The Year End Hole December 31, 2016: A Year We’d Like To Pretend Didn’t Happen

The year 2016 will likely be remembered for the pain and grief of losing so many famous people, as well as the pain and grief of our country’s losing its collective shit and electing as President a man whose only qualifications for the job are the bare minimum spelled out in the Constitution: he was born here, he’s old enough, and he’s lived here along enough. It would have been nice if the Framers had the foresight to add a few more requirements to be president, such as knowing what the hell you’re talking about, being able to talk about it coherently, and understanding what the responsibilities and sacrifices of being a public servant are. I see none of those very desirable qualities in the man chosen by the Electoral College to be the 45th President of the United States. Nor do I see any of those very desirable qualities in the millions of people who voted for him.

I can believe a great many of them, but not a majority, were not so much voting for Donald Trump as they were voting against a version of Hillary Clinton that simply did not match the one who exists in the real world. They voted against a myth. Then there are the ones who voted for Donald Trump, but who also voted for a myth. They believed that he was a very successful businessman because he said he was one. They believed he was worth billions of dollars because he said he was. (The estimates of what his real estate holdings are worth come from him, and him alone. And they can go up or down depending on whether there are tax considerations at stake.) They believed he could do all the things he promised to do as president because he said he could do them, not because he actually had the legal or constitutional authority to do them. I could go on, but you get the idea. Neither Trump nor the people who voted for him understand the first thing about governing and being a public servant. And let’s not even talk about who Trump’s most vocal supporters were: Nazis and the KKK. And they got their reward with a senior advisor to the president whispering sweet bigotry in his ear.

I would certainly like a do-over on 2016. Bring back all the wonderful people we lost and throw out the ones we elected to run our country. I want to be hopeful about 2017. I want to think that it can’t be any worse, but then I thought 2016 couldn’t keep getting any worse and it did, day after day, right up to losing Princess Leia AND her mother on consecutive days. So it’s hard for me to believe things are going to get better just because our rocky little blue dot completed another revolution around a hot ball of gas that simultaneously gives us life and tries to take it away. But the alternative is too depressing to contemplate, so we pretty much have to hope it gets better. (Insert forced smile here.)

For a better and more humorous take on 2016, check out Dave Barry’s Year in Review. He always makes me laugh though he has yet to make my drink come out my nose. And whatever your plans this weekend, please enjoy a safe, happy holiday, and may you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

UPDATE: And just to show us 2016 wasn’t through making our lives miserable, another popular actor, William Christopher, has died. Christopher was best known for playing Father Mulcahy on both M*A*S*H and AfterM*A*S*H.

Thanks for all the jocularity, Mr. Christopher.

This is our weekend open thread, as I probably won’t post something else on Sunday. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish. Consider signing up to post your own weekly column at The Zoo. Several days available. Happy New Year.

The Watering Hole; Th/Fr December 29/30, 2016; “Make America Great Hate Again”

Since November 8, 2016 and the “unpresidented” (s)election of Donald J. Trump as “precedent” of the United States, the probable consequences are rapidly clarifying, as evidenced in the following (tiny) handful of links:

‘We can march through town carrying high-powered rifles’: Neo-Nazi plans march against Montana Jews

Hate Groups Promise Revolt If Trump Abandons White Supremacy

Tracking the explosion of hate in Trump’s America

It appears that even though Trump’s inauguration is still 3 weeks away, he has already succeeded in enhancing amongst his followers the (irrational but traditional) Fascistic dreams of Power and Hate. And sadly, those same irrationalities are currently spreading through Europe — Brexit in England, Far Right Nationalism emerging in Poland, Hungary, France, Austria, Germany — altogether reminiscent of the Fascist tyrannies of just a few generations ago.

As England’s Prince Charles recently stated,

I’ve seen the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive towards those who adhere to a minority faith. All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930’s.

“I was born in 1948 just after World War II in which my parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and an inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe. That nearly 70 years later we are seeing such evil persecution is beyond belief. We owe it to the people who have suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past.”

And today, as we set ourselves up “to repeat the horrors of the past,” we watch as anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry, xenophobia, anti-Islam, and white Nationalism (neo-Nazism) rapidly reassert themselves both at home and abroad, thanks in no small part to the American election of November 8, 2016. It’s worth noting that said election was, curiously, influenced by Russian cyber interference — likely motivated by Putin’s desire to see the world abandon freedom and democracy and select, instead, Fascism as its ruling authority. And who better than Trump — a politically inept egomaniacal narcissist — to help that movement along?

Russian analyst Nina Khrushcheva (great grand-daughter of Nikita Khruschev) recently noted that Trump is playing “right into Putin’s hands.” She further stated,

“I was just in Moscow and the Russians are saying ‘Look at those fools, look at their their democracy. How could America lecture us on any development, institutions, human rights, democracy, rhetoric when they just elected Donald Trump. He’s such a fool. He’s such a bully. That’s what America deserves and we’re going to take advantage of it.’ And that’s how Russians feel about it, and now it’s taking shape with letters from Vladimir Putin to Donald Trump with their exchange on potential nuclear armament and whatnot.”

In short, with the election of Donald J. Trump, the United States has ceded any global advantage it might ever have had to the re-emergent right wing fervor aka Fascism. We fought and defeated it in the past, but now have finally succumbed, thanks to the devolution of the Republican Party from one of democratic principle to its embrace of neo-fascism, and to the election of a narcissistic egomaniac — Donald J. Trump — who knows virtually nothing of anything other than his own ego (and how to grab women by the p***y, of course).

In short, we are on the edge of a major dilemma. Our current situation brings to mind an essay written more than three years ago, one that was first posted on October 17, 2013, well before anyone had even the vaguest notion that Donald Trump would ever become a candidate for the presidency, much less win an Electoral College “victory.” But he did, and in so doing has magnified immensely the quandary America came face-to-face with, in 2012: the American Fascist Movement, aka the (Republican) Tea Party.

So here, in celebration of 2016’s final passing is, courtesy of said essay, both a three-year rear-view-mirror look back, coupled with what is now virtually guaranteed to be a look forward as well; reprinted in full.

****** Continue reading

The Watering Hole, 12/28/16

THE PRINCE

CHAPTER XXVI

AN EXHORTATION TO LIBERATE ITALY FROM THE BARBARIANS

Having carefully considered the subject of the above discourses, and wondering within myself whether the present times were propitious to a new prince, and whether there were elements that would give an opportunity to a wise and virtuous one to introduce a new order of things which would do honour to him and good to the people of this country, it appears to me that so many things concur to favour a new prince that I never knew a time more fit than the present.

And if, as I said, it was necessary that the people of Israel should be captive so as to make manifest the ability of Moses; that the Persians should be oppressed by the Medes so as to discover the greatness of the soul of Cyrus; and that the Athenians should be dispersed to illustrate the capabilities of Theseus: then at the present time, in order to discover the virtue of an Italian spirit, it was necessary that Italy should be reduced to the extremity that she is now in, that she should be more enslaved than the Hebrews, more oppressed than the Persians, more scattered than the Athenians; without head, without order, beaten, despoiled, torn, overrun; and to have endured every kind of desolation.

Although lately some spark may have been shown by one, which made us think he was ordained by God for our redemption, nevertheless it was afterwards seen, in the height of his career, that fortune rejected him; so that Italy, left as without life, waits for him who shall yet heal her wounds and put an end to the ravaging and plundering of Lombardy, to the swindling and taxing of the kingdom and of Tuscany, and cleanse those sores that for long have festered. It is seen how she entreats God to send someone who shall deliver her from these wrongs and barbarous insolencies. It is seen also that she is ready and willing to follow a banner if only someone will raise it.

Nor is there to be seen at present one in whom she can place more hope than in your illustrious house,[*] with its valour and fortune, favoured by God and by the Church of which it is now the chief, and which could be made the head of this redemption. This will not be difficult if you will recall to yourself the actions and lives of the men I have named. And although they were great and wonderful men, yet they were men, and each one of them had no more opportunity than the present offers, for their enterprises were neither more just nor easier than this, nor was God more their friend than He is yours.

[*] Giuliano de Medici. He had just been created a cardinal by Leo X. In 1523 Giuliano was elected Pope, and took the title of Clement VII.

With us there is great justice, because that war is just which is necessary, and arms are hallowed when there is no other hope but in them. Here there is the greatest willingness, and where the willingness is great the difficulties cannot be great if you will only follow those men to whom I have directed your attention. Further than this, how extraordinarily the ways of God have been manifested beyond example: the sea is divided, a cloud has led the way, the rock has poured forth water, it has rained manna, everything has contributed to your greatness; you ought to do the rest. God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.

And it is not to be wondered at if none of the above-named Italians have been able to accomplish all that is expected from your illustrious house; and if in so many revolutions in Italy, and in so many campaigns, it has always appeared as if military virtue were exhausted, this has happened because the old order of things was not good, and none of us have known how to find a new one. And nothing honours a man more than to establish new laws and new ordinances when he himself was newly risen. Such things when they are well founded and dignified will make him revered and admired, and in Italy there are not wanting opportunities to bring such into use in every form.

Here there is great valour in the limbs whilst it fails in the head. Look attentively at the duels and the hand-to-hand combats, how superior the Italians are in strength, dexterity, and subtlety. But when it comes to armies they do not bear comparison, and this springs entirely from the insufficiency of the leaders, since those who are capable are not obedient, and each one seems to himself to know, there having never been any one so distinguished above the rest, either by valour or fortune, that others would yield to him. Hence it is that for so long a time, and during so much fighting in the past twenty years, whenever there has been an army wholly Italian, it has always given a poor account of itself; the first witness to this is Il Taro, afterwards Allesandria, Capua, Genoa, Vaila, Bologna, Mestri.[*]

[*] The battles of Il Taro, 1495; Alessandria, 1499; Capua, 1501; Genoa, 1507; Vaila, 1509; Bologna, 1511; Mestri, 1513.

If, therefore, your illustrious house wishes to follow these remarkable men who have redeemed their country, it is necessary before all things, as a true foundation for every enterprise, to be provided with your own forces, because there can be no more faithful, truer, or better soldiers. And although singly they are good, altogether they will be much better when they find themselves commanded by their prince, honoured by him, and maintained at his expense. Therefore it is necessary to be prepared with such arms, so that you can be defended against foreigners by Italian valour.

And although Swiss and Spanish infantry may be considered very formidable, nevertheless there is a defect in both, by reason of which a third order would not only be able to oppose them, but might be relied upon to overthrow them. For the Spaniards cannot resist cavalry, and the Switzers are afraid of infantry whenever they encounter them in close combat. Owing to this, as has been and may again be seen, the Spaniards are unable to resist French cavalry, and the Switzers are overthrown by Spanish infantry. And although a complete proof of this latter cannot be shown, nevertheless there was some evidence of it at the battle of Ravenna, when the Spanish infantry were confronted by German battalions, who follow the same tactics as the Swiss; when the Spaniards, by agility of body and with the aid of their shields, got in under the pikes of the Germans and stood out of danger, able to attack, while the Germans stood helpless, and, if the cavalry had not dashed up, all would have been over with them. It is possible, therefore, knowing the defects of both these infantries, to invent a new one, which will resist cavalry and not be afraid of infantry; this need not create a new order of arms, but a variation upon the old. And these are the kind of improvements which confer reputation and power upon a new prince.

This opportunity, therefore, ought not to be allowed to pass for letting Italy at last see her liberator appear. Nor can one express the love with which he would be received in all those provinces which have suffered so much from these foreign scourings, with what thirst for revenge, with what stubborn faith, with what devotion, with what tears. What door would be closed to him? Who would refuse obedience to him? What envy would hinder him? What Italian would refuse him homage? To all of us this barbarous dominion stinks. Let, therefore, your illustrious house take up this charge with that courage and hope with which all just enterprises are undertaken, so that under its standard our native country may be ennobled, and under its auspices may be verified that saying of Petrarch:

Virtu contro al Furore Prendera l’arme, e fia il combatter corto: Che l’antico valore Negli italici cuor non e ancor morto.

Virtue against fury shall advance the fight, And it i’ th’ combat soon shall put to flight: For the old Roman valour is not dead, Nor in th’ Italians’ brests extinguished.

Edward Dacre, 1640.

[This concludes the 26 part series of The Prince by Machiavelli. Although the work is in the public domain, many thanks to Project Gutenberg for putting this, and other public domain works, on the internet.

It is said, forewarned is forearmed. Machiavelli wrote these words several hundred years ago, yet they are appropriate today. This poster leaves it to you, the reader, to interpret and see how the methods described by Machiavelli are being used today, not by princes nor elected officials, but by those who wield their power behind the scenes and out of the public eye. It may well be that the Capitalists, the “Robber Barons” of more recent history, are the princes of our time.]

OPEN THREAD

The Weekend Holiday Hole, Sat-Sun, Dec 24-25: Happy Holidays

The next few days bring several holidays not only to the US, but to the world. At sundown, Saturday, Dec 24, Jews begin celebrating the liberation of Jerusalem from the occupation of Antiochus IV, king of the Seleucid Empire in 165 BCE, which you know better as Hanukkah. And on Sunday, Dec 25, Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, which you know better as Christmas. Of course, in both cases there are many non-religious observations of the holidays by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. And there are several billion people, about two-thirds of the world’s population, who observe neither holiday. So people like Bill O’Reilly need to understand that it is no more appropriate to wish strangers a Happy Hanukkah if you don’t know they’re Jewish than it is to wish strangers a Merry Christmas if you don’t know they’re Christian. Either way, there’s a two out of three chance you’re wrong. And since the entire point of saying anything is to tell them you hope they enjoy the upcoming holidays (including the ones that follow over the course of the next week), and not to offend them, it’s completely appropriate to say to them, “Happy Holidays,” and thank them for whatever they wish back at you, even if it doesn’t apply to you. They’re trying to be nice to you even if they loathe you as much as I. So, in the spirit of the holidays and because I just know it pisses you off so much, I want to say to you, Bill O’Reilly, “Happy Holidays.”

And happy and safe holidays to Everyone. May you find joy and happiness in the comfort of friends and/or family, or peace in the solitude of contemplation. And may the world go just one day without people trying to kill each other. Is that really too much to ask?

Happy Holidays. This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish. Peace.

The Watering Hole; Th/Fr December 22/23 2016; “Precedent” Elect Trump: A Potentially “Unpresidented” Disaster

“Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest –
and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure,
it’s not your fault.”
(Donald J. Trump Verified account
@realDonaldTrump)

One might easily describe the above quote as being “unpresidented” — coming, as it did, from the current “Precedent” Elect of the United States.

******

In four weeks — on Friday January 20 2017 — the occupancy of the White House will be radically changed, as will the tenor of the country. The President will no longer be an educated and highly intelligent Moderate Liberal Progressive; it will be, instead, an Unintelligent and Egomaniacal Narcissist, a Pathological Liar who cares nothing about anything in the world other than the admiration he manages to garner for himself from others, from those of low intelligence to those viewed as rich and/or powerful, from any corner of the earth and anywhere in between. The sad reality remains, however, that Donald J. Trump is little more than a uniquely unqualified stooge of corporate and political interests, both local and global, a thesis supported by his selections of his Cabinet chairs and advisory staff.

There is but one bottom line to all of this: we do not know just how severe will be the consequences of this, our greatest political blunder in at least the last 100 years. The only thing that we can be assured of is that those consequences will be nasty, possibly even fatal, to our Democratic Republic unless we the people can somehow find the means of curtailing the process, quickly, in each and every instance. Anything short of that and our collective regret will be the equivalent of that once famous “shot heard round the world” redirected, this time, at ourselves.

Over just the last few days, numerous articles on numerous websites have turned up, each and all of which speak to and describe what are perceived to be various consequences of the upcoming Donald J. Trump “presidency.” The essays include detailed discussions of reasons why we find ourselves embedded in our dilemma, plus a handful of suggestions of means to alleviate said dilemma. Below, in no particular order, are a number of links that each discuss varying aspects of the overall question: Why/how Trump? I’ve selected and included a quoted portion of each link to help tweak imaginations, quotes which, taken together, paint a rather dismal picture of America’s new homemade dilemma. Continue reading

The Watering Hole, 12/21/16

THE PRINCE

CHAPTER XXV

WHAT FORTUNE CAN EFFECT IN HUMAN AFFAIRS AND HOW TO WITHSTAND HER

It is not unknown to me how many men have had, and still have, the opinion that the affairs of the world are in such wise governed by fortune and by God that men with their wisdom cannot direct them and that no one can even help them; and because of this they would have us believe that it is not necessary to labour much in affairs, but to let chance govern them. This opinion has been more credited in our times because of the great changes in affairs which have been seen, and may still be seen, every day, beyond all human conjecture. Sometimes pondering over this, I am in some degree inclined to their opinion. Nevertheless, not to extinguish our free will, I hold it to be true that Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions,[*] but that she still leaves us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less.

[*] Frederick the Great was accustomed to say: “The older one gets the more convinced one becomes that his Majesty King Chance does three-quarters of the business of this miserable universe.” Sorel’s “Eastern Question.”

I compare her to one of those raging rivers, which when in flood overflows the plains, sweeping away trees and buildings, bearing away the soil from place to place; everything flies before it, all yield to its violence, without being able in any way to withstand it; and yet, though its nature be such, it does not follow therefore that men, when the weather becomes fair, shall not make provision, both with defences and barriers, in such a manner that, rising again, the waters may pass away by canal, and their force be neither so unrestrained nor so dangerous. So it happens with fortune, who shows her power where valour has not prepared to resist her, and thither she turns her forces where she knows that barriers and defences have not been raised to constrain her.

And if you will consider Italy, which is the seat of these changes, and which has given to them their impulse, you will see it to be an open country without barriers and without any defence. For if it had been defended by proper valour, as are Germany, Spain, and France, either this invasion would not have made the great changes it has made or it would not have come at all. And this I consider enough to say concerning resistance to fortune in general.

But confining myself more to the particular, I say that a prince may be seen happy to-day and ruined to-morrow without having shown any change of disposition or character. This, I believe, arises firstly from causes that have already been discussed at length, namely, that the prince who relies entirely on fortune is lost when it changes. I believe also that he will be successful who directs his actions according to the spirit of the times, and that he whose actions do not accord with the times will not be successful. Because men are seen, in affairs that lead to the end which every man has before him, namely, glory and riches, to get there by various methods; one with caution, another with haste; one by force, another by skill; one by patience, another by its opposite; and each one succeeds in reaching the goal by a different method. One can also see of two cautious men the one attain his end, the other fail; and similarly, two men by different observances are equally successful, the one being cautious, the other impetuous; all this arises from nothing else than whether or not they conform in their methods to the spirit of the times. This follows from what I have said, that two men working differently bring about the same effect, and of two working similarly, one attains his object and the other does not.

Changes in estate also issue from this, for if, to one who governs himself with caution and patience, times and affairs converge in such a way that his administration is successful, his fortune is made; but if times and affairs change, he is ruined if he does not change his course of action. But a man is not often found sufficiently circumspect to know how to accommodate himself to the change, both because he cannot deviate from what nature inclines him to do, and also because, having always prospered by acting in one way, he cannot be persuaded that it is well to leave it; and, therefore, the cautious man, when it is time to turn adventurous, does not know how to do it, hence he is ruined; but had he changed his conduct with the times fortune would not have changed.

Pope Julius the Second went to work impetuously in all his affairs, and found the times and circumstances conform so well to that line of action that he always met with success. Consider his first enterprise against Bologna, Messer Giovanni Bentivogli being still alive. The Venetians were not agreeable to it, nor was the King of Spain, and he had the enterprise still under discussion with the King of France; nevertheless he personally entered upon the expedition with his accustomed boldness and energy, a move which made Spain and the Venetians stand irresolute and passive, the latter from fear, the former from desire to recover the kingdom of Naples; on the other hand, he drew after him the King of France, because that king, having observed the movement, and desiring to make the Pope his friend so as to humble the Venetians, found it impossible to refuse him. Therefore Julius with his impetuous action accomplished what no other pontiff with simple human wisdom could have done; for if he had waited in Rome until he could get away, with his plans arranged and everything fixed, as any other pontiff would have done, he would never have succeeded. Because the King of France would have made a thousand excuses, and the others would have raised a thousand fears.

I will leave his other actions alone, as they were all alike, and they all succeeded, for the shortness of his life did not let him experience the contrary; but if circumstances had arisen which required him to go cautiously, his ruin would have followed, because he would never have deviated from those ways to which nature inclined him.

I conclude, therefore that, fortune being changeful and mankind steadfast in their ways, so long as the two are in agreement men are successful, but unsuccessful when they fall out. For my part I consider that it is better to be adventurous than cautious, because fortune is a woman, and if you wish to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill-use her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than by those who go to work more coldly. She is, therefore, always, woman-like, a lover of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity command her.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, Dec 19, 2016: How He’ll Screw Ya (A Song Parody)

The people who voted for Donald Trump have no idea what trouble they’ve caused themselves. Trump never did anything for anybody that didn’t also help himself, even if it was just to stroke his amazingly fragile ego. His Trump Tower Headquarters on 5th Avenue in NYC has become a Mecca for favor seekers and mendacious speakers, including The Donald himself (as he is [dis]affectionately known in his home city.) This is a parody addressed to the ill-educated, short-sighted, bigoted white idiots who voted for Trump. I hope that the rest of you enjoy it at least as much as they’ll hate it.

How He’ll Screw Ya
(Original words and music “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, 1984
Additional lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider, 2016)

Now we know it was no secret chord
That Donald played and it pleased the horde
But you don’t really care for truth now, do ya?
It flows like piss, goes forth from 5th
The minor lies, the major grift
The awful king exposing how he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya

His facts were wrong but you ceded proof
You saw him tweeting like a goof
His duty to the alt-right overthrew ya
He lied to you in bitching where
He broke the rules he claimed unfair
And from his lips we knew just how he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya

Maybe I’ve heard this before
I know this gloom, I’ve fought this war
I used to fight alone before I knew ya
I’ve seen his plans and they’re really poor
He’d love to take a victory tour
He’s so bold and he’s not jokin’ how he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya

There was a time I told you so
What’s really going on you know
But now you never listen to me, do ya
And remember when I proved it true
And the wingnut right was crying boo
And every thing he’d do was how he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya

Maybe there’s a lesson here
All you ever learned from fear
Was how to shoot at someone who’s new to ya
And it’s no surprise that he cheers alt-right
He’s somebody they’re pleased is white
It’s been told and it’s all spoken how he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya
How he’ll screw ya, How he’ll screw ya

This is our daily open thread. feel free to discuss any topic you wish.