I am retired which is, by definition, adrift. This is a good thing and the real reason we retire. After a life of deadlines and commuting, some drifting seems like a good idea. So here I am. Just drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed … with memories of those great cowboy movies of childhood.
Hi Roy! Hi Trigger! Hey, Bullet! Hope y’all are doing well. I miss you. All of you. You were the good guys. We trusted you. Where are you now, when we need you?
Meanwhile, I’ll just be drifting. Considering one thing and another, I might also be asleep.
I recently read an autobiography by the Saturday Night Live actress, Rachel Dratch, called “Girl Walks Into A Bar…” I enjoyed the book, particularly the adjustment of a single 44-year-old woman to motherhood, a committed relationship, and co-parenting.
Rachel started a long distance (California to New York) relationship with a lovely guy and after six months, discovered she was pregnant. This was a minor miracle at her age. There was no question that she wanted the baby. The open question was what kind of relationship she would have going forward with the baby’s daddy, John.
This guy sounded like a real gem and was wonderful to Rachel. He even stepped up and moved to New York City to be near Rachel and their unborn son. He wanted an active role in the child’s life once he was born.
Dratch with her son as a baby
Dratch and John
Dratch and her more grown-up son
My problem with this story is that Rachel is a New York City liberal and Democrat and John was an ‘independent’ who supported George W. Bush and the Republican agenda.
Would he also support Donald Trump today?
I started wondering if I could overlook someone’s political views and have a serious relationship with a Republican in today’s political climate. The answer, for me, is no. During the George W. Bush era, the comedian Janine Garofalo said that being a Republican was no longer just an opinion, but was ‘a character flaw’ which is many times truer today.
The problem I have with Republicans/Trump supporters today is not their ‘political’ positions. I have no issue with someone who has a different view from mine on deficits, trade policy, or interest rates. I’m beginning to question the judgment and relationship to reality of people who still believe in trickle-down economics after so many years of contrary, hard evidence that it does not work. That’s a side issue.
The problem I have with Republicans today is their morals or lack thereof. Anyone who is willing to accept and/or support Trump’s level of lying, corruption, bigotry, venality, narcissism, misogyny, mean-spiritedness, arrogance, ignorance, anti-intellectualism and overall lack of caring about anything or anyone outside of himself is not my kind of person.
Anyone who is willing to look the other way when Trump says there are ‘good’ Nazis, or when he separates immigrant children from their parents because they are seeking asylum in the U.S. has a major ‘character flaw’ in my book.
I can’t accept rationalizations or excuses for Trump’s words or deeds. I have no common values or perspectives with people who share these views– even though I understand that many of them are working with a different set of ‘facts’ than what I get from the mainstream media. If we can’t agree about the facts, there is no basis for discussion or agreement about anything else.
In 2019, who you identify with politically says a lot about who you are as a human being. I have to respect my partner’s mind and character. I don’t respect Republican/Trump supporters. I also need to feel that my partner is a caring, tolerant, compassionate person. There seems to be a compassion gene missing in most Trump supporters.
They have a strong bias in favor of corporate ‘rights’ — greed — at the expense of individuals. They appear to have a need to look down on all sorts of people. Equal treatment and opportunity, fairness, and helping the underprivileged, the sick or the disabled does not seem to even be on their radar. How can I believe in the dignity and rights of every human being if I give aid and comfort to those who want to take that dignity and those rights away?
I admit that Rachel Dratch’s partner, now her husband (I believe) seems to be an involved parent and a decent, supportive partner to her. But what values will he teach their child? What kind of world does he want that child to grow up and live in? I’m suspicious of his emotional makeup if he could ‘exonerate’ Trump’s outrageous behavior and cruel policies.
Rachel and Tina Fey in a skit
Some of Rachel’s SNL characters
Rachel in an old SNL sketch
There is no moral middle ground anymore.
Either you want Americans to have affordable healthcare or you don’t. I have no tolerance for selfish people who don’t care about the quality of life of their fellow humans. I do believe these uncaring SOBs should get healthcare, a living wage, civil rights, equality and the right to make decisions about their own bodies even though they don’t believe that I should have any of these things.
Does that make me a ‘better’ person in my moral universe? Yes, it does.
I am Jewish. My parents were both born in America but my grandparents were all born in Russia/Ukraine. I grew up on stories from my maternal grandmother about living in a Shtetl, where murderous, anti-semitic rampages by the Kossacks were commonplace. Jews were not allowed to integrate freely with the gentile population, let alone socialize or intermarry. My great grandfather was a respected Rabbi and one of the rare Jews who was allowed to do business with the Gentiles in the big town of Minsk.
In addition to these stories, I heard a lot about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe as the Nazis came to power. As a child, I used to think about what I would take with me if that ‘knock on the door’ came one night to take me away from my home and my life. I often wondered if I would be the kind of person in a Concentration Camp who shared my bread and tried to help others, or if I would do whatever I had to do to protect myself.
I am terrified when I read some of the anti-semitic stereotypes and accusations that are used today. They sound just like the propaganda used against Jews, not just in the ’30s and ’40s but all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Romans probably also used similar rhetoric against Jews even before they started hating Christians as well.
Overt and virulent anti-semitism has been relatively dormant in America for decades. Jews seemed to have assimilated into the mainstream to the point of almost becoming invisible. Or so I thought. Anti-semitism has clearly not been socially acceptable for a while. So it wasn’t expressed openly that much and I didn’t have to think about it or experience it.
I always knew that it was still ‘out there’. But I assumed it was less prevalent, less vicious and less relevant. Now I have to face the fact large numbers of Americans, in fact, do still nurse the same hatred and stereotypes that have plagued Jews for literally centuries. Americans are more tolerant and enlightened overall today, but some things just won’t die out.
I never thought that I would have to sit and watch a Nazi rally in an American city, complete with swastikas, arm salutes, and anti-semitic chants. Charlottesville was a wake-up call for many American Jews.
For now, it’s ‘just words’. But my family is a testament to the fact that words can turn into acceptable attitudes than actions and finally into social norms and policies. I don’t think we are poised to become a Nazi state. I don’t think that anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican or anti-semitic language or behavior will be tolerated by the majority of Americans.
But it is still uncomfortable for me to deal with the hatred that I know is there for me because of my lineage and/or the religion I don’t even practice. I liked it better when all the haters had to hide under a rock somewhere and were afraid to come out in the open. I hope we can send them back to that place where they are afraid of us instead of us having to be afraid of them.
One of many things that surprises me about “modern” education is the absence of geography as part of the school curriculums. When I’ve asked any young person during the last two decades if they’ve taken geography in school, the answer is usually the same. “Geography? What’s that?”
When I was in school, we studied geography. We had geography books. The classroom had maps so we could understand where in the world we were and where the rest of the world was. These were huge maps that rolled up like a window shade. There were pictures pinned to a bulletin board of various places we could study.
Geography courses were our window to the rest of the world, our introduction to other people and cultures. I always found it interesting, although I did not know at the time just how useful it would become.
There were many things about geography that I did not find so interesting. The topography was lost on someone who lived in an area that is completely flat. Information about crops and commerce held no delight at the grade school level. The local currency meant nothing to a boy with a tiny allowance.
Climate was interesting, however, to someone who had experienced the severity of all four seasons. I could not imagine living somewhere that had a colder climate then we have in winter. I did imagine that places with warmer weather throughout the year would be great to visit, especially in winter. Pictures of green mountains or long, sandy beaches fueled my imagination. I did not think I would ever get to travel much, but the views of great scenery and different types of structures were the joys of my young fantasy vacations.
With the news of the world more available than ever, you would think that geography would be an important field of study to more than the CIA. Perhaps those in charge of various school boards around the country do not think so. Can you match these cities recently in the news with their countries?
Match the city with the country to which it belongs:
City Country Mogadishu United States Castañer Israel Bishkek Turkey Ankara Kyrgyzstan Tiberias Somalia
When I was first working in freight forwarding, a young person was trying to pronounce the name written on one of the folders. She may have been filing items by destination. To just look at it, you would not think it a mystery, but this uneducated person was lost.
“Tell a, Tayla, tellavi…”
At that, a very annoyed supervisor in another group yelled over to our area, “Tel Aviv! Tel Aviv! It’s in the news sometimes.”
It was the capital of Israel at the time, and it is the only international airport in the country. I guess we are always stunned by people who do not know the capital cities or the largest airports of any country.
Do they know their own state’s capital?
By the way, the supervisor shouting the name of the city across the office remains one of our favorite air freight stories. It also points to the deficiency in our education on geography.
When I got a job in air freight, I think I already had a good idea of the capitals and major cities of most countries, and now I have come to learn their airport codes as well. The locations of major hubs of commerce and the airlines that fly there are key to our success.
You could put Asian freight on Lufthansa, who makes its first stop in Frankfurt, but it may make more sense to put it on a carrier going west to Asia. It really depends where you are. If you are on the east coast, for example, it might be better to send it east. Lufthansa does go to most places in the world. If you are in Chicago, west is usually better.
We can send your Shanghai freight from Chicago on a European carrier, but the distance will be greater to fly east, the cost will likely be more and the time of travel will be greater. No plane would have the range to go nonstop. However, there are Chinese carriers, as well as American Airlines, who fly nonstop from ORD (Chicago, O’Hare) to PVG (Shanghai, China).
Because of competition, you are likely to get a good rate for the faster transit. In freight forwarding, it is important to have an idea where everything is located in order to make the best routing decisions.
This is true for your vacation trip as well. When I tell people I have gone to Alsace, France, they usually conclude I must have flown to Paris. The truth is, I usually fly to Frankfurt, Germany which is about the same distance from Strasbourg and is usually cheaper. I have also considered the Euro-Airport at Mulhouse, France which is closer, and the airport at Zürich, Switzerland.
Grab a map and discover the world.
Here are the answers, although I am tempted to tell you to grab a Geography book or just Google it.
1 – Mogadishu is the capital of war-torn Somalia.
2 – Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
3 – Ankara is the capital of the Republic of Turkey. You probably thought it was Istanbul.
4 – You can swim in the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias, a favorite city of the Roman Emporer who originally built the city. 5 – Castaner is a mountain community in Puerto Rico that was devastated by the hurricane. Yes, it is part of the US. But there is a city (town) of the same name in the United Kingdom. 6 – Can you find Ouagadougou on a map? 7 – Do you own a map?
There’s a lot of chatter these days about the Multi-verse. You know, parallel Earths in parallel universes. Different versions of Earth. It’s been a mainstream topic in the world of physics — and in science fiction forever.
And it shows up a lot in movies and TV shows. Spider-Man, Into the
Arrow, Flash and Super Girl hop back and forth between multiple Earths all the time.
In one episode of the Flash, one of the main characters brought different versions of himself from different Earths to help him solve the ‘problem of the week’. I thought that was cool.
So, I gathered three other versions of myself from three different Earths to talk about what’s going on these days. How did I do this?
Buy the premise, buy the blog.
TOM of EARTH 616: (me) I’d like to welcome all of you to the first Council of the Toms.
TOM of EARTH 17: (Panicked) How did I get here? Where am I?
TOM of EARTH 22: (Laid back) I think we’re on Earth 616.
TOM of EARTH 42: Who came up with these Earth numbers anyway? Earth 616? Earth 22? Who makes these decisions?
TOM of EARTH 616: Depends on whether you’re DC or Marvel. Who cares? Just roll with it. You’re ruining the bit.
So, we’re here today to talk about Donald Trump.
TOM of EARTH 17: AHHH! Never say that name!
TOM of EARTH 22: Why are we talking about Donald Trump?
TOM of EARTH 42: Who’s Donald Trump?
TOM of EARTH 616: Well, on my Earth he has been the President of the United States for the last two years. Things are not going well, and I wanted to get your input — and your views — on what to do about it.
TOM of EARTH 17: Two years?? He’s been President for 10 years here!
TOM of EARTH 22: Wait a minute. You mean, the guy who had a bad reality show about 10 years ago? He’s your President? You gotta be shitting me, man!
TOM of EARTH 42: Again, who’sDonald Trump?
TOM of EARTH 616: 10 years? Oh my God. What’s it like there?
TOM of EARTH 17: Pretty much the dystopian nightmare you’d expect. After his first term, he learned he could do anything he wanted. So he did. He made himself President for life.
TOM of EARTH 22: You can do that on your Earth?
TOM of EARTH 17: OF COURSE YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON MY EARTH! He did it anyway!
TOM of EARTH 616: How? Congress did nothing to stop him? The Courts did nothing to stop him?
TOM of EARTH 17: The Congress wouldn’t impeach him and he simply ignored the courts! He said, “Fuck you.” And he got away with it!
TOM of EARTH 22: You’re talking about the guy who put his name on buildings and has really weird hair? Right?
TOM of EARTH 616: Yeah, that’s the one. We can’t believe it either.
TOM of EARTH 17: Well, believe it! I live in a world where the global economy is in the third year of a global depression. Disaster relief for all the super-tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and cyclones now cost almost one trillion dollars a year. And there’s no way to get rid of this guy!
TOM of EARTH 616: Well, he’s old, won’t he die soon?
TOM of EARTH 17: Maybe, but so what? He passed a law that when he dies, he gets replaced by … Eric.
TOM of EARTH 616: Fuck.
TOM of EARTH 22: Damn. Wow. Sorry man. It sucks to be you.
There are a lot of things in life we do not understand. The concept of Infinity is one of them. We know space does not just end, but how can it go on forever? When considering space, black holes are another mystery. How can there be these areas of nothingness in the universe? If we fly our spaceship into one, will the “gravitational acceleration” pull us through the space/time continuum into another universe? I guess that is a question for Star Trek fans.
Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, the spheres of Costa Rica, the stone heads of Easter Island and various other ancient structures have remained a mystery despite extensive study. All we have are theories on how and why they came to be. I visited Stonehenge and the placement of these giants stones was certainly a mystery to me.
Quantum computing is a mystery to me and many others, but of course some people, including world leaders, understand it while others do not.
What many of us in the country do not understand is how so many people can follow a leader who has made over 10,000 false statements or flat-out lies to the general public? This is not an opinion, but rather documented fact. News outlets have checked statements and offered proof on these. You Tube videos show Trump contradicting himself or lying to the public and yet his fan base continues to follow despite the obvious lies.
It is a mystery to us how so many can follow a leader who insults our allies while praising dictators with a history of violence towards political opponents. Trump counts Kim Jung Un as a friend. This “friend”kills his opponents, starves his people and continues his missile and nuclear programs. Despite recent missile firings, Trump continues to believe in this despot.
“I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him.” – Donald Trump May 4, 2019
Trump has met with Vladimir Putin five times and had an hour and a half phone call with him on May 3, 2019. What did they talk about? A few general statements were released but the content of these meetings and conversation are a mystery.
“The fact that Trump didn’t want the State Department or members of the White House team to know what he was talking with Putin about suggests it was not about advancing our country’s national interest but something more problematic.” – Andrew S. Weiss, Russia adviser to President Bill Clinton
There is the mystery of why Trump’s fan base continues their allegiance while he shows little or no allegiance to our allies. He has repeatedly insulted our friends, and showed virtually no regard for the opinions of others. This “speak your mind and insult your friends” approach is apparently popular with the right-wing of the Trump base for some perplexing reason.
It is also truly baffling that many can follow a leader of the nation who seems to have little knowledge of the nation he purportedly leads. Time and again Trump has either misstated the facts or shows no interest in them. He may be the first president with such little knowledge of the nation.
The United States entered into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 to secure the defense and security of member countries against outside threats. A main concern was the action of the Soviet Union on the borders of some western European friends following World War II. In order to deter future armed conflict this multi-nation agreement was signed. It would be important for our leader to know about this. It is a major point in history books. For some bewildering reason, Trump does not know it.
He could read about it on the Department of State website under Office of the Historian. It gives a nice background on many events. He can not read “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” on the website. It was “retired” since his term in office began. The devotion of followers after this continued ignorance of US history and US agreements is mystifying.
We could go on about virtually every aspect of 45’s tenure. His trade war hurts farmers and others. His pulling out of the world-wide climate agreement harms the planet. His relaxing of pollution standards endangers our citizens. His appointment of millionaires and billionaires to government posts for which they know little or nothing harms our democracy. His hate speech at rallies encourages violence in the country. His appointment of extreme right-wing judges at all levels harms the cause of Justice. His tax breaks for the rich has created massive debt for our government. The threat to offset a little of this debt by cutting back on Social Security and Medicare is troublesome to the elderly and disabled. His jokes about shooting immigrants are dangerous. Despite these things, for some inexplicable reason, throngs of followers still cheer him on.
What We Now Understand
In high school and college history classes, we often wondered how a despotic leader like Mussolini or Hitler could have so many devoted followers. They divided their people against one another. They blamed others for their problems. They preached violence against certain religions and ethnic groups. They advocated nationalism above other concerns. They made their followers, no matter how far down the social or economic ladder, follow them in almost blind devotion.
How could this be? What hold did these leaders have over their people? Did they actually believe the hate speech they were hearing? These questions presented a mystery our history books could not answer. Recent political events and the following of 45 by so many have given some insight into this mystery.
I figured it out! The solution to reality! This reality! This reality TV reality!
The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BADreality TV reality. Face it, it’s not working. Each time something happens that we might think is positive, the next day — or the next hour — we discover we were deluded.
Do you know what does work?
Think about it. There was a show called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government was blown up during a State of the Union Address. The Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court? Wiped off the earth.
The only cabinet member that had to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the government from the ground up. While he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal in which the ones responsible for blowing everybody up are also trying to take over the country.
In spite of that, their government and President are doing a lot better job than ours! They are noticeably more sane and coherent and sometimes, they make intelligent decisions. Imagine that!
So here’s what we do. We switch realities!
It’s a win-win for everybody. How? It’s simple — at least in theory.
The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV, 24/7. Every day. You like watching the news? You’ll never miss another show!
On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C. They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on “Big Brother”. Only bigger.
And on Fox News.
They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News.
As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.
It just isn’t real.
“And it’s only on Fox.”
OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?
Here’s who. Honest to God fictionalones.
The cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. And if we dig into the DNC pool, we’ve got dozens more. Hell, every billionaire is ready to declare!
We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” Again. As a matter of fact, just keep watching it over and over until you feel better. It’s like a political tranquilizer.
We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.
We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was the President, but he was (is currently, I believe) also God!
The list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.
Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!
Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.
Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.
Secretary of Defense? I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.
CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!
ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!
ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.
ISIS COMMANDER: Shit.
(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)
Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.
Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from any medical show you’ve enjoyed over the years. Any of them will do fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)
Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.
(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.
Five: The Election
How do we do this?
We have an election. Not the usual kind. What with voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and just candidates that don’t have the right scriptwriters, our elections are not working out well. That’s how we got into this mess, to begin with.
We have the election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.
Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College.
We can set up March Madness-style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. Imagine how many office pools there will be. You might even win!
And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.
This is absolute Democracy at work!
It could work!
As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:
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