Morning words

So, morning it is, and a grey one at that. It’s very grounding, for me, to begin my morning (when I have the time) with 15-minutes of pen-on-paper.

The soothing scratch brings me to myself, as I settle into the rhythm of a new day. For these moments, I’ve no particular agenda. Things just emerge.

Perhaps it’s the vestige of one of the night’s dreams. Maybe it’s the small tug of a worry. Or maybe I just meander along, picking things up and putting them down.

I am here in the quiet. The scratch of the pen tells me that. And that’s enough to know for right now.

So, I wish for you a grounding and quiet start to this brand new day.

Make it yours, in whatever way works for you…

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As I did some free writing this morning, decrying the destructiveness of Trump and those who enable him, I ended in an odd place. My words carried me, unwillingly, I might add, to the shores of Kindness.

I should probably be ashamed of this, but kindness has never been a word that I particularly liked. In fact, I bring quite a lot of mistrust to it. Hearing the word I feel like a rebellious teenager being told to behave and be ‘nice.’

Kindness was not a truly felt value. Instead, it represented a hypocritical veneer to me. And that’s a view that I’ve carried unconsciously with me through my adulthood.

Till now.

It’s not that I’ve been (or wanted to be) unkind. More just that I haven’t thought about kindness much at all. And I certainly haven’t thought about it as something powerful and effective. But stepping back, I know that I have clearly experienced the transformative power of gratitude — how consciously choosing to feel grateful for particular people and experiences makes the world look and feel different.

So, I have to think that holding kindness in my consciousness in the same way may be equally transformative.

And the difference between kindness and gratitude, as I see it, is that kindness has an element of action, where gratitude is more about how you see and receive something. Kindness is about doing. So it asks me to be putting myself out in ways that I often tend to shy away from. (Indeed, putting myself out in any way is a bit of a stretch.)

It doesn’t ask me to be a different person, but to stretch from where I am. Authenticity is important.

And I hope you don’t find this annoying, but it’s the existence of Pete Buttigieg’s campaign that brings me to think about kindness. At this juncture in our life as a nation, I feel so stymied by the destruction of norms and the divisiveness that is being exploited so cynically by the GOP. The stress is exhausting and the prospects for anything like healing seem discouragingly dim. So I have found the different approach offered by Pete’s campaign to be refreshing and hopeful.

I just now Googled “Mayor Pete Kindness” and came up[ with a couple of posts — one by a writer from Ireland, so, of course, I’m linking to that one, Ireland being a nation well-versed in strife and the challenges of healing. The author Siobhan Kelleher Kukolic writes:

I don’t know who will win the next American election. But I hope it is someone who can unite people from all walks of life, no matter their political beliefs. Someone who reminds us that we are stronger together and we are more alike than different.

The other day as I was driving back to my office form a meeting, I found myself behind a car with the license plate “Killery.” My first instinct was to rear-end the vehicle, but then I thought about the hassles that would follow and contemplated my second instinct. That was to get the driver’s attention and then give him or her the finger. Realizing that someone with those plates might also be carrying some sort of a firearm, I nixed that plan.

And now, as I write, I see how those responses bring nothing new to the table. They reinforce the known and, like my old Twitter arguments (which I have thankfully stepped away from), they change no minds.

Perhaps even more importantly, they break no new ground within me. I remain where I am, and while that’s not a terrible place, I’ve neither learned nor grown.

Which brings me back to a word like Kindness — a word that I turned away from years ago, ceding its meaning to other people. I am guessing that I did the same with lots of other words that I haven’t thought of. And maybe I want to revisit these concepts, these words, and own them for myself. An illuminating and expansive process — and definitely a hopeful one.

This morning, this is my antidote to the soul-killing disease that is Donald Trump.

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A Very Scary Walk

Yesterday evening I took a very scary walk in our woods with Caleb. It started off innocently enough, as we headed up the field and into the woods.

I lost track of Caleb early on but wasn’t too concerned. He often disappears, especially during the first part of the walk. Lots of things to do and smells to explore, and there’s very little trouble he can get into, or so he tells me.

Except yesterday evening was different. The smell. It got stronger and stronger.

Yes indeedy, it was a pungent skunk, and very close by. So where was Caleb? That was my big worry. Often on these walks he takes off and gets ahead of me. And if he was ahead of me, I had a pretty good idea of what had happened. (And if THAT had happened, I had a pretty good idea of how the rest of my evening was going to go, too.)

But lo and behold, as I walked through the Maple Grove I saw Caleb trotting up behind me as if he hadn’t a care in the world. The skunk smell had dissipated by then, and as he approached, I wasn’t getting any powerful new whiffs. Hopeful but not convinced, I kept my eye on him, watching for any strange behavior or noxious smells. Caleb was oblivious and patient — he didn’t even seem to mind too much that I sniffed his head when he paused in front of me.

My lucky day! We dodged a bullet, me and Caleb. And as we continued our walk, he sang a little song. I share it with you now, for your enjoyment.

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Easter Poop and Trump Fantasies

First the poop…

Kudos to BJ for spotting this and snapping the photo. We decided it must be coyote poop. Click the image for a closer look. Maybe you can help us figure out what rodents contributed to the festive, Easter shade.

Now the fantasies…

I’ve had two, in recent days. Both are focused on getting him to leave office, and both give me some satisfaction until I remember that:

  • They are fantasies;
  • Pence would step in when Trump stepped out, which is:
    • Not as abhorrent a thought as it used to be, but
    • Still pretty damn abhorrent; and
  • Trump being gone doesn’t address the issues of:
    • All the people who voted for him (some of whom actually believe he is sent by god), and
    • All the folks in the GOP who have been complicit in his degradation of systems and norms — not something easily repaired.

But I’ve never let reality interfere with a good fantasy, so here’s what I’m thinking…

Fantasy #1: Buy him out.

I’ve been struck by the way those French billionaires are stepping up and bankrolling repairs to Notre Dame. Aside from the fact that it’s a gaudy illustration of world-wide wealth inequalities, it got me thinking about what folks like Gates and Bezos and Musk might be able to do to help us get rid of Trump. Hell, let’s include George Soros in the mix, too, since he’s already the Boogie Man for Trump voters.

In my fantasy they pool their money and basically offer him a bribe to leave office and move to someplace away from the US where he’d be safe from prosecution AND could still, potentially have the adulation that he craves. I’m actually thinking that North Korea might be a good landing spot. He thinks it has lots of potential, right? So he could spend his last years living in luxury there and brokering real estate deals with his friend Kim. I really don’t care what he does, so long as he stops doing it here. And come to think of it, if his followers and enablers so-desired, I’d be in favor of allowing them to go with him.

Fantasy #2: Appeal to his vanity.

The man I like to call the orange miasma ran for President on two big promises, as I recall:

  • Build the wall, and
  • Drain the swamp.

He’s done a bang-up job on the first. So let’s see what he can do on the second — which brings me to my fantasy.

In it, Trump is offered (again, probably by rich guys, as greed seems to be a bit of a motivator for him) the opportunity to reframe his entire time in office as an audacious trap. He becomes the hero of a drama in which everything he did was aimed at attracting (and ultimately unmasking) the elements in our government that are most power-hungry and corrupt.

Guaranteed that he’ll be able to walk away, Trump turns on his lackeys and enablers, and they all are revealed as the crooks and liars that they are. Thus, the swamp is drained of the likes of Mitch and Lindsey and Sarah (and the list goes on and on and on).

The only swamp creatures to escape are Donnie and his family. Yes, I’ll let them go — not happily, but for the greater good. Everyone can see what they are, anyway. And on the whole, they seem so inept as to be nearly harmless.

So, those are my fantasies. Unlikely, I know, but I’m sticking with them until something better comes along.

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Signs and Portents 2.0

So, I was hoping that the Mueller Report would be released on Friday, sometime between Noon and 3PM — the traditionally recognized hours of the crucifixion. But releasing it on the day of the Last Supper works as well. After all, according to many true-believers, Trump is the Second Coming. So, some drama on Thursday is in keeping with the Holy Week timetable. (And we all still know what’s coming on Friday, so there’s that, too.)

First there was Palm Sunday…

After Palm Sunday, Holy Week wends its way toward Thursday and the Last Supper. The symbolism is rich. We’ve got a passel of modern-day disciples. They’re a motley crew of White House Officials — both past and ‘acting’ — who may or may not know what they are doing. AND who may or may not have betrayed their bloated, orange pinata of a POTUS/Christ-figure.

They are increasingly worried (much too mild a word for it) about having their betrayal exposed by the Mueller Report. As NBC News sums it up: “‘They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,’ one former White House official said.”

Which one is Judas? Actually, more realistically, I think we have to ask which ones. And OMG it is going to be SO interesting and FUN to find out, isn’t it?

But back to our Holy Week activities. There’s the Last Supper — probably down at Mar-a-Lago, right? What is being served? I have a pretty good guess. Yum! Unless, of course, Donnie had a stash of moldy old Trump steaks that he decided to generously share with his lackeys on this most portentous night. Chewy steaks washed down with glasses of Trump Vodka. Heaven on earth (not to mention a new twist on communion)!

To give you some idea of the kinds of pleasures awaiting the disciples at this Last Supper, here are some stand-in ‘disciples’ giving the Lord’s vodka a little taste…

Of course, one thing that Trump is surely thinking, on this night of nights, is that he’s lucky to have William Barr in his corner. Well, maybe he’s not thinking he’s lucky so much as smart. Yeah, really, really smart. Probably the smartest ever. Historically smart. No Pontious Pilate for this POTUS. Indeed, William Barr was hand-picked for his loyalty. Not his taste in sunglasses, as the photo attests. And not his character or his legal acumen, as his willingness to work in the Trump White House attests.

But wait – THAT’s not William Barr. He’d NEVER make the peace sign! An interloper, albeit a talented and entertaining interloper, slipped into the supper before being recognized and escorted unceremoniously out by POTUS’ nasty-but-buff bodyguards. It’s THIS William Barr — the jowly-self-satisfied-and-BIGLY-compromised one — that Trump is so happy about. You can see why right?

And here’s the thing: If you step back and squint your eyes just a little, isn’t Barr really just a slightly healthier-looking, cleaned up version of this other Trump crony? Aren’t these disciples just the most inspiring bunch of toadies ever? And there’s lots more where these came from. They’re all kinda the same person when it comes down to it. (With apologies to Sir Elton, who most definitely does NOT belong in this rogues gallery.)

How does it all end?

Once we get past today, it’s hard to say, at least with any kind of a timetable attached. But before the proverbial cock crows, they’ll all back away. Whenever that blasted cock actually crows. We’ve been waiting for such a long time — and it’s coming. It may not be the Mueller Report that starts the true unraveling of this evil empire. But something will. And once it does and these #deplorables sense that their bloated orange POTUS is about to go the way of Trump steaks and vodka, they’ll be jumping ship.

It’s just the way with these things.

And come the day of his comeuppance, I’m sure the Donald will feel like he is being crucified. He’ll squeal and whine and wail. No dignity in the man, that’s for sure. And his fervent followers will lash out, blaming the Deep State and fake news and all manner of conspiratorial evildoers. And then they will wait.

And wait…

And wait…

For what? Why for that resurrection that was foretold on Fox News and in the QAnon prophecies. Michele Bachmann will be the first to behold the reconstituted Donald as he descends (rather repetitively) on another golden escalator. At that point, as has been written, she will step up to the microphone (because there’s always a microphone) and explain it all most satisfactorily and credibly.

Cray without end, amen.

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A Quick Retraction

Referring back to yesterday’s post, 10-minutes a day isn’t realistic (especially since I have a hankering, going forward, to ‘Retweet Pete’ as much as possible).

So, let’s just say I’m going to watch my Facebook and Twitter time, aim to turn off my computer by 9PM (unless I’m on my iPad and watching Maddow or sports) and stop looking for trouble. Having blocked a few of the folks who’ve been most problematic, I think I may be in good shape.

Probably more information than you wanted, and for that I apologize.

But since you’re here, here’s some Mayor Pete ‘stuff.’

Above are some interviews with folks from South Bend. Below is the video of the event on 4/14/19 in South Bend. Pete’s speech starts at about the 1:16:00 mark…

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More Poop in the Woods

So a bit over a week ago we had a bear give a nocturnal display of his or her strength using our bird feeder. (Weather Dewd heard the commotion but apparently was engrossed in something else at the time so didn’t get up to check.) Here’s the damage (since repaired by Weather Dewd and JordanCornblog.):

Since that nocturnal visit we’ve not put out any more seed, and the birdfeeder has remained happily unscathed.

However, the other day whilst walking in the woods, I noticed a very interesting sample of scat.

You may recall an earlier post here about coyote poop we’ve noticed in the woods along the snowy trails. Well, this here is an entirely different animal, as you’ll see below. Just click on each image to get up close and personal with the evidence.

Interestingly, this bear scat is located right in the middle of the trail we walk daily. And it’s right in the spot where I swear on two walks I started randomly thinking about bears. Cross my heart. I looked around warily and everything.

So, now what? I just keep my eyes peeled when I’m out walking. (And I hope that bears are the shy creatures that everyone tells me they are.

And just as a quick update, in the Twitter front, I blocked the people I’d been so annoyed with yesterday. As well I’ve blocked some of the folks I habitually visited when I was looking for trouble — Coulter, Trump, Trump, Jr., etc. And I’m adding an item to my bullet journal for tracking time on Twitter and Facebook. Calling it “10” — I’ll get to check it off when I spend no more than 10 minutes a day on Facebook and Twitter combined. Using a timer generally helps me with goals like that, and 10 minutes is more than enough time. PLUS, if I’m not getting into ‘dust-ups’ it’s unlikely I’ll be tempted to stay longer. It’s wanting to have the last word that generally keeps me up at night. (And why should social media be any different than any other area of my life?!?) 😉

Hope you get outside today. Oh yeah, and hope you get to watch Mayor Pete’s big announcement, too.

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So, I was Going to Get to Bed Early…

I watched an excellent Q&A with Pete Buttigieg at Northeastern (video below) and was feeling a glimmer of hopefulness about life in these United States.

Then I made the mistake of checking my Twitter feed and saw the despicable post by the current occupant of the White House. It was clear that he was inciting violence against a member of Congress, and by extension against anyone of the Muslim faith.

Next, I made the further mistake of tweeting a response expressing disgust, anger, horror…the list of words/feelings is a long one, but that’s the ballpark. I was surprised that my comment received replies. And there were a number of individuals who felt they needed to respond by calling me an ignorant libtard and other less complimentary names. There ensued a useless tangle of jibs and jabs.

One of the people was a QAnon believer and I felt like I was in the presence of a rare species of mammal. Maybe not-so-rare, though. The QAnon conspiracy theory certainly seems something that Trump is working to exploit. And there are more believers than you’d expect (a dire commentary on the state of our educational system).

QAnon Meme
QAnon Meme
QAnon Meme2
Another one…

Right on cue (get it?!) my new Twitter ‘friend’ posted popular QAnon memes about The Storm and The Great Awakening — both staples of these credulous kool-aid drinking pizza-eaters.

So what do we do?

Discussion is not possible. Arguing is not productive. Words have little meaning, ideas no traction, and facts hold no sway. It’s like we live in different universes. How do we ever come together?

Prolly time to remove Twitter from my ken again. I always come away from these encounters feeling diminished, discouraged and, too often, also afraid. Better to go for a walk or meditate or read or watch a video of a sane candidate or donate to a good cause…or something.

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Invaded and Invisible

So I wrote this title a few days ago and now I can’t remember why. But what it’s leading me to think about today is power, people’s relative visibility, and the whole Joe Biden thing.

About Joe, I hate it that the stories coming out may well be political hit jobs orchestrated by opportunistic rivals. The news coverage isn’t so much about issues as it is about who’s up and who’s down. Just another sporting event.

So the discussion, in this case, is about whether Joe will be able to survive this. And maybe it’s about who’s behind the dirty politics. The focus veers away from the incidents themselves and returns to the power struggle. And more often than not (still) that struggle is between men. Currently, in the press and on social media, many folks are blaming Bernie’s supporters, if not Bernie himself, for this Biden business.

But I’m more interested in what this Biden business says about the questions that the #MeToo movement has been shining a light on. Who owns whom? Who gets to do what to whom? Who gets to draw the lines?

It’s not ‘just’ rape we’re talking about. No, it’s more nuanced and it boils down to power and visibility and boundaries. We each need to think about it. Who do I have power over? Who do I get to do things to without even thinking about it or noticing? Who do I feel okay saying no to? And who do I not?

So, what about Joe?

In this case, is Joe ‘just’ a nice, old-school guy who’s touchy and huggy? Or is he ‘creepy uncle Joe’? And, actually, couldn’t you say that ‘nice, old-school guys’ are, by today’s standards, kinda creepy sometimes? White males, and I think especially white males of Joe’s vintage and station, are so used to having power over folks that it’s often hard for them to see it. Might be power over women, or might be children. Might be power over people of color or LBGTQ folks. Might be brutal, the way it’s exercised, or it might be subtle. But it’s still in the “power over” category.

One of my experiences of this was with my grandfather. He was not my favorite person in the world, for reasons I’ve explored a lot over the years (and won’t bore you with here). One of the things he would occasionally do, especially when I was in Junior High School, was to smooth my long hair if I was within reach and he felt like it.

He’d get weirdly syrupy and talk about how he loved my hair as he ran his fingers through it. I absolutely hated it when he did that. I’d tense up and endure, feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and like I was somehow giving myself away. Raised to be polite, I never said anything and I never moved away in those moments. But you can bet I kept my distance when I could.

We all, back then, bought into the trope that it was his right to do that. And the grown-ups all probably thought it was a nice thing. I felt a little mean-spirited and confused for hating it so much. But, bottom line, I felt invaded and invisible. Buried in there was a lesson learned, about boundaries and about who had the right to say no, and who had the right to do what to whom.

Those are lessons that this culture is still working to weed out and unlearn. Unlearn, that is, when we’re not being white-bread reactionary and trying to reinstate those good old Christian values that so many are nostalgic for.

Have you ever noticed how one side of that Christian values coin looks just like Mike Pence; and the flip side is the spittin’ image of Donald Trump? Yup, them’s some MAGAnificent Christian values writ large, right here in 2019.

Anyway, back to Joe Biden and his invasive touching. He is probably a more benevolent soul than my grandfather was. And he’s definitely a human of a higher order than the current POTUS. But still, are we really just going to be okay with Joe being Joe?

Here’s what I think (drumroll)…

If he has not backed off in all this time, Joe really hasn’t been listening. He hasn’t had to listen. That’s what power is about. When you are adorned with power, if you want to hear or see what isn’t of your world, you have to choose it. It’s not going to just come to you naturally. And you also have to be willing to see that the power that life has conferred on you is probably mostly an accident — not something you deserve or have earned.

So, if Joe really wanted to understand the power imbalances in our world today he’d have seen, by now, how his touch might not always be welcome (even if no one was swatting his hand away). And if he truly chose to explore and own the power afforded by his whiteness and maleness (not to mention his fame and political clout), I think he’d probably back off. I really do. Because he seems a genuinely nice guy who means well.

So what I’m left with, when it comes to Joe, is that in all these years, he really hasn’t done his homework. What I’m left with is that we are all pretty much invisible to him. I’m glad that, in his second try at apologizing, he said that he was open to listening. But I’m disappointed that he apparently hasn’t been listening, really listening, before now.

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Why is the GOP So Corrupt and Mean-Spirited?

I’m not even talking about Donald Trump, who is certifiable. It’s important to keep an eye on him – the way you keep an eye on a toddler to make sure he doesn’t burn the house down. But it’s not a good idea to look to him for complete sentences or anything much beyond the most primitive impulses.

No, I’m talking about a political party that was once, indeed, the party of Abraham Lincoln. How has it morphed into the corrupt and mean-spirited assemblage of wealthy sociopaths; incurious and gullible Fox News ingesters; and, lest we forget, rabid white nationalists and gun-loving militia members that it is today?

Honestly, it’s the wealthy sociopaths that I find most unfathomably egregious. What are they really after? Steve Bannon wants to deconstruct the administrative state, but it’s hard for me to believe that Mitch McConnell is on board with that. And what is deconstructing the administrative state even about? Here’s an interesting article from the Harvard Law Review titled “Reconstructing the Administrative State in an Era of Economic and Democratic Crisis.” The author argues that regulatory bodies (like the EPA, for example) are crucial to realizing our “aspirations for economic, racial, and gender inclusion after the ups and downs of the twentieth century…”

But once a faction of organized interests shifts to reject the core purpose of regulation itself, then dismantling, rather than simply redirecting, administrative authority and administrative checks and balances becomes preferred as a policy agenda. Indeed, the high politics of anti-administrativism represent a real and legitimate critique of administrative authority — and one that can be debated in good faith. But on its own, these high politics of anti-administrativism are simply not politically powerful enough to explain the extremes of today’s political realities. The politics of organized economic elites and racial resentment, however, are. And these are political forces that are much more difficult to debate and overcome.

Book Review by K. Sabeel Rahman

It’s the organized economic elites, exploiting racial fear and resentment, that are taking us in the direction of corrupt kleptocracy. It’s a transformation that, Franklin Foer argues in his article Russian-Style Kleptocracy Is Infiltrating America, has been underway for many years. He paints a chilling picture of where we are. Greed is the driving force, and Russia offers a depressing blueprint. And oh-so-interestingly, it’s the real-estate market, via a loophole in The Patriot Act, that has been the conduit for vast sums of dirty money.

American collusion with kleptocracy comes at a terrible cost for the rest of the world. All of the stolen money, all of those evaded tax dollars sunk into Central Park penthouses and Nevada shell companies, might otherwise fund health care and infrastructure. (A report from the anti-poverty group One has argued that 3.6 million deaths each year can be attributed to this sort of resource siphoning.) Thievery tramples the possibilities of workable markets and credible democracy. It fuels suspicions that the whole idea of liberal capitalism is a hypocritical sham: While the world is plundered, self-righteous Americans get rich off their complicity with the crooks.

The Founders were concerned that venality would become standard procedure, and it has. Long before suspicion mounted about the loyalties of Donald Trump, large swaths of the American elite—lawyers, lobbyists, real-estate brokers, politicians in state capitals who enabled the creation of shell companies—had already proved themselves to be reliable servants of a rapacious global plutocracy. Richard Palmer was right: The looting elites of the former Soviet Union were far from rogue profiteers. They augured a kleptocratic habit that would soon become widespread. One bitter truth about the Russia scandal is that by the time Vladimir Putin attempted to influence the shape of our country, it was already bending in the direction of his.

Franklin Foer

So I guess I have my answer. The articles cited — and most especially this last one from The Atlantic — are illuminating. Greed is at the heart of what is happening, indeed. There’s a part of me that finds it difficult to fathom greed on this scale. How much money does a body need? How much power? What drives the individual human beings who are fueling or participating in this debacle? How do they justify themselves to themselves? Do they know that they are going to die one day, just like the folks whose demises they are hastening with their greed?

So, there’s rampant greed that explains the behavior of folks like the Mercer’s and the Koch’s and the Trump’s. Then there are the people in the government who appear to simply serve those deplorable elites. People like Mitch and Lindsey and our new addition to the rogues’ gallery, Billy Barr. What drives them? And what do they actually think they are doing? What stories do they tell themselves to justify their actions? What bargains have they made? Just how deluded are they?

I return to my original question — why is the GOP so corrupt and mean-spirited?

If you can offer any answers, I’d love to hear ’em.

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