that the politics needed don’t exist today, neither to the right left nor center.”

 

Trump has had a remarkable and incomprehensible ability to evade responsibility for any of the destructive actions and statements he has made since he was inexplicably elected president of the United States. But just perhaps he has gone one step too far in attacking a 16-year-old environmental crusader who has the admiration and respect of anyone with a smidgen more than half a brain.

 

Trump has carried on an inexplicable vendetta against Ms. Thunberg for some time (and I suspect childish jealousy is a major part of the explanation) since she gained recognition after she confronted world leaders at the United Nations climate change conference. The Swedish teenager verbally flayed world leaders discussing a warming planet and how to avert disaster with a blistering speech. “I don’t want you to be hopeful,” she said. “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire—because it is.”

 

She has been castigated for her views about the need to immediately address climate change, not just by the president of the United States, but by right-wing commentators and others whose primary claim to fame is that they are awful human beings. Even Fox News, as low blow oriented as it often is, was forced to apologize for right-wing guest Michael Knowles calling Ms. Thunberg “mentally ill” a day after her United Nations talk. Ms. Thunberg deals with Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism characterized by, among other symptoms, difficulty in dealing with social situations—think of the immense courage it takes for someone with that problem to take an assortment of world leaders to task for their inability to deal with climate crisis.

 

After her United Nations talk, Trump snidely tweeted “she seemed like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Ms. Thunberg immediately updated her Twitter biography with subtle sarcasm, saying she was “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” Trump wasn’t about to let up on his bitter resentment after the Time Magazine honor, immediately tweeting “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

 

Greta immediately responded by again updating her biography on Twitter by saying she is “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old-fashioned movie with a friend.” Take that, fat man. Trump, the Dolt in Chief has no chance of winning this word duel with a person infinitely smarter and more articulate than he is.

 

Our daughter, Carrie, who has been an environmental champion from cradle onward, spent several decades as a high school English teacher, doing her best to shepherd teenagers toward responsible adulthood. With what I hope is pardonable parental pride, and taking no credit for her development as a person deeply concerned with the health of the planet—especially, its natural resource integrity— I was not surprised when she reacted on Facebook after Trump tweeted his inexcusable assault on Ms. Thunberg. She posted on Facebook, “I just can’t let this one slide. Donald Trump, president of the United States and husband of anti-cyber bullying crusader Milania Trump, spent his Thursday morning cyber bullying a teenage girl.  So sad.” I sense a bit of sarcasm there since Trump is fond of ending his tweets about something he doesn’t like (which is almost everything) with the comment “so sad.”

 

Someone who spends much of his time venting in choleric rage with insane tirades against a whirlwind of reactions to his erratic life suggesting that a sincere, much admired teenage girl needs to deal with anger management is so ludicrous it would be funny if it weren’t so aggravating. No point in telling Trump he should deal with his own anger management. It would just make him angry.

 

Trump’s entire philosophy of life is based on anger. He thrives on it, fuels his self image with it, and energizes his debased base by appealing to their latent rage about what ever— their lack of intelligence, their lack of achievement in life, their lack of success at winning the lottery, the failure of their sports team to win, their failure in who knows what? It’s called lynch mob mentality and it has been the weapon of choice for those who would rule by terror since the first barely human bully crawled out of a cave, armed with a club and a handful of rocks, bent on subduing his weaker peers.  The idea is that if you can’t beat them, whip up a mob and have it do the dirty work, especially if you’re too cowardly to attempt it yourself.

 

In an absolutely insane reaction to Time’s selection of Ms. Thunberg as person of the year, the Trump   reelection campaign committee issued a photo of the Time cover with Trump’s head superimposed on Greta’s body. If this is not paranoia not to mention cyber bullying in its most crude and despicable form, then nothing is.

 

One reactive comment to Trump’s idiotic attack on Ms. Thunberg pretty well sums it up: “Greta, take it from me when you rattle cages you will get haters. Keep fighting for what you believe is right. You don’t owe your critics a damn thing.”

 

The late-night comedians, have been feasting on Trump and his slavish supporters. Trevor Noah perhaps summed it up better than any by saying “she’s 16, so she is used to handling temper tantrums from immature boys.”

 

So let’s boil it down in conclusion. Trump always is going to be the petulant bully picking on whomever he feels is too weak to fight back and he always will make the mistake of picking on people who are stronger than he thinks they are and who will put him down like the Scut Farkus he is.

 

Go Ralphie! Er…. Greta!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • December 12th, 2019

TOILET THOUGHTS

By Joel M. Vance

A petition signed by 350 psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals claims that President Donald Trump’s mental health is deteriorating rapidly “We are convinced that, as the time of possible impeachment approaches, Donald Trump has the real potential to become ever more dangerous, a threat to the safety of our nation,” said Drs. Bandy Lee, a Yale psychiatrist, Jerrold Post, a former CIA profiler, and John Zinner, a psychiatrist at George Washington University.

 

I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth repeating the Mayo Clinic definition of a sociopath: “Disregard for right and wrong, Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others, Being callous, cynical and disrespectful of others, Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure, Arrogance, a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated, Recurring problems with the law, including criminal behavior, Repeatedly violating the rights of others through intimidation and dishonesty, Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead, Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, aggression or violence, Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others, Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behavior with no regard for the safety of self or others, Poor or abusive relationships, Failure to consider the negative consequences of behavior or learn from them, Being consistently irresponsible and repeatedly failing to fulfill work or financial obligations.”

 

Do we see a description here of someone we have grown to observe and loath through the past three plus years? Did the Mayo folks put a clinical microscope on the Sociopath in Chief and write a description based on what they saw? It’s one thing to laugh at a person who complains about not having enough water to flush his golden toilet; it’s quite another to be saddled with a sociopathic president—actually, it’s downright terrifying.

 

There is an old country saying about people with erratic mental behavior, namely that so-and-so is “crazy as a shit house rat.” The little house out back, referred to, is a relic of the past, celebrated in song by Billy Ed Wheeler. “They passed an ordinance in the town/they said we’d have to tear it down/that little shack out back so dear to me.” Unfortunately, the only applicable ordinance that can relegate Donald Trump to the status of former president is the Constitution of the United States which outlines conditions for his removal from office. The fact that 250 mental health professionals say he’s nuts, and his own rambling and goofy statements about almost everything , amply demonstrate the truth of their conclusion, isn’t enough to send him scurrying from the White House like a rat from the little house out back.

 

(The song in question is the “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back” written by Wheeler in the nineteen sixties and sung by him and the wonderful Bobby Bare—two guys who, like me, spent part of their  childhood combating droning yellowjackets and reading the Sears and Roebuck catalog.)

 

Small people with a similar mental development to Donald J Trump used to chant “rain rain go away/come again some other day!” At least kids in olden times knew how to deal with unwanted water. Trump is bumfuzzled by that stuff called rain. “For the most part you have many states where they have so much water, it comes down— it’s called rain. They don’t know what to do with it.” This indicates to me that the average kindergarten child, faced with a rainy day, has a firmer grip on reality than does the president of the United States.

 

Trump’s comments on water came recently at a meeting with small business owners in which he railed at the recommendations for water conservation, passed during the George HW Bush administration which, according to the Fat Boy in Chief, present a toilet difficulty that has him confused. By now, anyone who is paying attention to the confused and largely incoherent ravings of the tangerine colored Idiot in Chief, knows that (I’m talking about Donald J Trump) the Clown in Chief maintains that water conservation makes it necessary to flush the toilet 10 to 15 times a day to make everything go away. Would that it were so easy to flush away Trump and his supporters— I would gladly sacrifice precious water to make that happen.

 

Actually, water conservation in toilets limits capacity of the reservoir to a gallon and a half which, if the toilet is operating correctly, will flush all the stuff to an appropriate waste management system. The reservoir then refills automatically to the correct level. But then Trump, not qualified even to be a plumber’s helper, wouldn’t know that.

 

Trump also complained that low flow water conservation appliances limit the water available from faucets for handwashing to a trickle. “You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water. They take a shower of water come dripping out. Just dripping out, very quietly dripping out.” The answer, Trump maintains, is to loose his environmental regulation-gutting attack dogs. “We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on— and areas where there is a tremendous amount of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water.” If you are able to decipher this incoherent statement, more power to you, but to me it is merely one more example of Trump being Trump—which is to say the equivalent of turning a 4-year-old loose in a room full of conservationists with a live hand grenade.

 

The Orange Julius in Chief also took the occasion to unload on energy efficient light bulbs. He maintains that they are unflattering to his noble visage. “They got rid of the lightbulb that people got used to.” He said. “The new bulb is many times more expensive. And I hate to say it, it doesn’t make you look as good. Of course, being a vain person, that’s a very important to me. It gives you an orange look. I don’t want an orange look.” Sorry, Jocko, too late.

 

The mistake we all are making is focusing on the inanities of Trump, the ludicrous statements that give the late-night comedians more material that they can use, while ignoring the statements and actions Trump makes and takes that have dire implications for the future of the country.

 

His dismissal of climate change as a hoax, his cozying up to the world’s most despicable dictators, his overall ignorance of diplomacy, his dismantling of environmental regulations (some of the best of which—clean water, clean air, the Environmental Protection Agency— were established by a Republican administration), his assaults on progressive programs such as Social Security and Medicare, all conspire to define a person who cares little about the requirements of his office.

 

While he was nattering about not having enough water to soak his stubby little fingers, he also was chatting cozily with the Russian Foreign Minister at the very moment the United States House of Representatives was poised to impeach his porky ass. While any thinking environmentalists will ridicule his stupid statements about water conservation, light bulbs and his big brain, the United States Senate, dominated by Republicans, almost certainly will quickly exonerate Trump and as the environmentalists mourn, Vladimir Putin will rejoice.

 

Daniel Larison, senior editor at The American Conservative magazine, not exactly a liberal publication, had this to say about impeaching Trump, “Members of the House have been given a simple test of their fidelity to the Constitution. Are they enablers of presidential abuse of power and corruption, or will they do what their oaths of office require of them and hold a corrupt president in check?”

 

Saddest of all, a third of the voting population of the United States is depressingly likely to reelect Trump and give the other two thirds of thinking people the agony of four more years of him and his evil acolytes dismantling the foundation of the Republic. Make no mistake about it— this man is a dangerous demagogue and a would-be dictator. He is mentally unbalanced and unmoved by common decency.

 

Anyone who posts on Facebook is inviting vilification of the type usually reserved for restroom walls, and that includes me. A woman named Marly Borup recently posted a spirited defense of Trump and all that he represents. Her Facebook photo shows her cradling a humongous walleye, proving that she is far and away a better angler than I am. But I have to question whether or not she has studied Donald Trump’s history with women, and if so, how she could, in all conscience, defend the Groper in Chief. Trump is far beyond the most misogynistic human ever to occupy the White House— he brags about it, preening like a stud horse in a stable full of fillies. Regardless of what he considers himself, he is not the dream guy of most women’s dreams. He is the nightmare. Apparently he believes not only can he shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it; he also can molest any woman who captures his fantasy and be  absolved if not lauded for wrongdoing by his sheepbrained faithful.

 

Marly generated some negative feedback for her comments endorsing Trump and it’s entirely possible I will get the same for mine. So be it. As  Rhett Butler so succinctly put it to Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

 

Try this for a reality check: take the statement below into the bathroom where you can speak resonantly against the hard tiled walls, as if you were declaiming to an ardent Trump rally audience. Be sure you don’t let the children hear you, especially the words, because child-abuse is a crime. Read the words aloud and listen carefully to what you are saying.

 

Going way back to the beginning of his 2016 campaign, Trump said “you know what else they say about my people? The polls they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”

 

I hope that the Secret Service doesn’t loan out any of its sidearms to the person whom they are pledged to protect, especially if that person is likely to run into Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Adam Schiff on Fifth Avenue.

 

After you finish your bathroom aria, repress your revulsion and reenter the world of reality.

 

And don’t forget to flush 15 times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Blog
  • December 5th, 2019

MY TURN TO VENT

By Joel M. Vance

 

I may have lost a long time friend a little while ago when I posted a response to a Facebook post by him that I took objection to. I hope not, but I’m sure that I would be ticked off if someone ate my lunch for saying something intended to be inspirational.

 

My friend (and I hope he still is) is perfectly free to say whatever he wants. But then, so am I. Here is where we diverged: “I’m going to vent here,” he posted on Facebook. “I believe we all have the right to worship as we please, but I also know that our country, the United States of America was founded on Christian principles.” I could not agree more with his opinion that we have the right to worship as we please. Certainly, no argument there.

 

But the rant went on to claim that the Today Show had edited out a reference to Jesus Christ by the widow of a Navy Seal killed in Libya who, when asked how she wanted her children to remember their father, said “by his love for Christ.” The rant, supposedly written by my friend, went on to say “I hope every Christian or every person that believes in God who is offended will copy this and paste it to their status.”

 

I simply did not believe that the network would do such a thing and checked with the website Snopes.com about the accuracy. I further Googled the incident and found a number of references to it, all of which said that the attribution is false. Truth or Fiction.com says “we found the video on that page to be in its complete and unedited form.”

 

What’s even more distressing about the whole thing is that the supposed incident took place in an interview by Matt Lauer, the discredited and fired anchor of the Today Show, which occurred in 2012–seven years ago. This rumor has been floating around for seven years, being repeated time and again and all it took me was about two minutes to check it out and find out it’s bull hockey.

 

Furthermore, I have seen the “rant” by my friend, word for word, before, posted by someone else. If anyone wants to make a case that we are threatened as a society, let them rant instead about the virulent dissemination through social media of totally false and damaging information. It should be common knowledge by now that Russia and other outlets hostile to our national interest are flooding Facebook and the like with false postings, intended to corrupt our national mindset. The credulous believe that crap and won’t take the time to check it out for accuracy.

 

The bottom line is that my friend’s rant (which he did not write) could’ve been disproved by a couple of minutes of fact checking.

 

More than 100 people, including some of the best friends I’ve had in life, endorsed this rant with an “amen!”. Only Al Agnew, one of the nation’s finest wildlife artists, said what should have been said by all “I get so sick and tired and fearful for this country when stuff like this that probably is just spread to further divide us and is taken to be true (and current) by so many people without questioning it. Whether or not Russia or another enemy is generating stuff like this, it couldn’t be more perfectly designed to weaken the country.”

 

Here is what the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  Let’s first examine the second clause of that priceless amendment to the framework of our society—freedom of speech

 

Does the right of freedom of speech mean that freedom extends to speaking falsehoods? Especially if the dissemination of phony information is intended to mislead and persuade people to believe something that is harmful to the common good?

 

As a nearly lifelong reporter, I’ve had it drilled into me from day one in journalism school that you don’t report dubious allegations without checking them for accuracy. Far too many people tend to believe the worst, no matter the source. This is especially true when it comes to sensitive subjects like—in this case— religion or politics.

 

We have become a nation afflicted by lying, in danger of oblivion through falsehood. Somehow we managed to elect a president who has been documented telling more than 13,000 lies since his regrettable election. Nazi Germany was a society that relied heavily on the dissemination of lies and Joseph Goebbels , a master propagandist, was Hitler’s weapon of choice when it came to deceiving. And he did it without the benefit of Facebook or Twitter or any other social medium that today is a platform for launching bullshit bombs. We have tried our best since World War II to ban the horror of nuclear bombs; how about working to ban the present threat of the bullshit bomb?

 

Some years ago, another friend, a Marine veteran, seriously wounded in Vietnam, started a discussion group of fellow Marines on the Internet. I had no qualifications for being among the group, not being a Marine (my buddy allowed me in, calling me a “cannon cocker” because of my artillery status) and not having been in combat. But this was the dawn of the troll when monstrous whoppers began to get passed along as truth and after it happened a few times, I jumped in with a suggestion that the person who had posted the misinformation instead check it out with Snopes.com or Truth or Fiction.com before letting the pixels fly.

 

After I had rubbed it in a few times, I began to see notes that said the poster had checked one of the fact checking websites before posting. Since, I have called out more than a few people for posting phony statements on the Internet and will continue to do so until—possibly— I have no friends left and will be universally vilified as a grumpy old bastard (and I will be the first to declare that that is an absolutely true description).

 

Let’s just look for a while at what the founding fathers of the nation actually said about religion. There must be a reason that religion plays such a prominent part of the very first amendment to the Constitution, the document that lays the framework for our existence as a democratic nation.

 

A nation founded on Christianity? “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from the shores the ceaseless drive that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” So said James Madison, known by all as the Father of the Constitution. Or how about this one? “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” So said John Adams, the second president of the United States.

 

And Mr. Madison again, “I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, and showing that religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

 

And Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, had this to say among many other statements about separation of church and state “the legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are 20 gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

 

The First Amendment does not say that we are not a Christian nation— it merely says that the government has no business dictating what religion we should practice or how. I have no quarrel with money stating that we trust in God and also no problem with saying that we are one nation under God in the Pledge of Allegiance. But what God? That, I think, is the meaning of the First Amendment— that we are as humans free to pick our own God and worship accordingly.

 

Men (And It’s Mostly Men) have been killing each other in the name of a God virtually since the dawn of humanity. And each of these justifications for death and destruction claim that it is the will of their God that they are enforcing. The gods vary, but almost all religions believe in either a single God, or a combination of divinities. If one were somehow to eliminate the cruelty and devastation wrought in the name of religion and boil down what I believe to be the essential meaning of religion it is the Golden rule. If everyone truly believed in and practiced that simple statement of faith, evil would be vanquished forever.  It’s usually interpreted as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How could anything be simpler?

 

The concept of the Golden rule existed centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a fundamental principle in every religion that has existed almost since the dawn of humanity—even including Wicca, the practice of “good”witchcraft.

 

I’m not a regular churchgoer and probably destined for hell or whatever ultimate destination awaits he who has been largely indifferent to religious dedication throughout life. I was baptized Methodist as a teenager in the Dalton Methodist Church which no longer exists—I think it became the victim of a fire years ago. And its replacement recently became the victim of a Missouri River flood. One can read into this any religious meaning you want.

 

One religious experience does stick out in my mind and has for years, recurring in my memory time and again. It took place on a sunny Sunday in a wooded clearing on Auvasse Creek. My National Guard unit was on a weekend drill on an accommodating farmer’s land alongside the creek south of Mexico, the location of our Guard armory. We had set up a headquarters battery camp there, just as we would in an actual field location, a practical exercise.

 

We offered a Sunday nondenominational service, conducted by the local Methodist minister, a friend of our family who had visited my wife Marty and me in the hospital after our first daughter’s birth where we celebrated the blessed event together with a simple prayer.

 

There, in a natural setting, blessed by the beauty of nature, Bob simply talked. No fire and brimstone sermon, no proselyting for the Methodists or any other belief set. He just talked. It was about the tranquility of our spot in nature on that Sunday morning, about the harmony and peace of what we were experiencing. There was no splashing of holy water, no munching on wafers, no exhorting of the necessity to cast out devils. Just a thoroughly decent human being sharing a moment of mutual grace. He did, at that quiet moment, do unto others what he would have them do unto him. I can’t speak for the rest of the weekend warriors, but what he said (and perhaps as important what he didn’t have to say) has stuck with me for decades.

 

At the risk of being a spoilsport let me correct a story which has been current on Facebook and elsewhere for some time, namely that Mr. Rogers, the beloved host of his long time television show for adoring youngsters and sentimental oldsters, now being lovingly portrayed in a biopic by Tom Hanks, was not either a decorated Navy Seal in World War II, nor a sniper with many kills to his credit. Fred Rogers never served in the military. Likewise, Captain Kangaroo although a Marine did not earn a Navy Cross for service in World War II, and did not serve in combat at Iwo Jima with actor Lee Marvin, a fellow Marine.

 

For the record, Marvin was an authentic hero but was not wounded at Iwo Jima, rather at Saipan. But at least these falsehoods involving Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers are harmless and feel good unlike most of the internet whoppers that fundamentally are cruel, damaging, and hurtful.

 

So, that’s my rant, and take it for what it’s worth. If I’ve offended my friend and those who agree with him, I guess I can live with it. My bottom line objection is that perhaps the most dangerous threat to our democracy today is believing falsities promulgated by devious or stupidly credulous folks, rather than taking time to check the facts, and sticking to the truth.

 

So, as almost any holy leader in any religion ever known to man would say, “go with God.”

 

 

 

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