comedy, personal, politics, sports, tv

2022 in pithy quotes and shared links

After trying and failing to come up with a year-in-review that was entertaining and enlightening, I’ve decided to be lazy — I mean, creative — and regurgitate old quotes in the name of narcissism — I mean, find relevant and informative excerpts from my writing this year to highlight the best and worst of the year.

Enjoy.


January

6th: “We once stood with Stalin against Hitler. We can stand with Cheney and Manchin against QAnon.”

30th: “One-way traffic, as they say. Well, it’s actually four-way traffic, as the USA pass the ball all over the place with nothing moving forward. Eventually, Pepi gets an awkward shot from an awkward angle that goes awkwardly out of play.” (The Guardian: USA-Canada World Cup qualifier live coverage)


February

5th: “The men’s free skate is the next event in the figure skating team competition. Canadian Roman Sadovsky will get us started with a program set to the Snow Patrol song ‘Chasing Cars.’ Is that the one with the repetitive two-note guitar riff or the one with the repetitive two-note guitar riff?” (The Guardian: Winter Olympics Day 2 live coverage)

7th: “And back to the big air — the skiers go in reverse order of their two-jump scores in the last round, and those who are out of contention are having some fun. Norway’s Sandra Eie landed upright at last. The USA’s Darian Stevens did not, going for a 5000 septuple cork inverted stalefish meat-grinder scrum-half flippy floppy and bouncing up with a big smile and shrug after failing to finish it on her skis.” (The Guardian: Winter Olympics Day 4 live coverage)


March

2nd: “DIRECTOR: Well, it doesn’t fit the story, but OK. How do we make it interesting?

“PRODUCER: Tommy does a lot of cool tricks with his sticks and then looks like he’s putting himself in an armlock.

“DIRECTOR: That works.

“PRODUCER: Tommy? You cool with that?

“(Band snorts cocaine)

“PRODUCER: It’ll be fine. Here’s a pile of money.”

3rd: “I’ve given up news for Lent, but I have something complicated to discuss … Shamrock Shakes are NOT just vanilla shakes with food coloring.” (Facebook)

10th: “The women, though, have more work to do. They’ve convinced a lot of supporters and columnists that their legal fight was essential. Now they need to convince those who actually look at the federation budget.” (The Guardian: Women’s team got equal pay, but not everyone in US soccer is happy)

11th: “The blonde woman in the nice SUV counting out change with shaking hands to buy two boxes of Chardonnay at 7:30 a.m. at the 7 Eleven next to Madison HS is either having a better day than I am or a considerably worse day. (She did drive away from the school, so that’s good.)” (Facebook)


April

15th: “So on that note, to quote Frank Costanza, I’ve got a lot of problems with you people …” (Medium: A Good Friday airing and burial of grievances, 2022 edition)


May

4th: “But just for fun, should we tell Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that aliens are coming in from space? I’m sure his response to fortify an atmospheric border would cost Texas taxpayers a lot of money, but it would be less destructive to the rest of us than the extra layer of border security he added before realizing, ‘Oh, right! Food comes across the border!’ Total cost to Texas: roughly $4,000,000,000. And the rest of us need to pay a bit more for produce, thanks to this self-inflicted knot in the supply chain. The word for that is ‘inflation.’ Or, as some people might say, ‘Damn, these avocados are expensive.'”

18th: “Who has two thumbs and just saw a faint line on his COVID test that likely means a positive?
… wait … where’s my other thumb? …” (Facebook)

23rd: “More recently, she owned the stage in the world’s most dramatic paint ad.”

23rd: “And what happened to the Tea Party? Hello? Libertarians? Are you high? Oh … you are. Yay, you got a victory on one issue. Have some brownies.” (Medium: Expanding upon Elon Musk’s view of polarization in cartoon form)

26th: “‘My three-year-old could’ve made that call!’ exclaimed commentator Kaylyn Kyle after an apparent handball wasn’t called at the end of an NWSL Challenge Cup game between OL Reign and the Washington Spirit. Unfortunately, most three-year-olds who grow up to be soccer fans will be armchair referees rather than being on the field where they’re actually needed.” (The Guardian: Referee numbers are plunging and aggression is to blame)


June

13th: “So I’m back for Round 3 with another program. I’m starting by watching a tutorial video on how to watch the tutorial videos.” (Facebook)

18th: “So apparently, the big thing in Wilmington is to cruise on Front Street on loud motorcycles or in tricked-out Jeeps blasting hip-hop and occasionally hard rock and I’ve never wanted so much to drive up and down a street in my RAV4 blasting Tori Amos.” (Facebook)

25th: “So you’re upset that people hate Donald Trump. A majority of people. A substantial majority of people. But here’s a surprise for you: We don’t hate you.” (Medium: A letter to the person leaving the F— BIDEN stickers at Starbucks)


July

14th: “I don’t know how to reach low-information voters and explain the realities of climate change, COVID prevention or domestic terrorism. What I do know is that we’re not going to fix the problem with doomscrolling. It’s not a coincidence that the longest song on the new Metric album, maybe the longest they’ve ever done, is called Doomscroller.”

19th: “It’s 2032. At long last, humans have landed on Mars. Back on Earth, US sports fans have a simple question: Is the Mars colony in the Big Ten or the SEC?” (The Guardian: College football realignment winners and losers)

24th: “Reconstruction! Not as cool as R.E.M. made it sound. The Ku Klux Klan kicks into high gear. The Republican Party, founded in 1854 in large part to prevent the spread of slavery to new states and territories, is trying to be the good guys, held back a bit by Southern Democrats stuffing boxes with ballots and stuffing people with bullets.”


August

1st: “I think the only thing more surprising than Robert Fripp’s sudden career turn would be if Pauly Shore started making popular videos analyzing the evolution of iambic pentameter.” (Facebook)

3rd: “The purpose here isn’t to put forth some sort of Milquetoast Moderatism. There’s no middle ground between “the left” and the people who ran into the Capitol alongside people bearing Confederate flags and anti-Semitic slogans. The people on the “left” who commit political violence are swiftly denounced and hold no real power; the people on the “right” who do so are given political cover by a party that refuses to participate in an investigation of an assault on democracy.

“But there’s no reason We the Common People Who Have Things in Common can’t rise above all of the hatred, all of the ignorance and all of the fundamental disrespect that manifests itself everywhere from political protests to merge lanes on the interstate. We have more in common that we think, and we need to demonstrate that in a show of strength to disarm the haters.”

8th

10th: “Rob goes on entertaining personal digressions. He has a unique style. Which, of course, I have felt compelled to parody, like Weird Al doing Eat It or Ridin’ Dirty. So this is also full of personal digressions that I hope are entertaining. Either that or you’re going to come out of it saying you now know way too much about me.”

19th: “When a hotel says something on its room service menu is “housemade,” does that mean it can’t be made in an apartment? If I were to order avocado toast right now, would someone have to run a few blocks to a house, make the toast, then run back?” (Facebook)


September

2nd: “What must it be like to know that every swing of the racket could be your last in competitive singles tennis? What must it be like to do that in front of a packed stadium with millions watching on TV? Then what must it be like to see your opponent suddenly hit long and give you a break point? Maybe Serena Williams can answer whenever this ends, three minutes or 30 minutes from now.” (The Guardian: Live coverage of Serena Williams’ final match)

7th: “But nowhere in the Laws of the Game does it say, ‘… but don’t call it if someone makes a fantastic play immediately afterward.'” (Soccer America: TV commentators’ over-the-top VAR criticism)

9th: “Who else would love to see King Charles III come out and say, “Parliament is dissolved. Brexit is herby rescinded, and we shall rejoin the European Union. Also, we’re sending our military to reclaim our American colonies — the good ones, anyway. Monarchy’s back, bitches!”” (Facebook)

25th

29th: Third-grader: “Mr. Dure? Why is your hair so disorganized?”

Me: “Because it’s been falling out since I started working here.”

(Which is true but coincidental.)

(Facebook)

30th: “Not particularly happy with humanity at the moment. Thinking we should turn the planet over to dogs and dolphins.” (Facebook)


October

24th

30th


November

11th: “I generally think complaints about ‘wokeness’ are overblown and that young people have a lot to say. Then I hear someone from Harvard on a town hall griping that their generation is the ‘most financially underserved in history.’ (Facebook)

27th: “The Greek goal was offside in the Monty Python sketch, by the way. Confucius needed VAR.” (The Guardian: Croatia-Canada World Cup live coverage)


December

10th: “In Grant’s case, I keep thinking that I should send him a message to express my sympathy. I can’t process that the fact that he can’t answer. When my wife came running up to say, ‘Grant Wahl died,’ I heard what she said but couldn’t understand those three words in that order.” (Duresport.com: Grant Wahl: 1974-2022)

14th

16th: “The women’s legal team’s filing includes plenty of self-aggrandizement about the landmark settlement and the collective bargaining agreement that followed, the latter of which was a multiparty conversation that would be at best tangentially related to the lawyers’ aggressive posture. What’s mentioned a bit less frequently is one little detail: They lost the case. (The Guardian: Lawyers seek big money from US women’s soccer team)

16th: “Comparing teams’ records across groups is always awkward because some groups will be a Group of Death and some will be a Group of Sharks and Minnows.” (Soccer America: Thinking outside the box to create best World Cup format)

16th: “What would famous philosophers suggest regarding USA Curling? Plato would say we’re living in a cave, observing only the shadows of Niklas Edin and Tabitha Peterson. Ayn Rand would let the free market decide, which means we probably wouldn’t have any curling on TV at all. And Rene Descartes would say curling doesn’t think; therefore, it is not.” (Duresport.com: Why support USA Curling?)

16th: “If I’m found murdered in the next few days, please check my latest Guardian piece and my latest blog posts for suspects.” (Facebook)

21st

24th: “Google’s Santa Tracker says he’s in Beirut. NORAD’s says he’s in Luanda, Angola. Whom are we to believe? This is a matter of national security, and we can’t even place him on the same continent? We’re in grave danger! Shut your chimney flues and close your blinds!” (Facebook)

politics

A quick word before we move on from the midterms and Trump *

* Before we move on, though, don’t forget Georgia and the quest to make it a clean sweep against dangerously underqualified and undemocratic (small “d”) candidates. Donate to Raphael Warnock and send nonpartisan reminders to voters at Vote Forward. THEN we’re done.

Congratulations to the Democratic Party for … meeting low expectations.

The narrative changed several times, didn’t it? A few months ago, the Democrats were going to get pummeled as incumbent parties always do in midterms, particularly when the Afghanistan debacle and inflation condemned Biden to a Trumpian low-40s in approval polls. Then the abortion ruling energized everyone, the Republicans nominated a band of lunatics and madmen/madwomen, and FiveThirtyEight was telling us the Democrats would almost certainly hold the Senate. Then John Fetterman had a shaky debate performance, the stories of Herschel Walker paying for abortions actually strengthened my childhood sports hero’s campaign, and the Democrats were going to lose everything.

So when the Democrats didn’t lose everything, it was a miracle!

Media narratives are always overstated, but on the whole, the midterms brought this good news:

There’s a ceiling to authoritarian lunacy, especially when it relates to Donald Trump.

Here’s The Economist: “For a long time elected Republicans have behaved as if Mr Trump had some magic electoral power. His record shows a narrow win in 2016 after two terms of Barack Obama—an election, therefore, that a generic Republican candidate would have been expected to win. In 2018 Republicans did poorly in the midterms, losing 41 seats in the House. Then in 2020 Mr Trump lost to a rather elderly and verbose candidate never noted for his skill at campaigning. Mr Trump’s special power is over the berserker faction of the Republican Party, which has sway in primaries. But to the rest of the electorate he is becoming the thing he most derides: a loser.”

Here’s FiveThirtyEight, which noted that political newcomers who supported the Big Lie on the 2020 election were trounced: “Perhaps most meaningfully, voters almost universally rejected election deniers who ran for secretary of state, an office that is typically a state’s top election official and responsible for administering elections, enforcing election laws and certifying results.”

Here’s Reason, which might be reclaiming its libertarian mission after cozying up to non-libertarian Trump: “Without a hateable foil to run against, Trumpism doesn’t work as a campaign strategy. It’s time for Republicans to rediscover the value of actually having ideas.”

Reason also notes the rise of ranked-choice voting, which may eventually be a bulwark against extremist candidates. They cite a Nevada referendum mandating open primaries and ranked-choice voting, which did indeed pass.

So that brings me back to the most important thing on this site: A social contract (updated for 2022)

And to carry that forward, here are few important rules for 2023 for the Democrats and the media:

Dear Democrats: It’s the issues, stupid! We’ve been over this. You have the advantage on every issue. People want economic safety nets, not tax cuts for the rich. They want reproductive freedom. They want reasonable solutions to our gun problem and our immigration problem. (The first Reason piece above notes that Mitt Romney wants to expand immigration.) They care about climate change. They want gay rights. Even the Mormon Church came out (oops, maybe not the right word choice) and said they’d support measures to protect gay marriage legally as long as they could still argue against it theologically. So why are these elections even close?

Quit spending all your time, energy and money sending people like me frantic emails that you’re going to miss some fundraising deadline. Quit calling the same people over and over again. Quit using attack ads that worked on Boomers but fall flat with younger generations.

Dear media: It’s the issues, stupid! I don’t want to hear about Donald Trump in 2023 unless you’re reporting on his legal issues. The only Trump news that matters this week is that foreign governments spent $750,000 at his hotel, the latest evidence that Trump used the White House for personal gain and little else. Maybe start asking questions about why Merrick Garland is moving so slowly that I’m starting to wonder if he’s still working on impeachment papers for Warren G. Harding.

Smash the two-party system! It’s happening, folks. Support Unite America.

Finally, here’s a resolution for the rest of 2022 and at least the first 10 months or so of 2023 …

GET ON WITH OUR LIVES!

We’ve earned a break from horse-race and celebrity politics. Enjoy it.

politics

Out: RINOs. In: CINOs. (Christians in Name Only)

Beau of the Fifth Column (not me, because even though I’m a Beau from the South, I have neither this accent nor this beard nor this way with words) eviscerates the idea of anti-Trumpsters being “RINOs,” pointing out that Trump was an independent, a Reform Party supporter and, yes, a Democrat before deciding to join and manipulate the Republican Party.

This, in and of itself, is not a new thought. Trump’s record of party-shopping and even his willingness to contort his own alleged views to suit that party is well-documented.

And while the old quote that Trump figured Republicans were idiots he could manipulate is actually fake, he clearly found that the GOP (or “Gutless Old People”) was quite malleable. Traditional conservative values like free trade, small government and standing up for democracy vs. dictators have gone out the window. A party that had gone full-bore “Tea Party” libertarian is now authoritarian.

But, again, the other Beau puts it better than I could, noting that Trump settled on the Republican Party in part because it was the one in which he could “give them permission to be their worst and it would motivate them.”

Also related to the Trump base: a story in The Atlantic (might be paywalled) noted something about the evangelicals who support Trump. As it turns out, they don’t go to church that often:

And a pearl-clutching study of evangelical opinions finds that evangelicals are (gasp!) more willing to accept LGTBQ people and accept the prospect that many roads lead to heaven, but the authors are heartened by the fact that a solid 90% of them are against fornication.

So here’s why the political landscape of the last seven years makes no sense …

While the country is getting more diverse along theological, gender and sexuality lines, a significant number of people who consider sexual morality more important than many theological issues have decided that they shall put all of their stock in a man whose attitudes on sex and marriage should be repulsive to them.

Should we still be dissecting Trump? Maybe not. That’ll be for the courts.

But this peculiar tendency is something we have to notice. State and local governments are already making things very uncomfortable for people who are more about compassion for others than condemnation of others.

And these people aren’t just RINOs. They’re CINOs as well.

comedy, music, x marks the pod

X Marks the Pod parodies 60 Songs That Explain the 90s

I love the podcast 60 Songs That Explain the 90s, by The Ringer’s Rob Harvilla. It’s now inaccurately named, having gone beyond 60 songs.

Rob goes on entertaining personal digressions. He has a unique style.

Which, of course, I have felt compelled to parody, like Weird Al doing Eat It or Ridin’ Dirty.

So this is also full of personal digressions that I hope are entertaining. Either that or you’re going to come out of it saying you now know way too much about me.

Enjoy.

politics

A social contract (updated for 2022)

Most of us don’t want a civil war.

Most of us want politicians who are smart enough to understand the issues and humble enough to know when they need outside expertise.

Most of us want drivers at a four-way stop sign to go in the order of when they arrived at the intersection.

And yet the media insist we’re divided. …

Consider poll numbers right after Jan. 6. (The one in 2021, not the year in which you’re reading this.) A Reuters/Ipsos poll released two days after the Capitol assault found:

  • 57% of Americans wanted Trump out. Immediately. Not Jan. 20.
  • 72% strongly opposed the assailants’ actions. 9% somewhat opposed.
  • 79% described the assailants as either “criminals” or “fools.”
  • 55% strongly disapproved of Trump’s actions on Jan. 6. 7% somewhat disapproved. 6% “lean toward” disapproval. Only 16% “strongly approved.” (Again, this was 18 months before the hearings on the matter.)
  • 57% said lawmakers trying to block certification of the election were “criminals” or “fools,” while another 16% didn’t know.

The purpose here isn’t to put forth some sort of Milquetoast Moderatism. There’s no middle ground between “the left” and the people who ran into the Capitol alongside people bearing Confederate flags and anti-Semitic slogans. The people on the “left” who commit political violence are swiftly denounced and hold no real power; the people on the “right” who do so are given political cover by a party that refuses to participate in an investigation of an assault on democracy.

But there’s no reason We the Common People Who Have Things in Common can’t rise above all of the hatred, all of the ignorance and all of the fundamental disrespect that manifests itself everywhere from political protests to merge lanes on the interstate. We have more in common that we think, and we need to demonstrate that in a show of strength to disarm the haters.

And we agree on a lot more than simply denouncing the Proud Boys, “antifa” or the misinformation miscreants who have taken over cable “news” in prime time. We generally agree on guns, abortion and immigration. Agreement, though, makes poor prime-time ratings.

The social contract I’m proposing here has three stages:

  1. Stop the Republican Party now. Apologies to old-school Republicans, but given the evolution of the two-party system, the GOP mainstream has become driven by a desire to “own the libs” and limit our freedoms to do so. The Democrats are the lesser of two evils, or in some cases, a bit better than that.
  2. Get rid of the two-party system.
  3. Just be nicer. Period.

In doing so, we’ll have better tools for building on the things on which most of us agree. Maybe the good feelings will even trickle down to four-way stops. Or at least stop people in a backup on the interstate from pulling into the shoulder and passing five cars before merging back in.

Through a lot of American history, we’ve agreed on what we wanted to do but disagreed on the specifics. The sooner we can get back to disagreeing on things like “the role of private corporations in health care” instead of things like “the use of misinformation to enable violent hatred” or “whether it’s OK to threaten health officials,” the better.

So the following is a list of common goals. We can debate the specifics while the white supremacists go back to playing soldier in the woods, “antifa” goes back to the drum circles, and Putin’s apologists fight their Twitter bans.

Here goes …

The basics

1. Amplify experts, not “alternative facts”

We should be debating how to address climate change, not whether it exists. We shouldn’t be able to lie about crime statistics to demonize immigrants or people of color. We shouldn’t spread fatal deceptions about COVID-19. And we shouldn’t be stirring up violent mobs with fanciful tales of election fraud that have been rejected by every possible adjudicating body. (Also, we did indeed land on the moon, and the Earth is not flat.)

An epidemiologist might know more about COVID-19 than your “liberal”-bashing pastor. Climate scientists might know more about climate than economists. If you don’t believe that, let your doctor fix your plumbing and vice versa.

I know, I know — she was great in the Iron Man films and on SNL.

A journalist spends more time researching the issues than the majority of people do. They’re human, and they’re subject to biases — most of them not partisan but economic. For some reason, we’ve decided to exalt talk-show hosts who don’t do any homework or even admit that their shows aren’t good sources of fact. And we’re getting medical info from Gwyneth Paltrow rather than medical experts. We’re falling for dangerous conspiracy theories.

It’s too easy for progressives to think this is simply a right-wing problem or limited to Joe Rogan’s podcast. The fact is that a lot of today’s bullshit stems from the postmodern relativism incubated in academia. You can’t peddle theories about science being nothing more than a hegemonic patriarchal social construct and then expect people to show up at a climate change rally. This anti-expert bias has, of course, moved into the media.

You don’t have to assume someone’s right just because someone has initials after their names. We have plenty of quack doctors shilling for bullshit products, after all. But if an overwhelming number of biologists see evolution as the fundamental backbone of biology, you might want to use some skepticism when you step into that creationist museum.

2. Respect empathy — and each other

The USA is built in part around a belief in the “rugged individual.” And to some extent, that’s not a bad thing. Nothing wrong with self-reliance. The problem is when we think we owe nothing to each other, and that’s a problem that’s growing.

If World War II happened today, would we have the national resolve to sacrifice everything from our material comfort to our lives to turn back fascism? Back then, people ran unprotected at machine-gun nests to help their fellow human being. At the height of COVID, a lot of people wouldn’t even get a shot or wear a mask in an effort to protect other people from getting a disease that could kill them, hospitalize them or give them long-term problems. “It’s my choice whether I want to protect myself,” the argument went. The arguer showed no capacity to consider the impact of letting a disease run rampant, putting a lot of other people — or even themselves — into overtaxed hospitals.

A bit of hostility isn’t new. We had an actual Civil War. We’ve always had bumper stickers venting hostility. But it’s becoming more mainstream, with public servants (please note the word “servant”) no longer trying to stay above the fray. It’s bad enough when someone puts a “Let’s Go Brandon” sticker on a car. It’s worse when Florida’s governor alludes to that juvenile slogan while signing an order against COVID vaccine mandates.

We’ve turned empathy into a weakness. Donald Trump Jr. in particular loves to gloat about people feeling “triggered.” The people he’s trying to bully are far more courageous than he is because they’re brave enough to care. We need that bravery.

3. No more violent or destructive protests

Yes, this applies to the downtown Portland occupation and other left-wing protests as well. Leaders who matter, like Joe Biden and Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, denounced the looting and the attempts to bait police into responding.

It applies to showing up at Josh Hawley’s house (near mine, incidentally) or Brett Kavanaugh’s house.

This isn’t a case of “bothsidesism.” It’s just recognition that this is a reasonable conversation:

“Jan. 6 was abhorrent.”

“Would you say the same about the protest in East Urbanville in which someone was killed?”

“Yes.”

Well, that was simple.

So no more destruction of property. Public or private. Doesn’t matter. The people who suffer from this destruction — the shopowners, the sanitation workers, the taxpayers, the Capitol Police — are never the people you’re trying to hold accountable.

No more death threats toward election officials trying to oversee a fair vote or school board members trying to keep schools safe. Nor more assaulting college professors who bring conservative-ish speakers to campus. And “Antifa”? You’ve given anti-fascism a bad name.

Again, no “bothsidesism” or “whataboutism” here. One “side” is more dangerous than the other when you look at the number of armed groups rehearsing for war and the willingness to stampede past the police into the Capitol, and they still have apologists in Congress. Doesn’t matter. You can denounce murder while also denouncing sucker-punching someone in the street.

4. Listening, not lecturing

Speaking of counterproductive measures — “cancel culture” and “woke” excesses are clearly turning people against progressives. Rushing to judgment inevitably leads to hypocrisy.

To give an example for Millennials and younger generations: A lot of people over 35 didn’t grow up knowing how to be allies or anti-racist. If you’re under 35 and learned such things, congratulations. If you’d rather pass judgment on older people (and dismiss their life experience/expertise), isn’t that a little ageist?

If you won’t listen to other people, why would they listen to you?

We need to fight racism. Obviously. But that means unifying people against racism, not making them feel they can never help. Condemning other people only hardens your alleged enemies’ minds. We need persuasion.

5. Listening, not labeling

Norm Macdonald greets Phil Hartman, except these are the real-life versions. RIP Norm and Phil.

Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff wrote the following:

“For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary. An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement.”

On a more basic level, we equate listening with weakness. Trump rose to power because he seemed less willing to compromise than the Bush family and their peers. And he didn’t listen to anybody. Not even his intelligence briefing, according to those radicals at the CIA.

Listening will help to get rid of the labels. A “progressive” is simply someone who wants progress, which should apply to all of us. A “liberal” should be someone who loves anything that liberates. A “Christian” should be someone who welcomes other people with humility and compassion in the name of Christ, reserving judgment to higher powers. A “Southerner” is someone who lives in or was born in the South, not necessarily an uneducated racist.

Joe Biden isn’t a communist. He’s not even socialist. And in this country, we hardly know what “socialist” means, anyway. We certainly don’t know what “conservative” means — the Venn diagram between Ronald Reagan’s ideology and Donald Trump’s is nearly two separate circles. There’s also a considerable amount of diversity within the Democratic Party, plus third parties such as the Libertarians, Greens, actual Socialists, and the American Solidarity (Christian Democrat) Party.

When we see multiple perspectives rather than two “sides,” we can stop the knee-jerk opposition. Put country above party. Stop whataboutism. Be skeptical, but not cynical.

What we need

6. Work toward economic security

Trump preyed on those who felt they were being left behind in Obama’s strong economic recovery. We can debate the solutions he offered and the sincerity with which he offered them, but we can see that people wanted to feel like they were heard and that someone was going to take care of them. Democrats should make the argument that a strong safety net and opportunities to switch careers are the best path forward, and Republicans should certainly have a say in how to do that.

7. Let no one go uninsured

Obamacare, single-payer, Medicare for all or most, or a public-private partnership we haven’t considered — debate the options all you want, but recognize that the model of having employers foot the bill has fallen apart because it’s an albatross on small businesses and the “gig economy” leaves people stranded. Also, consider the economic argument that someone is paying for emergency treatment for the uninsured, and that’s hardly the most efficient system.

Another advantage of #6 and #7 here: If your basic needs are met, you’re free to innovate. You can take risks. A safety net with insurance is stereotyped as a benefit for leeches, lazy people who refuse to work. If you’d like to build in safeguards, go ahead. But bear in mind that this isn’t a strictly socialist idea. Universal basic income, after all, has long had conservative backers. (Not that we’re keeping labels.)

The reforms

8. Rein in presidential power.

We shouldn’t have to spend the last days of a president’s term worrying that he’s going to pardon everyone who has inflicted damage on our country. And both parties have complained over the decades about the expanding power of the executive branch.

9. Rein in the major parties.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.” – George Washington

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” – John Adams

They warned us of a cycle of retribution between two warring parties who put their own interests ahead of the country’s. They anticipated a future in which “owning the libs” (or “cons”) passes as ideology.

The point of elections isn’t to put a specific “party” in office. It’s to hold people accountable for their misdeeds. And mistruths.

10. Reconsider our election process.

The Electoral College disenfranchises people who aren’t in “swing” states, and it can easily give us presidents who didn’t win a majority of votes. Tying yourself in legal pretzels to try to invalidate or suppress votes is anti-democratic.

We can also get rid of the “lesser or two evils” phenomenon with voting systems that give third parties a chance. Yeah, some of them are a little “out there,” but plenty of them deserve to be heard. The problem today is that a candidate can win a Senate seat or electoral votes with less than a majority. Major Party A gets 49% of the vote in a state, Major Party B gets 48%, and Major Party B asks the other 3% why they wasted their votes or ruined Hillary Clinton’s chances of stopping Donald Trump. Consider a “ranked-choice” system or approval voting, and we should at least have a winner the majority of us can live with.

Maybe even get rid of presidential primaries, which give the first few states and states with “caucuses” far too much of a say.

11. Focus on solutions

It’s all well and good to put forth an idea like getting rid of prisons. But you have to follow up with details on how that’s supposed to work — in this case, without rapists and murderers roaming the streets.

And let’s not pretend problems just magically go away. From Y2K to polluted rivers, we human beings have solved a lot of issues.

Photo by Kelly on Pexels.com

Common-ground issues

Polls find that we agree on a lot of things:

  • A wealth tax
  • Minor tweaks to Obamacare — or allowing people to buy into Medicare. Anything that will keep people from going bankrupt because of an illness.
  • On guns: background checks and assault-weapon bans
  • Some legal abortion — at least, not a total ban
  • Legal immigration, which has been severely inhibited by some of the same people trying to stop illegal immigration

We can agree on a few more.

  • Job training. We’ll work with educators to prepare you for jobs of the 2020s, not the 1920s.
  • Education without crippling debt. We’ll work with colleges to get you in the door. If you can only afford to spend two years in college now, we’ll work to create a two-year degree that means something. You’ll be an informed citizen with job skills. And whenever you’re ready to complete a four-year degree, online or in-person, you can pick right back up where you left off.

How will we pay for all this? Simple. We’ll make the wealthiest people in the country pay a sum approaching what they paid back in the old days when America really was great, when we rebuilt the world after World War II and became the shining light of freedom and prosperity.

And in those days, the gap between rich and poor was smaller.

We surely also agree on rebuilding infrastructure — I don’t know of a “let us fall through a crumbling bridge” lobby. And improving education, even if the approaches vary wildly.

“Conservatives” can help to solve those problems when they don’t deny they exist.

“Progressives” can help to solve those problems when they’re not taking every question of viability as an ignorant attack by a worthless person.

“Centrists” can help to solve those problems when they’re following the facts and not simply trying to please everyone’s ill-supported whims.

“Libertarians” can help … somehow. Maybe?

Fascists and communists can move out of the way. Preferably to an as-yet-unpopulated part of the Sahara or Siberia.

And most of us don’t need these labels. We need to see past them.

Also, if you’re merging when an interstate drops one lane, wait your turn and do a zipper merge. Not because it’s the law, but because it’s the right bloody thing to do.

Deal?

politics

The legacy of George H.W. Bush

Originally posted to Facebook 12/6/18 …

I’ve been wrestling with the legacy of George Bush the Elder this week. It’s complicated.

The negatives that go beyond simple presidential competence (any president can have a recession) …

  • Brutal overt and covert action in Central America and the Middle East, including Iran-Contra and an unnecessary Gulf War.
  • A continuation of Reagan’s indifference on gay rights and AIDS, though he also took a few progressive steps, especially in his later years.
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Lee Atwater and racist dog whistles
  • Folding like a lawn chair and embracing the bullshit trickle-down theory he once called “voodoo economics.”

Positives:

I still think he was sincere in his calling to public service. His judgment — in the CIA, as VP and as president — can and should be questioned.

But the reason he’s being praised so heavily right now, aside from the fact that a funeral isn’t really the right time to dump on someone, is that he so easily clears the painfully low bar the Republicans have set today. He’s not just better than Trump. He’s better than McConnell. He’s better than Pence. He’s better than Cruz, Rubio, Rand Freaking Paul, Steve KKKing, and a bunch of people who shouldn’t let the door hit ’em on the way out.

He was more compassionate than today’s Republicans. He was more reality-based than today’s Republicans.

How we judge him overall is actually quite similar to how we judge all leaders of the past. Do we think ill of Washington and Jefferson for perpetuating slavery? Do we think ill of generations of presidents who never even thought about LGBTQ rights?

In short — do we forgive people for being products of their time? Do we write off Bush’s attitudes toward the Third World and people of color in general because society simply hadn’t progressed very far in his day?

I don’t know. But it’s a lot easier to forgive Bush than it is to forgive the current crop, and at least we have something positive to say about him. And I don’t mind in the least pointing to those positives as well as the bipartisan philanthropy of his post-presidential life and saying, “See that? THAT’S how you’re supposed to act.”