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Don’t waste your breath

I’ve been checking in with various news sources, like I always do, and I’ve noticed that many TV journalists and legal experts are patiently describing to the audience what is going on with the INDICATEMENT indictment of Donald Trump.

Yes, it’s not unusual for other countries to charge politicians for corruption. Come to think of it, it’s not even unusual for the US to do that. There are plenty of politicians in our past who have been charged and sometimes convicted of various crimes. Webster Hubble, Elliott Spitzer (maybe just investigated), Tom Delay and Spiro Agnew come to mind. (Here’s a list of American politicians convicted of crimes stretching waaaaaay back to the beginning of this nation) The only truly unusual thing about the US is that we seem to have a justice department ruling left over from the Nixon era that says it’s improper to indict a “sitting” president. There is even a difference of opinion over whether that’s valid or constitutional. For example, if Trump really had shot and killed someone on Fifth Avenue while he was president, I’m pretty sure some 50 year old memo wouldn’t stop him from being arrested and tried for murder. The difference is that back when that memo was written, presidents had some sense of the dignity of the office and the expectation is that public outcry would cause him (its always been a him) to resign before the arrest.

They’ve also gone to great lengths to explain that he will be treated like everyone else. There will be a presumption of innocence. There will be a trial. Heck, the jury may acquit him. Sure he’ll have to be arraigned, fingerprinted and mugshotted. It’s a felony charge after all. But he probably isn’t going to be perp walked or handcuffed like normal people because of his security details.

I’d prefer it if he cooperated with dignity and set an example of calm submission to the rule of law with the expectation that he will be treated with fairness and without favor. But let’s be honest, this is Trump we’re talking about. He’s already got the rest of his party involved even though this is not a political prosecution. This is a legal procedure, one that has already sent one and possibly two people to jail. (I have no doubt that Alan Weisselberg has finally started to cooperate). We don’t even know what he’s charged with yet. So, the hyperventilation and chest pounding from Rhonda Santis and Qevin McCarthy seem premature at best and highly partial to protecting one single, powerful and wealthy person above all others at worst.

But none of this is going to make an impact on MAGA brains. They’ve already been pre-conditioned to perceive the indictment as unfair for reasons that make absolutely no sense to the rest of us. Plus, they’ve been innoculated. There’s been enough information out there on Trump’s many crimes that they’ve become immune to all but the most shocking information. Right now, the most shocking revelations are about the defamation case against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems. If a typical Fox News viewer can look past the emails and text messages from Tucker Carlson and Rupert Murdock and the Fox Brain executive and still trust Fox as a source of legitimate news, then the rest of us need to give up on them.

Let them get mad. It’s what they do best. They rage, rage against the dying of the right and their own lifetime of underachievement. Somehow, they’ve been taught that the rest of us are responsible for their misfortunes and inferiority complexes. Trump did that. He played on their fears and sense of themselves. Then he flooded their brains with lies and disinformation and told them that EVERYONE does that, even though everyone doesn’t do that.

In a sense, they are no different from Russian citizens glued to state run TV because they don’t have any other sources of news or are incapable of seeking out other sources of news. They are convinced that Ukraine started the war against them, which is laughable given Ukraine’s size and sense of self preservation. They also think the United States is their sworn enemy determined to overturn the Russian state. Well, we are now. But back in 2021, we didn’t GAF about Russia. No one wanted the massive corrupt mafia state with the minuscule GDP and countryside full of clueless people beaten down by learned helplessness. That’s where MAGA is headed.

There’s nothing we can do about that. They’ve got to figure it out for themselves. I just hope the media doesn’t start their diner journalism again. We’ve heard quite enough from the irrationally inflamed and belligerent MAGA Republicans. It’s time we interviewed everyone else to show just how outnumbered MAGA is.

Calm your tits, Donny

It’s just an indictment. No one has found you guilty yet. The trial is months away. Ok, so it’s an indictment on a felony charge. It doesn’t mean you can’t still run for a second term. There isn’t even a clause in the Constitution that you can’t serve another term while you’re serving your sentence in some minimum security prison. You’ll have the secret service to run interference for you although I’m not sure they’re going to like their new work location.

Well, whatever. There’s no reason why you have to go around making offensive comments about the radical left, ie all of us who have been waiting for the slow wheels of justice to grind through the scads of money you’ve been throwing at it to trip it up indefinitely. The radical left, those Americans who want the rule of law to apply to EVERYONE, will work hard and play by the rules and we are grateful that you will also have to play by the rules too.

Just relax. We realize that consequences for your actions are about 72 years late and in your old age it will come as a bit of a shock. Also, it must be unnerving that you will have lost your invincibility cloak and now all your base know that you can be held accountable. Image is everything, amirite? Your superpower is finally meeting its kryptonite. Everyone can see you’re just an ordinary old guy. Maybe your MAGA faithful will start to notice your physical limitations. And the stuff that comes out of your mouth won’t sound so good no more.

We’ll see.

It’s kind of unfortunate that this happened on a school night. Champagne would be nice. But make no mistake. I’m not celebrating because you’ve been indicted. It’s only the first of many indictments from what I can tell.

No, I’m going to celebrate tomorrow evening because the long hard slog of restoring the rule of law in this country is finally starting to bear fruit and we still have hope to stop corrupt politicians from turning the United States of America into a mafia state.

I’ll save the Moet et Chandon and Kool and the Gang until Friday.

Wordle Playing Update

About a month ago, I reviewed my recent games of Wordle, and it seemed to be well received, so I will update my recent forays. I have gotten all of them, and maybe only one which took six tries. I will try to review from memory, I really should write them down!

March 6 was one where I had a p, i, and n. I guessed pinch, which was not right, but it got me the order of p i n, and so I guessed PINKY, which was right. I actually put an obscure hint on here, because I had written about the earlier wordles on that day, and I did not want to give the answer. For any British indiepop fans out there, “Pinky Blue” was the name of the second album by Altered Images.

Then I had an s, an o, an e, fifth, and an r. Then I got an h, so the word was HORSE. Did you know that Spirit, the real horse who is so beautiful that the filmmakers used him as the model for the movie “Spirit,” had his 24th birthday just a few days ago, I think, and he is as stunning as ever? I might go visit him at Lompoc, where he lives, and is visited by many people!

On a similar theme, the next Wordle showed an a, an e, an l, and an r, none in the right spot. I tried a word to see if the r were last, and it was not. It was not second. The l was not first. I figured out that the r was first, so with r – – – – and a, e, and l, I got the word REGAL

Then I had an e fifth, and an r. Then an h. I am wary of double letters, so since there was no a, o, i, or u, I thought of WHERE, and that was the word.

Next, a somewhat similar configuration. I had an r and an e, and then an l, none in the right spot. L not first, r not second. No other vowels. Several common consonants not in word. I thought that there might be two e’s. Could not be lever, because l not first. I came up with REVEL, and that was the word. It reminded me of Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.”

Then a word I mentioned here. I had an i, an a, and an e. Then I got an l on my third try. a e i l. I could not think of anything, as e was not the last letter. Finally, I thought, could the word be email? Is that a word? I tried it, to at least try to learn the order of the letters, and it was the word. EMAIL

Then a fairly easy one. I had i, t, r, h, after three tries. It could have been birth, girth, or mirth. So I tried to think of a word with b, g, and m, and there was actually one, gumbo. And that showed only a b, so the word was BIRTH. I should also note that the word could have been firth, as in the Firth of Forth, but if gumbo had not shown g, m, or b, that would have shown that the word was firth.

Next, a very difficult one, because of so many choices. I had – – a – e, with an l. L could have been fourth or second. I remember trying whale to cover l being fourth, and it was not, so it was second. That still left me with many other possibilities. I think I tried flake. and glaze. I had one guess left, but I thought I had eliminated all the first letters except b, and it couldn’t be blaze, so blame. And BLAME was the word.

On the next one, I had all the letters, u, l, r, y, s. So the word was SURLY.

Then I had e, p, and s. No other vowels. I thought of the possibility of two e’s, and I came up with SWEEP, which was the word.

I had e, r, i, and d. I tried rider, but it was not the word, but it showed – i d e r. So CIDER.

The next one had an a, e, y, and l. No r. So I thought it had to be MEALY, and it was.

Then I had all the letters, a t, y, h, c. So all I had to do was rearrange the letters,.none of which I had in the right spot. I tried to do it without writing the letters down, and I couldn’t easily think of it. But then I thought of YACHT. Had I just written the letters, I would have gotten it more quickly.

An interesting one, which required logic. I had – r – d -, with an o and an e. The e could not be last, it had to be first or third. The o could not be third. So the o was either first or fifth. So either o r e d -, or – r e d o. CREDO. I think that there was more logic required there, but I can’t remember what it was.

Then another – – o – e one. I had an l. No h, so not whole, or choke. L very likely second. – l o – e. Bloke was a word used before, which American players were apparently upset at, so that could not be the word. No a, so not above. I thought of globe or glove. I don’t know which I guessed first, probably globe, but then I got the word GLOVE.

The next one had u and o, and t, and then h. No s. So touch or tough, and I got the word TOUGH.

A hard one. E, u, and t, and d, not in right spots. T did not start word. D might. I tried muted, but d did not end word. It did show – u – e -., with the t and d not in those spots. So it had to be – u – e t, with a d. I could not think of a word with – u d e t, so d had to be first. I eventually thought of DUVET.

Next, an i, s, a, t d, in early tries. So the word was STAID. I wonder if all the people out there knew the word.

Another word with u and o, then t and r. I think I guessed trout, but it was not, but it showed – r o u t. So GROUT.

The next word had o, e, r, and t. T was not first, so not toner. If – o t e r, then VOTER, which was the word.

A word with i, e , u, and t. I got to unite or untie. I thought that untie might be a little more likely as the word, and I guessed that first, on my fourth guess,and the word was UNTIE.

Another word with three vowels. a, o, and u. A was third. Then I found an n. So, – – a – -. with u, o, and n. U not fourth, and not likely fifth, so probably second – u a – – with o and n. I came up with GUANO, which was the word.

The next wordle showed a u as the only vowel, and then I got a y, I had an r, and then an h. So u r y h, and one more letter. HURRY.

A challenging one, with e t, and s. T not first. No y, I thought that there could well be another e. I thought of sweet, and I was pretty sure that it was the word, but it was not. It showed – – – e t. And I still had an s, not first, and not fifth. I thought of reset, but no r in word. So then I thought,could it be beset, a fairly hard word for some players? But I had to try it, and the word was indeed BESET.

That gets us current on the Wordles. Actually not too hard altogether, except that BLAME was difficult to get, and there may have been another one or two tricky ones in there, but that was it. Words with three different vowels are usually fun and easy, and there were a few of those. If they would stay away from the – – a – e and – – o – e ones, it would be pretty easy, but of course one wants a few challenges in a word game!

“Then They Came For Fani Willis”

Greg Bluestein, political writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, reports that Georgia Governor Kemp ” is expected to sign a measure that gives the state new power to investigate, sanction, and even remove prosecutors for a host of broad reasons, including ‘willful misconduct,’ as Republicans seek sweeping oversight of local DA’s.”

You have probably heard about that bill. These bills, created by right-wing state legislatures in this country, never are stopped, no Republican in power thinks better of them. A Republican governor, and Republican state legislatures, are all they need, to barrel these bills through. Yesterday, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill which will ban all voting drop boxes in that state.

It does not take much insight to realize that these states, completely dominated by Republicans, at least ever since the “shellacking” of the 2010 midterms, and some long before that, are intending to set up fascist governments, where they have the only power. The bill in Georgia is of course directly intended to stymie, intimidate, and get rid of, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis,who has been conducting a major investigation of Donald Trump’s efforts to intimidate, threaten, and extort Georgia officials, primarily Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to “find me 11,780 votes,” to make up the amount of votes Trump lost the state by, plus one more.

“Find the votes,” meant “invent the votes.” Just make them up, add them to Trump’s total, and Trump wins Georgia’s electoral votes. This was such a criminal act, such a violation of any norms of a democracy, that Trump should be in jail now. But as things are in this country, nothing has happened, except that Willis is getting close to indicting him. So the Republicans who run the state have come up with legislation intended to get rid of Willis, and stop the investigation. Really not much different than Henry II’s “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” which was clearly intended to encourage the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170.

This legislation will not only enable Kemp or the Georgia legislature to fire Willis, it will intimidate every single DA in Georgia, that the king–um, the Governor (“Georgia is a free republic, we do not have any kings here!”)–can get rid of any one of them, for the vague and subjective “willful misconduct.”

This is pretty much what Prime Minister Netanyahu is attempting to do in Israel: put the judicial branch under the power of the executive branch. The only protection the people have against a leader who is seeking a totalitarian state, is the judicial branch. Control or neuter that, and there is nothing to stop the executive from trampling all laws and individual rights. This is the playbook used by Orban in Hungary, Erdogan in Turkey, and all the other fascists whom America’s Republican Party members cheer for and invite to speak at CPAC.

There is a massive and relentless effort underway to turn the entire world into a totalitarian state; or for now, a series of them. I wonder if France is next, with Le Pen. That is another story; should Macron’s effort to raise the retirement age there by two years, have been met with massive demonstrations, and even some violence? A classic dilemma, and Macron is no fascist, but Le Pen, just waiting to take advantage, is.

Back to Georgia, will this bill be found to be unconstitutional, because it violates the “separation of powers” which scholars have interpreted to be inherent in our Constitution? This doctrine is not specifically in the Constitution, and there have been decisions which have appeared to stand for the principle that separation of powers among branches of government is not mandatory in states.

And as the bulwark of their fifty-year attempt to take over all power to themselves, the Republicans have finally managed to install a Supreme Court which cannot possibly be counted on to protect any of it. “The unitary executive theory” is part of their framework. They want the executive to have absolute power–as long as it suits them. So the idea of all judges and district attorneys in a state being subject to the whim and political position of the governor, follows this. “Willis wants to investigate Trump? That is ‘willful misconduct,’ and we will remove her.” Just like that.

I don’t know if that many people realize how absolutely horrifying hat is, at least for those who believe in democracy, and that “no person is above the law.” What they are doing in Georgia, DeSantis, who is vying to be President, is doing in Florida. He has removed elected officials under various pretenses. He can’t quite have them executed, as in various historical periods, but that may be coming; at least a long jail term, and a law that says that they can never hold any office again. And the mob shouts with exultation, as the heads roll and are collected into baskets.

Republicans stand for the proposition that if there is something happening that they don’t like; if there is some elected official who is plaguing them, they just use their power in the state legislature and governorship to make some law which allows them to get rid of him or her. They are so proud of this, how they “own the libs” by making up laws specifically designed to do that.

Of course, these laws could also endanger their own side in theory, but they will selectively enforce them, and change them if necessary. When people finally woke up and elected Democratic governors in North Carolina and Wisconsin, a few years ago, the state legislature, in “lame duck session,” stripped powers from the governor. An all-out assault on democracy, which most of the media accept as “smart political tactics.”

There is an article today about how John Eastman was instrumental in stopping the vote count in Florida in 2000, which prevented Gore from becoming President. That saga is so awful that I can scarcely want to think about it. It was the first major step in the Republicans’ takeover of democracy, and no one stopped it, their Supreme Court majority countenanced it; and the media accepted and even applauded it.

What is the answer, the anodyne, to this? Well, voting, of course. But they’ve got it set up, at least in the states they own, so that they wield all the power, including the power to stop people who don’t agree with them, from voting. Hence Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders getting rid of drop boxes, another way to make it harder for working people to vote. If they could cancel elections, they would, but they are fine with doing it this way.

Their assault on democracy continues daily, it is Republicans’ way of life. They’ve got a whole series of countermeasures for anything we try to do to stop it; and most importantly, they’ve got a Supreme Court which will support them almost completely. Some headway was made in state legislatures in the 2022 elections, notably in Michigan and Pennsylvania, but so much more has to be done. Republicans and their media would scream and bellow if Democrats ever tried to expand the Supreme Court; but meanwhile they think nothing of rewriting laws, writing draconian ones, and then depending on their bought Court full of crooks, votes suppressors, and religious fanatics, to let them get away with it.

Can We Stop the Madness?

Another dreadful school shooting. A Christian preschool/elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. Three children and three adults. The shooter was killed by police.

Will anything ever be done to try to prevent such horrific events? Likely not. The media does not want to make it political, so they will rarely say that the Republicans in Congress and statehouses, will simply not vote to pass any major legislation to try to stop the prevalence of guns, and the ease in which people can get them and use them. So the rest of the comments by people in office do not do much good at all.

Not long ago, a six-year old somehow got a gun, took it to his school, and shot his teacher. She survived. She said that she will never forget the look on his face as he pointed the gun at her and shot her.

What kind of people are we raising, children and adults? I remember children on my street, playing with cap guns, bang bang. I wanted one, just to play like a Western show, but my parents didn’t want me to have one, which was fine. There is a certain appeal for boys, mostly, in practicing marksmanship, even as a fantasy game., but that has to be curtailed by parents.

Now we hear that the shooter was a female, first believed to be a teenager, now identified as a 28-year-old woman, who had two assault weapons and a handgun with her. It was speculated that someone may have supplied her with one or more of them, since a teenager could not easily get so many weapons, but adults can. The poison spreads, it is rarely a female, but we may hear of more. There are disturbed children, teenagers, and adults, of both genders, though of course most of the shooters are male. Of the last 250 mass shootings, 9 of the shooters were female. This shooter, as some of the others, took all those weapons with her, she was intending to kill hundreds of people, perhaps.

The problem, most predominantly, is very easy to know. It is the prevalence of guns. There have always been angry or malicious, vengeful, disturbed people, and society should try to ameliorate some of the mental health problems. But when you make it so easy for any of them to not only have a gun, but an assault weapon, which was designed to be used on the battlefields in war, these events are almost inevitable. It is absolute madness, and absolutely has to be stopped, unless we want America to turn into something out of a graphic horror novel. Maybe it already is.

Jim Kavanaugh, the highly respected retired Special Agent in Charge, who has handled many of these events over the years, said that people have to learn how to tell others if they have any sense that this may happen. Most shooters talk about this before they do it. they give warnings. Yes, that would turn us more in the direction of a culture in which people tell on other people, and maybe unduly so; but the alternative is not do say anything to anybody about someone who is threatening or drawing images or writing on the internet about these ideations.

Much more will be said, unfortunately most of it to no end. Maybe someday, Republicans will stop being owned by the NRA, and fund the humanity and courage to try to stop the spread of firearms, and the creation of highly disturbed and evil people who want to use them to kill other people. If not, the madness will continue unabated.

“Meet John Doe,” Then and Now

I had never seen much of Frank Capra movies. Maybe parts of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and then perhaps seeing all of it once. I had thought that Capra made overly sentimental movies, idealistic but somewhat preachy. I may well have been wrong about this, and after all, he is legendary. A friend of mine who is in the film business, is very high on “Sullivan’s Travels,” and I have meant to see it.

The other day, “Meet John Doe” was on. I started about twenty minutes in, just to take a look, and I found myself anxious to see how it would turn out, with the forces of decency and evil arrayed against each other. Most of you have probably seen the film, so I won’t relate the plot in all details; and I had to read about the first part that I had missed.

The movie came out in 1941, with America having gone through a horrible economic Depression, with so many people out of work, and barely subsisting. And of course, to some extent a result of that, Europe and even America saw the rise of fascists, Communists, totalitarians of all types. Yet still, the rich, the so-called “captains of industry,” the robber barons who were sure that their success at the game of acquiring wealth, meant that they were superior people destined to rule everyone else, were in power in this country, and intended to maintain it.

I had written about the film “Mank,” which as a subplot, revealed something that had not been verified until recently when the writer who had done a book about the California gubernatorial campaign of 1934, was able to see the archives at MGM Studios, which revealed that the people who ran Hollywood, and who hated the socialist Upton Sinclair, were able to defeat him by making up ads which featured unemployed actors, pretending that they were Sinclair supporters. A Black person; a man who put on a Russian accent and said he liked Sinclair because his politics are like those of Stalin; these phony ads effectively smeared Sinclair, who was leading in the race, and caused him to lose to a Republican, Frank Merriam, who was a typical pawn of the wealthy ruling class.

I wonder if Robert Riskin, who wrote the screenplay for “Meet John Doe,” had this history in mind, even if he was not privy to all of it, when he wrote his script. “Meet John Doe” shows us a struggling newspaper, with a determined young reporter, played by Barbara Stanwyck in one of her most appealing roles, who is about to lose her job. Her editor wants her to do one more article. In anger, she comes up with the idea of inventing a letter supposedly written by a depressed man who is about to jump off a building, because he is so disillusioned by what is happening in this country.

The letter gets a large response, and Stanwyck’s editor wants her to write more of them, and she will keep her job and get paid more if she can. So she invents the character of “John Doe,” and writes letters and even speeches for him. They have to find someone to be him, so they look around and find a barely subsisting man who used to be a minor league pitcher, but hurt his arm, cannot afford surgery. so is more or less a bum. They offer him enough money for the surgery, and he agrees to go along. He is played by Gary Cooper, who I had always thought was a rather wooden actor, but whom I am liking more, particularly when I saw one of those TCM featurettes where his daughter talked about what a very decent and idealistic man he was.

This story of “John Doe” takes hold in the popular mind, and Cooper overcomes his reticence, to start making speeches, written by Stanwyck, about how the only way to save this society is if people start to learn about their neighbors, try to understand them, make friends with them. Then “all the John Doe’s” will form a powerful force which can change things for the better.

The movement grows, towns start their own “John Doe Clubs.Then we learn that D.B Norton, the evil publisher of Stanwyck’s newspaper, intends to co-opt all of it, and turn it into a vehicle for him to become a quasi-dictator. He wants Cooper to do a speech where he throws all his supporters, who talk about forming a new political party, behind him, to run for President.

There is a truly unsettling series of scenes; the first where Norton and his “fat cat” friends, shown as corrupt and loathsome people, talk about how this John Doe movement has gotten out of hand; that the people need to be ruled by an iron hand, which is them. The contempt they have for the average people, the greed and unscrupulousness, must have shocked some viewers who first saw this movie, and you probably could not make something like that now, outside of an “indie” film.

So the convention of all these “John Doe Club” supporters takes place, and Cooper has no intention of supporting this evil publisher, and tries to talk about what his own views are all about. But one of the plutocrats has a microphone, and says that Cooper was not going to commit suicide, it was all a publicity stunt, which he was paid for. Which Cooper admits, and tries to explain, but they cut off his microphone. Then one of them starts booing, and this starts the crowd to be swayed, and ‘they start booing, and throwing things; and the police come in, and everything is ruined.

Cooper, distraught, is now actually going to jump off the building named in the first story that Stanwyck had written. The plutocrats show up, and either with a twinge of guilt, or more likely, tying up loose ends, they tell him that it will do his movement no good; the police have been told to immediately remove all of his traces of identification, and he will be buried in a Potter’s Field. He is going to jump, anyway, but Stanwyck, who has been ill, realizes what he is going to do, and rushes out to find him. She has fallen in love with him, because of his decency and idealism, and tells him that, and also that no matter what happens, they can do good things together. She says that “the first John Doe” died for the sake of humanity, and this must not happen again now.

Then she collapses in a faint, people help her out to an ambulance; people in the crowd tell Cooper that they still want to have their John Doe clubs, that the movement is not over. Henry, the editor, turns to Norton, and says, “The people. Try to lick that!”

Well, it is a moving film, very well done. There is idealism, but there is also cynicism about how “the malefactors of great wealth” (as FDR courageously called them) are determined to keep power, and will use any means to do it. Just like in the governor’s race in 1934. And somewhat paraphrasing the words of novelist Sinclair Lewis, who wrote that, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, and carrying a cross.”

Actually, some of the very rich in America supported the totalitarians in that era, as they do now. They figure out how to use everything for a profit. Now Rupert Murdoch decides that Trump is not useful to him any more, and he wants DeSantis. The same wine with a shiny new label. I won’t go into Bernie Sanders here, but unwittingly or not, he got Trump elected; many of his followers decided that they hated Hillary so much, that letting Trump loose on the country was not as bad, though they all rage against the bought-and-sold Supreme Court now. Sanders got a lot of money from somewhere, and it wasn’t just millions of people sending him $27, as he claimed. And who funded Jill Stein? The very rich have always had contempt for the rest of the populace, and are always ready to invent or co-opt a new candidate or slogan, to serve their ends.

This is to some extent all in “Meet John Doe.” The screenwriter Robert Riskin deserves much of the credit, but Frank Capra set up the scenes and brought out the characters’ performances. For that we should be very appreciative. I will watch more of his movies.Things written back then can have great resonance now.

Happy Tolkien Reading Day

Stephen Colbert celebrates the day the ring was destroyed with a special video:

I’m game.

My favorite Tolkien book: That’s a tough one. I love The Lord of the Rings because the plot lines are engrossing and the characters grow so much. But I also love the Silmarillion because Tolkien reaches back to classics and, dare I say, ancient religions, to construct a theology as inspiring as anything you’ll find in modern religions. My favorite Vala are Varda, Ulmo and Nienna because they stand for things I value the most: enlightenment, helpfulness and music, and compassion.

My favorite character: Despite the conventional wisdom, Tolkien writes some kick ass female characters who are strong, wise, courageous and flawed all at the same time. Eowyn is my favorite character.

My favorite chapters in LOTR: I’m a sucker for the battle chapters. Helm’s Deep and The Battle of Pelanor fields are pretty high up there. But oddly enough, I find the chapters where Pippin is an agent of change to be some of the most interesting because we don’t typically think of Pippin as a particularly heroic character. Maybe I like him because he’s so relatable. He’s foolish, curious, quick thinking, loyal and finally, he finds his courage. And probably second breakfast.

Like Stephen says, the chapters where the hobbits walk through the shire and old forest to be rescued by Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are idyllic and lovely, and foreshadow the dangers that lie ahead of them. The nights they spend in the Tom’s house where he tells them tales, the rain falls on the eaves, and Goldberry tells them to fear nothing when they wake up in the middle of the night are so serene. I’d almost prefer Tom’s house to Rivendell.

I never get tired of Tolkien and I’m amazed at the sheer volume of his works. I can’t imagine how he taught classes at Oxford and raised four kids while he was carrying around all those characters, scenery, plots and philosophy in his head. New Tolkien writings are released all the time. His son Christopher did a lot of the cleanup work on the Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, and Beren and Luthien. But there is so much more that most of us Tolkien fans knew nothing about until recently, like all of his letters and even more tales that went unfinished. Its a Tolkien glutton’s paradise.

So Happy Tolkien Reading Day. If you aren’t familiar with the Lord of the Rings, the audio version can be found on YouTube under many different channel names. Also see The Tolkien Professor, The Red Book, In Deep Geek, and Nerd of the Rings for more insight and analysis of Tolkien’s works.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks”

Throwback Thursday: Corey the Buttercream Dream sums it up.

Corey the Buttercream Dream, probably the only liberal in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s district, said this a few days after January 6, 2021. This is exactly what I thought and said at the time, with only slightly fewer cuss words. Note the complete absence of tears. As he says, forget Watergate. That will pale in comparison.


Is “Balance of Nature” a Fraud?

If you watch any television at all, you probably have seen ads for this company which calls itself “Balance of Nature.” You may have seen a hundred of them, because they appear to show up every half hour.

I realize that commercials are in general becoming even more prevalent, and of course there is nothing to do about them. I mute almost all of them, but I have heard these Balance of Nature ones more than a few times, as I am intrigued by them, but not because I have any intention of buying what they are selling, whatever it is. I have this feeling that the public is witnessing a big-time scam, and that they are clever enough to get away with it, and make tens of millions of dollars before they go away. They could go to jail for fraud, but that doesn’t happen very often.

If you have not seen the commercials, they are selling what seem to be vitamin pills, although they would call them organic supplements. They are capsules in bottles .One is titled “Fruits,’ the other, “Veggies.” How professional. The first I saw of this was someone who was captioned “Victor,” who said he was a dietician, but that he often got so busy that he forgot to eat his “fruits and veggies”. So he took the capsules, and he immediately saw a remarkable increase in his energy level.

Victor has been succeeded by several other purported real people who give testimonials. Every one of them says that Balance of Nature has increased their energy levels and capability, after taking the capsules for a few weeks, or a couple of months. One of them did a handstand to illustrate how effective they were.

Every one of the people, except for one, seems to be about 60-70 in age. Interestingly, they all speak with rather scratchy voices, Some older people do have that, but all of these do. Even the one woman touting the product, who looks mid-40’s or so, has a rather scratchy voice. This made me wonder if there is some voice effect being used by the maker of the commercials.

Ostensibly–and I use that word because they manage to say very little about the product–Balance of Nature, which is the name of the company, obtains the best fruits and vegetables, and makes capsules which contain the vitamins in them. They show a large field of some plants, and the adman’s voice says that they look all over to get the very best ones. How they do that is not shown or explained, except for the pictures of the fields.

So they take the very best fruits and vegetables, and they mash them up and make capsules of them which come in bottles. And these various people with scratchy voices say that they have made a great difference in their energy level and general health.

I eat a lot of fruit, and always have. I am not as assiduous with vegetables, though I try. In a usual summer, I might have something like four peaches and four plums a day, perhaps a few apricots, and cherries up through June when the season is over. I also like seedless grapes, melons, and I love olallieberries and boysenberries. I eat fruit because it is fresh, natural, often delicious, and I know that it is nutritional. I don’t think that they give me much more energy and productivity, but I am sure that they help.

I do not think that taking vitamin pills claimed to be the products of the very best fruits and vegetables, is nearly as worthwhile. I do not purport to be a nutritionist, but I think that much of the value of fruit is the entire fruit; the skin, the pulp, the juice, all of which you get when you eat a whole peach, or plum, or apple, or orange. And they do help to assuage hunger, which vitamins do not.

I am not saying that people cannot benefit from vitamins, particularly if they have a deficiency of a particular vitamin. I do think that eating whole fruits and vegetables is more nutritional than the vitamins. This is particularly true when we do not have any idea how Balance of Nature finds “the best ones,” makes deals to buy them, and then does some kind of thing which makes vitamin tablets which are claimed to contain all the best parts of the fruits and veggies.

I will say that in California, which I like to term “the fruit basket of the world,” there are farming problems. There was not enough water. Global warming is the greatest cause, and it has ruined some farms, and caused others to wonder how much longer they can continue. A woman who with her sons runs a small farm which had some of the greatest peaches you can imagine, had to cut down most of those yellow peach trees, because they had had suffered from lack of water. She understandably was so upset with this, that she will scarcely talk about it.

I miss those peaches, and there are fewer and fewer small farms which can keep going. The farmers also complain about he state government diverting water to support a particular type of fish, and reducing the farms’ water supply. I am very much in favor of helping all animals and birds and fishes, but I would also want to support trees and bushes of all sorts, and particularly those which bear fruit. This is apparently an ongoing problem in this state. And yes, there are a few “big agra” farms, but you can absolutely taste the difference between their crops and those which grow on the lovingly cultivated farms. And we don’t know how much those ‘frankenfoods” are created by injecting harmful drugs into them.

That is another story, but I bring it up here because it seems very unlikely to me that in this literal and figurative climate, Balance of Nature has gained access to “the very best fruits and vegetables,” from which they can make their vitamin pills.

This whole thing seems to be some kind of scam, or at the least, wildly exaggerated advertising. I tried to read more about this company. There are some sites which they apparently advertise with, or run, which say positive things with no detail at all. One of them lists: “Established in 1997.” “A doctor developed it.” “Products dependent on scientific research.” “Located in St. George, Utah.”

Who is the doctor? It is Dr. Douglas Howard, who is a chiropractor. He has some kind of degree from a chiropractic college, and then a few other purported degrees from foreign schools, which I will bet he purchased online. He did start this company, at least the brand name, in 1997. He apparently lectured about health issues, which many people do, you can hear them on the radio on weekends, literally trying to sell fish oil pills or other such things. Maybe some of them work, maybe not, but you wouldn’t want to take their word for it.

I can find nothing which describes how chiropractor Howard developed the capacity to find the best fruits and vegetables to put into his pills. I can find nothing which lists the nutritional science background of Howard, or any of his staff. I admittedly did not work that hard to do so; maybe you can find it. I did look up some reviews of the product, ostensibly coming from regular folks, though one has to always be wary. I will quote some of the more interesting ones, for your information.

“Extremely poor customer service. Giving us the runaround. Unable to reach a person to get a refund, they placed us on autoship when that was never requested. After two months of trying to resolve their wrong charges, I had to contact my bank to get a resolution! Never buy from this company!!!!”

“I started a subscription two months ago. After taking the fruit and veggie supplements, my blood pressure went way up. So I stopped taking them for a couple of weeks. Tried again just taking one capsule three times a day at meal times Again my blood pressure went way up, so I stopped taking the vitamins. Called customer support several times and could never get an answer. Left message, but no one called me back! Tried to go online to their website, but it was down. Now they’ve shipped another month supply that I can’t use, and they won’t refund my money. Terrible customer service! Products were bad for me.”

“Everyone should realize that the ‘spokesperson’ is cleverly implying that he is a doctor. Listen carefully and you will realize that you have been fooled.”

“Horrible customer service and the product doesn’t work….These guys are the biggest scams, and the money goes to advertising, not the product.”

“All reliable research has shown the product to be a total scam.”

“When the spokespersons are an optometrist, a chiropractor, and Vincent, the dietician who forgets to eat, you know it’s a scam.”

There are more, of course. There are even some positive ones, but I am inclined not to believe them, they read like ads. Maybe some people are helped by this, or want to think they are; but I read comments from people who said that their potassium levels went very high, or their blood pressure went up, or that the capsules are very difficult to swallow. My sense is that it is a total fraud. “Dr. Howard” found someone who can make tablets, and some clever marketers, and has enough money, or someone has backed him, so to be able to flood the airwaves with his ads.

This all bothers me for several reason/ First, I hate the ads. More importantly, they are bilking people, and maybe damaging their health. And the owner is probably making several million dollars, after which he will probably disappear. Less likely, complaints will be filed, and some settlement will be reached short of trial.

I don’t know much about the FDA or FTC rules regarding such things. There are probably all sorts of bogus pills being sold. It seems that the degree of fraud required for a private company to be criminally charged, is quite high. All they have to say is that they put some mashed up “veggies” and fruit in their capsules, and that the claims of results come from various other people. This is a fairly time-dishonored way to avoid criminal penalties for selling products which don’t do what the advertising claims. This didn’t go away after the hucksters at country fairs with their shills, pretended that this bottle of colored water would grow your hair back, and provide sexual potency. This is just another high-tech media version of it.

Do I wish I could have come up with something like this, to have made perhaps tens of millions of dollars? No, because I would never do it. But I do very much hope that those people who callously try to bilk others are exposed for their misrepresentations and scams.

The Climate Crisis Doesn’t Go Away If We Focus on Other Things

The United Nations just issued a report on the existential issue of climate change. Phrases such as “Humanity is on thin ice” are not new, but coming from the Secretary-General of the U.N, who presented the report, it should be given great credence. The report stated that a goal of limiting a worldwide rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees, is “achievable, but would require a quantum leap” in actions, to get there.

We are aware of this, and we respond with various emotions. It feels as if we are watching a train approaching a cliff where it is about to get so close that it will inevitably fall off, and no one does anything to stop it. In this case, it is not nothing, but obviously, according to the U.N. report, it is not nearly enough.

This is where we need some body which has the power to effect necessary measures. The U.N. was a great hope of humanity, but pretty much inevitably, it has devolved politically into two blocs which stymie each other; the veto that Russia has, keeping this body from enforcing edicts, or punishing any nation. We all live on this planet, and presumably have some connection with everyone else, but the war between democracies and totalitarian countries has made collective global effort impossible, which is insane, if we takes a step back and look at it from a wide view.

It is horrifying and depressing to think about what goes in the psyches of so many people, most of them the ones who run trillion-dollar industries, which refuses to allow them to contemplate the ever-growing danger, the point where the planet cannot be saved for living beings. One could conclude that it is a combination of insane greed, stupidity, a sense of omnipotence, that the problems will not affect them, because they are so insulated, and they have the illusion of control.

Maybe they are people who do not care a bit about what happens after they have passed on. Maybe they are confident that they will go to some afterlife where none of this matters. Maybe they don’t believe in one, and don’t care what happens to everyone else. Most of them have children and grandchildren, but I guess they don’t care about them.

Or maybe they have such delusions of power and invincibility, that they are confident that like the Mad Hatter and March Hare at the tea party, they can just shout “clean cups!,” and relocate to another planet, to rule over that. Whatever madness they suffer from, it keeps them from doing what desperately needs to be done to somehow reduce the emission of fossil fuels, which are most responsible for the rise in temperatures, the higher sea levels, and the extreme weather events we see every month.

Of course, being good at or lucky at business, does not make one intelligent in anything else. There are so many other people in the world who I would rather have making crucial decisions, then these oil trillionaires and timber tycoons who keep destroying the earth’s precious natural resources. That is one of the major flaws in how the human race evolved. There are tens of million of decent people who would want to do something positive about climate change, but the people who have the power to do it, mostly have no interest in giving up any of their profits to at least try to accomplish it

President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the Cabinet, are aware of the dire crisis, and try to do things to ameliorate it, though not always. There is the issue of the Willow Project in Alaska, which seems to pose a major threat to natural resources and climate, and was something which Biden had said he would not in general allow, but now apparently will. The matter is apparently complex, former Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland seemed to be in favor of it; there are various opinions pro and con. But at this point, I think that the climate situation is so exigent, that we would be a lot better off giving up some oil to save the human race.

Talking about it does not do much good. The Republicans, owned by the corporations, and opponents of anything which might cut into their profits, stand in the way of massive efforts to curb emission of fossil fuels. I don’t know how to ever get through to them, when fires get worse, the hurricanes increase, shorelines are eroded, and they just shrug. What it would probably take is a massive Democratic sweep in the elections, as in 1936 or 1964, leading to majorities which would pass such bills. But even as unlikely as that is, there remains the Supreme Court, filled with social darwinist corporatists who are prepared to strike down any such laws, as an overreach of federal power, an illegal “taking.”

We, the voters, let this happen. Not all of us, certainly. But when Gore and Hillary kept warning that the Supreme Court, with its power to control so many aspects in this country, was at stake in the elections, far too many people did not listen; and far too many media people didn’t care, or want to care, and so they focused on fashion choices, or sighing during a debate, or emails, rather than the survival of the human race; and of the animals and birds and sea creatures, and the all-important bees. It is still not too late, but there are many impediments to even try to fix it. But we have no choice but to try, whatever we can do as individuals or collectively; and to demand that the news media focus on it.