It is ironic that so many people in America still see our last president not as he really is, but in the way he wants them to see him. His “Big Announcement” of last week was just another attempt to mulct the base by selling trading cards showing a set of highly idealized images of himself as a superhero.
I would like to think that the man’s powers are fading imperceptibly, from week to week, from a figure that purported to be a savior of the forgotten Americans of the Red States, to an extremely high maintenance liability known for shafting everyone who ever cared for him.
Instead of shelling out big money to support the man, I present to you a more realistic image of the 45th President of the U.S., who still thinks he’s President:
Of late, I have become fascinated by literary and historical antecedents of our present divided political situation. In the United States, we have the Blue States versus the Red States. In a post from December 9 when I wrote about Charles Dickens describing the Blues and the Buffs at a parliamentary election at Eatanswill. One of the most amazing tales on the subject comes from Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when he describes the racing factions of the Hippodrome during the reign of Justinian in the 6th Century A.D. in Constantinople:
Constantinople adopted the follies, though not the virtues, of ancient Rome; and the same factions which had agitated the circus, raged with redoubled fury in the hippodrome. Under the reign of Anastasius, this popular frenzy was inflamed by religious zeal; and the greens, who had treacherously concealed stones and daggers under baskets of fruit, massacred, at a solemn festival, three thousand of their blue adversaries. From this capital, the pestilence was diffused into the provinces and cities of the East, and the sportive distinction of two colors produced two strong and irreconcilable factions, which shook the foundations of a feeble government. The popular dissensions, founded on the most serious interest, or holy pretence, have scarcely equalled the obstinacy of this wanton discord, which invaded the peace of families, divided friends and brothers, and tempted the female sex, though seldom seen in the circus, to espouse the inclinations of their lovers, or to contradict the wishes of their husbands. Every law, either human or divine, was trampled under foot, and as long as the party was successful, its deluded followers appeared careless of private distress or public calamity. The license, without the freedom, of democracy, was revived at Antioch and Constantinople, and the support of a faction became necessary to every candidate for civil or ecclesiastical honors. A secret attachment to the family or sect of Anastasius was imputed to the greens; the blues were zealously devoted to the cause of orthodoxy and Justinian, and their grateful patron protected, above five years, the disorders of a faction, whose seasonable tumults overawed the palace, the senate, and the capitals of the East. Insolent with royal favor, the blues affected to strike terror by a peculiar and Barbaric dress, the long hair of the Huns, their close sleeves and ample garments, a lofty step, and a sonorous voice. In the day they concealed their two-edged poniards, but in the night they boldly assembled in arms, and in numerous bands, prepared for every act of violence and rapine. Their adversaries of the green faction, or even inoffensive citizens, were stripped and often murdered by these nocturnal robbers, and it became dangerous to wear any gold buttons or girdles, or to appear at a late hour in the streets of a peaceful capital. A daring spirit, rising with impunity, proceeded to violate the safeguard of private houses; and fire was employed to facilitate the attack, or to conceal the crimes of these factious rioters. No place was safe or sacred from their depredations; to gratify either avarice or revenge, they profusely spilt the blood of the innocent; churches and altars were polluted by atrocious murders; and it was the boast of the assassins, that their dexterity could always inflict a mortal wound with a single stroke of their dagger. The dissolute youth of Constantinople adopted the blue livery of disorder; the laws were silent, and the bonds of society were relaxed: creditors were compelled to resign their obligations; judges to reverse their sentence; masters to enfranchise their slaves; fathers to supply the extravagance of their children; noble matrons were prostituted to the lust of their servants; beautiful boys were torn from the arms of their parents; and wives, unless they preferred a voluntary death, were ravished in the presence of their husbands. The despair of the greens, who were persecuted by their enemies, and deserted by the magistrates, assumed the privilege of defence, perhaps of retaliation; but those who survived the combat were dragged to execution, and the unhappy fugitives, escaping to woods and caverns, preyed without mercy on the society from whence they were expelled. Those ministers of justice who had courage to punish the crimes, and to brave the resentment, of the blues, became the victims of their indiscreet zeal; a præfect of Constantinople fled for refuge to the holy sepulchre, a count of the East was ignominiously whipped, and a governor of Cilicia was hanged, by the order of Theodora, on the tomb of two assassins whom he had condemned for the murder of his groom, and a daring attack upon his own life. An aspiring candidate may be tempted to build his greatness on the public confusion, but it is the interest as well as duty of a sovereign to maintain the authority of the laws. The first edict of Justinian, which was often repeated, and sometimes executed, announced his firm resolution to support the innocent, and to chastise the guilty, of every denomination and color. Yet the balance of justice was still inclined in favor of the blue faction, by the secret affection, the habits, and the fears of the emperor; his equity, after an apparent struggle, submitted, without reluctance, to the implacable passions of Theodora, and the empress never forgot, or forgave, the injuries of the comedian. At the accession of the younger Justin, the proclamation of equal and rigorous justice indirectly condemned the partiality of the former reign. “Ye blues, Justinian is no more! ye greens, he is still alive!”
A sedition, which almost laid Constantinople in ashes, was excited by the mutual hatred and momentary reconciliation of the two factions. In the fifth year of his reign, Justinian celebrated the festival of the ides of January; the games were incessantly disturbed by the clamorous discontent of the greens: till the twenty-second race, the emperor maintained his silent gravity; at length, yielding to his impatience, he condescended to hold, in abrupt sentences, and by the voice of a crier, the most singular dialogue that ever passed between a prince and his subjects. Their first complaints were respectful and modest; they accused the subordinate ministers of oppression, and proclaimed their wishes for the long life and victory of the emperor. “Be patient and attentive, ye insolent railers!” exclaimed Justinian; “be mute, ye Jews, Samaritans, and Manichaeans!” The greens still attempted to awaken his compassion. “We are poor, we are innocent, we are injured, we dare not pass through the streets: a general persecution is exercised against our name and color. Let us die, O emperor! but let us die by your command, and for your service!” But the repetition of partial and passionate invectives degraded, in their eyes, the majesty of the purple; they renounced allegiance to the prince who refused justice to his people; lamented that the father of Justinian had been born; and branded his son with the opprobrious names of a homicide, an ass, and a perjured tyrant. “Do you despise your lives?” cried the indignant monarch: the blues rose with fury from their seats; their hostile clamors thundered in the hippodrome; and their adversaries, deserting the unequal contest spread terror and despair through the streets of Constantinople. At this dangerous moment, seven notorious assassins of both factions, who had been condemned by the præfect, were carried round the city, and afterwards transported to the place of execution in the suburb of Pera. Four were immediately beheaded; a fifth was hanged: but when the same punishment was inflicted on the remaining two, the rope broke, they fell alive to the ground, the populace applauded their escape, and the monks of St. Conon, issuing from the neighboring convent, conveyed them in a boat to the sanctuary of the church. As one of these criminals was of the blue, and the other of the green livery, the two factions were equally provoked by the cruelty of their oppressor, or the ingratitude of their patron; and a short truce was concluded till they had delivered their prisoners and satisfied their revenge. The palace of the præfect, who withstood the seditious torrent, was instantly burnt, his officers and guards were massacred, the prisons were forced open, and freedom was restored to those who could only use it for the public destruction. A military force, which had been despatched to the aid of the civil magistrate, was fiercely encountered by an armed multitude, whose numbers and boldness continually increased; and the Heruli, the wildest Barbarians in the service of the empire, overturned the priests and their relics, which, from a pious motive, had been rashly interposed to separate the bloody conflict. The tumult was exasperated by this sacrilege, the people fought with enthusiasm in the cause of God; the women, from the roofs and windows, showered stones on the heads of the soldiers, who darted fire brands against the houses; and the various flames, which had been kindled by the hands of citizens and strangers, spread without control over the face of the city. The conflagration involved the cathedral of St. Sophia, the baths of Zeuxippus, a part of the palace, from the first entrance to the altar of Mars, and the long portico from the palace to the forum of Constantine: a large hospital, with the sick patients, was consumed; many churches and stately edifices were destroyed and an immense treasure of gold and silver was either melted or lost. From such scenes of horror and distress, the wise and wealthy citizens escaped over the Bosphorus to the Asiatic side; and during five days Constantinople was abandoned to the factions, whose watchword, Nika, vanquish! has given a name to this memorable sedition.
Illustration by “Phiz” for The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
If you think the political division between the Democrats and Republicans is a new think, you should read Charles Dickens’s The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837), particularly in the scenes describing the parliamentary election at Eatanswill (“Eat and Swill”), one of the most savage satires by the British writer. Here is his masterful description of the state of things at Eatanswill:
It appears, then, that the Eatanswill people, like the people of many other small towns, considered themselves of the utmost and most mighty importance, and that every man in Eatanswill, conscious of the weight that attached to his example, felt himself bound to unite, heart and soul, with one of the two great parties that divided the town—the Blues and the Buffs. Now the Blues lost no opportunity of opposing the Buffs, and the Buffs lost no opportunity of opposing the Blues; and the consequence was, that whenever the Buffs and Blues met together at public meeting, town-hall, fair, or market, disputes and high words arose between them. With these dissensions it is almost superfluous to say that everything in Eatanswill was made a party question. If the Buffs proposed to new skylight the market-place, the Blues got up public meetings, and denounced the proceeding; if the Blues proposed the erection of an additional pump in the High Street, the Buffs rose as one man and stood aghast at the enormity. There were Blue shops and Buff shops, Blue inns and Buff inns—there was a Blue aisle and a Buff aisle in the very church itself.
Of course it was essentially and indispensably necessary that each of these powerful parties should have its chosen organ and representative: and, accordingly, there were two newspapers in the town—the Eatanswill Gazette and the Eatanswill Independent; the former advocating Blue principles, and the latter conducted on grounds decidedly Buff. Fine newspapers they were. Such leading articles, and such spirited attacks!—‘Our worthless contemporary, the Gazette’—‘That disgraceful and dastardly journal, the Independent’—‘That false and scurrilous print, the Independent’—‘That vile and slanderous calumniator, the Gazette;’ these, and other spirit-stirring denunciations, were strewn plentifully over the columns of each, in every number, and excited feelings of the most intense delight and indignation in the bosoms of the townspeople.
The Neverending Election: So Boring Your Ears Will Bleed!
It is now official. Donald J. Trump will run for president in 2024. He plans to bore us into submission with his endless rambling disconnected speeches, complete with antediluvian dance moves and fist pumps. When his announcement to run was made at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday, his mostly sympathetic audience was so fatigued that they tried to leave the room—but Trump had ordered the doors to be locked to prevent that from happening.
Isn’t that against the law? What if there were a fire? I would have called the local fire department from the floor of the auditorium. But then I am no friend of the Trumpster Dumpster.
Missing from the audience were Don Junior, who “missed his flight” and Ivanka, who has decided to remove herself from politics and Papa’s bedroom eyes
Compared to his announcement in 2015, when he came down the escalator like a god descending from Heaven, this was a low-energy event. The 2022 midterm elections have hurt the Trump brand, but he refuses to give it credence. Is he going to claim the 2024 election was stolen if he gets only a tiny percent of the vote?
You know, Americans are mighty fickle, and could it be that all the stuff Trump stands for is fast becoming passé? Maybe democracy will ultimately be saved because the 45th President is yesterday’s news.
Looking at the coverage for the 2022 Midterm Elections, I find myself appalled by the decisions made by voters in Rural America. Although I am pleasantly surprised by the many failures of Republican candidates (as opposed to what pundits had predicted), I wonder by rural voters vote the way they do.
When the Founding Fathers decided on what sort of government the former British colonies would have, they saw the new nation as a union of states. That led, among other things, to the infamous Electoral College which gave the edge in Presidential elections to rural states. The very fact that all states, irrespective of population, have two senators meant that the least populous state, Wyoming, with 580,000 residents, had as much clout in the senate as California, with 39.24 million residents.
The way the Electoral College works is that, for each state, one adds the number of U.S. senators (two per state0 to the number of members of the House of Representatives. That means that Wyoming has 3 electoral votes, whereas California has 53. That doesn’t look so bad at first, until you realize that California has roughly 78 times as many people as Wyoming, not 19 times as many. That distortion is caused by the addition of Wyoming’s two senators.
I don’t get a good feeling about the voters who live in rural America. They’re not all sturdy independent farmers: More likely, they’re living from hand to mouth and are bitterly opposed to us city folks. I also get the feeling that theirs is primarily an “F—k You“ vote.
We have to be aware of the fact that rural voters can get into an awful snit and sink the Ship of State for no good reason.
I have just finished reading Joan Didion’s short book on the right-wing death squad violence in El Salvador forty years ago. Back in 1964, she had voted for Barry Goldwater for President. A rancher’s daughter from Sacramento, she did not really personally encounter the disconnect between what Ronald Reagan was saying in Washington and what Roberto D’Aubuisson and his adherents were doing to the people of El Salvador.
Here Joan talks about something that shocked her about the availability of “actual information”:
Actual information was hard to come by in El Salvador, perhaps because this was not a culture in which a high value was placed on the definite…. All numbers in El Salvador tended to materialize and vanish and rematerialize in a different form, as if the numbers denoted only the “use” of numbers, an intention, a wish, a recognition that someone, somewhere, for whatever reason, needed to hear the ineffable expressed as a number. At any given time in El Salvador a great deal of what goes on is considered ineffable, and the use of numbers in this context tends to frustrate people who try to understand them literally, rather than as a proposition to be floated, “heard,” “mentioned.” There was the case of the March 28, 1982 election, about which there continued into that summer the rather scholastic argument first posed by Central American Studies, the publication of the Jesuit university in San Salvador: Had it taken an average of 2.5 minutes to cast a vote or less? Could each ballot box hold 500 ballots, or more? The numbers were eerily Salvadoran. There were said to be 1.3 million people eligible to vote on March 28, but 1.5 million people were said to have voted. These 1.5 million people were said, in turn, to represent not 115 percent of the 1.3 million eligible voters but 80 percent (or, on another float, “62-68 percent”) of the eligible voters….
As we raggedly slouch toward election day, my mailbox is filled to overflowing with negative political advertising. Indeed, there is so much of it that the local post office has 100% more mail to deliver—most of it being junk. Since November is here, the really nasty stuff is coming out: lies, accusations, exaggerations, empty promises, and enough bile to choke a wharf rat.
No wonder that Americans dread election time. So much money is being spent to influence voters, and for longer periods of time, that when we finally do submit our ballots, it is with a taste of ashes in our gorge.
I left my ballot in a drop box last week, and I received an email indicating that it was received and submitted. Martine chooses to vote in person on election day. I do not, as I abhor all forms of political posturing. I do believe if I saw someone wearing a MAGA hat on election day, I would sweep it off his/her/its head. So it’s probably not a good idea for me to vote in person, ever!
Would I ever run for office? Not in this country at this time. I fear I would succumb to the nastiness and become warped.
An intense campaign is shaping up for Los Angeles’s City Council District 11 between two defense attorneys: Erin Darling, a Progressive Democrat, and Traci Park, probably a Republican. At stake is the proliferation of homeless encampments in the district.
On Saturday morning, Martine and I had a chance to see a debate between Darling and Park. We were unimpressed by both of the candidates—though we suspect that Park is more willing to enforce existing laws forbidding encampments near schools, churches, and public parks.
In general, there are two prevailing voter viewpoints regarding the homeless: On one hand, there are the Mother Teresas and, on the other, the Darth Vaders. If a homeless person is willing to observe the law and is seriously interested in leaving the street encampments, I am willing to join the Mother Teresas to assist them. For those who are mentally hill and are unwilling to obey rules regarding alcohol and recreational drugs, I prefer the Darth Vader approach: drive them off the streets, by force if necessary.
Although Erin Darling is endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and several liberal politicians and organizations, I see that Traci Park is endorsed by the Fire Department and local Police Departments. I rather suspect that Darling is one of those Woke Liberals I dislike as much as Trump’s MAGA insurrectionists. At one point in the debate, he spoke glowingly of the skateboarding community. What, aren’t they all still in Middle School? Sheesh!
The older I get, the more I realize that we are rarely presented with candidates and issues which we can enthusiastically support. All Martine and I care about is cleaning the garbage piles off the streets (usually associated with bums living in tents); cutting down on petty thefts of bicycles, medications, food, and drink; and threats of violence from rampaging bums (which have affected both Martine and me).
Of the four children of the late Queen of England, I do not think the best possible successor is Charles. There was always something clumsy about the new monarch. I believe he is well-intentioned, but I do not think he has made good choices in his life, witness Diana and Camilla. Unlike most people, I regard Diana as someone who could not be happy in marriage with anyone.
If we were to pass on Charles, that leaves the next three siblings, in order of succession, namely: Andrew, Edward, and Anne. Andrew, of course, has led too scandalous a life to be anything but a salacious footnote (Stripper Koo Stark and Jeffrey Epstein). About Edward, I know very little. He appears to be the shrinking violet of the family.
I think the most talented of the four is the current Princess Royal, Anne. When threatened with a kidnapping by a lone gunman in 1974, Princess Anne refused to cooperate, commenting only “Not bloody likely!” She was a noted equestrian who participated in the Olympics and looks decades younger than the tormented Charles.
Her peppery personality is, I feel, what the monarchy needs. But then, the actual tale of successions after the deaths of kings and queens has yielded up many weak sisters of both genders. For all the gory details about who is in line to succeed Elizabeth, click on Line of Succession to the English Throne 2022.
Missouri calls itself the “Show Me” state. In yesterday’s session of the Congressional January 6 Insurrection Investigation Committee, it took only a few minutes to show that senator from Missouri was, after all, just another whiny little bitch with delusions of grandeur.
Early in the day, he was photographed giving a fist pump to rile up the demonstrators who were listening to the former president urging them to march on the Capitol Building. Yesterday, we saw the true Josh Hawley, fleeing from the mob he had encouraged, while the Capitol Police had to stand by to protect him and his like from the forces he helped set in motion.
As time goes on, I see the marchers and their supporters as people who are damaged into different ways. So many of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers still lived with their parents and were unable to hold down a job. Today Steve Bannon was declared guilty on two counts of Contempt of Congress and will be sentenced in October—all because he believed that he was protected by “executive privilege.” I don’t recall that argument ever working before, especially inasmuch as only guilty people seem to cling to it.
So far I have seen three of the televised January 6 congressional committee meetings. They have given me some hope that, perhaps, Mar-a-Lago Fats and his confederates will end up in the pokey.
I keep thinking of Latin American avenues and squares being named after calendar dates, such as the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires and 20 de Noviembre all through Mexico. Perhaps the access road to some of our Federal Prisons should be renamed to Avenue January 6.