Thursday, November 28, 2019

Political and Societal Meanderings


   Right after the attacks on 9/11 there was a wave of patriotism that for a short time united the country. My politics were quite different back then but it felt good to stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow Americans despite our differences. What grated my soul during that time though was a little encounter I had with a loud-mouth, fat civilian at the South Carolina State Fair.

 I was at the fair in my army BDUs as part of a recruiting drive for the South Carolina National Guard. Sometime while my fellow soldiers and I were walking among the crowd passing out brochures, the operation against the Taliban and Al-qaeda in Afghanistan was launched. Naturally, with my compatriots and I wearing our camouflaged uniforms we instantly became the center of attention and started receiving congratulations from the now adoring crowd. No problem there, although I personally felt uncomfortable with the adulation since I was essentially at home and not part of the campaign.

What highly ticked me off though was getting slapped on the back by an overweight white guy, who while being careful not to spill what had to have been his fourth or fifth beer that late morning, preceded to give me military advice on how I was supposed to deal with those "rag heads."  Without going into details everything that non-serving idiot suggested would have gotten me charged with war crimes and court-martialed.

 I so desperately wanted to ask that fat moron that with his self-assumed and unearned military prowess how about he enlist and come join what he assumed would be a real life Rambo or Chuck Norris movie over in Afghanistan. In a rare display of good sense, I held my tongue and walked away but that encounter, and several others before and after still shapes my opinion of the general civilian population.

Fast forward to the present and we now have the Republican Party, overwhelmed with non-serving, arrogant, white guys, picking apart the reputation and loyalty of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman, someone who served and saw actual combat. It's beyond surreal to have Republicans throwing hissy fits defending Trump attempts at international blackmail at the expense of a true American war hero. This is a degree of hypocrisy and decadence worthy of a Greek or Roman tragedy.


    Since Presidential Derangement Syndrome is a persistent malady stretching back to at least Bill Clinton with symptoms appearing during Regan's tenure, my reaction to Trump could be played off as just another sore loser whining about politics. The trouble is that no president has ever embraced racists and racism like Trump. The best case in point was his reaction to the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia a few years back. Neo-Nazis, Neo-Conferates, Klan, and other assorted human scum generally classified as the "Alt-Right" were protesting the removal of a Confederate statue when they encountered counter-protestors.

Violence ensued with a self-identified white supremacist deliberately ramming his car into a group of counter-protestors killing one person. Even with a collection of known hate groups on the right, Trump somehow found the gall to say there "were good people" on both sides. Yeah, I've got vital news for the ignorant, if you're consorting with Nazis, you're on the wrong side of everything. Trump's antagonism towards what seems everyone not white is about as self-evident as the sky being blue on a cloudless day.

   Hey, this one is not an attempt at knocking Christianity in general. There are millions of Christians across the world who truly try to practice the teachings of Jesus. None of us are perfect, except President Jimmy Carter who needs to be made a saint even though he's not Catholic.

 My beef is with the sanctimonious types who profess to be followers of Christ but yet hold intensely anti-Christian views when it come to the treatment of refugees. Yes, I recently had dealings with someone who while regularly claiming a moral superiority based on his religious beliefs but openly and proudly supports separating families and caging kids at the border. His "logic" is that all nations have a right to control their borders.

 A wonderful idea except I don't see American sovereignty threatened by Mexican and Central American people fleeing drug gangs roaming freely in their countries. Especially when those drug gangs are the creation of a complete lack of coherent drug policy here in the United States.  Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign and zero tolerance laws did nothing to offer a different path for people stuck in poverty. All those laws did was mass incarcerate millions of African-Americans giving us a bigger prison population than Commie China.  As for recreational drug users, who were quite often white and at least middle class, they seemed to escape much of the draconian punishments.
   So yeah, I find it darkly humorous that in the coming weeks nativity scenes will be pulled from dusty storage boxes and put on display. All the while those owners will whine and gnash their teeth at news videos of poor refugees fleeing persecution being rounded up and put in cages.      

   In a better world, Trump's campaign would have died right then. There were other candidates just as right-wing as he proclaimed. But they were slightly more polished, more able to act like a decent human being despite wanting to take away health insurance or cut social security. And those other candidates would have absolutely not kissed Putin's ass like Trump does on every opportunity. Trump's one talent is his ability to corrupt everything he touches. He plays to our worst fears and coaxes our worst hates out into the open like dry kindling does a flame. "Evil" is an overused word but for Trump, I think it fits.

 To all those disgruntled progressives who even now whine that their candidate hasn't been proclaimed the nominee already, this is the creature we face. He and his sycophants are actively working to undo every reform for the last sixty years. This election cycle is not an "opportunity" as some of us on the left have dizzily proclaimed. The November 2020 election is about survival. He's gotten two Supreme Court picks with Justice Ginsburg's health becoming more questionable. We're on the edge of an abyss and another screw up like 2016 will be fatal.    

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Monday Charleston Trip

Last Monday I had to make a trip down to the Holy City to see my cardiologist. Turns out the news from my doctor was really good, except for one little piece. The cardiologist said he was surprised at how well I was doing, that my condition was so bad last year he didn't see me making such a strong recovery. Since my heart condition is genetic, all that means is that I'm doing okay right now and that things will still more than likely go sideways down the road. The appointment was during the morning hours, which allowed me to wander around afterwards. Naturally, I headed to the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park and Pier.  

Really cool sculpture that's been added since my last visit. Click on the photo to read the tablet at the base. 

Relaxing view of the marsh.

Another piece of art added since my last visit. Not sure why the art is painted on what looks like a giant oyster shell.

Cool fish.

This one was my favorite.

Fish chart of what is normally caught on the pier. Added this because of the number of times People have asked me what they catch on the pier.

My final stop was at Red's Ice House on Shem Creek for my fried grouper sandwich. It was worth the trip and I highly recommend it for lunch or dinner.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Narcissists of the World Unite!

All names have been significantly changed!!!

As coworkers went Andy Martin was the absolute worst. Before his retirement he carried a well earned reputation of being an egotistical, but yet insecure asshole with the vast majority of people who had any encounter with him while on the job. Unfortunately, Andy was on the three man team I was part of that took care of hospital sterilizers. That meant I had to work closely with him on a daily basis. And as you might be able to guess, I was subject to many of his lies, mind games, and outright scams.

The most audacious scam was during the time the third man on our team was a patient in the hospital. We're both at work but Andy calls me up on the phone and says I own him fifty-dollars for my share of the flowers he purchased for our coworker getting surgery. I knew nothing about Andy getting flowers and had never agreed to share the cost on anything. My refusal to cough up any money left Andy stuttering on the phone so badly that he hung up on me. That was a pretty typical example of his underhanded nature.

Anyone working with Andy quickly realized he had no conscious and an extremely exaggerated opinion of himself. And yes, he was obsessed with status and not losing face in front of others. Hence why he called on the phone instead of finding me and asking for the fifty-dollar flower money in person. While this particular scam fell short, Andy was the type that held grudges.

While Andy was a very short, overweight, middle-aged man he regularly bragged about his Ford Mustang, his Harley motorcycle, and his truck which was one of the overly large types. Along with that, he never stopped talking about the land he owned, his extra house in North Carolina, and his numerous guns. I can't help but mention the regular and excruciatingly detailed stories of his home improvement projects he would tell to near captive audiences, complete with a seemingly infinite number of boring pictures showing his progress.

My weirdest incident with Andy occurred over a pair of pliers of mine that in the space of a few seconds went missing. We were both sitting on the floor fairly close to each other working on a particular type of sterilizer. My tools for this repair were situated on the floor to my left while Andy's was on his right. During this repair, I had to crawl under the sterilizer with my pliers to loosen a valve that was giving us trouble. Once it was loosen enough to be removed by hand, I dropped my pliers on the floor between Andy and myself and pulled the valve free of the sterilizer. In the space of a few seconds as I worked the worn part out of the sterilizer assembly, my pliers grew legs and walked away.

I immediately confronted Andy about the location of the pliers but he played stupid saying he hadn't touched or seen what happened to them. While the missing/stolen tool was a minor inconvenience since my boss would order me another, Andy had an evil grin on his face worthy of some Bond villain whose plan to take over the world was on the verge of succeeding. This little piece of bullshit was Andy getting even for me not falling for his fifty-dollar flower scam or some other little imagined insult to his dignity. The one overriding fact in all this I have to make clear was that Andy knew I understood he had stolen my pliers.

Going to the boss and accusing Andy of petty thievery would have resulted in him going all drama queen making everyone's life a pain in the ass for days. Yeah, stupid stuff like this with Andy happened on a regular basis. So much that a few years later management forced Andy into retirement. Most people who work at the hospital for as long as Andy have nice retirement parties thrown in their honor. Not him, in fact absolutely no tears were shed as he packed up his belongings and clocked out on his final day.

This true story of a narcissistic asshole should sound sickeningly familiar on a national scale.

For Trump's entire time occupying the Oval Office, he has been dogged with evidence that in some form or the other he, his family, and his advisers conspired with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election in his favor. Absolutely nothing in his behavior nor actions has done anything to dissuade rational people of that idea. In fact, everything Trump does has some clear benefit to Russia, whether its undermining the NATO alliance, the European Union, our position in the Middle East, or just our national security. As Speaker Pelosi recently told him during a heated exchange, “All roads lead to Putin for you.”

So Friday when it was announced Trump was considering an invitation to attend the May Day Parade in Moscow, the memories of Andy and the stolen pliers came flashing back to me. It's almost like Trump is daring us to accuse him again of being a Russian agent. Just when I thought Trump couldn't be any more brazen with his Russian sympathies than the time during the Helsinki summit a few years ago when he did everything to appease Putin short of kissing his ass on live television.

After three years occupying the White House, you would think the depth of Trump's narcissistic behavior couldn't get any worse. That the Republican Party and his cabinet and staff would force him to adhere to some sort of limits on his extreme behavior. I knew from day one after the November 2016 election that he would be a nightmare, but I never considered how insidious his corruption and narcissism would be to the nation. One little, insecure man with delusions of grandeur can make the workplace a pain. You put a similar individual into a position of power and he threaten the foundation of everything good in an incredibly short time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Failed Experiment

 Warning, I'm in a deeply pessimistic mood.

For years a certain pompous individual on one of the cable news morning shows would occasionally expound on a quote attributed to the 19th century German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, that I found exceedingly naive in outlook. This pompous morning talking head, a former congressman suffering from his own mild form of delusions of grandeur, would bloviate on this quote whenever he wanted to suggest that the United States was immune to the internal and external factors that undermined most nations.

“God looks after fools, drunks, and the United States,” the morning talking head would say with a medium idiotic smile on his face visibly proud of what he considered to be his down home, country-lawyer cleverness. Okay, while he butchered the quote's true wording, I'll cut the doofus some slack on his use of modern language. But for anyone aware of history and how many nations and empires through the centuries assumed they had divine protection assuring their prosperity and even survival to even mention the quote in a serious way other than sarcasm is stupidity.

Of course, maybe the talking head was being equally sarcastic when he repeated the quote while staring into the camera and flirting with his married, female cohost, but it didn't seem that way. I wish the quote was true, but unfortunately events and circumstances suggest to me that not only are we majorly screwed right now, things will more than likely get very worse. Yes, I'm mostly talking about the slowly evolving Impeachment drama taking place in Washington DC.

For the majority of right-wing folks all the allegations against Trump are a scam perpetrated by Democrats and the media, both hostile to his declared MAGA agenda. A few bold right-wingers have come forward to say that while his Ukrainian actions are not okay, they don't rise to the level of Impeachable offenses. I can only imagine how their opinions would have flipped had President Obama called up some foreign leader before the 2012 election and told him to cough up harmful information on Mitt Romney. The answer to that flight of fancy is glaringly obvious.

For us lefties though I see ample evidence that many of my political comrades don't exactly have both feet grounded in reality. Given everything that's happened, it's a no-brainer that Trump will be Impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. The whole spectrum of Democrat from moderate-centrist to ultra progressive have been gleefully dancing in the streets since the Ukraine-gate scandal broke open.

The problem here is that a good many Democrats seen to have forgotten that for Trump to be kicked out of office he has to be convicted of the Articles of Impeachment in the Republican-controlled United States Senate. That would require a large number of Republican senators developing a working conscious and spines. That is simply not going happen. To even consider the possibility shows such a huge lack of understanding of the Trump cult it is laughable.

So the most likely scenario is this, senate Republicans quickly acquit Trump of the charges with him proclaiming his innocence and the defeat of a soft coup. This will energize his base and bring back independents who soured on the entire process. Not to imitate the pompous talking head I mentioned earlier, but like Emerson said, “When you strike the king, you must kill him.” Going into the 2020 election, Trump could very well ride his impeachment victory into another term.

The Democrats come away from the affair blaming each other and second guessing their leadership. It's not hard to see the party demoralized and rudderless, unable to promote any type of vision with so much energy going to the impeachment. Throw in a credible third-party candidate siphoning off votes and a still growing economy and Trump could win the election even though his popularity has never peaked above fifty-percent. Yes, this scenario has a high probability of him taking the electoral college while losing the popular vote again.

To put it bluntly, I'm not feeling any warm fuzzies over the impeachment and the coming election. The Republican Party is now a cult while many Democrats are running around talking about the 2020 election being an “opportunity.” This only thing this election is about is the survival of the United States of America as a functioning democratic republic. Yes, we need major reforms but you can't remodel a rundown house when some of the occupants are pouring gasoline everywhere and lighting matches.

It doesn't matter to me who the eventual Democratic nominee will be, I'm voting for he or she no matter what. But that being said, I would be lying if I didn't also say that in my opinion some of the candidates are far more electable than others..

Contrary to the television talking head with a illogical fondness of a 19th century German politician's sarcastic quote, there is no divine protector looking over the United States. Numerous other nations and empires who believed they were on the right side of God soon found themselves swept away into history. Remember, the official state religion of the Roman Empire was Christianity for several decades before Rome fell and the western half of its territory descended into chaos.

To believe the United States somehow occupies a special place in God's eyes is the height of hubris, ignorance, and delusion. Personally, given my personality and nature I would be making plans to get the hell out of the country if I had the resources to pursue that goal. Yeah, I believe the situation is that bad. 

Despite my darkness, I would loved to be proved exceedingly wrong in my assessment.