Saturday, October 28, 2023


     Recovery from this cold is about as slow as I have ever experienced.  My lungs and sinuses are still emptying.  And I'm still pretty tired.

     I got up early this morning to bring in a grocery delivery, then spent the morning in online meetings of a fiction-writing group.  That took me until mid-day, at which point I was about done for the day.  I managed to put together some spicy pork roast with vegetables and it has been simmering all afternoon.  And I'm trying to get caught up on laundry.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Sloppy Language, Sloppy Thought

     In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine,* news outlets from National Public Radio to Fox News are referring to the Shelter In Place order while the shooter remains at large as a "lockdown."

     It is nothing of the sort.  Nothing's locked and violation of the order, while risky, is a misdemeanor at most.  In fact, there's little legal ability for authorities to "lock down" the general citizenry. 

     This sloppiness began during the pandemic, when business closures and stay-home recommendations were widely referred to as "lockdowns," as if our towns and cities were schools -- or prisons.  And those limits didn't even restrict leaving one's home or neighborhood; they were intended to drastically reduce social contact, not travel.

     In Maine, the Shelter In Place edict is trying to keep people out of the way of a tense situation, in which armed law enforcement personnel search for an armed -- and probably delusional -- criminal suspect.  They don't want you in the way -- or in the crossfire.

     No one is saying it but there's a good chance the suspect is already dead by his own hand.  "A good chance" is no basis for suspending a manhunt for a killer, nor is it a sufficient reason to tell your Uncle Chauncey he can go walk the dog while police with drawn weapons are combing his town.

     But it's not a "lockdown."  We don't live in a country where the government has the power to lock down a whole city or neighborhood for days -- and we shouldn't get ourselves in the habit of speaking and writing as if they do.
* In which, yet again, a person known to be in need of mental health treatment had access to guns and used them to commit horrific acts.  Many commentators have wondered why he was able to have guns; fewer have asked why he wasn't getting serious, hands-on, in-patient treatment for his mental problems.  This is someone who was hearing voices and experiencing violent ideation.  The United States has always had a lot of guns; we have not always had so many troubled, problematic people making criminal use of them.  Guns are a contentious issue, with all kinds of legal and political entanglement; mental health, not so much -- maybe we ought to get people working together on that instead of snarling the same old bumper-sticker slogans at one another?  Yeah, don't hold your breath.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

I'm Exhausted

     The cold has mostly passed but I'm worn out.  The next few days, I'm going to concentrate on trying to catch up.  I lost over a week of planned work around the house, and a couple of days of paying work.  It's going to take some time to only be normally behind on things.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Still Sick

     Ever the optimist, I keep thinking I'm getting better.  Then the decongestant wears off.

     Making the big effort Saturday cost me dearly: I have been exhausted ever since.  About all I have gotten done around the house is washing the dishes yesterday, in one big effort right after taking all my symptom-suppressing medicine.

     Judging from the pain in my knees, this thing has settled in for the duration.  It's not covid, I've tested negative twice, and the symptoms don't fit RSV or the flu.  It's almost certainly a cold.  The sore throat has mostly faded but the cough and congestion linger.

     One way or another, I'm going to have to try going to work tomorrow, after a "vacation" that has left me more tired and more behind the 8-ball than before it began.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

An Expensive Conference

     If you're an introvert, dealing with other people can still be interesting, but it takes it out of you.  I have to "nerve up" to face an audience, too.  I jittered my way through getting ready yesterday and stumbled out of the house holding a big zip case full of my notes.  On my way though the garage, with that thing partially blocking my view, I hip-checked the driver's side mirror of Tam's Z3.

     It was designed to pivot.  I hit it wrong.  It feels like the internal post is now broken.

     I sent her an embarrassed text from the alley, promising to make it good.

     Went off to the event, missing the parking garage entrance and having to go around the block, getting lost in the underground garage, enduring the elevator ride and -- hooray! -- arriving to a happy, bustling atrium full of authors and organizations, most hawking books.  The organizers had a nice swag bag for participants.  The other panel members were nice and all of them had interesting, useful comments.  Alas, no coffee (curse you, covid!*) but I managed to score a bottle of water.  My notes worked fine and my symptom-suppressing medicines held up.

     Afterward, I wandered the floor a little, realized the cough syrup was wearing off and the crowd was starting to get to me.   Headed back down to the parking lot, I missed getting a picture of the venue occupancy plaque right next to the elevator doors: "Maximum, 650 persons."  The elevator cars are large, but those 650 persons are going to have to be very good friends indeed, not to mention well-greased, and even then, I have my doubts.

     I got lost in parking garage again on my way out.

     By the time I got home, I was punchy.  I stumbled in, took care of necessities, and fell asleep fully clothed under a quilt.  Tam was out but both of her cars were home, which might be why I didn't register that I had locked out the garage door opener on the way in, as I usually do.

     Waking a couple of hours later, I web-searched "1998 BMW Z3 side mirror replacement," and, well, it's a BMW; what did I expect?  The dealer fix is to replace the entire part ($600) and paint to match.  There's an outfit that makes all-new composite innards ($150) but you still have to pop off the door lining and the mirror proper ($80 replacement if it breaks) to install it.  However she decides to go, I'll hire that work done.  Painful, but these writer's conferences usually cost money.

     Slept off and on until Tam got home (and had to come in through the front door and go unlock the garage, which is never nice), commiserated over the damage, napped more, ordered a pizza, ate dinner and watched the first Kolchak: The Night Stalker movie before changing for bed and sleeping the night through.  Kept nodding off during the movie, too.
* I hate to think of the negative effect of the pandemic on the Craft Services table. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

Sick Days/What Vacation?

     Still sick.  Better, I think, but still sick.  I am craving salt and flavor -- something awful, like a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.  It would feel like broken glass in my throat and I don't have any anyway, so I'll get by with Ritz crackers and well-honeyed hot tea.
     Still hoping to get out of the house a little tomorrow.  I'm on a panel at a writer's conference.  We'll see.
     Yesterday, I learned the rear tray of my little Canon color inkjet printer will feed 3x5 cards!  That simplified making notes for the panel.  While the ink is the usual overpriced nightmare, the printer/scanner has proven over and over that it is a useful, versatile device.  I use it more often than the big laser printer, in fact: the printed pages lay flatter and they're darker.*
     Without leaning into the ugly politics of the House Republican fight to elect a Speaker, you can darned well bet all factions and both parties would have come together and found some sap for the job if they had to pass legislation every week to authorize releasing their paychecks.  They'd all be saying what a wonderful person he or she was, too.
     And how bad are things?  So bad I'm not going to get any more political than that today, when it comes to national politics.
     On international politics: killing civilians is bad, period.  A large part of the tragedy of war is the collateral damage.  If it was volunteer armies parading and clashing on an empty battlefield, war would still be terrible but we could, at least, point to the military virtues.  When you start piling up the dead kids and adults, ruined homes, crippled bystanders, pain, suffering, thirst and starvation, the glory goes right out.
* On reflection, I think I run the laser printer in "draft" mode most of the time.  I should check that.  The ink for it is pricey, too, but I haven't had to replace it yet.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Honeyed Oatmeal

     The stuff just feels comforting on a sore throat: well-cooked oatmeal, sweetened with honey.  Tamara picked up a bottle of raw, local honey for me yesterday and I spent the afternoon sipping tea (Typhoo*) with honey: it's soothing and both the tea and the honey have some antiseptic properties.  It probably won't cure you, but it'll help keep things from getting worse.

     Likewise, I have been enjoying chewable vitamin supplements that claim to boost the immune system: a little extra zinc and vitamin C and so on can't hurt.

     This morning, I decided to try the honey in my breakfast coffee, which worked well.  I was already hankering for oatmeal, so that got a teaspoon of honey, too.  It was a real treat; I prefer well-cooked oatmeal and the warm cereal was simply wonderful.

     I'm still sick but I got a decent night's sleep last night and I'm not going to do much today -- marinate and slow simmer some stew beef for dinner, a project in which the biggest effort will be chopping vegetables, adding them to the pot and mostly ignoring them for a couple of hours.

     Cooking when I feel lousy can be a challenge.  The day I realized I was catching the cold, I picked up ingredients for variations on "red stew," the stuff Midwesterners call "mild chili."  It's not much like the Southwest dish; the starter had ground beef, chorizo, finely-chopped carrots, a handful of big cherry tomatoes, a little celery, a diced red pepper, a few ripe shishito peppers (hot pulp removed), a lot of diced Shitake mushrooms, a few sliced Castelvetrano olives, a couple of cans of mild chilis and a big box of strained tomatoes, simmered with a big bay leaf.  I made microwave cornbread to go with it; that would have worked better if the (sealed) baking powder hadn't expired in 2019.  Despite adding half again as much, beating in plenty of air and giving it extra time to work, the bread rose about half as much as it should have, a little more in the center.  Not quite brick-like but not light and airy.  It soaked up red stew just fine and tasted good.

     Last night, I added browned and crumbled andouille sausage, more fresh tomatoes and a white onion, diced and sauteed while some of the previous day's leftovers thawed in the microwave.  With a small can of tomato sauce, the result was still thick enough to stand a spoon in.  I broke a few salines into mine to add a little salt.  And there's still another night's worth of red stew frozen for later; I divided the original batch into two freezer bags.

NB: I have declined to publish a couple of recent comments that included political sentiments in response to non-political posts.  Politics in this country are badly screwed up and I'm tired of trying to put out fires with gasoline.  Dear Congress, Please Get Well Soon, we miss your limited but necessary functionality.
* The company was bought up by an investment firm awhile back and some Brits aren't pleased with how that has affected the product.  They know their tea, but I haven't been unhappy with it compared to other locally-available alternatives, which include other UK imports.  The French know wine; the Scots know whiskey; the Brits know tea and the Jamaicans grow the best coffee.  I'm not saying you can't get good wine from California and Ethiopian chai is as nice a cuppa of the spiced stuff as anyone could brew -- but if you want an informed opinion on a beverage, ask the people who drink the most of it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Of Course It Didn't Work

     Yeah, I've got Tamara's cold.  Tried to dodge it, but it was a slim hope at best.  Mild so far, mostly a sore throat and annoyed sinuses, which I am treating aggressively.  I woke up yesterday with a tiny, painful "hot spot" at the back of my throat, so I made a quick sweep through the grocery and the five and dime (okay, Target) to stock up for the duration.  Just in time -- this morning, I have a less intense but full-on sore throat.

     My old sore throat fix-it Chloraseptic was nowhere to be found, so I'm waiting on a delivery.  I tried a similar product, but it has different active ingredients and I'm not happy with the results.  The phenol-based palliative was a staple in the radio business -- back in the old days, you could zap your throat with it and keep on talking.*  You paid for it later: four or five hours of being moderately upbeat no matter how miserable you were feeling left about enough energy to do the rest of your day's work, creep home and drink a bowl of canned soup before crawling into bed, dreading the alarm.

     Of course, the cold has trashed some of my vacation plans.  All that much more time to stay home and write, though.

     I still need to replace the faucet for the kitchen sink; the last one I put in only lasted two years.  It was a no-name generic, and hard water ate a hole in the underside of the spout.  The replacement is a well-known brand, so here's hoping.  Replacement is merely tedious and awkward, like a lot of plumbing.  (Here's a secret: there are two reasons plumbing work is expensive.  A little of it is absolutely rocket-lawyering, where you need deep knowledge, experience, special tools and a good understanding of the building codes. A lot of it is unbelievably dirty, hard to reach and/or fiddly, work that nobody would mess with if it didn't pay well -- but clean running water and sanitary sewers are a basic foundation of civilization, so pay that plumbing bill with a smile or learn to do the simple parts yourself.)
* I worked in radio long before working from home was a possibility.  Cold and flu season was a particular misery: no matter how careful you were, with everyone using the same few microphones and the same hands-on gadgets, the bug would burn through the staff in a matter of days.  Voice-tracking and digital playback had already helped mitigate that before the pandemic and with the lessons learned during that time, radio talent can now go live from their own living rooms -- or sickbeds.  Hooray, no more shared station cold!

Monday, October 16, 2023

This Is Fine

     After working today, I'm off all this week.  Tamara K has been sick since Friday, a rattling cough that got worse and worse.  It appears to be a cold, not RSV or covid, but it's been miserable for her and we have been avoiding one another in the house as much as possible.  Which is not very, but I'm not in the shared office or her attic, and we're not having meals together.  As of this morning, she is feeling better.  Still sounds pretty awful, but on the mend.

     I have to work today thanks to short-staffing and schedule conflicts.  This coming Saturday, I have been invited to appear as part of a panel of "authors" at a local event.  So I don't want to get sick.  

     Author?  Don't look at me -- I'm a writer.  I don't even own a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows.  But I'll go along.  Still, I consider writing as I practice it to be more of a skilled trade than a profession.  I'm happy to cede "author" to the people with MFA degrees, no few of whom are excellent writers, but I'm an amateur carpenter among sculptors, content if I can build tables that don't wobble and simply aspiring to a mastery of the craft.  If the result is Art, great -- but my aim is competence.  The event organizers gave the invited authors a list of questions and I'm putting together notes about the answers on 3x5 cards so I don't have to wing it.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Know The Law

     When you got your driver's license -- and in some states, when you renewed it* -- you had to pass a test to show you understood the rules of the road.  It might have have been a written test, a hands-on driving test or both.  When you drive, it is your responsibility to know and follow the law.

     The same thing applies to firearms.  While I expect you already know and follow the Four Rules, there's more to owning or carrying guns than the basics of safety.

     Wherever you live, there are laws that govern how and where you may carry.  There may be laws about storage of guns or ammunition, laws about preventing access by unsupervised minors, and so on.  You may have been required to get training and pass a test to get a carry permit, or you may have had to undergo a background check, or your state might one of the many like Indiana, where no permit is required to carry a handgun.†  Nevertheless, you must know and follow the law.  My state has very few limits -- but your employer can ban firearms on their premises under state law (lock it up in your car and the law protects you; take it out and you're on your own).

     The state of New York has strict gun laws and New York City's are even more so.  When a New York City Councilperson showed up at a pro-Palestine rally‡ on the grounds of Brooklyn College, she was breaking two or three laws: the state doesn't allow open carry, the city has designated educational institutions among "sensitive spaces" where carry is banned, and they don't allow guns at "public demonstrations and rallies."  Inna Vernikov got what you'd expect a serving politician to get: she had to hand over her carry permit (and presumably her gun) and will have to appear in court in a few weeks. It's about like a traffic ticket.  Most people in her situation would have been arrested and jailed pending initial arrangements.  She's still unlikely to walk away unscathed; the charges are a low-level felony.

     You may disagree with the laws of New York and the ordinances of NYC -- but neither disagreement nor ignorance excuses violating them.  The Councilperson (Ms. Vernikov is also an attorney) may have not not known them, or have disagreed with them, but she'll answer for it all the same.

     Know the law.  Follow it at least as well as you follow the rules of the road: you may speed from time to time, but you're unlikely to do so in a school zone when children are beginning or ending their day.
* When I was first driving, Indiana required passing a written test when renewing a driver's license.  It wasn't a difficult test but it was more than pro forma.  Study guides were sold at news stands, drug stores and grocery stores.
† Indiana does still issue a License To Carry Handgun in order to maintain reciprocal agreements with states that still require permits, and if you're going to carry a sidearm, I think it's a good idea to get the license.
‡ Most news stories report she was at a rally in support of Palestine.  Others say there were "dueling rallies" on opposite sides of the same public space and the other one was in support of Israel.  Which one drew her attention and which one she spent the most time at is immaterial with respect to the law.

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Ongoing Tragedy

     All wars are tragic.  The Middle East manages to be even more so, a combination of dense population, scarce resources and conflicts with roots that go back centuries or even millennia.

     The most recent development, a warning from Israel that civilians should evacuate from northern Gaza in the next twenty-four hours, countered by a Hamas advisory to stay put, is a stark reminder that wars can easily become "choose your humanitarian disaster."  Israel's army is coming across the border; it's only a matter of time.  People -- civilians and militants alike -- are packed into Gaza nearly as densely as in New York City and there's only one exit point to the south: you can't march half of Gaza's 2.3 million people out in a day, doubling the density in the southern half of the area is unworkable and anyone who stays home is in the path of an invading army.  Nor are there financial resources to help people get out of the way; per-capita income in Gaza is under $3800, compared to $75,000 in NYC.

     On the other hand, in the last 22 years there have been zero missiles launched from the Big Apple, while Gaza has averaged over a thousand a year.  Plenty of bad actors (Iran, for example) are willing to supply the hardware and it only takes a few people to set up and launch a missile.  Responding in kind can be complicated.

     No matter how this plays out, people are going to die.  Most of them will be innocent civilians, caught in a war they never volunteered to fight.  Hamas is using them as a shield.  Israel is reluctant to do harm, but under conditions of open warfare after recent attacks, they don't see any other way forward.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

I Can't Explain

     Wisdom may not arrive with age but you do begin to develop a sense of what you can't solve.

     Take the Middle East as an example: it was a horrendous, tragic mess long before I was born and no effort, no matter how well-intended, brilliantly conceived or even brutal, has managed to change it.  It's easy to make worse, not difficult to shift the misery around, but ending it?  Barring an all-out war, a devastating wave of infectious disease or the emergence of a new and aggressively proselytizing religion -- all of which have happened in the region before -- there's no solution in sight.

     Take the U. S. House of Representatives, a legislative body that is by design fractious, given to argument and enthusiasm, as unruly and opinionated as the citizenry themselves.  When the House ties itself in a knot, it's got to do its own untying -- and the traditions of the House, as I have pointed out, put absolutely no onus on the minority to bail out the majority if the party holding the most seats can't agree on a Speaker.

     Right now, we've got a President in the White House who puts in a solid day's work, stammers his way through press conferences and has been able to work with the House and Senate to accomplish the things that had to get done; and we've got a former President facing a long list of criminal and civil charges in multiple jurisdictions (including an attempted coup) who left chaos behind at the end of his term and can't seem to construct a single coherent sentence when making a speech.  Both are frontrunners to be their party's nominee for President in 2024 -- and they have nearly identical public approval/disapproval polling results.

     I can't explain it.  I can describe some of it, but the why remains a mystery.  I certainly can't fix it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Oh, Look, Here's A Lesson

     You know what's going on in Israel right now.  You probably know what had been going on in Israel: deeply divisive politics, in which a hard-Right government sought to remove a check on its power.

     Don't look for me to analyze internal Israeli politics; I have trouble enough keeping up with who's on what side in my own country, and what that might imply for the future.  Suffice to say the government was distracted.  The citizenry were distracted.  And for a country with plenty of enemies, many of whom can walk right up to the border on their lunch break, that was enough.

     Israel was distracted.  Politics had ceased to be the usual debate and compromise, the normal small victories and small setbacks that people could ignore, confident whatever needed doing would get done.  Terrorists struck -- and made horrific progress before a response could be coordinated.

     The run-up to recent attacks might find a parallel or two in the United States, where a government riven by internal conflict is busy tying itself up in knots.  These kinds of fights play out in plain sight -- and the world is watching, some of it through unfriendly eyes.

Monday, October 09, 2023

The Greatest Sculptor You Never Heard Of

     Her name was Augusta Savage.  She worked in the first half of the 20th Century.  Her work was realistic, moving, tender and humorous.

     In a different time, she might have worked in bronze or stone.  Never well-off, never with a wealthy patron, she sculpted in clay or even plaster burnished with shoe polish.

     One of her largest pieces, The Harp, was commissioned for the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.  Sixteen feet tall, made of painted plaster, it was thrown away after the Fair ended.

     In the 1920s, she was accepted into a summer class at a fine-arts school in France -- only to have the offer withdrawn by the American selection committee when they discovered she was African-American.

     She made and taught art all her life.  Though the many of her works have been lost other than in photographs, she had lasting influence.  Her own opinion of her legacy was both humble and optimistic:

     "I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work."

     Not every monument is a lump of bronze on a pedestal.  Augusta Savage showed that art belongs to those who have talent and develop it, and helped change a nation's perceptions.

Saturday, October 07, 2023

I Miss The Old Robot

     Amazon updated the default voice for their "Alexa" device recently, replacing the chipper and upbeat female voice with a similar one that sounds older and has a more serene, if not downright dull, affect.

     I miss the original.  While the new voice does come with a tinge of, "Our little girl is growing up," if I'm going to chat with a machine, I'd prefer one that simulates a slightly mischievous grin over a stolid servant that doesn't sound particularly happy to be here.

     Yes, yes, you'd never have a machine in your home that was listening all the time -- and yet you carry around a cellphone that could be and very probably is, and you've had an eminently buggable landline phone, too.  Since I'm not in the habit of discussing -- or engaging in -- criminal or seditious activities,  I find the convenience of setting kitchen timers, doing simple arithmetic and getting news or music by voice command outweighs the theoretical possibility of some minion at Amazon listening to me clatter around the kitchen, argue with Tam and talk to the cats.  What are they going to do with the info?  So far, they haven't even bothered to tell me when cat food or cookware is on sale!

     The new voice isn't as much fun as the old one.  I'm not sure I would have been as quick to ask this one if the HAL9000 was her friend ("WE DON'T TALK, NOT AFTER WHAT HAPPENED.") or any of the other silly questions I've tried.

     When you talk to a robot, it's like a child talking with her dolls or plush animals: there's nobody on the other side of the conversation.  You still miss them when they're gone.

     Of the presently available options, the happiest-sounding is a female speaking the East Indian version of English.  I may try it; it's one of the more pleasant flavors of the language.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Mantis Motherhood

     There was a small praying mantis on the brick wall outside the main door at the North Campus yesterday, at about head height.  I was happy to see it; they're helpful creatures.  This one had a very fat abdomen.

     It was still there a couple of hours later -- busily laying eggs!  The mantis spent a long time on the job, then moved a few inches away and stood watching the egg case, breathing as heavily as I have ever seen one breathe.  I've never seen one laying eggs before but I'm happy to think we'll have more mantises next year!

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

"Anyone Can Become Speaker"

     It's true.  The requirements to be elected Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives don't include being a Congressthing.  In fact, they're pretty wide open: if you're not disqualified from holding an office or trust of the Federal government, you can become Speaker.  Arguably, you'd need to be at least 25 years old and to have been a U. S. citizen for seven years or more, but even that's a little shaky.

     The flip side is to look at the actual skill set the job requires.  It take more than mere ambition.  Kevin McCarthy wanted the job badly indeed -- and made many promises to get it.  He tried to give all of his party's Congresscritters what they wanted while keeping the country running and that proved his undoing: the GOP's House members had conflicting desires, and many of them wanted to shut the government down unless they got what they wanted.

     Successful Speakers have been master manipulators, skilled salespeople with a firm grasp of parliamentary procedure.  They were able to convince their fellow party members to swap votes for votes, to go along to get some of what they wanted, and kept the system working by working the system.  Many of them came off a bit smarmy, especially if they were from the party you didn't vote for, but they got the job done.  Within their own parties, they brought people together rather than driving them apart.*

     Yes, just about anyone can become Speaker of the House.  The list of people who ought to get the job, of people who can accomplish something with the job?  That's a whole lot shorter.
* Across party lines, now that's a whole other thing in the House, and has been at least since the late 19th Century, when Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed Jr. harrumphed, "The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch."  Best or not, that's how it has worked for all of our lives.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

My Opinions, Your Facts

     I'm sitting on a comment at present.  I'd kind of like to publish it, except for one little problem: it makes assertions without support and then infers conclusions from them.

     This is my blog, featuring my opinions and as much factual matter as I can muster in support of them, and if there's any crawling out on a limb to be done here, that's my job.  If you want to push back against what I write, your tools are facts, supported by links, cites or -- because I am a generous person and like to look things up -- easily verifiable.  Establish a firm foundation of facts and I'll probably let you make a claim about what they imply.

     But this a blog is not a public forum.  I'm not handing out soapboxes.  The occasional brief cheer, hiss, boo or correction is fine, but sweeping claims, even if they are received orthodoxy among you and your friends, require verifiable factual support.  No matter how close your reasoning or how impeccable your chain of logic may appear, if it didn't start with stuff any competent, literate person can dig up and point to, it doesn't count.  Your experiment has to be reproducible.  Your facts have to be testable.  Otherwise it's just a con job, fast talk masquerading as a map of reality.

     This kind of dull slog through the stacks and links, sifting wheat from chaff, refining the raw ore,  flipping through many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, has always been unpopular.  It's a lot of work!  But it has never been easier than it is right now, and it's how anything worthwhile gets done.  The Founders and Framers knew history; Newton knew math (and a lot of alchemical bullshit); Heinz knows pickles.  What do you know -- and can you prove it?

Monday, October 02, 2023

"Drama Caesar?"

      I was all set to do a sober think-piece on the dangers of Caesarism and why it's a bad thing, filled with links to current books and articles and historical references.

     But it's a waste of time.  The people who care about the ideals underpinning our system of government don't need the reminder and the folks besotted with splendid things they imagine a strong man holding the reigns might accomplish if only he weren't hampered by the legislature, the courts and the U. S. Constitution aren't listening.  Institutions that once espoused a deep respect for the American federal republic, like the Claremont Institute and Hillsdale College have become havens for authoritarian nutters as bad -- and as willing to inspire bloodshed -- as any Mercedes-driving Ivy-League Marxist.

     Not a one of them knows how to get bloodstains out of tweed or would be willing to do the work if you showed them how, either.

     At one time, the Right's thinkers and opionators* inveighed against Caesarism as soberly as any orator of the Roman republic warned the Senate and people about the dangers of monarchy.  While Cato never wavered (and he didn't succeed, either), the supposed inheritors of Buckley's mantle reached a certain point in warning about the "Man on Horseback," looked at the notion and thought, "Cato had to stab himself after a series of frustrating struggles; Caesar and subsequent Emperors ruled Rome for centuries," and changed sides, hailing Caesar as full-throatedly as they'd been cautioning against him.

     It's not a good look.  I don't know how to fix it.

     History has been rife with would-be Caesars ever since he hoodwinked Rome into returning to kings in all but name; I wish their Senate had done a more thorough job of stabbing him and much earlier, but here we are.

     The only good news I have is the boosters of Caesarism are a dime a dozen.  They show up all the time and their efforts fall well short.

     The bad news is that they only have to succeed once.  Constitutional government has to succeed every time.
* Two groups with surprisingly little overlap all across the political spectrum except for how heedlessly they egg one another on, like small children working themselves up to toilet-paper the Mayor's house.  And somehow, there's always one of them playing with matches.