Wednesday, August 31, 2016

They're Rolling Up the Hay

Tomorrow will be September 1. The light changed a couple of weeks back, but it was too hot at the time to pay much attention. Far as I can tell the trees haven't noticed yet, but who knows, maybe deep inside they're already making the bed and plumping up the pillows and the feather quilts. I'm sure way up north the bears are stuffing themselves with salmon. Same idea. We got the old vet into his second rest home in a month on Monday. His arm is healing from the fall on Father's Day that knocked him out of his former residence, up in Greensboro. Monday he got up into his walker and made it across the new room to the bathroom, farthest he's walked with some assistance since the fall. The call of nature, yet again. He's having a hard time sleeping in the new bed, and isn't really sure where he is. The good thing is, he's very close to us now, versus an hour off. Libby stayed the night to make sure he didn't get up alone and then fall again. She got back an hour ago with a bag of sausage biscuits from the Bo and went straight to bed. I think most of the kitties went up there and snuggled around her. They missed her last night. Just now a hummingbird flew up to the window and peered in.

Down on the Banks a small tropical storm brushed by last night, and we might get a stronger brush this weekend from "Wave #9," now disorganized but gaining strength in the upper Gulf of Mexico. The jet stream has a kink to the south going over Alabama and that's supposed to steer #9, which might get a name later, across Florida and up the Gulf Stream train. One map I saw gives us the western edge, which might mean some rain. We could use it, but it's been over all a nearbout perfect summer.

Not counting the gawdawful election I mean. When you get to that I feel like I'm in the fairytale called the Emperor's New Clothes. See, it's not a new thing, there was already a ready-made fairy tale. Some Obama guy says, last Sunday, that Trump is a psychopath. Chuck Todd admonishes him. "Are you qualified to make such a diagnosis," Chuck asks. Suddenly we're talking psychiatry; Plouffe, the Obama guy, thought he was kicked back, among friends. It'd be great if they got up a panel of real psychiatrists to talk Trump, or perhaps both Trump and Hillary, and toss in Putin for good measure. Put it on for four hours any night of the week. Make sure one of the panel is Trump's Surgeon General, this guy:

The doc said on TV the other day that there wasn't a President who didn't likely have some disease. "Eisenhower," he said, "had polio." Nuff said.

The hay's rolled up pretty much. We can buy a couple of rolls and stuff 'em under the edges of the cabin if we get a stern winter. Here in NC a panel of ten retired superior court justices, five Dems, five Repubs, figured out how to draw congressional districts without gerrymandering. It was just a thought experiment of course. The Republicans now running everything here immediately said it was a partisan stunt. Then they stood back and admired Trump's thousand dollar tuxedo.


Thursday Update. It's now September 1, and the tropical wave has been named Hermine, and its western edge (or perhaps the edge of its theoretical track northeast as plotted at the moment) is some past Charlotte to the west, which means here in Chatham County we could get a lot of rain and some wind. I don't expect trees to blow down, but I might put one vehicle up near the paved road, the standard winter drill, in case I'm wrong and a big tree should be blown across the driveway. One day, sooner or later, a big tree will be blown across the driveway. There are a whole lot of big trees lining the driveway, and the driveway is a third of a mile long. You can do the math. When that event happens I'll probably start calling people who have machines capable of sawing us out, because the big tree will likely be hung up in another big tree on the other side of the driveway, and that gets pretty complicated from a physics point of view. But I stress: this is a theoretical divigation. I don't expect trees to fall from Miss Hermine.

Meanwhile I perused the blogs looking for some comment about Mr. Trump's Arizona speech last night, and found precious little. The thing was nonetheless carried live on all the cable news networks I can get with my Dish subscription. MSNBC, both Fox channels, and CNN all carried the hour long monstrosity. Once again, as has been the case throughout this election farce, Mr. Trump need not bother with advertising. And he preceeded this round with a kabuki appearance in Mexico City, where he played a visiting head of state in the presence of a real head of state, appearing from the distance of 3,000 miles to be more capable of the role than, say, George W. Bush looking for the rest room at a Chinese banquet. This, then, passes for campaigning in our brave new century.

No one I read mentioned the truly evil tack of having so-called victims of undocumented latin Americans come up to the mike and tell their tragic stories. "My husband was killed by an undocumented Mexican drunk driver." Et cetera. On my local teevee news this bit of the speech was shortly followed by a local story. A latino mother of five had returned from shopping in an understandably harried state, and left her 3-year-old in the van. The child died from the heat. The mother was interviewed by the intrepid reporter. Her immigration status was not brought up. Trump's first person anectdotalist did that, pouring more acid on our tattered human fabric. Trump promises a great round up should he win. Funny the cheering racists don't have the foresight to imagine sitting in traffic for hours at check points searching the glove box for that special blue citizen's card that came in the mail in late spring, 2017. If it came from the Government they likely threw it away. Amirite.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Aching Need for Scapegoats

Went out to a nice lunch yesterday with my kid and a cousin, at a Cuban sandwich shop in Durham, NC. Here's their front door. Mighty fine.

This week several good political blog authors have noted a series of pieces by Ross Douthat and David French (ex-Presidential aspirant) which suggest that youngsters who are asserting their trans situation are really just presenting some sort of "fad," medical or social, victims somehow of liberal parents or a liberal social culture. Here in North Carolina this itch was decisively scratched back in the spring with HB-2. Slap 'em down! Our state government seems willing to pay any price. The NBA All-Star Game is gone. They've now hired some big cheeze lawyer to defend their law, a guy who charges $500 an hour. Roy Cooper, our Democratic Attorney General, who's running for governor against our Republican bigot, Pat McCrory, won't defend the law. Of course the Republicans just say it's all politics. Even the local NPR affiliate pretty much reports it that way. Funding is involved. Some say, others say. They're rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain.

Perhaps Tony Perkins lost his house to flood this past week because of his persecution of the weak and disenfranchised. That didn't stop Jerry Falwell, Jr. from endorsing Mr. Trump, so we have a test case in the making. Hurricane season is here: keep your eyes on Lynchburg, VA for the next couple of months. But I'm more convinced by the late Christopher Hitchens' argument. Some varieties of religion remove responsibility from people, and that's likely one reason for the expanding popularity of these varieties. And it's still cheap thrills. Just this past week we were looking at a nearby rest home for Libby's dad which stated, as part of it's religious credo, that humans are without religion "depraved." Here's the whole credo, just so you know I'm not kidding:

We believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible; the Deity and sinless perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ; the existence of the Holy Trinity; the total depravity of man and the necessity of the new birth; redemption through the blood of Christ; salvation by grace through faith; the personal premillenial return of Christ for all believers; and the physical resurrection of the dead, either to eternal bliss or eternal damnation.

Oh yeah? Well the old man ain't goin' there. He already spent a good year of his life in France and Germany, 1944-'45.

Meanwhile, I might go back over to Durham next week just for another Cuban sandwich.

Friday, August 12, 2016

We are Very Powerful

Chasing along behind Donald Trump's latest absurdity is a fool's errand. You can see the illustration of this truth by watching the news pretty much every day. In the can these days we keep a copy of Evan Wright's "Generation Kill." It's a little remindful of Michael Herr's "Dispatches." Possibly if George Bush had read "Dispatches" he might have considered more seriously the gawdawful idea of invading Iraq in 2003. Instead, a whole new generation of embedded journalists get the horrible opportunity to write the whole story yet again. Last time jungle and dumbassery. This time, desert, etc. As I've said here before, we already knew why invading Iraq was a terribly bad idea. The closest to reality the architects of the Iraq War, Part II got was when Paul Wolfowitz and a mortar came fairly close to occupying the same space while he was visiting Iraq a couple of years in. No doubt he had some spare underwear.

So it is that when Donald Trump tries to blame the existence of ISIS on the Obama administration (of which Mrs. Clinton was certainly a part), it's little short of an eye-roller, and no less an eye-roller than Mr. Bush's idea of invading Iraq and overthrowing its government and dispossessing its military and governing class was in the goddam first place. And of course that didn't in the least stop the good ole USA, and Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the damn idea too, so maybe in that distant sense she does have some responsibility for ISIS, and the logic for voting for the war resolution was not so distant from the logic of attacking Iraq because some expat Saudis living in Afganistan crashed US airliners into the World Trade Centers and killed some 3,000 innocent people, some muslims among them. The "logic" here meaning a short hand marker for "domestic political consumption," or see, e.g., "Truman Lost China."

But here's a little of what Mr. Evan Wright reports, and there's a whole book more full of the same story, day after grinding day. You can smell the blood and taste the dust.

Doc Bryan's examination of the boy has revealed that each of the four holes in the boy's body is an entry wound, meaning four bullets zoomed around inside his slender stomach and chest cavity, ripping apart his organs. Now the bullets are lodged somewhere inside. If the kid doesn't get medevaced, he's going to die in a few hours.

Fick and the battalion surgeon, Navy Lieutenant Alex Aubin, a twenty-nine year old fresh out of Annapolis and the Naval medical school in Bethesda, Maryland, arrives with bad news. Ferrando has denied their request to medevac the boy...

"I'm going to go ask the battalion commander again," Aubin says.

Colbert appears, climbing over the berm. He sees the mother, the kid, the brother with the bloody leg, other members of the family who have now gathered nearby. He seems to reel back for an instant, then rights himself... Colbert knees down over the kid, right next to his mother, and starts crying. He struggles to compose himself. "What can I do here?" he asks.

"Apparently fucking nothing," Doc Bryan says.

Aubin returns, shaking his head. "No, we can't medevac him." ...
(Generation Kill, pps. 172-73)

You might want to read Juan Cole's piece on the seven reasons why we shouldn't have intervened in the Syrian Civil War, an idea Mrs. Clinton still suggests from time to time is a good one. And unlike George Bush, who was only "around" during Vietnam, I'd imagine Mrs. Clinton actually remembers at least watching that unfold on TV. I sure remember it!

The interventionist temptation, muted since the Iraq imbroglio, is now returning. Sec. Clinton’s team are already talking about taking steps to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from office as soon as they get into the White House. An excellent and principled NYT columnist called the non-intervention in Syria President Obama’s worst mistake.

I understand the impulse. Who can watch the carnage in Syria and not wish for Someone to Do Something? But I beg to differ with regard to US intervention. We forget now how idealistic the rhetoric around the US intervention in Vietnam was. Johnson wanted to save a whole society from the Communist yoke. Our idealist rhetoric can blind us to the destruction we do (the US probably killed 1 to 2 million Vietnamese peasants, recalling Tacitus’ (d. after 117 CE) remark about the Pax Romana, “and where they make a desert, they call it peace.”–atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.)

Killing people is indeed a kind of power. Every life destroyed changes history, and thus the world. The little bedouin boy who died in the invasion of 2003 might have become a scientist who solved the zika virus, or a loving father tending his family and his desert herd of goats. It's possible that his brother, who lost his leg but survived, later blew himself up in some market in Baghdad, or in Damascus. Better a martyr than a one-legged beggar perhaps? Look, we are so powerful we can create a despair deeper than a galactic black hole, a despair so deep and wide that it can even today possibly induce us to put a blustering lunatic in charge of our nuclear arsenal. Oh great, the men and women who survived the Iraq War and stayed in will find themselves led by a posturing military school dropout who never served and has the attention span of a gnat.

Gravity is inexorable. Go near the black hole and it will seduce you closer still. We will avoid Trump, if we do, by electing Mrs. Clinton.