It Goes Way Back…

The Roman Senate in Session

Lest you think that what is befalling the United States at present is of recent vintage, I urge you to consider the two great parties of the Roman Republic around 130 BC. There were two main political parties, the optimates (“the best ones”) and the populares (“favoring the people”). The former—consisting of members of the senatorial class and large landowners—were united in opposition to the tribunes Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and his younger brother Caius Sempronius Gracchus. According to Wikipedia:

For about 80 years, Roman politics was marked by the confrontation of these two factions. The Optimates favoured the ancestral Roman laws and customs, as well as the supremacy of the Senate over the popular assemblies and the tribunes of the plebs. They also rejected the massive extension of Roman citizenship to Rome’s Italian allies advocated by the Populares.

How familiar it all seems today! The Republicans, whose entire political platform could be expressed in the phrase “I got mine,” are fearful and apprehensive that the unwashed Democrats and their immigrant allies want a share of their wealth. Like the Optimates, the Republicans are “the best ones,” so whatever they do to hold on to power is quite all right with them.

Yesterday, I ran into an elderly woman at the Farmers Market on Fairfax who was a virulent Trump supporter. She thought that the black and other unwashed Barbarian hordes were after her money. I didn’t bother to try reasoning with her, because she was beyond reason. So I merely insulted her, as did the Afro-American gentleman who was in line with me.

I always thought that the nice thing about having money is being able to spend it in interesting ways. Not necessarily so! At some point, this woman inherited some money, problem from her late husband and decided to build an impregnable fortress around the proceeds against me and my kind.

 

 

Takeaways from the Conventions

Wonderland of U.S. Flags

As your reporter for this month’s party conventions, I have been very remiss. To be exact, I have not even watched a minute of either convention. Why would I want to? What does it matter what they say, especially when there is such a disconnect between what they say and what they do. I did collect a number of impressions, however, mostly from the Internet.

First of all, politicians sure love the Stars and Stripes. Many of them sport flag lapel pins to boot. I don’t even own an American flag, which I guess proves that I am not a very patriotic individual. But then, as Dr. Samuel Johnson said in 1775, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” And I’m no scoundrel, at least not THAT type of scoundrel.

I am surprised that Trump found so many people to say nice things about him. He must have something on them.

Does the Republican party even exist any more? Right now it’s an agglomeration of people who:

  • Hate the fact that there is a government over and above a transfer of moneys to the wealthy
  • Are drawn to absolute power
  • Follow a political platform that can be expressed simply as, “I Got Mine!”
  • Are frightened of having the President say to the, “You’re fired!”
  • Hate libtards and hoity-toity coastal elites

As a matter of fact, even the Democratic party doesn’t seem to exist except as an Anti-Trump party. They used to solve problems; now they just say that they can and will solve problems. I don’t know. It seems that no one cares for poor people any more.

The ultimate winner is the coronavirus, which seems to have perplexed everybody except the Republicans, who just ignore it. Didn’t it go away in April?

 

 

Putting Myself Down

I Have Always Underestimated Myself…

When I was young, I was always one of the shortest kids in my class—and one of the sickest. The result was that I habitually underestimated myself. Everyone else looked taller, happier, and more accomplished than me. And that even after I was the valedictorian of my class at Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio. In fact, it was not until I reached the age of forty that I realized what I had been doing to myself. That was the age at which I was finally able to drive. Before that, I was on a medication (Catapres) that made me fall asleep whenever I got into a moving vehicle.

Within weeks after I got off Catapres, I took driving lessons and passed with flying colors. But then something happened to my picture of other people: The moment I saw drivers who committed moving violations at the rate of once every hundred feet or so, I began to revise my impressions of the rest of the human race.

Politics also stepped in to lower my estimation of my fellow Americans. I first became aware of political conservatism during the 1964 election, when Barry Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson. Conservatism was to become my bête noire during the following decades, where now I regard most Republicans and Trump followers to be mental defectives. Now that so many of these so many of these Trumpists are advocating a return to normalcy during a dreadful epidemic, I now look at people such as the individuals in the above photograph as suicidal fools who would think nothing of infecting their friends, neighbors, and families with a potentially fatal disease.

Do I have any regrets for being so hard on myself all those years? Not a bit. I think that I am happier than most people and less likely to be played like a marionette out of baseless fears.

 

 

Plague Diary 28: The Great MAGA Virus

Does Trump Really Want to Kill Off His Supporters?

With the coronavirus rising again, especially in the Southern states that have formed the core of the president’s base, I seriously wonder if the Donald is trying to kill off his staunchest supporters? While eating lunch, I happened upon an article by Fintan O’Toole in the May 14, 2020 issue of the New York Review of Books entitled “Vector in Chief” from which this quote is excerpted:

We must bear in mind that Trump’s “real people,” the ones who make up his electoral base, are disproportionately prone to the chronic illnesses (“the underlying conditions”) that make Covid-19 more likely to prove fatal. A 2018 Massachusetts General Hospital study of more than three thousand counties in the US reported that

poor public health was significantly associated with the additional Republican presidential votes cast in 2016 over those from 2012. A substantial association was seen between poor health and a switch in political parties in the last [presidential] election.

For every marker of the prevalence of poor health (such as diabetes, obesity, days of illness, and mortality rates), there as a marked shift roward voting for Trump. Trump has acted in relation to Covid-19 like the God who tells the Jews to mark their homes with a sign so that the plague he is inflicting on Egypt will pass by their doors—with the malign twist that he has marked out his own chosen people for special harm.

How ironic! Following the example of their Great White Hope in the Whitest of White Houses, the voters attending his rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix are mostly not masked, and sneezing and coughing and shouting streams of coronavirus throughout the crowd. So far, Trump appears to be immune, but that is helped by the fact that he is a germaphobe who washes his hands incessantly with hand sanitizer.

The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

American Flag Pin

Thanks to the current occupant of the White House, I am feeling less patriotic than ever. I have come to associate the ubiquitous flag pins that Republican politicians wear with the excesses of the Trump administration. As Dr. Samuel Johnson noted, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” I don’t believe that for members of the older generation who have fought for our country, but for younger people, especially politicians, who use it to identify themselves as racists, white nationalists, saboteurs, and looters—in a word, Republicans. It is a symbol the course of being degraded beyond all recognition.

I am feeling out of touch with American voters. Can I trust them to actually love their country and send the Trump administration down to ignominious defeat? Not entirely, especially in certain parts of the country where politics is a form of resentment and regional hatred, especially against voters who live in large cities. It is the politics of Hooterville versus the politics of New York and California. (Though even New York and California have isolated pockets of atavistic tendencies.)

It has gotten to the point that I feel alienated from American politics, both Republicans and Democrats. (I now vote No Party Preference.) I don’t even classify myself as being Caucasian any more. As a Hungarian-American, I am Finno-Ugric, or “Other Race.” (Most of my rage is directed at White voters.)

I hope that this is only a phase I am going through until the politics of the United States returns to normal—that is, if it ever does.

Don’t Forget to Vote!

Fill Those Booths Tomorrow! No Excuses!

If you fail to vote tomorrow, I hope it’s because you are a Trump supporter. For anyone else—and that includes the majority of Americans—the man and his minions are a stench in the nostrils. If you fail to vote because you were (a) hung over, (b) busy playing computer games, (c) studying for an exam, or (d) turned off by politics … then you have no cause … ever again … for complaint. You have failed in your primary duty as a citizen. Your very right to vote is in question, as witness the Republican anti-democratic voter suppression in Kansas and Georgia.

I know you have heard a lot about this election, and you’ve probably been turned off by everything you’ve heard. So what! I’m the guy who ends calls from political volunteers with a few choice swear words and hangs up. I do not care to discuss my political choices with what might turn out to be corporate shills hired by the Koch brothers or other disruptive forces.

This “Prickly City” Cartoon by Scott Stantis Appeared in Today’s L.A. Times

Although I suspect he might be a Republican, I feel that cartoonist Scott Stantis is a Republican of the non-#$&!!@# variety. I have seen his thought evolve over the years to the extent that I cannot pass a day without reading his cartoons. Even if the characters in the above cartoon are right, and I suspect they are, there is too much of a danger of electing the Wrong nincompoops, like those Tea Party jerks who have caused so much damage to the country that I still love for all its wrong turns.

Vote. Be in charge. Stay in charge. And make the effort to stay in charge!

 

The Gang That Couldn’t Govern

Republican Stumblebums from the Senate and House (Except for the Kid: He’s Innocent)

As the U.S. Government heads for another disastrous shutdown, one is led to wonder at the utter uselessness of the officials we have chosen to represent us in Congress. Senator Mitch McConnell (Ratf*ck—Kentucky) and Congressman Paul Ryan (Ratf*ck—Pennsylvania) should be made to swallow their U.S. Flag pins and commit ritual hara kiri on the steps of Congress.

I really don’t like writing about American politics. Heck, I don’t even like discussing politics with my friends. I feel soiled when I do.

Even though there will be an election this November, I have diminishing faith in the American voters who selected the present clowns in office. They will either be re-elected or replaced with other clowns who are attracted to the ways of power. When that power serves only to disgust not only the American people, but our allies (if any are left), and embolden our enemies (the list is growing).

 

Going Independent

Goodbye, Donkey! Goodbye, Elephant!

This summer, I have re-registered to vote as an independent. Ever since I came to be of voting age, I have been a Democrat. For a while, I even tried to help out in a congressional election—my man lost—and even donated money to the party at various critical junctures. Of late, I did not particularly care for the leadership of the party. I did not like Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I do not like Tom Perez. And, as time passes, I do not care for the way Hillary Clinton screwed up her presidential campaign last year; and I am not altogether sure I would have liked it all that much had she won. Granted, she wouldn’t have been as bad as Trumpf. From her ivory tower, I think she has totally lost touch with the voters, a large percentage of whom hate her for various reasons—many of them trumped up by the Right.

My first presidential election was in 1968. I refused to vote for either the Democratic (Humphrey) or Republican (Nixon) candidate. Instead, I wrote in Otto Schlumpf, a Franciscan priest from Santa Barbara, for president and comedian Dick Gregory for vice president. Both were actively against the Viet Nam War, as was I.

Over the years, the Democrats have been wasting the many successes of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lyndon Johnson came close when it came to domestic policy, but was a total washout in Viet Nam. He wisely withdrew when he realized how badly he had messed up. Too bad: He could have been one of the great ones. (But then Viet Nam made dunces out of a lot of otherwise smart politicians.)

I will probably still vote mostly Democrat, though no longer in the primaries. I don’t know what will happen to the Republican Party—nothing good, I hope—but I may conceivably vote Republican in some local elections, as I have done in the past, especially  when I voted for Schwarzenegger for governor of California against the Democrat Phil Angelides in 2006.

In time, I would like to see more than two major political parties in the U.S. And I don’t mean single-issue parties like the Libertarians and American Independents. The Democrats and Republicans will continue to morph over the next few years, most likely in a way that is unacceptable to me as a voter.

So now I’m an independent.

The Dumpster Fire Spreads

There’s a Lot of GOP Hotfoots in Washington Today

The Trumpf Administration (it’s actually funny to think of it as an “Administration”—more like a dumpster fire that just got out of control) is so ridiculously beleaguered that it’s almost funny. Except that it’s happening to each and every one of us. We escaped having a health program that would have demised several million Americans rather unceremoniously.

But there will be other chances, what with the other pending items on the GOP agenda. After today, though, I can’t see ol’ Turtleface McConnell smiling with any degree of sincerity.

And, as more Trumpf insiders become outsiders, I can see more embarrassing stories bedeviling the man from Mar-a-Lago. Such as the time the Presidente called in Reince Priebus to the Oval Office for the sole purpose of killing a fly.

It Started Small but Grew to Engulf a Whole Nation

It looks now as if Trumpf has enemies in both major political parties. Do you suppose that eventually, someone will develop the spine to remove this chucklehead from office?

The Six Lost Tribes of the Confederacy

Robert Reich, Dartmouth Class of 1966

Robert Reich, Dartmouth Class of 1966

I knew Robert Reich when we were in the same graduating class at Dartmouth College. I was the film critic for the school newspaper, and Robert was a cheerleader for the football team. He probably doesn’t remember me (there were 800 of us in that class), but I remember him. The important thing is that he has become a powerful voice for the direction that American politics should take.

What, exactly, does that mean as far as the GOP is concerned? According to Robert’s website, the Republican party has splintered into six not altogether compatible factions:

  1. “Evangelicals opposed to abortion, gay marriage, and science.” That would include Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum.
  2. “Libertarians opposed to any government constraint on private behavior.” That would be Rand Paul.
  3. “Market fundamentalists convinced the ‘free market’ can do no wrong.” Most of them pay lip service to this statement, though if Mike Bloomberg decided to run, this would be his mantra.
  4. “Corporate and Wall Street titans seeking bailouts, subsidies, special tax loopholes, and other forms of crony capitalism.” Enter Donald Trump.
  5. “Billionaires craving even more of the nation’s wealth than they already own.” Trump again, plus other candidates feeding from the billionaire-funded PACs.
  6. “And white working-class Trumpoids who love Donald. and are becoming convinced the greatest threats to their wellbeing are Muslims, blacks, and Mexicans.” Well, now, this one is pretty obvious.
This is Just One of the Faces of Today’s GOP

This is Just One of the Faces of Today’s GOP

You could take all the remaining candidates and map them by their emphasis on one of these six strains. What makes their races so difficult is that many of the candidates tend to lose their focus when they are split so many different ways.