To the Editor,
What is the matter with this country? It is difficult to imagine a more vile person than Donald Trump. Yet, with all his horrid qualities, fully 45 percent of Americans would vote for him. I guess they are not bothered by the 91 indictments, two impeachments, efforts to overthrow the government, endless lies, rape conviction, accusations of sexual assault from dozens of women, storage of nuclear secrets in his bathroom, and utter unfitness for office. No matter how awful Trump is, his support does not fall.
And no matter what Joe Biden accomplishes, he does not receive the credit. His record over the past three years is remarkable. President Biden has passed laws and taken initiatives to rebuild our infrastructure, promote manufacturing, bring integrity to elections, address climate change, enhance gun safety, provide funding to the IRS to pursue tax cheats, require that corporations pay at least a minimum percent in income tax, bring down drug costs, distribute 500 million vaccinations, reduce child poverty, the list goes on and on. His policies have maintained one of the lowest unemployment rates in memory. He has re-established American leadership and standing on the world stage. He lead the fight to bolster Ukraine in defying Russian aggression (Exactly which aspects of the old Soviet Union’s expansionism and totalitarianism are so many Republicans in Congress nostalgic about?). Biden is old, but he is smart, strong, and decent, and works every day to improve the lives of Americans. The unshakeable support for the whiny narcissist man-child Donald Trump is completely confounding.
When you put it that way, the national frame of mind does seem remarkably unhinged.
Back in the days of our founding, a passing spasm of national delusion would have been less of a threat. But, given what we know now about our increasingly destabilized climate and its predictable effects, it’s fairly obvious that, in the absence of some countervailing force, the phenomenon to which you refer seems likely to end humanity’s grand adventure in the ugliest manner imaginable.
Since preposterous claims from religious fanatics are all the rage these days, perhaps we may be permitted to indulge in a prophecy: one of these days a weather satellite will reveal an image of a pattern of clouds spelling out in Hebrew letters, “מנא מנא תקל ופרסין.” Rendered in the Roman alphabet, that’s “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin;” roughly translated for the monolingual, it’s “You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Your days are numbered. Do not pass ‘Go,’ do not collect $200.”
If an extinction-level asteroid were to collide with Earth, mankind would suffer horrors galore. At least, though, our end would have a certain tragic dignity.
The way things are going, we might as well all be getting run over by Ralph Kramden’s bus.
Today’s Stopped Clock: Moscow Mitch
With new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) leading the move to cut off Ukraine from our military help, thus strengthening Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hand—can these extremist Republicans be called by the old negative label, “reds”?
Online I read of “red under the bed,” meaning “a communist who has infiltrated capitalist society.” If the Johnson-led Republicans don’t know history, however, and the preponderance of red in the old communist country flags, they might ignorantly be “reds.” Accidentally pro-Russia. Not good.
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell says it is important for the U.S. to “help Ukraine win the war,” or “Putin’s appetite for empire will extend to NATO, and the risk of war for America, a much greater cost than we have provided to Ukraine.” Also, “Russian victory would embolden Putin’s growing alliance with fellow authoritarian regimes in Iran and China.”
War machinery in itself is dreadful, but Putin’s annexing Crimea (2014) and then going on to destructively gnaw at Ukraine in prolonged war—we must stand against it. McConnell is reaching across the aisle, as experience leads him to do.
Lynn Rudmin Chong
McConnell didn’t seem so anti-Russian in 2016, when Putin’s thumb was on Trump’s side of the electoral scale.
Sure, he’s taking a stand against Russia, but it’s in Ukraine, where the shrieks and groans of the dying are mostly inaudible to us.
Not to be cynical, but… oh, what the hell. Why stop now? War is good business, and the GOP is always the pro-business party, whether overtly or covertly. This is especially true when we can export arms without having to import American corpses.
“Only in America,” Indeed
To the Editor:
Saturday morning, November 4th, reading the lead story from your latest issue [“Only in America”] … let us now expand on that theme.
Published in that little paper down the road from you, which claims to print all the news that fits, come two tidbits guaranteed to produce heartburn for the rest of the day.
A former State Dept. aide is sentenced to nearly six years in prison for absconding with police riot shields from certain officers, and then proceeding to beat them repeatedly over their heads during the “unguided tour of the Capitol” of January 6, 2021.
Meanwhile, the criminal mastermind and instigator of the aforementioned “tour,” leading candidate of his cult for the office he trashed for four years, just had the gag order imposed by his judge in D.C. temporarily lifted for the second time, giving him free reign to smear, bully, threaten, distort, lie and generally add to the stench emanating from his presence about prosecutors, witnesses, law clerks, grocery clerks and anyone else he can think of for the next two weeks.
And all of this going on while the document that supposedly guides the course of events in this country clearly states in plain English, none of that Second Amendment nebulous gibberish, that if you try to overthrow the government it established, you don’t get a second chance.
Is this a great country, or what?
John C. Ficor
Despite an avalanche of evidence to the contrary, our literal and unequivocal answer to your rhetorical question is “Yes.”
How can we possibly say that? Because we intend to make it so.
What the hell. Might as well go down fighting.
America’s Manifest Density
To the Editor:
What’s up with America’s servient rabble claiming the right to regulate the affairs of we, the dominant estate? How absurd! Liberal prattle that flies in the face of God’s will, manifest destiny, and the natural order of things. In truth, it’s our divine obligation to regulate those hapless devils so we may remedy society’s folly. But to reach this end, we must first crush that godless and loathsome experiment they call “Democracy.”
Or something like that.
No telling exactly what narcissistic fantasies rightwing overlords pleasure themselves with when they close their eyes at night. However, I do believe Voltaire nailed it when he wrote: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
If ever there were a warning worth heeding, this is it. As election time approaches, sharpen your pens because I fear we’re about to witness an avalanche of case studies proving the veracity of Voltaire’s famous quote.
Brave of you, attempting to fathom the abyssal depths of the minds of our betters.
We have always suspected that unusually attractive people have a skewed view of the world because their outward appearance prompts us normals to treat them differently. That’s a hard case to prove, though.
On the other hand, there seems to be plenty of evidence that the more money a person has, the less qualified they are to make decisions for us lesser mortals. And yet, our political system is engineered to put the rich in charge. We’d call that system broke, and say it’s time to fix it.
View From a Hurtling Handbasket
To the Editor:
Has the Republican Party been replaced by the Trump Party? Prerequisites to becoming Speaker of the House were election denial and loyalty to Donald Trump. Mike Johnson of Louisiana filled the bill.
Who is Mike Johnson? Johnson, in a blatant attempt to undermine our democracy, had a leading role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and voted against certifying Biden’s win even after the Jan 6th insurrection.
Mr. Johnson wants to criminalize abortion and gay sex. He questions climate science and opposes clean energy. Contributions from oil and gas companies support his campaign. He believes gun violence is an unchangeable, immutable fact of the human condition and the price you pay for being human.
He also believes God ordained his becoming Speaker. He does not believe in the separation of church and state outlined in the First Amendment.
Every Republican in the House, apparently comfortable with these views and bowing to Trump, voted for Johnson as Speaker. Johnson in that important leadership role, and being second in the line of succession to the presidency is a chilling thought—almost as frightening as Trump being president again.
What has happened to the Grand Old Party?
Not to put too fine a point on it, the GOP went to Hell, and is trying to drag us with it.
Defense Dept. Affirms Climate Change
To the Editor:
Back in 2016, Pentagon leadership called on military services to assess “the effects of climate change on the DoD mission” and act where necessary to overcome “risks that develop as a result of climate change” (DoD Directive 4715.21, January 14, 2016).
Few civilians think of climate change as a military concern. And given the currently partisan political nature of environmental discussions, senior military officials are not vocal about their response to climate change. But already in 2013, the DoD was installing solar panels and acquiring electric vehicles to reduce emissions and reduce dependence on long supply chains. The 2016 assessment found that more than half of our 3500 military installations were vulnerable to climate impacts.
The military identified climate-caused extreme weather events, flooding, fires, drought and deadlier pandemics as threats to national security. Globally, “stresses such as water shortages and crop failures… can lead to state failure, uncontrolled migration, and ungoverned spaces,” according to Rear Admiral David Titley.
Please join N.H. Network for “How the U.S. Military is Preparing for Climate Challenges,” a panel discussion on Zoom, November 13, 5:30-7:00 p.m. Register at https://bit.ly/Military_Climate. Learn why Lieutenant General Norman Seip would state “Assessing and addressing the threat of climate change is critical for the future viability of our force” (11/2/2018).
Obviously and unfortunately, due to our publishing schedule, our readers will have missed the boat for that panel discussion on Zoom. For those who are interested in this issue, we can recommend Seip’s article “Climate Change and U.S. Military Bases,” at https://tinyurl.com/33staau4.
To the Editor,
It’s sad that the U.S.A. is supporting genocide of Palestinians. Helping to “cut the grass,” as it is bemusedly described, in a fenced-in camp, a dense concentration of lives of all ages, aiming for it to be the final mowing. Always having your back but, pretty please, would you pause to let supplies in, before you recommence. Dumb proclamations like that, all while the talk is that they are animals, there’s no civilians—everyone’s a combatant, and “We need another Nakba.” October 7th did not happen in a vacuum.
I will never forget, nor forgive. Since I am a member of the U.S.A., having always lived among them, the least I can do now is never again vote for the enablers, from top down. That way, I can wash off some of the blood on my hands, although the stains are forever.
William M. Trently
If we understand your letter properly—we hope we’re wrong—you’re saying you won’t vote for Biden. That way, your conscience will be clear.
We’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt and presume that that does not mean you will vote for Trump. A vote withheld from Biden, though, might as well be a vote for Trump.
We find it lamentable that our system of electing officials seems ill-equipped to simultaneously keep fascists out of the White House and satisfy your desire for a positive self-image.
Donald and the Mini-Chumps
Doesn’t it seem incredible to you that the more the breadth and depth of the former President’s mischief is exposed in the courts, the more wildly popular he gets in the polls?
Not only that, but his followers insist ever more loudly that they stand on the moral high ground above all others. Trump has demonstrably done God’s work by swinging the Supreme Court over to the anti-abortion side, and that’s all MAGA Christians really need to know about him.
These MAGA Americans devoted to Julius Trump, or Donald Chump (take your pick), have two additional propositions they would like the rest of us godless Americans to consider. First, we must champion the idea that an individual recently judged to have committed large scale civil fraud should be allowed to hold civil office again.
Second, a politician who is charged with many counts of penal crime, and very likely will be convicted of some of them before the next election, should still be able to stand for re-election to the office that supervises the highest department of criminal justice in the land.
Putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop just makes perfect sense to MAGA folks.
Woods Cross, Utah
Those Mini-Chumps are salivating because they mistakenly believe that they’re the ones who will be getting all them tasty chickens.
Pappas Votes to Censure Tlaib
To the Editor:
The recent censure vote of Rep. Rashida Tlaib [D-Mich.] approved by the U.S. Congress is one of the most hypocritical ever. Americans can now be assured that our rights to speak out against tyranny at home and abroad has been officially dismissed and our 1st Amendment rights to free speech be damned. The insidious march of intolerance of American citizens’ efforts to shout down infamy, bigotry, inhumanity, and even genocide will not be accepted unless of course you support the government position or be silent. Politicians in both parties, including New Hampshire representative Chris Pappas voted with “strings attached” to censure a member of congress for stating the obvious. We are “obviously” now all victims of future censures of our previously constitutionally granted right to free speech. Thanks Mr. Pappas, and may your pockets be full while we work toward marching you out of office.
Daniel Del Caro
Great. Another hot-button issue, another vow to withhold future votes—in a precariously-balanced swing district. [See letter from William Trently, above.]
Sometimes some Democrats seem no more rational than your average Republican.
You wrote us a letter. Did you write Pappas?
The GOP is Coming for Granny’s Grub
To the Editor:
As Congress struggles to fund our government, Republicans are preparing to sneak into the next government funding bill the “Fiscal Stability Act” that is intended to destroy Social Security and Medicare.
The Fiscal Stability Act is legislation that would establish a Commission to “strengthen America’s fiscal health and stabilize our debt,” according to its sponsors. But the bill’s sponsors have a long, consistent, history of trying to diminish or eliminate Social Security and Medicare by making false and misleading claims. This legislation should never be introduced or considered by Congress.
With this legislation, the GOP is continuing its effort to gut these programs. Advocates will assert that the trust funds for these programs will run out at some near-future date—only true if Congress fails to act. They will claim that “entitlements are killing us.” Proponents will advocate for various methods that they say will “save” these programs, such as reducing benefits, raising the eligibility age, privatizing the programs, etc. Sponsors will not advocate for the obvious solution: raise the cap on FICA wages and raise the rate on Medicare deductions to cover the current cost of benefits and insure the long-term viability of Social Security and Medicare.
The trust funds for these programs do not hold cash; they hold U.S. Treasury securities. When securities must be cashed in to cover benefit payments, the U.S. Government must use tax dollars to buy back the securities. This is debt service, pure and simple. The U.S. Government is required to honor this debt; it is not an option. Legislation to establish a Commission to “study” ways to circumvent paying U.S. Government debt, and gut these long-standing social programs should never see the light of day.
The media can no more prevent politicians from lying than King Canute could stop the tide. What they could have done, though—and should have done, in our view—it tell the truth about politicians’ lies.
The Gipper was so charming, though… and JFK before him. Use it or lose it, the saying goes. By the time Newt Gingrich came along, the media had seemingly forgotten what a lie is.
Republicans, in particular, saw an opportunity. They could say any damn thing that served their purposes and get it before the public, no matter how absurd.
Media cowardice helped these bogus concepts lodge themselves in the public mind.
Some Things Never Change, Part 1
Over 2,500 years ago the Greek philosopher Sophocles wrote, “The tyrant is a child of Pride / Who drinks from his sickening cup / Recklessness and vanity, / Until from his high crest headlong / He plummets to the dust of hope.” These words are just as applicable today as they were when first written. We are still dealing with tyrants whose pride, vanity, and recklessness put nations and the world at risk.
If Sophocles were alive today, he would not be surprised to see the likes of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, who, blinded by their own pride, vanity, and thirst for power, are prepared to destroy themselves and their nations. No matter how many years pass we remain plagued by the same flaws.
Donald Trump, who has been charged with 91 felonies, has committed enormous tax and bank fraud, and sexual assaults against women, remains the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Talk about plummeting headlong to the dust of hope!
The fate of the nation rests with us. Despite the efforts of the tyrant and his allies to deny people the right to vote, distort the truth, create false narratives and enemies, deny reality, science, and truth, hope is still alive, as we saw from the results of the recent elections. However, make no mistake about it, the next election will determine whether we keep that light of hope alive or take the path that will lead us to a headlong plummet to the dust of hope.
It hardly seems possible, but barring a well-deserved medical emergency or a prompter-than-expected felony conviction, there’s a pretty good chance that a year from now the nation’s fate—and the world’s—will depend on whether sane people outnumber loonies at the polls.
Some Things Never Change, Part 2
Let me propose a metamorphosis suggesting some things never change: From Demagogue To Authoritarian.
Demagogue: from the Greek demos, people + agogos, leading. A leader or orator who appeals to popular desires or prejudices to further personal interests, a rabble-rouser (OED).
The Authoritarian, from “Characters,” by Greek philosopher Theophrastus (c. 370-287 BC):
“Of the poems of Homer there is one single line he has made his own: ‘From many rulers no good comes, let one man rule.’ Of all the rest of Homer he knows nothing.
“Typical of him are utterances like this. ‘We must get together by ourselves and discuss these matters, out of reach of the rabble and the street-corner. It’s time we stopped kow-towing to every jack-in-office, and ourselves accepting kicks or compliments from them. Either they or we must run this city [Athens].’
“He will go out about midday, with his cloak thrown well back, his hair tastefully trimmed, his nails pared, and strut about declaiming statements like this: ‘These blackmailers make Athens impossible to live in;’ or, ‘People who meddle in politics—I can’t imagine what they want;’ or, ‘The working classes—they’re always the same: ungrateful, and ready to obey anyone who offers a bribe or a bonus.’
“Or he will tell you how ashamed he feels in the Assembly, when some mean-looking, scruffy citizen sits down next to him. ‘The rich are being bled to death,’ he says, ‘with subsidizing the navy, the theatre, and everything else. When is it going to end? Democratic agitators—how I detest them!’ Then he names Theseus as the original cause of the country’s deterioration; for it was he who concentrated the twelve small States in one, thus elevating the lower classes, putting power into the hands of the majority… .”
– As translated by Philip Vellacott.
Theophrastus, we understand, was a pretty big deal in his day. A student of Aristotle, he became his successor, and was, for 36 years, the leader of his school, the Peripatetics. Their name was derived from the fact that, Aristotle, as a non-citizen, could not own land in Athens. He and his students met on the walkways of the Lyceum. So, it appears they were homeless. No wonder Theophrastus had a beef with the well-groomed fat cats of his day.
Here’s another line from Theophrastus: “Life is ruled by fortune, not wisdom.” Ain’t that the truth!
Hand the GOP a Big Enough Loss
To the Editor:
After the election of the new Speaker of the House, the House voted to support Israel by over 400 votes. This was not a vote to support Israel financially. It was just to say they were on Israel’s side. The vote to back Israel financially was different. The GOP insisted on tying aid to Israel with keeping America’s biggest tax cheats from getting audited. That vote passed without Democratic support.
This vote was followed by a bill slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 39 percent. They slashed the National Park Services budget by 13 percent and reduced the salaries of the EPA administrator, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of the Interior to $1 each.
These actions show the extremist minority of the House GOP’s disdain for government and governing. There are GOP members who do want to govern but are unwilling to stand up to this minority. Instead, they vote for these bills and hope the bipartisan Senate’s versions are the ones that become law. Their cowardice is allowing the extremists to hold their party hostage.
There is only one solution to save the country. That is for the voters to hand the GOP a big enough loss in 2024 that the GOP becomes tired of losing and decides to run candidates who want Congress and the government to work.
Tuesday saw voters in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New Jersey give the GOP a good swift kick in the pants. There’s a long way to go, but there’s reason for hope.