Saturday, November 28, 2020

News and Updates

1. We’ve had a pretty quiet Thanksgiving break so far, since we had our big meal before it officially got started and nobody with more than six working brain cells is hosting or attending large gatherings these days. I have to say I’m enjoying the quiet. It’s been nice to sleep in as much as the cats would let me. It’s been good to have a day or two where I could put aside the grading and all of it, although it was hard not to do that anyway. I’m enjoying the rest.

2. We did have an East Coast family Zoom call on Thursday which was nice – it’s good to see people, even if they’re just pixels on the screen. Still working on the Midwest family Zoom call, but as noted (repeatedly) in this space, holidays happen when you have time.

3. I do have to get back to the grading and such, though. I sat down last night and figured out how much needed to get done for my various appointments, commitments, and requirements, and then I had to go lie down.

4. Quick: how many conservative judges ripping the Trump Campaign a new asshole does it take for the two-time popular vote loser in the White House to accept reality? Answer: apparently more than have done so already. If you haven’t yet read the opinion by US District Court Judge Stephanos Bibos (a Trump appointee) regarding Trump’s baseless claims and at this point borderline-criminal election tampering in Pennsylvania (“The Campaign’s claims have no merit.”) you should do so. The fact that Bibos was writing for a unanimous panel of three Republican-appointed judges in order to confirm an earlier opinion by a judge who was put forward by the GOP senator from Pennsylvania and is a lifelong Federalist Society member (“This is simply not how the Constitution works.”), is just icing on the cake.

5. I’m also getting more pleasure than perhaps I should over the fact that Trump paid Milwaukee $3 million to recount its votes and ended up losing by an even bigger margin than he had originally. Every day he loses again. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

6. Speaking of gifts, we’re deep into our own holiday gift-giving season here – everything from birthdays to anniversaries to the more usual holidays happen in our family between October 31 and December 31 – and I have to say that at this point in my life I’m just not sure we really need anything.  This is a remarkably fortunate place to be.

7. It’s also cluttered, as Lauren is at pains to remind us frequently. We have not yet succumbed to her Euro-minimalism, but perhaps some editing might be in order.

8. We need to start working on our Christmas card, but somehow we haven’t taken many photographs this year – and none of the four of us together, despite the fact that we spent March through August locked down in the house with each other.  Not really a "Kodak Moment," I suppose.  I suspect the annual letter will be brief. I did get our usual strand of blue lights up today since it was warm enough to do that without gloves, and I suppose we’ll see if it actually lights up soon.

9. After the Great Cat Piss Episode last month I went out and got a can of air freshener for my office because there is only so much grapefruit essential oil one can tolerate. I found one that is supposed to be “Wood” scented, and it does in fact vaguely smell of cedar. It’s pleasant, and I find myself just spraying it about randomly these days. One does what one can to make the days more enjoyable.

10. Kim and I watched the final of The Great British Bake Off last night, and now we are fully caught up on Bake Off shows, much to my dismay. I need another show to watch, which is a problem since I still haven’t quite managed to find it in me to sit through 99% of what’s on television these days, even though much of it is, objectively, high quality stuff. We’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


Today is our twenty-fifth anniversary.

In an ordinary year we probably would have had a party sometime this weekend to celebrate, invited friends and family, made an event of it.

This is not an ordinary year, though, and for that reason the day will pass quietly. Maybe we’ll have that party sometime down the line when it’s not a life-threatening thing to get together with people anymore. We do believe in moveable feasts, after all. A celebration is always welcome. Kim has a trip planned that we may yet get to take, depending on how things go, or we may move it to a later time and celebrate then.

But in a way the idea of staying home and just hanging out is sort of appropriate.

So much of a relationship is just doing the ordinary things together, year in and year out. I knew very early on after we started dating that I was going to ask Kim to marry me – it was a profoundly ordinary moment on a spring evening in Wisconsin, but something in that moment told me that I could spend a lifetime accumulating moments like that and so far I have.

We underestimate the ordinary.

It has been a quarter century of moments both ordinary and extraordinary. We traveled. We finished degrees and found new jobs. We bought a house. We raised a family. We found new friends and lost old ones. There have been cats.

All of those moments, and every day more of them. Meals. Tasks. Hanging out. Ordinary moments made extraordinary simply by sharing them with someone you love.

Here’s to another twenty-five years of moments, ordinary and otherwise.

Monday, November 23, 2020

An Unexpected Thanksgiving

We have a movable feast tradition in my family. Holidays happen when you have time for them.

People matter more than calendars, and if you can get people together on one date instead of another then that’s when you should celebrate. It makes things much more relaxed and less worrisome. We can go months from the scheduled calendar date if need be. It’s all about getting people together.

Which is why we had Thanksgiving yesterday.

We really weren’t planning to do much for Thanksgiving, since the current plague has ramped up exponentially over the last few weeks and every responsible leader in the nation has been emphasizing to us commoners that getting a large group of people together for Thanksgiving is a great way to get a large group of people buried by Christmas. Oliver was going to stay at Small Liberal Arts College and Kim, Lauren and I were going to hang out at home.

But Oliver had a doctor appointment that couldn’t be changed easily, and since he and Dustin have been essentially quarantined since September (SLAC is a pretty small place and was recently held up by the New York Times as a national success story in how to hold a college semester without creating a coronavirus outbreak) and we’ve been mostly holed up at home for months now, we figured a small group like that would be okay. So he and Dustin drove up Saturday and we spent most of Sunday getting ready and then we ate and talked and it was a grand time.

I am thankful for many things, even in this weathered old world, and at the top of that list is my family. The fact that we could be together, however briefly, is a gift to be savored.

They go back to SLAC as soon as the doctor appointment is over, and on the calendar date for Thanksgiving we don’t really have much planned. We’ll try to whomp up some Zoom meetings with the rest of the family on the various sides because that’s better than not seeing them at all, and we’ll hang out at home and not do much of anything – a nice break after eight straight months of frantically trying to figure out how to teach college level classes and advise students in a pandemic.

But it was a lovely Thanksgiving, and we were grateful for it.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Final Thoughts on the Election

It’s been nearly two weeks and I’m hoping to put this election to bed now, even if the squatter regime in the White House and its deluded supporters continue to argue otherwise. It’s time to move on. But here are some final thoughts.

1. So far it looks like der Sturmtrumper’s attempts to overthrow the US government and install himself as our permanent tribune have been handled as competently and effectively as everything else he’s attempted (how’s that wall going? Mexico pay for any of it yet?) which is perhaps the only saving grace of his entire regime. The next Fascist will be more talented, and if we don’t take steps to make sure that such human refuse is never allowed near power in this country again we may not get a chance to vote them out.

2. We have never had a sitting president refuse to recognize the legitimate and obvious results of an election before, and if that doesn’t worry you then you’re not thinking clearly. He will be gone in January, but he can do a lot of damage in the meantime – not least by encouraging the same kind of dead-end fanaticism that we still see in pockets of the former Confederacy more than a century and a half after that moral and political skidmark was cleansed from the surface of the earth. It took this country decades to pacify the die-hards after the Civil War and if we’re not careful we’ll end up back in that situation again.

3. He’s never going to concede, you know that. He’s not that connected to reality. He can’t handle anything less than sycophantic adoration. And in three months he will be facing a list of state charges that he can’t pardon or bully his way out of. He can’t afford to concede. Fortunately he doesn’t have to. At 12:01pm on January 20, 2021 he becomes just another trespasser in the White House and can be removed by the Secret Service – bodily if necessary. I suspect it won’t come to that, but I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t pay money to see it if it did.

4. I love the fact that it says right on the donation web site that any money sent to the “legal fund” that der Sturmtrumper is supposedly going to use to overturn the will of the American people actually goes into his campaign coffers to pay off debts. And people are still donating! Trump supporters make the best marks. Not only are they fully aware they’re being conned, they’re proud of it.

5. A few facts for the die-hards:

Joe Biden won this election by over five million votes. The last time a Republican did that was 1988. Democrats have done that four times since then (1992, 1996, 2008, and now 2020) and missed the clean sweep in 2012 by less than 19,000 votes.

The Republican candidate has won the popular vote exactly once in the last thirty years, when George W. Bush did it in 2004. It is literally a once-in-a-generation event for a Republican presidential candidate to win the popular vote. The only realistic hope a Republican has of winning the presidency is by gaming the Electoral College, which is why they will never agree to change it. They are a minority party, and their accelerating slide toward authoritarianism reflects that.

Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes, which is precisely as many as der Sturmtrumper won in 2016 except that Biden also (see above) won the popular vote.

Der Sturmtrumper is the first president since Benjamin Harrison in 1888 to lose the popular vote twice and still manage to serve a term in office. John Quincy Adams also managed that feat in 1828. All of these presidents were one-term failures.

The Department of Homeland Security has publicly stated that there was no significant voter fraud and that this was the most secure election in American history. A team of international observers invited by the State Department said the same thing, and every state government – Republican and Democrat – has agreed. Der Sturmtrumper can take it up with them.

6. Yes, I’m enjoying his humiliation. Of course I am. I can be petty too. For four miserable years der Sturmtrumper has run roughshod over everything that makes the United States worthwhile. I have watched my country weakened, corrupted, coarsened, and made pitiable by the callous cruelty, shortsighted stupidity, open graft, and destructively subversive actions of this criminal regime and every fiber of my being rejoices to see this regime come crashing down and a decent, law-abiding administration stand ready to take over, and if one of the side effects of this is watching the abject humiliation of a terrible person and a worse administration then I guess I’m okay with that. I'm not proud of that, but I won't deny it.

7. Apparently there was a “Million MAGA March” this weekend that fell short by a scant 950,000 or so participants, which amuses me no end.

8. Seriously – I want to know who at Four Seasons Total Landscaping answered the phone when der Sturmtrumper’s minions called to set up a press conference in their parking lot and thought, “Fuck it, why not” and then told them to go ahead and set it up. Give that person a cigar.

9. You know what I really want? I want politics to be boring again. I want a president who isn’t a criminal and an attention whore and won’t be in my face all the time with damn fool ideas or destructive urges. I want a government I can ignore for days on end, secure in the knowledge that the grownups are in charge. It’s been four long years since that happened, and I’m looking forward to it again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Thoughts on the Recent Election

It shouldn’t have been this close.

After four years of open corruption – of influence peddling, of quid-pro-quo, of racketeering, of intimidation, of repeated violations of the Hatch Act, of turning the White House into a campaign headquarters and the Secret Service into a money-maker for his hotels, of enough financial crimes to fill a prison – it shouldn’t have been this close.

After four years of callous, wanton cruelty – of ripping apart families, of kids in cages, of threats to shoot asylum seekers in the knees, of teargassing American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, of accepting Russian bounties on American soldiers, of denying the existence of a plague that has killed nearly a quarter million Americans, actively spreading that plague with campaign rallies, and aggressively suppressing any effort to deal with that plague in a responsible adult fashion – it shouldn’t have been this close.

After four years of blistering incompetence and calculated destruction – of not knowing how the Constitution works, of systematically destroying alliances created and maintained by the blood and sweat of better men and women, of alienating allies and coddling dictators, of bankrupting the country to give more to the already obscenely wealthy, of working feverishly to take away health insurance from millions of Americans during an actual plague, of sabotaging the Post Office, of gutting environmental laws – it shouldn’t have been this close.

After four years of increasingly overt Fascism – subverting the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution, claiming dictatorial authority, sending mercenary stormtroopers against peaceful protesters, hiding in bunkers, supporting brutality and extrajudicial murder, encouraging violence from paramilitary supporters, threatening election workers, putting unnecessary and hyperpartisan obstacles in the path of voters, and delegitimizing democracy itself – it shouldn’t have been this close.

We as Americans should have rejected this tin pot dictator overwhelmingly.

And yet here we are. Over seventy million Americans went out of their way to declare their support for this corrupt, callous Fascist.

The fact that Donald Trump received ANY support whatsoever is a damning indictment of American morality and one of the greatest failures in American political history.

I read somewhere that in many ways the neo-Nazis are worse than the Nazis. That people could have joined the Nazis for all sorts of reasons, not knowing how it would turn out – even though the Nazis were very clear about how it would turn out, and even if in the long run their motives for joining didn’t matter. As one historian has so aptly said, there’s a word for people who joined the Nazis for economic motives, or because they hated the other side, or their friends joined, or whatever, and that word is “Nazi” – nobody cares about their reasons anymore. But it was possible in 1930 or 1933 to join the NSDAP and still not know what was coming down the pike. Neo-Nazis, however, have the example of three quarters of a century of history. These are the people who looked at the Holocaust, who looked at the devastation of World War II, and then said, “Yep, we need more of that.”

It might have been possible to ignore the fact that Trump was a raving lunatic in 2016. That he openly campaigned on a platform of war crimes and authoritarianism. That he was endorsed by every major neo-Nazi and white supremacist organization in America as the candidate who shared their values and agenda. Maybe someone just hated Hillary Clinton. Maybe they were blinded by the party label and thought he was just another Republican.

But not in 2020.

In 2020 it should have been clear. Yet over seventy million Americans looked at the open corruption, the callous, wanton cruelty, the blistering incompetence and calculated destruction, and the increasingly overt Fascism, and said “Yep, we need more of that.”

I grieve for my country.

But for the majority of Americans it was clear, and we rejected Trump and all he stands for. Never forget that for all the gerrymandering that the electoral college introduces to the presidential election, for all that it came down to a few thousand voters in a handful of states, that Trump lost this election by over four million votes – that he and his views have never, not once in the last five years, ever commanded the support of the majority of the American population or the American electorate.

The fact that over seventy-four million Americans went out of their way to repudiate him in the middle of a plague and in the face of his threats and bluster is a hopeful sign. It means that possibly the tide of Trumpian Fascism is ebbing and perhaps – perhaps – we can resume our rightful place among the nations of the world as a normal country. It will not be easy to erase the stain of the last four years. This electoral victory is the first step, not the last, and the hard part has yet to begin. But at least now we can start.

I will breathe easier today, knowing that there is a deadline for this administration and that in January there will be a president who will seek to advance the interests of the whole nation rather than those of just his personal cult and who will reject the corruption, cruelty, destruction and Fascism of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

I will celebrate the victory of a decent candidate over this moral black hole of a president.

But I will not relax.

It shouldn’t have been this close.

And the fact that it was means that there is work for American patriots to do.