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Saturday, October 24, 2020

THE ONE LAW THAT WILL FIX AMERICA












It was with some surprise but also relief that I opened yesterday’s mail and beheld the letter emblazoned with the seal of the United States Senate.
 
The letter told me plainly that I had been chosen to be King of America. There was a whiff of warning in the letter’s tone which I admit I didn’t like. The line about “do not lose your head over this” also seemed pretty snarky, and someone apparently felt the need to underline in red the sentence stating that this was only in effect until the next President was sworn in on January 20. Jesus Christ, I thought. Commit or don’t.
 
But still, I am relieved that I have been given this job and all its powers, which appear to be total. This is going to come in handy, because America is in a world of hurt and needs fixing fast.
 
The first thing I did was sit down at my worktable and begin to work on the basic rule by which I would fix the country. (I did not, you’ll note, call up for the jet or demand to be taken to my golf course.)
 
You might be surprised by what I wrote down. I certainly was.
 
“Fix the sleeping problem.”
 
I stared at this awhile, but then realized that this was a pretty important issue. The whole country – perhaps even the whole world – is having a sleeping problem. People are either not able to sleep or, when they are able, they’re having extraordinarily vivid nightmares, and not the good kind. We’re talking about being on the run from Death Star stormtroopers while having to drag Aunt Sadie along with you, or being sent back to high school but with no pants. As a result, people are losing their minds.
 
So this is serious. But I’m not stupid. I realized that the sleep problem is merely a symptom. Therefore to solve it, I would have to dig a little deeper. My first thought toward a solution (make the Shamrock shake a year-round proposition) was pleasant, but probably not as effective as perhaps is needed.
 
I knuckled down, sharpened the pencil and went at it a little more seriously.
 
Here’s what I wrote:
 
“Get rid of the three cable news networks.” 
 
I surprised myself with this. Then, in the name of fairness and free enterprise (I am, after all, a temporary King, not a despot), I rubbed that out and wrote in, “Limit the three cable news network licenses to three hours a day.”
 
Don’t kid yourself. This would do a lot. You have no idea what it would do. In my own house, there’s far too much of it on far too often, and in the outside world it’s constant. Ask any hospital floor nurse and they will tell you: patients have Fox news on 24 hours a day – yes, even when they’re sleeping – and that’s when they’re trying to recover from disease.
 
So just imagine if our consumption of this stuff were limited to what we need to know. Now there’s an outmoded concept. I’d go back to the 6:30 news and keep it at that. I’d even let the anchors smoke on-air if they want. But bottom line: there is no American who can say we are better off for the flood of info-entertainment-news we consume. And in a digital age, access to multiple newspapers is easy as pie. Read the damned newspaper.
 
“Disengage the Dow from normal people as much as possible.”
 
There will be many scoffers at this, but those who scoff – I guarantee you – are armchair bullshitters, mostly men, who talk about “the economy” as if they have some control over it. In fact, there are two periods when average folks were similarly and directly tied to the stock market, and both were disasters. The first was in the 1920’s, and we know where buying on margin took us. The second came after the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, when Bill Clinton pretty much set us on an idiot’s course to perpetual middle-class debt. Since then we’ve had economic collapse after economic collapse, including the Great Recession, and, more importantly, a widening chasm between the booms of Wall Street and what is now perpetual Main Street Desolation. We’re living this unnatural contrast today: in the midst of the worst pandemic in more than 100 years, with 230 million Americans dead, with unemployment over 10%, the Dow is... booming!
 
What does that mean? It means the Dow is utterly disengaged from the reality of day-to-day Americans. That’s not good. Yet it still holds sway over all of us, not least in the form of the idiotic 401k.
 
That was next on my list.
 
“Make people’s retirement safe again.”
 
Easy peasy. Don’t let speculators and the psychopaths on Wall Street mess with your ability to buy a can of soup after aged seventy. Tie retirement to a proper government plan that is secure, and no more speculation. Think bonds, not equities. And if assholes on Wall Street want to gamble with money – which they totally have a right to do - let it be their own. And if they screw it up, let them go broke or go to jail.
 
(Note: 401k’s were invented in 1978, so clearly we don’t need such a volatile instrument. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who had their retirement savings wiped out due to the rapacious Wall Street incompetents of 2008.)
 
“Minimum wage.”
 
Just do it. Fifteen bucks for companies over twenty-five employees. I used to be skeptical about this, but not one legit study has managed to show that this truly hurts small business owners or communities. Zillions of governments have done it. Besides, what else are we going to do? Fifty percent of this country can’t lay their hands on $400 in the event of an economic emergency. Do we consider that healthy? (Eventually we’re going to a 30-hour workweek and a UBI, but I’m only King till January 20.)
 
“Infrastructure.”
 
Ask a trucker. Ask someone who RV’s. Ask me. This country is falling apart. Physically. If you’ve ever driven over a bridge that rains rust down on the folks below you, you know what I’m talking about. This has to be fixed. It’s not even a hand-out. It’s called capital investment. I tell you, sometimes people in Congress are so full of shit...
 
“Tax the rich.”
 
I don’t even mean the $400,000 people! Is that rich? Really? I'm talking about people who have a boat that doesn’t bring in fish. If you have a boat and it doesn’t bring in fish, you pay more in taxes.
 
“People need longer and real vacations.”
 
Just go find a German who lives in Germany and ask how they feel after the six-week vacation with their family. They’re READY to go back to work!  They’re rested and roaring to go! Hopefully building a bridge.
 
“Certain people need more pay and serious healthcare, including mental healthcare.” 
 
Underneath this I wrote down: “firefighters, healthcare workers, airline pilots.” Who wants these people to be grumpy? Or distracted? Or thinking about how it’s not worth it? (This list could be longer, but it’s a start.)
 
“Higher taxes on houses larger than small amusement parks.”
 
I know it’s an American’s inalienable right to be a gross pig if you’ve managed get your hands on that much dough, but how is that attitude working so far? Nope. If you have a house whose square footage starts with a “1” and the second digit isn’t a comma, you simply have to pay more tax. For the bridge.
 
“Do more for libraries.”
 
I can’t really pinpoint what I wanted here, but I can’t see how this just isn’t right. Maybe I meant more books? Bookmobiles? Love bookmobiles! I don’t know what I meant, but I’m King and that's just the way it's going to go.
 
“College costs.”
 
So… you went to law school with some idea you were going to help people? And you graduate with $200,000 in debt? Well, the only way you’re going to pay that back is by working for law firms working to not help people – which was the idea to begin with. You’re in fact going to spend your life making sure that zillionaires can pay their workers $5 an hour, have houses bigger than amusement parks, and pay no taxes on their boats. Or maybe you become a lobbyist ensuring that as a nation we cut back on bookmobiles and ensure that fund managers can get access to your grade three teacher’s retirement fund so they can burn it up in credit default swaps or snort blow off a hooker’s ass. I personally don’t think these are good ideas or terrific small town values. At the very least put student loans at market value. Right now, the average student loan interest rate is 5.8%. Today’s prime is 3.2%. Huh?
 
“Climate change.”
 
Also easy peasy. Cut the crap. And stop talking about “the economy.” Again, more armchair asshole pontificating. Look at a picture of an emaciated polar bear. Then the fires in California. The economy!  Stop talking about the economy. You're being lied to.
 
I was coming to the end of my piece of paper now, and I had to write crawling up the side, but I managed to get my last, and most important Kingly decree in.
 
“Teach Civics.”
 
Oh boy. Ohhh boy. Sometimes when the monarch hits it, he gets it right. Here’s a painful fact: we are all stupid. Woefully stupid. And one of the things we're most stupid about is the root cause of 99% of our problems: people don’t know how they’re governed and why they’re governed.
 
The fault isn't theirs. It's the folks who run things. They decided a long time ago that we no longer need to teach civics in school.
 
And it’s easy to fix. I swear, I could teach civics to each middle-class classroom in America, one day a year, and a whole new generation would be better informed than they are now. One day a year.  Hell, why should I do it?  Just give my son a car and a roadmap and a bridge that doesn’t pee rust and he's there. Except, we aren’t going to do this, and we aren’t going to do it for a very good reason: because an uninformed electorate is a controllable electorate. You can tell a moron anything, and if you do it over and over again, he’ll believe it, especially if he has nothing to weigh it against.
 
I didn’t have room on the paper for my very very very last King decree, but I realized only at the end what it had to be. Unfortunately, I also realized it would make all my other decrees pointless. It would also, sadly, make the need for my Kingship pointless. But wake up the statistician at the party, or do a little quick reading, and you’ll see I’m right.
 
You ready?
 
Everything I just listed can happen easy peasy if we just enforce one simple rule.
 
“Don’t let guys like me vote.”
 
I don’t mean my politics. And this isn't a "woke" thing, or an apology. Just check out the poll numbers if you don't believe me. Take a look at who is propping Trump up.
 
“Don’t let white men over 50 without a college degree vote.”
 
There. Done. Think about it. 



Saturday, October 17, 2020

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE VACCINE AND JC PENNEY

 

Sometimes Trump accidentally gives us real, hardcore truth. I don’t mean about himself – in fact, he is remarkably transparent about his own fetid self, and he reveals more psychological skin than anyone wants to see – but about the mess we’re in.
 
Such a thing happened in the possibly only debate he will have with Joe Biden. The Yelly-Shouty Debate.
 
Trump reacted with genuine stupefied astonishment when someone suggested Americans might not trust the vaccines which Trump promises are just around the corner. With a boy’s astonishment, he asked, “You don’t trust Pfizer? You don’t trust Johnson and Johnson?”
 
With those words, I was taken back to another time and another reality. In that other time my mother bought – no, not just bought, believed in - Sunlight laundry detergent, and purchased it every week (no matter what the price) because she was absolutely sure it was better than all other soaps.
 
If you think this is odd, it should be noted that her father, my Papa, always bought a new Oldsmobile because he believed in them as a solid and respectable car. And he believed that driving an Oldsmobile said something about him.
 
In fact, back in the day, a lot of men referred to themselves as a “Ford man” or a “GM man” or “a Chrysler Man,” even though they didn’t work for those companies. All they did was repeatedly buy their cars.
 
(By the way, it makes me wonder what happened to the guys – they must have existed - who called themselves “a Packard Man” or a “Hudson man” or a “Stutz Bearcat” man. When these cars ceased to exist, did they worry that they themselves would cease to exist? Disappear in a puff of smoke? Float through limbo full of regret that they had not chosen to be a “Ford man”?)
 
My Nana bought Maxwell House coffee instead of Folgers to show she was a solid member of the middle class. People would buy Pyrex bowls to prove they were churchgoers, or RCA radios to prove they were conservative in approach. You shopped at Macy’s because they “took care of you” and “cared about you.”
 
I’m pleased to tell you that my own children think I’m making this shit up.
But while my kids are staring at me, I offer a moment of candor: I actually like the orderliness of this world. I would like the rules to be this simple. Who wouldn’t? Because it suggests we could trust the company and we could trust its products. And maybe not without reason.
 
I suspect Fords and Oldsmobiles actually were once okay cars. I do remember that there used to be an actual difference in soap quality, and I suspect some stores did make an effort to be efficient operations grateful for your business.

So what happened? Well, the last forty to fifty years has changed all that. Pretty much since the baby boomers took over running things. I’m not just talking about the rise of basic rip-off culture -- all the plastic crap I bought at Toys R Us for my kids, the fact that we’re jammed in like sardines on airplanes, the fact that we wind up doped on high fructose corn syrup just for drinking what we thought was lemonade, or that we drive cars that are – literally – plastic. I’m talking about the sheer downfall of consumer products as well as corporate engineering.
 
Or to put it another way, the people who run our corporations today not only can’t deliver the goods, they can’t even run the companies, and it’s time we stop pretending otherwise. In fact, the business class in America doesn’t even know how to do business. We just pretend they do, and they pretend they can.
 
If you don’t believe me, then how is it that the world’s most famous mail-order department store, established in 1890, allowed itself to be destroyed – literally destroyed – by a book delivery company called Amazon who beat them at - you got it - delivering stuff to your house?  Yet, as of this year, Sears is gone and Amazon rules the earth.
 
The answer, by the way, is a guy named Eddie Lampert, who went to Yale, worked at Goldman Sachs, and prior to taking over Sears and running it into the ground ran AutoZone, which sells spark plugs. So, you see the thinking of the board in putting Eddie in the top slot
 
And lest you think Sears is some anomaly in the retail world, witness the demise of another giant, JC Penney. This American institution was run into the ground just this year by a guy named Ron Johnson (Harvard Business school). This story is actually kind legendary. Basically Ron came up with the idea of getting rid of sales entirely, implementing something called “Fair and Square” deals, and – get this - putting up to 100 boutiques filled with branded merchandise inside each Penney store, with a “town square” at its core. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking what I was thinking.  You’re thinking, “Hey Ron... WHAT THE FUCK??”  But don’t blame Ron. His previous experience was running Apple retail, so you see the obvious connection with a discount retail department store catering to middle and working-class Americans.
 
Maybe Ron should have just re-capitalized Penneys, which is what Toys R Us did when they got into bed with Mitt Romney’s firm Bain Capital, a company designed to basically soak struggling enterprises while ignoring coming trends that might give them a second life - trends, like say, the internet. Believe it or not, Bain billed themselves as experts at turning companies around. Mitt even ran on it.
 
On the subject of finance, how about Wells Fargo? 1,500,000 banking and credit card accounts were opened for clients who had no idea such accounts existed. Then the clients were charged fees. Believe it or not, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the unbelievable crap the venerable WF is guilty of. Banker of the NRA, they’ve also been hit with all sorts of sexual discrimination charges, had to settle a racketeering charge for 50 million in 2016, and they’re big into investing in for-profit prisons, surely one of the more evil moral choices of our age.
 
How about Boeing and the 737 Max? Do I even need to get into that?
 
Or the absurdity of the 2007-2008 economic collapse and the mortgage crisis? There are just too many angles from which to go after that thing, including the fact that apparently no one in the government, at the Fed, or in private industry saw it coming. Certainly not regulators, who are supposed to be looking out for the icebergs dead ahead. I'm serious. These people are supposed to be hella-smart, so why did Hank Paulson, Treasury Secretary, have to walk into President Bush’s office to tell him that if he didn’t do something, the entire world economy was going to collapse that afternoon?
 
Well, now all this stuff is coming home to roost.  Big time.  And what we should have admitted years ago because it was inconvenient is something we MUST admit now because this is about our very lives.
 
The thing to admit is that the folks running our stuff don’t know what they’re doing.
 
I don’t know what they’re pumping out of Harvard Business School, but it’s not anyone who knows how to run an honest, profitable gas station, let alone any kind of corporate structure that requires the public’s trust. Our education systems, our political systems, and our corporate systems have utterly failed us. We're being asked to trust them simply because they exist and we know their names, and not because they have shown anything in the way of honesty or competence. 
 
The immediate problem, of course, is not that we’re about to be asked to put up with a badly run department store or a crappy airline, or cheap cars and crooked banking. No, COVID means now we’re playing for keeps now.  Very soon we’re going to be told to inject whatever shit these jokers dream up in order to ward off a virus every epidemiologist admits we don’t understand yet.
 
So... “You don’t trust Pfizer? You don’t trust Johnson and Johnson?”
 
No, Mr. President. We don't. And why do you?
 
Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder (yes, that baby powder) has been discovered to be toxic. More than 19,000 lawsuits have been slapped against J and J, alleging they knew their product caused ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, and fallopian tube cancer. Johnson and Johnson is fighting this tooth and nail, but no one’s doing much for the women with the ovarian cancer.
 
As for Pfizer, just look up the anti-depressant Zoloft or Effexor and then type in the phrase “birth defects.” You’ll choke on what comes up.
 
So I, for one, am not so keen on how this going to play out. But I do have a solution.
 
Until our corporate and government leaders can prove that they know how to run themselves honorably and with the greater good in mind, they need to be pulled off their pedestals. They need to be called out for the rip-off hustlers and hucksters they are, and made to mend their ways incredibly quickly. A few of them certainly need to go to jail (Boeing). But the last thing we should do is put our lives in their hands simply because they have a recognizable name and a big name on the Dow. We’ve already done that, over and over again, and the result is that if you’re not on the bottom of the ocean floor in a Boeing 737 X, you’re one of the 220,000 dead from COVID or part of the estimated 200,000 due to die this fall and winter.
 
The problem, of course, is what are we going to do?  We are still in the midst of a nightmare pandemic and we do need a solution and we do need to have public trust in order to survive. Certainly a vaccine, once it’s developed, needs to be distributed. So how are we going to do it in lightning speed, after decades of chicanery and sheer incompetence on the part of the establishment, who I have just said we shouldn't trust.
 
The answer is really, actually, pretty simple:
 
There are 535 members of Congress. They should be the first to take the vaccine. Then add in the heads of the CDC and the National Institute of Health. Toss in the Cabinet. Plus the heads of the pharmaceutical companies. They all take it. Preferably on live TV, so they can’t cheat. 
You certainly can’t take these folks at their word. Then the rest of us will consider it. 
 
You don’t trust Pfizer? You don’t trust Johnson and Johnson?”
 
Of course we don’t, Mr. President. And you shouldn’t either. And don’t insult us by suggesting that we should.
 





Monday, October 12, 2020

THE TIME FOR "THE FEAST OF WOLVES AND WILD DOGS"

 

I have done something that is either daring and wise or monumentally stupid. We will soon know.

Starting Tuesday, October 13, a novel I have written is being released over the internet. In installments. For free. To anyone who wants to read it. 

The reason for such a release in such a timeframe is simple: I’m convinced everyone who has any views or concern about the shitshow that is taking place in America needs to get into this story as soon as possible.

Because that’s what the novel is about: the shitshow. That said, I would point out that my shitshow makes that shitshow look like a Gymboree birthday party. And I’ve been living with this shitshow long before the other really took flight.

Let me explain.

The book is called The Feast of Wolves and Wild Dogs and starting tomorrow it can be found at www.thefeastofwolvesandwilddogs.com It took me about three years to write, which means I started it, or at least started working on it seriously, in 2017. But as the work progressed, I admit I became a little freaked out. Not just because the story began to take on a life of its own (novels probably ought to do that), but because I began to imagine that the rest of the world was imitating the novel. That’s as screwy as it sounds – the idea that my novel, locked in an upstairs room in my house, scrawled out in a variety of dollar-store notebooks, was somehow dictating events in the real world – but it wasn’t entirely unfounded.

It was kind of like that Twilight Zone episode where a writer discovers that the things he describes to his Dictaphone become real. Naturally, this guy dreams up the ideal woman, the ideal house, and so on (I actually always thought this was a bit lame and limited in its scope, but it was 1962 and perhaps that’s all people thought about then: marriage and suburban housing).

Unfortunately, in the case of The Feast of Wolves and Wild Dogs, the things being dreamt up were a hell of a lot darker than anything in the Twilight Zone episode.

To explain that, I need to tell you what the novel is.

The Feast of Wolves and Wild Dogs is a huge, loud, vulgar, funny, dark, and I hope readable novel built around a very simple premise, clearly based on my read of the news at that time: what would happen if there was a French Revolution in modern-day America -  complete with guillotine?  Yep, an 18-foot-high head-cutting blade on the steps of the United States Capitol building.

My hero was going to be a guy who was brought in to fix the situation, one of the twelve last reasonable people in America. His group would literally be called The Reasoners. I thought this was kind of funny.

Oh, and it was going to be a novella. About 120 pages.

So, I went to work. And naturally it went through a few changes. And 800 pages later, I was done.

In those pages I wound up describing and explaining a lot of truly unsettling things, most of which I assumed came off the top of my head. As a result, I employed them with a kind of vicious whimsy, like a drunken God: mass executions on the steps of government buildings; the abduction of government officials; a nationwide virus; citizen militia who stormed state capitols and took over the State houses dressed up in cammo and tactical gear; folks rioting on the streets of midwestern towns demanding justice and fairness; Black civil rights organizations shooting it out with cops; the invocation of the 25th Amendment; National Guard on city streets; and, of course, that guillotine on the steps of the U.S. capitol. 

Maybe you can now see the reason for my delusion and paranoia. A lot of these things seemed to come true as I was writing. So, I had to wonder if I was some amazing Nostradamus or a Cassandra, or just a truly with-it scribe?

I finally decided that the answer for this collision between my jumped-up fantasy and reality could be found in why I wanted to write the book in the first place. I wrote it because I was truly worried about where America is going and what might be discovered about the darkest corners of the American mind.

So, with pencil and paper, I was doing what most of my friends were doing, although I was doing it in fiction: grappling with the idiocies and stupidities that are threatening the very country we love. Those idiocies include such ideas as “right” and “left,” or the extreme partisanship which is ripping the place apart, some pretty ugly elitism, and, let’s face it, sheer incompetence.

But rather than just yack about it at the dinner table or on my Twitter, I followed these ideas down the rabbit hole to what I imagined were some of their darkest conclusions and wrapped it all up in this crazy-ass adventure story. At first, I thought maybe I ought to hold back, but as the daily news seemed to support where my story was going, I decided to just let it rip. Good or bad. And the result is that 800 page book and a very unsettling resemblance to the world in which we find ourselves. 

I admit I’m somewhat frightened by this book for a bunch of reasons. 1: what if no one finds it entertaining and a good read? Okay, that’s an obvious one. 2: what if bad people take it the wrong way and decide to do crazy shit? Naturally. 3: what if good people take it the wrong way and think it’s just about the bad people?  That concerns me the most. Because that idea is just too simplistic and keeps the shitshow cycle going.

Because let’s face it, the world in general but the United States specifically is in a lot of trouble. We have lost our mooring, and when we lose our mooring, we look for someone to blame, and when we look for someone to blame, we always find it. Over the last few years, radical xenophobic nationalism has run rampant both in the United Sates as well as Europe. And it’s not just a political pose on the part of those seeking power. As the maniacs in Michigan revealed to us this week, this is now grassroots stuff, which means we may have as much to worry about Biden winning the Presidency as losing it. There are people out there who want to continue the rebellion, and with a real cause at their backs – the defeat of their deity, Donald Trump – who knows what madness will prevail?

Fortunately, my novel doesn’t get into this kind of stuff specifically. Nor is it a recipe for what we ought to do to save the republic – any republic. It’s just a novel, and we all ought to remember that the most wonderful thing about a novel is that it’s just a big shameful pack of lies to entertain you wherever you may happen to be. It’s just a story, and I believe in story more than I believe in the sun rising and setting. (Outside of a University lecture hall, story can be clinically defined as ‘and then Davey was taken by the pirates – yeah?? – and then they found this mysterious island – yeah??? – and then…’)

But I’d also be a liar if I denied I wrote this tome from a certain viewpoint. There is a stance here, and the stance is that there are Good Guys and there are Bad Guys. Now, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Us Vs. Them in not particularly dismissive terms, but I was talking about cultural differences then, and the importance of artists; I wasn’t talking about rationalizations for genocide. Because that’s what Good Guys vs. Bad Guys always turns into. That particular card trick is one the world  has fallen for again and again, and I fear we’re going for it one more time -  just like we did in 1939, or 1914, and just as we’ve done through the ages since Sparta and Athens and before.  Ask the Rwandans about Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. Ask how it worked out for them.

The question, of course, is, do we have the wit to recognize the danger in this path and stop ourselves, or did we already drink too much of our own Kool-Aid?

That’s why I wrote the book. That and something more fundamental.

That fundamental thing can be summed up by Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol. Remember Scrooge in the graveyard after his rather unpleasant journey with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? He asks if the horrors he’s seen are the images of things that will be, or may be? (Shrewd customer that he is, Scrooge knows there’s a world of difference).  This, in the end, may be what I’ve tried to do: act as the three spirits, and see if I can persuade Scrooge just what unbelievable hell lies up ahead if he doesn’t change his ways.

Because this week I saw a President of the United States standing on a balcony and saluting, and more public officials telling us that black is white and white is black, and a doctor lying through his teeth about just how healthy the emperor is, and just how much the emperor loves us.

Which brings me to the best thing I can say about the book.  THE best thing.

There are a lot of words in this book and I’m sure some of them are upsetting, but one word that isn’t in this book is... Trump.

Maybe a good enough reason, right there, to read it.

 OCTOBER 13, 2020 - www.thefeastofwolvesandwilddogs.com

Saturday, October 3, 2020

WHAT TRUMP'S COVID REVEALS ABOUT US



This is a moment of complete bullshit. It’s also one of our most sublime moments.

Let’s just check where we are: Trump has tested positive and who knows what’s going on behind closed doors at that naval hospital. This morning I saw the little minions – those yellow guys from the movies – scurry out in their white doctor coats and do an unbelievably good imitation of talking like White House press spokesman, obfuscating with the best of them. This is kind of amazing, especially for doctors, who aren’t known for their verbal dexterity. If these guys are doctors, right? It’s always good to feed the Twittersphere with possibilities.

The fact is, this medical minion appearance capped an incredible week. In just a few days we have witnessed the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice who shouldn’t be there; found out that Trump is a complete and utter fraud/failure as a billionaire (albeit a very successful tax cheat); witnessed a Presidential debate which debased not just the Presidency but our species in general; saw the President run around the country telling us the covid virus is gone; then found out his top aide Hope Hicks contracted it probably from running around the country claiming that it was gone; then we discover HE has it, and his wife; then we find out all sorts of members of his staff have it, and various GOP Senators; and today, like God on the seventh day, we get a rest.

The bullshit part is that we’re even having to live this. That we’re governed by such awful, miserable, egocentric morons. That we have to tolerate such people, the Hyper Sure and Belligerent, all of whom seem to have an endless supply of incredibly expensive sunglasses.

The sublime part is this: despite everything, despite what so many of us feel for this man and his deplorable family, many of us woke up to discover that we don’t – after all – wish him dead. We wish him out, but most of us don’t wish him dead. And I bet it’s a shock to a lot of us. It sure is to me. And kind of a wonderful revelation.

Let’s be clear: I’m not one of those who likes to express their shock and outrage and daring by talking about killing anyone, or how it would be good if a brick fell from a high building, or any of that. I have friends who send me this kind of stuff about Trump in the form of “funny” memes, and I admit I don’t find it funny. Instead, I am unsettled by it. I wish I could say it’s because of some deep seated Christian or humanist instinct, but I don’t think it is: it’s just a basic sense of ‘No.’ (Like the time my friend Dave beat up a guy in the Frank Vetere's Pizza Parking lot for looking at his girlfriend, then stealing his wallet; no, Dave. We all knew the beating was perfectly reasonable - after all, the guy had looked at your girlfriend - but the taking of the wallet was just plain wrong).

I’d also be a liar if I didn’t admit that, in the safety of my house and in my heart, I have thought and said some pretty awful things about the President, who I do believe is a murderer (second degree anyway) and perhaps even guilty of genocide. He’s certainly one of the most odious people our society has run across in the last seventy-five years, and maybe longer: after all, Joe Stalin knew how to throw a dinner party and Hitler enjoyed art and had a dog.

But then, Trump himself got this virus and I’m surprised to discover that I do not wish him to die. Nor his abominable wife, she of Shakespearean depths of smoldering hatred and designer evil.

And I am not alone! Tons of people in the public sphere have stepped forward to express the same thing, and even if you chalk a good half of it up to public form, then at least the other half of us are acting out of basic decency. Sure, GOP Senators have every reason to wish the President well, but Joe Biden? Biden himself may have been infected by the guy (knowingly!), yet he’s publicly expressed goodwill and bonhomie and even pulled his negative ads on Trump for the duration of Trump’s illness – leaving us, I guess, just those turgid tearjerker spots about the seemingly endless number of dead members of Joe’s family, apparently doomed to an eternity of being exploited for political gain. And Al Franken? What benefit is there to Al Franken to be decent about Trump?

No, I think we’re discovering that underneath all the slime and sludge, there are more decent people than deplorable people out there, as long as you stay off Twitter.

The irony, of course, is this:

Trump is not one of them.

Let’s be honest. There is not a sentient being on this planet who believes that if the shoe were on the other foot – “BIDEN ANNOUNCES HE’S TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19” – that it wouldn’t be a shower of indecency. “Looks like the basement and the phony mask-wearing didn’t save Sleepy Joe, who we can count among the dead before the election. WEAK!” Or, “Looks like Dem Disease is going to put an end to Biden’s socialist plans to destroy America. SAVED!”

This is all too easy to imagine.

(Easier than you think: while Biden’s campaign has decided to pull their negative ads, the Trump campaign has said they will not pull theirs).

So, to make the irony greater, the recipient of all this goodwill doesn’t deserve any goodwill at all.

And he’s got company. We are now zeroing in on where and how all this started, and it appears to have been the hilariously unsafe maskless ceremony in the rose garden ‘announcing’ Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the court. As a result, all the Gods were there, a full pantheon: Kellyanne, Hope, Melania, Chris Christie, Bill Stepien, Senators Tillis and Lee, etc. etc.

Then Fate hurled its forked lightning bolt, and for all their hubris and arrogance every single person I listed has been struck with COVID, Trump (Zeus) prime among them, of course. William Barr was also at the event, but so far he’s not announced infection. As readers of mine know, I maintain that Barr can’t be infected as he’s not actually a human being, but is, instead, a full on Rankin-Bass character.

It is to laugh. Or cry.

One final thing, seemingly unrelated, but trust me, it ties in:

Let’s cool it with the hyperbolic insanity regarding the President being sick. Of course it’s time to stop the hyperbolic insanity about the majesty of the Presidency in general, but the sick thing is too much. Particularly for this President.

In general, Presidents are pretty disposable. We not only have a spare one ready, we have many spare ones, most of whom will do just as good a job in a pinch. Seldom is a President as a person indispensable. There are some exceptions: I think we’d all agree that if it were 1943 and FDR came down with COVID, we’d all have good reason to light our hair on fire; JFK in October 1962 might be another moment; certainly Lincoln throughout his entire first term; Harry Truman a couple of times during the Cold War; George Bush right after 9-11. Like it or not, these were moments when it mattered who the guy was. But Trump? Trump??

Trump as a President is best when he does nothing. Only when he’s conscious are we in our greatest danger. So this hysteria over “the nation in crisis” because Trump has coronavirus, or even might be dying of coronavirus, is a childish national reflex action, all of us remembering back to a time when it mattered.

The truth is that the President himself doesn’t matter, if in fact the Presidency matters anymore at all. Certainly the last few years shows that a bad President can do very little good and tremendous bad, and yet that’s who we’re boo-hooing about now, he and his miserable familiars.

 So I don’t want anyone to die, I just want them to go away. There’s a difference. And thank God that most of us know, and can feel, instinctively, the difference. Because he can't.

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