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Let us imagine that I am writing a story. It is about a totalitarian country which wants to control the world, and uses many techniques in that effort.

They have an adversary whose country, if they cannot take over, they want to cause chaos and disruption in. They had managed to actually install a man as head of that country. Maybe they bought him, maybe they blackmailed him, or subjected him to mind control techniques which convinced him that the totalitarian country was his friend. Or maybe he was already of like mind for decades.

So they got him to run for leader of the adversary country, and then took advantage of the new technologies which had captured the minds of tens of millions of people, to where they would believe anything put on the media or computer sites. Lies, doctored photographs, completely fabricated stories of conspiracies. So that the people had no idea what was false, and what was true, and would be likely to believe what the agents of the totalitarian country, and their hand-picked candidates, would say about anything.

And they got him elected, and put in power. And they used him for their ends. One of those ends was to be able to take over another country which had immense natural resources. They were confident that their tool, or agent, or dupe, that they had installed, would enable them to do that, so that they might not even have to fight a war of destruction and conquest.

But this agent was unable to keep power long enough to force the country that they wanted to conquer, to acquiesce, or their leader to be removed. So they then went ahead with the war.

As the war continued, so they continued their efforts to take over their powerful rival, or at least disrupt them. They wanted to install some political figures in that country who would be on their side, and would help to propagandize in their favor. They already had control of the most watched cable news network, which supported them, rather than the democracy they were fighting the war against.

So in that effort, they found at least one person willing to do what they wanted They brainwashed him, or bought him, or took advantage of his greed, ambition, and nature as a pathological liar, or maybe all of it. They were gong to install him into office, into the legislative body of their rival, the body which was appropriating funds to the country that the totalitarian state was fighting the war against. He would be a voice for them; and of course the news network they controlled, would give him a regular forum, in the effort to stop that country from sending funds and weapons to the war.

But this dupe, this tool, or agent, had to win his race. He needed to be made over, to be turned into a lie, the way that they had managed to turn the internet into a miasma of lies in order to get their agent elected as head of the country six years earlier.

They gave him plastic surgery. One could see the smoothing, the plasticine face. the vacuousness of expression. They like the concept of plastic surgery. Then they needed to invent a new identity for him.

He was very malleable. The totalitarian state is a country which hates Jewish people, so how amusing would it be to have their dupe pretend that he is Jewish. He would go to Jewish organizations, and enlist their support in his campaign. He would claim that he had been a corporate executive, who employed many people, some of whom were killed in the 9/11 attacks. That would gain him sympathy. He would say that he had gone to the best schools, when he had not gone to any of them. And he would say that he was wealthy, when he was actually working in a call center before being groomed for office.

And then they gave him money. They always have money. They gave him at least $700,000 which he claimed to have loaned to his campaign. But that was not his money, it was their money, used for their purposes.

And somehow, and they may have counted on this, or didn’t even need it, the party that was the opponent of the party their created persona was running as a member of, did not have the capacity to find out what a fraud and lie was being perpetrated. Not one word did the public hear about any of this. It is very hard to believe, but this is a story that you are to imagine that I am writing. Then, six weeks after the election, a major newspaper, one which had almost certainly helped the totalitarian candidate win the election for head of their adversary, six years before, wrote a long article about the avalanche of lies from their candidate, who had been elected.

How was it that they did not have this information during the entire campaign? Or did they have it, and deliberately hold it, as they have made a practice of doing? Consider that.

Conveniently for the totalitarian state, it appeared to be too late, at least for those people who believe in democracy. The party which the fraud candidate belonged to, only cares about winning and power, so they wanted him to stay in his elected position, no matter how he got there. The totalitarians had counted on that.

The totalitarians celebrated the victory. They had plans underway to do this again, many times. They would find more people who would take their money and accept their control. They would invent more resumes, more false identities. Who knows what to believe?, that is their byword and unofficial motto. Maybe this or that person supports us, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe she is in our employ, maybe she just decided to leave the party where she ran for President. Maybe he is rich, maybe he is poor. Maybe he is of this ethnicity and religion, maybe he is not. Maybe gay, maybe not. Just listen to what we tell you, and then realize how stupid and credulous you are.

And they dd not stop with this, but intended to accelerate it. Create bots who looked like people, and put them in as candidates. Write programs which come out of their mouths as words. Create faces which were malleable, smooth and devoid of personality. Like commercials. Buy us. Vote for us. Use other bots to push these candidates, like they do with movies or drugs. Fake people telling you that the products worked for them, or that they loved the movie, and that anyone who didn’t, is stupid or unappreciative.

Who will know if the next candidate is a real person; a jerk, but real, or a bot? You can try to figure out what his or her positions are, that will give you a clue, but they can lie about that, too, just as with newspaper and broadcast headlines about emails, or internet fantasies about cannibalism, have done.

Who is George Santos? Who created him? Who controls him, or his image on the screen? That is the story which I ask you to imagine that I am writing.

“The beam becomes my dream/My dream is on the screen/Fade away, and radiate” (Blondie, 1978).

The Return of Count Floyd! (and Shyamalan and Johnson)

Owooo!!! Owooo!!! Oww Oww Oww Owooo!!!

Hello, boys and girls, it’s Count Floyd, back with you, for another episode of Monster Chiller Horror Theater! Owoo!!! Heh heh heh heh heh! Owoo!

Yes, I am out of my coffin after a long rest, to tell you about a new episode coming up. We will be showing what looks like two great horror films for you, right out of our vaults! You will want to be ready for that! Tell your parents to let you stay up late with the creatures of the dark!

Well, the first one is called “Knock at the Cabin,” and it is by M. Night Shyamalan, who has made so many films! Well, maybe they weren’t that scary, but it has been frightening to see that he keeps making them, year after year! Like a ghost that keeps coming back! That is frightening! Owooo!

Okay, you remember that in his last film, there was this island that people went to, and they got older and older. Twenty years in an hour, something like that. What was happening? Well, it turnef out to be an experiment done by a pharmaceutical lab, you know how scary those are! All those drugs and commercials you see on TV? So they were testing out a drug, and did not care what misery they inflicted on the people! What is more scary than that?

Well, this Shyamalan is back with another one! Like Jason, or Freddy! You can’t get rid of him! This new one, which Count Floyd has not seen, is about a family of two fathers and a boy, and they are in a cabin, and then some bad people come along, and they knock at the door! Just like the title! That is what we vampires, and a few literary critics, call foreshadowing! Owwooo!!!

So they tell this family that if they don’t let them kill or capture one of them, they will destroy the world! What do they want them for? I don’t know, but Shyamalan always comes up with something! Maybe they need another person for a bridge game! Maybe they want to play two-on-two basketball! I don’t know! But that is the choice the people in the cabin have. That is a question that has been the subject of many stories, but Shyamalan is always good at recycling them, and adding his special touch, which allows him to keep making these movies, though no one likes them!

So we will have that one! Then we will try to get a movie called “Glass Onion.” An onion can be scary, it makes your eyes water, and can cause heartburn! But I don’t think this movie is actually about an onion, kids! I saw his other one, “Knives Out,” and of course Count Floyd thought it would be very scary, with knives and things. But there were no knives, though there was some kind of sword, which the older man used to kill himself, which the policeman said at the beginning was how he died, but then they spent the whole movie trying to figure out how he died!

Was he poisoned? Well, the housekeeper thought maybe he was, and wanted to blackmail the son who had no money, and who she later found was totally disowned, with all the money left to the nurse! But she just happened to have a cousin who worked at the medical facility, who would let her see the records! Coincidences and unlikely behavior can be scary! There is no logic to them! You boys and girls know that if someone in a medical facility gave someone’s records out, they would be fired, and maybe go to jail! But this writer and director, Rian Johnson, just ignores that!

And she is trying to blackmail someone who has no money, is out of the will, and who did not poison the man, though he wanted to! And to do that, she had to cut out the part of the records which her cousin had stolen to give her, which said that there was no poison in his system! To blackmail the man who had no money! That may not be scary, but it is unsettling!

So now Johnson has made another one which I think is about a bunch of mostly bad people being invited to an island for a murder mystery. Do you know about Agatha Christie, kids? Johnson copied ideas from two different novels of hers to make this one! “And Then There Were None,” and “Dead Man’s Folly.” And he will get away with it! Do you know why? Because no one reads books any more! That is very scary, enough to make even Count Floyd shiver!

So these are the two movies we are planning to show you, if Mrs. Prickley can come through for once, and get them! We might even have Mr. Shyamalan and Mr. Johnson here to answer questions after! Just don’t ask them anything too hard! And they will tell you about their next movies! Johnson already is writing one, and Shyamalan has dozens of ideas, all of which come from comic books of fifty years ago!

Are these two writers ghosts or vampires or ghouls? Nothing can kill them! They keep returning and recycling! Maybe that is the real horror to think about! Another Shyamalan movie next year! And an entire “Knives Out” franchise, joke after joke, childish plot devices! The nurse cannot tell a lie without vomiting! Someone has written a journal which explains everything! And he’s got a TV show coming out, “Poker Face.” Count Floyd likes poker, but this is not about poker! It is about a female detective who can always tell when someone is lying! The same plot device as in “Knives Out!”

That is all I can tell you, you will have to see the movies for yourself! Save up your money, but be sure to send away for your Count Floyd book, “You Can Fool Enough People Most of the Time, and Keep Making Movies and Profits.” Only $42.17! And the first five hundred will get a Count Floyd decoder ring, now out of print, but we have some remainders. You can’t beat that for a bargain!

Owoooo!!! Back into the coffin! Owww oww owww Owooo!

Climate Change Is Not Going to Just Go Away

I have mentioned that I have bought many anthologies of what may be called “Dark Fantasy” stories, which others might call “Horror” stories. Not the gruesome or violent kind; I prefer the psychological, well-written stories.

One I liked is titled “Haunts of the Very Rich.” A group of rich people of various ages have apparently landed on an island for a vacation at a resort which is expected to cater to their every need. But a few things go wrong at the outset. Some supplies are not there, some rooms are not adequately furnished. These people, not necessarily the most likable sorts, are amused, upset, or tolerant of these glitches.

Then suddenly they find their concierge dead. They are told by other staff that things will be set aright, but they are not. Then they are finally told that a plane will be sent to take them off the island and back to their homes. But the plane does not come/ Finally, one of the party expresses her sense, not quite explicitly stated, that they are all dead, and that they are in some version of hell. She says that things are going to get worse. And the writer ends the story with, ‘And they did.”

I thought of that story when hearing about the dreadful winter storm which has hit the East Coast. The storm is moving to Canada, which of course is not good for that country, but a relief to people in Buffalo and other Eastern cities. Until the next storm, to hit there, or in the Midwest or the Plains.

I live in Southern California, where we have had a pleasant winter so far. That doesn’t minimize one bit of the awful storms back East. And we will have our dreadful events, too. We have had a drought that has lasted so long that the Water District is contemplating mandatory cutbacks. I have seen more houses which have “transitioned” from lawns with grass and flowers, to rocks filling the front yard.

We could have a blazing summer. Much of the country will. We also face a major threat of wildfires. Each year the fire season is longer and worse. Much like in the story. Are we in hell? Well, it depends on one’s definition of that, but it is clear to all but fools, and oil-obsessed people, and social darwinist Republicans, that we, the human race, have caused this climate change, which is not going to get better, or stay the same, but will get worse and worse.

No one wants to focus on this, it is too depressing. But what is the alternative? To just ignore it, and watch football and hockey games? To hope that suddenly the weather will go back to what it was thirty years ago? To go along with the Republicans, who tell us that the real concerns are immigration and “wokeness”? To just let the country suffer, while the very rich people travel to fancy resorts, or live in their vast estates with the best air conditioning and heating that wealth can buy?

Obviously, we cannot let that happen. But how can we deal with it? What will it take for people in general to wake up to what is happening with the climate? I don’t know, but it would help if this were a major focus of the media. Not just the storms and the fires, but the daily story of climate change.

I do know that it will never get better by itself, not while human beings inhabit this planet. Humans caused it, and humans are going to have to try to fix it. Thinking about it is depressing and frightening, but ignoring it would be worse. I am hoping that the 2024 elections are about climate, much as I expect that they will be about everything but. President Biden and all but a couple of the Democrats in Congress tried to help, but we need to take over all branches of government again, to focus on it. And the Supreme Court, too. A very daunting task, but it has to be done, even while we also focus on family, friends, and enjoying the things we can.

All politics are local. I voted for a dead guy.

I need to remember that all politics are local because I was so focused on the National elections that I failed to notice the dead guy on my ballot.

Tony DeLuca was my state representative to the Pennsylvania legislature. I live in a reliably blue state district in the east suburbs of Pittsburgh. DeLuca has been my rep for as long as I can remember. He was my grandfather’s rep. He had been a rep for 40 years.

Last October, DeLuca died from lymphoma. He was in his 80’s and it wasn’t his only bout with lymphoma. But when I went to vote in November, Tony’s name was still on the ballot, so I voted for him. I can’t even remember if he had a challenger but why bother? DeLuca won that seat. Again. While dead.

That’s right, we would rather elect a dead Democrat than any other alternative.

Wouldn’t you know, Democrats finally flipped the Pennsylvania Legislature by ONE seat. That narrow majority is now in jeopardy, not because my district doesn’t have a living rep but because the Republicans don’t want to have an election to fill it. Malcolm Kenyatta, the honorable primary opponent to John Fetterman last spring, and PA legislative rep from Philly explains:

The election to fill DeLuca’s seat is scheduled for February 7, 2023. But Republicans don’t want to have elections until MAY 2023. That’s 6 months of them retaining the majority. What could be so important that you want to hold things up until for 6 months? You can see that the GOP are still obstructing elections and trying to manipulate the outcome, no doubt for some nefarious reason. It has to be nefarious because it is clearly not what voters wanted.

The likely replacement for DeLuca is Democrat Joe McAndrew. He dropped off his campaign materials to my house personally and did that whole hand shaking thing.

Note to self: pay better attention next time.

But WAIT! There’s more. As long as PA legislative Republicans can put the brakes on 2 more special elections, one to replace Summer Lee who is going from state house to US Congress, they can usurp the speaker seat:

Republicans are Jagoffs.

Cassidy Hutchinson

I certainly don’t think that I will be reading all 845 pages of the Report of the January 6th Committee, though it would be worthwhile to do so; and it will be one of the most important documents in American history. Maybe, if there is a time when Democrats regain complete institutional power, it will be encouraging to read it. Right now, it is all too unsettling a time.

I will certainly listen to the gloss on it, as read and interpreted by the most reliable political analysts. In that vein, I wanted to write a few words about Cassidy Hutchinson, a young Republican aide in the White House, who has emerged as one of the few heroes in this saga.

Amid a suffocating miasma of lies, deceit, stonewalling, and treason, Ms. Hutchinson was perhaps the only person in that White House who somehow stood up for the truth. Her testimony was really the fulcrum which supported the rest of the investigation. While so many Trumpists refused to testify, or kept taking the Fifth Amendment, or actually lied under oath, she told what she knew and she didn’t waver or obfuscate, at least as far as anyone could tell.

The more extensive interviews with Hutchinson, as read on air last night, showed her as very much wanting to stick to the truth, so that “she could look herself in the mirror.” She recounted how a Trump attorney essentially encouraged her to lie, although of course those people would not call it lying. She was told that if she could not remember every detail of something that happened, she was to say that “I don’t recall” to any of it. How many times have we seen someone in Congressional hearings, even someone nominated for a judgeship or cabinet position, saying “I don’t recall.” And you listen to that, and you don’t believe them, but they get away with it, again and again.

Cassidy Hutchinson would not do it. She also realized, in her words, that if you accepted the advice and funding from “Trump World,” as she termed it, you could never escape. That sounded chillingly like what happens if you take those things offered by the Mafia. They then have something on you, and you will never be free of them. She asked the attorney, who was funding this defense?, and he said not to worry about it, we don’t want to reveal that now, but if you really want to know when this is all over, we will tell you. Does that not sound chillingly like the mafia?

What they wanted, as they wanted from everyone else, was for her to lie for them, dissemble, do nothing to damage Trump and his cabal. Others were doing it. But she would not. She testified of the moment when Trump, furious that the driver of the vehicle he was in, would not take him back to the Capitol, tried to assault the driver. Immediately after her testimony, some journalistic hack printed that there were two members of Trump’s Secret Service who would testify under oath that Cassidy’s testimony about Trump trying to grab the wheel, was untrue. This of course led to the Trump mob and its media tools saying that Cassidy lied, that her testimony was all lies.

Of course the Secret Service people never actually testified or even interviewed refuting anything she said. It was a bluff, because her story was true. And the minute that she stopped doing what Trump and his mob wanted, she was viciously attacked, as anyone who ever defied them, was. But she did not backtrack, she said again that everything she testified to was true.

Hutchinson has said that she was given inspiration when she read more about the Watergate Hearings, and specifically about Alexander Butterfield, the White House aide who testified to that committee that President Nixon taped every White House discussion, and that as far as he knew, the tapes were still available That stunning news led to the subpoenaing of those tapes, Nixon’s fight against that, and a Supreme Court decision that he must surrender the tapes, which led to his resignation from office. Most of what was on those tapes was still hidden from public knowledge; and then Ford pardoned Nixon, which led to a complete cessation from further investigation, something Ford said was necessary for “healing the nation,” but was only essential for protecting the Republican Party.

But even so, Butterfield, along with John Dean, and one or two others, was an admirable figure in these hearings, and Hutchinson wanted to talk to him. And she gained encouragement and solace from what he said to her. That was touching to learn about. A fragile thread which linked two moments in history; and a very few people who stood up for telling the truth, even if it cost them their political future. Because you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror.

Of course, there are many people who are quite happy looking at themselves in the mirror, knowing that they did what their dons wanted them to do, or that they were waging holy war against the liberals. So many people who either were comfortable selling out their morals, or more likely, had no morals in the first place. Even having followed this throughout history, one is still shocked and horrified at how many people are willing to lie, slander, and cheat, and to even destroy the institutions and the democracy in the name of something, usually their own political advancement and power.

I don’t expect that Cassidy Hutchinson is going to become a Democrat, or stand up for liberal causes. She will probably retain her political beliefs. But what is most important is that she had a belief in telling the truth. And she had an understanding that going along any further with the mafia which was trying to take complete control of the country (and still well might), would cost her the ability to be proud of herself; knowing that she would stand up for telling the truth, and stand against the forces who were using her like they used everybody, to serve their masters. Those masters did not just include Trump, and never had.

So at least for right now, Cassidy Hutchinson is a kind of hero. Without her testimony, I doubt that these hearings would have gone nearly as far as they did. She was virtually the only White House figure who was willing to break the stone wall that they were attempting to erect to block out the facts, and to protect their efforts to overturn the election, declare martial law, and a dictatorship. That took courage and resolve on her part, something which we have only very occasionally seen in the last few years, in the midst of the fascism and the lies and the attempts to turn reality into something that the fascists create and everyone else is required to believe and follow. And so she deserves our appreciation and admiration for that.

Welcome to America, President Zelenskyy!

Vlodymir Zelenskyy is on his way to DC for talks with Biden and an address to our Congress. WaPo is following this story. (Subscription may be required but sometimes news like this merits free coverage.)

Can someone please give Marjorie Taylor Greene and the “Freedom Caucus” some Benedryl before the speech to keep them from acting out during this historic moment? I don’t trust those morons to stay in their seats and sit quietly for 20 minutes. 🙄

So thrilling.

Happy Solstice

I recognized the chameleon and no longer want to crawl on the earth and change colors and be reborn; instead I want to exist from my own force, like the sun which gives light and does not suck light.

— Carl Jung

“You are a child of the universe
No less than the trees and the stars
You have a right to be here
And whether or not it is clear to you
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should…”

— Desiderata, Max Ehrmann, 1927

“The maiden whom the Valar chose from among the Maiar to guide the vessel of the Sun was named Arien, and he that steered the island of the Moon was Tilion. In the days of the Trees Arien had tended the golden flowers in the gardens of Vána, and watered them with the bright dews of Laurelin;

Arien the maiden was mightier than he, and she was chosen because she had not feared the heats of Laurelin, and was unhurt by them, being from the beginning a spirit of fire, whom Melkor had not deceived nor drawn to his service. Too bright were the eyes of Arien for even the Eldar to look on, and leaving Valinor she forsook the form and raiment which like the Valar she had worn there, and she was as a naked flame, terrible in the fullness of her splendour.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, p.99-100 (Of the Sun and the Moon and the Hiding of Valinor).


Hail the January 6th Committee

They will go down in history. Nine members of Congress who may have formed the greatest Congressional Investigation Committee ever. Chosen by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who took advantage of the arrogance and foolishness of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to hand-pick the entire Committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans.

I watched every one of the hearings, and they were riveting and powerful. I have seen various House Committees from different historical periods. Some were intended to get at the truth. Some were there to intimidate and destroy people. This Committee, while filled with Members who were not well disposed to Donald Trump, did everything they could to unearth the facts of how the events of January 6, 2021 ultimately took place. They interviewed or tried to interview anyone who had anything to say about it.

So many of Trump’s supporters, both in Congress, and private citizens, refused to come forward, or would not answer questions. Sometimes they simply pleaded Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. They knew that this Committee was very unlikely to have the time or the power to force them to testify, so they figured that they could run out the clock, which of course is Trump’s perennial ploy to escape the truth, and receive punishment. The Committee knew that at the outset, but they did everything they could to learn facts and hear from witnesses.

These hearings certainly had a large television audience, surprising many pundits, and discomfiting Republicans. So many unforgettable moments of testimony: from former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson, to Rusty Bowers, Speaker of the Arizona House. Shaye Moss,Georgia election worker who underwent relentless persecution from Trump allies. Eric Herschmann, Trump lawyer who unforgettably recounted telling John Eastman that the best effing advice he would give him was to get a good attorney. Moments that will be shown many times again. The use of video was brilliant, using modern technology to tell a story which words could never fully convey.

The Committee worked together in a splendid fashion. No grandstanding, no one boring or inadequately prepared. It was like a great sports team. Everyone will have their favorites, and they all deserve admiration. My favorites were Chairman Bennie Thompson, grave, fair-minded and gracious. Liz Cheney, whose unmitigated criticism of Trump cost her a high-ranking House position, and ultimately her House seat. Jamie Raskin, dealing with a terrible family tragedy, and still managing to be an even-tempered master of the Constitution. Elaine Luria, articulate and measured, laying out the history and helping to weave the narrative. They all contributed, and it was like watching a team of brilliant lawyers put together a prosecution case.

So many of the moments are indelible. One must ask, “What did they accomplish, after all?” I think that foremost, they have probably made it very unlikely that Trump could ever be elected President again. Of course, there are a combination of factors which will lead to that, but I think that without the January 6 Committee, he and his cohorts and enablers might well have effectively convinced many more Americans that there was nothing to this, it was a hoax, a sham, a liberal witch hunt. Not nearly as many people think that now, though of course there are still those who do.

I don’t know what the Department of Justice will do with the Committee’s recommendations on filing charges against Trump, including Incitement of an Insurrection, which recommendation in itself made American history. And I don’t know how successful a trial would be on those charges. But we might get to see, and if we do, the Committee’s work will be central to the prosecution of them.

The Committee also showed us the best of Congressional work. I am afraid that the new Congress will show us the worst of it. It is tragic that by virtue of successful gerrymandering, something now rarely done in Blue states. the Republicans managed to gain control of that chamber; and with it the absolute certainty that the January 6th Committee will be ended in less than a month. And the recommendations the Committee made to the House Ethics Committee will be ignored and even mocked by the new one.

But even despite this, the January 6th Committee has left a major marker in the fight to save democracy. We will not forget them. I will miss looking forward to and watching their Hearings. One hopes that what they did will be long remembered; and to invert Marc Antony’s phrase in “Julius Caesar,” will not be interred with their political bones.

Wordle is Getting Simpler, Along with Other Things.

Have you noticed that Wordle is getting easier?

That comparison can of course vary with the person, but I think that most would agree that the game has gotten a good deal easier. I know that the New York Times has given the job of picking words to one of their staff; it is no longer the originator, Josh Wardle, with his list of many words which were used for about 500 games of Wordle.

Now, I do not at all mind an easy one every once in awhile! But these are coming up very often. I got Sunday’s word in three tries. I usually play carefully, and do not early guess very often, if I can be more certain by trying a word which is unlikely to be the answer, but might give me a letter or two to help fill in. Well, this time I had all the letters in two tries. a e r p t. Prate would have been a good word, but it is too difficult for Wordle now, I think. I thought of pater, but that might also be too hard! Anyway, p could not have been first, so it had to be taper.

Saturday, I had o r d, not in that order, but I knew that o was third. I actually thought of chord, but rather than use it as a guess, I tried a word which had c and h, and other letters, and it showed a c and an h, so the word was chord, in four tries, rather than the three other players might only have needed.

The day before that, the word was probe. Many of the recent words have had o in third, and some of those have had e as fifth. I do not like – – o – e, because there are many possibilities, and it could become a guessing game, not a word challenge. But I had a p first, so it was either probe, prone, or prove, and so I used a word with a b and an n, I forget which one, maybe cabin; and it showed a b, so probe was the word, in four guesses.

Before that it was rival .I guessed cigar on guess two, then viral on guess three, and that showed all the letters, but the v and the r were in the wrong spots, so the word had to be rival. Prior to that one, the word was usual. I had to be a little clever, but with u s l a after three tries, usual seemed very likely as a fourth try.

The words prior to those were spoke, apply, naive (that was one of the better ones there), knock, braid. Do you see a pattern there? All the words are very commonly used, no one could complain that “I have never seen that word!, “Is that a word?,” as they used to do with some. I guess that is the goal, or maybe to have the players feel good, and then they will buy more Times issues?

Before that, it was somewhat better; with infer, joust (I liked getting that one), amber, woken (some complained about that), adore (a very nice word), torso, chafe, eject. I don’t know the exact date that the NYT employee who now picks the words, took over, but it was around there.

Now, this is just a game, it is not that important, not compared to the last January 6 Committee meeting coming up today. But it is more fun than any of that. It was a brilliant game to invent, and millions of people in the world looked forward to playing it each day. They can still play it, but with easy words like the last few weeks, the game is less fun or challenging. I won’t write a whole bunch of paragraphs about how so many things, in our society at least, have been dumbed down. Have you turned on a non-“Jeopardy!” quiz show recently? I rarely do, but when I have, I am appalled at how simple they have made the games,, apparently so that anyone can be a contestant, and no viewer’s mind is challenged.

“The lowest common denominator” is a theme I have thought about from time to time, for many years. Movie reviews, opinion articles, plots and dialogue on television shows, they all reflect this trend. There are a few exceptions, and they deserve praise, but there are fewer and fewer of them. And so many trite and simplified plots and discussions.

I could mention Rian Johnson, who has struck a gold mine in one of my favorite fictional genres, mystery stories, by making them virtual parodies, which, like so many such examples, capture the modern “geist,” and hence are very popular, while they push aside potentially more worthy content, but I won’t. Unless I did. That is a hole inside a hole, to quote Johnson’s detective Benoit Blanc, who is a Johnson’s parody of a great detective. Johnson rakes in the millions, and he’s got some reviewers saying that Agatha Christie’s mysteries are not comparable to his. They aren’t, but in the opposite direction than these critics would like to believe.

Maybe Wordle will get harder again, and maybe I will complain about that, but either is unlikely. Maybe Rian Johnson will go away, or try his hand at another genre. Maybe pop music will get better, and they will stop using auto-tune. Well, I will try tomorrow’s Wordle, maybe while I am watching the Hearing.. Be sure not to buy any Trump superhero cards, or invest in cybercurrency; and be sure to be wear masks when appropriate, which is much of the time. Somehow, I think that all of these things go together in some way.

Seasonal Greetings.

Nothing specific but all are significant, here are some of the things I’ve collected in the past week:

1.) Adam Kinzinger’s farewell speech. You can view his speech here. It’s fair to say that Kinzinger and I have little in common with respect to our ideologies. But I admire his integrity and his determination to do what was necessary even though it cost him his seat. I’ve seen him on Twitter and I’ve been impressed with his questions. He’s clearly conservative but I see a curious mind, trying to understand what motivates people. Curiosity and openness will make him a more thoughtful politician down the line.

There was one part of his speech that bothered me though. It was when he blamed Democrats for spending money on Republican primary races that appear to have given a boost to the MAGA nutters. Some went on to lose. The problem for Kinzinger is that strategy took out a lot of moderate Republicans who might have won districts that were going to be Republican anyway. It deprives Congress of more sane and moderate Republicans that Democrats might have worked with and it may come back to bite us all in the butt.

I can understand his frustration but he’s directing it at the wrong people. I saw Josh Shapiro’s ad for Mastriano in the PA primary. It’s not like the ad was a hard sell “Vote for Doug!! He’s amazing!!” It was more a recitation of what Mastriano stood for. And if you were a voter who liked a hard right Christian Nationalist who was a staunch Trump Supporter and wanted to cancel all of the voter registrations in the state and give the state legislature the power to appoint the electors, then Mastriano was your guy. Mastriano won the GOP primary here. He had competitors but they did not get as many Republican votes as Mastriano did. The Democrats did not force Republican primary voters to act the way they did.

THAT was the problem. The voters chose the hard ass Republican with a clear and present Fascist streak. It happened all over the country. GOP voters chose the people who were loyal to Trump and not to the actual voters themselves. It shouldn’t surprise any of us. Gerrymandering has a lot to do with the increasing polarization of the parties. And one party has taken extremism to the extreme, running candidates who continue to plumb new depths in the human psyche’s dark archetypes to exploit for power and profit.

If Adam wants that to stop, and who doesn’t, he should focus his efforts on making voting more representative and easier for everyone. That way, even moderate Republicans get a fighting chance before the general election. Adam is capable of great introspection and change. I know he can do this. So, do it, Adam. And good luck. I look forward to seeing you do something important and honorable in the future.

2.) Harry and Megan. I’ve only just started to watch the Netflix documentary but the reviews have started to trickle in and they tend to confirm my initial suspicions. And let me just say that there are those of us who have had direct and devastating interactions with our families who could see what was happening from a mile away. Bitter experience and all that.

The reason why I think this documentary is important is because the increasing instances of scapegoating people and the bullying behind it are starting to reach epidemic proportions. But a lot of what is happening flies under the radar because we have been conditioned by narratives and smear campaigns to see a representation of a person and not who they truly are. It’s easy to project your behavior and negativity and excuses for your personal failures or lack of decency on another person if that person has been designated as your “sin eater”.

What happened to Harry and Megan, making their lives a living nightmare and unsafe, couldn’t have happened without a few key ingredients: a powerful person with an agenda or person they want to protect from scrutiny, the target who becomes the involuntary scapegoat and decoy (no one asks for this role), and the enablers who play a crucial role in doing the dirty work so that the true instigator looks blameless.

In this case, Megan was a convenient target (racism baked in, a woman and American interloper with ideas of her own). The British tabloid press played the role of the flying monkeys, enabling the bullying and propagating a smear campaign against someone whose every eyebrow twitch was publicly analyzed in a negative light.

And now they are exposing the powerful bullies behind it all in the palace itself. They were in on it. They threw her to the wolves as convenient bait to keep the spotlight off of other members of the royal family. Do I think the Queen was in on it? Not actively. But she might have been a passive enabler.

What Harry and Megan are exposing is how narcissistic bullying actually works. They are lifting the veil on the mechanism behind it. And they are giving us a teachable moment.

It’s devastating to the scapegoat. It can cause physical, mental and financial harm. It’s very serious. And we are all susceptible to it as targets or enablers. I don’t expect that the truly dedicated Megan bullies out there are going to change. They’re too invested in how it makes them feel. They’re benefiting from it as long as everyone, especially the scapegoats, keeps quiet. So I admire Harry and Megan for deciding to not go down without a fight. They’re flinging away the burden of other people’s sins and refusing to scamper away into the wilderness. From one scapegoat to the others out there, verily I say unto you, do likewise.

Tell the bullies and their enablers to eat their own fucking sins.

3.) Ukrainian Bell Carol is a canon Christmas concert staple for choirs all over the world. This year, it’s particularly poignant because Ukrainians are bravely toughing it out as Putin tries “to grind Ukraine into a fine, fine ash”, as Julia Ioffe put it.

But we have not forgotten them. And neither has NATO. A NATO choir of member representatives says “we’ve got your back” as clear as a bell.