Category: Social Commentary

May Day: Looking at the passing of a friend, and a consideration of values

May Day: Looking at the passing of a friend, and a consideration of values

I’m writing this post a day later than I wanted to. I intended it for May 1, for reasons I’ll explain in the post, but most of the text that I needed to include was in an email. And, for the first time I can recall, my email server was subject to a DDoS attack and I lost all access to my emails until today. So consider this posted on May 1, even though it’s May 2.

May 1 is celebrated as May Day around the globe. In ancient tradition, festivities on the day marked the beginning of summer. In more recent times, it came to be International Workers’ Day, following the 1886 Haymarket Riots in Chicago, and subsequently a day for marshall demonstrations in Communist countries. Later that day evolved into Labor Day, as it’s celebrated in many countries worldwide today. But, unknown to most of the world, it held a special place in my own panoply of personal holidays which I came to have when I was in high school in the 1960s. In that personal holiday schedule, May 1 was known as John Gaffney Day, in honor of my close friend by that name, John Kevin Gaffney, whose birthday fell on the date.

John and I always had what could be termed a complex friendship. Friends, and yet competitors, a sardonic way of conversing, a skeptical kind of mutual respect. My first girlfriend lived in the same community as John, and he knew her growing up. And he made a point of stealing her away from me, just to do it, not out of any real interest in her. I tended to follow John about almost slavishly after school. One day, in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan, I suddenly realized how I’d just been following him around and I announced, “I’m revolting!” To which John replied, “Yes, I’ve know that for years.” When I had my empire, the Franconian Empire, in high school, John was my Prince of Passaic and, as I recall, Prince of Warren, the New Jersey counties where, respectively, he lived and went to Boy Scout camp. There was incessant internecine rivalry between members of my imperial court, and John played no small part in that.

Politically we aligned in our early days, and together we campaigned for Nelson Rockefeller for Governor of New York. At one point John and I shared a house in Wayne, New Jersey, in our 20s, and he ran for township council. A memorable night was when he returned from some political meeting to find my girlfriend at the time sitting out on our front lawn with her suitcase. John was livid, how he was being embarrassed. He later told me he didn’t remember the incident. I never forgot it.

For awhile John and I both worked for the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the job he introduced me to and helped me get, my first real job after college.

In 1978, in Providence, Rhode Island, a drunk driver ran a red light and struck the car John was riding in. He barely survived the accident and wound up paraplegic and in a wheel chair, in which he remained the rest of his life. I often pushed that wheel chair, including up and down steps and up and down over curbs. It inspired me to try to design a wheel chair that can climb stairs. I think today there are such things.

John was my best man at my first wedding, in Quebec City, and we remained in contact through the subsequent years as he moved around the country and I moved around the country and then the world. Perhaps it was the zeitgeist of the 2000s, but our political views began to diverge, which by itself was no surprise. What was a surprise, what came as a shock more than a surprise, was when John announced one day in 2014 that our values had diverged. He disagreed, vehemently, with a position I had taken on some nominee before the Senate and he wrote me, in an email, “Most of all, though, I am saddened to see how far different our values have become. Or did I always misunderstand?”

I never felt our values had become different, even if our views on some things had. On March 12 of that year I wrote him in an email an exposition of how I did not see my values changing, at all, and I expected him to at least engage on that and respond. He never responded to my exposition, nor to a subsequent message, a birthday greeting on May 1, 2014, and it became clear that in his political zeal, in his very illiberal defense of his alleged liberalism, he had thrown 51 years of friendship on the dust heap of the same political division that was transforming and, in truth, destroying the country. I never heard from him again. And then yesterday I did a search, just on a hunch, and found he had died, of heart failure, on Easter Day 2020. In the finality of death, so much for that friendship, and so much for any denouement in resolving our alleged divergence of values or views or whatever.

I still feel it is important to state how, even if our views changed, our values had not. So here is my restatement of values as I sent them to John in March of 2014:

So you are sad to see how far different our values have become and you wonder whether you always misunderstood? I don’t know that our values differ all that much, even if our views do. But let’s take a brief inventory of my values and views “then” and “now”:

I was an advocate of the rights of the individual and openly challenged repression of those rights. Still am, still do.

I questioned authority and believed the government that governs least governs best. Still do.

I opposed violence, even in furtherance of one’s just causes: Still do.

I believed in fairness and equality of opportunity for everyone. Still do.

I have long detested “liberals” and their self-serving, half-hearted, hypocritical pretenses. Still do.

Even when I was religious, which I decidedly am not now, I detested hypocrisy, especially among self-proclaimed religious people. Still do.

I had respect for our Constitution and Bill of Rights then. Still do, perhaps more than ever.

I’ve always believed in a free, unfettered, and most of all independent press. Still do, and see its near-disappearance as the single biggest and most intractable threat facing our country.

I learned and adopted, then, Alfred North Whitehead’s precept that what a society needs is continual revolt, not revolution. And that is still what I believe.

I’ve always cut my own course and refused conformity to any one model or image. Still do, to the extent that I reasonably (and occasionally unreasonably) can.

Now I do think change is a hallmark of a living, sentient being, and so some things have changed, perhaps less in my value system than in my views.

For instance, I remember a time when I wrote “Bomb Hanoi Now!” on the envelope of every letter I sent, influenced by a certain John Kevin Gaffney, who urged me to put that on envelopes, as did he. I don’t think I would do that now, as I stopped doing it not too much after when I did it then.

I also remember campaigning for Republican candidates like Nelson Rockefeller, coincidentally influenced by a certain John Kevin Gaffney. I was a big supporter of John Kennedy, too (even though JFK would be considered a conservative today), and still am. I was led to believe that Barry Goldwater, on the other hand, was going to bring on the end of the world, and I have since come to see through that — to use a word in vogue — slander.

I’ve leaned Democratic and Republican at various times, but always considered myself an Independent, and I have never registered with any party in any state. I voted for, and against, when they did not live up to their promises, both Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. I voted for Bill Clinton, and would again. I voted for both Al Gore and John Kerry, and have since come to deeply regret both those votes, not that I am any fan of George W. Bush. I voted for Bob Barr simply because I could not in good conscience bring myself to vote for either Barack Obama or John McCain. Today, I mostly feel a pox on both major parties’ houses would be in order (though at this stage, more on the Democrats’ house than the Republicans’). If I identify with any political belief system, it would be libertarian (with a small “l”). And this perhaps best sums up the reality of my beliefs and values, if not always my views, all along.

I did go through a Socialist stage, it’s true. It took me awhile, but I eventually came to learn something about economics and human nature and thus to see how that economic and political system doesn’t work, though some elements of it can serve some societal purposes. I have come to often say, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and I can tell you rich is better,”  an expression I think I first heard from one — ready for this? — John Kevin Gaffney.

Do we see a pattern developing here?

By the way, if you want a cause to get behind and a petition to sign, here is one that I think embodies real injustice:

http://www.change.org/petitions/my-brother-was-sentenced-to-life-without-parole-for-a-nonviolent-drug-offense

Anyway, you’ll believe what you want, as will I, and if you choose to be sad, that’s your choice, though it’s on your account, not mine. Maybe that little inventory will at least help clarify things for you.

Your independent friend,

Frank

Featured photo, John Kevin Gaffney, photographer unknown; from Options Magazine, used under Fair Use.

This piece also appears on my Substack, Issues That Matter. Subscribe here and there, share the piece, and please comment.

 

 

One Year Later We Must Not Forget: Disgrace

One Year Later We Must Not Forget: Disgrace

This piece initially appeared a year ago following the biggest surrender and debacle in U.S. history, all overseen by Joe Biden. It is important we don’t forget this event which long will live in infamy, both for the damage it did to the reputation, prestige, and credibility of this country and to its security and that of other countries. We also need to remember the needless deaths of 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of Afghans due to the incompetence of this administration. That number has now been eclipsed by the deaths of many other innocent Afghans and those who assisted U.S. and allied efforts over 20 years, unconscionably abandoned by Biden, and still more deaths in Ukraine resulting from the Russian invasion which was encouraged by the U.S. failure in Afghanistan and the abject weakness of this administration.

In a normal country in normal times, those responsible for such an enormous debacle as what those at the top in our country caused to happen in Afghanistan in recent weeks would resign in disgrace. And if they didn’t, steps would be taken by those charged with oversight to remove them from office, even try and punish them. But this is not a normal country and these are not normal times, and there seems to no longer exist any sense of shame, disgrace, or even admission of failure. Instead, as the alleged president just did, again, they take a victory lap and spew lies and distortions touting how brilliant and insightful they are, and hope everyone is as imbecilic and full of guile as they are.

Listening to Biden’s words a short while ago made me more angry than I can ever remember any political figure, in my entire life, make me. And that is saying something. I shouted out my anger, and I struck my head wondering how a single human being — as despicable and useless as this rotten excuse for a human being is — can be so profoundly stupid. And arrogant. Surely it has to be a team effort. And the ulterior motive a powerful one.

The insult I used as the title of my last piece on this subject — Ignorance With Impudence — barely touches the level of ignorance nor that of impudence put on full display today.

You see those hands in that photo above, showing a collapsing Biden last Thursday when he was challenged by Fox News’s Peter Doocy on his attempt to blame his Afghanistan catastrophe on his predecessor? Look carefully and you’ll see that they’re drenched in blood. The blood of 13 of our service people killed at Hamid Karzai International Airport last week. The blood of hundreds of needlessly dead Afghans in the same attack. The blood of the Americans, the blood of the Afghans who risked their lives to support us, deliberately left behind while surrounded by rabid terrorists intent on rooting them out and killing them. Also there is the blood of the hundreds, thousands, who will die in Afghanistan, in the United States, and elsewhere in the world as a result of the incredibly bone-headed and callous decisions made by this incompetent and those who allowed and facilitated him to make and carry them out.

If ever there was a time to say there is plenty of blame to go around, this is it. But since Biden is at the top of this heap of excrement and claims the buck stops with him — as if he actually means it, as Harry Truman did — he bears ultimate blame and responsibility for what happened, what will happen. To paraphrase the immortal 1988 words of Senator Lloyd Bentsen, back when Democrats still had some honor and a tad of sense, to vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle, Mr. President, I served with Harry Truman. I knew Harry Truman. Harry Truman was a friend of mine. Mr. President, you’re no Harry Truman.

Stalemate

Once more I find my post taking a different direction than I initially intended. The news continues to come in so fast, and it’s so awful, it’s impossible to keep up with it. I’m not a news service and this is not intended to be either daily reporting or a book. Any one with a fair mind and open eyes can see the reality, the actual events and people creating them, the results of those events and those people, and they don’t need me to continually point them out. My job, as I’ve executed it for more than four years now, is to put the pieces together, to analyze them, and to do what I can to bring people a clear view of the reality. To the extent many of my readers already have a clear view, they read my pieces and nod their heads and occasionally let me know they agree. And I try to give clear views to those readers who don’t see, or don’t want to see, the reality, and I hope I can bring some around to at least consider views other than those they are fed by what I’ve come to call the State Media, the corrupt and biased mainstream media and Big Tech whose lies and coverups in large part brought us to the terrible place we’re now at.

Initially I was going to call this piece Stalemate — the point in a chess match where a player has no legal moves left that won’t land his king in checkmate. It’s a draw, and the game is over. As a nation, we’re now in stalemate, and there are no legal moves left that will get us out of it. As a nation, we’re forced to live in this stasis, which was engineered by the Dem strategists and whoever is calling the shots behind the scenes of the party, and one has to hand them kudos for that achievement, as despicable and dangerous as it is. We have a clearly mentally incompetent president who, by almost any measure, the 25th Amendment was written for. But then, even if he could be removed from office either through that amendment or impeachment, we have a poison pill, the repulsive and dangerous Kamala Harris, as vice president. We get rid of the top guy, and we’re left with what might be an even worse substitute. And below her is the power hungry and vicious Nancy Pelosi. So, three layers deep, we’re left with no good legal moves, and that was the plan all along.

Those same Dem power brokers counted on what they see as the stupidity of the American people, for whom they have no respect other than to use them for their own purposes, and then along came the gift that keeps on giving — the COVID pandemic — which allowed them to flaunt and just plain throw out constitutional protections of our vote. That fraud allowed them to engineer a victory for a doddering old fool you wouldn’t trust to drive your kid’s school bus, let alone head the most powerful country on earth. And they knew that, even in his dementia, given the chance to grab the top accolade of his long and feckless political career — the presidency — Jello-O Joe would put the interest of the country aside and go for it. For this he won my top Profile in Cowardice award.

As I point out in that piece, it wasn’t always this way in American politics, even among the Democratic Party. Read the piece and see, if you forgot or weren’t around at that time, how Thomas Eagleton — a far more capable figure then Joe Biden — stepped down from being George McGovern’s running mate in 1972 when details of some issues with depression Eagleton had dealt with came out. At that time, the good of the country took precedence. That now seems like a prosaic concept.

An Unmitigated Disaster of a Presidency

For anyone who voted for Joe Biden — and, to be perfectly frank, you have to bear some responsibility for this debacle — I defy you to name one single thing Biden has done, one decision he’s made, that has made life better for ordinary Americans. I’ll go one further, and defy you to name one single thing, one single decision, he’s made, that hasn’t made things much worse for this country and its residents. We are so far beyond fucked at this point, it’s hard to even find a suitable word to describe it.

Whether it is throwing open our southwestern border to every ilk of criminal, drug runner, COVID-carrier, and terrorist who cares to cross it, in thorough disregard for our laws and well being — now being augmented by thousands of unvetted Afghans arriving and being sent willy-nilly around the country — taking our focus from competence and merit to attempting to inculcate divisions and distrust in our military, in our corporations and other institutions, and in society at large, to flaunting the Supreme Court and the rule of law to undermine the ability of property owners to pay their bills and stay afloat, to creating what can only be described as confusion on the coronavirus front, this president and his puppet masters have done what they can to sew discord and disorder in the nation. Crime is allowed to spiral out of control, unbridled federal spending is driving inflation, and he took us from energy independence to once more being dependent on the Middle East for our energy.

On the international stage, he has now shown this country to be weak and untrustworthy, and as we’ve learned, weakness breeds instability and tempts bad actors to take chances they would not otherwise. Despite the lies Biden told today — and there is no other word to describe his ridiculous and readily disprovable assertions — we have now created a terrorist nation in Afghanistan, and given a safe haven to not just the Taliban, but their close allies, al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and ISIS, among others. Even more mind-boggling, by leaving behind $83 billion in military hardware, we’ve made this terrorist state the fifth best equipped military in the world. The Taliban now have more Black Hawk helicopters, as just one example, than Australia.

Make no mistake. The same bunch of misguided idiots — Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, child-moron Jake Sullivan who purports to be National Security Adviser, throw in Joint Chiefs Chairman and blowhard Mark Milley, and other members of the Obama foreign policy (sic) team — that brought us the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq and the Iranian nuclear deal have now undone 20 years of progress, as difficult as it was, in Afghanistan, and created a mess and a threat that will be our nemesis for decades to come.

Perhaps most poignantly telling are the comments of the parents and spouses and siblings of the 13 slain service people, who spoke of Biden’s insensitivity, his self-absorption, his incessant talking about the death of his son Beau — who did not die in combat — his checking his watch each time, 13 times, a coffin came off the aircraft at Dover Air Force Base. I’ll end this piece with the words of Kathy McCollum, the mother of 20-year-old Marine Rylee James McCollum, killed in the attack on HKIA, who says it better than I ever could.

Calling in to a talk show Friday, McCollum said this:

“My son was one of the Marines who died yesterday. Twenty years and six months old — getting ready to come home from freaking Jordan to be with his wife and witness the birth of his son. And that feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap just sent my son to die. I woke up at four o’clock this morning, two Marines at my door telling me my son was dead. So, to [have White House Press Babbler Jen Psaki on] right before me and listen to that piece of crap talk about diplomatic crap with frickin’ Taliban terrorists who just freakin’ blew up my son and no, nothing, to not say anything about, oh my god, I’m so sorry for families. So, my son is gone.”

McCollum’s son is gone. And as tragically, so is our national honor, and very possibly our security and our future with it.

Featured image, Biden’s Collapse, Al Drago, Bloomberg News via Getty Images. Used under Fair Use.

Stalemate, from rutrackerpulse.weebly.com. Used under Fair Use.

The Three Heads of the Poisonous Serpent, Jim Watson, Getty Images. Used under Fair Use.

This piece also appears in my Substack community, Issues That Matter. Please comment and share the piece and subscribe here, and there.

Nothing Matters Anymore

Nothing Matters Anymore

Now we know, as if we had any doubts before: Nothing matters anymore. That might be an odd conclusion to come to for me, who has a Substack called Issues That Matter. But it’s consistent, actually. That nothing matters anymore is an issue that matters. Or should. Unfortunately, there is bloody little anyone can do about it except grin and bear it and suffer the consequences, or look for a way out of the madhouse that the United States has turned into. That’s the option I’m once more looking at.

So Jell-O Joe Biden, the Grifter in Chief, unilaterally has “forgiven” big chunks of student loan debt. Never mind that he has no legal power to do so. Even the Queen of Grift, Nancy Pelosi says so. But who needs laws any more? Laws are for the pissants, not for the Big Guy. Certainly not for the ruling elites (provided they’re of the right party). Whether it’s allowing people out of their contractual obligations to pay their debts or allowing now more than 2 million — heading toward 4 million — illegal aliens and border crashers to enter with impunity into the country, or using his official offices to further his family’s corrupt enrichment, law and the Constitution are irrelevant. If you haven’t noticed that, you haven’t been paying attention.

If you had student loans that you struggled to pay off, if you saved and scrimped so you didn’t need student loans, or maybe you never got to go to college, why would you mind paying off some rich kid’s loan? Are you really that selfish? Maybe you went in the military and risked, or even gave, your life or your limbs. Maybe you were counting on the GI Bill to pay for your education. You don’t think this was a fair deal, what Biden did? You self-serving bastard!

You pay your taxes and are distraught about our record $30 trillion-something national debt, and now you’ll be asked to contribute your share — estimated at $2,000 per taxpayer — to pay off the $300 billion (which is just a guess, no one can say how much this lawless act really will cost because no one has a clue how many people will be affected) this give-away will cost. You must not understand your role as a taxpayer, which is to support without question every mindless and insane thing your government does. Add the increase to inflation all this extra money going into the economy will bring, and the costs are likely to be even more. Who’s problem is that? Why, yours, of course!

And if recent history is any indication, fraud will take a big part of that money. Like the $100 billion-plus in pandemic relief funds that were stolen by fraudsters, only a very small percentage of which has been recovered or prosecuted. But that’s “official” fraud. Most of the funds will go to the “unofficial” fraud that lies at the basis of this whole thing. Biden’s “generosity” (at your expense) is aimed as a payoff to young voters to vote for Dems in the upcoming midterms, and an even bigger payoff to the colleges and universities that profit off the student loan program.

See those huge tuitions? $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year, for at best a spotty education? When the student loan program was taken over by the federal government, it was just an incentive for college administrators to really jack up tuitions, which have risen at rates far in excess of the general inflation rate. Given the huge endowments most of these institutions have — not just measured in the billions of dollars, but in the several tens of billions of dollars — why should they not be forced to bear the costs of this largesse? Because this is really a payoff for all their contributions to the Democratic Party, to which 90 percent of university contributions go. When I lived in Key West 40-some years ago, it cost a six-pack of beer to buy a vote. The stakes have gotten a whole lot higher in the current game of political corruption and vote buying.

Nothing Else Matters, Either

Beat, rape, rob, or car jack someone in some of our biggest cities and at most you might face a misdemeanor charge, if that. You’re likely going to be back on the street the same day or the next one, all set to commit your next crime. Defend yourself against this kind of rampant criminality, and you might be the one who faces real criminal charges. This is not just speculation, but has become a daily occurrence in cities ranging from New York to L.A,. Chicago to Seattle, Philadelphia to San Francisco, and many in between. Is it any wonder that crime rates are rising at the fastest rates since the 1960s, or are reaching record rates in many places? If you’re a law-abiding citizen, just STFU and pay your taxes and take it. You don’t count. You don’t matter. You’re just some freaking racist if you complain about this kind of treatment. You’re getting in the way of remaking America, so move aside or get crushed.

Remember when Trump said there was a plan to do away with single-family zoning and moving urban problems right into your neighborhood? Well, guess what. That’s exactly what is happening. Not far from where I live, the city council of the city where I went to graduate school, Gainesville, Florida — home of the University of Florida and a city mostly of single-family homes — voted to do away with single-family zoning. The future is coming to a place near you, and it’s coming fast. Don’t like the idea? Tough. You don’t matter.

I’ve already opined and lamented what has clearly become a dual standard of justice in this country, and you can read about that here and here and in lots of others of my postings. This is no longer a collection of isolated incidents but has become what is called a pattern and practice. Combined with pervasive corruption, this might be the biggest threat facing our democracy, aside from the repression of any dissenting views and the near-total silence and even complicity on the part of the nation’s mainstream media.

When Nothing Matters Anymore, It Becomes Pervasive in the Society

If you have the stomach to watch the news, you’ll often see images of people being beaten, shot, and otherwise attacked on the streets while onlookers capture the scene on their phones, hoping for their 15 seconds of fame, while doing nothing to intervene or try to protect the victim. We’ve become a nation of voyeurs and cowards.

In the 1960s we had the famous case of Kitty Genovese, a young woman raped, robbed, and murdered on the street in Queens, New York, while onlookers observed from their apartment windows and did nothing. The incident shocked the conscious of the nation at the time. Today, we can’t even muster shock when these things occur. The onlookers that don’t scurry away watch and video the events.

This tendency was brought home to me yesterday. A young man doing some work for me related how he was driving down a busy street in the next town, and there was this little 4- or 5-year-old girl skipping down the center line of the street. Cars just drove by, paying her no heed as if she wasn’t a vulnerable little human but rather some curiosity or maybe even a nuisance to speed by. To his lasting credit, this guy stopped, turned his truck sideways across the road to stop traffic, began to try to get the girl off the road, and to find what careless adults had let her slip out from their attention. Down the road were a couple of guys looking at their boat on a trailer. He shouted at them, and they suddenly “noticed” that the little girl, who belonged to one of them, had gone missing. The damned boat was more important to him then the presence and safety of the little girl. The pair hadn’t even noticed she was missing.

It’s entirely possible this young guy saved the little girl’s life. But this is what we’ve come to. People can’t take a few minutes to stop and try to save a little girl skipping down the middle of a busy street. A boat takes precedence to a life. We see kids left to die in hot cars and people are advised to put their phones or their purses in the back seat so as not to forget their kid, as if a phone or purse is more important to them than the kid. People watch and look on as criminals attack innocent people, and they and the courts and the law look the other way. You struggle to pay your debts and your bills and your money is stolen and given to those who don’t.

The Romans at least confined their barbarity, their bread and circuses intended to placate and buy off the populace, to the arena. In modern-day America, the entire country is the arena.

When nothing matters anymore, nothing matters anymore.

Featured Image, Factory, Peter Hermann/Pixabay. Used with permission.

Wires, Cottonbro/Pexels. Used with permission.

Scrap Metal, Tom Fisk/Pexels. Used with permission.

This piece also appears on my Substack, Issues That Matter. Please comment, share this piece, and subscribe here, and there.

 

 

 

That Time of Year Again: Thoughts on “the Longest Day in the World”

That Time of Year Again: Thoughts on “the Longest Day in the World”

 

This piece initially appeared five years ago, on June 21, 2017, the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. I originally posted this piece on this blog, and it became an annual event to post it each year on June 21. Two years ago I began posting it on my fiction blog, Stoned Cherry. This year it will appear on both blogs and on my Substack, Issues That Matter. Today, June 21, 2022, it is once more the Summer Solstice, and the actual solstice officially occurs at 5:14 a.m. EDT/09:14 a.m. UTC. The time and other references and weather comments in the piece are as they were five years ago, when the post first appeared. I’m no longer living on the boat, and there have been other changes. This year it has been 53 years, more than half a century, since my father’s death, and Sunday was Father’s Day here in the U.S. I hope you enjoy the piece. And play the music at the end.

It’s June 21, the day of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a day that holds various meanings for different peoples, and its significance goes back millennia. The solstice, whether summer or winter, officially took place at 12:24 a.m. U.S. Eastern Daylight Time this morning, or 04:24 UTC.

Just to set the record straight and dispel any questions about my scientific knowledge, I know it’s not the longest day in the world. It’s the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere. But we’ll get to this a bit later.

It’s been a mixed bag today here on the West Coast of Florida. We’ve been having a lot of rain, something we didn’t have much of over the winter, and the rainy times are interspersed with sunny breaks. Right now, as I look out the window of my boat, the sun is mostly out but I’m looking at the light through rain-drop spattered glass. At least we’re not getting the effects of Tropical Storm Cindy, which is much further west and at this moment dumping lots of water on the upper Gulf Coast.

In this country, the summer solstice marks the official beginning of summer, though in other places and other cultures it marks the middle of summer, as indicated by the name Midsummer Night, which can occur anywhere from the 20th to the 24th of June. And really it is midsummer, since the days, which have been lengthening since the equinox three months ago, now will start to grow shorter, the nights longer.

The sun has reached its apogee in this hemisphere, as it stands today directly over the Tropic of Cancer. I feel summer ending, we already are on the downhill side, the side that will take us through the hot coming months but already on the slide back into winter, the cold time of year. Just as in the Southern Hemisphere the days will begin to grow longer as the seasons move back to summer.

A year ago on this day I was in Alaska, where there never really was a night. Where I was, well below the Arctic Circle, the sun went down sometime around midnight, but there was a kind of twilight that lasted until the sun rose again a few hours later. Above the Arctic Circle on this day, the sun never sets, and it truly is the Land of the Midnight Sun.

My thoughts turn to other things on this day. Someone asked me the other day, which was Father’s Day in the U.S., what thoughts I had of my father on that Sunday. But really, I think of Father’s Day as a commercial holiday. I also remember the last Father’s Day I had with my father, and how my mother did her unwitting best to create conflict between me and my father. While I may wish a happy day to the fathers I know on Father’s Day, it is today, the day of the solstice, that I think of my father. June 21 was his birthday, which in most years coincides with the solstice. I was told as a child that it was the longest day of the year, which I translated in my own way into it being the longest day in the world, and I would go around telling everyone who would listen that it was.

“It’s the longest day in the world!” I’d exclaim each year on his birthday, from morning until night.

I think today of my father on this day, the 21st of June. Gone now, for nearly 48 years. And I think back to the day of his birth, June 21, 1913. One hundred and four years ago. Even had he not died young as he did, just 56 years old, it is hard to imagine that he would still be alive today had he not died when he did. A prolongation of the inevitable.

A factoid I learned earlier is that today is not the longest day in the history of the world, as one might imagine it to be given that the earth’s rotation on its axis generally was slowing. Rather, the longest day in the history of the world is believed to be June 21, 1912, and things like the earth’s tides and recession of the glaciers have caused a slight increase in the rate of the planet’s rotation since then. My father was born a year later, which arguably could have been the second or third longest day in the history of the world, if not the actual longest day in the world.

I wonder what it was like on that June day, the day of the solstice, the longest day of the year, the day my father was born, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Did his father and mother, his Italian parents, my grandparents that I never knew, know it was the solstice? Did they even know of the solstice? Regardless, I’m inclined to think they did not think of it, if for no other reason than that they had something else on their mind that day. And then I think of the things people from then knew and were taught and how many of those things have been lost today, in these encroaching new Dark Ages in which we find ourselves, and I have to wonder. Perhaps they knew, better than most people today know. Or care to know. And they did note the auspicious day on which their son was born.

I’ll think of my father again on July 27, the anniversary of his death, and by then even our summer, the summer as we define it, will be half over.

The solstices, like the equinoxes, serve as a kind of punctuation for me. I watch the ebb and the flow of the days, the seasons, the years, and they mark the passage of time, time that increasingly slips by way too quickly. All of life is punctuation, I think. Slowing. Stopping. Breaking things, even waves on the water, into different parts, different pieces, different rhythms and fugues and movements and phrases and sentences. It is through such punctuation that we mark our lives, mark our transit through summer and back into winter, from day into night, from life into death. Watching, as a reader of a story does, while the time of our lives flows past. When we lose that punctuation, everything blends into one big mass, and we feel lost in the current, flailing and drowning as we’re pulled inexorably along. At least I do.

Enjoy this song, which I found today amid my files, and with which I end this post, and enjoy the time that nature and life give us.

 

Click here if song doesn’t play.

Striking Thirteen: Where We’ve Arrived

Striking Thirteen: Where We’ve Arrived

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

— George Orwell, opening sentence of 1984

It has taken thirty-eight years, but at last we have arrived in 1984. Lies have become truth, truth has become misinformation, and ignorance has become strength. It may not be a bright cold day in April, but the clocks are, indeed, striking thirteen.

As some of you may have noticed, it has been distressingly long, more than a month, since I’ve written in this blog. The easy, if only partially truthful, explanation is that I’ve been distracted with several other projects, some of a writing nature, some not, and some just to fill the void and, futilely, avoid dealing with the ever increasing absurdity that surrounds us and that seems so difficult to even explain any more.

In my last post I wrote of how Elon Musk planned to buy Twitter, hoping to return some semblance of free speech and thought to the platform. For this, he was viciously attacked and maligned, mostly by those on the political left, for whom free speech would seemingly be a priority. But in the way in which contemporary American life is twisted and mutilated in ways hard to explain, to those on the left, the idea of free speech, of all different views being openly expressed, is like holding up a crucifix to a vampire. It cringes and raises its arm over its eyes, screaming at the very idea. The left has gained the political strength it previously lacked through the use of its own misinformation, crushing and blocking any views that contradict its view of the world, and it is strongly resisting relinquishing that power.

Government becomes a parody of itself

And why should it, considering we now have an alleged president who, through his minions, daily tells the most bald-faced lies in the hope, not entirely without basis given a docile and compliant media, that they will be accepted by the masses as truth. To further its assault on the inconvenient truth, it — through the Department of Homeland Security (itself something of an Orwellian name) — came up with its own version of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, suitably dubbed the Disinformation Governance Board.

It turned into one of the rare instances when government becomes such a parody of itself that it can’t be covered up, no matter how diligent and proficient the liars at the White House podium are. We had the department, headed by the monumentally incompetent Alejandro Mayorkas, whose incessant misinformation about the catastrophe taking place on our southwest border is uttered under oath to Congress, appointing a self-anointed “disinformation fellow” and “Russian disinformation expert” — herself a clownish figure and Dem partisan given to spreading massive disinformation — to head its new Ministry of Truth.

If you haven’t been sequestered in a Nepalese rice patty over the past several weeks, you’ve probably seen this clip of the new (and then) Czar of Disinformation, Nina Jankowicz, doing her best (which is not to say good) Mary Poppins imitation on TikTok at least several dozen times. Viewer warning: If you are of weak stomach, or wish to retain any vestiges of faith in what passes for your government, you may wish to skip this short video . Viewer discretion definitely advised.

Aside from being an embarrassment to even herself, Jankowicz is a major purveyor of disinformation, calling the now infamous Hunter Biden laptop a product of Russian disinformation (it’s been well established to be authentic, and in fact was before the 2020 elections, though Twitter blocked any mention of it), and a promoter of the Steele Dossier, which formed the basis for the Russia Hoax that dogged the Trump administration for its entirety, an utter falsehood which has now been definiteively tied to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

But we can take heart, gentle reader. After just a few weeks on the job, and under cover of claiming she and her family had received death threats, Jankowicz resigned as Disinformation Czar, and DHS put its Disinformation Governance Board on hold. Clock, in this case, pushed back to 1983. But the fight is far from over.

The Supreme Court Springs a Leak

While the Ministry of Truth story was unfolding, an even bigger story broke lose. Unprecedented in U.S. history, someone — still undetermined nearly a month after the fact — leaked, to Politico, a draft of a majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, in which the 1973 landmark decision of Roe v. Wade was to be overturned. And, no surprise, all hell broke out over this news, and pro-choice demonstrators immediately showed up at the High Court, and then they took to raucous demonstrations outside the homes of the conservative justices after someone “doxed” their addresses.

As shocking as this unprecedented leak was — no one has yet been held accountable for it, despite an investigation announced by Chief Justice John Roberts — more shocking was the Biden Administration’s statement that it did not view the leak as a crime, and its refusal to condemn the demonstrations taking place at the justices’ homes. It seems the separation of powers — the Supreme Court being one of the three branches of government — holds little importance to the administration nor to the Democratic leadership in Congress. The latter should come as no surprise since no less than Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previously, in 2020, threatened conservative justices that they would “reap the whirlwind” if they went ahead with decisions of which he disapproved.

“I want to tell you [Neil] Gorsuch. I want to tell you [Brett] Kavanaugh,” Schumer shouted out to an abortion-rights rally from the steps of the Supreme Court. “You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

As a matter of law, 18 U.S.C., Paragraph 1507 makes the actions and words of Schumer and those demonstrating outside the Supreme Court and the justices’ homes a crime:

“Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

But with an administration and a so-called Justice Department for which law means little, you can expect no action to be taken to enforce the statute. Justices couldn’t even get police protection for their homes in the liberal jurisdictions in which they live.

In a country where virtually every aspect of life is swirling down the toilet at an alarming rate, with the blame squarely falling on Democrats, who control the White House and both houses of Congress, it would not be cynical to see the leak as a way to try to gin up voter support to keep the party from going over an electoral cliff in the upcoming November midterm elections.

With support for Dems falling to record lows among Hispanic and black voters — upon which the party depends — the last remaining bastion of support was among women. So what better way to mobilize that support than by leaking the Alito decision? Of course, that logic escaped some on the left, including NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg, who led the false-flag counter-charge, claiming the “leading theory” was that a conservative clerk leaked the draft. “Leading,” to whom, other than Totenberg and the left?

Driving the school bus onto the tracks

If the domestic mess isn’t big enough, Jell-O Joe decided he needed to bolster his cred overseas, so he went off to South Korea and Japan, fumbling and bumbling as he went. But it wasn’t enough that he addressed the South Korean President by his predecessor’s name, or that he told jokes no one understood, or that he looked like his usual sleepy, disoriented self. No, that wouldn’t do.

Once again going off the remarks prepared for him by his handlers, while in Japan Biden announced that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan, in a moment reversing decades of U.S. policy. Needless to say, this drew an immediate outcry from Beijing, and Biden’s handlers once more were left walking back his remarks and cleaning up the mess in Biden’s brain. So, in an instant, the guy you wouldn’t trust to drive your kid’s school bus drove it, with all us kids aboard, onto the railroad tracks and stopped it there, with a train coming.

And then, if all this doesn’t tell you the clocks are striking thirteen in America, we have the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. And all the lessons we should have learned from Colombine and Sandy Hook and Parkland weren’t learned, and we’re back to mourning the dead and asking how these individuals slipped through the cracks when the warning signs were writ large and unmistakable. But that gets into a whole new area. I think I’ve depressed you, and myself, enough at this point, so will end it here.

Listen for those clocks, my friends, that tell us where we’ve arrived, and may they be a wake up call to all of us.

Featured image: Pure Evil’s George Orwell Graffitti Wall, Southwold, England. From streetartsheffield.com. Used under Fair Use.

Nina Jankowicz, from TikTok. Used under Fair Use.

Chuck Schumer reaping the whirlwind, AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana. Used under Fair Use.

This piece also appears on my Substack, Issues That Matter. Subscribe here, and there, and share the piece.