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Defining “Freedom”

I read a comment today, “Still boggles my mind that the people who hate being told what to do, want an authoritarian government.”

Well, obviously, that is generalizing, but it seems like pretty accurate and powerful generalizing to me. More than I can ever remember, we are besieged by people going berserk about not wanting to listen to anyone who tells them that they should be vaccinated, and wear a mask; and about a variety of other things. They love to use the word “freedom” to validate their absolute refusal to listen to medical evidence, and scientific data. Not just about Covid, though that is paramount. About global warming, about gun violence, about safety laws. “Don’t tell me what to do!” is their most important expression of being.

But yet most such people, I would say over 90%, are avid supporters of Donald Trump. Trump is an absolute authoritarian, a would-be dictator. From calling the media “the enemy of the people,” to lying about every fact, to urging his supporters to beat up protesters at his rallies, to his lavish praise of dictators of other countries, to trying to overthrow the newly elected government of America, every single thing he does screams out that he wants to be a tyrant, and already is, as far as he can get away with it.

His acolytes, including people like DeSantis, Abbott, now Youngkin, are busily trying to enact an agenda which not only ignores medical evidence on Covid, but bans any book which they don’t like from being taught. They encourage vigilantes to report teachers who say anything which they might disagree with. In Texas, the absolute exemplification of “no government is going to tell us what to do,” they are trying to make every abortion illegal, and to encourage people to turn in and sue anyone whom they claim had any part in providing an abortion.

So how does one make sense of this psychologically? Well, “many people are stupid, and many are illogical, and most of them are both,” might cover most of it. Riverdaughter has very helpfully described something which I had not previously heard of as a scientifically named disorder, but which seems very accurate to me: Oppositional Defiance Disorder. I have not delved into the literature on it, but it would seem to connote a psychological need of some people to vehemently disagree with and fight against anyone or anything who even suggests what they should do. As if their entire identity rests on being able to scream “No!” at any statement which would imply that the person saying it knew more than the person who had ODD.

Does this come from having had cruel or authoritarian parents? Probably not in most cases, though it would explain it in those that did. What makes someone so absolutely intransigent about not accepting or following thoughts or suggestions or rules coming from someone else, or some body, no matter how knowledgeable or experienced or explanatory they might be? Does it even matter at this point? We are not talking about a few hundred members of a cult, even a dangerous one. We are looking at millions of Americans who behave as if being vaccinated is the worst thing that could happen to them, an obscene assault upon their body and psyche.

And yet, these people who continually use the word “freedom” to describe their position, continue to support people who want to tell everyone else what to do: to forbid them to have an abortion under any circumstances; to not read or learn about this or that book; to not say anything against the totalitarian leader; to not express any position contrary to their own.

Many of them threaten extreme violence against anyone who ever says anything against Trump, or any of their other authoritarian heroes. These were people who wanted to kill Whitmer and Pelosi and Pence, and all those many people whom they threaten on social media, including those who just want to help out by working at polling places. “Do what we want, or die,” is what these self-described fighters for freedom are saying over and over.

We all know of Nat Hentoff’s book, “Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee.” Is it as simple as that? There are people on the Left who also fall into that hypocrisy. But what is going on in with the Right is far more than just inconsistency. In fact, one could view it as a variation of the attitudes of all those people in history who have supported tyranny; they always see it as a battle between “good” (the tyrant and his followers) and “evil” (anyone who does not submit to him). This can be portrayed in religious terms, or devotion to secular tyrants, or obedience to a cult leader. It is not new in that sense. But in America, where “freedom” is such a powerful emotional image, it seems to be some horrifying mutation, where “liberty” is actually offered as the rationale for fascism.

Historians and psychologists will have much to try to analyze. How did the modern birthplace of democracy get filled with so many people who hate democracy in its classic definition? Is it just a convenient shield to carry into battle for tyranny? Or are these people so psychologically twisted that they actually believe that wanting to kill everyone who disagrees with them is a manifestation of liberty? Is the liberty always only just for them?

Directly put, it seems that these millions, tens of millions, of people want no one to ever tell them what to do (unless it is the authoritarian calling them into battle under the false flag of freedom), but they want to tell everybody else what to do at every moment of their day. The medieval church did that; the potentates and tyrants and their subordinates did; but I don’t know any historical precedent for it being cloaked under the name of “freedom and liberty.” I doubt that this was carefully planned out, but it is certain that the people who have been employing it have rejoiced in how effective it is.

Note that there is this weird affinity for Russia and other totalitarian regimes, among these people who keep declaiming about freedom. This strange feat of psychological gymnastics is growing. Trump would bellow about being free and having rights, while praising the most oppressive and freedom-hating tyrants. “Slavery is Freedom”? Bannon is an absolute fascist who would have had a place in Nazi Germany, and who keeps talking about fighting for liberty.

It may be an insidious technique of demagogue tyrants. It may be a manifestation of how their minds are twisted. It is a strange thing to behold, even comparing it to history. Our side needs to do some stronger proselytizing about freedom, since the word has such a powerful resonance to most Americans.

Freedom to drive your car 150 mph. is actually tyranny over everybody else who might be in the way of your death weapon. Freedom to flaunt your guns is tyranny by terror. Freedom to go around with no vaccination and no mask takes away everyone else’s freedom. The freedom in America is meant to be collective freedom. Is a murderer exercising his freedom when he kills other people? Is the bully who kicks your child in the stomach simply expressing his free right to do what he wants?

Freedom is the right of all people to live in relative safety and comfort. No one will force you to get vaccinated, but the rest of the people who value that medical advice, have the right to protect themselves from you, by not letting you go to the workplace, or be on a plane or in a classroom. Freedom is not another word for extreme selfishness or egotism, where what you want is forced upon everyone else. That perversion of the concept of “freedom” would send us back to the “jungle,” Hobbes’ depiction of “the war of all against all.”

Adverbmania!

I once wrote a whimsical story about a kingdom where the parts of speech all had important roles to play. but that over the years, people seemed to use adverbs less and less. So while the nouns and the verbs and the adjectives were given much attention, the adverbs were increasingly ignored.

Eventually, the adverbs got together and formed a deputation to speak to the king. They wanted him to encourage more use of them, and a better benefits package. The king was somewhat sympathetic, but said that there was nothing much he could do if the subjects were not as interested in employing adverbs as the past. And the other parts of speech laughed at them, or ignored them.

So the adverbs said that they would go on strike, and not be part of any sentences. The king and his court didn’t seem to care much. But as time went on, people realized that there was something missing. They were reduced to saying that a play or a song was “good.” If they wanted to emphasize that it was better than good, they would say “good!,” or “GOOD,” both of which are more discernible in writing than speaking.

They would say that the temperature was HOT! or HOT HOT HOT!!! The books of course became less interesting, as they had no nuance and comparatives in them. Finally, the king realized that the land needed the adverbs back, so he apologized to them, and guaranteed that they would be used and appreciated more. And the adverbs graciously ended their strike, and everyone was very much gratified.

I thought it was a cute story, and much needed when I wrote it, when people were not using adverbs very often. But now, things have changed, and suddenly we are confronted with a plethora of adverbs. They are in virtually every sentence. Of course, the rise of the internet has afforded many more people a chance to have their writings read, which is both good and bad, mostly bad, in terms of style.

I am certainly not setting myself as the arbiter of writing style. I had a friend in law school whose team brief he researched and I wrote, and which got a very high numerical grade, tell me that I sometimes used split infinitives, which I admit I am inclined to sometimes do, because I think it can make a sentence more fun to read. And I do like to use semicolons, perhaps too frequently; it is probably because I liked reading Melville.

So people will write how they like, even though I shudder at some of the writing in the entertainment sites, where “the movie was kinda good,” and “it was sorta exciting to not know the ending until you got there.” You see those words so often. I think it is an effort by the writer to act like he or she is just a regular person, and so hip, so post-modern, as to not want to write in a more formal way. I find it irritating, a movie is not “sorta” good. The language has devolved enough, in an Orwellian dystopic way, to not need people to used slang in place of modifiers.

But putting that aside, there is an explosion of adverbs used. It is as if the writers feel that a sentence is naked without having every adjective given an adverb to adorn it. Rather like in Restoration England, or in the Regency Period, where a man needed that extra manifestation of style: the cummerbund, or the earring, maybe even some rouge on the cheek. This showed that one was a la mode. There is a famous Restoration play called “The Man of Mode.” In this era, it is not so much how you dress–although that does have its role–it is how you express yourself on the social media.

I very much like adverbs, when they are expressively used. It does take some skill, and I sometimes think of what the right adverb might be, to accurately express my perception or assessment of something. What I see now is the same four or five adverbs being used over and over. The ones I think of right away in that regard, are “incredibly,” “hilariously,” and “amazingly.” These words can be useful, but not when they keep being repeated.

Sometimes I will read reviews of shows or movies, and you can really see it there. I read something the other day, I cannot remember what show or movie it was about, but the writer used the word “incredibly” to modify an adjective, four different times. That reminded me of second grade or so (and everyone probably had a teacher like that) and the class being encouraged not to keep writing “good” as the only adjective they used.

Now, we all know that adjectives and adverbs can overstate. It is okay, if it is sparing. If you watch sports on television, you will hear announcers saying that a play was “incredible” or “unbelievable.” “Unbelievable” became so overused (I think it is partly because it feels satisfying to say the word), that some producer must have told them to stop saying it about every play. So now it is “incredible.”

I don’t demand that you can only use “incredible” if it is literally incredible; i.e, you can’t believe it, it defies credulity. But players who play football, to take just one sport, have great skills; and they are only limited by human physiognomy, so that no throw or catch or play is really that incredible, though it may be amazing to see on occasions. By definition, if you hear the announcers say “incredible” ten times in a telecast, it becomes not only repetitive, but self-contradictory.

But that’s sports; and there is excitement, and sometimes announcers get carried away. In writing reviews, you don’t have that excuse. If you write that the movie is “incredibly exciting,” what are you saying, that it was not just exciting, but the excitement was incredible, could not even be believed, it was so exciting? Meaning, you had never been that excited by a mainstream movie before? Could you not say “very exciting,” or is that too bland, so you use the word “incredible” like the sports announcers would always say “unbelievable,” as a place filler? And four times in the same review?

Then we have “hilarious,” and the phrase “hilariously, funny,” which I see in virtually every on-line comedy movie or show review. To me, hilarious means immensely funny, more than just humorous; you are laughing almost every minute. I have virtually never seen a show which I would call hilarious; maybe a few episodes of “Fawlty Towers,” or “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Or the “bookshop” sketch on a Monty Python record (I don’t think they wrote it, it was originally done in the 1940’s, but it was very similar to their “cheese shop” sketch; here the customer keeps asking for books, but apparently has no intention of buying any; he asks for “David Copperfield,” but when it is brought out, he says, “No, I want the version by Charles Dickenns, with two n’s, not Charles Dickens,” and this goes on, with variations, until he asks for “Edith the Aardvark Goes Quality Surveying,” and the owner somehow actually has it, but the customer then says he has no money, and no checkbook; and the owner just shoves it at him, and says, “Take it!,” and the customer says, “I can’t read.” Now, that is funny!)

Outside of that, the word “hilarious” should very rarely be used, but it is almost literally in every online review you might see of a comedy show or movie. It is either that the writers are all being paid to hype the movies, or they cannot think of any other descriptive words besides “incredible” or “hilarious.”

Oh, there is another adverb I saw used the other day, I think it was actually in The Hollywood Reporter or Variety, and it was saying that the battle for Best Picture Oscar between “Belfast” and “The Power of the Dog” was “utterly anxious.” I don’t even know what “anxious” quite means there, but what is “utterly anxious”? “Utterly” should mean, “absolutely,” or, “completely,” as, “the room was utterly silent,” which means that there wasn’t a sound. “Utterly” to modify “anxious” is another example of someone putting in an adverb because they feel it looks better, seems more profound, than just having the little adjective by itself.

I bet that if you look for it, you will see all sorts of examples of “adverbmania,” where people just can’t write an adjective without trying to emphasize or color it with a preceding adverb. Adverbs can be wonderful additions to speech, they give a description nuance and power–if they are carefully chosen and appropriate. Right now, they are moving to the realm of “kinda,” or “really,” or “way.” Which might be seen as incredible, but since virtually everything is described that way now, it becomes virtually devoid of meaning.

The adverbs in my story would not want to be used in that way! There are so many wonderful ones, that one should use them as most appropriate to the description of what one is actually trying to say. That would be refreshingly surprising!

It’s almost like we planned this

Biden is coming to Pittsburgh today to give a speech on infrastructure and guess what happened at about 8am this morning:

This is about 5 miles from my house on a major road bordering a beautiful and popular city park.

It could have been a lot worse. No one was killed and it looks like 10 people were injured but not seriously.

But the loss of the bridge is major. Google maps show traffic around the incident majorly FUBARed. In Pittsburgh, hollows are everywhere. That’s why we have so many bridges.

I don’t think this was a conspiracy that was in any way related to Biden’s trip. It was just an event that was waiting to happen. It might have happened sooner if Covid hadn’t kept more commuters off the roads for the past two years. But it’s still a big problem. Not sure how we’re going to get around this bridge. It would have been worse if it had been over one of the three rivers but it’s still pretty bad.

Forbes Ave is a major road from downtown Pittsburgh to the east neighborhoods.

The Upcoming Supreme Court Nomination

I wish I could be excited about this. I used to follow the Supreme Court nominations, as infrequently as they occurred, very closely. There were many ups and downs, such as when Nixon nominated Haynsworth and Carswell, and they were both stopped by Democrats, so he went with Blackmun, who turned out to be one of the most liberal Justices. Then Douglas (“I know who my friends are”) Ginsburg, who had to be withdrawn because of marijuana smoking history; and Robert Bork, who had views about the Constitution which were arrogantly and frighteningly radical, although now pretty much dogma for the Justices appointed by Republicans, who was defeated by vote, not by “borking,” which the Republicans turned into a dictionary word.

And who forgets Clarence Thomas, a liar and a phony, who said that he had never thought about Roe v. Wade (everyone who ever went to law school after 1972 studied it), played the race card; was somehow allowed to get through, even though George Mitchell was Majority Leader; and who completely unsurprisingly turned out to be such a jerk that he sleeps through arguments, asks almost no questions, and votes the same way every single time; plus his wife is a radical right-wing activist who supports groups whose cases come before him, and he rules on them.

But it used to be that one rarely knew for sure how an appointee would turn out, and it was interesting to study their opinions, and watch their development. No more; we have gone over that, how the Court has been used as a right-wing rubber stamp, as that group has no interest in legal arguments or logic, they just want the Court to throw out Democratic initiatives, and mandate all of the Republican ones, no matter whether they overturn existing laws, violate precedent and stare decisis, and take away Constitutional rights, such as voting, and the right to make decisions about your own body.

And nowhere in all of politics have the differences between how Democrats and Republicans act and proceed, shown up as starkly as the Supreme Court battles. Now some commentators say things about how the Republicans have “outfoxed” or outplayed the Democrats, as if it were some kind of chess or poker game. No, what they did, was to keep violating norms and procedures in their all-out quest to win at any price, while Democrats were not doing it, for various reasons which unfortunately turned out to be less and less supportable, as the country was increasingly controlled by the Radical Right zealots.

And we know the history of Garland, and Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, and Barrett, and I won’t go over it. And we know that the far right radicals control the Supreme Court 6-3, such a rigid majority, that we have no feasible chance of ever getting a decision on a major case which we applaud. Oh, maybe Trump having to hand over his records, but that is more a process than an individual rights issue. And the people that own these Justices probably are happy enough to see Trump damaged, and then they can support DeSantis, and not have to have Trump weigh them down. But it was something, at least.

So we know that there are rules which Republicans follow to the letter; it was just that people didn’t realize how far they would go. 1) The Republicans will never allow the Democrats to appoint the swing justice, not as long as the Republicans control the Senate, as they will just not allow a vote on him or her. 2) If the Republicans control the Presidency and Senate, they will just ram through their confirmation, no matter how close to an election it is. 3 )No Republican-appointed Justice will ever retire if the Democrats hold the Presidency.

This means that it is almost impossible for liberals to ever get the Court majority again. We would have to win the Presidency six times in a row, or so, and also control the Senate during that entire period. Do you remember when John McCain and Ted Cruz vowed to never confirm any Supreme Court nomination that Hillary Clinton would make? They were serious. Cruz, assuming that she would win, said that there was no problem with an eight-Justice court, and presumably even less, because she was never going to get to appoint a Justice, as long as Republicans controlled the Senate.

So they have set up a system where Democrats can’t get a Justice past a Republican Senate; where the appointees by Republicans are young enough to stay forty years or so on the Court, and will never leave if a Democrat is President. So the only way to get the seats back is for them to die, which no one roots for, but it is the only way they will leave, unless a Republican holds the Presidency, in which case they will all resign in time for new young ones to be appointed, and fill up the bench for forty more years.

Yes, that sounds like a science fiction nightmare, but it is real, their goal is to own the Supreme Court forever, and they well might, unless some brave Democrats in power expand the Court, or alternatively, start ignoring its decisions. Those are radical moves, but probably necessary, unless somehow the political winds shift to the point where Democrats start winning all the races, which does not look to be happening, though one always hopes.

That is why I really am not excited about the open spot, though Justice Breyer did the right thing by leaving now; otherwise a Republican Senate might well block Biden’s nominee, because that is what Republicans do. They can’t block this one, Democrats have the votes. Good.

I am not a big fan of announcing in advance that you will choose a Black woman, or indeed either gender or any race or religion. Oh, it is fine; but I still think it was not ideal to say during your campaign that this is how you would choose. But I am sure that Biden will pick someone with very good credentials. Five or so candidates have been mentioned. I just wish it were more exciting to anticipate.

But 6-3 is 6-3. Over and over again. Only the names and the dissents change. Sometimes dissents are inspiring to read, but decades of them become depressing.

Now, there are a few small pluses here. The choice should motivate Black people, who recent polls actually show losing some support for Biden. Maybe they will fight harder to go out and vote. I know that the vote suppression is not at all their doing, but it is not helpful for some of the spokespeople like Al Sharpton to say that “many of us were offended” (because they think that Biden didn’t push harder for the voting rights bills; e.g., push Sinema and Manchin against their lockers, and hold them there until they agreed to vote for them).

I could say that maybe a fierce and dedicated female Black Justice would shame the radical Right Justices into something or other, but it will not happen. She will just take Breyer’s spot, and be in the minority for decades, unless something really great happens. It is a nice thing, to have the first Black woman Justice, but it will not change any of the awful decisions which will keep coming from the Supreme Court.

I could almost see this appointment as mollifying some people into thinking that the Court is fixed, on the right track, which would be completely wrong. 6-3 is 6-3. What will the Republicans do with this nomination, which they cannot stop? They are all about tactics. They will try to use this as a campaign motivator for their forces. They will also hammer away with questions about Critical Race Theory, trying to make it look as if the nominee, and by extension all Democratic-appointed judges, are going to install it in schools, and somehow force a curriculum which would insult White people, and teach them socialistic things. In that way, they would hope to once again, use the Court nominations as a political weapon.

Actually, purely on tactics, I would not recommend the pick of a Black female Justice at this stage, but I know that this is unfair, something like the arguments which were used against potential Jewish candidates for things, “We don’t want to rile people up.” It is just that after the Virginia gubernatorial race, and what DeSantis and Abbott are doing, and the various states which are passing laws to keep teachers from teaching anything “controversial,” we are giving Republicans more of a chance to put this phony issue out there. Oh if she were the swing Justice, it would be great, but she is only going to be a powerless dissenting voice on the Court, and that is just how Republicans want her to be, campaign fodder.

I know that I should be more upbeat about this nomination, but while I am pleased that Biden gets to make it, it doesn’t change the tableau. Just a couple of more things: I am not a fan of James Clyburn, who calculatedly helped put the “Hillary is a racist” lie into motion in 2008, by saying that he was “very disappointed,” at what, Bill Clinton saying that it was “a fairy tale,” the idea that Obama had been a strong voice against going into war with Iraq, while Hillary, along with 75 or so actual senators, voted for the AUMF? That “fairy tale” comment was somehow deliberately twisted to make it look as if Clinton was impugning Obama’s worthiness, which was absolutely not the case.

Finally, President Clinton, whom the Left still does not like; whom some idiot who wrote an article the other day about how Biden must not turn into “a failed President like Carter or Clinton,” nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court. He also presided over record prosperity, helped make the world more peaceful, and left office with about a 62% Favorable rating.

Oh, and he won two terms. But this writer, presumably supportive of Biden, feels that he was a failed president. And I would suggest that this is actually reflective of a major problem with the Democrats, that the “base” has altered, and that the Obama/Biden fork was the wrong one to take, even though we very much hope that it will come out relatively all right in the end.

Viewing the Clinton presidency as a great success, rather than a “failure,” would be a small start in the right direction. Helping Hillary win the Presidency in 2016, would have gotten us at least a 5-4 Court in our favor, and gotten voting rights enhanced; and helped the environment, and so many things. But too many people very foolishly or spitefully did not want to see what was so obvious. Right now, it feels to me as if we have fallen behind 28-0, because we played the wrong quarterback, and are now excited because we have scored one touchdown, to cut the lead to 28-7.

If you think I should be more enthused about this upcoming nomination, tell me, I would rather be excited. But while there are a few things that do offer me some hope on the political front, this doesn’t feel to me like it is one of them. Of course, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” a Chinese proverb that one of our high school graduating classes chose as their motto, and which I liked, is hopeful to consider.

Apropos of nothing but mottos; as a senior, I was asked to create our high school class motto, and I wrote, “The hills of education become the mountains of success,” which some classmate later said he liked, but that it didn’t actually make sense, which was sort of true; and I wish I could have another crack at it. I think I wanted to say, “The hills of education grow into the mountains of success,” but some other people preferred “become.” It is still in the little booklets that get made up for our high school reunions. What I meant to say, was that education is the foundation of eventual success, but that is not a visual metaphor.

Our high school was Verdugo Hills High, and my elementary school was Mountain View, so maybe living in the foothills had something to do with it. I always have liked the word “hills,” my favorite racehorse was Hill Rise. I just hope that the companions of the alumni of my high school do not go to the reunions and say, “Who came up with that motto?” Oh, well. I am 15 for 15 on Wordles so far, with only one having taken all six guesses, maybe we could put that in, instead.

The Peasants are Revolting

Have you heard about the healthcare group in Wisconsin that sued a competitor for “poaching” 7 of its staff? Yeah, Thedacare got a restraining order preventing Ascension Health from employing the 7 healthcare workers. This blows my mind. A judge allowed a employer to prevent 7 of its former employees from seeking other jobs with better pay and work-life balance.

Didn’t something like this happen back in 1381 after the Black Plague when workers were so scarce that feudal lords wouldn’t let their peasants hire themselves out to other lords for more money? Peasants were prohibited from leaving their homes to seek employment elsewhere. There was a rebellion over it. The peasants stormed London and petitioned the King for redress of their grievances. I have no idea what gave them the crazy idea that a young king with little experience with the outside world would give a damn about some workers who felt exploited. If I recall correctly, Richard II had the leaders slaughtered.

Yeah, that worked out well.

That’s what you get for centuries of conditioning to believe there is a natural order and everyone in their places and don’t challenge your betters and Dieu et Mon Droit for the king. But if I were an employer these days, I’m not sure I would count on all of my workers to be that wired in to the Fox News patented brand of Learned Helplessness.

Anyway, the restraining order was lifted on Monday and the 7 healthcare workers went to work for their new employer. Did I mention that Thedacare didn’t bother with a counter offer? I guess they thought that the lawsuit would be enough of a deterrent. And anyway, employers have had their way for so long that it probably never occurred to them that a labor shortage might mean they need to up their salary and compensation after squelching both since the 80’s.

Well, it’s only a temporary setback. They’ve got a supermajority on the Supreme Court. Who wants to bet that some kind of maximum wage law going into effect in a red state will be upheld by Brett and Amy? And Sam and Neil and Clarence. And John.

Meanwhile, the LinkedIn job postings keep landing in my inbox at approximately 100 open positions a day. I see that some companies are starting to post their salary bands. But the bands are still as wide as the ocean. They are supposedly based on years of experience not sex, age or location. Call me skeptical.

I’ve heard that middle management might be to blame. You might be lucky and get to work for a supervisor who likes you and gives you great performance reviews. Or you may work for someone with a substance abuse problem who is threatened by you and keeps you stuck at the same level on a fixed income for as long as you work for them, preventing you from getting an internal transfer, forcing you to look elsewhere. That’s been known to happen. But more likely, the bean counters made promotions rare and raises minuscule and managers couldn’t really do anything about that. You can’t blame workers for bolting at the first opportunity.

Or you might work for an employer who didn’t get the memo about alllll those other jobs out there and cluelessly stopped the program that the employees used to pay for additional vacation time. What McKinsey consultant thought that was a good idea? Just start Everyone with 4 weeks of VACATION TIME and increase it by one week after 3-5 years. No, extra sick days are not the same thing. They’re necessary but don’t convey the same sense that employers really understand what work life balance is all about.

Or give real bonuses like the 15% we used to get in R&D before the financiers decided to eliminate a huge chunk of their business model. You know, stuff like that. I know! Consider all the things a top level executive or shareholder gets that makes their families happy and think about whether maybe rank and file workers might like that too. Like financial security, retirement without poverty and money to pay for college without indenturing their children for 40 years.

For example, if pharmageddon hadn’t happened, I’d be looking at a salary three times what I make now and 6 weeks of vacay instead of a pinched three that I must carefully portion out throughout the year.

Ok, Nevermind. I’m getting overwrought. Anyway, I love my current job. Really. I couldn’t ask for a better team.

My point is that even without Covid and the baby boom retirement, there was a baby bust coming for the generation born in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s a new environment and now employers need to adapt. Begging people to stay or suing to prevent them from leaving is not going to solve the short term problem that has resulted from years of the top level taking the cream and passing the skim down to the wage slaves. If you’re begging wage slaves to stay, you’re kind of acknowledging that maybe their contribution to your bottom line is as great or greater than your dozens of executive Vice Presidents with the slick 45 slide PowerPoint decks.

Maybe employers should see how the other half lives. You know, grow some much needed empathy. Talk with the employees who can’t afford to retire or go on vacations even if they had the time? The ones who are one paycheck from insolvency? (I’m good now but I’m beginning to be an expert at frugality) How about the ones who still can’t afford to fix their retaining walls after 2 years? (Yeah, that’s still a thing).

The s#%*’s real out here. You’ve got a problem if the peasants are swapping out their laptops and working remotely for some company in Colorado. Or Oregon. Or North Carolina. Honestly, I can’t keep up with all of the zillions of opportunities that are out there. Stop whining “baby, baby, baby, don’t leave!”. Man up and do the right thing. Employees want to see that you’ve changed and really mean it this time. Because they’ve got their mojo back now and they’re looking hot.

What was the point of voting in person in 2020??

I keep thinking we have heard the last of the dumb ideas that TFG had to steal the 2020 election. First it was flooding the courts with nuisance lawsuits about election count shenanigans. (They never happened). Then it was pressuring state officials in Michigan and Georgia to find the right number of votes for him. (They resisted). Then it was invade the Capitol during the electoral college vote count. (It didn’t work).

This next one is the stupidest.

They had a plan to have the secretary of defense seize the voting machines. Yes, that’s right. The Secretary of Defense was supposed to seize the voting machines that TFG’s own voters had used to cast their ballots.

According to NPR, The January 6 Committee has found evidence that there was a plan to sieze the supposedly compromised Dominion voting machines in battleground states because they couldn’t be trusted:

<blockquote>”The order, complete with a dotted line ready for Trump’s signature, would have directed the secretary of defense to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention” under a law that relates to preserving election records.

The draft order provided seven days for the secretary of defense to issue an initial assessment, and 60 days for a final assessment, to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It then ordered that the assessment and supporting information be disseminated throughout the executive branch.” </blockquote>

Why aren’t the html tags working in WordPress anymore?🤨

Who the hell was running this farce?

Biden voters overwhelmingly used mail in ballots to cast their votes. It was the hapless TFG voter who took orders from their fearless leader who claimed that red blooded Americans voted in person.

So, by seizing the voting machines, thereby throwing the integrity of the vote in person votes into question, TFG would have made his “win” the least believable election in US history. He would have had most of his votes in his teeny tiny hands and then what? Declare them all invalid thus ensuring a Biden win from all the paper mail in ballots??

This has to be the single most important reason for not re-electing TFG. He and his shadow cabinet of wild eyed conspiracy theorists were too stupid to work through this thought experiment that would have wiped out his own supposed victory. All those valiant patriots who voted for him would have participated in a super spreader event for nothing.

Smooth move, Dahnald.

A thing that happened.

I’ve been absent for awhile. I’m still here but working on something else. But I had a thing that happened to me this past Wednesday that I thought I might share.

For anyone who knows me and hasn’t heard about this yet, don’t worry. Every thing is fine now. I’m all right. I just thought I’d share this because it does sort of touch on things we cover in this blog.

Last Wednesday, I was scheduled to get a CT scan with contrast. I get them about every six months. It’s routine. My doctors are keeping an eye on something. It’s just a nuisance, not anything bad.

So, I get to the radiology center a few minutes late. I was behind a bus for a good part of the drive and then I got every ]#%ing red light. You know how it is when you are trying to be punctual? Suddenly the world seems uncooperative? It was that kind of morning.

Anyway, I got there a bit late so other people were able to jump the line. I waited an extra 30 minutes before they took me back for my contrast IV. How it works is they take a CT scan without contrast, then they push contrast through the IV and take another scan. Contrast iz weird. It feels warm when it enters the body and makes you think that you’ve wet the bed. Very weird sensation.

Usually, they test your kidney function before the IV. If it doesn’t meet a threshold, the contrast is not administered. I’ve had a half dozen contrast IVs and never had any problems. Maybe that’s why they skipped the kidney function test. I should have drunk a gallon of water before the IV but I guess I just don’t take this stuff as seriously as I used to. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.

So I get the IV and they roll me into the CT and everything is ticketyboo and all is going just as expected. Then they roll me out and push the contrast into my IV. Immediately, I feel the warmth coursing through my veins. Not unusual except this time it feels a lot warmer than it usually does. No biggy. A few minutes later, the scan is done, they roll me out, take the IV out and send me on my way. Ta-da!

I get in my car and turn onto the main road in front of the hospital when all of the sudden, my back starts to itch like crazy. Ahh, maybe I’m having an allergic reaction. Hmmm, well it’s probably not serious. I’ll just get some Benadryl on the way home and call the radiology center. About a half mile later, my face starts to feel warm. I wasn’t expecting that. But I thought it was just another mild allergic reaction.

I’ll bet you can see where this is going.

About five minutes later, my eyes had almost swelled shut and I was starting to see flashing lights in front of my eyes, like the kind you see just before you pass out. I used Siri to call my favorite Republican. Um, I don’t know what’s happening but I think I’m having a severe allergic reaction and I don’t think I’m going to make it home. I’m turning into the Eat n’ Park because I think I’m going to pass out. I parked my car, opened my door and threw up until I had dry heaves. Then I called my boss and told him I was probably going to miss my early meetings. Then I passed out.

The next thing I knew, there was a paramedic banging on my window. I don’t know how long I’d been out. He asked if I needed help. I said I did. He opened the door and pointed to the gurney. That’s when I realized that I could barely walk. I didn’t know what I was doing. He helped me to the gurney and hurried me into the ambulance. Before I knew it, the EMT on my left had slid an IV into my hand and started giving me Benedryl. I tried to answer their questions but a strange lassitude unrelated to the Benedryl had come over me. I was floating. The EMT on my right slapped my right hand and told me to stay awake. He was talking to the ER about whether to give me epinephrine. That was all I remembered until the ambulance got to the hospital.

Then there was noise and movement and people all around me. A nurse looked at my hand and said, “oh wow, your fingers are purple. Look at her face. That’s really swollen.” I was hoping it wasn’t permanent.

They wheeled my gurney somewhere and I felt a BP cuff on my arm while I verified my vaccine status with a PA. She put a mask on me and started cursing when the blood pressure cuff kept reading 80/50. She went to get another cuff. In the meantime, another nurse tried to give me another IV but gave up in frustration and just used the one the EMT had started. I started to get really cold and shivered so hard the gurney shook. The PA said she was going to give me a massive dose of Benedryl and steroids. “See you on the other side.” I was out in seconds.

Three hours later…

I started coming around. I felt a lot better. The itching had stopped, my eyes were starting to be functional again. A doctor was checking me out.

“You had an anaphylaxis reaction to the contrast. No more contrast for you. EVER. You should be good to go in about an hour”.

That’s when I took a good look at my surroundings.

I wasn’t in the ER. I was in the HALLWAY to the ER. I was lined up against the wall with a row of other people on gurneys. The ER didn’t have room for us. All the stuff they did was in the hallway. A harried nurse came by and said “you don’t need this anymore” and she reached under my shirt, grabbed a handful of EKG leads and yanked them out of the sensor pads. “Sorry”, she said, “I need this. Can you take the pads off yourself?” And off she went running down the hall.

An hour later, they sat me up, made sure I could walk, and sent me to the ER waiting room for my ride. I felt ok for the most part. They’d given me Benedryl, steroids and Pepcid. I could tell I was still swollen like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man but I’d be fine. I took a look around me and the waiting room was full of people with masks, struggling to breathe. I decided to wait for my ride outside.

What I learned: 1.) Covid is keeping the ERs around here very busy and full. 2.) anaphylactic shock enables you to jump the queue.

Not sure if that’s helpful or not but I thought I’d pass it along.

I saw it first hand.

I’m fine. Really.

“The National Pastime”

This is a topic which may not interest everybody, but the overarching theme is powerful.

I grew up following baseball, as have many people. I only played softball; I think that my parents did not want me to risk getting hit in the head by a wild Little League pitcher, though they never said that. I was happy enough playing softball, I was a pretty good pitcher; and then following the Dodgers, and listening to the greatest sports announcer of all time, hands down, Vin Scully.

Over the years, I have not followed baseball with the intense, “I must listen to every game” feeling of that era. But I still do follow. Now there is another labor dispute threatening the upcoming season, which has resulted in the owners locking out the players. I am not too interested in the various arguments of the two sides. I imagine they will get resolved, and we will see if the fans readily come back.

What I want to write about here is the movement toward automation, technology, in baseball. For more than a century, the game was played on the field. One team was at bat, one team was in the field; and there were umpires whose job it was to officiate the game. One behind the plate, calling balls and strikes, and close plays at the plate, he is the most visible. One behind each of the bases, to call safe or out at the base, fair or foul balls down the line, and also things like, did the outfielder catch the ball or trap it; did the ball clear the fence or hit the wall before going over. Also balks; full swing strikes, or half-swings, not called strikes unless the pitch was over the plate.

Umpires have always been part of the rhythm of the game, and a major part of it; some say, too major. In olden days, there would be memorable arguments between managers and umpires, some going on for twenty minutes. Leo Durocher of the Dodgers and Giants and Cubs and Astros, was famed for his intense arguments with various umpires, he would kick the dirt in such a way as to not be thrown out for kicking it on the umpire. Billy Martin of the Yankees was another great manager who would yell and stomp and gesticulate, part of the show of baseball.

Over the years, efforts were made by baseball commissioners, who are essentially chosen and ruled over by the powerful owners, to curb the outbursts. It has long been a rule that a manager, and essentially a player (though there is more leniency there), cannot argue a ball or strike call, he is immediately thrown out of the game; although that never stopped a manager from storming out of the dugout after that, and getting his “free” opportunity to yell and gesture for some time, before going back to the clubhouse for the rest of the game. Many managers have used a major scene with an umpire as a way to fire up a sluggish team, and to let the players know that he is fighting for them.

So umpires were always a colorful part of the game, though fans and players and managers would complain about various ones, and various key calls which were likely mistakes. There was a famous miscall in the 1985 World Series, between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, which led to the Royals winning the Series, and no baseball fan has forgotten it. The basic rule in baseball was that an umpire never changed his call, unless another umpire, usually the crew chief, could convince him that he had a better angle, or that a rule was misapplied. Almost always, the call stands, no matter how much participants and fans complain.

So that story became a major part of what eventually became a crusade to turn the umpiring decisions into ones which technology could overrule. This first started in the National Football League, when the various cameras and instant replays showed on a few consecutive weekends, that key plays were probably miscalled. I say “probably,” because camera shots can mislead, too; and those plays you see replayed and over on each broadcast, can be perceived differently from different angles. But suffice it to say that in an age of technology, there are many who would always want the camera to have more power to decide the game than the official.

Back to baseball: they finally gave in, and have allowed challenges to on the field calls, a limited number a game. Those are limited to safe or out, fair or foul, home run or not. I think that you can also challenge whether the batter was hit by the pitch. I am not a big fan of technology, though I concede that it has some value. I do not want sports turned over to technology. My feeling has always been that the game should be played on the field, by human beings, and umpired by human umpires.

But the challenges have not ruined the game, yet. But now they have inevitably led baseball to the next step, taking away ball and strike calls from the umpires. Technology has allowed networks to instantaneously determine whether a pitch was in the strike zone or not, something that could never be done before, but now where every viewer can see the graphic. And there are a number of pitches which are not correctly called, at least from that visual, which is said to be accurate by those who invented it.

So of course that led to more and more complaints from fans about their team being jobbed out of a game, by bad home plate umpiring. And it does seem that for some reason, umpires are not as good at calling balls and strikes as they once were, but it may just be the effects of technology. Clearly some are worse than others. So there has been the growing push to take this away from umpires, and let a machine call the balls and strikes.

The momentum has grown; and now baseball is instituting “robot umpires” for the upcoming minor league Triple A season, one step away from instituting it in the Major Leagues. A camera instantaneously determines whether the pitch was a ball or a strike; and lights up green for ball, red for strike. MLB is looking for people to operate these machines. The machines will be determinative, no one can argue with it.

Of course, there are many who love technology, who applaud this. As in the controversy about football challenges to official rulings, they say “Get the calls right!,” and believe that this is the most important thing. It is hard to argue that the calls should not be right; but it is interesting to note that even if the calls are overturned, there are still those, even on TV broadcasts, who are not sure what the call should be. I have seen rulings overturned which were, from most angles, incorrectly overturned, even said so by the announcers. Of course, the replay officials have many angles, and can re-run the play over and over, so maybe they are more accurate, but not always.

And whereas the NFL limits challenges to two per team a game, with an extra one given if a challenge is successful, some college conferences have every play potentially reviewed. There are only certain aspects which can be reviewed (in bounds or out; fumble or not; kick good or not; illegal targeting or not), but this can always be expanded. I think that for a time the NFL was reviewing pass interference calls, almost impossible to agree upon, but they stopped. There are always fans and broadcasters who want more plays carefully reviewed, “so the call will be right.”

But there is rarely a certainty as to “right,” though there can be a consensus, sometimes. But is “right” the only virtue? What if every play were reviewed, and the game took eight hours? Would anybody want that? Some actually would, they are devoted to technology. I sometimes say that maybe they should have all the photos printed, and sent to a lab, and then take a day or two to be ruled on; and then the other team can appeal and have it sent to an appellate court. I am being sarcastic, of course, but it does show that “getting it right,” is not the transcendent value.

It is a game, after all! It is supposed to be for entertainment, though we know that there are millions of dollars at stake. We all played softball, or some version of it, on the playgrounds at school, or on a safe street, or in a park. We played. We did not argue for an hour over a call, which usually the player closest to it is supposed to honestly try to give the best opinion on. We did not replay the plays, we just played on. Now, of course, this is not the same thing–but in some ways, it is.

If we take the home plate umpire calling balls and strikes out of the game, something will be irrevocably lost, because that won’t come back. The pitcher will wind, throw; and the machine will flash red or green. No “Steerike!” No jerking his thumb in the air for strike three, and the batter turning around with an incredulous look. You can’t argue with the machine. The last pitch and image of the World Series could be a machine flashing red; strike three, three outs, game over; put another quarter in, if you want to play again next year.

I could buy all sorts of computer baseball games, though I do not. There have been computers which have simulated fantasy matchups between the great teams of the past; the 1927 Yankees vs. the 1963 Dodgers. They have never interested me. Computers have their values, their limits, and their dangers, when we let them have too much control over the lives of non-computers. Maybe computers will rule everything, at some point. The scientific genius Stephen Hawking said many times that Artificial Intelligence was the greatest threat to humankind. I would agree, and it is not hard to imagine how.

Whether baseball indeed will install robot umpires, is not of that level of concern, but it is part of something I do not like at all. Why go out to a ballpark, with the smells of peanuts and the sounds of batting practice baseballs hit, and infield practice balls smacking into gloves, when one can sit at home, or in front of a computer, and watch some kind of game, real or simulated, before you switch the channel or go to another of the billions of computer sites which people are presented with? Click, click, drone, to quote a line from the great John Foxx’s song “Underpass,’ in 1980.

I might not choose to watch any more baseball games, although people say such things and go back. But I really do not like technology reigning supreme in sports, or almost anywhere. Three days ago, I briefly glanced at an L.A Times headline inside a newspaper vending machine, about a Tesla car, semi-automated, which crashed into another car, killing both of the people in it; and a trial attempting to decide who was guilty, the driver, or the maker of the car?

Again, baseball is just a game. Change the rules, change the scheduling and length of the season; have labor disputes. Play the games on a computer screen? Have the games played out somewhere we cannot see, and then be told what the results are? Have fascists tell us that the results were fraudulent and should not count, unless their team won? Have the mandatory telescreen tell us who won, as part of that day’s propaganda?

I would rather go to a park and throw a ball around, or play with a wiffle ball and bat. Unless those are banned, along with the people who used to be part of the tableau of any baseball game, professional or amateur that you might see across the country. The “National Pastime” is now what?

$354 More Each Month

That may seem like a lot, or a little, but for the average American worker, it is pretty good. And did you know (I didn’t) that according to Katie Porter, the brilliant Congresswoman with the famous whiteboard, whose figures are almost never even contested, that this additional amount is what the American worker is averaging since the beginning of the Biden Administration? $354 more each month, even allowing for inflation?

Of course not, because the media not only never tells us, but they are obviously engaged in an unceasing disinformation campaign, to make it look like the average American cannot make ends meet, because of inflation, for which they of course blame Biden. Now of course inflation is not ideal, and 7% inflation year over year is too high, even when it is offset by a gain of 5.5% in GDP, which we have. But note that the 7% is compared to a year ago, not rising 7% each month, as is implied. If inflation in the price of food is 7%, that means that a family which spent $800 a month on food a year ago, is now paying $856. But again, even allowing for inflation, the average worker has $354 more at the end of the month.

Porter pointed out that of the G-7 countries, the world’s most advanced economies, none outside of the United States even has reached a positive gain in GDP since the pandemic. I do remember when Trump had one quarter of 4% gain, in his second year, and his people were going wild with celebration, before it sank down to 1.5% or so. But 5.5% under Biden is ignored, or even hidden, by the American media.

The most important factor in someone’s economic situation, is how much money he or she has in pocket each month, with inflation taken into account. $354 means about $4248 more per year. Not a bonanza, but most would take it. A raise of $4,000 in a year is good for most people; and this is on average, so the workers making $30,000 a year might be getting something like a 10% raise, as I assume that the average of $354 skews to a somewhat higher median wage.

This is not nirvana, but it is darn good for most. And yet the media would have you think that people are being submerged by the economy. The Republicans pretend that, and it is a lie. The media is either too obtuse or too deliberately biased against Democrats to tell the truth. I didn’t even know that figure, though I knew that the GDP growth was 5.5%.

Does it not greatly anger one to know that every single day, on virtually every single news show, the story is the “dreadful economy,” and all those people who are furious at Biden for the inflation, and the fact that they cannot make ends meet? Well, the economy is almost never ideal, and we do have further to go. But it is hardly a miserable economy, with unemployment down to 3.9%, job growth this year at 6.3 million, and an average of $354 more a month, allowing for inflation, in the average worker’s pocket.

So we are being duped. We are being sold lies for a certain purpose. This is worse than we have even seen before. This is an iron curtain of falsity. If a Republican wins the White House, will the media make up numbers, hide others, and pretend that the Dear Leader is doing a wonderful job?

If we cannot believe the mainstream media even with things as objective as economic data, then what can we believe them on? How can they live with themselves, the anchors and field reporters, who get on the air every day, and are basically giving us Republican corporate and right-wing propaganda? This is the converse of the upbeat lies told to Iron Curtain citizens, and in Orwell’s “1984.” I don’t think that I am making too much of this.

Porter also noted that if we passed a few of the things in the BBB bills, we would save hundreds of billions of dollars, but that all the focus is on the initial cost. There is Joe Manchin complaining about costs every day, and inflation; and the Republicans put up a bill which says that the government cannot spend anything more on any social program until the rate of inflation is below 4.5%. I well remember when the rate of inflation was low, but wages were completely stagnant, with the average American not getting anywhere financially, but did the media make a big deal out of that? Absolutely not.

For many years, the corporations which owned most but not all of the major newspapers, kept selling their story that government could not spend, that social programs were bankrupting the country; that businesses should be able to have a very low tax rate, because they were the “job creators” which were keeping the country afloat. And that the average people should buy, buy, buy, because that made the economy grow (put more money in the rich businessmen’s pockets). And now we get this same line every hour from every news outlet, and those awful outfits like Axios, The Hill, and Politico, which are all run by right-wing money, but pretend to be neutral observers fascinated by the “horse race” aspect of things.

I would like to see Katie Porter on TV every day, giving the economic facts, and explaining them. Put someone from the other side against her, she will run rings around him. I would actually like to see Adam Schiff and Porter as President and VP, in whatever order, but they are both from California, so they could not be. Some people are going to have to get through to the the average American workers and voters, and tell them the truth. Because the media, with very rare exception, such as Lawrence O’Donnell, who had Porter on his show tonight, is not telling them those truths, and are obviously trying to put the Republicans and their big corporate supporters back in power. And I think that this should be talked about every day, all of it, the facts and the lies.

The Heart of the Matter

(This is actually the title of one of my favorite novels of all time, by Graham Greene, which I am currently reading aloud, and almost at the ending, which one never forgets).

To take many decades of politics and summarize them in one very significant and definitive sentence, “Republicans will do anything to win.” It is hard to put oneself in such a mindset if you did not grow up that way, or if you have psychologically and emotionally developed, often at a very early age, not to be that way. You care about such things as the other person, feelings, ethics, the ultimate consequences. Those are actually seen as vulnerabilities and weaknesses by the people who only want to win right now, and every time.

I have written about this before in various contexts, but there really is nothing else needed to be focused on. Republicans will do anything, whether it is lie, cheat, be hypocritical, change positions, break promises, destroy the entire concept of democracy. Their “hierarchy of values” has one word on the pyramid: WIN. Nothing else matters to them.

They always have a particular place that they want to get to, and then they just make up rationales for it, which have no inherent meaning other than that they said it to advance their position, and mislead people. The actual words in the sentences have no significance, they might as well say, “Gabble goo.” It is just words as placeholders, because they are expected to say something.

One of the most telling examples, though they are myriad, is when Justice Scalia died, which would have seemed to have given the Democratic president the ability to pick the “swing justice.” Faced with that, McConnell simply refused to give Garland a hearing. He knew that Garland would be confirmed, so to “win,” he said some nonsense about, “let the people decide,” which violated 150 years of precedent, but sounded good to his followers. Gabble, gabble.

Then when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died much closer to an election, McConnell made sure to ram through the confirmation of Barrett, not a moderate like Garland, but a rigid radical. What happened to “let the people decide”? He said something about, “when the president’s party also controls the Senate, then the people want him to choose…,” some utter inanity. Lindsey Graham, who said when standing for not giving Garland a hearing, “If it happened the other way, I would say the same thing, quote me on it,” of course turned around and was all for Barrett being rushed through before the election. He said that he was taking the exact opposite position, because Democrats had been mean to Kavanaugh in his hearing. Gabble gibble.

Again, the words have no meaning. There is a Point X that they want to get to, and so they get there. By any means, legal or illegal. They will do absolutely anything. If you doubt this, please note that when they lost the two Senate races in Georgia, they determined to make it impossible to happen again. Each day, any state where they control the legislature, is passing more and more repressive, unconstitutional, and abhorrent bills; closing down voting sites; making it impossible to vote by mail; setting up panels which invalidate signatures of Democratic voters. That wasn’t sure enough, so they are setting up bodies which can overturn the results of any election that the Democrats win.

And they tried to keep Trump in power by overrunning the Capitol, setting up armed barricades, and thus making it impossible to put Biden in office. They drew up false slates of electors, and were going to submit them as valid. Anything to stop the transition, to get the decision to the House, where they controlled more delegations than Democrats did. Bottom line, only goal. Win. If they had to assassinate Biden, they probably would have farmed that out, too, but they thought the other things would work.

Far too many people just want to attribute this to Trump. Oh, Trump was the catalyst, and the personification of Nazi “do whatever is necessary to triumph” philosophy. But there are millions of Republicans who feel that way, and many are in office. Trump just gave them the power and the permission. They have been doing the same kind of thing, minus the violence, in states for decades. If you read about the laws they are passing, you will see it. They are unanimous and relentless in their pursuit of winning and power.

Democrats are simply not like that. A few may be, but not that many. Democrats seek compromise, bipartisanship, treating the other side with respect and fairness. Virtue is its own reward, or something like that. Or, “We value democracy, and so we value working together, and being honorable.” Republicans ignore that, or view it with contempt.

That is where we are, and how we got there. Over and over, Democrats tried to be fair, tried to project their values to the other side. And Republicans took every offer, every unwillingness by Democrats to twist things to their advantage, or to grind them to defeat, as weakness, and as opportunity which they took full advantage of.

That is how we got to 42% of the populace controlling the Senate, That is how we won the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, and see the Far Right dominating the Supreme Court. If someone from another country or planet tried to understand how this could possibly happen, they could not. What would we say? “Well, they took advantage of loopholes, voting as a rigid group, took control of the media which then would always support their position; confused the voters.” That is not sufficient explanation. That is not enough of an excuse The truth is that Republicans spent all their time figuring out ways to take all meaningful power, while Democrats did not.

Everything that Republicans did in states or in the Congress, could have been anticipated by Democrats and combatted. How it might have all come out, is not known, but it certainly would have been a lot better than where we are now. Just think, Democrats won all those elections, and Republicans are ready to install themselves in permanent power. I don’t know if a science fiction writer could have carried off a story like that.

The crux of the mater is that Democrats were either so unperceptive, or unprescient, or so unwilling to fight their foe on the necessary terms, that they were almost destined to lose. The Eloi are never going to beat the Morlocks, unless the Time Traveller somehow is able to impart his perspective and will to them. The flower children were never going to win, over Nixon’s thugs. Hillary and Kaine were not able to be elected over Trump, Putin, and the totalitarians. It is not a case of Good not being able to defeat Evil, it is about the tactics which each use, how far each is going to go.

If you are playing heads-up poker against someone who will cheat any way he can, you have to stop playing with him. I would occasionally play with some kid who refused to lose at a board game, or playing basketball; calling made-up fouls, knocking the board over; and so you have to stop playing with him. But Democrats cannot stop contesting with Republicans, because to do that is to give up the field to them, and hundreds of millions of people would suffer.

Someone once described a usual Philip Dick science fiction plot as it being like the bottom of the ninth and you are losing. But often the stories would end with some hope, which was gratifying to read. Whatever one believes in for a better ending–a longshot winning, a deus ex machina, the good guys finally finding a way to break the stranglehold–is what we need. Doing it the same way we have been doing it for the last fifty years, will not give us even a partial victory. Surely that should be abundantly obvious by now.