Monday, February 29, 2016

Odds And Ends, Leap Day 2016

1) Why is a rout in South Carolina big, defining, earth-shaking news--and a rout in New Hampshire wasn't? The way the mainstream media has reacted to Hillary Clinton's win in South Carolina defines perfectly what is wrong with the mainstream media. South Carolina, as a state, is overwhelmingly Republican in outlook and fact. One of the problems with the Democratic Party as it now stands is that members of the party that live in states that always vote Republican--the last Democratic presidential candidate to win South Carolina in a general eleciton was John F. Kennedy, for God's sake--have an outsize influence on the outcome of national races.
Or put more bluntly--South Carolina Democrats live in South Carolina. Like being in college, or being in prison, you can't help but be affected by the reality of your surroundings. South Carolina Democrats are no more representative of the "typcial" electorate than are voters in places that are reliably progressive; they are as far out of the mainstream as voters in places like Berkley or Ithaca. So Hillary won a big majority; so what? It's about as surprising as Sanders winning huge in Vermont is going to be.
But to listen to the media, Sanders is now doomed, because he didn't exceed expecatations in yahoo country. There's a lot of states left to vote--46, to be precise. Clinton may win the nomination anyway, because of the accursed "superdelegates" that exist only to keep the entrenched elite in control of the party. But Sanders is not doomed because a state that hasn't voted Democratic in fifty years didn't warm to his message.
2) There was an article in the paper that the United States officially banned imports of goods made by slave labor. I was a little shocked that this was even necessary. Not to keep bringing up what an old fogey I am, but when I was in school, it was an item of faith--and history curriculum--that slavery was illegal in every country in the world; I remember a quiz question in the ninth grade asking which country was the last to ban it (Saudi Arabia, if you're interested). Now, forty years later, we find out that it is still apparently quite alive and well in various places around the world?
The key words in the sentence above are "forty years later." Around the globe, in the last forty years there has been a marked and global trend toward making "markets" and "trade" and "business" all powerful. The fact that slavery is now so openly prevalent is not a coincidence. Slavery, frankly, is the ideal business model for unfettered "business" interests. And its resurgence and the open acknowledgement that it still exists should be cause for a more vigorous response than merely banning the importation of goods made by slave labor. We love to intervene militarily around the globe; why not send in the Marines to entire countries that allow slavery to exist and flourish?
There are times when I really think I died some night when I went to sleep, and I woke up in another planet's hell.
3) Speaking of hell, after a couple week's hiatus, the troll wars have resumed. People with personal axes to grind have been posing all over various sites about other people, and it's gotten to the point where I've had to turn off notifications for some apps on my phone because some nights fifteen minutes doesn't go by without somebody posting another half-witted diatribe about "suspicious activity" that never seems to lead to any arrests. I have the same question for those people that I always have: instead of putting stuff on Mobile Patrol's "tips" line, if you're convinced that someone is dealing drugs in the building next door, why not just call the police? The police are going to keep your name confidential, and they might actually respond, too, without the location of the person making the complaint becoming public knowledge.
4) And moving over to the sports world--the Rangers made a "big move" yesterday, trading two second-round draft picks and a mid-level prospect for yet another has-been veteran, Eric Staal. Staal was a legitimate star--six years ago. The general trajectory of his career has been down, and the last couple of years, it has looked like a ravine slope. The Rangers already have a bunch of guys that don't live up to what they are capable of. What exactly does he bring to the table that they don't already have?
And he does nothing to address the team's biggest problem--the fact that the defensive defensemen on the team are getting their heads handed to them every game, all game. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are awful now; they get first pairing minutes, and they wouldn't even be AHL all-stars now. And the coach of this team, Alain Vigneault, who seemed like a godsend two years ago, is now demonstrating why he was shown the door in Montreal and Vancouver. He plays favorites like a bad teacher. He seems incapable of actually playing younger players, while worshipping at the altar of "experience" like a temple prostitute. He's less obvious about it, but he has a bigger and more extensive doghouse than his predecessor, the acerbic John Tortarella, does, and it is next to impossible to get out of it. And some of his decisions border on willful stupidity:
a) The continued inability to write the name "Dylan McIlrath" on a lineup card is stupefying. McIlrath is a former first-round pick who has done well in limited ice time all season. He plays defense. He actually is a physical player, that sometimes fights. He is sneaky good offensively.
And he sits, night after night, while has-beens like Girardi and Staal get beaten like dirty rugs every single game. Others that should be playing more than they do are Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg, and Chris Krieder.
b) The Rangers traded for Keith Yandle last year specifically to juice up the power play and to see if an offensively gifted defenseman could boost the numbers of the top-line forwards from "adequate" to "really good." Instead, Yandle doesn't even play top pairing on the power play, and is often stuck playing on the second pairing or even the third in even -strength situations. Why did we give up a first rounder and two top prospects for this guy, if you're not going to play him?
c) In the classic bad-coach move, there are several players on the Rangers that are being given roles they can't handle. Derek Stepan is a sorry excuse for a number one center. He's a decent player, but not in that role. Tanner Glass' presence on an NHL roster is a mystery to everyone but Vigneault. The recent acquastiion and use of Daniel Paille, who has been awful for years, was inexcusable. How hard can it be to find a viable fourth line guy? And why wouldn't you want to use young guys there, that have a chance to actually get better? It took this guy three years to play JT Miller regularly, and he's been the best player on the Rangers, and one of the best in the league, for two months.
The Rangers should make Henrik Lundqvist wear number 77. Because he's going to end up like Ray Bourque, having to play twenty-two seasons before hoisting a Stanley Cup.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Thoughts on the Kesha Case

I meant to write a piece on this when it happened a couple of weeks ago. I'm not a fan of the pop singer Kesha, or Ke$ha, as she used to bill herself. Her recent absence from the airwaves, I honestly thought, was because her fifteen minutes had passed, not because she was embroiled in a lawsuit seeking release from her contract with Sony because her producer had been sexually abusing her in the early years of the contract. The case was finally ruled upon a couple of weeks ago, and some judge basically told her that she had to live up to the contract. And a firestorm has erupted, rightfully so.
First off, the awful nature of recording contracts has been a consistent theme of American music for six decades. Record studios sign artists for ridiculous amounts of material for chicken feed; Kesha owes Sony six more albums, and I am sure that her compensation is nowhere near what her global record of successful sales would suggest she was worth, regardless of my opinion of it.
And she wasn't necessarily looking to get out of recording for Sony; she just didn't want to work for this particular producer any longer. And once again, a judge showed that money and power and the nebulous concept of "contract" trump everything else in American jurisprudence. Justice is a noble ideal, but the reality is quite different.
I used to deal with the aftermath of allegations of sexual misconduct all the time in my former job. Of the several hundred clients that I had, at least thirty over the years were at risk of homelessness because they had come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct by a member of the household they lived in (almost without exception male members of extended families, either stepfather figures or stepbrother figures) that were rejected by either CPS or law enforcement. In all but two or three of the cases, I believed that something untoward happened, based on consistency of story, body language, subsequent developments, and reactions to the allegations among the family (I want to emphasize that I am not necessarily blaming CPS in these cases; much of the time, it is difficult to find evidence that can meet the legal standards that would result in an "indicated" report or legal charges being brought). And I have become painfully aware in recent years of just how widespread this sort of thing is among the world at large. There are far too many women that have worked as waitresses in non-chain restaurants that have been hit on at best, or forced to have sex with the owners at worst, to keep their jobs. I know of some teachers, some women in the corrections system, a few women in non-profits, some others in other fields that have abruptly left jobs, even students--that have reported similar experiences. There is this misconception out there that these militant "feminazis" make up this kind of crap in order to get ahead or settle personal scores or try to game the system to get what they want. There is a repulsive undercurrent, too, out there that claims that the women initiated this stuff and that only when they didn't get what they were looking to achieve did it all of a sudden become a "misconduct" or "rape" issue.
In this particular case, I am inclined to believe Kesha more than the Sony guy, for a number of reasons. One is that, as noted before, the music industry is notorious for its exercise and maintenance of control over the people actually creating the music; it is one of the most exploitative industries on earth--and all sex-related misconduct is, at the core, a power and control issue. Or put more bluntly, it certainly fits, a lot better than OJ's glove. Two is that Sony has a corporate culture of not respecting employees or customers--witness the hacking scandal of its own employees a few years ago. And then there has been Kesha's willingness to halt a fairly successful career to pursue this; no one does this if they are motivated by money only, and even spite would be hard-pressed to provide adequate motivation for this sort of thing. And another reason is so much of the known history of this case fits the established patterns of sexual misconduct cases. ABC providentially "found" a video of Kesha saying five years ago that the guy she named had never hit on her, in apparent contradiction of her claims in the suit. In most cases of ongoing sexual misconduct, a major component of the control exercised by the predator is using whatever leverage comes to hand to make the victim deny they are being victimized, at least until a breaking point comes.
And one of the more compelling indirect notes surrounding this case came three years ago, before this suit was filed, when Kesha entered a facility seeking treatment for an "eating disorder" that certainly wasn't an obvious issue. Her mother claimed at the time that the disorder was bogus, and that the guy she eventually sued was responsible for the placement because of his constant insulting references to her weight (another well-known tactic of serial controllers--chip away or destroy their victim's self-esteem, and few weapons are more potent when dealing with young women than caustic references to their physical appearance).
Over the course of my lifetime, I have seen dozens of musical artists get into long, drawn-out battles to escape from bad contracts, for a variety of reasons. Bruce Springsteen didn't record for three years after he first hit it big because of a contract dispute. The Beatles formed their own company over an exploitative contract. John Lydon and Public Image have a very light canon considering the length of time they have been around, because Lydon was fighting an exploitative contract for two decades. I'm not as up on modern bands as I should be, but almost unnoticed in the midst of the Kesha trial, a prominent label's CEO was forced to resign; after one women went public with allegations, seven others reported similar treatment (and another tool of the predator is convincing the victim that no one will believe them if they tell, and that they are the only one that this is happening to because they "deserve" it). Since the verdict was handed down, a veritable Who's Who of female recording artists have publicly come out in support of Kesha, which is also suggestive that this particular smoke has some fire to it.
The judge's decision is not necessarily the final word on the subject. But it is a lesson in the reality of not only the music business, but of many areas of our lives. The "justice system" is not designed to protect the interests of individuals, rhetoric aside. And those that buck the system as it is currently practiced cannot expect to be treated fairly. The simple fact is that the side with a history of malfeasance, in an industry where exploitative and unfair business practices have been the norm for decades, which reflect general trends in society at large, were affirmed in their ability to continue to take advantage of the people whose ability makes them money. And make no mistake; the primary result of this decision is going to be that Sony is going to continue to make a lot of money off Kesha for a long time to come.
I wonder what the courts would decide if an artist whose contract was dropped by a record company because their sales dropped precipitously sued for the balance of money owed in a contract. Somehow I doubt the courts would have the same view of the "sanctity of contracts." The ability to inflict and perpetrate injustice in the name of upholding contracts goes clear back to the time of Jacob and Esau, and the result always seems to be that the devious, immoral, and reprehensible win.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Review: DEATH WAVE

Death Wave is noted sci-fi author Ben Bova's sequel to New Earth, in which humans made contact with a civilization with Sirius as its sun. Much of the crew has returned to Earth, with news of a civilization killing gamma-ray wave heading, slowly, towards other planets and Earth in the Milky Way. The story is the efforts of one of the more idealistic members of the exploration team, who brought his alien wife back to Earth, to get the world to take action, and the ruthless way that the World Council leader and her minions try to keep him under lock and key for their own purposes. The book has its strengths; most people would be as suspicious and paranoid about alien contact as people are in this book. The flaw, such as it is, is that the main character is hard to believe in--almost a parody of a human being. Although his single-minded obsession with the wave rings true, his stubborn insistence on action now, given that he was a career diplomat in his pre-space life, simply does not ring true. And when the main character in a book is distractingly unreal, it affects the entire story, in this case abetted by the cardboard-cutout villainy of the World Council leader who somehow stops short of the easist and most direct solution--killing the guy when they had the chance. This isn't a half-bad book, but like most Bova efforts, a great story is somewhat undermined by the weaknesses in his characters.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Our Wonderful Press Narratives

My opinions on the presidential race aren't exactly clothed with mist and difficult to discern. Sanders is the first candidate I've actually been excited about since Jesse Jackson in 1988 (and before you make a face or belittle that enthusiasm from nearly three decades ago, you tell me--would he really have been worse than Dukakis, Gore, or the first Bush? Because that's who he was running against, and 1988 was the year when things started to go really south in this country. But that's beyond what I want to write about this morning). And the longer this campaign goes on, the more the evidence that the Mainstream Media is nothing more than a tool of the elite, hopelessly co-opted long ago by the kleptocracy that has near-total control of this country at the moment, accrues.
Consider the dominant media narratives of the past couple of weeks:
1) Clinton's nomination is inevitable.
2) Sanders can't win; he's not doing well enough in certain states.
3) Trump is a total ass clown that somehow still has a commanding lead in the GOP race.
4) Despite an inability to get even a quarter of Republican voters to cast a ballot in his name thus far, Marco Rubio is the Republican with the best chance of winning a general election.
5) There is a palpable discomfort in the Mainstream Media that the nominations are not yet set in stone, that the fact that it's still an open question who is going to run in the fall for each side is a bad thing--even though 46 states have yet to hold their primaries/caucuses.
This is the reality.
1) Clinton's nomination is not inevitable. One could make the case that Clinton is the most divisive American political figure since Bobby Kennedy; she inspires a visceral hatred in a significant portion of the electorate--and not all of them are Republicans. There have been three Democratic state contests so far. Clinton barely won Iowa and Nevada, and got stomped in New Hampshire. For someone that had 50-point advantages in the polls a few short months ago, this should be inspiring panic, not easy assurances of inevitability. More to the point, it seems like no one is really enthusiastic about Hillary; most of her supporters seem to be motivated by either wanting to be on the "inevitable" winning side, or think that she's somehow more electable than Sanders is.
Here's the reality, folks. Clinton has been part of the power structure for 30 years. Clinton is more of the same mindset that has ruined the country. Clinton has her husband's tendency to adjust her "views" to polling, and doesn't seem to have any core beliefs other than her own right to hold the office.
And for God's sake, the Bush experience should forever turn this country off dynasties. Any actual Democrat that remembers the Clinton presidency fondly ought to remember who was responsible for NAFTA becoming law, who was in the Oval Office when the deregulatory madness that we are suffering with now became law, and who sold out our lower middle class and poor on "welfare reform" so he could "win" an election that he was going to win anyway. Hillary Clinton has no core principles, and Hillary Clinton is entirely too comfortable with the status quo, which most Americans of whatever political stripe agree isn't good for them. You can't decry business as usual on the one hand, and then enthusiastically support the archetype of business as usual on the other. And the media's bland assurance that this is "inevitable" is the political equivalent of the Spalding Smails syndrome: "This is what you're going to get, and you'll like it."
2) Sanders most certainly can win. The media wrote him off in the beginning because he had no major PAC support--and a huge proportion of Americans have, by opening their wallets, proven that to be false. Then it was the "socialist" canard--except that we are far enough removed from the Cold War that for younger people, that label means less than zero. In fact, my daughters' generations have not been exposed to the rhetoric and calumny of leftist political persuasions that was a part of my generation's basic education; what Sanders is proposing, which was not unusual in my youth, is something no one has given voice to in American politics in decades--and sounds pretty damn good to an entire generation that sees nothing but debt and bleak prospects for life ahead. (Aside to the media and power brokers: if you really want to do something about the heroin epidemic, give the young generation some reason not to get f****d up on a regular basis. This life sucks, to be blunt, if you're young, damn near hopeless in fact, and why not get high if there's no real hope of anything getting better?) Sanders has done something that no one thought possible even a year ago--he has gotten a generation that was rightfully cynical about our political system involved in it.
Remember the contras and when Nicaragua was the Big Threat To Democracy? (there always has to be a Big Threat To Democracy for the status quo to focus on, to keep the masses frightened and the dollars flowing to the kleptocracy, but that, too, is another matter) In 1990, after a decade in power, the Sandanistas finally allowed an election, and everyone was certain that they would win, because of their entrenched power and their ability to game the system. What actually happened? Most of the country waited for as long as 18 hours to vote that day, and the regime lost. I remember some pundit writing "People do not stand in line for hours at the ass end of nowhere to vote for the status quo." And that is why Sanders can win. We have seen votes taken in three states, There are a lot of people that normally don't care about politics that care about casting a ballot for this candidate. He might not win anyway; there's a fair amount of institutional bias against him. But the media's constant drumbeat that he can't win seems intentionally designed to try to keep people from participating in the actual democratic process that so many of our elites like to pay lip service to.
3) As Trump's lead refuses to shrink, the media is growing as desperate as the rest of the Republican establishment about the possibility that he might actually pull this off. And so, the "Trump As Buffoon" coverage is being ratcheted up. I want to emphatically say that I do not support Trump, I do not like Trump, and I do not look forward to a possible Trump Administration.
But I will say this. The idea of Trump as President scares me less than the other jokers on that side of the aisle winning the election. Trump is about Trump, first and foremost. Trump has many positions that I abhor, but is actually sort-of Rockefeller Republican on others (and it should be noted that Trump's father was a huge supporter, and beneficiary, of Rockefeller when he was governor of New York in the 60's, when Trump himself was young); the others are uniformly repellent on every issue that matters to me. And I think, despite the incongruity of a multi-millionaire leading them, what his commanding lead shows is the majority of Republican voters, too, are at least dimly aware that they have been thrown overboard by the system long ago, and are flocking to Trump because whatever else he may or may not be, he definitely is not Business as Usual.
And dispute his record all you want, and many do, but Trump has a genuine record of accomplishments as well as failures. He has been a grown-up in the real world for a long time, not a tool of the power structure like Rubio, not a creature of the asshole contingent like Cruz. He is willing to dispense with the niceties of genteel politics as usual, as well. He is not a clown; he's as egotistical as it comes, and certainly does not brook dissent or being thwarted well at all. But he's the sharpest tool in that aisle of the shed. The media probably knows this, but the media is just another tool that the kleptocracy has to maintain its grip, and so the near-universal portrayal of him as some sort of bozo is going to continue.
4) And may it continue, because if the media is falling in line behind Marco Rubio--well, we're not that stupid, even the Republicans yahoos among us. There is nothing of substance to Marco Rubio, and this has been made painfully apparently. He is the most transparently beholden to the people behind the curtain, and it shows. For someone that has only been in the national public eye for a few years, he already has a number of stunning gaffes on his resume, that are only going to be rehashed even more as the campaign goes on.
And this bleating of Rubio as having momentum--we're not that stupid. Rubio can't win even 30% of Republican votes. He is a zero, a nothing, supported by the billionaires that, no matter how much money they throw away on him, cannot disguise his basic vapidness. And the media is shredding what little credibility they have left by parroting this narrative.
5) And what I'm really most irritated about is the fact that mainstream media apparently do not want to do their job--covering an election. They would prefer to have the nominations already in place, so that they can write canned puff propaganda pieces for nine solid months leading up to the general vote in November. They're actually pissed that the races are not over yet, and that they actually have to go through the pretense of covering campaigns.
That is the only viable alternative explanation to the idea that the mainstream media are total creatures of the kleptocracy Neither is appealing to contemplate. Anyone that watches TV or reads their local newspaper as their source of news can figure this out, and many have, years after they should have, but better late than never.
This may be the last year when there is actually some reason to participate in the creaky, near-sham "democracy" that we have. For the first time in memory, there are unusual candidates running with a good chance of winning in both parties. And I, for one, am hoping for a Trump-Sanders contest. It would be the biggest stick in the eye to our corporate masters that we could possibly muster up, and I would love to see what the response is going to be.















Thursday, February 25, 2016

Permanent Debt To Society, Ad Nauseum

Twenty years ago, the state of New York passed what is now usually known as Megan's Law, which required the registration of sex offenders with local authority and their residential and criminal information made available to basically anyone that wants it to see it, among other provisions. There are three classifications of offenders; Level One offenders have been adjudged the least serious and least likely to repeat. The original law stipulated that Level One offenders came off the sex offender registry twenty years after conviction, if they had complied with all requirements during their time on the list and had not gotten in trouble again.
Well, guess what? Twenty years have passed, and it's time for a lot of offenders--a few hundred, across the state--to come off the list. And predictably, the pitchforks and torches are coming out. In our area, someone in the legislature is trying to extend the time of supervision to at least 25 years, and that a psychiatrist's approval must be garnered in order to remove the offender from the list. What caught my attention when I saw this gem online this morning was that it was coming from the Democratic side of the aisle, somebody I used to deal with professionally, and someone that, in her day job, moves heaven and earth to make sure that another subset of the citizenry is protected from unfair and unending discrimination because of a poor choice made long ago, in most individual cases. I really expected better than this pandering to the yahoos from "our" side of the aisle.
That aside, there are two elements in play here, both of which I am increasingly less tolerant of as I grow older. One is, in a lot of cases, somewhat nobly motivated, I suppose, but people lose their flipping minds taking the idea to ridiculous lengths. In recent years, the shibboleth of "protecting the children" has taken on a sordid life of its own, as all sorts of nonsensical, impractical, cruel and unusual, and frankly illegal ideas have been floated, taken seriously, and sometimes enacted because we are supposedly looking out for the interests of children. This one isn't as dumb as ideas like prosecuting parents for letting their grade school kids play outdoors unsupervised, as has happened in some parts of this benighted country, but it's a knee jerk reaction to a "problem" that has already been more than adequately addressed. There are too many adults all over this country that use the "protecting the children" mantra to exercise their own tendencies towards control, vindictiveness, and exhibiting moral superiority. In many cases, it's a fine-sounding rationale to indulge in behavior that we normally would blanch at or vigorously resist if directed at adults. And in the long run, this zealous "protection" leads to children reaching physical adulthood with absolutely no coping skills--but I digress. This is not a coping issue; this is not about the children at all, actually.
What it is is the growing, worrisome, and morally reprehensible notion that has really taken root in this country over the last thirty years. And that view is that no crime is ever fully paid for, that the debt to society is never paid in full, that one convicted of crimes must always bear the stigma and pay the consequences, even well beyond what the justice system has decreed they must bear. Most of the Level Ones got the designation because a) the crimes were of a certain level that the justice system has decided are not deserving of incarceration, and b) the sentence was the result of a plea bargain that at the time, saved society the time and expense (and for the children involved, the additional trauma of testimony, either in court or to a representative) of a trial. This was the agreement entered into by both sides. And by definition, if an offender is eligible to come off this list after twenty years, the offender has held up his/her part of the bargain. It is not only morally wrong, but illegal to change the terms of that agreement when it is time for society to live up to its part of it.
Period, There is no debate.
Unfortunately, too many people believe otherwise. In all areas of life, with everybody out there with a criminal record, the stigma and judgment and discrimination go on and on and on well past the expiration date of whatever sentence was incurred. And there are a lot of people out there, people who should know better, people that often live in glass houses themselves, and people that claim to be loyal and devoted followers of the man that famously said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," that indulge in the practice of forever defining people by their worst moments and worst actions. I am not saying that we should just shrug and forget about all transgressions. But in the case of people who have served their sentences, complied with the directives given them, and refrained from further trouble-- That. Should, Be, More.Than. Enough.
There are too many people out there that are not going to ever look past the infraction, anyway. You can't legislate feelings, and you can't force people to be open-minded or to live up to the values that they claim they live by. But as a society, we sure as hell can prevent the adding on of additional penalties once the original agreement has been lived up to. Even for sex offenders.
And on a final note, it is well past time, both in this area and nationally, that Democrats start to stand up without reservation or deviation for what is right. We're not going to out-yahoo the yahoos, and I get a rush of bile into my esophagus every time I see this kind of pandering to the asshole element that possesses the franchise. Why not provide a contrast? Are we this cynical as to act on the belief that there's no one out there willing to mark a ballot for those that stand up for the moral and the ethical? Those children that we have been so assiduously "protecting" over the years--do we not trust them, at least the majority of them, to know right from wrong, to make a choice based on decency and other positive values? There is an element out there, perhaps as high as 40% of us, that are forever lost to the dark side, that are bigoted, close-minded, racist, stupid, ignorant, or some combination thereof. There's already a party for those people, and they're not going to mark a ballot for anyone with a "D" after their name in any event. So why do we pander to them? Why are we doing their dirty work for them?
The biggest complaint that is heard among prospective voters is that there is no real choice between the candidates. Why is that true? Why can't we actually have the courage to provide one?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: FOBBIT

Fobbit, by former US military veteran David Abrams, is the first novel I have ever seen about the Iraq War that encompassed and came to define the W years. A "Fobbit", in military slang, was a soldier deployed in the Forward Operating Base--headquarters, in plain English, and as such are held in contempt by the "real" soliders, the grunts that actually did the fighting. The story in the book is largely the disintegration of the career of one officer, none-too-loved by his unit, that eventually loses his command and then his life in an attack, and the effect that his downward trajectory had on those in the FOB. There were some humorous moments in the book, but what I took away from it was the brutal reality of what it was like to serve in this war--the constant threat of violent death, the horrors for both soldiers and citizenry, the awfulness of Iraq as a physical place, and the silliness of the Army's rules and regulations surrounding public relations issues. The book was written a few years ago, around the time that US forces were pulled out of the country, but it is amazing that the subject still seems to be taboo in the book publishing industry--there are a few non-fiction books out there, but this is the only novel I have ever seen set in the war. Any that do follow have a tough act to follow, though; this is an engrossing and at times very entertaining yarn.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Embarrassingly Inadequate

A couple of weeks ago, there was a bit of a tempest in a teapot in our county when the DA, recognizing that there is an out-of-control heroin epidemic that has caused dozens of deaths in our area in the last few years, implemented a new plan that, in exchange for addicts turning in drugs and paraphernalia, refers those seeking help to detox and longer-term treatment facilities. The county executive's office was taken aback by the announcement, and went public with their irritation, stating that it had been working on rolling out a new initiative themselves addressing this issue that was going to be starting in April. At the time, they didn't announce what they had in mind, but the impression given was that it was going to something reasonably major, something that would at least rival what the DA is doing to address the issue.
Well, yesterday, the county executive herself announced what they had in mind. And if the stakes weren't so high for so many people in the area, it would be an absolute joke. Their big initiative, in its entirety, is a $35K grant from a local foundation that will pay for some hapless soul to go to doctors' offices a few times a year to remind them that prescribing opiate painkillers can lead to addiction down the road for their patients.
I am not making this up.
What a hopelessly inadequate, frankly bullshit response to perhaps the most pressing criminal justice and health issue our area is facing. True, opiate painkillers being overprescribed is an issue--but it's hardly the only part of this problem that needs to be addressed. But the smalless and incompleteness of the response is typical of this administration's outlook in many ways. One is a refusal to consider addiction issues (at least to substances other than alcohol; it's an open secret in the community that a prominent occupant of an office in the county office building is a serious alcoholic) as anything other than a criminal justice issue. Another is they are always looking to do something on the cheap, and get someone else to foot the bill if possible; unless the response to the matter at hand leads to incarcerating more of "those people," this administration simply will not spend money, on anything. A third is that what is proposed won't even pay going rate for inadequate services. $35K, if this is all the funding there is for the position, almost certainly means a part-time position, when benefits are figured in, which means the response is even more half-assed and lame than at first glance. I have some personal experience with this; one of the reasons that my program came to an end is that the powers that be in the county office building really didn't understand that $13K wasn't nearly enough to sustain a program; the money we were given went from $40K--and it was money that came from the state specifically earmarked for programs of this type, not money the county really had to find--to $13K over the four years that this crew has been in office simply because they didn't think there was a real need for it (and it was highly amusing when the county official designated with dealing with the population I used to work with, faced with a homeless youth situation last week, sent indirect feelers out to me asking for my input on what to do. My suggestion was that my consultation fees started at $1000 an hour, up front, since they weren't willing to pony up when they had the chance to keep my expertise in an actual job. That was the last I heard from them. To my knowledge, they still haven't resolved the problem).
We have people, young people for the most part, dying of addiction. Our jails are full to bursting. Drug Court is jammed with clients. There is a woeful, even shameful, lack of treatment beds and facilities and programming to deal with this exploding social problem. And the totality of their response is to send someone around to  remind doctors that opiate prescriptions can lead to heroin addiction in the future...If this is the level of interest and acumen that they bring to the other major issues that we deal with our area, then no wonder that the economic and social tailspin of Broome County seems permanent. These people are clueless, in way over their head. It is not 1965 anywhere; it's not even 1995 anymore. The prejudices and closed minds of those raised in the suburban enclaves of a culture that left town with IBM, EJ, and Link decades ago are wasting what little time we might have left to reverse the trend in any meaningful way. I understand that it's probably too late in any case, but for God's sake, keeping people in office that we know aren't up to the job at hand is suicide. There's an electron this fall; I hope the carcass of the Democratic Party in this area can find a half-viable candidate willing to call these clowns out for being the out-of-touch, terminally incompetent bunglers that they are, and at least provide some sort of vision that isn't based in simplistic (and wrong) attitudes that are based on ignorant perceptions suffused in bigotry and prejudice.
Our problems are not because welfare recipients are on drugs, and that blah people from downstate are corrupting our suburban white kids and stabbing them with syringes and getting them hooked on heroin, leading to mixed-race babies and tattoos, and that if everyone would just live by the values of Eisenhower's America (even though the economic reality of that era that made that mindset and value system a viable option is as dead and gone as the Roman Empire) then everything would be wonderful. And even that fantasy betrays a profound ignorance of what made that era a golden age--in a word, high taxation rates on the wealthy and government on all levels committed to raising the standard and quality of life for those within its borders was the actual story of the 1950's Golden Age, mythology that became mainstream in Reagan's American notwithstanding.
But this "response" is so puny as to be embarrassing. The program that the DA is implementing at least has the potential to make a long-term dent in the epidemic. I really can't believe that no one in the county office building seems to realize that trying to push this crappy little thing on the public as some sort of major, equivalent response to the pressing issue only makes them appear to be completely tone-deaf to community concerns, and totally unable to cope with a major problem. There is no photo-op in front of a flooded town to project a false image of leadership here; it requires the real thing. And there is nobody in the current administration that is able (or if there is, they're not willing to step forward) to actually put down outdated ideology and lead, to govern. And even the most redneck, reticent, urban-dweller hating citizens out in the hills of Vestal or the boonies of Sanford or the wilds of Maine and Harpursville are starting to see it (not that everyone in the outer districts of the county is that way, but that sure seems to be the constituency that this administration is most comfortable representing, and that it panders to incessantly).
November is eight months away. And we cannot afford "leadership" on this level for another four years. We simply cannot.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: CENSORED 2016

Censored 2016 is the latest in a series started many years ago by an outfit called Project Censored that does their part to highlight news stories that do not receive prominent play in the mainstream media--or that get shut down, either by editorial boards or by governments. This volume showcases a number of stories that didn't get much play in the traditional media in the past year, such as the continuing radiation leaks from the Fukushima plant in Japan, the effect of the NSA spying on editorial practice in the US, the true statistics on police crime, the barbarism of Israel's treatment of of Gaza, and the systemic efforts by private companies around the company and world to grab control of water resources. Some of the stories have found a bigger audience--the 1%, the dangerous prevalence of private security companies, and most recently, the FBI trying to get commuications companies to provide them with backdoor access to people's devices, something which is dominating the news cycles as I write. This book can seem a little strident but all in all, if you want to be better informed about the world you live in, this book is a good place to start.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Another One Bites The Dust

No more Jeb!
When this year's election campaign kicked off two years ago (and no, that is not an oxymoron, just a reflection of the reality of what a presidential campaign has become in our time), there was near-universal agreement among the pundit class that Jeb Bush was a serious contender, even the frontrunner. He was a Bush; corporate America was lining up to give him money; he had been a below-average governor of a popular state for two terms (which on the Republican side is a record of accomplishment). Then a funny thing happened; it turned out that he was even more befuddled in front of a camera and crowds than his father and brother are, and that he was totally, completely clueless when it came to actually campaigning. Almost all of the candidates for President on the Republican side are frightening to contemplate actually occupying the Oval Office, but Bush, with the possible exception of Ben Carson, is the only one that would seem blatantly over their head in a position of power. I am left to wonder how in the hell Florida survived for eight years with this guy in charge, because never once, in over a year of campaigning, did he show any evidence that he was anything other than a lightweight moron. He made his brother seem reasonable and intelligent, something I didn't think was possible.
And in the America of 2016, a guy this transparently stupid, a guy whose manner and visible intellectual process would seem better suited to walking dogs for a living, was actually left standing for a long time. And even though he didn't really come close to gaining the White House, the fact that he was even a viable candidate tells me that this system is broken, and the democratic ideal and fantasy we have sold ourselves for so long is irrevocably gone. The only thing Bush had going for him was his name. The Bush family is perhaps the biggest symptom of what is wrong with this country; not one of them has any objective record of success at anything they've done in seventy years of alleged public service (I'm not totally positive about the grandfather). Bush I was clearly a coddled rich guy that was comical whenever he attempted to be something other than a coddled rich guy; he was a failure as UN Ambassador (that's when stuff like "Zionism is racism" was passed by the UN), CIA Director (when the Church hearings were aired exposing the agency's sordid doings), Vice President (famously out of the loop on Iran-Contra), and President (won a war and lost the Presidency by a not-close margin less than two years later). Bush II was a malevolent idiot, a dry drunk that will go down in history as the most venal and clueless President we have ever had. And this guy is going to set the standard for years to come for fecklessness, pandering, and serving as a punching bag for guys with something on the ball.
But What Does It All Mean? What it really means, in the long run, is how out of touch rich guys are with most of those that vote, of both parties. And I keep sounding this warning, but given how much our kleptocracy is fond of their riches, I really cannot see them, collectively, continuing to pour billions into a process where they aren't getting what want. Those that orchestrated Citizens United and that spend ungodly amounts of money trying to win elections cannot be happy with the fact that people like Trump and Sanders are making such strong showings. And I really think that if they are willing to spend a billion dollars on people like Jeb! and other nitwits that have fallen by the wayside already--it's only a matter of time before they start putting the money to other uses. Like trying to stage a coup, or rigging voting machines, or straight-up buying legislatures and legislators. There's a fair amount of that happening already, but we can move a lot further down that path.
And we will, if we end up with Trump vs. Sanders. Even Trump vs. Clinton is going to tough for them to stomach. But in the meantime, we can at least celebrate the fact that Moronickety, Part III ; The Deciderer Returns will not be playing in our home theaters for the next four years.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Fight Or Flight

I've been rather open about the feelings of alienation I've been experiencing about the fellowship I've been a part of for a long time recently. I have been around long enough to know that I can't just stop going or doing the work--almost every relapse story involving people going back out after a considerable amount of time clean started with their experiencing this very feeling I'm going through. And because of this, I have been trying to fight through it, trying to find something positive to focus on, trying to direct my efforts in a way that I can maintain the manageability that I not only have come to take for granted, but need to have in order to have a prayer of living a fulfilling life.
And I've made some progress. I've had more detailed and involved conversations recently with those of my generation and that have been here longer than me about the state of me and my program and their programs--Aldo, Kathie, Ray, Anthony. I've made a determined effort to stay away from environments when I know I'm not going to get anything out of the meeting or the people there. I've kept my service commitment, aggravating as it has been at times. I've recommitted to my home group, and at least trying to attend another meeting or two a week. 
I'm also exploring options outside the box--for example, I've believed for seventeen years that people that go to both fellowships are a part of neither, but I am now seriously considering the idea of joining their ranks, both because I respect some of the people that I know do go to both and because I'm not sure the trends I've been seeing in my home fellowship are reversible. I might do what I did a decade ago to snap out of a similar funk--either get involved with a new meeting or start a new one, creating an island of sanity amidst the chaos. I'm also considering something unofficial, like the men's group we used to do--a regular gathering that isn't really a meeting, but like-minded souls that are pulling in the same direction comparing notes. 
And I do need to do something different rather than just stew in the brine that is polluting the atmosphere of recovery, not only for me but for others that matter to me who have their own decisions to make. And while I've become very reticent about exposing dirty laundry or pointing out where others are falling short, that doesn't mean I don't see what's happening around me. There are some serious flaws, serious issues, around here. Repeated instances of member behavior jeopardizing meeting places is the one that has most directly affected me, because the service position I hold puts me in contact with the aggrieved members of the churches that are getting tired of us--and I am having a hard time understanding why grown adults cannot grasp the idea that the greater good of the fellowship is far more important than their egos or getting what they want when they want it. There's a part of me that wants to issue a laundry list of grievances, but I've learned over the years that it isn't helpful to do so, and at least for now, I'm not going there. 
But I do see it, and I do hear it, and frankly, it's not attractive and it turns people off, not just me. I'm not even talking about the usual suspects anymore, because in almost all cases, it's not those people creating the problems. We're a big tent, and I've actually become very aware and supportive of the need to have diverse views and notions of recovery. I also realize that I have spent a third of my life in the rooms, that I have transitioned to "old-timer" now, and that what I was hoping to see years ago--younger members of the fellowship taking the reins and getting involved--is happening, and since I am of a different generation with different experiences, part of my unease with recent developments is due to this. But only part. A bedrock part of the program is the idea that spiritual principles are eternal and unchanging--and quite a few are not being practiced. And it is my belief that my unease with the direction we are heading in is that far too many people around here aren't even trying to practice those principles. One of our shorthand definitions of "ego" is "edging God out," and it's seemed recently that He is not only being edged out of the rooms, but shoved out, with the business end of a bulldozer. 
I'm not giving up yet. But I can't swim upstream all the time, either. I'm working on accentuating the positive. But the temptation to bag it, to move on, is certainly calling me. 










Friday, February 19, 2016

Whose God?

I have one question for these religious people that either hold or want to hold elective offices, whether it be on the most prosaic local level or President of the United States: when you talk about wanting "God" to be a part of whatever project you're pushing on us, whose God are you talking about?
This has come up often recently. There are repeated calls to "put God back in the classroom," for example. What does this mean, exactly? Do these people want us to be saying prayers? You can already do that, in the moment of silence that is a part of each and every school day. Oh, you want the teacher to lead the class in prayer? Great; what prayer do you use? If there is a Jewish or Muslim kid in the room, should they have to say it? If you're going to start the prayer off with, as they used to do in Catholic school, "in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit?"--what if there's a kid from "Christian" denominations such as Unitarianism or Mormonism that don't really buy into the Trinity? Do they have to say the prayers? Are they going to be penalized if they don't? These kind of questions never get honest or correct answers, because the honest and correct answer to those questions is that there is no monolithic "Christian" way to follow. Which is why the separation of church and state ought to be rigorously maintained.
And there were three great examples of why mixing religion with political concerns is a very tricky and dangerous--and revealing--matter. About a week ago, Ted Cruz, who is the favored candidate of Christian "evangelicals", at least according to the media, had a bit of a tempest in a teapot when it became generally known that one of the actresses in a campaign commercial of his used to be a soft-core porn actress. The ad was pulled from the air immediately, and the campaign apologized for hiring her. Wait a minute--I'm not a Bible scholar, but I definitely seem to remember Jesus of Nazareth talking about forgiving sinners, cutting them a break when possible, and accepting the repentant back into the larger community with open arms. The woman is a born-again Christian, and she made no attempt to hide her past when she applied for the spot. The message that the reaction of the campaign sends loudly and clearly is that redemption is not possible, that no sins are truly forgiven, that even for their own, the past is always the present and we are judged by our worst moments.
Boy, that's appealing. And that sure makes me want you in charge of our governmental institutions. Even the Taliban isn't that extreme in their ideas about individual conduct. Perhaps someone, in the next Republican debate, ought to remind Cruz of Matthew 7:1 or John 8:7.--which are quotes of Jesus himself, the man that, according to the faith they espouse, was God incarnate. Or does Cruz and his ilk think they know better than God himself? Think about that one for awhile.
Then everybody's favorite blowhard, Donald Trump, was in the news yesterday, first for getting called out by the Pope for his anti-immigrant stance, then for responding that the Pope didn't know what he was talking about, and finally falling back on the familiar (for him) standby, that someone else (the government of Mexico, in this case) had somehow poisoned the Pope against him. I really don't have the time this morning to get into all the ways this is the essence of Trumpery. But suffice it to say that, whether you are Catholic or not, the Pope's take on the matter was irrefutable--he again quoted Jesus from the gospels, and again it's hard to go against the fact that Jesus, by definition for Christians of all sects, is God incarnate, and therefore if what you want to do goes against what Jesus is quoted as saying--you're not Christian. We had the usual suspects chiming in about the Pope's "agenda,' and yet another example of a second-generation preacher making a jackass out of himself--Jerry Falwell, Jr., in this case, falling all over himself trying to explain why he is endorsing Trump for President. He ended up making the lame excuse that it was a "personal" endorsement, not that of Liberty University or his congregation, and then actually had the balls to say that religious people shouldn't get involved in politics.
Two words, Jerry. Moral Majority. So either you are repudiating your father and his legacy, or you're full of shit (as an aside, Falwell, Junior, is a living saint compared to the odious Franklin Graham, son of Billy, who is a rigid-minded ball of hate and ignorance. But that's a subject for another morning)>
The third item in the news was Glenn Beck (remember him?) telling the world that God killed Antonin Scalia so that Ted Cruz has a better chance of being President. The logic is that it puts Obama's constitutional duty to nominate a candidate for the vacancy on the Court in the spotlight, and the Senate Republicans' plans to delay and obstruct the process will serve as a vehicle for the "American people" to put someone in the Oval Office that will appoint a judge that will impose God's laws on the land. Glenn Beck is a moron; that's not really in dispute--even Fox News sent him to the sidelines after it became clear that he only has a distant relationship with sanity and intelligence. But there are still people out there that listen to this guy, and they vote.
Frightening, isn't it?
And all this is happening recently; we have been enduring recent affronts to decency and common sense like Judge Roy Moore resurfacing in Alabama with his Leviticus-based interpretation of laws, and Kim Davis, and others that use their views of God to justify their own bigotry, hatreds, and peccadilloes, and feel no compunction about using lies and ignorance about what the gospels actually say about their pet issues to further their agendas.
And that agenda is nothing more or less than an American sharia as reprehensible and repressive as the Wahhabi Islamic sharia they profess to abhor so much. No pun intended, but God help us all if one of these jokers ever gets in a position of real power.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review: SCIENCE OF THE MAGICAL

British writer Matt Kaplan has a fascination with investigating the science behind the fabulous. His first book in this series focused on stories of monsters on the earth, and Science of the Magical focusing on, well, thinks that couldn't possibly be true because they are fables or magic or myth. Some of the things he looks into here are oracles of the ancient world (Delphi, Cumae), divination through looking at animal entrails, magic potions, the Holy Grail, transformation into animals (especially in warfare contexts), philosopher's stones and alchemy, and a couple dozen other things that we have all heard of and dismissed. As it turns out, most of the subjects he examined had at least semi-plausible scientific explanations, which is the sort of thing I always find extremely interesting. It not only makes for interesting connections, but it also makes our ancestors more recognizably human, that they were flesh-and-blood people that were trying to make sense of the world through the technology available to them. In other words, not so different from us. And one of the first subjects tackled is the old adage about whether people's behavior changes during the phases of the moon (a qualified yes), a subject that seems to be of increasing anectdotal importance in anyone that either works in the human service field or lives with other human beings.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Easiest Ridicule Target In America

There has been plenty of assholery in the news recently. Our political system is in the midst of an election campaign, and there seems to a competition as to which one of these guys can say the most outrageous nonsense with a straight face. There's an NBA star serving a suspension for punching out a team trainer, an NHL player suspended for twenty games for assaulting an official, and St. Peyton Manning is in the news for allegedly getting away with a sexual assault (albeit twenty years ago). Eliot Spitzer has been charged with assaulting a Russian woman half his age in a hotel. The world even lost one of its best assholes of long standing  when Antonin Scalia died on the weekend.
But there is the gold standard, the absolute pinnacle, of assholery that can always be counted on to make the rest of the world, no matter what they've done or what they say or how many people they affect, look in the mirror and say, "You know, I'm not really that bad." I'm talking, of course, about Kanye West, the no-joke Despicable Me, the person with absolutely no limits on his ego, his sense of entitlement, and the depths he will sink to in order to gain attention. Mr. West, after a relatively quiet year or so, has, in short order, put out a new album, told the world that it deserved to be the Grammy winner in the category, told the world that he was going to boycott the Grammy awards because said album was not nominated, and showed the world his ass again by claiming, in one of the songs on said album, that he "made Taylor Swift famous" and that he believed that Taylor Swift secretly wants to have sex with him. And then, after Swift put him in his place during her acceptance speech for winning the Grammy for album of the year (not that it actually was, but this is not a post about the joke that is the Grammy Awards), West was in the news again, for revealing to the world his precarious financial situation.
He is, if he is to be believed (and that is a big if, with someone this full of shit), a mere fifty-three million dollars in debt. In numbers, that is $53,000,000.
How the hell does an entertainer (and I am using the term loosely) rack up that much debt? And it means, since his reported income last year was $22 million, that he spent $75 million dollars in the last year or so. Even for someone married to a Kardashian (which says volumes about what kind of person he really is), that is a staggering amount of money. And, true to his myopia and sense of entitlement, he blamed his financial problems on the difficulties of starting up a clothing line and investing in his music prodigies. He then "clarified" his statements by saying he needed to be bailed out so he could continue to put out his clothing line and that he could continue to inflict "Kanye West ideas" on the world, but that he was not personally suffering any hardships in the way he lives his life--he hastened to add that he can still buy "furs and houses" for his family.
Well, thank God for that; I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to fall asleep last night, worrying that Kim Kardashian and Kanye couldn't be swaddling themselves in furs--no doubt from an endangered animal species--in one of the several houses they own..
Oh, and he publicly called on Mark Zuckerberg to give him a billion dollars. to invest in his "Kanye West" ideas. And claims that other, anonymous money types have actually answered his call for more money to promote "Kanye West ideas." He was quite open in his belief that people of his caliber always use other people's money to bring "Kanye West ideas" to fruition, and actually seems to expect that other people with money to invest will fall all over themselves to give him money to put into action some of his "Kanye West ideas."
I am not making this up.
And some goddamn fool somewhere in this country actually started a GoFundMe campaign to help Kanye West out of his $53 million hole. After 24 hours, it has raised the princely sum of $25. Not million, not thousand, but $25--a Jackson and a Lincoln. America may be dumbed down to the point of pain, but even we're not gullible enough to fall for this crap... I actually want to know who donated. These are people that should not be allowed to operate any machinery or handle sharp objects.
You can't make this stuff up. If there is a bigger anus in the world than Kanye West, I'm not aware of him. There are seriously times when I think he has to be putting us on, but then it becomes very clear that he is not, that he actually believes that he is that special and that talented. The last time he was in the news for some bit of nonsense, I was proudly ignorant of his body of work. No longer; I have actually listened to some of his canon. I'm not impressed. I mean, to be perfectly frank, I've heard worse, but I really do not see what the big deal is. Granted, I am not a connoisseur of rap/funk/hip hop, but he isn't Eminem; he isn't even Drake or Wiz Khalifa (side note: I haven't checked the guy's music out, but the artist who named himself "Nipsy Hustle" gets my vote for Best Artist Name of the Last Ten Years). He's ordinary. I just don't get it. And I certainly don't get where his ego gets fed to the point where he really thinks he is God's gift to us all (this is a guy that named an album Yeezus, after all).
This guy's fifteen minutes would have seemed to be up a long time ago. I actually do hope that he actually is $53 million in debt. I'd love to see his ass get sued, publicly, by his creditors, and I would get cable back just to see him on the witness stand for a day. I do have to say this for him; his real life is more entertaining than any music he's ever put out.
But he sure is an asshole.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review: TRIBAL

No, Diane Roberts' Tribal is not about the modern Republican party, although there is a good deal of overlap between that entity and what she is writing about. It is about the overgrown adolescent culture surrounding college football, more specifically in America's Third World, the southern United States. Roberts, an NPR reporter and contributor, is an unlikely person to be a part of Seminole nation, one of the more rabid fan bases in the country, attached to Florida State University, and she almost sheepishly recounts her own devotion to her school's team in the first part of the book. And then spends the rest of the book detailing all the ways this is a morally indefensible proposition: how college fan bases are rooted in the tradition of the Lost Cause, how football is symptomatic of the rot in society at large, how athletes are a privileged class in some ways and used-up gladiators in others, the complete and total hypocrisy that is the NCAA.
There were two parts of this book that were more disturbing than others. One is the extent to which the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has permeated college football in general and southern college football in particular. One of the few areas of American life that can approach major sports, college or pro, for blatant hypocrisy is organized religion, and this cult of "Muscular Christianity," as Roberts terms it, is at the top of the list. There is nothing remotely spiritual in the way college football conducts its affairs or treats its players, but it is somehow wrapped in the cloak of holiness, and there are at least fifty major college coaches that active in it--and almost all of them are rank cheaters and hypocrites. And the second is that this book gives perhaps the most cogent and concise information about the cults surrounding successful college football coaches I have ever read. I have read books on Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, and other coaching demigods--but the two chapters focusing on coaches here, more specifically Bobby Bowden and his mountain of bullshit, are among the most informative I ever seen (and it's not all knock. And much to my surprise, Saban actually comes off looking pretty good by comparison, even if Alabama and its fan base does not).
Lastly, the book focuses on the years Jameis Winston was at FSU--and the controversies surrounding him are the axis the book revolves around. And Roberts' essential point is that the people that so passionately defended Winston are the same people that would lock up a non-football player for life for the same allegations. It is amazing how the otherwise cream-of-Southern-society, the beautiful college cheerleader types, are dragged through the mud and demonized if they call the gladiator out on his actions.
I'm being restrained in my accounting of the essence of this book. But most of the people reading this blog know full well my contempt for and visceral hatred of what is euphemistically referred to as "southern culture" in this country. And this book chronicles it beautifully and exposes it for the gangrenous bullshit that it is, even as the author  cosigns it in part. And the moral leprosy that infuses it unfortunately, because it is the easier, softer way, has infected the rest of the country. Is it terminal? Possibly. But it's nice to see that other people, respected people, people with influence and a platform see what I see.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Five Thoughts Re a Holiday Weekend

1) Valentine's Day can be tough on those of us that are either not in a relationship or that are involved with someone that, for one reason or another, it isn't possible to be in their company with on the day. It's been many years since I actually did something on the day itself that could be considered "romantic". I have to say that if you can't participate in what the culture calls for--the day might as well be on a Sunday. It did seem like just another day yesterday.
2) It's been about a decade now since the schools in the area started regularly making four and even five-day weekends out of Monday holidays. This year, it turned out to be an unexpectedly fortuitous break, as school likely would have cancelled on Friday anyway because of the bone-chilling cold that descended on the area that day. There were also some school districts that, because we haven't had any snow to speak of this year, started taking "snow days" because there haven't been any weather-related days off yet. That's harder for me to understand; winter isn't over yet, and even if the mild trend continues, why not just end the school year earlier in June? I really don't get the school adminstrator mindset, on most subjects; they're as out of touch with common sense and ordinary people's trains of thought as most CEOs or Republican candidates for President. And get paid as much, too.
3) I attended my home group on Saturday, talked with my former sponsor for two hours on Saturday night, and met with my current sponsor for two hours Sunday morning. When I headed to the Sunday morning meeting, I was feeling good about being part of the fellowship again. The meeting, though, was less than stellar, and the Area committee meeting after it was, simply, unpleasant. We maintain this fiction that an IQ of 34 and skin micrometers thick is somehow worthy of respect. Maybe I've just been around too long, but you know what? I've made a lot of progress on my own egotistical tendencies, and I use reserves of patience that I never dreamed I possessed--but damn, it's hard sometimes to suffer through yet another series of diatribes by people that don't understand concepts like "attraction rather than promotion" and "trusted servants" and that cannot seem to understand that the world does not revolve around them. I cannot wait for September to come so I can be done with this commitment, and it will be a  long time before I ever step up for another one.
4) When the best option on television on a Sunday afternoon is freaking golf we are officially in Crappy Sports Season. It had been disguised the last few years because the Rangers have been contenders for the best team in hockey, but this year, with the team doing OK but definitely not a Stanley Cup contender anymore, I really am finding myself not caring much for sports at all--and sports are pretty much the only reason I turn on the television. In this age of streaming and Hulu and Netflix, is it really worth 130 dollars a month to have cable--or even to spend $400 on a good TV?
5) I am getting used to my car again. I'm pretty happy with it, except that I wish the gas tank was bigger. But it went to Nichols Thursday, Ithaca Saturday, and is going on the road this morning, too, and the one thing I need most from a car--dependability--it seems to have in spades, knock on wood. And I am realizing just what a benefit it is to be able to drive. I know a lot of people that somehow putter around without cars, and I honestly don't know how they do it. I'm glad I don't have to find out--as long as I don't get in accidents, knock on wood. I'm grateful today that the body shop and my friends in that field did such a good job fixing this car up after the accident I was in a few weeks ago.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Random Notes, Valentine's Day 2016

1) Antonin Scalia is dead. And once more, the essential truth of George Carlin's observation that "if you want people to say nice things about you--die" is being borne out. I'm seeing all sorts of fulsome tributes in the media about how "influential" he was, how he was a beacon and a role model for modern conservatives, how his thinking shaped American policy debates, etc. What a crock of shit. Antonin Scalia was as close as to an actual Fascist that has ever had any position of influence in this republic. He was an opportunistic, racist bully that didn't give a fig about legal precedence or protections. He was one of the most blatantly political tools to ever sit on the Supreme Court. He was a nasty prick in person and on the bench, too, and his doctrine of "originalism" is one of the most frankly stupid and incendiary intellectual phantasms to ever infect the American political organism. Much was made of his open and somewhat rabid Catholicism--and his Catholicism was that of Torquemada. He was a human tumor, a carbuncle sprung to life that poisoned the well of not only American jurisprudence, but American life for three decades. The harm this guy did will last for generations, and if you're asking me to mourn his passing, or even pretend that I am anything other than happy that he is no longer around--well, I don't have that much bullshit inside me.
Scalia's own rigid religious beliefs posited the existence of evil men and women whose acts and legacies were irredeemable. And though I don't necessarily share that view--his own life is perhaps the most compelling evidence that, on this subject, he might have been right.
2) Both political parties had televised debates this week. The Democratic one was between two people that, for the many differences between them, still managed to focus on real issues and maintained a level of basic decency and decorum. The Republican one resembled a shouting match in a parking lot after closing time at a bar where Happy Hour started at 2 PM. I thought the biggest winner of the Republican debate was Ben Carson--simply because the other people there showed their ass to the entire country for two solid hours. I cannot see how anyone comes out of this party's nominating process with anything other than a plurality of support from their own party--and considering that their own party is a minority of the electorate nationwide, and that most of the remaining pool of voters is absolutely appalled at the degree to which all of them are failed human beings--well, in an even remotely honest election, the Democratic nominee is going to win by double digits.
3) On to more prosaic concerns. The temperature--not the wind chill, the temperature--outside as I am writing this sentence is 18 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Which is a record by nine degrees. I am quite vocal about my preference for winter weather, or at least living in a place where there are discernible seasons and enough cold spells so that insects and reptiles actually cannot survive in the wintertime without hibernating. But this is a bit much. And as luck would have it, I have to be out of the house for some time today. It's the second Sunday of the month, which means I have to go to the fellowship's Area Service Committee meeting, and I am going to meet my sponsor, and I'll probably go the meeting in between, as well. I also have to put gas in my car, which should be loads of fun; I'm seriously considering driving to Endwell to get it at the one full service station remaining in this area so that I don't have to get out of the car. The heat just kicked on again, less than four minutes after it shut off. I've been catching a break this winter on the utility bill, but I think when the bill for this month comes due, it's going to be the biggest it's been in a long time.
4) Sabrina's indoor track season is now over. Considering that she had never done anything in this sport before December, it can't be considered anything other than a success. She still doesn't throw shotput real well, but the weight toss turned out to be a real good fit with her--she finished 7th in all of Section Four yesterday, winning the second flight to earn a spot in the finals. And she has decided to pursue track and field in the spring, and to dispense with sitting on Lord Farquaad's softball bench this year, a decision I am ecstatic about.
There are limits, I think, to how well she can do in track--she was the smallest kid by far in the weight events yesterday. I cannot believe the size of some of these teenaged girls around the area. The main Binghamton weight thrower is a senior that has to be six-two or three, and has muscles like a WNBA player. She is also throwing nearly 50 feet at 18 years old, and if she doesn't break down physically, quite seriously can dream of being on the Olympic team four years from now--I did some research, and the Olympic women's weight throwers' distances in the junior tournaments a decade ago weren't any different than what Alexis is throwing now.
Sabrina's left shoulder has been hurting for a few weeks, and the break between seasons will do her well--not to mention that outdoor track has the discus rather than weight toss, which means the left shoulder will not be used much. She is right-handed, and the right arm is stronger than the left due to years of catching in softball--but the left side was undeveloped, and it showed at times. I hope it is just muscle fatigue and not a rotator cuff issue. She has a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, and we will see what he has to say about it. But I was very proud of her and how well she has done this year, and  more importantly to me, she is enjoying her scholastic athletic career again. The last couple of years, Lord Farquaad took all the fun out of softball for her; it had become a chore and a spirit depressor. I am glad beyond words that she has left that behind.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: OF ORCAS AND MEN

Of Orcas and Men is a pretty bland book by investigative journalist David Neiwart that details, sometimes excruciatingly dully, some of the current issues facing killer whales, the apex predator in the ocean and one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. The drudgery is confined mostly to the sections detailing the legal maneuvering around orca captivity (which is perhaps the most blatant and morally reprehensible example of corporate greed in this country today, which is saying something). But there is some valuable information interspersed among the slower sections, too. I had no idea that there is a lot of reason to believe that various populations around the world are likely different species, that there are differences that profound among them. I also had no idea that there is a discernible "culture" among the animals--that there is preferred food, methods of catching it, and pod structure that are unique to each population (and if you want to jolt yourself, Google "orca beach attack" ). And sadly, like with so much else in this world, human activity is royally compromising the orca population's chances of survival, at least in the areas where they share the world with us, like the Pacific Northwest. Water pollution and salmon overfishing I knew about; sound pollution--the sheer loudness of ship engines underwater and the way it messes with cetacean echolocation and communication--I did not. I can't imagine living life with decibel levels of 100 to 130 around me more or less constantly, but in the areas around Seattle and Vancouver, this is routine. I also did not know that male orcas grow significant larger than females (imagine if men grew to be nine or ten feet tall and 600 pounds routinely compared to women), and that the lifespans of orcas in the wild are roughly comparable to humans (males tend to live, in the wild, into their sixties, and there are some female orcas in the world that are over a hundred years old; it's weird looking at pictures taken in 1912 and 2015 and being able to tell that it's the same animal, but orca markings are as distinctive--and more obvious--than fingerprints). Life spans, in fact, are one of the many blatant instances of corporate interests--Seaworld, mostly--flooding the public with misinformation; captive orcas of both sexes rarely live to forty, but Seaworld tells its patrons that captive orcas live as long as wild ones. In fact, to save the reader a trip through the drudge, marine park operators are, as a group, about as ethical and humane as Martin Shkreli, the clown CEO that jacked up the price of a medication from $13 to $700 a pill recently.
There is the obligatory chapter on Free Willy, and disturbing news out of Russia, which has decided, with typical Russian disdain for basic human decency, to resume capturing orcas when the rest of the world has more or less agreed it's an awful idea. And there was a short section on the movie Orca, which I remember watching on HBO when I was about 14. It's laughable now, a transparent ripoff of Jaws that got just about every possible detail wrong about orcas--but the thing is, forty years ago, we really didn't know better (that movie was the film debut of Bo Derek, whom younger readers may not know of. She was the original "10," and in this film, sans the beads and goofy getups that marred the movie 10, dressed in ordinary clothes, it is stunning to see just how beautiful she was at that time). The general level of awareness and knowledge of orcas among the general population is exploded during my lifetime, and sappy as it was, Free Willy had a huge role in that.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Taking Stock

There has been one development, among the many of the last several months, that has been surprising to me. My faith in the God of my understanding hasn't wavered much; I've been through too much and seen the evidence of His presence in my life too many times to lose faith because I haven't got what I wanted when I wanted it for a few weeks. While it has been frustrating to seek employment, and to juggle finances, and to have automobile issues, and go through hiccups and serious problems with personal matters, it has not been unmanageable--and each of those developments has had positive repercussions, too. I have learned that many organizations make decisions based on factors other than competence and skills--and just like I did thirteen-plus years ago, I have learned that what looks like a great job on the surface isn't going to be the right fit for me if those above me in the food chain are focused on form rather than substance. I have also realized that reinventing the wheel, three decades into my working life, isn't realistic to contemplate; my skill sets can be added to, but my core assets are what they are, and they will eventually appeal to the right employer that needs them.
I have also, better than I ever did, become financially responsible--and learned also to be grateful for the presence of some people in my life. My landlord has gone above and beyond in working with me. My family has more than been there for me when I really needed them in the last couple of months. My daughters have proven to be the sterling young women I raised them to be, when I needed them to be steadfast and responsible. My ex-wife has even been reasonable and accommodating, to the point where I have sometimes wondered if it's really her on the other end of the phone. My attorney, an understated resource for the last twenty years of my life, has once again proven to be a spectacular example of humanity when I needed him to be.
And my automobile issues have reinforced a lot of the connections just referenced. My friend Kenny has been simply amazing to me in the last three months; he already was about the only person locally that I actually spend any time around whose friendship with me predates my clean date, but what he has done for me in my time of need will never be forgotten. And his professional acquaintances have proven to be aces, as well; the small body shop that repaired my car did more substantial work for half the price that one of these outfits you see advertising on billboards would have done, and did fabulous work on top of it. My car runs better than it did before the accident. And if anyone needs body work or repair work done for a fair price, quickly, and reasonably well, hit me up. I will give you the man's number. I am simply amazed by how good a job he did, and at what price.
And while I have been trying to keep my personal life out of the social media arena, I will say this much. There was a major problem, and it extracted a cost, a painful cost. But one of the good things about being committed to someone is that you are almost forced to move past knee-jerk, gut level reactions, and as time has passed, a rather surprising thing happened. The bond was real, and sometimes, we both discovered, you don't know what you got till it's gone. If this needed to happen in order for both of us to put aside reservations we had been both openly and clandestinely harboring, then it had a purpose. Life is not a fairy tale, and sometimes the way forward is a gauntlet. But if one can emerge through it with doubts removed and a much firmer belief that the grass isn't greener, and that there really is nothing to see in the ruins of Sodom--well, it might well be worth it.
I went through my temptations, too, after the events, and the ultimate result was that I realized that the man I have become over the past few years has values and principles that have nothing to do with sex appeal or economic potential. I remember telling a sponsee of mine many years ago that a major part of any relationship is the ability to practice the principle of acceptance. If there is something, or some things, about your prospective or erstwhile partner that you are having difficulty with, you either have to find some acceptance about those traits--or you need to move on. And I have discovered that there are simply some things that I will not ever find acceptable, and those characteristics are only tangential related to whether or not someone is clean and sober, or employable, or some sort of dynamo in the bedroom. I looked temptation square in the face--and made a decision that I would not have made at virtually any other point in my life. It was a lesson I was learning in the financial area, too, that had a surprising, "Eureka!" application to this area--if something isn't working right, you fix it rather than chuck it and get a new one...If she was worth the commitment for so long, and is willing to and has been making amends to the best of her ability, then I'd be foolish to not work with her and try to repair the relationship, rather than embark on a new one. I do not know that I have stayed on a path that will lead to happily ever after--but I do know that it feels like it was the right decision for me.
I can look at myself in the mirror every morning without guilt or remorse. And that's something that's better than any job, any romp, any public praise, and any validation I might get from others.
And one unexpected development has been my dwindling interest in the fellowship I have been a part of for many years. For various reasons, my meeting attendance has dropped off drastically--and I can't say I'm feeling any sense of loss or void. It had gotten stale for me. I'm not going to sit here and take inventory of everything and everyone; I don't really feel any animosities or anger about it. I don't feel like I'm not welcome when I do turn up at one, and I remain friendly with virtually everyone that I've been friendly with. I don't know if it's a phase or a turning point. But I do have to say that there is a lot of drama and a lot of ego dominating proceedings right now, and I really do not want to be a part of that.
For maybe the first time in my life, I'm very content to mind my own business. It was a suggestion that took many years for me to adopt, but I kind of like it better this way. Not for the first time, I have found that I have more than enough to occupy my time and mind when I do mind my own business; I don't have to worry about what's going on in other people's lives at all. And life is a journey, and there are other avenues out there to explore. I'm not sure what direction I am going to go in from here, but the program is now part of my core. I'm not repudiating the principles I've learned. In fact, the decision I'm contemplating is whether the message can be better carried in forums and places other than the rooms in this fellowship, with this particular group of people.
I don't know the answer to that yet; as we often say, more will be revealed. But I am not isolating. I am branching out and getting involved in different things. There is a difference, and at the moment, it is helping me get through what has been one of the most difficult periods of my life. And I am profoundly grateful for that this morning.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: DYLAN GOES ELECTRIC

Bob Dylan has been my favorite musical artist for most of my life, and I usually will read any book that has to do with him. Dylan Goes Electric! is Elijah Wald's account of one of the great legendary episodes in American cultural history--the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where Dylan took the stage and played with a band for twenty minutes. The core of the tale is that supposedly Dylan was booed off the stage, but that in the long run it was a great boon to Dylan's career and the beginning of the death knell for folk music in the United States.
The truth, as Wald exhaustively proves, was much more complex. For starters, reaction was very mixed to Dylan's performance as it happened; some were horrified, but many were supportive. The sound system was atrocious that evening, and many in the audience could barely hear him singing. Also, too, a fair amount of the unhappiness and booing was caused by the shortness of the set--in fact, he came back out for an unscheduled encore because of audience restlessness. Legends of Pete Seeger running around with an axe looking to cut the sound cables were partially true--because the sound system was so bad and annoying, not because of antipathy toward Dylan's amping up.
And much of the book is more about the folk movement in the years leading up to Newport 1965. Folk was already evolving, and so was the festival showcasing it; the headliner the night before Dylan's performance, for example, was Donovan. There were several acts that had played electric sets at Newport without controversy previously. Popular music in America at the time was a fascinating hodgepodge of styles and genres; Google a look at the Billboard Top 40 during a random week from 1964-1967 and marvel at the diversity. And folk itself was riven by divides; big-selling groups like the Kingston Trio were reviled by "purists," and even Dylan was already catching heat on several fronts, not least of which was his refusal to be limited to one particular genre.
And he was also only twenty-four years old, hardly a grown-up, and one of the most public figures in the world. He has always been a defiant, almost ornery type of person, and he has always followed his own star, confounding expectations placed on him. But most of all, he has always--and still is--looking for new directions to explore, something he hasn't done before, expanding his own horizons. Newport was one of the earlier manifestations of a tendency he has exhibited consistently in the last half-century.
And as always, when reading about Dylan, one is struck by how substantial he is compared to most of his contemporary peers. There are hundreds of acts and artists that are mentioned in this book, many of whom were more popular or seemingly more influential than Dylan was at the time. None, with the possible exception of the Rolling Stones, have had his staying power and long-term influence--even the Beatles. And the fact that one twenty-minute concert by one artist is the subject of a book fifty years after it happened is testimony as to just how significant a figure that Bob Dylan is in American cultural history.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Hampshire Does Its Job

The results are not totally official yet, but unlike last week in Iowa, it's easy to tell who finished in what place the morning after. And New Hampshire's historic role of weeding out the field and setting the narrative for the next few months, in both parties, was repeated like a clock yesterday.
The Democratic side was relatively straightforward. The Bern won, as polls have been predicting for a couple of months now. The question going in was by what margin; some margins predicted as low as 9 points, some as high as 30. It turned out to be 20, which is a pretty good indicator that in a state where there are a good number of polls to choose from, betting on the average isn't a bad way to go. But think about the sentence that I just wrote. Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton, in a two-person race, by a margin that equals that of the most lopsided Presidential election in history. Granted, it's a small state's Democratic voter base rather than the country at large, but still--that's both impressive for Sanders and a huge problem for Clinton. For 25 years now, we have ample evidence that even people that should like Hillary really don't. And lost in the specific policy proposals of Sanders' campaign is a point he makes that the media really doesn't emphaszie enough. Sanders has pointed out, repeatedly, that Clinton's candidacy appeals the most to the people that benefit from the status quo, and in 2016, that isn't going to win many primaries, because most of the country isn't benefiting from the status quo. There are other substantive differences, too; Sanders' views don't "evolve" over time to reflect poll numbers; even Sanders' detractors do not claim that he lacks integrity; Sanders doesn't have ethical concerns dogging him like toilet paper stuck to a shoe.
And I suspect that the longer Sanders seems like a viable candidate, the more Clinton's support is going to erode. At present, Clinton's firmest support is among liberal business types (which is oxymoronic and not a demographic that is going to lead to victory in November)--and among African-Americans and Latinos. Sanders' political positions theoretically should be supported by the minority groups making up the Democratic base, and I suspect that Hillary is incapable of sustaining the bullshit charm offensive that her husband was able to conjure up to keep himself in power. And the minority love of Bill Clinton puzzled me when he was President, and it puzzles me now. It was Bill Clinton who "reformed" welfare; it was Bill Clinton that enacted NAFTA, which basically revised the average American's economic prospects downward, which disproportionately hurts minority groups; and it was Bill Clinton that sustained an initial burst in incarceration rates, which again disproportionately affects minorities. Hillary isn't any different than Bill on those three core issues.I don't get why a substantial demographic of the Democratic base supports a candidate that supports policies that help keep that demographic marginalized.
And the media seem totally clueless about the Sanders voter base. It is young people, for the most part--but it is also a refutation of their preferred world view. Most of the baby boomers and my generation aren't fond of the "millennials"; rather than accept responsibility for f****ng up the country, we prefer to blame those we've screwed over for their own plight (that's the truest, most consistent expression of the American Way throughout our history--"they have it coming!"). My daugthers' generation have nothing but a lifetime of penury, powerlessness, and struggling to tread water ahead of them, if there isn't a major change in the power structure of this country. Why wouldn't they support Sanders en masse? He's the one Democratic candidate out there that promises to fundamentally change the world.
And a little hope goes a long way.
I'm not optimistic on the long-term viability of a relatively open and cursorily fair electoral process in this country; I really beleive that if there is a fundamental threat to the kleptocracy's power, the puppet show will be dispensed with and the hammer brought down to preserve  privilege. But the Sanders phenomenon is exactly what should have been expected if an actual choice was ever presented to those that still have the ability to vote. When there is a perceived benefit to doing so, people actually get involved, people actually trudge to the voting booths, and people will try to make their voice heard. The clueless pundits don't see this, because their interests have been represented for so long, and their primacy so entrenched, that they have truly lost touch with the reality of life for most of the people they are ostensibly covering in their news stories.
I don't know a single "ordinary" American that feels any passion for Hillary Clinton. I am beginning to suspect that the only reason the 2008 race went right down to the wire is the huge latent but real pool of racism left in the American electorate, and many people, even Democrats, had a hard time pulling a lever for an African-American. Sanders faces a little bit of this latent racism because he's Jewish--but only a little. His message resonates with a lot more of the electorate than Clinton's does. And I suspect that Clinton is this year's Edward Muskie--that she will be exposed as a house of cards, and that the end will be shockingly swift should it come. It's nor a foregone conclusion--yet. But it's a lot more possible than it ever has been. She got her ass kicked last night, and that's an outcome that no one anticipated even a month ago.
On the Batshit Crazy side, predictions also held--sort of. Donald Trump won easily, and all those "Trump Might Be Finished" stories out of Iowa were revealed as wishful thinking by the same elements that want Clinton to be the "inevitable" Democratic nominee. The big surprise was John Kasich finishing a clear second; at the risk of sounding incindiary, to me it's simply proof that the Northeast has smarter voters in it, even in the Batshit party, than elsewhere in the country. I'm not a Kasich fan, at all, but I don't really think he's dangerous like many of the others he's running against. How Republicans in places in the country where people like Louie Gohmert, Jim Inofhe, and Roy Moore get elected to public office are going to treat Kasich's candidacy is open to question--well, actually it isn't. He's not likely to be around a few months from now. But he and Trump are the two Republicans that actually would have a (small) chance to win in November, It's interesting that he rose closer to the top after being pretty much invisible up to this point.
Trump's resounding win is proof that much of the dynamics driving the Democratic race are present on the other side, too. Whatever else Trump may or may not be, he's definitely not a representative of the status quo--and the vast majority of Republicans, too, are not benefiting from the way the country is now. They're showing it by the way they mark their ballots.
What the rest of the results showed was pretty predictable. Ted Cruz appeals pretty much only to the ignorant religious bigot vote, which is a minority even in Republican ranks. Jeb Bush proved that about an eighth of any large group of people are deeply influenced by repeated exposure to anything; I have no idea of how someone so transparently stupid and vapid as Bush gets anyone to vote for him, but there's a lot of money behind him, and apparently that impresses some people. Rubio was exposed as the fraud he is; I really think his fifteen minutes are up. Chris Christie is also hearing Taps this morning, the most welcome development of all--what a totally unlikeable human being.
Where does Trump go from here? Who really knows? I still do not think that he has a chance of actually winning a national election. Despite his own preferred view of himself, he actually has pretty much screwed up everything he's touched, in the long run; he's the classic example of someone that can't stand success and can't stay our of his own way. I have a hard time seeing him getting 270 electoral votes. Sanders has one dependable demographic--youth--that are going to show up in unprecedented numbers should he be there in November. I'm not sure Trump's support is that large and firm.
But this is getting actually interesting. And who would have thought that a year ago?